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These Are the 8 Best Robo-Advisors for 2021 MAKING MONEY

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Robo-advisors are growing increasingly popular, especially with Millennial and Gen Z investors, as an alternative to traditional portfolio management. But not all robo-advisors are created equal.

Robo-advisor—an automated investment platform that uses computer algorithms to invest your money for you—is certainly a hot buzzword in today’s economic landscape (perhaps second to only cryptocurrency). Don’t be lured in by the charm of the first robo-advisor you find.

If you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon, review our list of the best robo-advisors of 2021 to choose a quality option that meets your needs.

8 Best Robo-Advisors of 2021

Advisor
Account Minimum
Best for
Ease of Use

Wealthfront

$500

Best overall

Very easy

SEE DETAILS

Betterment

$10

Mobile investing

Very easy

SEE DETAILS

SoFi Automated Investing

$1

Fee-free investing

Very easy

SEE DETAILS

Vanguard Digital Advisor

$3,000

Retirement planning

Moderate

SEE DETAILS

Ally Invest

$10

Beginners

Very easy

SEE DETAILS

Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios

$5,000

Large accounts, low fees

Easy

SEE DETAILS

M1 Finance

$100

Experienced investors ss

Moderate

SEE DETAILS

Acorns

$0

Micro-Investing

Very easy

SEE DETAILS

Wealthfront

Best Overall Robo-Advisor
Key Features

Customization
Free access to advisors
Tax-loss harvesting, auto rebalancing

5 out of 5 Overall
A common criticism of robo-advisors is that investors get very little say in how they are investing, but Wealthfront allows you to curate your portfolio toward your interests, including social responsibility, clean energy, crypto, tech and foreign and emerging markets. If you get carried away, Wealthfront steps in to let you know if your decisions aren’t in line with your risk tolerance.
Wealthfront
Account minimum
$500
Fees
No account or trading, 0.25% annual advisory fee
Ease of use
Very easy

You can use Wealthfront to invest for retirement (Traditional and Roth IRAs, SEP IRA, 401(k) rollover), education (529 college savings plan) and general investing (Individual Accounts, Joint Accounts, Trust Accounts).

While the beauty of automated investment services is that the robot does everything for you, Wealthfront has a team of financial planners available who can talk through any questions you have.

Wealthfront also offers a cash account to make investing easier.

Betterment

Best for Mobile Investing
Key Features

Top-rated app
Low fees

5 out of 5 Overall
Betterment allows you to specify your risk tolerance and your financial goals in order to invest for you, with typical features like rebalancing and tax efficiency. While Betterment has one of the lowest fees for assets under management, it jumps up 0.15% for Premium access to human advisors.
Betterment
Account minimum
$10
Fees
No account or trading, 0.25% annual advisory fee
Ease of use
Very easy

Betterment, the first robo-advisor to enter the market back in 2008, offers socially responsible investing, as well as checking and cash reserve accounts. Its mobile app is perhaps the best one on the market.

You can trust that you’re in good hands with Betterment. They manage $32 billion (with a B) in assets for more than 650,000 customers.

Betterment is currently running a promotion: Sign up now and get one year of free account management.

SoFi Automated Investing

Best for Fee-Free Investing
Key Features

Easy to set goals
Free access to human advisors

4 out of 5 Overall
The fee-free setup for So-Fi is the big selling point. That and its $1 minimum investment make it appealing to young investors. However, you get less from SoFi than from other top robo-advisors. For example, SoFi does not include a tax efficiency feature.
SoFi Automated Investing
Account minimum
$1
Fees
No account fees, no annual advisory fee
Ease of use
Very easy

Another nice perk of SoFi is free access to certified financial planners. But investment options are generally more limited, i.e., there’s no comprehensive financial plan.

SoFi’s expense ratio is waived until June 2022. After that, it jumps to 0.19% — much more than the typical .03% for a Vanguard S&P 500 fund.

Vanguard Digital Advisor

Best for Retirement Planning
Key Features

Great retirement planning
Proven track record

4 out of 5 Overall
Vanguard is one of the most highly regarded investment management companies. Case in point: Most robo-advisors on this list invest in Vanguard ETFs. Its decades of experience make Vanguard Digital Advisor the best bet for long-term retirement savings. With a higher account minimum, Vanguard Digital Advisor is not for beginners.
Vanguard Digital Advisor
Account minimum
$3,000
Fees
No account or trading, 0.15% annual advisory fee
Ease of use
Moderate

Vanguard’s platform isn’t as simple as some, but if you’re interested in decades of data rather than a pretty app, Vanguard may be right for you. You can talk with investment professionals through its Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.

Ally Invest

Best for Beginners
Key Features

No fees
Great app

3.5 out of 5 Overall
Ally Invest is free … sort of. To get 0% advisory fees, you have to opt for the Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio, which sets aside 30% of your money in an uninvested account. Otherwise the Market-Focused Managed Portfolio has a 0.30% advisory fee. Beginners will appreciate Ally’s mobile app, 24/7 free live support and easy portfolio choices. Experienced investors probably want more choices.
Ally Invest
Account minimum
$10
Fees
No account or trading fees
Ease of use
Very easy

Beginners will appreciate Ally because of its leading mobile app, the $100 minimum deposit, 24/7 free live support and easy portfolio choices. The choices include Core (best for hands-off investors), Income (lower risk), Tax Optimized (tax-advantaged investments) and Socially Responsible (eco-friendly companies).

Ally can be a one-stop shop for all your financial needs. Ally Bank is a highly recommended online bank with high-yield savings and interest-earning checking accounts. Ally also offers CDs, money market accounts and mortgage, auto and personal loans.

Another highlight: It takes just 10 minutes to get set up.

Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios

Best for Large Accounts
Key Features

Low expense ratios
Broad customization

4 out of 5 Overall
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios caters to experienced investors and offers wider customization than other robo-advisors. You can choose from three investment strategies and six risk profiles. The barrier for entry is higher, and like Ally, Schwab may put some of your funds in an FDIC-insured deposit account depending on the risk profile you select.
Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
Account minimum
$5,000
Fees
No fees but you pay an expense ratio
Ease of use
Easy

Schwab’s robo-advisor charges no management fee. The company makes its money off the expense ratio for Schwab ETFs. Like other robo advisors, this one includes auto rebalancing and tax loss harvesting.

M1 Finance

Best for Experienced Investors
Key Features

Low expense ratios
Great apps

4 out of 5 Overall
Even experienced investors can benefit from automated investment services. M1 Finance is ideal for such customers because it’s a hybrid, offering both automated and hands-on options. Its financial advisors put together 80+ curated “Pies” (pie charts that show how funds are diversified to meet different objectives), but you can also bake your own Pies.
M1 Finance
Account minimum
$100 ($500 for retirement accounts)
Fees
No fees but you’ll pay an expense ratio
Ease of use
Moderate

With M1, auto rebalancing stays on top of your investments with built-in tax efficiency. You can set up taxable investment accounts, as well as retirement accounts.

There is no management fee, though you will pay an expense ratio for trades. In addition, you can upgrade to M1 Plus (free for the first year, $125 thereafter), which includes 2% loans through M1 Borrow, two trade windows, custodial accounts and smart transfers.

With M1 Finance investment accounts, you can set up individual and joint taxable accounts, as well as retirement accounts like Roth, traditional and SEP IRAs. It also offers trust accounts.

To get the most out of M1 Finance, don’t just open an Invest account. Consider Borrow and Spend to unlock the full suite of features.

Acorns

Best for Micro-Investing
Key Features

Transparent pricing
Fractional shares

3.5 out of 5 Overall
What makes Acorns stand out is its round-up feature. Just link your debit and credit cards to the account, and every time you make a purchase, it’ll round up the purchase amount to the nearest dollar and invest that spare change. So if you buy a taco for $6.35, it’ll round up to $7.00, and $0.65 will be invested.
Acorns
Account minimum
$0
Fees
$3 a month for Personal, $5 for Family
Ease of use
Very easy

Acorns pricing structure is different from other automated advisors. That’s good because 1) it’s cheap and 2) it’s consistent. Other services charge a fee as a percentage of assets under management, so the management fee can fluctuate.

The downside is, most people who start with Acorns aren’t investing a lot, so they’re actually spending more ($36 a year) than they would if they invested with a robo-advisor platform that charges a 0.25% fee. In fact, an investor wouldn’t own $36/year with a robo-advisor charging 0.25% until they hit nearly $15,000.

Acorns invests your funds into diversified ETFs and performs automatic portfolio rebalancing. As with other robo investment services, you only need to answer a few questions for it to make the tough decisions for you

Acorns also allows fractional shares, which is a cool feature that lets you own a fraction of stocks with a high price per share.

As part of its investment portfolio, Acorns includes traditional retirement accounts. In addition to investing, Acorns offers a checking account insured by the FDIC. (No savings account, however.)

Best Robo-Advisor Honorable Mentions

While these automated investment platforms didn’t make our list of the eight top robo-advisors, they are also worth your consideration:

SigFig: Good for access to human financial advisors
Ellevest: Good for goal-driven investing
TD Ameritrade: Good for traditional investors
Interactive Advisors: Good for socially responsible investments
E*TRADE: Good for mobile investing

In addition, Personal Capital is often referred to as a robo-advisor, but they prefer to brand themselves as a “digital wealth manager.” Splitting hairs? Maybe. Either way, it’s a great platform if you can afford the $100,000 minimum account balance, which makes them more like traditional advisors.

Hallmark Features of the Best Robo-Advisors

What should you look for in a robo-advisor? Here are just some of the top features that the best robo-advisors offer:

Account Rebalancing

Automatic rebalancing of the investment portfolio is a key feature of top robo-advisors. Some do this in real time while others do it on a schedule, like once a quarter.

Low Fees

The best automated investment companies should give you access to their platform for a small management fee. Look for one with a management fee between 0.25% and 0.40%. Anything higher, and you might as well pay a human investment advisor.

Some robo-advisors don’t charge a management fee at all, but remember: Nothing is free. They likely have expense ratios to consider.

Low Account Minimum

The barrier for opening traditional investment accounts with a human financial advisor is challenging for beginners to overcome. Many require tens of thousands of dollars to get started. If you are a beginner, look for a robo-advisor with a low or no account minimum.

Diversified Investment Portfolio

Some robo-advisors only invest in their own ETFs. While not inherently bad, we recommend options with more investment options, including multiple ETFs, mutual funds and even real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Most robo-advisors offer retirement investments, income investments and additional services. Find one that suits all of your investment goals.

Tax-Loss Harvesting

This essential strategy involves selling off poorly performing investments at a loss to offset capital gains on other investments. A lot of the automated investment advisors with free account management don’t offer this, even some on this list. If free account management outweighs tax efficiency for you, that’s something to consider.

Access to Human Advisors

Whether free or at a low cost, a good robo-advisor will get you access to a human for investment advice and financial planning. Free financial planning is an obvious plus.

An Easy-to-Use Platform with Educational Tools

Look for a robo-advisor with a great mobile app and desktop platform. You should be able to easily find educational resources about personal finance and investment strategy.

Other Banking Services

Some automated investment advisors offer additional services with their brokerage account, as part of a full-suite online bank. If you want a checking and savings account along with your investment account, find a robo-advisor that offers this.

Pros and Cons of Using a Robo-Advisor

There are several advantages to using a robo-advisor, but they are not for everyone. They also have some pitfalls that serious investors should consider.

Pros

Here are some of the top benefits of using automated investment services:

You’ll save money. Robo-advisors are significantly cheaper than traditional human financial advisors.
You have around-the-clock access. While financial planning with a real person has its perks, you are limited to their operating hours. With a robo-advisor, you have 24/7 access to make changes and review your portfolio.
Lower account minimum. The account minimums are much lower than traditional brokerage accounts. Some robo-advisors have $0 account minimums.
They’re great for beginners. Robo-advisors do all the work for you, so even if you have limited knowledge, you can feel good about your investments. Definitely make use of their educational resources, however.
Robo-advisors are safe. Just like a traditional financial advisor, a robo-advisor must register with the US Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC).

Cons

There are some pitfalls of using a robo-advisor

Limited investment options. A robo-advisor typically gives you little control over how your money is invested and typically offers a smaller set of portfolio options.
Limited services. If you need help with something like estate planning or trust administration, you’re better off with a human financial planner. A robo-advisor is meant for basic investment services.
No growth in financial literacy. When you let a robot do all the work for you, it can be hard to be motivated to learn for yourself. However, it is important that investors at any level feel empowered to understand how their money is invested.

Frequently Asked Questions About Robo-Advisors

Have questions? We’ve got answers!

What Is a Robo-Advisor?

A robo-advisor is an automated investment platform that relies on computer algorithms to determine the best way to invest your funds, based on your answers to a questionnaire regarding risk tolerance, financial goals, time horizon and more.

How Does a Robo-Advisor Work?

Robo-advisors rely on proprietary software that real-life financial advisors use as well. To determine the proper asset allocation, they utilize information you provide on how you want to invest.

How Should I Choose a Robo-Advisor?

Think about the features that are most important to you. To get started, look at our list of the eight best robo-advisors and choose the one that is rated for your specific need (for example, micro-investing or mobile investing).

How Much Do Robo-Advisors Cost?

Robo-advisor fees vary. Some charge a very low percentage of assets under management while others rely on expense ratios for their own funds. Overall, they charge much less than traditional investment professionals.

Which Robo-Advisor Has the Best Returns?

This also varies, depending on how funds are invested and how the market is doing. Most robo-advisors perform similarly. Choosing the right one is more about the features and pricing that are right for you.

Which Robo-Advisor Should I Use?

This depends entirely on your preference. Think about the fees you’re comfortable paying, the maximum investment you can afford to make and the features that meet your needs.

Do Robo-Advisors Beat the Market?

Robo-advisors perform similarly to other brokerage accounts. Performance varies depending on the state of the market and the diversification of the investment portfolio. It also depends on how aggressive you have indicated you want your portfolio to be.

Timothy Moore 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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How to Save Money on Food While Traveling: 10 Easy Tips MAKING MONEY

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You scour the internet for the best deals on flights and lodging when planning a trip. So don’t throw all your financial cares to the wind once you’re on vacation — particularly when it comes to putting food in your mouth.

It can be easy to overspend on food when you’re away from home. You’ve got to eat, and food just seems to be more expensive when you’re traveling. But with some advanced planning and creative thinking, there are ways to lower your food costs on vacation.

10 Tips to Save Money on Food While Traveling

This advice will help you enjoy your vacation without stressing about overspending.

1. Pack Snacks

Bring snacks from home so you don’t have to buy overpriced airport fare or get stuck paying convenience store prices for munchies on a road trip. Trail mix, granola, crackers and apples are all good for traveling.

Pro Tip

If you’re visiting attractions like theme parks or the zoo, check their rules about outside food. For example, Disney World guests can bring snacks and food that doesn’t require heating.

2. Bring a Water Bottle

No one wants to pay $5 for a 16 oz. bottle of water. But tourist spots capitalize on you not having other options to quench your thirst. Take an empty water bottle with you and fill it up at a water fountain, a fast-food joint or straight from the tap. You may even come across filtered water fill-up stations. A reusable filtered water bottle is a good investment if you don’t have access to filtered water.

3. Go Grocery Shopping

If you’re staying somewhere that has access to a kitchen, go grocery shopping and cook instead of eating out for every meal. Or if you’re driving to your destination, bring non-perishable groceries from home or pack up a cooler with ice for things that have to stay cold.

Even if you don’t have a full kitchen, there’s a lot you can do with a mini fridge and microwave. Cereal, oatmeal, muffins, fruit and yogurt make for easy breakfast options. You can whip up sandwiches for lunch for a fraction of the cost of having one made at a deli. While you’re grocery shopping, don’t forget to stock up on snacks.

4. Choose Lunch Over Dinner

If you’re dying to sample the food at a high-profile restaurant, go for lunch when the prices are often cheaper. Once you’ve had your nice meal of the day, choose a cheaper option for dinner, such as a quick-service restaurant or sandwiches at your hotel room.

5. Find Discounts

Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer deals on dining — in addition to discounts on entertainment, shopping and more. Travel brochures or restaurant guides in your hotel lobby or visitors center may include coupons for eating out, too. You can buy discounted restaurant gift cards on sites like Restaurant.com or Raise.com.

Pro Tip

Several chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday will give you free food or a percentage off your bill by signing up as a new member of their eClub or rewards program.

If you’re on vacation to celebrate your birthday, take advantage of birthday freebies and discounts.

6. Order Appetizers as a Meal

Appetizers generally cost less than a full meal but can be just as filling. Check the menu prices. You may find you can order a side dish or house salad along with your appetizer and still spend less than you would on an entree.

7. Order Water

When dining out, choose water instead of soda, alcohol or other pricy drinks to cut the cost of your dining bill. Filling up on water before and during your meal can make you less likely to order a pricy dessert. Or you might be too full to finish your meal and wind up with leftovers to eat later. Besides, it’s easy to get dehydrated while traveling, especially if you’re doing lots of outdoor activities. Use mealtime as an opportunity to hydrate.

8. Take Advantage of Happy Hour Specials

Plan your dining to fall within happy hour to save money on food and drinks. Some establishments offer happy hour early in the evening while others gear their specials to late-night patrons. Others have deals only on certain days of the week. Check individual restaurants for details.

9. Research Dining Options in Advance

While planning your trip, check out the restaurants, bars and other eateries near where you’ll stay and the places you’ll visit. Look at menu prices to see if the offerings fall within your budget. Sites like Yelp can help you filter out spots that are too expensive and steer you to the best spots in unfamiliar cities.

Pro Tip

If you’re traveling with kids, look for restaurants with a kids-eat-free deal.

10. Embrace Free Food and Drinks

Enjoy the free cookies, coffee and continental breakfast at your hotel. Drink all the free samples on winery or brewery tours. If old friends or relatives live near your travel destination, take them up on their offer to come over for dinner. Free food is the best for budget travelers.

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 Manage Your Money Like a CEO MAKING MONEY

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You are the CEO of your own money.

You’re the one in charge. You make all the major decisions. When it comes to your pocketbook, you’re the highest-ranking executive, and you’re the one overseeing everything.

That’s good and bad. The bad part is, you have all the responsibility, and there’s no one else to blame. The good part is, you have the power to make things better for yourself.

It’s time you embraced that power. It’s time to decisively take charge of your finances. Here are six ways to act like a CEO:

1. Get a Good Return on Your Investment

A good CEO focuses on“ROI — return on investment.

You want to invest your time and money in things that will return a profit. That involves making apples-to-apples comparisons: Should I do THIS or should I do THAT?

For example: If you already have an emergency fund, instead of sticking money in a savings account for a rainy day, you should really invest it. That’s the best way to grow your money.

With interest rates so low, a savings account these days will pay you pretty much zero interest. However, investing in the stock market has yielded an average annual return of 7%, adjusted for inflation, according to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.

Don’t know where to start? Beginners like Robinhood 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.

2. Stay in the Black

A smart CEO always looks for ways to cut unnecessary expenses and improve their bottom line.

For example, do you carry a balance on your credit cards? Then you’re almost certainly spending too much money on interest. Credit cards charge notoriously high interest rates.

With help from a free website called AmOne, you could wipe out all of your credit card debt by the end of the week.

It’ll match you with a low-interest loan to pay off all your credit cards at once. Its interest rates start at 3.99% — way lower than the 20% or more you’re probably paying your credit card company. That could save you thousands in the long run, which is a solid CEO move.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online.

3. Pay Yourself First

CEOs make sure they get paid. There’s really no question about that. No matter what, CEOs make sure they Get. Paid.

Sure, obviously you need to fulfill all of your responsibilities and pay all your bills, etc. However, you also have to make sure to take care of yourself and your own financial needs.

Invest for your retirement. Build a nice fat retirement fund via a 401(k) or an IRA.

Also, make sure you have an emergency fund — a stash of easily accessible money that amounts to six months’ worth of salary, in case you unexpectedly lose your job.

With an Aspiration account, you can earn up to 16 times the average interest on your savings, and up to 5% cash back on debit card purchases.

4. Have a Mission Statement

This is another way of saying, “Don’t forget about your long-term goals.” When you’re making a money decision, ask yourself: “Does this get me closer to my goal?”

You should be taking specific steps toward your goal. That’s what a CEO would do.

For example, one of your long-term goals may be to own your own home. Or maybe you’d like to drive a better car.

If so, you’re going to need a good credit score. That’ll make a big difference in how much interest you’ll pay on a mortgage or car loan. That could easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a mortgage.

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 and personalized tips to improve it. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).

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

5. Focus on Stakeholders’ Interests

“Stakeholder” is a big buzzword in the corporate world. In business terms, stakeholders are people who have an interest in the company, like investors, employees and repeat customers.

In your personal life, your stakeholders are your family members.

Have you thought about how they’ll manage without your income after you’re gone? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $16 a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

6. Innovate and Pivot

CEOs love this stuff. This is a big-time CEO move. They’re always talking about fostering innovation, keeping up with the times, and pivoting to the next profitable thing that’s just around the corner.

You can innovate in your personal financial life too. Just try a money-saving move that you’ve never bothered with before. You might be surprised by how much money you save!

For example, you’re probably shopping online more than you used to. (Most of us are.) Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert when you’re about to overpay?

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.

Remember: You’re the CEO of your money. It’s no one’s responsibility but yours.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s not a CEO, but he’s a believer in being strategic with your money.

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: How Can I Get Ahead When My Paycheck Is Just $358? MAKING MONEY

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Dear Penny,

I have a small part-time role at a retail store and I earn roughly $358 biweekly. I’m 33 and I’ve been working in retail since I was a teenager. I’ve quit a lot of jobs and have also gotten fired unfairly. I don’t know what to do with my money.

I don’t know whether to buy a car or save for an apartment. Earning as much as I earn doesn’t give me the luxury of having both, therefore, I don’t know what to do. I was thinking of getting another part-time job, but I don’t know what it’ll do to my mental health. I am disabled. Or I don’t know whether to ask my boss for more hours since this job is extremely boring and not stimulating.

I was thinking of heading back to school to get an A.S. That way I’ll have a career, but I don’t know what I want to study. Two years ago I was studying my passion, which was to be a veterinary technician, but turns out I’m 60% allergic to dogs.

I don’t want to work with humans, though retail has helped me come out of my shell tremendously, so it should be something to consider.

Anyway I have no savings and no IRA. I’ve been wanting to open an IRA since I was 21, but I haven’t been able to with the on-and-off jobs.

I’m also indebted by a student loan. It was a sketchy school, so I’m trying to have the loan forgiven.

Anyway, should I save up for a car? Or an apartment? I don’t know what to do, and I’m tired of my family telling me what to do with my money. I just want an outsider’s perspective. 

Sincerely,

Confused

Dear Confused,

I’m assuming you live with your family. And as long as you live with your family, your family is going to tell you what to do with your money. So I think getting an apartment makes sense as a long-term goal.

The problem is that two $358 paychecks a week, or $704 a month, won’t begin to cover your expenses in an apartment, even if you got roommates. So if you want an apartment, making more money needs to be the goal.


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But how do you get there? If you could buy a car and use it to make more money, that may be a good shorter-term goal. Since you’re on the fence about getting a second part-time job, you could try a side hustle like driving for Uber or Lyft, or delivering food or groceries. You’d have the flexibility to only work when you want to, which could be a good thing since you’re worried about the toll on your mental health. Although it’s tough to find a job with zero human interaction, delivery would minimize the amount of time you have to spend with people.

However, a car is a big investment. Only go that route if you’re willing to commit to working enough so that you can cover vehicle expenses, plus add to your savings each month. If you do so, I’d suggest saving toward a cheap used car you can pay cash for. Budget part of every paycheck for reaching that goal.

Meanwhile, asking your boss for more hours is a good plan in the interim. I get that your current job is unfulfilling, but at least you know what it entails. You don’t have to make a lifelong commitment here. Simply ask your boss if he or she could give you a few more shifts in the next month and see how things go.

Employers across the country are dealing with worker shortages, so chances are good that your boss will be able to schedule you for extra hours. Also, look at a few hiring ads for businesses around you to see what starting pay they’re offering. Even for jobs that require little experience, wages have skyrocketed in recent months. If other businesses are paying new hires more, consider asking for a pay raise.

I’d hold off on returning to school until you know what you want to study. Make sure whatever degree you’re interested in has a clear career path that will help you earn more. Should you decide to further your education at some point, consider applying with an employer that offers tuition benefits. For example, you could use your retail experience to work at Walmart or Target, which recently announced they would pay 100% of costs for earning certain degrees and certifications.

You have a lot of goals, which is a good thing. But having so many goals can get overwhelming when you can’t stretch anymore from your paycheck. Focus on one goal at a time and finding ways to gradually increase your income. Even if the work you’re doing is boring, I suspect you’ll feel more motivated when you have a clear goal you’re working toward.

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

MAKING MONEY

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How to Start a Baking Business From Home and Cash In MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:13 Minute, 18 Second

People rave over your Dutch apple pie. They always take a second slice of your Texas sheet cake. Those oatmeal raisin cookies disappear in minutes.

Fans tell you repeatedly you could sell your tasty treats. Maybe you should.

As a baker, you can add to your income doing something you love by starting a home baking business. What is needed? An initial investment in tools, packaging, and baking basics and a marketing strategy for your bakery business. It’s likely you already have some equipment but you may need more as your business scales up.

Estimates range from $5,000 to $10,000 to start a home baking business with monthly income from $1,000 to $2,000. Of course, those numbers depend on a lot of variables, including how extensive you want the business to be, where you live, how many hours you want to work a week, and more.

One thing that’s free is coming up with a name. That might be the most fun of all.

Check out The Penny Hoarder’s Guide to Starting a Business. Tip: Take manageable steps.

Start Your Mixers

There’s so much to think about that you might find yourself as mixed up as one of your cake batters. But if you take a methodical approach — you are a baker aren’t you? — you’ll be able to master each step.

Whether you want to launch a full-time business or just bake enough for a little cash on the side, we’re here to help.

In this post, we’ll cover:

First, Find a Support System
Decide on a Specialty
Do Your Market Research
Create a Business Plan
Home Baking Business Regulations
Devise a Marketing Plan
Equipment and Logistics Needed for Bakery Business

First, Find a Support System

Deciding to make your baking business dream come true is truly like a roller coaster ride. It is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. There are customers who sing your praises and ask you to cater their big office brunch. Yay! Then there are more complicated challenges. Like taxes. Or licensing questions.

Luckily there are lots of resources to help.

The Facebook group, We Are Home Business Bakers, has over 34,000 members. Joining a local business alliance is smart. They make workshops, gatherings, and peer-to-peer help available to members through networking. Almost everyone wants to be friends with a baker. These groups help you navigate at the beginning, and are a steady source of encouragement and support.

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Decide on a Specialty

You will need a chunk of time, energy, space and money to get started. Think about your ideal baking business. The first thing you should do is see what baked goods are being offered locally.

Your dark chocolate raspberry ginger brownies have a fabulous reputation. But if you are going to be offering a brownie menu, you should look to see who else in town is making them. Then decide if yours are different enough to stand out, or if you should pivot to another treat.

This is the right time to ask people in your life which of your desserts they like best. You might think everyone loves the pecan snickerdoodles best, but it turns out the traditional ones are the favorite.

It is important to be flexible when you are starting out. Do a test run, and pay attention to how long it takes you to make the cookies, bake them, the amount of time for cooling off, and packaging them. This will help you plan your time, the amount of room you need, and your skills in uniform sizing.

If you were planning on using a professional kitchen, that is not allowed under most states’ cottage food laws. It might be something to grow into. You don’t have to spend much money to get started. Bigger dreams, and expenses, can happen after you have grown your home baking business.
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Do Your Market Research

What items does a home bakery usually offer? These are most common:
Cakes

Cakes
Most pies (Check local regulations! Florida allows apple pies but not pumpkin)
Cookies including bar cookies like brownies
Bread
Dry mixes for cakes, cupcakes, breads, cookies, etc
Cupcakes
Granola

Search what is available locally online if you want to sell online. Visit different vendors at local farmers markets if that is your goal. Figure out a target market for your home bakery business.

Marketing is more than having business cards and a cute name. Ask yourself these questions before you come up with a marketing plan:

Can you describe your home bakery business in five words?
Which of your baked treats do family and friends like best?
What are the best ways to reach your target market?
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Create a Business Plan

Writing a business plan might seem intimidating, but there are templates you can use. Different plans allow different levels of details. Here are 16 tools to help you launch and run a small business.

Some of the considerations:

Schedule. You will need time to shop, organize, bake, package, deliver, and promote your goodies. Decide how many hours a week you have available to work on your baking business.
Recordkeeping. You will also have to keep records for expenditures and income. Labels must be made for the food. There may be contracts and for sure licensing information that needs filing.
Business core. As you start, you may focus on a set menu or creating custom desserts. Maybe even a mixture. Your business and offerings can change as you get going to respond to the market, but it’s imperative to have an idea going in.

Think About Starting Lean

A business plan will help you understand all the factors that go into starting a small business. It will help you shape the business around your life, rather than the other way around.

Unless you are going to seek funding for your home baking business, a lean business plan, the briefer version, could work for your launch. A lean business plan helps you focus on the right questions when you are starting your business. In a way it is like a recipe. Figure out what you are making, what ingredients you will need, and the order that you have to do things for it to work out well.

You might decide that you have 20 hours a week to devote to starting a home bakery business, but not much cash. Everyone loves your vegan cookies, and you have all the equipment needed to make them. You need photographs, customers, packaging and a way to connect the customers with the cookies.

Using social media to promote your treats is free and effective. There are lots of online videos on how to take effective food photos.

You can accept cash, checks, or set up a payment service like Paypal or Venmo. Those are also free to set up, but there are fees for use. You can get started with your home baking business for practically nothing but the ingredients for your baked goods.
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Home Baking Business Regulations

“Cottage Food” laws govern what home-based food entrepreneurs can legally make and how they can sell their products. State laws have expanded what foods can be made at home and sold to consumers.

This year, New Jersey created its own cottage food laws, meaning that finally all 50 states allow food entrepreneurs to start their businesses in their own homes.

There are wide variations in laws. According to the Institute of Justice, which follows what they call “food freedom laws,” 37 states allow home bakers to sell food online, and 21 states are allowed to sell food in grocery stores. States often ban selling home baked goods wholesale, which means restaurants and food trucks cannot use those products.

Many states waive licensing and inspection requirements. Earlier this year New Mexico changed laws requiring extensive kitchen upgrades, saving those who want to start a home bakery thousands of dollars

Your State’s Cottage Food Laws

There’s a good chance your state has updated its laws over the last few years. It’s important to make yourself familiar with them. This website is a database about cottage food laws.

However, it is smart to also check your state’s health department and departments of agriculture or economic development in case there are more recent developments. Most states ban making temperature controlled or potentially hazard foods at home.

Some states require food handling certificates, business licenses, and a sales tax permit. Florida does not require a license or certificates to start a business. California does. New Hampshire doesn’t initially but then does if your business grows successfully.

“Off-premises consumption packaged food” (that’s the technical tax language for home bakers’ products) is often considered tax exempt. Learn about local regulations as the home based bakery business owner. There are no national laws regarding cottage food production.

Licensing Needed

The first thing to do is know what your state’s laws require of your home baking business. Are there licenses or tax forms required by your state or municipality? It’s fun to shop for equipment and chocolate, but understanding what to do legally early on reduces stress later. Decide if the legal status of your business will be an S-corporation or LLC, and how you will handle taxes. More information about legal and taxes.
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Devise Your Marketing Plan

You need a way to tell the world you are open, and that your organic gingerbread blueberry granola will blow their minds. You have a name for your new business. The next step is creating a logo, business cards or flyers, and a plan to get in front of your target market.

You can use a freelance designer through 99designs or Upwork. A logo design for cards, websites, and social media could cost $300-500. You can also use a free design program like Canva to create your own if you have the skills.

Digital Place for Your Baked Goods

Not everyone will have a website or social media at the beginning. Word of mouth can build a home bakery business. You can get potential patrons’ numbers and text them a weekly menu. But eventually you will need a public space, either in the real world or online, to sell your treats.

Do you want to use social media or a website? There are websites built for home baking businesses, such as Castiron, BlueCart, and Yummit. Spend some time online looking for which sites you find the most tempting, and try to figure out why you like them. Look at the ways people post their menus and photos. Pay close attention to how they handle sales.

Social media is a common way to sell baked goods. Instagram and Etsy are filled with drool worthy photos of cookies, cakes, pies, and more. Many businesses use Facebook for online presence. It’s best to pick one that you are already familiar with, and have a following. There will be time later to scale up.

Share pictures of your creations with your friends and followers! Who in the world wouldn’t want to daydream about your fresh lemon butter pound cake?

Where to Sell Your Goods

Your state laws govern where you can sell your goods outside of home. West Virginia, for example, allows you to sell at events, restaurants, and farmers markets, but you can’t cross state lines.

There usually is a fee for selling at a market or event. You will need additional equipment for a stall. Some markets and events provide the canopy ($98), tables ($50), and chairs ($19), but it is more likely you will have to bring them. You will need signage, including banners and possibly a standing display sign ($137)

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Equipment and Logistics Needed for Bakery Business

Everyone who has had a restaurant knows that it takes a while to settle into the right purveyors. Companies and systems that look good on paper may not mesh with your schedule or taste. Buying in bulk usually saves money for shelf stable goods.

Do you want organic ingredients, or gluten free flour? Is there a specific chocolate brand you are loyal to? The cost of your ingredients will determine the prices you charge, so this is an important area to keep track of.

Restaurant supply stores like Gordon Food Service (which is free to shop at) and wholesale stores like Costco (annual membership is $60) can supply most of the basics for your home bakery. Local farmers markets and produce stands are great resources for fresh fruits, vegetables, and often eggs and other dairy.

Order packaging material and labels online. Most states have specific language that you have to use on labels, so pay attention to that when thinking about your packaging sizes and design.

For example, Florida law states that all cottage food products offered for sale to the general public must be labeled: “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.”

Space at Home

Make sure you have the correct equipment, including an oven that maintains stable temperatures accurately, and space in your house for supplies. You’ll need a place where you can easily package your tasty goods.

It will get old quickly if you have to move things out of the way every time you bake or pack. Check to see if your state requires separate equipment from personal use items, or even separate sinks or storage. This can have a big impact on your budget.

Transportation and Delivery

An important part of the plan is getting baked goods to the customer. Many home bakers offer multiple options. Picking food up at home could include contactless pick up. They might deliver the food themselves. Some states allow food delivery apps to transport your food (there may be fees for both the buyer and seller).

If you are planning on delivering the food, not only do you need a reliable vehicle, but you need to keep the baked goods stable as they travel. Stackable food crates ($45) can fit in even small cars. Or clean, solid produce boxes free from a vegetable stand work as well.

Setting Prices

A rule of thumb standard for pricing is to triple your expenses for the item, and adjust for market pricing.

An example:

To make four Chocolate Candy Bar Cakes you need a 5-pound bag of flour, half of a 5-pound bag of sugar, a pound of butter, a dozen eggs, baking soda, salt, a bag of mixed mini candy bars, milk, cocoa, powdered sugar, spices, and vanilla. Total cost for baking supplies is $26. Adding the packaging brings it up to $29. Triple that amount equals $87 so $22 a cake would be the starting price. If it is a custom cake; has elaborate icing; or everyone else is selling for significantly more, raise the price.

Your initial costs might be higher since you will be stocking up on supplies. Include in your calculations free samples or specials and coupons you might offer. Those costs are part of marketing.

Ready to Go!

Are you ready to start your home bakery business? With some smart planning and your inherent creativity, you can transform your life with this leap, a dozen cupcakes at a time.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.

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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9 Best Online Checking Accounts of 2021 MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:17 Minute, 42 Second
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When customers grew tired of high cable and satellite bills, streaming giants Netflix and Hulu entered the playing field.

When customers lamented their experiences with taxis, Uber and Lyft offered a new way to get around town.

And when customers saw that their financial institutions were not working with their best interests in mind, online bank accounts came onto the scene to offer more.

The best online checking accounts offer members lower fees (or sometimes even no fees) and higher interest rates than their traditional bank and credit union competitors. Top checking accounts also have responsive websites and advanced mobile apps to provide the same convenience of in-person banking on the go.

And despite what you might think about an account that is entirely online, online checking accounts are incredibly safe. (Lack of safety is just one of many myths about online banks.)

All this makes online bank accounts highly appealing to savvy Penny Hoarders — or, in the case of online checking accounts, savvy penny spenders.

The 9 Best Online Checking Accounts of 2021

Bank
Top Feature

nbkc

No monthly or overdraft

SEE DETAILS

Axos Rewards Checking

Up to 1.25% APY

SEE DETAILS

Ally Interest Checking

No monthly or overdraft

SEE DETAILS

Discover Bank Cashback Debit

1% cash back

SEE DETAILS

Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking

Up to 4.09% APY

SEE DETAILS

Wealthfront Cash Account

No account minimum

SEE DETAILS

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

Universal ATM reimbursem

SEE DETAILS

Chime Spending Account

Automatic Rounding Tool

SEE DETAILS

Capital One 360

70,000+ in-network ATMs

SEE DETAILS

nbkc Bank

Best for Fee-Free Checking
Key Features

0.15%
No monthly, overdraft or foreign trans. fees.
No minimum account balance

5 out of 5 Overall
The National Bank of Kansas City, more popularly known as nbkc, isn’t just for Kansans. It boasts a high APY, lack of fees and easy ATM access for the checking account. If you’re looking for a bank devoid of fees (like foreign transaction fees and overdraft fees) and $12 per month in ATM fee reimbursements, this account should be on your list.
nbkc
APY
0.15%, no matter the balance.
Minimum balance requirement
$5 to open the account, but no minimum balance is required.
Monthly fees
None
Foreign transaction fees
None
Overdraft fees
None
ATM fees
Fee-free access to more than 37,000 MoneyPass ATMs

Axos Rewards Checking

Best for Frequent Debit Card Users
Key Features

Up to 1.25% APY
No overdraft or monthly fees
Unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements

4.5 out of 5 Overall
Formerly known as Bank of Internet, Axos Bank offers a great online checking account with the potential to earn up to 1.25% APY. You just have to meet three unique conditions each month (each worth 0.4166% APY): receive at least one direct deposit of $1,000+; use your debit card 10 times per month; and use your debit card 15 times per month.
Axos Rewards Checking
APY
Up to 1.25% APY (0.4166% APY per condition met).
Minimum balance requirement
None.
Monthly fees
None.
Foreign transaction fees
Yes, up to 1% of each transaction.
Overdraft fees
None.
ATM fees
Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements; none outside the U.S. (Replacement debit cards cost $10.

Ally Interest Checking Account

Best for Mobile Banking
Key Features

Up to 0.25% APY
No monthly or overdraft fees
10 monthly out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement

4.5 out of 5 Overall
Ally Bank offers both checking and savings accounts that are worth your consideration, especially with easy ATM access and lack of monthly maintenance fees. If you keep $15,000 or more in the Ally Interest checking account, you’ll earn 0.25% APY; otherwise, it’s 0.10%. However, we recommend keeping less in checking and more in a linked Ally savings account, which earns 0.60% APY.
Ally Interest Checking Account
APY
Up to 0.25%.
Minimum balance requirement
None.
Monthly fees
None.
Foreign transaction fees
Yes, 1% of each transaction.
Overdraft fees
None.
ATM fees
Offers U.S.-based ATM reimbursements up to $10 and 43,000+ Allpoint ATMs are free.

Discover Bank Cashback Debit

Best for Cash Back
Key Features

1% cash back on all purchases
No overdraft or monthly fees
60,000+ fee-free ATMs

4 out of 5 Overall
The biggest reason customers love this high-yield checking account: Your earnings are all about how you spend. Unlike other banks on this list, Discover does not pay out an APY. Instead, it rewards you for using the money in your checking account. Right now, Discover gives you 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases every month. That’s up to $30, just for using your debit card as you
Discover Bank Cashback Debit
APY
1% cash back
Minimum balance requirement
None.
Monthly fees
None.
Foreign transaction fees
It depends on the country.
Overdraft fees
None.
ATM fees
Access to more than 60,000 fee-free ATMs; fees for out-of-network ATMs.

Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards

Best for High APY Credit Unions
Key Features

Up to 4.09% APY
No monthly fees
Potential for unlimited ATM fee reimbursement

4 out of 5 Overall
If you have your sights set on the highest APY possible, go with Consumers Credit Union. Just be ready to meet some strict criteria first. To earn 3.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 and unlimited ATM fee reimbursement, you need to use the debit card at least 12 times per month (and run it as credit ); have one or more direct deposits or ACH debit to your account totaling $500 a month.
Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards
APY
Up to 4.09%
Minimum balance requirement
None, but $5 minimum opening deposit required.
Monthly fees
None
Foreign transaction fees
Yes, 1% of each transaction.
Overdraft fees
$30 for every overdraft. You can link the account to an online savings account and get overdraft protection.
ATM fees
30,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide; unlimited fee reimbursement if conditions are met.

Wealthfront Cash Account

Best for Investors
Key Features

0.10% APY
No monthly or overdraft fees
Easy to sync with investments + savings accounts

4 out of 5 Overall
The Wealthfront Cash Account is a new high-interest checking offering from Wealthfront, a popular banking service. It does everything that traditional checking accounts do — but it’ll pay you double the national average interest, and you can get paid up to two days early when you directly deposit your paycheck. The appeal of Wealthfront is its associated online savings and investment accounts.
Wealthfront Cash Account
APY
0.10%
Minimum balance requirement
You only need $1 to open an account, and there are no account minimums.
Monthly fees
Wealthfront won’t charge you any monthly or maintenance fees.
Foreign transaction fees
Yes, 2.75% of each transaction.
Overdraft fees
There is no overdraft option, so you don’t have to worry about overdraft fees.
ATM fees
You get a debit card that works at 19,000 fee-free ATMs across the U.S.

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor

Best for Travelers
Key Features

Universal ATM fee reimbursements
No foreign transaction fees
Linked brokerage account

4 out of 5 Overall
Travelers will love the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account, thanks to universal ATM fee reimbursements and lack of foreign transaction fees. However, interest on the account is negligible. And while there are no minimum balance requirements for the bank account, you will be required to open a linked Scwab brokerage account. You will want to keep something in the brokerage account.
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor
APY
0.03%
Minimum balance requiremen
None, but linked brokerage account required.
Monthly fees
None.
Foreign transaction fees
None.
Overdraft fees
$25 nonsufficient funds fee, charged up to $100 a day.
ATM fees
Universal ATM fee reimbursements.

Chime Spending Account

Best for Beginners
Key Features

Automatic rounding tool; auto savings transfer
Early paycheck access
60,000+ fee-free ATMs

4 out of 5 Overall
What makes Chime unique is how it helps users build up their savings. Chime can automatically transfer 10% of any direct deposit into your savings. Even more helpful is the automatic rounding tool. If you buy an iced coffee for $3.14, Chime rounds the charge up to $4 and puts the extra $0.86 into your savings account. You can turn off both features at any time.
Chime Spending Account
APY
N/A; 0.50% in linked savings account.
Minimum balance requirement
None.
Monthly fees
None.
Foreign transaction fees
None.
Overdraft fees
None.
ATM fees
60,000 fee-free ATMs in the U.S. ATM withdrawals are limited to $500 per day.

Capital One 360

Best for ATM Users
Key Features

0.10% APY
No monthly or foreign transaction fees
70,000 in-network ATMs

4.5 out of 5 Overall
Capital One 360’s checking account is not the strongest, but its decent APY, its access to ATMs, easy linkage to a high-yield savings account and its lack of foreign transaction fees are its saving grace. When it comes to overdrafts, Capital One lets you decide what happens: You can set up auto-decline, free savings transfer, or next day grace (a day to replace the amount before charged $35).
Capital One 360
APY
0.10%
Minimum balance requirement
None.
Monthly fees
None.
Foreign transaction fees
None.
Overdraft fees
$35.
ATM fees
70,000 Capital One and Allpoint fee-free ATMs, but there is no fee reimbursement for out-of-network ATMs

What to Look for in an Online Checking Account

If you keep your cash in a traditional bank or credit union but are drawn to the convenience and higher returns of an online checking account, consider several important factors:

Annual percentage yield (APY): An annual percentage yield, according to Investopedia, is “the effective annual rate of return taking into account the effect of compounding interest.” If you are intrigued by complex math formulas, Investopedia even explains the calculation. But for those who, like me, shudder at the thought of high school math, here’s the easier thing to remember: The higher the APY, the more money you earn. An alternative to consider to APY is cash back. Some checking accounts, like Discover, offer cash back in place of interest. Depending on how much you spend in debit card purchases, cash back could be the better option.
Minimum balance: The best online checking accounts typically require no minimum balance — or a reasonably low balance. Some banks may require minimum balances on checking accounts to achieve certain benefits, like a higher APY or ATM fee reimbursements.
ATM fees: Speaking of ATMs, look for a mobile-based checking account with a large network of fee-free ATMs nationally, or even globally. A truly good checking account should even reimburse you for fees other ATMs outside of the network may charge you.
Monthly fees: Make free checking accounts a top criterion when selecting an online bank account; this is often a key differentiator from checking accounts at traditional banks, which often charge monthly service fees. If an online bank includes “monthly maintenance fee” in its fine print, take your money elsewhere.
Foreign transaction fees: If you travel out of the country frequently, find a checking account with a debit card that does not charge you a fee to use an ATM or make a transaction abroad. However, this may not be the most important criterion, as many savvy online bank members also have travel rewards credit cards that are fee-free globally, eliminating the need for fee-free foreign debit card transactions.
Overdraft fees: Everybody makes mistakes. Don’t let your online bank punish you for it. Find a checking account that will not charge you an overdraft fee if you accidentally overspend. Some checking accounts let you opt out of their overdraft programs.

Downsides of Online Checking Accounts

Even the best free online checking accounts have their disadvantages.

The biggest downside to online checking accounts: Many online financial institutions do not contract with ATMs, so depositing cash can be difficult. Even those of us who live by the plastic in our wallets may sometimes need to deposit cash, like if Grandma gives you $100 for your birthday or you wait tables and amass a fair amount in cash tips each week.

Pro Tip

If you don’t want to carry a lot of cash, purchase a money order for as little as $1 and then deposit the money order electronically. Or give it to a friend who can Venmo you the equivalent.

Other drawbacks to online checking accounts include a lack of cashier’s checks (you may have to order one and wait a few days for it to arrive) and a lack of in-person service. When I am stressed about my finances or troubled by activity I see in my account, I find it satisfying to go into one of my credit union’s physical branch locations to get assistance with my checking account. But if you think you can keep your cool while getting help over the phone or online, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you are making the move from a checking account at a traditional bank to an online account, you likely have some questions. Here, we’ll tackle some of the most frequently asked questions about online checking accounts:

What Other Banks are Like Chime?

Chime is certainly one of the more interesting online banking accounts out there, but its app-based approach is not wholly unique. Some of Chime’s competitors—and thus alternatives for you to consider—include Current Bank, Varo, and Acorns.

Current Bank allows you to set up Savings Pods, little sub savings accounts to work toward a goal. You can also get your paycheck two days early.

Varo Bank has checking and savings accounts, the latter with an automatic savings tool. Varo also has early direct deposits.

Finally, Acorns allows you to get involved in micro-investing, rounding up your purchases and investing the remaining amount. There is a monthly service fee for this account, however.

A bank account with any of these institutions could be worthwhile, but in general, Chime tends to be the most popular option.

Who Has the Best Free Checking Account?

This is a good question, but a challenging one to answer. It really comes down to your specific needs. Accounts are often advertised as “fee-free,” but that could just mean no monthly fees, which are kind of “catch-all” monthly maintenance fees. They still might charge foreign transaction fees, overdraft fees and even lost debit card fees.

Think about your lifestyle. Do you travel abroad regularly? Look for an account with no foreign transaction fees. Have you paid one too many overdraft fees? Avoid accounts that overcharge you for those mistakes.

But there’s more to a checking account than being fee-free. Do you want a high interest checking account? Are you interested in a free checking account with a highly rated mobile app? Do you want to be able to link your checking account to a savings account? How important is easy ATM access to you? Would you benefit from early direct deposits?

There are so many factors to consider. Our rankings include the best of the best, but you’ll want to use the table above to zero in on the checking account that is right for you.

Can I Open a Checking Account With No Money?

Many banks require a minimum deposit amount when opening a new account, and others still have minimum balance requirements. That said, you can find banks with no minimum deposit at opening and no minimum balance. So yes, some banks do allow you to open a checking account with no money.

How Do I Deposit and Withdraw Money With an Online Checking Account?

Depositing checks at online banks is easy. Any account worth considering will have a mobile check deposit feature that allows you to take pictures of the front and back of the check. Funds will not be immediately available when you use this option, so hold onto the paper check until the money has cleared.

Note: Some banks may have limits on the size of the check that can be deposited. In that case, you may need to work with a brick-and-mortar bank to get the check cashed, but it’s rare that most of us will be cashing $50,000 checks.

If you have another savings or checking account with a physical bank, most online banking accounts will allow you to connect the two accounts so that you can transfer funds. Having an online account with good rewards that is connected with a brick-and-mortar bank that is close to your home makes depositing funds easy.

To deposit cash, just go to an ATM within your online bank’s network. You can also buy a money order, which will carry some level of fee, albeit a minimal one.

You can also fund your checking account via direct deposit. If your employer offers direct deposit or you receive any kind of financial aid from the government, set up that direct deposit to go directly into your checking account.

Withdrawing money from your online bank account works similarly. You can go to an ATM that is in network for free withdrawals. You can also transfer money to a connected account and withdraw in person. Finally, online checking accounts should come with debit cards, which you can use to spend your money.

Are Online Checking Accounts Safe?

Yes, online banks are safe. Choose a bank that is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or a credit union that is insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Not sure whether you should go with a bank or credit union? Check out the pros and cons of banks and credit unions before making a decision.

Secure online banks and credit unions will also offer account security features like multi-factor authentication and biometrics.

Tips for Choosing the Best Online Checking Account

You don’t need every feature, so think about your needs before choosing an account. Opening accounts with multiple institutions could help you secure the best features.

Still not sure which online checking account to choose? Here are a few tips that might help in your bank account selection process.

Think About Your Needs from a Checking Account

Most online checking accounts — especially the ones on our top nine list — offer some combination of good perks, though they might be missing out on others. Ultimately, you have to decide which checking account benefits are more important to you.

Are you looking at your checking account as a small but smart investment strategy? Go with an account with a higher APY. Do you regularly rely on cash when traveling? Look for an online bank without ATM surcharges and that reimburses you out of network.

You should also consider whether banks or credit unions are the right option for you when researching checking accounts.

Maintain More Than One Account

You don’t have to have all your accounts through the same financial institution. You can start your savings and money market accounts at a local credit union, sign up for an online checking account for the high APY and easy access to ATMs and utilize a national brick-and-mortar bank for your car loan.

Many of those traditional banks and credit unions also offer their own online bank accounts for a “hybrid solution” that gives you in-person access to assistance and that still offers the benefits of an online account.

Know What You’re Signing

Before signing with an online checking account — or any account with any financial institution — read the fine print. Closely.

APYs that sound too good to be true may only apply for a set amount of time or under set conditions; ordering checks in the mail or wiring money may cost an unexpected fee; and foreign transactions may be free, but foreign ATMs may include a fee.

Reading the fine print of potential checking accounts may also help you discover other benefits (like no wire fees) that may be important to you but that are not commonly advertised.

Timothy Moore covers bank accounts for The Penny Hoarder. He has worked in editing and graphic design for a marketing agency, a global research firm and a major print publication. He covers a variety of other topics, including insurance, taxes, retirement and budgeting and has worked in the field since 2012.

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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Stay-at-Home Parents — Make Extra Money Without Joining an MLM MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:5 Minute, 26 Second

Speaking from experience, being a stay-at-home parent is the most underpaid job in the world.

We work the longest hours, don’t get an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan and definitely don’t receive paid vacation. The perks are great — getting to spend all this time with our kids, and our uniform is much more comfortable — but boy, would it be nice to see a few dollars for the work we put in.

Unfortunately, it feels like social media is telling stay-at-home parents the only way we can make extra money these days is through a buy-in-required, set-your-own-hours, be-your-own-boss type of job. Yep. We’ve all gotten those DMs from long-lost friends asking us to join their multi-level marketing company.

I’m not falling for it. You shouldn’t, either. Spending money to make money only works in the stock market — and real ways to make extra cash exist, with little to no risk involved.

Here are some of the easiest ways for stay-at-home parents to make a little extra money — without joining an MLM.

1. Take Advantage of Nap Time and Earn $225 Watching Videos

If we told you that you could get free money just for watching videos on your computer while your kid soonzed, you’d probably laugh. It’s too good to be true, right? But we’re serious.

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

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

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

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

2. Get Cash Back With Every Grocery Haul

Grocery shopping when you have kids is an adventure. If you managed to get to checkout with everything you need — despite your toddler’s meltdown in the frozen aisle — you should have something to show for it.

A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying toilet paper and more than 250 other items at the grocery store (Hopefully something your picky eater will eat).

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.

You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something…

3. Is Your Kid Still in Diapers? Get Rewarded For Your Loyalty

Diapers are expensive. If you added up all the dirty nappies your kid went through this year… well, don’t. It’s a lot. Better not to think about it.

Thankfully, some of the brands you use most offer loyalty programs to help offset the cost (and keep you coming back). For example, the Pampers Club app gives you cash back and points for each diaper or wipes code you scan.

Points can be redeemed for discounts and coupons, and the cash gets transferred right to your PayPal account. I’ve already made $40 for filling up my diaper pail!

4. Find Extra Money That’s Already in Your Budget

Money doesn’t just fall out of the sky — which is too bad. But it can fall out of your budget, if you know where to look.

When was the last time you looked at your car insurance payment? You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money.

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

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

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

5. Embrace the Minimalist Movement and Clean Out Your Closet

You know the closet I’m talking about. The one with clothes and toys your kids outgrew last year, mystery boxes from the last time you moved and didn’t unpack, and other miscellaneous junk you obviously don’t use.

It’s time to let go. Sell it! Whether it’s through a garage sale, Facebook Marketplace, or an app like Letgo, get rid of it all and get some of your money back.

It’ll feel like a breath of fresh air to unload so much stuff, and you could be a few hundred bucks richer. Win-win.

6. If You Have the Time, Get a Side Gig

Side-gigging is a hard juggling act for stay-at-home parents, which is why those multi-level marketing companies can be so tempting — but don’t feel pressured to do it. They can be a dangerous investment, if you’re not high enough on the corporate food chain.

So, what kind of side gig can parents have? Driving or food shopping apps aren’t always feasible with little ones at home. It has to be something you can do from home and that works around your family’s schedule.

If you have skills and experience from before parenthood, you can look for online and remote freelance gigs at some of the top freelancing websites.

You could also take a free online contact-tracing course from John Hopkins University, then find contact-tracing jobs. These types of jobs are flexible and can earn you upwards of $30/hour. Plus, you’d be playing a meaningful role in the reopening of our economy.

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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Don’t Let Residual Interest Wreck Your Credit Card Payoff Plan MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:4 Minute, 36 Second

Today is the day you pay off the remaining balance on your credit card.

Congrats! But if you waited until you received your statement in the mail, you’ll have to fork over additional money beyond the balance listed before you’re free of the credit card company.

Why? Because of a little (or not so little) thing called residual interest.

Residual interest — aka trailing interest — is the amount of additional interest you accrue between the billing date and your payment. If you’re paying off a substantial balance in one final swoop, the interest tacked onto next month’s statement could come as a very unwelcome surprise.

And it could be particularly painful if you don’t bother opening the next month’s statement because you think the balance is already paid. 

Here’s how you can avoid residual interest — and save yourself from handing over one more dollar than you absolutely need to.

What Is Residual Interest?

Read the fine print in your credit card statement (fun, right?), and you’ll notice a sentence that reads something like this: Paying your last statement balance may not pay your balance in full. 

To understand how that’s possible, we need to first learn a few terms and how they apply to your credit card account:

Billing cycle: The period of time between your credit card statements — typically around 30 days, depending on the issuer. If your billing cycle starts on the 15th of the month, for instance, it would likely end on the 14th of the next month.
Account closing date: The last day of the billing cycle. 
Due date: The day the payment for the previous billing cycle is due. If anything less than the full amount is paid off by the due date, the leftover amount is charged interest and added to the next month’s billing cycle.
Full payoff amount: The total amount that you owe, including accrued interest. If you carry a balance, this number will increase daily. (P.S. It’s different than the “current balance” you’ll see on your credit card statement — unless you pay off your balance every month.)
Grace period: The period between the account closing date and your due date — a minimum of 21 days, if your credit card company offers it. If you pay your balance in full every month and don’t take out any cash advances, credit card issuers won’t charge interest on your purchases during this period. However, if you carry a balance from month to month, you lose that grace period on any portion of the balance you didn’t pay the previous month and are immediately charged interest on it.

What does this mean for you? Let’s say you’ve been paying down your credit card balance for a few months. You get the statement in the mail that says your current balance is $1,000 and you’re ready to pay it off. You go online to make the payment in full, but you schedule it for 10 days later because you’re waiting for pay day. 

When you get next month’s statement, you’ll see that you were charged interest on that $1,000 for the 10 days between the account closing date and your payment (and probably a couple extra days for the time it took for the statement to arrive in the mail). 

It might only be a few dollars, but if you don’t pay it, that amount will continue to accrue interest, you’ll get charged late fees and your credit score will take a hit for late (or no) payment.

How to Pay Off Residual Interest

The best way to avoid residual interest is to pay off your credit card balance every month. (If you’re new to the whole credit card thing, check out this guide for how to use a credit card without going into debt.)

However, if you’re close to paying off your card after previously carrying a balance, the best way to avoid residual interest is to call your credit card company. Ask for the full payoff amount as of the date the issuer will receive the payment — remember that could be a few days later than the date you send the payment. 

Pro Tip

Even if you plan to close the credit card, keep the account open for a couple months so you’ll continue receiving communications about any interest or fees you may owe.

If there’s any question whether the company will receive your payment later than the specified date (think: mail delivery or online payment delays), you might want to add a little extra money beyond the specified payoff amount. After all, it’s a lot easier to deal with overpayment than paying for another month of accruing interest.

To be on the safe side, check your statement for at least the next two months to make sure you’re not still carrying a balance or were charged additional interest. At that point, you may commence your debt-free happy dance.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

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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31 Simple And Cheap Halloween Decorations MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:9 Minute, 54 Second

After a more subdued Halloween in 2020, Americans are ready to get out and frighten their neighbors again in 2021.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend more than $10 billion this year on Halloween-related items. That’s $2 billion more than in 2020, and an all-time high for Halloween sales.

Too often, super popular means super expensive. A quick browse of Home Depot’s website shows you can find Halloween inflatables anywhere from a reasonable $15 to a whopping $213. If you really want to go all out for Halloween, you can go all out.

But we believe you can find cheap Halloween decorations that allow you to get your spook on without terrorizing your budget. So whether you want to compete with the neighbors, keep it simple with indoor decor, or craft your own kid-friendly DIY Halloween decorations, we have ideas.

31 Cheap Halloween Decoration Ideas

Carving jack-o’-lanterns and stocking up on Halloween candy will get you in the holiday spirit — and ready to decorate.

Scary Halloween Decorations

1. Bloody Candles

All you need for this little quick and easy DIY project is a white candle, a red candle in a jar, an eyedropper, and a lighter. Use the melted wax from the red candle as your “blood” and gently drop it across the white candle to create the gory effect.

2. Zombie Hand Decals

Something about a bunch of silhouetted hands reaching up and grasping for your legs or feet is just creepy. That can only mean they’re perfect as an indoor, scary Halloween decoration, right? Even better, these $16 vinyl wall stickers will easily peel right off after Halloween – or keep on creeping your friends out until Thanksgiving.

3. Creepy Black Cloth

Set the scene with this cheap Halloween decoration. The cotton/polyester black cloth is only $7 and measures 79 X 189 inches, big enough to cover a large area. Cut it in two, or cut holes into the cloth, and use your creativity to really darken up your decorated space.

4. Hanging Cocoon Corpse

This super, super creepy hanging cocoon corpse is just under $18 on Amazon. The 6-foot-long body is covered in “spider webs,” and the corpse glares at you with its red LED lighted eyes. Hang the cocoon in your yard or greet your trick-or-treaters at the front door with this terrifying corpse.

5. Head in a Jar

Sometimes plastic spiders just won’t cut it. For our really twisted readers, here’s a disturbing severed head in a laboratory jar. This $13 decoration works really well if you’re all in with your scary Halloween decorations, or if you need a prop to go along with your psychotic scientist costume.

Kid-Friendly Halloween Decorations

6. DIY Bewitching Pumpkin

With a few items from around the house, plus some basic craft supplies and spray paint from a craft store, you can make this a fun Saturday fall project with your kids. If you don’t like the messy clean-up after a pumpkin carving session, this is the perfect way to fancy up a pumpkin without dealing with that pumpkin slime.

7. Pine Cone Spiders

All you need for this fun and easy project is some pine cones from the backyard, a few sticker wiggly eyes and pipe cleaners. After a few minutes, you’ve got a pine cone spider! Rinse and repeat, then place these little guys throughout your decorated space to spook up the house.

8. DIY Tin Can Ghosts

All you really need here is a tin can and a few common craft store items — you’ll need that spray paint again — to make this charming little ghost who comes across as more fun than frightening.

9. Outdoor Ghosties

If DIY outdoor Halloween decorations aren’t your forte, you can get this trio of LED light up ghostie lanterns with animated faces. These little guys, which cost about $20 for the set, prove that ghosts don’t have to be scary. They’re the perfect way to let your kids help out without getting too creeped out by the decorations.

10. Glowing Ghost Balloons

With just three items, you can really spice up your Halloween decor with these guys. All you need are some white balloons, a black sharpie and glow sticks. Spread these balloons all over your house to really set the scene for a fun Halloween party.

Funny Halloween Decorations

11. The Red “It’ Balloon

Tie a single red balloon to a sewer grate and have a little fun with your neighbors. This visual is a reference to Stephen King’s popular and terrifying movie and book, It. If you’re more into dark humor and pop culture references, this is right up your alley.

12. Two-Pack of Posable Skeletons

These are a couple of little guys at just 16 inches tall, so they’re not great for an outdoor space. But the $13 posable skeletons are perfect for a decorative mantle or other indoor ideas. Just keep it clean with the poses, okay?

13. The Crashing Witch

Apparently this witch had a few too many strong brews and lost control of her trusty broom. She can be attached to a tree trunk, a wide pillar or even a door. The $20 decoration comes with a “don’t drink and fly” warning sign.

14. Googly Eyes

This fun craft will result in laughs for sure. Using dried gourds for larger eyes, or avocado pits for smaller eyes, to make these wide open eyeballs. Place them in strategic places around your house, like the fireplace, or outside in a sturdy bush.

Dollar Store Halloween Decorations

15. DIY Wreath

For just $4, you can make this festive, colorful Halloween wreath that will add a Halloween glow to your front door. This project is easy on the budget and results in an eye-catching seasonal door decoration.

16. Decorative Signs

If you just want a few simple signs to hang and check “Halloween decorating” off your list, then these Dollar Store signs are perfect. They come in a 12 pack of signs featuring different Halloween messages for just $12.

17. Printable Apothecary Labels

Witch’s brew. Bone powder. Frog’s breath. Spider eggs. These instantly printable $5 labels are easy to put on old, painted wine bottles and are a perfect cheap Halloween decoration for your festive space.

18. DIY Wine Glass Centerpieces

Get those dated wine glasses you got at your wedding out of the garage and reuse them to give your Halloween decorations a little flair. All you’ll need are the glasses, some paint and a paintbrush, plus a little hemp rope and you’re good to go!

19. Plastic Hanging Skeletons

The Dollar Tree plastic hanging skeletons are pretty straightforward and come in orange, white and green. They’re 3 feet tall and come in cases of 36 – so you can really go all out with these guys hanging all around your house, front porch, and front yard. A case costs $36, so save some for next year or split this purchase with a neighbor.

Kids Craft Halloween Decorations

20. DIY Spellbooks

You know those cheesy hardcover novels that you’ll never read again? Now is their time to come out of the dust and shine. With those books and craft store items including hot glue and craft paint, you can make a set of fun spellbooks with your kids that will add a lot to your haunted library.

21. Ghostie Milk Jugs

You can make these fun outside decorations with a gallon milk jug, black marker, knife and some low voltage Christmas lights. They look perfect for lighting up your sidewalk or front porch on Halloween evening.

22. DIY “Floating” Pumpkins

Using foam pumpkins you can find at any popular craft store, plus a few other items, you can create these spookified floating pumpkins to add a little fun to your Halloween decor.

23. “Floating” Lighted Witch Hats

Same idea as above, but instead of foam pumpkins you’re using a $3 black witch hat, plus some LED light sticks and a few other household items to make your front porch witchy.

Halloween Decor to Compete With the Neighbors

If you take Halloween decor seriously, here are some worthwhile splurges.

24. Giant Spider in a Web

If you’ve ever thought of frightening your neighborhood with a 4 foot spider, and who hasn’t honestly, here’s your chance. Go way over the top with said spider inside a 16 x 17 foot web in your front yard. And it’s just $16.

25. Spooky Lanterns

This cool set of two lanterns offer a little “spooky-chic flair” to your outdoor Halloween decorations display. They’re just another way of lighting up your entryway or porch while showing your decorative sensibilities.

26. Hanging Reaper

If a hanging corpse is too gory for you, maybe you’ll go for this super-creepy-but-not-as-gory hanging reaper. He (or she?) has poseable arms, red-lit eyes and is sound activated. For $19.99, let it blow in the breeze below a tree and totally freak out your neighbors!

27. Giant Bloodshot Eyeballs

These glaring, giant bloodshot eyeballs look like they came from a zombie — or a college student who had one too many pumpkin ales. All you need to make them is a large exercise or beach ball, some sandpaper, blue, black and red acrylic paint, and a paintbrush.

28. Pumpkin String Lights

Nothing too complicated here. Just a straightforward fun set of hanging pumpkin string lights to give your Halloween decor that certain mood. The set comes with 21 pumpkins that cover 10 feet.

29. Witch Cauldron Silhouette

Two witches, just chillin’ in the background, making some yummy brew made of frog eyes and decapitated bat heads over a steaming cauldron. Nothing to see here. Move along.

30. Skull and Gargoyle Tombstones

Here lies a brave soul who dared to ask those two witches what was in the cauldron. This $15 skull and gargoyle tombstone isn’t too over-the-top and will provide just enough ambiance to your haunted front yard.

31. Yard Stake Witch Feet

Not sure what happened here, but an out-control-flying witch all of a sudden ended up head first buried in your lawn. Or at least these fun little $10 yard stakes give that effect.

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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Publix Looks to Hire 30k Employees By the End of 2021 MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:2 Minute, 20 Second

Publix, a Florida-based grocery chain with more than 1,280 stores across seven Southeast states, is looking to add 30,000 employees by the end of 2021.

The popular supermarket chain says its fourth-quarter hiring spree includes positions at its stores, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities. The company didn’t specify the starting pay or salary range for new positions. A search on the company’s career portal, jobs.publix.com, listed an Orlando warehouse select position — which involves pulling products for stores — with a base pay of $20.80 to $30 an hour.

Many companies are attempting to bolster their workforce ahead of the holidays, but Publix is among a growing trend of businesses hiring mostly permanent, nonseasonal employees this year. Major retailers like Amazon and Walmart also recently announced hundreds of thousands of new nonseasonal roles for those interested in a gig that could last into 2022 and beyond.

“As we continue to grow, having a dedicated team ready to meet our needs is vitally important,” said Publix Vice President of Human Resources Marcy Benton in a hiring announcement.

Permanent jobs at Publix include some attractive perks, including:

Employee stock ownership plan that contributes Publix stock to associates each year at no cost to them.
Annual holiday cash bonuses.
401(k) with a company match.
Group health plan (with prescription benefits), dental plan and vision plan.
Free flu shots.
Tuition reimbursement benefits.

Publix encourages, but doesn’t require, new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Associates who get the vaccine can receive a $125 Publix gift card.

Many corporate positions — including system analysts, software engineers and marketing developers — are located at the company’s headquarters in Lakeland, Florida. You can search for jobs by entering your city or zip code. You can also browse jobs that match your LinkedIn profile.

Pro Tip

Not sure which Publix job is right for you? Use the company’s Publix Job Match tool to see jobs that align with your skills and experience.

Jobseekers interested in an hourly position at a Publix store can check out open roles and apply online using the company’s Talent Application Gateway.

Publix is among the fastest growing conventional supermarket operators in the United States, according to Supermarket Business. In September, Publix announced plans to expand its reach further by opening stores in Kentucky by 2023.

Looking for a job this season? We found more than 900,000 openings nationwide.

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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