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Dear Penny: Was My Cousin Allowed to Buy Life Insurance on My Mom? MAKING MONEY

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Dear Penny,

My mother died after several years with Alzheimer’s in the Philippines. While she was living in Maryland, a cousin took an insurance policy on her. She agreed knowing that she would only pay $50 a month and the rest will be shouldered by her niece. 

Now my cousin is asking for four death certificates and wants me to fill out forms because, according to her, I am the beneficiary. If she is the owner of the policy, what does it have to do with me? I asked for a copy of the policy because I have no idea what she is trying to do. Please help.

-Confused Daughter

Dear Confused,

Trust your gut. Don’t give your cousin your mother’s death certificate or any personal information she asks for.

There are a lot of things that sound sketchy here. The biggest red flag is that your cousin owned a life insurance policy on your mom. You can’t just take out an insurance policy on anyone. Just imagine how rife for abuse the system would be if we could all make bets on one another’s lives.


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To own a life insurance policy on someone else, you need to have an insurable interest in their lives, meaning you’d suffer a financial loss in the event of their death. It’s typically assumed that you have an insurable interest in the life of your spouse or your child. You can even have an insurable interest in the life of your ex-spouse if they’ve been ordered to pay you alimony or child support. But it’s unlikely that a niece would have an insurable interest in the life of her aunt, unless there were unusual circumstances — like they were business partners or your cousin had co-signed a loan for your mom.

You also need the person’s consent to take out insurance on their life. I have to wonder: Did your mother fully understand what she was signing? Or if you only recently discovered this policy, is it possible that your cousin could have forged her signature? It’s also odd that your mother was making partial payments if your cousin owned the policy.

It’s pretty implausible that your cousin would have bought life insurance for your mom out of the goodness of her heart. A more realistic explanation would be that she plans to pocket most, if not all, of the proceeds.

You can continue to press your cousin for a copy of the policy. But don’t be surprised if you’re met with a flurry of excuses and convoluted explanations. Even if your cousin does provide you with the document, I wouldn’t assume it’s legitimate. Contact the insurance company directly to verify the policy. You can provide the death certificate to the insurer directly if it’s legit. The company can send you any necessary forms.

If your cousin won’t cooperate, you can search the National Association of Insurance Commissioners online life insurance policy locator. The organization will ask participating companies to search for policies in your mother’s name. If they locate a policy and you’re the beneficiary, they’ll provide you with the details. Your cousin doesn’t need to be involved. Even if you’re not a beneficiary, you’d probably be authorized to receive this information as your mother’s next of kin.

If you believe your cousin had nefarious intentions, consider contacting your state insurance commissioner. Some people are hesitant to report family members to authorities. But if you suspect your cousin scammed your mother, she could easily do the same to others. Elderly people are especially vulnerable to being conned by people they trust, like family members. At the very least, you should warn other family members if you think that’s what happened.

Your cousin probably acquired identifying information about your mother, like her Social Security number, when she obtained the policy. Unfortunately, deceased people are at risk of having fraudulent accounts opened in their names. A smart move would be to contact each of the three credit bureaus to let them know that your mother has died.

I’m sorry that you have to deal with all this on top of the loss of your mother. But you have every right to be suspicious here. Don’t let anyone, especially your cousin, tell you otherwise.

Robin Hartilll is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

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

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The Best Cheap White Wine and What to Pair it With MAKING MONEY

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First, let’s tackle a few questions that have been bugging us about cheap white wine.

Why is the Best Cheap White Wine Generally Less Expensive than Red Wine?

Answer: White wines spend less or no time aging in a barrel, so they are quicker to produce than red wine. Plus, winemakers don’t have to shell out for the cost of the barrel, explains Nick Elliott, a former winemaker from San Diego, California.

An oak wine barrel can cost up to $1,500, Elliott says. One barrel holds 60 gallons of wine, which is 25 cases with 12 bottles in a case. The cost of that barrel is then split over that 300 bottles of wine, depending on how many times that barrel is used over the years. Most wineries will not use a barrel more than three or four times.

Next: Do Wines with Screw Tops Indicate That the Wine is Crummy?

Answer: The short answer is “no,” but it can be perceived that way, Elliott explains. Winemakers choose cork over screwtops for wines that require aging. So you will usually find corks on red wines, but sometimes white and often in the case of Chardonnay.

“Natural corks allow the wine to breathe, allowing oxygen and other gasses in and oxygen and other gasses out,” he says. “You will generally not find a screw top on a bottle that needs to sit for a while before enjoying.

Also, cork is a naturally occurring product and it can develop a chemical that “taints” the wine. That’s where the phrase “corked wine” comes from and it means that the wine has an unpleasant taste. Screwtops, long thought to be the symbol of rot-gut wine, can even be manufactured to “breathe” much like cork.

Finally: Many People Believe that White Wine is Just a Summer Drink. Is This True?

Answer: A refreshing glass of crisp white wine in the summer is wonderful and does have that thirst-quenching quality, Elliott says. “But, for me, all wine is meant to be paired with food,” he says. “Therefore, if the dish calls for it, white wine it is, even in the coldest winter.”

Pro Tip

If a recipe calls for a dry white, you can’t go wrong with sauvignon blanc. Stay away from cooking with oaked chardonnay because it will bring that woody flavor to your food.

The Best Cheap Bottles of White Wine Under $10

These are 13 year-round sippers which pair well with food and are also good enough to drink by themselves. Put these cheap white wines on your shopping list. While we list online sources, you may be able to find these white wines on the shelves of your favorite store.

Chardonnay

Best bottle: Bogle Chardonnay

The taste: Vanilla, nutmeg and guava are just some of the flavors you’ll taste when you sip this crisp wine. Bogle, which has been making wine for 50 years in Northern California, was named the American winery of the year in 2019 by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Pair it with: White fish such as pecan-crusted grouper or shellfish on its own or in a creamy sauce over pasta.

Price: $7.97 at Total Wine

If You Like Chardonnay …

Viognier

Best bottle: Yalumba “Y” Viognier

The taste: Stemming from southern France, viognier (pronounced vee-oh-NYAH) has a bold taste, similar to chardonnay. But viognier tends to be less acidic and lighter. It has fruity flavors (think tangerine, mango and honeysuckle) plus vanilla and clove.

Pair it with: Like chardonnay, you can pair Viognier with seafood dishes. It also goes well with chicken. Crack open a bottle to go with your Chinese takeout.

Price: $9.99 at Total Wine

Albarino

Best bottle: Raimat Albarino

The taste: This is another bold white wine made from grapes grown in northwest Spain and northwest Portugal. It’s a dry, light-bodied wine, with primary flavors of Meyer lemon, honeydew, nectarine and grapefruit. The hints of lemon will remind you of chardonnay, as they’re both very refreshing and crisp.

Pair it with: Seafood dishes and chicken, of course. Pour a glass with any Greek dish laden with feta cheese, including the baked feta dish that’s all over TikTok.

Price: $10 at Total Wine

Pinot Grigio

Best bottle: Riff Pinot Grigio 2020

The taste: The grapes in Riff’s pinot grigio were harvested from the northeastern Italian alps, and the results is a glass of  lime, honeysuckle, ripe melon and pear with a faint note of honey.

Pair it with: Light, fresh foods such as salads, seafood or chicken. It’s a fantastic happy hour wine to accompany a bundle of creamy burrata cheese and crunchy crostini.

Price: $9.99 at Binny’s

If You Like Pinot Grigio …

Muscadet

Best bottle: Oysterman Muscadet 2019

The taste: From the Loire Valley of France, Muscadet is light bodied and very dry. It has hints of green apple, and has more acidity than pinot grigio. This version is a collaboration between two French winemakers and a wine importer in Charleston, South Carolina.The 2019 vintage is the first year of Oysterman Muscadet.

Pair it with: Oysters any way you can get them or even with a big bowl of mussels in (more) white wine sauce. Also good with goat cheese and basil pesto.

Price: $10.99 at Binnys (okay, 99 cents over)

Riesling

Best bottle: Hogue Riesling 2018

The taste: Bright, sweet apricot, citrus, tangerine. Hogue has been making wines in Washington State’s Columbia Valley since 1982. The Hogue family had been farming in the fertile region for many years before planting their first wine grapes: Six acres of riesling.

Pair it with: Cheese, poached bears, desserts, nuts. Since the grape originated in Germany’s Rhine region, consider serving it with pork schnitzel or other regional meat dishes.

Price: $9.99 at Wine.com

If You Like Riesling …

Chenin Blanc

Best bottle: Releaf Sustainable Chenin Blanc

The taste:  Grown from organic grapes in Western Cape, South Africa, this chenin blanc smacks of bright tropical fruit. Proceeds from sales go to support a nursery there. This same grape is often bottled as the wine called vouvray.

Pair it with: Reach for this bottle of wine to serve with vegetarian dishes such as roasted cauliflower.  It is also a popular wine for the Thanksgiving table, cutting through the heaviness of the meal.

Price: $9.99 at Total Wine

Pro Tip

Travel around the world to find some of the best, economical sips. Our list of six global wines for less than $14 per bottle proves the point. 

Sauvignon Blanc

Best bottle: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

The taste: This wine originated in the Bordeaux region of France but is now produced all over the world, including New Zealand, the home of the vast Kim Crawford wine empire. Sauvignon blanc often makes lists of the most popular wines in the world and that’s owing to its immensely compatible taste, both fruity and herbal, even spicy.

Pair it with: Fish, salads or dishes from across the Asian continent, including Shrimp Pad Thai. Make it at home or get takeout.

Price: $8.99 at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits

If You Like Sauvignon Blanc …

Verdejo

Best bottle: Marques de Riscal Blanco Rueda 2019

The taste: The light Spanish white wine has flavors of lemon, grapefruit, fennel and lime. It gets better as it ages, and it has more volume and weight than sauvignon blanc.

Pair it with: Anything that includes citrus, such as tacos with lime or pork. Better yet, tacos al pastor made sweet with grilled pineapple.

Price: $8 at Wines.com

Gruner Veltliner

Best bottle: Floriana Gruner Veltliner

The taste: Gruner Veltliner is an Austrian wine but this version is produced in Hungary. It is a dry white with notes of apples and citrus, and while it’s friendly with food, it is also a good sipper.

Pair it with: Almost anything but especially dishes with lemon such as roasted asparagus topped with lemon zest, and lemon bars. Try it with Chinese Lemon Chicken that includes other strong flavors including honey and soy sauce.

Price: $9.99 at Bottles and Cases

Gewurztraminer

Best bottle: Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer

The taste: Produced in the Alsace region of France for centuries, gewurztraminer is high in natural sugar, and tastes of lychees, passion fruit and flowers. It is largely associated with Germany which occupied Alsace until the end of World War I. This version is made in Washington State.

Pair it with: The grapes don’t much care about geographic history and, indeed, Gewurztraminer doesn’t play favorites with cuisines. It goes well with French and German specialties, especially anything with Munster cheese, but is also delicious with Chinese and Indian food, including Chicken Biryani.

Price: $8.99 at Binnys

If You Like Gewurztraminer …

Moscato

Best bottle: Barefoot Moscato

The taste: The sweet Italian wine has a low alcohol content and a lovely fizz. It’s less lychee, more honeysuckle than Gewurztraminer but both are on the sweeter side. Barefoot is a California winemaker that produces some of the most economical wines on the market. They win awards, too.

Pair it with: Moscato stands up to pork, chicken, duck or shrimp. But we think of it as a celebratory Christmas wine because it goes with spices such as ginger, basil, clove and cinnamon. Maybe for Christmas Eve with a piece of Old Fashioned Gingerbread.

Price: $5.99 at Target

Rose´

Best bottle: Chandon California Rose´

The taste: Similar to a light red, but brighter and crisper. It tends to include flavors of strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Chandon is one of the most prolific winemakers in Napa Valley.

Pair it with: While rose goes well with gingerbread, it’s also a good accompaniment to any salmon dish, including Roasted Salmon and Toasted Almond Parsley Salad. It also plays nice with a charcuterie board laden with salty meats and cheeses.

Price: $6.99 at Binnys

The Penny Hoarder contributor Danielle Braff is a Chicago writer who specializes in consumer goods and shopping on a budget. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Real Simple and more.

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

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What to Do With Seasonal Pumpkins: 21 Fun, Creative Ideas MAKING MONEY

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It’s the season of the pumpkin and there are so many uses for these oversized orange gourds beyond a toothy jack-o’-lantern. (Yes, pumpkins hail from the gourd family.)

By no means are we suggesting you skip the time-honored tradition of carving that happy or scary face into a hollowed-out pumpkin. Carve diem. Seize the pumpkin. After all, they are at their cheapest this time of year.

When grocery stores and farmers markets are full of pumpkins this time of year, buy two. Carve one and save the other for one of our 21 uses for pumpkin. You can use one pumpkin for toasted seeds, pie and maybe even soup, depending on how big it is.

Pumpkins: They Aren’t Just For Jack-O’-Lanterns Anymore

Whether it becomes a tasty snack, home decor or a science project, your pumpkin has endless possibilities. While true penny hoarders like the idea of repurposing carved pumpkin after halloween, it’s not the best idea. In the warmer Southern states, it’s likely the pumpkin is mushy and well-past its prime after being exposed to the elements for a week or more. Plug, bugs.

Eat Your Pumpkin

We found a pumpkin recipe for every part of your gourd — even those stringy guts.

While carving pumpkins aren’t quite as flavorful as other varieties (such as sugar or pie pumpkins), they’ll still work for any of these dishes. They do have thinner skin, though, which makes them easier to careve.

Pro Tip

You’ll find the best prices for pumpkins at farmers markets, independent seasonal stands and church pumpkin patches. The average pumpkin costs about $3 but expect to pay more for an oversized gourd. 

1. Make Pumpkin Puree

While it doesn’t sound appetizing on its own, pumpkin puree is a versatile use of fresh pumpkin.

It’s incredibly versatile: You’ll be able to use the puree in pumpkin muffins, breads and soups — even a delicious Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Pumpkin puree is the base for most of the delicious dishes on this list.

Creating the puree is simple: Boil, bake or steam your pumpkin, according to Good Housekeeping. If you are in a cold climate and your carved pumpkin is still good enough to ease, make sure to cut off and discard any burned sections or leftover wax if you lit it with a candle.

The puree freezes well for future use. Store it in zip-closure freezer bags, filled and partially flattened for easy stacking.

2.  Brew Pumpkin Spice Latte

Tempted by the versions offered at seemingly every coffee shop? Instead of dropping $5 on a pumpkin latte that may not contain any pumpkin at all, make your own.

There are plenty of recipes for making your own. Here is a favorite.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup milk, ideally 2%, for the latte (if you’re making cafe au lait, 1/2 cup milk will give you a 2:1 coffee/milk ratio)
1 espresso shot for the latte (or 1 cup drip coffee)
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mixture (or mix your own with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg blend)
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: cinnamon sticks and/or maple pumpkin butter as garnish

Measure and pour milk into a saucepan on your stove. Add in pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Stir well. Heat the mixture on medium/hot heat, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, brew coffee or espresso. For cafe au lait, use  a pumpkin spice blend such as one from Dunkin’ Donuts or Trader Joe’s.

Remove milk from the stovetop once it’s hot, just about to boil,  and use a milk frother to froth it. The mixture should double in size and create a nice foam. If you don’t have a frother, you can find one online for less than $20 (such as this one) or use your blender.

Once milk is frothed, combine in a mug with espresso or coffee. Garnish with pumpkin pie spice. If you’d like, add a cinnamon stick or drizzle with a bit of maple pumpkin butter.

3. Enjoy a Pumpkin Cocktail or Pumpkin Beer

For those looking for something a little stronger than a latte, leave it to Ree Drummond, the Food Network’s Pioneer Woman, to come up with 15 cocktails that include pumpkin as a key ingredient.

4. Bake a Pumpkin Lasagna

Need a fall dinner idea for the family or company? Try this yummy vegetarian Pumpkin Lasagna.

Taste of Home calls it a “comforting fall dish” — who doesn’t love those?

5. Make Pumpkin Butter

This seasonal treat is delicious on toast, in smoothies or on oatmeal. You can make it all year if you freeze extra pumpkin puree.

Check out this simple Pumpkin Butter recipe on Oh She Glows. Bonus if this is important to you: It’s vegan.

6. Snack on Roasted Seeds

They’re a classic snack for a reason. A handful of roasted  pumpkin seeds is a delicious way to get iron, magnesium, zinc and a healthy dose of fiber.

Roasting them is simple — dry out the seeds and bake them on a baking sheet with olive oil and salt — but play with toppings to find one that works for you: salt and pepper, chili powder or cinnamon are all good options. The most difficult thing about making them is getting rid of the clingy strings after you dig them from the pumpkin.

Here’s one of many recipes out there in the pumpkinverse.

7. Make Vegetable Stock with the Guts

While the flesh and seeds are often popular foods, the stringy insides of pumpkins usually go straight to the trash (or compost). No more!

Try adding them to other veggie bits (carrot tops, onion ends) to make a flavorful stock.

8. Bake Pumpkin Gut Bread

If you’re looking for something a little heartier than soup, try this recipe for pumpkin bread from Diana Johnson of Eating Richly. She calculates that making two loaves costs about $2.

9. Cook Pumpkin Risotto

Another way to put those guts to use: pumpkin risotto. Scroll down to find the recipe for this delicious Pumpkin Risotto, which Gothamist editor Nell Casey adapted from the New York Times.

10. Make Pumpkin Pickles

If you’re pickle-obsessed, you’ll want to try these babies. For a sweeter pickle to go with desserts or cheese platters, make Pickled Sugar Pumpkin from Serious Eats.

Looking for something with a little more kick? Try these South Indian pumpkin pickles from Promenade Plantings.

11. Dry Pumpkin Skin into Chips

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget the skin of the pumpkin.

Here is a great way to make Pumpkin Crisps that burst with color, crispness and flavor.

Decorate With Pumpkins

You can’t go wrong with pumpkins in your decor all the way through Thanksgiving. Try one or all of these throughout the season.

12. Use Pumpkins as Serving Bowls

File this idea under “brilliant:” Save on decorations (and dishwashing) by using pumpkins as serving bowls for soup or cider.

Here’s an easy way to make a pumpkin bowl from Sanam Lamborn of My Persian Kitchen.

13. Turn a Pumpkin into a Planter

Keep the fall festivities going by using your pumpkin as a planter for a small potted plant.

The planter will last for several weeks, and then you can plant it directly in your garden to decompose.

14. Create a Pumpkin Bird Feeder

Perhaps even the birds like to celebrate a change of season with different decor.Offer them a new dining room and make our neighbors smile with this simple bird feeder from Instructables.

15.  Decorate the Thanksgiving Table

No need to spend extra money on table decorations — plan to keep a pumpkin or two, and you’ll be all set. Use Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. In their natural orange, they are warm and traditional. Spray paint them white and pumpkins become elegant and fairy tale like.

Your pumpkins will make it to Thanksgiving, as long as you choose wisely. An uncarved, healthy pumpkin “can last 8 to 12 weeks,” Cornell University horticulturalist Steve Reiners told NPR.

16. Make Pumpkin Snowmen

Why not try this cute, crafty way to give some post-fall purpose to your pumpkins. You’ll get an early start on your winter decorating — or if you’re feeling entrepreneurial, you could even try selling your creations.

Get Creative

If you don’t want to cook or decorate with pumpkins, what else can you do? Try one of these fun ideas.

17. Relax With a Pumpkin Face Mask

Out late at a Halloween party? Recharge your skin with pumpkin’s good-for-you vitamins A, C and E.

You’ll only need to add honey and milk, according to this simple recipe from Beautylish. Add these non-pumpkin ways to your list of ways to  to save money with DIY beauty products!

18. Build a Pumpkin Catapult

Here’s a great way to get a final use out of the smoke-singed, smelly carved pumpkin that weathered the heat or cold on your front step. Build a pumpkin catapult, also known as a trebuchet.

(Just make sure you have enough wide open space.)

19. Transform a Pumpkin Into a Canvas

This is a great chance for kids to have fun creating art with pumpkins, especially if they’re a little young for carving tools.

The best part? All you need is some butcher or craft paper, a few paper plates, stickers or paint. The Artful Parent offers plenty of  the details. Decorating the pumpkin without carving it keeps it in good shape to cook with.

20. Save the Seeds

Not a fan of eating the seeds? Instead, hold onto them to plant in your garden next spring.

Growing your own pumpkins will save you money — and let you enjoy even more homemade treats next year.

21. Compost Your Pumpkin

At the very least, your leftover pumpkin can help you grow an incredible garden next year. Cut it into smaller pieces and toss it in the compost pile, then mix it into your soil next spring.

Former Penny Hoarder staffers Heather van der Hoop and Katherine Snow Smith contributed to this report. 

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

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Employee Resignation Checklist: What to Do Before Quitting Your Job MAKING MONEY

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If you’re ready to say goodbye to your 9-to-5, you’re not alone.

Millions of workers have quit their jobs in 2021, prompting the term “the Great Resignation.” Countless others are considering making that move. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, more than 40% of U.S. workers are actively seeking or plan to soon find new employment.

If you’re burned out or frustrated with things at your current job, it may be tempting to hastily call it quits without doing any prep work. But the more you plan out your exit, the better prepared you’ll be to handle the aftermath.

Besides, yelling “I quit” or simply walking out on the job will burn bridges and potentially could damage your pursuit for future employment.

10 Things to Do Before Quitting Your Job

This employee resignation checklist details 10 important steps to take before quitting your job.

1. Figure Out Your Next Step

Unless you’re financially independent and don’t need a job to afford your lifestyle, you’ll need a plan for earning money after you quit your job. It’s better to review your options before losing your current income stream.

Consider applying for jobs prior to putting in notice of your resignation. You might avoid having a lapse in income if you can start working in your new role as soon as your old one ends.

If you have entrepreneurial dreams and don’t care to work for another boss, see our ultimate guide to starting a business. This list of home business ideas can help you get started with little capital.

You might decide you really just want to take some time off before jumping into your next employment pursuit. Taking a career sabbatical may mean you won’t be seeing a paycheck coming in, but the time off can be energizing and might help you better concentrate on what you’d like to do next.

2. Save Money for the Transition

It’s smart to build up a financial cushion before leaving your job. Even if you have another gig lined up, it may take a couple of extra weeks until you receive your first paycheck — or you might find out that your new job isn’t exactly what you’d imagined it to be.

Having at least three to six months of living expenses saved in an emergency fund is ideal, but it’s best to save that money for a true emergency, like dealing with unexpected medical bills. Instead, set up a sinking fund to save up specifically for the costs you’ll encounter if you’re out of work for some time.

3. Take Care of Any Upcoming Big Expenses

Big expenses seem to hurt more when you’re unemployed and living off of savings. Before you quit your job, think about what anticipated big expenses — such as new tires for your car — that you can pay for now while you’re still employed.

Also, it’s vital to note that a loss of employment can hamper your ability to qualify for financing or credit. If you are in the midst of the homebuying process, for example, losing your job could damage your chances of getting a home loan, even if you plan to use a spouse’s income to cover payments. You might want to reconsider your plans or time things so that your loan has already gone through before leaving your job.

4. Use Your PTO or Other Benefits

Before giving notice of your resignation, make sure you make the most of your employer-provided benefits.

Some companies will pay out accrued vacation and sick days upon leaving the company, but others will not. If your company does not pay out accrued PTO, make sure to use your vacation days while you can. Be aware that your employer may not grant your request to use any PTO after you’ve given your two weeks notice.

It’s also best to take advantage of any other employee benefits that you’ll be losing. For instance, if your kid is due to get braces, you might want to get that done while you still have dental insurance under your employer.

5. Gather the Information You’ll Need to Roll Over Your 401(k)

Once you quit your job, you’ll lose the ability to contribute to your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Of course, you can continue saving for retirement with an individual retirement account (IRA) or a 401(k) plan through your next employer — but you might want to roll over the money from your old 401(k) so you don’t have to manage multiple accounts.

If you typically log into your retirement account from your work computer, make sure you have your login information and you know your account number so you can easily access your account from home.

6. Figure Out How You’ll Get Health Insurance

For most people, losing their job means losing access to health insurance, though there are still options to continue or get new coverage.

One of the easiest options may be to get on your spouse’s or domestic partner’s health insurance plan if they have coverage through their job. Losing health insurance (even if it’s via a voluntary job loss) is considered a qualifying life event, which means your spouse or partner can add you to their insurance without waiting for their open enrollment period.

Alternatively, you could choose to extend your current health insurance coverage for 18 months through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). However, with COBRA coverage, you’ll have to pay your employer’s portion of premium costs plus an administrative fee.

Since continuing coverage with COBRA can be expensive, another option is to find a more affordable health plan through the health insurance marketplace.

The stimulus law made it cheaper to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

7. Figure Out How You’ll Receive Your Last Paycheck

Your last paycheck may not come via direct deposit on the schedule you’re used to. Consult with the human resources department or your company’s employee handbook for information on how they issue final paychecks.

Some companies will mail you a paper check, even if you were enrolled in direct deposit in the past. Make sure your address and other contact information is up to date in your employee records. You should also write down the contact information for your manager or your HR representative in case you encounter any issues or discrepancies when it comes to getting that final payment.

8. Craft a Professional Resignation Letter

Even though it’s best to break the news to your boss in person, you’ll want to follow up with an official resignation letter.

Your resignation letter should include the date of your last working day and other important details, like any projects you plan to finish up. You might want to include the reason for leaving the company, but it’s better to keep things vague than to badmouth your employer and potentially burn a bridge.

Check out this article for smart tips on writing the perfect resignation letter.

9. Tie up Loose Ends

There may never be the perfect time to quit a job — after all, the work never ends — but your resignation will be accepted more favorably if you don’t quit during a busy season or in the midst of a major project.

If possible, try to time your resignation so you’re able to tie up the loose ends on the work you’re currently doing. You’re more likely to get a positive recommendation from your employer if you’re able to spend time training a new hire or providing a transfer of knowledge so that your colleagues can step in to fill your role when you’re gone.

It’s also helpful to use this time to gather contact information in order to keep in touch with your coworkers. Don’t forget to ask your manager about using him or her as a job reference.

If you work in a field where you need to compile evidence of your past work experience in a portfolio, gather what you need before you put in your notice. Your employer may decide to immediately cut ties with you rather than wait until your selected end date. You don’t want to lose access to files you might need for your portfolio.

10. Prepare for an Exit Interview

Before you leave, your employer might want to sit down with you to discuss your reasons for quitting. While exit interviews can also serve as a way for companies to gain information about what they could improve, remember to handle things professionally so you leave on good terms.

Prepare to tactfully discuss why you’re leaving, what you think about your time with the company and what constructive criticism you might offer to your soon-to-be former employer.

Once you’ve gone through all the things on this list, you’ll be well prepared to quit your job without regrets.

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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Set Yourself Up For Lifelong Financial Security With These 5 Steps MAKING MONEY

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Wouldn’t it be nice to rid yourself of those financial black clouds bringing you down? The mounting debt, the sinking credit scores, the rising expenses chipping away at your savings?

Of course it would. And it’s definitely possible — with a few smart money moves and tweaks to your spending habits, you can forge a path that will get you going toward a strong financial future.

Just because these are long-term strategies doesn’t mean you can’t get started today. Make these moves to help set yourself up for life.

1. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company

If you have credit card debt, your credit card company is going to keep piling on the interest until you pay it off in full. And unless you win the lottery or come into a windfall of cash, that could be hard to do.

But a website called AmOne wants to help. Because the sooner you pay off your debt, the sooner you can set up the rest of your finances for a more stable life.

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

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 2.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

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

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

2. Put More Focus on Raising Your Credit Score

It’s easy to forget about your credit score when you have more pressing problems wreaking havoc on your finances. But by letting your credit score slip, you could be creating even more issues down the road. Your dreams of owning a home, buying a car or even getting a new job could be busted with a bad score.

So first things first — check your credit score and your credit report. Use a free website like Credit Sesame.

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

It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.

Now that you know where you stand, use those personalized tips to raise your score and get rid of errors. Whether that’s lowering your credit usage or setting up automatic payments to avoid more late payments, you can make smart decisions now that will

3. Invest With Long-Term Goals In Mind

Yes, short squeezes and options and puts can be exciting. And just like the thrill of gambling in Vegas, you can win big — or lose bigger.

When you’re aiming to set yourself up for life, high-risk investments can set you back. So unless you can afford to lose what you put into volatile investments, don’t.

One of the safest ways to invest long-term is through traditional stock market investments. Sure, it’s not as exciting, but over time the market has gone up an average of 7% each year. That can be a big part of reaching your long-term goals, and an app called Stash can help you get there.

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

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

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

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

4. Add a Little Bit To Your Emergency Fund Every Week

Setting yourself up for life isn’t a quick fix from your current predicament. But if you invest in yourself a little bit at a time, you can make a big difference in the future.

By adding a little bit of money to your emergency fund every week, you can slowly build it up without putting too much strain on your current budget. The recommended amount is three to six months of expenses, so the sooner you start, the better.

If you don’t already have an emergency fund started, consider putting it in an account that will give you a sign-up bonus, high interest earnings and no surprise fees. We like one called Aspiration that will give you $100 for opening an account.

Sure, a lot of debit cards offer sign-up bonuses throughout the year, but they often require you to jump through hoops with minimum requirements that feel impossible to hit.

But Aspiration makes it simple. To earn your $100, here’s all you need to do: Open your Aspiration account and deposit at least $10. Then set up and receive three direct deposits of at least $500 each from your paycheck or government benefits. That’s it! Then just wait for your check.

Even better? Your debit card gets you up to 10% cash back on your purchases, and the money you keep in there grows at 16 times the national average.

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

5. Cut Your Expenses — Even The Mandatory Ones

Setting yourself up for financial security sometimes means cutting the fun stuff from your budget. But before you do that — because we all need our Netflix subscriptions right now — cut the bills you can’t live without.

How is that possible? Start with the places you’re likely overpaying, like your car insurance. When was the last time you even checked for new quotes? If it was more than six months ago, you could have a lower rate by now.

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 $489 a year for the same or similar coverage.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options. Think of how much more that could be long term!

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s not set for life — yet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets Is 70 Days in Advance MAKING MONEY

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If you want to save on your flight for the holidays, start planning … now.

CheapAir.com analyzed 917 million airfares for its annual airfare study and found that the sweet spot for travelers to snag the best deals on domestic flights is between 21 and 95 days — that’s three weeks to three months — before their departure date.

It turns out that this year has been a bit of a leveling field for airline ticket prices — only about $100 separates the priciest month (that was March — likely due to a post-pandemic surge in spring break travel) from the cheapest one (September).

And sure, you could test your luck at finding a last-minute low fare. But CheapAir found travelers who book eight to 13 days before a trip pay an average of $74 more than those who book within the prime booking window. Get your ticket less than a week out and you risk paying an average of $160 more than travelers who booked three weeks to four months ahead of time.

Buying a plane ticket too far in advance can also result in a financial penalty. Those who bought tickets 96 to 201 days in advance paid $37 more and those who purchased airfare 202 to 315 days in advance paid $90 more.

CheapAir found the best time to book varies greatly by season. You’ll want to book 89 days in advance to get the best prices for a trip in the fall, but the best time to buy for holiday travel or a winter ski trip is 68 days in advance.

If you’re wondering when’s the best day of the week to buy your airline tickets, CheapAir’s study says it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what day of the week you plan to leave or return. Travelers save an average of $82 by flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday (the cheapest days to fly) instead of on a Sunday (the most expensive day).

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors updated this post for 2021.

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

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5 Money Moves When Starting a New Job MAKING MONEY

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After mass layoffs and millions of resignations, workers across the nation are hunting for jobs, accepting new offers and adjusting to new roles.

That adjustment period should include more than just getting to know your coworkers and getting used to your new responsibilities. A career shift often has an impact on your financial life, and there are several things every new employee should do to ensure that impact is a positive one.

If you’ve recently started — or are about to start — a new job, here are some smart money moves to make.

5 Money Moves When Starting a New Job

1. Roll Over Your Old 401(k)

If your new employer offers a 401(k) plan with a company match, you should definitely be taking advantage of that free money. While you’re enrolling in your new 401(k) plan, however, don’t forget to roll over funds from your previous employer.

With your retirement funds pooled, you won’t have to worry about managing separate retirement accounts or losing track of the money in the older account.

Other options for what to do with your old 401(k) include rolling it into a traditional IRA or Roth IRA. Check out this article on how to roll over your old 401(k) when you leave a job.

2. Evaluate Your New Employer’s Health Insurance Plans

During your onboarding process, you may feel overwhelmed with the multiple options for health insurance, but it’s important to take some time and figure out which plan would be best for you and your family.

There are four important costs to consider when evaluating plans: the monthly premium, copayments/coinsurance, the deductible and the maximum out-of-pocket limits. Generally, plans with lower premiums will have higher copayments or higher deductibles.

Pro Tip

This calculator helps you compare the costs of two health insurance plans.

When comparing plans, consider how frequently you tend to go to the doctor, and if you have any anticipated medical costs, like if you’re planning for a baby or you’ll likely need surgery soon.

If you choose to go with a high-deductible health plan, you may be eligible to open a health savings account (or HSA), which has multiple tax-saving benefits. Your HSA may also offer the option to invest your savings for greater potential growth.

3. Consider Other Employee Benefits

Signing up for health insurance and a retirement plan are obvious employer benefits, but you should also be aware of the other perks your employer offers so you don’t wind up leaving money on the table.

Review your new employer’s policy about paid time off. Will unused days roll over or will you lose vacation days if you don’t use them by the end of the year?

Does your employer offer tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment or stipends for continued education? Will your employer cover the cost of your cell phone bill if you use your phone for business purposes? Will they pay for home office equipment if you work remotely?

Some employers offer benefits such as child care vouchers, gym memberships, discounts for public transportation, pet insurance, legal insurance and more.

4. Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

If your new job comes with a bigger salary, it’s tempting to get into the habit of spending more money than you used to. Maybe you can finally afford that luxury car or high-rise apartment now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should give into the splurge.

If you can stave off lifestyle inflation, you’ll have more money to go toward your financial goals, like building an emergency fund or paying off debt. To trick yourself into ignoring your salary increase, set up your direct deposit so a portion of your paycheck goes straight into your savings account before you can even think about spending that extra money.

5. Readjust Your Budget

When you start a new job, it’s the perfect time to readjust your budget (or start a budget if you don’t already have one).

A higher salary means you can allocate more money to savings, paying off debt or other important expenses you have been putting off. On the other hand, if you’re now earning less, you may have to clamp down on your spending.

It’s also important to note that your expenses may change with your new job. You’ll need to budget more for gas if you now have a longer commute. Going from a casual to a formal work environment might require you to upgrade your wardrobe.

You might find you can cut costs from your budget after starting a new job. If your company provides free lunches, you can spend less on groceries and takeout. If they offer financial assistance to pay back student loans, you can budget less for paying down debt.

Readjust your budget to account for your changes in income and expenses.

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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24 DIY Home Spa Treatments that Won’t Break the Bank MAKING MONEY

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Who doesn’t look forward to a day of spa treatments? The massage, the facial, the steam bath.

Every moment is so luxurious, except the moment you get the bill. And sometimes that’s preceded by pressure to buy products with big markups.

Spas and all the services they offer are expensive indulgences. But you can create that pampered feeling yourself for a whole lot less money. After all,  the seclusion of a bathroom with running hot water is a good start for your DIY home spa.

With just a few affordable ingredients — many you likely already have in your pantry — you can easily recreate a memorable spa day at home. And a few small purchases can turn your run-of-the-mill bathroom into the perfect location for a luxurious at-home spa experience.

14 Ways to Create Spa Treatments at Home

Here are some of our favorite ways to pamper ourselves at home.

1. Everything you’ve heard about coconut oil is true. Skip the expensive body lotion and the deep conditioner and use this low-cost alternative instead.

Cost: A jar of coconut oil costs about $7 and will last for months.

2. Apply an avocado or egg mask to your hair at the beginning of your spa routine, then wrap your head in a warm towel. Let it work its magic for at least 20 minutes.

Cost: One egg will set you back 10 cents, and an avocado is between $1 and $1.50.

3. Korean sheet masks, cotton-based sheets that address various skin care issues, make your skin look amazing, but they can be awfully pricy. I picked up a handful at my local dollar store for a buck each and discovered they work just as well as the expensive brands. If you buy in bulk, you can save even more.

Cost: Sheet masks can be found online or in dollar stores for as little as $1.

4. Speaking of masks, if you use Lush cosmetics or know someone who does, hang onto those little black pots and bottles the products come in. You’ll score a free face mask when you turn in five clean empties. That’s a savings of at least $9.95!

Cost: The cost of the five products.

5. Clear up blemishes and reduce fine lines with a container of plain yogurt! Whether you use it alone or jazz it up with extras like a dash of honey or oatmeal, your pores will thank you.

Cost: A small container of plain yogurt can cost anywhere from 60 cents to $1.

6. After rinsing off the mask, I like to give myself a five-minute face massage. It’s surprisingly relaxing.

Cost: Totally free!

7. Give yourself a lip scrub to slough off dead skin. Your lips will feel pillowy soft and refreshed.

Cost: The basic ingredients — olive oil and sugar — are probably in your kitchen. So are the add-ons you can use to spice it up, like cinnamon, brown sugar and coffee.

8. This homemade sugar scrub is both luxurious and exfoliating. Add your favorite essential oil, such as eucalyptus, to slough off dry, dead skin, leaving behind a tingly clean that smells luxurious.

Cost: Less than $1 worth of sugar, coconut oil and salt, plus around $10 for eucalyptus essential oil.

9. For a change of pace, I like to mix things up and exfoliate my skin with this three-ingredient coffee body scrub that you can make with the used coffee grounds left over from your morning brew. It reportedly also reduces the appearance of cellulite. (Don’t tell me if that’s just an old wives’ tale — I don’t want to know.)

Cost: Free, if you’re a coffee drinker.

10. Sometimes my skin just isn’t up for a harsh scrub down. That’s when I turn to a recipe like this one from WholeElise on YouTube. Rather than abrasive salt or sugar, this scrub uses oats, water and glycerine (or honey).

Cost: About $3.50 for the oats  (free if you already have them in your pantry and $5.50 for the glycerine.

11. If you plan to shave during your spa time, try dry brushing first to prevent ingrown hairs and razor-burn bumps. It’s also great for keeping your skin smooth in the harsh winter months.

Cost: A good dry brush costs around $7.50

12. Give your hands some love. This lemon-sugar scrub is easy to make, smells amazing and is perfect for making your hands silky soft. After you rinse it off, slather on some hand lotion and take a minute to admire your, er, handiwork.

Cost: A lemon is about 50 cents, and you probably already have sugar and oil in your pantry

13. Do you know why every movie spa scene depicts someone with cucumber slices on their eyes? Because they work! You can use the leftovers for cucumber-infused water to really amp up that luxe “I’m in a spa” feeling.

Cost: About $1 for a cucumber.

14. Treat your feet to a nice soak with whatever gentle bath wash you have on hand. Follow it up with a homemade foot scrub. Simply stir one part coconut oil into two parts sugar and scent with a few drops of essential oil. A dash of lemon juice adds extra oomph. To kick (ha!) things up a notch, slather on some lotion and cover your tootsies with thick socks while the moisturizer works its magic.

Cost: Peppermint essential oil costs about $8, or you can use eucalyptus oil if you have it on hand. The rest of the ingredients are likely in your pantry.

10 Easy Ways to Spa-ify Your Surroundings

While planning your day of indulgence, don’t forget to design your own relaxation grotto. Give your bathroom a deep clean and then:

Splurge on a soft, thick towel.
Pick up some pretty containers from the dollar store to hold all the scrubs and potions you make.
Treat yourself to a fluffy bathrobe to wear while relaxing.
Get some inexpensive candles to create ambience during bath time — or make your own.
Set a plant or vase of flowers in the bathroom, because greenery makes everything better.
Cover your bathroom window with frosted contact paper to diffuse bright sunlight that might harsh your mellow.
Put a few sprigs of eucalyptus on the corner of the bathtub to create a clean, refreshing scent when you run the hot water.
Buy a bathtub overflow drain cover so you can fill the tub extra deep and soak all the way up to your chin.
Queue up this chill Spotify playlist.
Use the cucumber you bought for your eyes to make some cucumber and lemon-infused water to sip as you spa.

Want even more DIY spa ideas? Check out how to make your own sea salt spray, body lotion and more.

Writers Catherine Hiles and Lisa McGreevy are contributors 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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China Tutoring Industry Collapse Hurts Thousands of Teachers MAKING MONEY

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The market for American tutors teaching English online to Chinese children has disappeared, bringing an end to a lucrative side gig for thousands.

The Chinese government announced in August a prohibition for foreign tutors to teach their children online and limited the hours students could take additional classes beyond their normal school hours. The new regulation also declared that all tutoring companies working with Chinese students had to be not-for-profit.

CNBC estimates that the top seven tutoring services hiring American tutors for work with Chinese students had more than 250,000 tutors under contract at the time of the Chinese announcement. American tutors have been making from $14 to $25 an hour through these services. That is the going rate for most agencies, many of which are still hiring tutors for online jobs in the U.S. and to teach English for students in other countries.

VIPKid, one of the primary companies supplying tutors to the Chinese market, had nearly 100,000 tutors from the United States and Canada under contract in 2019. Those tutors were serving more than 600,000 Chinese children.

Some teachers who lost work took to social media to express their feelings. Among them was Ashley Harris of Virigina who tweeted that after teaching 250 classes as a VIPKid tutor, she hoped the Chinese government would change its stance. Saying good-bye to her students was difficult, she tweeted.

While the Chinese market for tutors has closed, there are still opportunities for online teaching as a main source of income and a side gig. Check out our list.

Tim Gascoigne is a VIPKid tutor — “until classes disappear” — who also runs Online Teacher Dude and has a YouTube channel to coach tutors in finding and applying for positions, as well as instruction on how to be a successful online tutor.

“I have seen increased traffic initially on my channel and website with teachers looking for non-Chinese companies, independent teaching options, teaching their current Chinese students when the companies collapse,” Gascoigne said.

He said his website traffic increased by 10,000 page views in early August compared to early July. His YouTube viewership jumped 40,000 views in August as teachers were looking for other opportunities to make up for job loss in the China market.

The Promise of Continued Work

The larger and more established tutoring firms expressed little concern over the impact of the Chinese decision on their companies.

Tutor.com is not seeing indicators that our company has been affected by the new regulations,’’ said Dr. Jane McAuliffe, vice president of learning services, in a statement to The Penny Hoarder. ”We remain dedicated to partnering with institutions and organizations to help ensure that all students can access tutoring support whenever they need it.”

Tutor.com is still accepting applications from qualified teachers for other assignments, the statement said.

In a statement to The Penny Hoarder, VIPKid said the shutdown of the Chinese market will impact their business but they are confident that new programs will help them overcome the loss.

“Over the past year, we have been piloting several education programs outside of China. We are accelerating our efforts on these programs to execute our mission to inspire and empower every child for the future.”

Cutting Back on 16-Hour School Days

After the announcement from the Chinese government, the news agency Reuters reported that “the new rules bar for-profit tutoring in core school subjects in an effort to boost the country’s birth rate by lowering family living costs.” Some Chinese families spend extravagantly on education, pushing their schoolchildren to study as much as 16 hours a day.

The new rules limit online classes to 30 minutes, with no classes to operate after 9 p.m. local time, and no classes to operate on weekends.

The long study days became the norm because Chinese parents want their children to get high marks on standardized tests which determine whether they will be admitted into one of the nation’s top universities.

As a product of that competition, many Chinese families spend so much money on online tutors in after-school sessions that they are unwilling to have multiple children, which China is now endorsing to battle a population decline. In the 1970s, the Chinese government began limiting families to one child. That restriction ended in 2016.

Tutoring Companies Shuttered

Several tutoring services went out of business almost immediately with the government decision, including GoGoKid, operated by a Chinese company which also owns TikTok. GoGoKid issued a statement to its teachers on its website that classes would stop immediately.

ByteDance laid off hundreds of employees and eliminated most of its online education offerings in response to the new regulations. Another large tutoring service, MagicEars, said “we feel confident that we will be functioning well for approximately another year.”

Firms that have stopped recruiting and hiring tutors include Zebra English, Whales English and Landi English. Xueersi Online School 1 on 1 announced it is no longer hiring non-Chinese tutors.

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

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

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Pick the Best Cheapest Meal Delivery Service For You MAKING MONEY

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Meal delivery services, or meal kits, have been around for more than a decade but have grown in number in recent years.

You’ve seen the commercials and likely received the direct mailers to your door. And if you live in an apartment building, you might have almost tripped over the 30-plus-pound boxes in the hallway outside your neighbor’s door (the weight from ice packs and filler packaging add up quickly).

The direct-to-door business has grown from one or two big-name players and expanded to include many different companies, food options and plans for any budget. The pandemic helped exacerbate the trend when people grew weary of heading out to the supermarket. And there are no signs of slowing down: Meal kits are expected to become a $7.6 billion market in the United States by the year 2024.

If you’re looking to take a break from trips to the store or grocery delivery, take a chance on a cheap meal kit service.

What is a Meal Kit?

A meal kit is a box or other container that holds items you need to create meals. Depending on the the plan you choose — most offer a set amount of meals for each week for a certain amount of people — you’ll receive meals weekly, unless you choose another delivery option.

Typically, a meal kit is made up of:

Ingredients (vegetables, meat and spices, etc.).
A recipe for each meal.

Meal kits usually come with ice packs and insulation to help keep meals frozen until you can put them in your freezer. (The effect of this wrapping and packaging on the environment has been an increasing topic of conversation.) Depending on the freshness or best-by dates, they might also come with directions on which meals you should make and eat sooner.

For a regular, set price, you can have meals ready-to-make delivered to your doorstep.

Meal Kits vs. Prepared Meal Kits

Before we proceed, it’s important to make a distinction between meal subscription services: Meal kits and prepared meal kits.

Most companies tend to specialize in one type or the other. At a glance, here’s the difference:

Meal Kit: This kit comes with all of the necessary ingredients you need to make the meal from scratch. You’ll need to do the prep work yourself (chopping veggies, defrosting any meat) and use a stove and/or oven to finish preparing the meals.
Prepared Meal Kit: This kit comes with meals already prepared and nearly ready-to-serve. Think: A fancier TV dinner. Simply unpack the meal, heat it in the microwave or oven, and you’re good to go.

Community entrepreneurs in large cities have also created hyper-local food subscription delivery (or pickup) services.

Many companies offer deals, especially for new subscribers. For example, you might get a certain number of meals or deliveries for free before you have to start paying

6 of the Cheapest Meal Delivery Service Brands

Company
Prices Start At
Shipping
Best For
Promotions
Blue Apron
$8.99
$9.99
Foodies who want wine and product offerings
New users can get $27.50 off their first four boxes
Hello Fresh
$12.49
$8.99
Customers who want fresh food options and good promotions for new subscribers
New users get $14 free meals, plus free shipping, and healthcare workers are also eligible for a special promotions
Dinnerly
$5.59
$8.99
Families who want to cook an affordable meal in a short period of time
New users can regularly check the website and Dinnerly social media channels for promotions
Freshly
$8.49
Varies
Singles who want quality heat-and-eat options
Freshly offers promotions from time to time on its social media channels, and the company also offers a student discount
EveryPlate
$4.99
$8.99
Subscribers on a strict budget looking for simple recipes
New users can get $40 off their first three boxes; students can also get 20% off their first two boxes
Home Chef
$8.99
Varies
Users with special dietary preferences
New subscribers can save $90 off their first four deliveries

1. Blue Apron: Best Choice for Foodies and Wine Lovers

Blue Apron was founded nine years ago and is one of the most recognized brands in the meal delivery game. The company went public in 2017 and, as of 2020, had over 350,000 customers. (Fun fact: The name “Blue Apron” pays homage to chefs who wear blue aprons when learning how to cook.)

Users can choose between two and four recipes per week (each serves two). There are lots of food options, ranging from health-conscious to diabetes-friendly recipes. Blue Apron also offers wine delivery, gift cards and an impressive inventory of kitchen items, from an herb stripper to a handcrafted Japanese utility knife.

Cost: Prices start at $8.99, plus $9.99 shipping
Membership fees? No
Availability: Contiguous United States
Meal kit or prepared meal kit? Meal kit
Vegetarian options? Yes
Current promotions: New users can get $27.50 off their first four boxes

2. HelloFresh: Best for Fresh Food and Good Promotions

HelloFresh is another OG in the meal-kit industry, founded nearly 10 years ago. It’s often compared to Blue Apron, and there are similarities between the two. However, HelloFresh came out on top as one of the meal-kit winners during the pandemic, gaining nearly 3 million subscribers compared to the previous year.

Users can choose between two and six recipes per week and choose two or four people to serve. Unlike Blue Apron, HelloFresh has doubled down on food only. The service offers options ranging from meat and pescaterian to calorie-smart and quick-and-easy meals.

Cost: Prices start at $12.49, plus $8.99 shipping.
Membership fees? No.
Availability: Contiguous United States.
Meal kit or prepared meal kit? Meal kit.
Vegetarian options? Yes.
Current promotions: New users get $14 free meals, plus free shipping. Healthcare workers are also eligible for a special promotion: 50% off their first box, plus 15% off boxes for the next year.

3. Dinnerly: Best for Families on a Time Crunch

Dinnerly is one of the more affordable meal kits on the market. Instead of investing in splashy marketing campaigns, Dinnerly passes on these savings to subscribers. Unlike its competitors, the company also uses digital recipe cards, fewer ingredients per dish and less packaging to increase savings, shorten cooking time and reduce carbon emissions.

Users can choose between a two-person or family box, and between three and six meals. Dinnerly offers 16 different meals a week, and has options from dairy-free to low carb.

Cost: Prices start at $5.59, plus $8.99 shipping.
Membership fees? No.
Availability: Delivers to most of the contiguous United States (you can enter your zip code on the homepage to find out if it’s available in your area).
Meal kit or prepared meal kit? Meal kit.
Vegetarian options? Yes.
Current promotions: New users can regularly check the website and Dinnerly social media channels for promotions.

4. Freshly: Best for Singles Who Want a Ready-Made Meal Option

Freshly was founded in 2012. This meal service promotes chef-prepared meals you can “heat and eat” in only three minutes. That means no frying pan needed for this service — these are fully prepared, fresh meals. But don’t let that fool you when it comes to variety. Recipes range from white bean turkey chili bowl to honey-peach barbecue chicken. And unlike others on the market, you order one meal per person.

Users can choose between four and 12 meals each week. There are gluten- and peanut-free options, though the company only has a handful of vegetarian meals at this time. It’s recommended that you eat meals within three to five days. Best-by dates are also printed on the meals so you can plan them accordingly.

Cost: Prices start at $8.49, plus shipping (varies).
Membership fees? No.
Availability: Contiguous United States.
Meal kit or prepared meal kit? Prepared meal kit.
Vegetarian options? Limited options.
Current promotions: Freshly offers promotions from time to time on its social media channels. The company also offers a student discount, which gives subscribers $80 off their first five orders.

Read more about Freshly in this review in The Penny Hoarder.

5. EveryPlate: Best for Subscribers on a Strict Budget

EveryPlate has, by far, one of the cheapest price-per-serving subscriptions. Similar to Dinnerly, EveryPlate makes adjustments to packaging and menu options to keep prices affordable for subscribers. Picky eaters will appreciate recipes like gravy-lover’s meatballs, while other palates can go for premium meals like lemon parsley scallops.

Users can choose a ClassicPlate, VeggiePlate or FamilyPlate meal. Meals serve two or four people, and you can get between three to five meals per week. It’s worth noting that the menu is also more restrive than its competitors — no dedicated vegetarian, keto, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb or paleo options at this time.

Cost: Prices start at $4.99, plus $8.99 shipping.
Membership fees? No.
Availability: Delivers to most of the contiguous United States. Enter your ZIP code on the homepage to find out if it’s available in your area.
Meal kit or prepared meal kit? Meal kit.
Vegetarian options? Limited options.
Current promotions: New users can get $40 off their first three boxes. Students can also get 20% off their first two boxes.

Read more about EveryPlate in this review in The Penny Hoarder.

6. Home Chef: Best for Users With Special Dietary Needs

Home Chef is one of the highest-rated meal-delivery services today. Founded in 2013, Home Chef meal kits are available via mail delivery and in some brick-and-mortar stores (at various price points) as well.

There’s Home Chef, which is a traditional meal kit, and Home Chef: Fresh and Easy, which has low- or no-prep meals. Home Chef offers oven- and grill-ready quick dishes, as well as dessert options. (Lemon cake slice? Yes, please.) This service also boasts an extremely wide array of recipes, especially if you have particular dietary needs. Whether you need to avoid nuts, wheat, soy or dairy, there are plenty of meal options for you.

Meals serve from two to six people, and users can choose between two and six recipes a week.

Cost: Prices start at $8.99, plus shipping (varies).
Membership fees? No.
Availability: Delivers to most of the contiguous United States.  Enter your ZIP code on the homepage to find out if it’s available in your area.
Meal kit or prepared meal kit? Meal kit.
Vegetarian options? Yes.
Current promotions: New subscribers can save $90 off their first four deliveries.

How Do You Order and Choose Meals?

You usually need to select meals (or defer or cancel that week’s delivery) by a certain date the week before you’re due to receive your next package. You also have the option to choose which meals you’d like to receive; if you elect not to pick them, options will be chosen for you.

Whether you’re looking for low carb, gluten-free or other menu options, there’s likely a meal plan and kit for you. Bonus: Some of their offerings taste better than takeout or a dish at your favorite restaurant.

Why Choose a Meal Kit?

It’s fun to play chef and make meals you wouldn’t normally make yourself. If you want to make Thai chicken coconut curry, but can’t track down coconut milk in your area market, it’s nice to select that meal from a service that will give you everything you need to make it (in just the right quantity, to boot). Also, if you don’t like it, you aren’t stuck with a full spice or dried herb container that you aren’t likely to use again since you only got enough to make that one dish.

Whether you want a break from grocery shopping, need help with meal planning or just want to try new, delicious food, meal kits can be an affordable option for you.

Making Your Own Meals vs. Ordering a Meal Kit

Meal kits can be an affordable, alternative option. But if you’re faced with sticker shock, remember that you’re paying for the convenience factor (and “free” shipping for some kits).

If you’d like to make your own meals at home, be savvier about where your funds go and what you buy. And if you find yourself over-purchasing groceries and contributing to the nation’s food waste problem — which accounts for 30 to 40% of the food supply, per the USDA — know that there are ways to be smarter about how you shop.

Know which items (think: non-perishables) are best to buy in bulk. You can also use online tools and store-specific guides to get the best deals and save on groceries.

Bottom line: With a plan in place, there are endless ways to save money on groceries and food shopping.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most popular questions when it comes to cheap meal kits.

​​What is the Cheapest Meal Plan Delivery?

EveryPlate is the overall cheapest meal kit service. With that said, the most affordable meal kit for you might depend on where you live and your dietary preferences. Also, if you’re a new subscriber, you could qualify for big first-time-customer specials.

Prices fluctuate, so check out different (and new-to-the-market) services regularly.

What is the Cheapest Healthy Meal Delivery Service?

Home Chef offers specialty meals at good prices. However, most meal delivery services offer a range of food options. Whether you’re looking for fresh produce or low-calorie eats, there are many options for nutritious meals.

What is the Cheapest Food Delivery Service in 2021?

Prices have shifted a bit this year to accommodate more users and account for COVID-19-induced production issues. Right now, EveryPlate and Dinnerly are two of the cheapest meal delivery services.

What is the Cheaper Version of HelloFresh?

HelloFresh offers many promotions and new-customer deals. If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper option, check out Dinnerly or Home Chef. Both offer healthy ingredients and vast menu preferences.

Contributor Kathleen Garvin (@itskgarvin) is a personal finance writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida, and former editor and marketer at The Penny Hoarder. She owns a content-writing business and her work has appeared in U.S. News, Clark.com and Well Kept Wallet.

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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