How Living Like Lord Voldemort Can Save You Money

No need to be a wizard or famous villain to save some serious cash. Just be inspired by one.

Let’s start with a disclaimer — I’m not telling you to murder anyone or become a villainous snake wizard. I’m going to help you save some money while taking inspiration from the most infamous villain of our youth and (no shame) adulthood. If Lord Voldemort was real and, you know, not busy trying to destroy Harry Potter, he would’ve probably been great at managing money.

A lot of Lord Voldemort’s core characteristics and common practices deserve a second look and, if they’re applied properly to your financial habits, they could make you more successful than he ever was. Here’s how living like Lord Voldemort can save you money.

Be Resourceful

Between crafting plans and tricking others, Lord Voldemort is one of the most resourceful characters in the “Harry Potter” series. Being resourceful helped him move closer to his goals and it can help you do the same. This is especially seen when he creates potions using items around him like unicorn blood, human flesh and snake venom. One of the potions he created literally helped him regenerate a body. If that’s not resourcefulness I don’t know what is. Resourcefulness can seriously pay off, whether it be fixing your sink without paying for a plumber or testing new ways to save at grocery stores.

Have Dedication

Lord Voldemort didn’t build an army in a day and your savings account won’t be magically filled in a day either. Lord Voldemort had persistent, unfaltering dedication to his goal to find and destroy Harry Potter. He stayed dedicated to his mission for eight movies and seven books until he died. If you divert a fraction of that amount of dedication to saving money, you’re sure to find money success.

Be Ruthless With Yourself

Remember when Voldemort killed Harry Potter’s mom in front of him and then tried to murder infant Harry Potter? You’ve got to be pretty ruthless to do that. While Lord Voldemort was ruthless towards others, one money saving strategy is to be a little bit ruthless to yourself. Saving money can require a lot of self-control to wage the internal battle between spending temptations and your desire to save. Being harsh to your inner spender can pay off.

While you should never be too harsh on yourself, if you’re stuck in a spending rut be open to trying stricter money saving methods like going a week without spending or even making it your mission to stop ordering lunch every day. It’s possible to save without feeling deprived but it takes a bit of self-control. 

Wear a Uniform

The whole idea of not wearing the same outfit twice is very Hollywood, but not so much Hogwarts. Our pal Voldemort essentially wore the same black cloak every day. While wearing a black cloak on the daily isn’t necessary, creating a go-to outfit formula or even downsizing your wardrobe saves money and time. 

Share Your Mission

It’s safe to say the entire world knew Lord Voldemort wanted to find and kill Harry Potter. Like Voldemort, be vocal with your goals. Tell your friends and family about your mission to save. When those around you know about your money saving mission, they have the opportunity to be more accommodating and understanding. This is especially handy when you suggest a tighter budget for holiday gift giving or opt for more affordable restaurants when eating out with friends.

You might also want to create a blog or Twitter account where you can share your money-related fails and triumphs. Sharing can certainly increase accountability. When others know your goal they might hold you to it and you may feel more motivated to stick to it.

Focus on Actually Understanding

Voldemort’s ultimate demise resulted from his lack of understanding about a certain curse — I won’t spoil too much. Learn from his mistake and make a point to actually understand your finances. Make sure you know your credit score (you can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com). It can help you understand your financial situation and improve it. It’s also important to read up about your student loans and other debt instead of pretending they don’t exist and learn about all of the benefits and rewards your credit cards and employers offer that you might not be taking advantage of.

Keep a Diary

When he was still Tom Riddle, Voldemort had a diary used for manipulation. He really made the most of the diary by also using it as a Horcrux. While your diary won’t be quite as nefarious, it will help you paint a clear picture of how and where you’re spending your money. Create a spending diary where you keep track of purchases. Seeing all of your expenses can help you visualize which types of spending you want to cut back on and exactly where your money is going.

Know Your History

Voldemort had a slight obsession with his heritage. He spent a lot of time tracking down his own history while he was still at Hogwarts and through his history he learned a lot of important details about himself. Including the fact that he was half-blood, which served as a catalyst to his becoming Lord Voldemort in the first place. Knowing your own credit history is crucial when it comes to building credit. Your credit report can give you an insight into how long you’ve had your accounts and help identify any factors dragging your finances down.

Start Young

Voldemort created his first Horcruxes at the age of 17. As he built Horcruxes, you can build your credit. Even 17 isn’t too young to start thinking about your financial future. You can start building credit as a teen.

Find Motivation That Works For You

Voldemort’s actions were motivated by a true hatred and hunger to rid the world of muggles. While that probably isn’t your goal, one of the keys to saving money is to find your motivation. Perhaps you’re paying off student loans, saving for a summer trip or trying to start an emergency fund. When you pin down your money saving motivation, unlike Voldemort, you’ll be unstoppable.

Image: izusek

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15 Restaurant Mobile Apps That Can Save You Money

Going out to eat can be rewarding in more ways than one.

Food is best served with a side of savings and restaurants with apps (that’s applications, not appetizers) that make it even easier to spend less. If you’re planning to order in, eat out or grab a quick bite, you might as well be rewarded for it.

Even if you’re on a budget, there are a lot of ways to save at restaurants, but one of the most convenient is by using an app. Below are 15 you can get for popular restaurants. All these apps are free to download on both iOS and Android and are full of coupons, loyalty programs and rewards.

1. Buffalo Wild Wings

The Blazin’ Rewards app makes it easy to earn points. Earn 100 points for signing up and filling out a profile. For every $10 spent earn 100 more. Check in five times during lunch time and earn 300 more points. Also earn points by checking in at the restaurant and having friends check in. Like in many college classes, earn points just for showing up. The rewards include bottles of sauce, beverages, appetizers, desserts and entrees.

2. Chili’s

With the Chili’s app, you can rack up Plenti Points by dining at the restaurant. These can be redeemed at Chili’s for appetizers, desserts and more. As a member, you’ll also receive a free dessert on your birthday (here are 10 other places with birthday freebies). These Plenti points can also be earned or spent at other Plenti partners like Macy’s, Mobil and Rite Aid. The app also has bonus perks, like allowing you to add your name to a wait list or order to go.

3. Steak ‘n Shake

Earn a free milkshake with your first purchase using the Steak ‘n Shake Rewards app. The app requires setting up a payment method to redeem the milkshake. If you don’t want to add a credit or debit card, earn rewards by adding a gift card. For every $50 spent you earn $5 back to be spent on food of your choice at any Steak ‘n Shake location.

4. Moe’s Southwest Grill

The Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards app has plenty of perks. Receive a free cup of queso when you sign up and a free burrito on your birthday every year. Log in through Facebook to earn an additional 50 points. Earn 10 reward points per $1 spent and for every 1,000 points receive $10 credit to spend at any Moe’s location.

5. Chick-fil-A

The Chick-fil-A One app allows you to earn treats the more you spend. To earn treats, you must place your order using the mobile device or scan your personalized QR code within the app during each visit. This app also allows you to skip the line by ordering on your phone.

6. Burger King

While there is no point system, the BK app offers mobile-only coupons that are in constant rotation. This app is worth checking for deals before placing your order.

7. Cici’s

The MyCici’s app has a loyalty based rewards program. The app requires you to scan your receipts. After five visits with $7 (before tax) or more spent, you earn a free adult buffet or a free one topping pizza to go.

8. Whataburger

The Whataburger app encourages you to load a mobile payment like a debit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, or a Whataburger gift card. This isn’t required, however. All that’s required is for rewards is having the app. To track your visits, have the cashier scan the bar code on your phone. Every five visits are rewarded with free food and for a visit to count you only need to spend one cent.

9. Outback Steakhouse

The Outback app allows you to earn rewards and keep track of all Outback coupons in one place. It also gives 50% off of your fourth visit (up to $20). The app has additional perks, like allowing you to check in as soon as you’re close to the restaurant so you’re seated faster. You can also pay with your phone to avoid waiting for the bill and, for big groups, the app allows you to split the bill.

10. Duffy’s MVP Sports Grill

The Duffy’s MVP app allows those who use it to earn 20% to 50% off of their bill when they eat between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tuesdays are double point days. Members also earn free birthday rewards. MVP app users earn one point per $1 spent and 100 points automatically becomes a $10 reward credit to be spent at any Duffy’s MVP Sports Grill location.

11. fresh&co

This app requires you to link a credit card to it, so unless you frequent fresh&co it may not be worth it. (You might want to check your credit score for free with Credit.com before doing so to see where your credit stands). You earn $3 for creating an account. By paying with your mobile app and the card connected to it, you earn $9 for every $100 spent with $1 is donated to a charity dedicated to ending childhood hunger. Plus, you earn a free meal on your birthday.

12. Schnippers

The Schnippers app allows you to earn $8 in rewards for every 10 visits. Scan your QR code and spend at least $8 at each visit for it to count toward your reward.

13. Hale & Hearty

The Hale & Hearty app gives you a $2 credit for downloading and $2 per friend you refer. You’ll also earn $5 for every $50 spent.

14. Krispy Kreme

Earn a free doughnut for signing up and downloading the Krispy Kreme app. Scan the bar code with every purchase to rack up points toward free drinks and doughnuts. Plus, earn a free gift on your birthday. Bonus perk? Be notified when doughnuts are hot and fresh out of the oven at nearby locations. Yes, please!

15. Panera Bread

While the app itself isn’t necessary for rewards, it works well with the MyPanera rewards system. Create a MyPanera account or log in using an existing one and use the app to easily keep track of rewards. You can also turn on push notifications to tell you when you have rewards expiring soon so you’ll never miss out on freebies.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

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8 Common Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

Credit cards are a super convenient financial tool, but they can often be confusing.

Do you have a credit card in your wallet? Chances are, you do. And if you’re one of these plastic carriers, you probably want to be using that card the best possible way, right? Well, you may be making some mistakes without even realizing it. To help, we’ve rounded up eight common mistakes to help you discover if you have one of these habits and ultimately correct it.

1. Paying Your Bills Late

“What can do you the most harm is paying late, or not paying at all,” credit score expert Barry Paperno said.

Late payments affect your credit score, plus the late fees and interest quickly add up. Besides all of the effects that hit you right away, Paperno said it can take years to recover from numerous late payments. And if you let it go too long, you could be hit with a charge-off (the point, usually after six months without payment, at which the lender writes your account off as a loss), which stays on your credit report for seven years.

2. Closing a Card You Don’t Really Use

Despite the fact that you never use a particular credit card, closing that card isn’t necessarily the answer. When you close cards, you affect your credit history, usually negatively.

“Don’t make the mistake of closing cards,” Paperno said. “Especially if you think it will help your score, because that will never raise your score.”

When you decrease the amount of credit available to you, you end up increasing your credit utilization ratio, which can hurt your credit. Instead of closing a card, consider simply using it every so often and keep the account active. There are times when closing the card may make sense, like if it carries an annual fee that is hurting your budget, but you’ll want to think about it carefully before making a decision.

3. Not Requesting Changes to Your Terms

While card issuers might seem intimidating, you could be making a mistake by not attempting to change your terms. You could potentially negotiate a lower interest rate or annual fee, helping out your budget in the process. If you’re trying to rid yourself of a balance quickly, call your credit card company. They may help you get a lower interest rate if you just ask.

4. Spending Money Just to Get Rewards

If you find yourself using your credit card unnecessarily to earn rewards, it could be costing you. Rewards are fantastic, but altering your spending habits just to get free stuff isn’t going to be as beneficial as it may sound. If you overspend and carry a balance, you’ll likely lose all those rewards to interest charges.

5. Not Knowing Your Credit Score

If you don’t check your credit score regularly, you’re not educating yourself as much as you could be. Your credit is considered in a lot of situations, from when you apply for a mortgage or car loan to a version of your credit reports being reviewed by a potential employer as part of the application process. Haven’t checked yours in a while? You can see your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.

6. Only Paying the Minimum Balance

If you only pay your minimum balance each month, you’ll likely end up having to pay more interest down the line. While it might seem like a quick fix to save your money and pay the minimum, in reality you’re dragging out how long it’ll take to pay your entire balance. Keep avoiding those late fees, but if you can, you’ll want to pay more than the minimum.

7. Applying for Out-of-Reach Credit Cards

“Another common credit card mistake is probably applying for too many cards, the wrong cards, or both,” Paperno said.

By applying for a card you aren’t qualified for, you end up without a card and with a “hard inquiry on your report for the next two years,” he added.

While your credit score isn’t directly affected by being denied credit, the more hard inquiries on your credit report, the more dings you’ll see to your scores. Make sure you are a good candidate before applying for any type of credit card.

8. Spending More Money Than You Actually Have

Having a credit card often allows people to make the mistake of overspending. It’s a mistake to charge your credit cards close to their limit, Paperno said. Just as closing a card will raise your credit utilization, so will coming close to your credit limit. Either move can hurt your credit score.

Making Positive Credit Choices

To avoid these eight mistakes from the start, make sure you educate yourself. You don’t have to know everything, but you should be aware of how to be responsible with your credit cards. When a car, house or student loan is on the line, you should be knowledgeable and ready, not hurting from your previous credit card mistakes.

“If you pay on time, keep your balances low and apply for new credit only when you need it,” you’ll be in good shape, Paperno said.

Image: Peopleimages

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8 Tips for Saving Money on Chinese Takeout

Chinese food may be cheap, but there are still ways to save on your General Tso's habit.

Chinese takeout is even more reliable than the mail: Neither rain nor sleet nor heat nor gloom of night … nor even Christmas stops most Chinese restaurants from delivering the goods. I’ve callously put delivery drivers at risk by ordering Chinese food during terrible weather many times, and it always comes through.

That’s why Chinese takeout has become a staple for anyone pressed for time or cash. It can be consumed without owning utensils or furniture and is available almost anywhere.

But all that convenience doesn’t mean you can’t save even more on your General Tso’s chicken. Here are a few ways to cut the price of your Chinese takeout.

1. Order for Lunch

As with most restaurants, Chinese takeout prices will usually be lower at lunchtime. Take advantage and …

2. … Save Your Leftovers

Chinese restaurants usually don’t skimp, which is a bonus since the food is so heavy (hooray for all that breading and frying). Chinese food also holds up well in the fridge and is nearly as good the second time around, whether cold or hot.

Add it up and your one takeout order could last two or three meals.

3. Get a Combo

Just like McDonald’s, a lot of Chinese restaurants allow you to make your meal a combo. Most restaurants offer a dozen or so dishes as combination platters, allowing customers to couple their food with their choice of rice, an egg roll or a soda at a bargain price.

These deals are usually cheaper at lunch and cover most popular dishes, from chicken and broccoli to lo mein.

4. Share Your Meal

Big servings make for easy sharing. Chinese food makes a great companion during movie night or game night. Dishes like fried rice and steamed dumplings are made for sharing.

Most Chinese restaurants sell dishes a la carte in pints or quarts. If you didn’t know (I had to look it up), a quart equals two pints, and many restaurants sell the bigger serving at a slight discount. Load up on quarts and you’ve got yourself a feast.

5. Load Up On Coupons

Chinese menus often come with coupons you can clip for discounts. Common throw-ins include a free can of soda or soup if you spend above a certain amount.

You probably won’t have to go far to get coupons. If you live in apartment building where even one person gets Chinese delivered, that restaurant’s menu and its coupons will end up under your door whether you like it or not.

You can also check coupon websites like Restaurant.com to see if your local Chinese place has any offers.

6. Pick It Up

Yes, putting food on the table without leaving your house is basically the American Dream and the delivery drivers who bring it are saints. But those tips add up. Save yourself some bucks and make the trip yourself.

7. Make Your Own

You know how all that breading and frying and oil makes American Chinese food so filling and delicious? Well, it also makes it pretty unhealthy.

If you want to make things easier on your wallet — and your health — while still enjoying Chinese cuisine, you may want to start preparing your own versions of your favorite takeout dishes. Plenty of recipe websites feature at-home versions of your favorite, minus all the oil. Check Pinterest or your favorite food blog for options.

8. Use a Restaurant Rewards Card

Some rewards credit cards award cash back for restaurant purchases. Here are a few cards that offer points, miles or cash back for your takeout spending.

Before you apply, be sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. Many rewards cards require good or excellent credit. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.

Image: sturti

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14 Ways to Save at Wayfair

While it could be easy to spend a ton at Wayfair, there are many ways to save.

Online shoppers delight in Wayfair, the online home goods store with everything from furniture and decor to kitchen goods and everything your backyard needs to become a stress-free sanctuary. While it could be easy to spend a ton at Wayfair, there are many ways to save. Here are a few.

1. Wait for an Annual Event

A few times a year, Wayfair offers annual events with discounts on a particular type of home good. If you check back on the site regularly you might be lucky enough to catch sales of up to 70% off.

2. Provide Your Email Address

Scroll to the bottom of Wayfair.com and enter your email address for access to special discounts and up-to-the-minute information on the latest sales and promos via email newsletter.

3. Create a Wayfair Business Account

If you’ll be purchasing goods from Wayfair for your home office, create an account with the Wayfair Business program to receive a business discount. You’ll also have access to an assigned business account specialist to help you with any of your questions, and you’ll save $50 off your first order of $150.

4. Refer a Business Friend

Wayfair business members who refer a friend to join the business program get $50 in rewards points once they do so.

5. Refer a Regular Friend

Business members aren’t the only ones who earn rewards for referring friends. Regular customers earn $10 in Rewards Dollars when a friend they refer makes their first order of at least $50. The friend gets $10 off their first purchase, as well.

6. Leave a Review

Wayfair often offers a cash bonus on each item you review on the site. Check under the “My Account” tab to see if this offer is available to you. You are also entered to win up to $500 in Rewards Dollars or a gift card every time you leave a review.

7. Shop the Daily Sales Section

Wayfair loads new deals on the site every day. Check under the Sales tab for limited-time offers. If you provided your email to sign up for a Wayfair account you can also learn about these sales through email.

8. Check out Clearance Items

Browse hundreds of overstock and open-box items at bargain prices by searching the clearance section of the site.

9. Learn About Upcoming Sales

Wayfair makes it easy for you to plan your next purchase by loading their monthly sales under the Upcoming Sales tab of the site. Check it out frequently and mark your calendar for upcoming sales on goods you’re interested in purchasing. You can also click the “notify me” tab to get an email reminder.

10. Apply for the Wayfair Credit Card

Consumers who apply for the Wayfair card have access to more savings, like no interest on orders of more than $500 when they’re paid within 12 months, rewards dollars on every order and points on every order to redeem for rewards dollars. Often the card comes with another additional benefit that changes. For example as I write this, members who apply for the card are eligible for a 48-month finance option on all Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster and Sealy mattress purchases more than $2,498. Plan to pay this card off in full after every use, as the 27.49% annual percentage rate is hefty. Check the card terms for more details.

Wayfair shoppers may also want to use a credit card that rewards their purchases. Many cards allow frequent shoppers to earn points or cash back for their retail habit. (Be sure to check your credit score before applying for a new card to see if you’ll qualify. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com)

11. Use Your Card at Sister Stores to Earn More Rewards

Your Wayfair card can be used at Wayfair, Joss & Main, AllModern, Birch Lane, DwellStudio and Wayfair Supply, as well. Use it at all of these places to really rack up points. Points and rewards can be cashed in at any of these stores, as well.

12. Find Online Coupons

Although they might be harder to come by than other sites, it’s always worth doing a quick search to try to find additional Wayfair coupon codes. Try all the staples (like RetailMeNot, Coupon Cabin, Groupon and Coupons.com), then try a random Google search for “Wayfair coupons” to see what you come up with.

13. Get Social

Use social media media to your advantage by following Wayfair on Facebook and Twitter. This way you’ll be sure to catch all their sales. Using social media is especially important for flash sales that end the same day or in a couple of days.

14. Get Cash Back Bonuses

Join a cash back site like ebates and you’ll earn a $10 welcome bonus to purchase goods at stores like Wayfair. Check back regularly for additional coupon codes and ways to earn more cash back on your purchases.

Want more brand hacks? You can find 17 ways to save at Michaels here and 13 ways to save at Shutterfly here.

Image: SelectStock

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 14 Ways to Save at Wayfair appeared first on Credit.com.

6 Ways to Save More Money Every Month

Saving money isn't easy, but it also doesn't have to be hard. Here are some simple ways you can get started.

If saving money was easy, everyone would be doing it. Unfortunately, the excuses for not are easy to stack — what with mortgage or rent, utilities, kids, student loans, pets, food and just the slightest social life, it can seem like there isn’t a penny to spare.

The trick to saving more is to make it simple, make it automatic and make it something you never have to think about. Still not convinced you can hack it? Check out some of these easy ways to save more every month and you might be surprised how much your bank account grows.

1. Sign Up For an Account That Automatically Saves For You

Many banks make it easy for customers to save these days by doing it for them automatically. For example, enroll in Bank of America’s Keep the Change program and for every purchase you make using a Bank of America debit card, the bank will automatically round your purchase to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference from your checking account to your savings. How easy is that? Check with your own bank to see if they offer a similar program.

2. Automate Your Savings Yourself

If you’re more of a “do-it-yourself” kind of person, automate your savings yourself by signing up for a monthly transfer directly from your checking into your savings account. You’ll know the transfer is coming every month, which will make you feel good, but you won’t have to go in and physically make the transfer yourself, which will feel even better. If you can, try setting up multiple savings accounts for your different goals (ie. house, travel, emergency, etc.). By purposefully diverting your hard-earned money into specific buckets, you’ll feel more like you’re working toward an actual goal, rather than just generally saving for a rainy day.

3. Use a Financial App to Track Your Progress

If you find that it’s hard for you to save because you aren’t seeing your progress at any given time unless you log into multiple accounts, there’s an app for that. Download a budgeting app and you can connect all of your banking in one area for ease of use. Don’t feel comfortable with an app? Your bank may offer something similar on their website. Now every time you make a purchase, put money into savings or take cash out of the ATM, you’ll be able to see exactly how your money moves have affected your current savings, goals and budget.

4. Make the Most of Your Credit Cards

If your current credit card isn’t garnering you some type of rewards, it may be time to make a switch. These days, credit cards offer such great incentives through rewards programs, so unless you’re prone to carry a balance on your card from month to month (rewards cards can come with higher annual percentage rates, which can cut into any rewards you earn), you could be missing out on some serious savings. If it’s pure cash that you’re interested in, check out our guide to finding the right cash-back rewards credit card.

5. Learn to Haggle

Remember, cars aren’t the only things you can haggle over. Check with your internet and cable provider and call your cell phone company to see if the price you currently pay is the best they can do. Ask for discounts on items in the grocery or retail stores, too. Take the difference between what you would have been paying and the final price you end up with and stock it away in savings.

6. Avoid Paying ATM Fees

You might think ATM fees aren’t worth worrying about, but those quick trips to the ATM can really add up. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to avoid paying ATM fees.

Remember, you’ll save money on everything from your mortgage and auto loan to credit card interest if your credit scores are good. If you don’t know where yours stand, you can find out by taking a look at your free credit report summary.

Looking for more ideas on how to save each month? Check out these 12 ways to lower your cellphone bill. 

Image: kieferpix

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 6 Ways to Save More Money Every Month appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Have Fun After College Without Going Broke

You don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun.

If money’s tight, you may think it’s hurting your social life, especially if you’re turning down invitations because you can’t seem to make ends meet.

This scenario is all-too-prevalent among recent college grads, and no wonder. Student loan repayments, rent, car payments, a wardrobe for work and other bills can add up. (Here are tips on how to pinch those pennies without feeling deprived.) But that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun.

While you may not be able to drop serious cash every weekend going out to clubs, or even to the movies for that matter, your tight finances don’t mean nights alone on the sofa binging the latest Netflix series.

Here are some ideas for you and your friends to enjoy time together without going broke.

Throw a Viewing Party

When it’s time for the latest season of your favorite series, invite your friends over to watch. Ask everyone to bring a snack or beverages, and you’ve got a full-on party in the works.

Have a Potluck Dinner …

You don’t have to put together a four-course meal for your friends just to have them over. Instead, provide the main dish and ask everyone to bring sides. It’s cheaper on everyone and just as fun. You can even make it a supper club, rotating each month to everyone’s place, if you’re so inclined.

… Or a Potluck Picnic

If the weather’s beautiful, take it outside. Have everyone bring the yummies, plus Frisbees, kites and whatever will keep the fun going, and enjoy your day outdoors together.

Start a Book Club

Love to read? Have friends who love to read? No further explanation needed. Just add wine and cheese.

Find the Free …

Summer especially is great for free events, so check your local listings for what’s going on in your community. There’s lots to do …

… Like Concerts

Many cities offer free music events, particularly in public spaces like parks.

… & Movies

Likewise, there are lots of cities, and even apartment complexes, bars and restaurants, that offer free viewings of older movies. Just remember to arrive early, as these things are often crowded.

… & Lectures

Universities, museums and other entities often hold free lecture series where the famous and not-so-famous offer insights on a broad array of topics.

… & Classes

Same goes for extended learning. Want to learn to throw pottery? Write a screenplay? Repair a bicycle? Gather your friends and do it together.

Buy a Groupon Together

You can make it cheaper by buying a Groupon or similar discount together. Learn to ski or go to the spa without paying full price.

Hit Restaurant Week

Most major cities have a week or two every year when higher end restaurants offer a deeply discounted prix fixe menu. It’s a great opportunity to check out swanky spots without dropping a wad of cash.

Hit Happy Hour

Many bars and restaurants offer not just discount drinks but also food. Sometimes, there are even free nibbles, so do your research and find the place that can give you the best bang for your buck.

Go Backpacking or Hiking

If you already have the gear, this is a no-brainer. But even if you don’t, outfitters like REI offer inexpensive gear rentals on things like backpacks, tents and camping stoves that make getting out of town and on the trail easy.

Join an Interest Group

Many churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have young adult groups that provide free or inexpensive gatherings and outings for members. There are also groups for non-religious interests like running and cycling, chess, kickball and ultimate Frisbee. Find your people and get out there.

Become a Volunteer 

If you love giving back, joining a volunteer organization is a great way to spend your free time in a positive way. It’s also an opportunity to meet people with similar interests. Best of all, it’s free.

Remember, if you’re a recent college grad, it’s probably going to take you a few years to find your financial footing, and saving money is important in making that happen. Stay focused on setting aside for retirement (here are 50 ways you can start saving for retirement right now) but also saving for that inevitable rainy day. And make sure you’re keeping track of your credit. A solid credit score can save you a ton of money over your lifetime. You can check your credit scores regularly using Credit.com’s completely free Credit Report Summary.

Image: oneinchpunch

The post How to Have Fun After College Without Going Broke appeared first on Credit.com.

50 Free Things You Can Get This Year

You want some free stuff? Come and get it!

What’s that you say? You like free things? Well, you’re in luck. We’ve rounded up 50 of our favorite things that you can get absolutely free. A few are tied to specific dates and age groups, but for the most part, everything here is free (at least as of press time) for the taking whenever you want it.

So, without further ado, here are 50 things that are totally free and totally awesome that you can get right now or anytime this year.

1. Free Chocolate

We wanted to start this list off right, so, yes, free chocolate. Join the Godiva Rewards Club and you will be eligible for a free piece of chocolate. Every. Single. Month.

2. Free Food at Grocery Stores

Take advantage of the free samples at your local grocer to not only get a free meal while you shop, but to also become familiar with new products. Most stores bring in sample tables during their busiest times – usually on weekends. So skip lunch and head to the grocery store. And check out other things grocery stores will do for you for free right here.

3. Free Food at Restaurants

Lots of restaurants and other food retailers have an annual freebie day. Think free pancakes from IHOP on National Pancake Day, a free doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme and others on National Doughnut Day and even a free Slurpee from 7-Eleven on July 11 (that’s 7/11 if you missed it.)

4. Free Kid Meals

A lot of restaurants, especially chains, offer free or close-to-free kids meals. For a list of restaurants in your area, type “kids eat free” into your search engine.

5. Free Admission to National Parks

Throughout the year certain national parks do not charge entry fees. But each year there are free admission days to all of the national parks. You can check out the free-admission schedule here.

6. Free Admission to Museums & Cultural Events

Washington, D.C., is filled with free art and cultural events thanks to government funding. Head to the Smithsonian American Art Museum or the Phillips Collection and admission will be free. The monuments? Free. National Portrait Gallery? National Air and Space Museum? Free, free, free.

7. Free Credit Scores

Knowing where your credit stands and the impact your financial actions have on your them is important. You can get two absolutely free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

8. Free Credit Reports

Like your credit score, it’s important to keep track of your credit reports as well. They can affect your interest and insurance rates, as well as your ability to land a job or apartment, so it pays to make sure they’re accurate. You can get your free credit reports from all three credit bureaus every year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

9. Free Books

You can download digital copies of thousands of books at Gutenberg.org or the University of Pennsylvania online books page, and you won’t pay a penny to do so. That’s because the copyrights on these books have expired, so they’ve entered the public domain. Some of these books also are available for free through online retailers like Amazon.com and iTunes.com.

10. Free Audiobooks

Likewise, LibriVox.org offers public domain audiobooks for free for anyone to listen to, on their computers, iPods or other mobile devices or to burn onto a CD. And if you’d like to record a reading of one of the books for others to listen to, LibriVox is always looking for volunteers.

11. Free Music, for Listening …

You probably already know you can listen to as much free music as you like (with advertisements, of course) with apps like Pandora and Spotify, but it’s worth mentioning because they’re FREE.

12. … & for Creative Use

The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of audio downloads provided by WFMU. Inspired by Creative Commons and the open source software movement, the FMA provides a legal and technological framework for curators, artists and listeners to harness the potential of music sharing. Each MP3 has varying copyright laws, so you’ll need to check out each rights holders terms of use, but there’s a lot of amazing music to be had.

13. Free Coding Classes

Whether you’re looking at a career change or just self-edification, if you’ve ever wanted to learn to code, FreeCodeCamp.com is offering you the chance to do so.

14. Free Design Content

Are you a photographer, designer or other creative looking for free fonts, software add-ons and graphic elements for your projects? Creative Market offers a rotating basket of freebies each week available for your creative endeavors.

15. Free Font Help

Ever wonder what font is being used for that logo or sign? If so, What the Font can help. You can upload the logo and in a few simple steps, this app will show you a list of possible fonts.

16. Free Online Fundraising

If you’re looking to finance your product or startup and are considering crowdsourcing the funds but want to keep 100% of the money you raise, you might want to check out Redbasket, the crowdsourcing site that charges no fees and doesn’t take a cut of your donations.

17. Free Credit Calculators

These interactive calculators can help you prepare for everything from getting an auto or home loan to planning for retirement and setting savings goals. Our calculators provide instant results with no need to fill out complicated forms.

18. Free Credit Consultation

If you need help getting your credit back on track, or getting rid of some errors on your credit reports, a credit consultation might be just the thing. You can get a free credit consultation at Lexington Law. (Full Disclosure: Lexington Law is a Credit.com partner.) You can learn more about disputing errors on your credit report here.

19. Free Credit Card Perks

If you have a credit card, you may want to take a look at your cardholder agreement to ensure you’re getting the most value out of your card that you can. Many cards offer perks like rental car insurance coverage, extended warranties on purchases made with the card and other valuable offers. If your card doesn’t offer these things, you might want to comparison shop some other credit cards.

20. Free Hotel Stays

Want free hotel stays? One of the fastest ways to get them is by using a hotel rewards credit card. Here’s a roundup of some of the our favorite hotel rewards credit cards. If that’s not your thing, you could always join a hotel loyalty program and earn points that will ultimately earn you free stays. (It’s faster with the credit card, though.)

21. Free Flights

Same goes for airlines. An airline miles credit card is your fastest route to earning free airline travel, but you can also join your preferred carrier’s rewards program to earn points. Doing both, however, is the fastest way to rack up points.

22. Free Carry-On Luggage

Tired of paying to take your bag on the plane with you? Consider flying with Southwest Airlines, which allows two free carry-on bags per customer, or with JetBlue, which allows one free carry-on.

23. Free Tour Guides

Want to see your next travel destination through the eyes of a local? And not pay for it? Well, you’re in luck. Global Greeter Network’s vetted volunteers can show you the area for free with a strict no-tips-allowed policy. They can show you the sites they love or plan an excursion centered around things you want to see and do.

24. Free Travel Planning

Have a road trip in your near future? You’ll want to check out Roadtrippers before you put on your driving gloves. Just tell them your starting point and destination, and the site will provide information on must-see attractions and budget-friendly accommodations along the way.

25. Free Tax Preparation

If you need help preparing your income taxes, check out the IRS’s Free File program. You’ll qualify for free tax preparation software if your adjusted gross income is $64,000 or less. And if you made less than $54,000 last year, you could qualify for tax help through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Want to know more? Check out our ultimate guide to filing your taxes for free here.

26. Free Financial Tools

Want to track your net worth, plan for your retirement and even analyze your portfolio? All in one place? And all for free? Personal Capital has the tools to let you do that. As they say on their website, “Our free financial tools make it easy to manage your entire financial life in one place.”

27. Free Oil & Battery Recycling

If you change your oil yourself, you know it can be a hassle to dispose of the oil you’ve drained from your car. Advance Auto Parts makes it easy. And free. For your used battery as well.

28. Free Mulch & Compost

Many municipalities offer free mulch and compost for home gardeners. Contact your city’s parks and recreation department to see what options are available.

29. Free Pest Inspection

Got bugs? Terminix will do a free pest inspection of your home, as well as a termite inspection. Be sure to ask about any available discounts if you decide to go with their recommended treatment plan.

30. Free Package Pickup

Need to ship a package but don’t have time or transportation to get to the post office? A postal carrier will pick up your package for you, free of charge. You’ll still have to pay for the shipping, but at least you don’t have to stand in line at the post office.

31. Free College Tuition

It’s a growing movement in the United States, with New York being the latest state to offer free tuition to state universities. Check out what options are available to you through your state’s education department or by using a tool like Get Schooled’s free tuition finder.

32. Free Career Training

The Student Career Experience Program is a paid student program that lets participants get work experience directly related to their academic field of study. According to Benefits.gov, “it provides formal periods of work and study while you are attending school. It requires a commitment by you, your school, and the U.S. Department of Commerce. You may be eligible for permanent employment after successfully completing your education and meeting work requirements.”

33. Free Assistance for Starting a Small Business

The Small Business Administration offers numerous resources to help you learn about what it takes to start a business and keep it growing.

34. Free Pet Care

If you’re having trouble affording your pet, whether feeding or medical care, the Humane Society has a list of resources that can help. Some even offer services free of charge.

35. Free Pet Safety Stickers

If your home is ever on fire or there is some other life-threatening situation, these stickers from the ASPCA will let neighbors and rescue workers know that your furry loved ones are in the house so they can take appropriate action.

36. Free Digital Estate Planning

You’re going to die someday. We all will, so might as well prepare for the inevitable. Dead Man’s Switch lets you create a secure email that will be sent out to your designated family and/or friends so you can make sure they have all of your important information, like usernames, passwords, bank account and other details. How does it work? The company sends you periodic messages asking if you’re still alive. If you someday don’t respond, it activates your email.

37. Free Price Checking

Ever wonder if you’re really saving on that Amazon purchase, but don’t feel like driving all the way to the store just to see? Services like Honey or CamelCamelCamel can help you compare prices quickly to ensure you’re getting the very best deal.

38. Free Broadband Speed Test

If you’re experiencing some slowness on your computer you may want to check to see just how fast your connection is. You can do that for free using the broadband speed test at Speedtest.net.

39. Free Samples

Want to try some new products, or get teeny-tiny tubes you can travel with? You can get everything from toothpaste and shampoo to mouthwash and more by visiting blogs and sites that compile free offers. Some to consider are Hey, It’s Free!, Mr. Free Stuff and FreeStuffFinder.com.

There’s also a Freebies Subreddit that does much the same thing for all Redditors out there in search of free stuff.

40. Free Used Items

In need of some wooden pallets? Maybe a garden rake or a lamp that needs to be rewired? Craigslist has a “Free Stuff” category that lets people post their unwanted items that are free for the taking. Check out the listings in your area.

41. Free Beauty Kit

If you like makeup, you probably like Sephora. And if you become a “Beauty Insider” you’ll have your choice of a free beauty gift each year.

42. Free Hearing Test

AARP members (only people age 50 or older are eligible for membership) can get a free hearing test over the phone. Membership to AARP is $16 per year and comes with multiple other benefits and discounts that more than pay for the membership costs.

43. Free Phone for Hearing Impaired

This service, funded by the Federal Communications Commission, gives free phones to people who have medically recognized hearing loss. Users are able to read what the person on the other end of the line is saying. Learn more at CaptionCall.com.

44. Free Prescription Drugs

Some supermarket pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies offer generic drugs for free to low-income patients without prescription drug insurance. Contact your pharmacy or search the RxAssist database to find free medication through drug companies’ patient assistance programs.

45. Residential Repair Services

Seniors needing minor work done around their house can reach out to their local government offices for the aging to see what services might be available. Keep in mind that the labor through these programs is offered for free but all necessary supplies will need to be paid for by the resident.

46. Free Baby Supplies

Babies are expensive, but lots of companies offer assistance for families who need a little help. Need formula? Similac offers free infant formula samples. You also can sign up with diaper manufacturers like Pampers to get free samples.

47. Free Birthday Treats

There are literally hundreds of restaurants and retailers that give away free birthday goodies, especially for loyalty club members. Offerings include everything from free desserts and surprise gifts to full meals, all for free. Check out your favorite company’s website to see what’s available.

48. Free Shipping

If you’re still paying for shipping on purchases, well, why? There are dozens of retailers that offer free shipping on all items year ‘round.

49. Free Uber Rides

Next time you need a ride, first check for the latest promo codes to see if any of them will offer you a sweet deal on getting to your destination. Groupon and other online coupon sites also offer deeply discounted fares when you buy in advance.

50. Free Wedding Swag

Planning a wedding? Check out sites like WeddingVibe, which offers giveaways for all sorts of free stuff for your wedding. From photo sessions for you and your spouse-to-be to shopping sprees and more.

Taking advantage of free stuff is one way to stay on budget. We’ve got 50 more ways to stay out of debt right here

Note: It’s important to remember that terms and conditions on products and services frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with providers directly.

 

Image: Eva-Katalin

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7 Ways to Save Money at Applebee’s

Addicted to Applebee's? Make sure you follow these tips to squeeze every last dime out of your visits.

When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Applebee’s. Especially to save money while in college, my friends and I would catch a movie then go to Applebee’s for half-price appetizers. My personal favorite was the wings. They were so crispy and juicy. And they were half off!

We would get a double order each – oh to have the metabolism of a teenager again.

To enjoy a meal at Applebee’s without breaking the bank, here are a few good tips.

It’s important to note that not all Applebee’s run the same deals. There can be some variation across the country, so check with your local location to see what offers are available for you. For example, some Applebee’s in Central Florida are standouts, as they started Club Applebee’s where the restaurant turns into a nightclub after 10 p.m. until closing at 2 a.m. They run half-price appetizers, drink specials and more during this time, but this is not something that is available nationwide.

1. Happy Hour & Late Night Specials

Applebee’s runs two specials during the day – an afternoon happy hour and a late-night special.

The happy hour time for many locations is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Most Applebee’s have drink specials that include discounts on adult beverages plus half off on select appetizers. If you can’t get there early, you can try to get there late. At most Applebee’s, late-night deals take effect after 9 p.m. It’s usually the same discount on adult beverages and half price on select appetizers.

2. 2 for $20 Menu

Applebee’s has a 2 for $20 Menu where you can get an appetizer and two full-size entrees for $20 or $25. You don’t get the full menu and it’s a limited selection for the deal but many popular options are available.

These entrees can cost up to $15 each, so by pairing up with a friend you can save money on your meal and get an appetizer to share.

3. Get the App & Order Online

Applebee’s has online ordering service called Applebee’s Carside to Go that you can use to order food for pickup.

As of publication date, for your first order, you can use the coupon code 5OFF25 at checkout and get $5 off your first order of more than $25.

4. Join Their Email Club

When you sign up for the Applebee’s email club, you get the occasional promotional email with coupons and discounts but also a free dessert on your birthday. Many restaurants offer free food on your birthday so if this is something you’re after, you may want to sign up with all your favorite eateries.

5. Kids Eat Free

Many Applebee’s locations allow kids 12 and under to free on certain days of the week when an adult purchases a full-price entree. If you have kids and plan on dining at Applebee’s, find out if your local restaurant offers such a deal so you can save.

6. Buy a Gift Card Online

There are many reputable gift card marketplaces online and you can buy gift cards at a big discount from people who want to get rid of them.

7. Use a Rewards Credit Card

If you dine out often, you may want to consider paying the bill with a credit card, like one of these, that helps you earn extra at restaurants.

Want more dining out hacks? We’ve got 11 ways to save at restaurants right here. And, if there’s a particular eatery you’d like us to tackle next, let us know in the comments below. 

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30 Cities Where Millennials Are Still Living With Their Parents

Across the country, more people ages 18 to 34 are living at home with their parents. Here are the cities where it's happening the most.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

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