What to Buy in October

Save Money with Good Grades

Ah, October. The kids are finally getting settled into their school routines and weekends are devoted to leaf peeping and apple picking. If your busy schedule allows time for some shopping, October is also a great time to replace those ratty gym shoes, book your holiday travel, refresh your cookware in advance of all those holiday parties you’ll be throwing, and, of course, purchase Halloween costumes for the family.

According to the deal experts at Slickdeals.net, here are the four categories you should focus on—plus a few known deals to help you get the most for your money.

1. Footwear

If you’ve worn your sneakers into the ground, or if someone on your holiday list is in need of a pair, now is the time to start looking. According to Slickdeals.net, retailers like Puma, Macy’s, Nike, and Adidas had footwear for 30% off in 2016, on average.

Current Deals:

Kohl’s: 20% off select items already on sale with code WHATADEAL from 10/2 to 10/4.

Under Armour: 10% off for students, military personnel, and first responders through 12/31.

FitFlop: 20% off men’s styles plus free shipping through 10/4.

Superga: 5%-75% off select styles through 10/5.

Skechers: Free socks with orders over $50 and free shipping if you join at Skechers through 10/5.

Adidas: Up to 50% off apparel and footwear.

Puma: Up to 50% off women’s sale items, plus free shipping. 

2. Travel

If you’re contemplating a trip home for the holidays, start looking at prices now. Last year saw sales on travel from Southwest ($44 one-way), WOW Air ($99 one-way to Iceland and $99 one-way to Europe), and JetBlue (30% off). Royal Caribbean also offered buy two, get two free deals for select cruises in November and December. 

Current Deals:

Avis: Up to 25% off car rentals with promo code S951601, and a free car upgrade with promo code UUGA037.

Expedia: 10% off select hotels when you join Expedia+, plus up to 40% off select trips through 1/31/2019.

Hertz: 15% off car rentals through 10/31.

Travelocity: Sliding scale discount based on spend, starting at $10 off $100 through 10/2.

Orbitz: 15% off select hotels through 10/1.

AccorHotels: 30% off and a free breakfast for bookings made on AccorHotels.com for bookings 10/16 through 10/20.

3. Cookware and Small Appliances

Whether you’re gearing up for your annual holiday hosting or your cookware is looking worn, you’ll find solid deals this month. Last year, Slickdeals saw deep discounts on brands like OXO, Lodge, Crock-Pot, and Pyrex and deals from retailers like Target and Bloomingdale’s.

Current Deals:

Bloomingdale’s: 20% off almost all small electrics, gadgets, and cookware at Bloomingdales.com during the Friends & Family Sale through 10/9. Look for promo code FRIENDS as you shop online.

Best Buy: 20% off select small appliances with promo code SAVEONSMALLSNOW.

BJ’s: $20 to $30 off select appliances (including FoodSaver, Keurig, and Farberware) at BJ’s and BJs.com through 10/18.

Kohl’s:  $10 off your home purchase of $50 or more with code HOME10 from 10/12 to 10/22.

Sur La Table: 20% off clearance items with promo code EXTRA20.

Home Depot: Sliding scale discounts starting at 15% off $75 or more with promo code BUYMOREDECOR; up to 20% off seasonal essentials like slow cookersrice cookerspopcorn makers, and specialty cookware through 10/20.

4. Halloween Costumes

With Halloween around the corner, now is a good time to grab this year’s costumes. The longer you can wait before the big day, however, the lower the prices will be at stores like Buy Costumes and Kohl’s—but the pickings will get slimmer the closer you get to Halloween. If you like to think ahead, shop the clearance sales in early November to get your costume for next year.

Current Deals:

Halloween Express: 20% off by providing your email.

Spirit Halloween: $5 off $30 purchases, $10 off $50, and $25 off $100 with code LEAVES15 through 10/6.

Halloween Mall: 25% off select costumes and accessories through 10/7.

Halloween City: $10 to $24 off select costumes through 11/5.

Kmart: 10% off posable spiders with code KBOO.

What Not to Buy in October

iPhone 8

If you’re an “Apple person,” you’re probably eager to get your hands on the iPhone 8, but you should wait to buy if you’re looking for savings: Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer better chances to get a deal. With the iPhone X coming out in November, that could mean even more favorable pricing on the 8 next month.

Electronics

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best days to buy electronics, so if you can hold off on purchasing laptops, TVs, smart watches, tablets, and Amazon devices, you should.

Smart shopping means smart saving. Visit our Personal Finance Learning Center to learn more strategies for taking control of your finances and saving for the future.

Image: istock

The post What to Buy in October appeared first on Credit.com.

Ingredients to Buy in Bulk and Keep for Years

A great way to reduce your grocery spend is by planning meals ahead.

Everyone who goes grocery shopping knows that buying food weekly can become fairly expensive—especially when you add in how much money we waste on food. Luckily, there are many foods that’ll last for years and save you money in the long run if you buy them in bulk and store them properly.

Check out these 12 ingredients that can help you save money on your groceries for years to come.

1. White Rice

It’s hard to find a food that’s more versatile than rice: you can eat it on its own, with vegetables or beans, in soup, with meat, in sushi, and so much more. You can even use it to help save your electronics from water damage. Plus, rice is super cheap and often comes in bulk. Even better, white rice can last more than 30 years if stored properly—in the pantry, in the fridge, or in the freezer—so don’t throw it out unless it has spoiled through improper storage. (Brown rice has a higher oil content, so it’ll actually spoil after six months, unfortunately.)

2. Honey

Scientists have found perfectly preserved honey in the Egyptian pyramids—even at over three thousand years old, that honey is still edible and safe to eat. Honey’s high acidity and lack of water help it last indefinitely. It may crystallize over time, but don’t worry; it is still safe to eat. You can warm it up to soften and de-crystallize it for easier consumption. Honey can be used as a sweetener, in salad dressings, in desserts, as a home remedy, and even for facials.

3. Oats

If you love breakfast foods and baking, buy bulk portions of oats to store in your pantry. Rolled and instant oats can last several years when kept in airtight containers—some estimate that oats can be safely eaten for 30 years if stored properly! Keep oats on hand and make your own flour, granola bars, or cereal whenever you want.

4. Hot Sauce

From eggs to salads to pizza, anything can benefit from some added spice. Whether you’re a Tabasco or Tapatío fan, your favorite hot sauce can last for three to five years thanks to its high vinegar content and the capsaicin found in chili peppers. Just make sure you follow proper storage directions, and keep in mind that the taste will change as time passes. The sauce may even get hotter as the peppers age! Buy a large bottle on sale and keep it for years—or until you run out.

5. Dried Beans

You can find a great source of protein in beans, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Flavored and canned beans will last you a while, but dried beans can last for up to 30 years. They do begin to lose their moisture after a few years, so cooking times may vary depending on how long you have been storing them. If you love black beans in homemade burritos or homemade barbecue chili, keep bags of dried beans in your pantry—they’re super affordable and go with pretty much anything.

6. Quinoa

Contrary to popular belief, quinoa is a seed not a grain, so it actually keeps two to three years past the expiration date. Though it lasts several years, you do need to keep quinoa in a cool, dry area or it could grow mold—and you should never eat quinoa that has grown mold. Quinoa is super filling and can be used in tons of dishes in place of less-healthy carbs. Make soups, salads, or protein bowls with this superfood.

7. Pure Vanilla Extract

Imitation vanilla extract will last you a while if you’re in a pinch (about two to four years), but we highly recommend finding a big bottle of pure vanilla extract. The high alcohol content of the extract makes it stay good indefinitely—just keep it away from heat and light and keep the cap tightly closed when not in use—so it’ll always be ready to use when you’re baking or cooking.

8. Soy Sauce

If you’re a fan of Asian food, don’t throw out your open bottles of soy sauce. Due to the large amounts of sodium, soy sauce can last over three years when stored properly. It keeps its flavor and freshness better when stored in the refrigerator, but it is safe to keep in the pantry as well. Save money on takeout by making your own stir-fry, Chinese chicken salad, or noodle dishes with your long-lasting soy sauce.

9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Due to its high acidity, apple cider vinegar can last for up to five years when stored in a cool, dry place (in the pantry or in the fridge) with the lid tightly closed. If you see a dark, cloudy substance in the bottom of your bottle, don’t worry—that’s just the “mother,” formed by naturally occurring pectin. The mother is actually the most nutritious part of the cider, so feel free to consume it! Add apple cider vinegar to soups and salad dressings for an acidic finish.

10. Dried Ramen

It might seem obvious, but dried ramen noodles will last for many years in your pantry, though the taste is best if consumed within a few years. The noodles are extremely dehydrated, so they don’t usually spoil. Use this cheap staple to make soup or cold noodle bowls.

11. Pure Maple Syrup

Unopened, pure maple syrup will last indefinitely if stored in the freezer (it won’t freeze solid) and up to several years if kept in the refrigerator. Syrup lacks water and is relatively acidic, which contributes to its long shelf life—though it can develop mold, in which case you should not consume it.

12. Baking Soda

One of the most versatile ingredients you can buy in bulk is baking soda. While not super exciting, this extremely cheap ingredient is perfect for making homemade toothpaste, freshening up your fridge, leavening anything you bake, washing your counters, and removing stains from your clothes. Stock up on baking soda and don’t throw it away because it will last you multiple years without going bad. You can test your baking soda to determine whether it’s still good: just add a few drops of vinegar to your baking soda and see if it bubbles.

Whether you’re a cash-strapped college student or just a conscious spender, every little bit helps. Buy these ingredients in bulk and enjoy them for years.

As with all food, check to make sure these ingredients haven’t spoiled before you eat them, and never eat food that has not been stored properly.

Image: RoBeDeRo

The post Ingredients to Buy in Bulk and Keep for Years appeared first on Credit.com.

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

The post How Living Like Lord Voldemort Can Save You Money appeared first on Credit.com.

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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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

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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

The post 50 Free Things You Can Get This Year appeared first on Credit.com.

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

The post 30 Cities Where Millennials Are Still Living With Their Parents appeared first on Credit.com.

11 Ways to Save If Your Heating & Cooling Bills Are Boiling Over

Heating bills can shoot up as the temperature drops. Here are ways to cut costs while keeping warm.

It’s one of the facts of modern life: Keeping your home the right temperature can get expensive, whether you’re in a studio apartment or a spacious house, you may be paying more than you have to in order to heat your home. Fear not! There are several ways you can cut back on how much you’re spending on temperature control in your home. Here are 11 ways to lower your heating or cooling bill. (And if you’re looking for more ways to save on your monthly home expenses, you can check out these seven easy ways to save on your cable bill.)

1. Seal Your Windows

Windows that are improperly sealed can leak air, losing energy and causing your heating system or air conditioner to work harder.

“Gaps around the window frame allow air to leak, so caulk any gaps in the seals to save on your heating bill,” said Richard Ciresi, owner of Louisville Aire Serve, a heat and air conditioning company.

2. Upgrade Your Windows

You can also upgrade your windows to more energy-efficient models.

“New windows are a big investment, but not one without substantial reward,” said Larry Patterson, a Glass Doctor franchisee. “Replacing your old windows with double or triple-pane energy efficient glass can save you up to 30% on your energy bills.”

3. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats can cut energy costs by automatically adjusting the temperature while you’re away, reducing the energy wasted on heating or cooling an empty home.

“Investing in a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest ways to save money on your heating, as you set your heating to turn on and off at specific times throughout the day,” said Max Robinson of Turnbull and Scott Heating.

You can program your thermostat to turn off while you sleep or while you’re at work and turn back on when you wake up or get home, Robinson added.

4. Change Your Air Filter

Your furnace uses air filters to keep dust from clogging your vents and circulating through your home. When the filters are dirty, your system has to work harder to push air through. Air filters are affordable and easy to switch out, and doing so will help your heating system run more efficiently. You should swap out new air filters every few months.

5. Open Your Vents

Closed vents can waste a lot of energy. When you turn on your heat, make sure your vents are open.

“Blocked or closed vents and registers make furnaces work harder than they should,” Ciresi said. “Blocked vents do not allow for proper airflow. The furnace will continue to run but the rooms won’t heat up. Always unblock and open all vents and registers before running the furnace.”

6. Reduce Hot Water

The energy spent heating your water contributes to your heating bill. You can reduce your hot water usage a few different ways: Take shorter showers, avoid the hottest water settings and wash your clothes in cold water.

Water heaters are often set at a higher temperature than is needed. You can lower your water heater’s base temperature to 120 degrees, which is sufficiently hot for most household needs.

7. Use a Space Heater for Small Rooms

Smaller rooms can be heated by an electric space heater. While this method still uses electricity, it’s far more energy efficient than using gas heat.

“The rest of the house will be cooler, but this shouldn’t be an issue if your entire family is gathered in one room,” Robinson said.

8. Check Your Outlets

Even your outlets can leak air and reduce the energy efficiency of your home. Make sure to check your outlets for drafts.

“Electrical outlets in exterior walls are usually a major source of drafts, as it is rare for insulation to be used in these areas, and when it is it is often incorrectly installed,” Robinson said. “Luckily it’s easy to correct this. Use a simple foam sealant to fill any gaps around the outlet, and place a gasket over the front of the outlet.”

9. Check Your Insulation

Your walls, attic and other home areas must be properly insulated. If not, the temperature will be much harder to control. Make sure to check your insulation, or hire a professional if you’re not sure how.

10. Find an Alternative Payment Plan

Many energy companies provide alternative payment plans. Some will reduce your bill for reducing your energy consumption, while other plans might lower your payments based on income. Check with your energy provider to see what alternative plans they offer.

If you’re doing things yourself, you may want to consider funding these projects with a store credit card that offers you rewards for your purchases. (You can read our review of the Home Depot credit card here.) Before you apply for any new plastic, it’s always a good idea to review your credit so you know what types of cards you may qualify for. You can see two of your scores free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

11. Change Your Attire

If you’re cold, you can always turn down the temperature a few degrees and bundle up. Don’t neglect your feet and head, areas that can lose a lot of body heat. Fuzzy socks and a knit hat should do the trick. And if you’re looking to escape the heat? Try a bathing suit and a cool body of water — You can see 28 ideas on how to save for your next big adventure here.

Inspired to do some renovations? Before you head out to your local hardware store, you may want to check out our 6 ways to save at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Image: DGLimages

The post 11 Ways to Save If Your Heating & Cooling Bills Are Boiling Over appeared first on Credit.com.

Things You Need to Know if You Want to Master Your Money

master-your-money

It’s ironic people shy away from talking to others about money, considering everyone has to deal with it. But instead taking advantage of this shared experience, a lot of people keep their questions to themselves and outwardly pretend they understand what they’re doing with money. Only once they’ve dug themselves in a hole do they start asking for help.

No one is born understanding personal finance. It’s mostly on you to figure it out as you go, which doesn’t always work out well.

“Typically in America you don’t learn about these things — you don’t learn about debt and interest,” according to Alex Sadler, managing editor of Clark.com, the namesake site of personal finance and early retirement icon Clark Howard. “You’re handed a credit card … and it’s up to you to read the fine print. People get into serious trouble.”

Sadler knows this not only because of the people who ask questions on Clark.com but also because of her own experiences. “I maxed out credit cards, I had a student loan I didn’t understand, and living that way and not changing my lifestyle, I realized that that was going to prevent me from doing things in my life that I wanted to do.”

Ideally, people would get to know how money and credit works before they start using it, not the other way around. But that backwardness is often the reality of Americans’ personal finances, which is why Sadler and the Clark.com team started a new project called CommonCents.

“A lot of problems people face is not understanding what they are trying to tackle,” Sadler said. “A lot of times people … they think they have tried (to get out of debt) and they just don’t understand how it all works and how to make that attempt and effort successful.”

We asked Sadler about some of the core concepts that people need to know — but often overlook — in order to master their finances. Here’s what she said.

1. Understand Interest

Sadler said this is a common issue among people who reach out to Clark for help getting out of credit card debt.

“A lot of people think because they’re paying the minimum monthly payments they’re not getting charged interest,” she said. This, of course, is totally false. It’s not that making the minimum monthly payment isn’t a way to get out of debt — it’s just that it can take an extremely long time.

So, how does interest work? As far as credit cards go, you can get a sense of it by using this free credit card payoff calculator (and if you have credit card debt, the tool can help you make a plan to pay it off.)

2. Learn What it Means to Budget

It’s perhaps the core tenet of personal finance: Budgeting. But you can’t hope to budget if you don’t really understand what it means.

“Budgeting means making sense of your money: How much money are you making? How much money are you spending?” Sadler said. Budgeting, no matter how you do it, boils down to one thing: “Spend less than you make. You’re living paycheck to paycheck? You’re not spending less than you make.”

That brings us to her next point:

3. Know Your Numbers

“The majority of people that Clark talks to about debt, the first thing he asks is, ‘OK, you have credit card debt — how much do you owe?’ The majority of the time, this person asking the question does not know the answer,” Sadler said. “How do you plan to pay off your debt if you don’t know what you’re facing?”

That’s only part of the spend-less-than-you-make equation. Knowing your take-home earnings, your debt, your spending, your assets — these are all things that can help you make smart financial decisions every day that will also make sense years in the future, Sadler said.

Image: macniak

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