Travel Hacks 8 of 12 – Six Ways to Save on Vacation Food Costs

When you’re traveling on a budget, food expenses can quickly destroy all your carefully planned savings. From trying out the best local restaurants to splurging on snacks and drinks on the road, food costs while on vacation add up and can take a big bite out of your budget. Lucky for you, though, paying for your eats when you’re away doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. Here are six ways to save on vacation food costs. 

  1. Research local eatery options 

When your stomach is grumbling and you’re desperate for a delicious, hot meal, you likely won’t have the willpower to make the best choices about where to go for dinner. Instead, if you plan on dining out while on vacation, research your options before you head out on your trip. This way, you can look up local eateries from the comfort of your home, and compare prices and ratings so you can make the best decisions for your vacation and your budget. Don’t forget to look up possible coupons on sites like Groupon and to check for possible deals the restaurants may offer at certain times of the day, or on specific days of the week.

  1. Pack snacks and drinks

Those frequent rest stops to grab a bag of chips, some beef jerky and a cold drink to keep you going can eat up more of your vacation budget than you may realize. A little pre-planning, though, can go a long way. Stock up on non-perishable snacks like granola bars, trail mix, crackers and dried fruit for on-the-go snacking that’ll last throughout your vacation. You can also buy your beverages now and stick them in an ice-filled cooler for a chilled drink whenever you’d like it while you’re on vacation. Buying these items in your own town instead of on the road is more convenient and will cost significantly less money for the same exact products. That’s called planning ahead!

  1. Cook while on vacation

If you’ll be staying at your vacation destination for a while and/or if the area only has expensive eateries, consider booking a rental or apartment that comes equipped with kitchen facilities. During your trip, pick up fresh ingredients at local grocery stores or farmers’ markets and whip up your favorite dishes. If the thought of cooking while vacationing makes you rethink the entire trip, you can also prep several meals at home and just reheat them while on vacation. This option is particularly beneficial for families or larger groups, as it reduces the need for dining out every day.

  1. Explore the local street food

Get a real feel for the place you’re visiting and save on food costs by taking advantage of the nearby street food options. These tend to be a lot cheaper than dine-in eateries, and usually feature local cuisine that’s made fresh while you wait. You can enjoy iconic soft pretzels in New York City, sizzling hot gyros on the streets of Athens, authentic tacos in Cancun, fresh croissants in Paris and so much more!

  1. Share meals 

When you dine out during your vacation, consider sharing meals with your travel companions. Sharing will allow you to sample a variety of dishes while reducing individual costs. Don’t hesitate to ask the waiter for portion sizes or recommendations for sharing options.

  1. BYOB 

Alcoholic drinks can be the biggest expense of a restaurant meal. Check local regulations and policies, but if allowed, bring your own bottle of wine or other beverages to restaurants that offer corkage fees. This way, you can enjoy your favorite drinks without the hefty markup on alcohol prices. 

Food costs don’t have to eat away at your vacation budget. Use the tips outlined here to save on food costs while on vacation. 

TikTok Inspo: What’s your vacation food cost hack? Tell us all about it in a short video.

Supercharge Your Savings: End-of-Summer Saving Tips

As summer slowly starts winding down, it’s a great time to reflect on your financial goals and implement strategies to boost your savings. Whether you’re saving for a vacation, preparing for upcoming expenses or building a nest egg, implementing smart strategies before summer fades away can set you up for financial success. Let’s take a look at some end-of-summer saving tips to help you supercharge your savings.

Review and adjust your budget 

Take a close look at your budget and assess your spending habits. Identify areas where you can cut back or find more affordable alternatives. Consider trimming non-essential expenses, like dining out, unused or unnecessary subscriptions and impulse purchases. Allocate your saved funds toward your short- and long-term savings goals. With the new season approaching, plan your budget accordingly, accounting for upcoming expenses, like cold-weather wardrobe essentials, increased heating costs and school supplies, as necessary. 

Optimize your energy usage

With the weather gradually cooling down, it’s a perfect time to ensure you’re optimizing your energy consumption. Utilize natural light whenever possible, and if you haven’t already done so, make the switch to energy-efficient LED bulbs. Keep the shades drawn during the hottest part of the day and set the thermostat at the highest setting that’s still comfortable. Unplug electronics when not in use to minimize vampire energy usage and consider investing in smart power strips that automatically cut power to idle devices. These small changes can lead to substantial savings on your energy bill, leaving you with extra cash to put into savings.

Take advantage of end-of-season sales

The turn of a season is always rife with big sales and items retailing at bargain prices. If you’ve been eyeing a new set of patio furniture all season, or you’ve been drooling over a new grill, this is the time to make your dreams come true without draining your wallet. As summer takes its final bow, look for discounted warm-weather clothing, outdoor furniture and equipment, gardening tools and more. You can enjoy these steals for the rest of the season and/or put them away for next year. Stocking up on essentials at less cost will free up more of your later cashflow. 

Take a financial fast

Mild-weathered summer is the perfect season for free or low-cost entertainment options. Resolve to keep one weekend, or even longer, completely spend-free. Meals are whatever dishes you can throw together using contents in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Activities can include visiting local parks, hitting a scenic trail or an organized game night with friends. You can also check community calendars for free events, like concerts or outdoor movie screenings. By embracing cost-effective options, you can enjoy the season without compromising on your savings goals.

Automate your savings 

Consider automating your savings to make it super-easy. Set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to a specially designated savings account. This way, a portion of your income will automatically be set aside for savings without any actual effort on your part. If your employer offers direct deposit, split your paycheck so a portion goes directly into your savings account. By automating your savings, you’ll be less tempted to spend that money, and it will steadily grow over time.

Open a Vacation Club Account

The end of summer is a fabulous time to start thinking about next year’s summer getaway. Consider opening a Vacation Club Account at this time. This special savings account enables the account holder to make regular contributions toward a predetermined goal. These accounts are designed to help the account holder save up for vacation expenses. By spreading the cost of a large, seasonal expense throughout the year, you’ll have an easier time saving the full amount by next summer. Also, you likely won’t be able to withdraw your funds until a specific date or sum of money has been reached. This makes it harder to use your vacation funds for another purpose. 

Summer may be fading out, but it’s not too late to boost your savings this time of year. Follow the tips outlined here for end-of-season savings.

Affordable Sustainability 7 of 12-How to Use Appliances Efficiently

Did you know that appliances account for approximately 13% of your home’s energy use? Your larger kitchen appliances, combined with your smaller entertainment machines, means your home can have upward of 10 appliances running at any given moment. The good news is, you don’t have to completely pull the plug to save on your energy costs. Here’s how to use your appliances more efficiently to reduce your energy use and do one for the environment.

Choose energy-efficient appliances

When purchasing new appliances, choose models with high energy efficiency ratings. Look for the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates that the appliance meets strict energy efficiency standards. Energy-efficient appliances consume less electricity while providing the same functionality as standard models. The initial cost may be higher, but the money you save in the long run will make it an investment that ultimately pays for itself. 

Follow the user manuals

User manuals provide valuable information about the optimal usage and maintenance of appliances. Take the time to read the manuals thoroughly, as they offer specific instructions on how to maximize efficiency and extend the lifespan of each appliance. Familiarize yourself with recommended settings, maintenance procedures and safety guidelines to ensure you’re using the appliances as efficiently as possible.

Use appliances smartly

Take full advantage of any automatic settings on your appliances to use them more efficiently. For example, you can set your HVAC system to adjust its temperature when no one’s home or everyone in the household is asleep. Many newer appliances come with Wi-Fi connectivity, which further increases the controllability of the appliance. It’s a lot easier to swipe a phone screen to shut off the light you mistakenly left burning in the basement than to actually haul yourself out of bed and downstairs to turn it off. 

Saving on energy around the house

Follow these tips to use appliances more efficiently around the house:


  • Choose “sleep” over “screen save” to use less energy when away from your computer.
  • Set up your computer to go into standby mode after 10 or 15 minutes of non-use and to hibernate, or sleep, after a bit longer. This will significantly decrease your computer’s energy use.
  • Trim down and downsize. Consider switching from a desktop PC to a laptop, as these use 10% of the electricity.
  • Turn off your monitor when it’s not in use.
  • Think three times before you print. Use print preview to reduce the number of copies you need to run. 


  • Match up your pots to your burner size. Using a small pot on a large burner is a waste of energy and adds extra heat to your kitchen. 
  • Keep the oven door closed. The oven loses up to 50°F each time you open the door.
  • Choose the right-shaped pans. Pans with straight sides and flat bottoms reduce cooking time and heat loss. 
  • Cook with aluminum pans for even heat conduction.
  • Keep range-top burners clean for better reflection of heat and saved energy.


  • Keep your thermostats at the recommended settings: 37°F for refrigerators and -6°F for freezers.
  • Position your refrigerator away from a heat source to reduce energy use. 
  • For optimal performance that uses less energy, keep your freezer full and wrap all foods well. Avoid putting hot foods directly into your refrigerator or freezer.
  • Clean the condenser coils of refrigerators and freezers regularly to improve cooling efficiency.


  • Only run full loads.
  • Avoid pre-rinsing dirty dishes unless absolutely necessary. 
  • During warmer times of the year, run the dishwasher in the early morning or evenings, when it’s cooler out, for decreased energy usage. 


  • Wash with cold water as much as possible. Approximately 90% of the energy used by washing machines goes toward heating the water. 
  • Keep the lint filter clean for quicker dry times. 
  • Make sure your dryer is vented properly. 

Air conditioner

  • Cook less when it’s hot out. Consider using smaller appliances instead of your oven to keep the house cool, or take it outdoors and grill your dinner. 
  • Plant bushes or small trees outside your home near windows that let in lots of sunshine.
  • Set your thermostat to adjust automatically. 
  • Clean or replace your filters regularly to maintain proper airflow. 

Our household appliances keep our food cold, cook and bake our meals, allow us to get work done, clean our clothes, keep us cool and so much more. Use these tips to use your appliances more efficiently and save on energy usage and total costs. 

Affordable Sustainability 6 of 12: Five Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Water Bottle Waste

Plastic water bottles have become a ubiquitous part of modern-day life. They’re convenient, portable and readily available. Unfortunately, though, their convenience comes at a cost. 

According to a report published by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, more than one million bottles of water are sold every minute around the world. Approximately 85% of these bottles, which can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, will end up as waste, the report claims. This leads to an average of 25 million tons of plastic waste each year. To put that into context, this waste pile is big enough to fill a line of 40-ton trucks stretching from New York to Bangkok every year.

Plastic water bottles do a job on the wallet, too, with the average American spending $266 a year, or $17,290 over an 80-year lifespan, on these ill-packaged beverages. The good news is that reducing your plastic water bottle usage is easy and can have a significant impact on both your wallet and our environment. Here are five ways to reduce your plastic water bottle usage.

1: Invest in a reusable water bottle

One of the easiest ways to reduce your plastic water bottle usage is to invest in a reusable water bottle. Reusable water bottles are durable and easy to carry around.  You can find one in a wide variety of tastes and styles. Best of all, a reusable water bottle is environmentally friendly and easy on the wallet, too. 

When shopping for a reusable water bottle, look for one made from food-grade stainless steel or glass. These materials are non-toxic, highly durable and easy to clean. 

2: Use water filters

Another way to reduce your plastic water bottle usage is to invest in a water filter. Water filters are an excellent way to ensure that your tap water is clean and safe to drink. There are different types of filters available, such as pitcher filters, faucet filters and under-sink filters. Shop around until you find one that fits your needs and budget. Investing in a water filter will reduce your bottled water waste, and lower your exposure to the harmful contaminants that are often found in tap water, such as chlorine, lead and bacteria. 

With clean water available at home, you won’t have to depend on bottled water to stay hydrated. Just refill your reusable water bottle at home, and you’re all set!  

3: Carry your water bottle with you

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of carrying your water bottle around with you. This way, you’ll have clean water to drink wherever you are. Most workplaces provide filtered water for their employees, so you can always refill your bottle during the workday. Plus, leaving home while prepared with a drink means you’re less likely to waste money and plastic on a purchased beverage. That’s a win for the environment, and your budget, too.

4: Say no to plastic water bottles

It isn’t easy to break the plastic water bottle habit, but you can do it! Aside from ensuring you always have your own clean water to drink, be prepared to turn down offers for bottled water at various venues and events. When asked if you’d like a bottle of water, politely decline and explain that you’ve brought your own water. If you’re the one hosting an event, stay true to your values and serve water from pitchers or dispensers instead of distributing plastic bottles to all your guests. 

5: Support businesses that reduce plastic water bottle usage

Supporting businesses that reduce plastic water bottle usage is another way to make a difference. When choosing a restaurant, café or hotel, look for those that offer tap water or water in reusable glasses or bottles. Additionally, you can support businesses that offer incentives for using reusable water bottles, such as discounts or free refills. Supporting businesses that reduce plastic water bottle usage is a great way to create a demand for sustainable practices. 

Use the tips outlined here to change your drinking habits and do one for the environment.

Is it Ever the Right Time to Start a Family?

Q: My partner and I are looking forward to starting a family, but when we sit down to crunch the numbers and we see how much it costs to raise a child, we immediately put our plans on hold. We don’t see our financial situation changing anytime soon. Is it ever the right time to start a family?

A: It’s commendable that you’ve chosen to think about how you will afford to care for and raise a child before the pregnancy test comes back positive. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it costs $233,610 to raise a child to age 18. When adjusted for inflation, that number is closer to $288,094. It’s a massive budget that may seem unattainable right now, but that doesn’t mean you need to delay starting a family until you have all that money saved.

Let’s explore the financial details of starting a family and some steps to take for financially preparing yourself for this exciting and monumental step.

The real cost of raising a child

First, let’s take a closer look at the estimated cost of raising a child from birth to age 18. The USDA’s average, as mentioned above, is approximately $288,094. This number includes ongoing costs like housing, childcare and healthcare, but it does not include the cost of college. 

It’s important to note, though, that this number is only an average. Costs can vary tremendously with each family. For example, the USDA’s average annual housing costs of raising a child is $3,900 in an urban area, but only $2,400 in a rural area. Each family will also have its own spending habits in other areas, like food, transportation and entertainment. Therefore, you may want to do some of your own research to find out what it will likely cost you to raise a child to adulthood.

Another important point to consider is that you do not need to have all these funds available the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. Of course, some costs will need to be immediately incorporated into your family’s budget, but most of these expenses are spread across 18 years. This comes to an average of $16,005 a year, and $1,334 a month. Breaking down the numbers makes them a lot more manageable.

Now you’re ready to determine if you’re financially ready to start a family. 

Assess your current financial situation

Before you start stressing over baby costs, take a good look at your current financial situation. Review each of these components of your financial health:

  • Income streams
  • Ongoing and occasional expenses
  • Outstanding debt
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Emergency funds
  • Long-term savings and investments
  • Assets

If you have a monthly budget, review this as well. If you don’t have one yet, this is a great time to assign a dollar amount to all your monthly expenses. 

Assessing your current money situation will give you an idea of your financial health before you shake things up by bringing a tiny human being home.

Budget for new expenses

Next, jot down a list of baby expenses you expect to have when you start a family. Include one-time expenses like a stroller, crib and carseat, as well as ongoing expenses like diapers, clothing, food and childcare costs. You may need to do some research before arriving at an accurate number for each spending category. 

Once you’ve completed your list, incorporate these items into your monthly budget. You’ll likely need to make a choice to create room in your budget for these items. You can choose to cut all  discretionary expenses completely, to trim from several categories or to look for ways to boost your income. If drastic change is needed, consider a major career shift, such as going for additional training or looking for a new job.

Plan for future expenses

It’s best to plan for your child’s future expenses ahead of time as a means of lessening the financial burden. One way to do this is to create a savings plan for each expense. For example, you can set aside a certain amount each month for child care costs or start a college savings plan, like a 529 savings account.

Review employer policies

Lots of employers offer paid maternity and paternity leave for primary caregivers. This can lighten the financial burden for expectant parents and to ensure they have enough income to live on until they get back to work. Check the maternity/paternity leave policy at your workplace, as well as the policy at your partner’s place of work. If no paid time off is offered, you may need to apply for disability insurance.

Starting a family is a significant financial commitment, but with careful planning and preparation, you can ensure that you are financially prepared to welcome your new bundle of joy into the world.

TikTok Inspo: Are you ready to start a family? We’ll be the judges! Play the part of a financially irresponsible couple preparing to start a family. Tell us about your spending choices and we’ll tell you if you’re ready to start a family.

What to Buy and What to Skip in September

Get ready for savings on big-ticket items this month! Retailers are looking to bring the crowds back after the big back-to-school storm has passed, and bargain prices are always a great way to attract shoppers. They also need to clear shelves before the holiday season blows in with its shopping frenzy. Add in the Labor Day sales that kick off the month, and it means big savings during September – but not on everything. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in September. 

Buy: Mattresses and bedding

Mattress sales practically give Labor Day its awesome name, and for good reason. You can find crazy-deep discounts on mattresses this month at almost any retailer that sells them. Top off the deal with some bedding and bath supplies, which are also selling at bargain prices. Be sure to start comparison-shopping at least a week or two before Labor Day to snag the best deal. After all, if you snooze, you lose. 

Skip: Halloween costumes and decor

Retailers might have you thinking Halloween is tomorrow, but you still have plenty of time to prep for Oct. 31. Though Halloween costumes and decor will hit the stores this month, it’s best to hold off on these purchases until October rolls around, as that’s the earliest you’ll start seeing scary-low discounts. 

Buy: Airfare

Since the days are getting shorter, it’s time to think winter! The holidays will be here before you can blink, and if you’re looking to grab airline tickets at a great price, you may want to shop for them now. The best deals on plane tickets usually show up eight weeks before the travel date, and for Thanksgiving, that means you’ll need to buy tickets in September. Look out for deals on tickets at the end of the month to save big on your travel plans. 

Skip: Autumn wear

It’s too early in the season for slashed prices on clothing. Pick up some essentials if you must, but you’re best off waiting until October or November to shop for your complete autumn wardrobe at sizzling-hot prices.

Buy: Plants

Hold onto summer a little bit longer with some vibrant greenery. All summer plants, trees and shrubs will be retailing at dirt-cheap prices this month as garden centers make room for autumn and holiday plants. This can be a terrific time to upgrade your property’s landscaping with some well-placed perennials. You can also find some fabulous deals on summer flowers, though you may not have much time left to enjoy them.

Skip: Electronics

Labor Day might bring some incredible deals on big-ticket items, but electronics aren’t among them. Instead, TVs, headphones, audio systems and more tend to see their lowest prices during Black Friday sale events. Wait just a little bit longer and you can snag a fantastic deal on an electronic item you’ve been eyeing for months. 

Buy: Denim

Jeans are a hot item during back-to-school shopping. Come September, retailers will slash prices to unload their unsold inventory. Cash in on a great deal by shopping these sales for a new pair of denim jeans this month. 

Buy: Beauty and skincare products 

Early autumn is a great time to stock up on beauty and skincare products. As college students pack up to head back to the dorm and consumers pick up skincare routines, prices may have dropped over the summer. Look for price cuts on products like shampoo, body wash, moisturizer and all kinds of cosmetics from Labor Day and on. 

It’s back to school, back to work and back to savings this month! Use this guide to know what to buy and what to skip in September. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great bargains in September? Tell us about them in the comments. 

Back-to-School Shopping Hacks

It’s back-to-school season, and that means you’ve got a list of stuff a mile long to buy. The good news is that you don’t need to break the budget during the second-biggest shopping season of the year. There are lots of ways to save, and if you plan your shopping well in advance instead of frantically rushing to get everything done at the last minute, you can save a lot of money. Below, we’ve compiled seven back-to-school shopping hacks to get you started.

  1. Take inventory

Don’t set foot in a single store without first checking to see what you have at home. You may have stocked up on lined paper in the spring, or maybe you bought some autumn wear for your child at the end-of-season sale last year and you’ve put it in storage until you’d need it. Keep a running list of everything you find so you know exactly what you have before you spend a dime on new supplies and clothing. 

  1. Shop tax-free

Many states offer a sales-tax holiday sometime during the summer, and if you use these days to shop for big-ticket items, like a new laptop or pair of school shoes, you can shave a significant amount of money off the final price. You can find a list of sales-tax holidays by state here.

  1. Shop with a list

And we’re not talking about the list of required supplies your child’s school or teacher has sent home. When shopping for anything, especially with kids and teens, it’s best to start out with a clear goal of what you plan to buy. This way, you’ll be less likely to overspend and come home with bags of stuff you don’t really need, along with lots of buyer’s remorse. Make a list before hitting the mall, the school supplies store and even before shopping online. 

  1. Divide and conquer

The circulars are packed with specials on school supplies all summer long. The problem is that, while one store is offering a crazy-low deal on crayons this week, another store is running a super sale on pencils – and the stores are across town from each other. You don’t want to spend all weekend hunting down supplies, and you don’t want to lose all your savings to fill the tank of your car either. Keep your savings, and your sanity, by teaming up with another school mom. Divide the school supply list between the two of you, pooling costs and paying back as necessary. This way, while one of you can go pick up the crayons at half-price in Walmart, the other can load up on marked-down pencils in Staples. 

  1. Let your kids choose some items on their own

Teach your kids a lesson in budgeting by allowing them to shop for one or more of the costlier items they need now on their own. For example, you can have your middle-schooler choose and pay for their own backpack. Set a reasonable budget together, but let your child do the actual choosing and paying on their own. They’ll learn how to make responsible money choices and so much more. To encourage thriftiness, you can offer to allow your child to keep the change. 

  1. Save some stuff for later

Yes, your child will be starting school soon and they’ll need some supplies and clothing before the big first day. But the stores won’t be going anywhere, and there’s no need to purchase a complete autumn wardrobe before Labor Day. Waiting a bit for the mid-season sales will save you a ton of money. As a bonus, shopping without the pressure of having everything ready for the new school year will help you make better money choices. 

  1. Scan receipts to get cash back

Put more money back in your wallet by scanning or uploading your receipts to cash-back sites or apps. Some popular cash-back apps include, Dosh and Ibotta. It’s like getting paid to shop!

It’s back-to-school shopping season, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend yourself broke! Cash in on savings with these hacks and get your shopping done without breaking your budget. 

Your Turn: How do you save on back-to-school shopping? Share your favorite hacks in the comments. 

Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away

Title: Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away

Author: Julien Saunders, Kiersten Saunders

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Portfolio

Publishing date: June 14, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • African Americans who find it challenging to build their wealth despite following all the right rules.
  • Anyone struggling with money management and career growth.

What’s inside this book?

  • A roadmap to financial freedom that makes wealth possible despite a broken economic system. 
  • A financial and career path that breaks free from corporate America’s rules so you can build wealth on your terms. 

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. Which goals to prioritize at each stage of your career so you can plan for an early retirement.  
  2. How to talk about money with your partner without every conversation ending in an argument.
  3. Practical strategies to grow your wealth without a large investment of time and energy. 
  4. Why the mantra of “Black Excellence” is an unsustainable form of motivation for building wealth. 

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. I’m following the same script as my white colleagues; why am I only seeing half the results?
  2. Is financial freedom really within my reach?
  3. Why am I always being passed up for career opportunities?
  4. Do I have to sacrifice my time and mental health to maximize my income?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Cashing Out feels like the talk you desperately needed from the big cousins you’ve always looked up to. It’s filled with gems about money, navigating your career and most importantly — relationships — from people who’ve done it successfully. You can literally feel the love and wisdom they’ve poured into every single chapter.” –Anthony O’Neal

“Read this book. Read it for the cool stories. Read it for the cool concepts. But mostly read it because it just might nudge you toward a far freer, richer and more rewarding life.” –J.L. Collins, author of The Simple Path to Wealth

“The ideas in this book have the power to change the wealth trajectories of Black folks everywhere.” –Jewel Burks Solomon

“An honest and encouraging approach, with a dash of tough love, to help you determine what it takes to be financially, emotionally and mentally wealthy.” –Erin Lowry

“Kiersten and Julien know their stuff, but they never put themselves on a pedestal. Instead, they nudge you along to your best financial life like your favorite older siblings, sharing their own vulnerabilities, acknowledging the many systemic barriers that exist, and never making you feel bad for your past choices.” –Tanja Hester

Your Turn: What did you think of Cashing Out? Share your opinion in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in August

Independence Day sales are long gone and Labor Day is a month away, but you can still pick up great bargains in August. Here’s what to buy and what to skip this month. 

Buy: Back-to-school supplies

Back-to-school season is still going strong. Cash in on great deals before the season draws to a close with the start of the school year at the end of the month. Look for weekly deals on all kinds of school and office supplies at big-box stores, pharmacies and e-tailers alike. Think beyond school – you can stock up on a year’s worth of pens and paper for your home printer at a bargain price this August by shopping back-to-school sales. Don’t forget to take advantage of any sales tax holidays your state may offer this month as well.

Skip: iPhones

Apple hasn’t officially confirmed it as of this writing, but word on the street is that the iPhone 14 will drop in late 2022. If you’re looking to replace your phone with a newer model, you’re best off waiting a bit before you make your purchase. When the brand-new models hit the market, retailers and private sellers will be desperate to get rid of their older phones to make room for new inventory. You’ll see prices slashed on any phones that aren’t the newest model being sold directly from Apple, all the way down to private sellers. 

Buy: Summer apparel

Expect to find prices on hot-weather wear dropping lower as summer slowly fades into autumn. Pick up a few new stunners to add to your wardrobe this season, or load up on timeless classics you can wear next year. 

Buy: AC units

In some parts of the country, temperatures hit their annual high in August. But even as temps peak, retailers know that most shoppers already purchased their AC units for the season. If your AC needs replacing, take advantage of discounted prices to snag a great deal on a brand-new unit.

Skip: Major household appliances and other items

Need a new fridge or another major household appliance? Hold off a bit until Labor Day, when you can find prices on brand-name appliances slashed by as much as 30%. Similarly, if you’re shopping for new mattresses, you’re best off waiting until Labor Day sales for more savings. This year, Labor Day is on Sept. 5, but sales can start up to a full week before the actual date. Check the sites of your favorite retailers a few weeks before Labor Day so you have time to comparison-shop and snag the best deals. 

Buy: Wedding decor, gifts and wear

According to wedding magazine The Knot, the months of June, September and October are the most popular for weddings. With August right in the middle of these months, but not popular for actual weddings, it can be the perfect time to pick up discounted wedding decor, gifts and even wedding wear. 

Skip: Amazon devices

Amazon just hosted its Prime Day sale, so don’t expect to find any great prices on Amazon devices this month. Wait for Black Friday to shop for a new Kindle, Echo device and more. 

Buy: Storage supplies

It’s nearly time to head (back) to college, and retailers know this well. You can find deals on all kinds of storage supplies this month, such as shelving units, large containers, decorative bins and more. Shop stores like Office Depot, Target and Walmart, or check out online sources, like Overstock and Wayfair, for similar offers. 

The summer is dying down, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a blazing hot deal in August! Use the tips outlined here to know what to buy and what to skip this month. Happy shopping!

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great bargains in August? Tell us about them in the comments. 

8 Ways to Spot a Survey Scam

Survey scams are almost as old as the internet. They’re so prevalent, you can hardly spend an hour online without running into an ad for a “super quick” survey promising a reward for just a few minutes of your time. 

What actually happens, though, is that the scammer walks away with a free survey, or worse, your information and/or your money. The alert consumer can spot a survey scam easily, but fraudsters are unfortunately becoming more sophisticated at luring innocent victims into their schemes. 

Don’t get caught! Here are eight ways to spot a survey scam:

  1. You’re asked to pay to participate in a survey

Authentic survey companies need you – you don’t need them. There’s absolutely no reason to pay to take a survey of any kind. If you’re targeted by an ad asking you to take a survey and to pay for the privilege of doing so, don’t respond. 

  1. You’re asked to share sensitive information before you can take the survey

They’d really appreciate it if you could take this quick survey for them. They just need some information from you first, like your Social Security number, date of birth and maybe even your checking account number. If a survey company asks for anything more than basic information from you, sign out as quickly as you can. 

  1. They advertise on Craigslist and similar sites asking for your email address

“Survey companies” that advertise on sites like Craigslist asking you to share your email address are usually fronts for scam rings. They use the bogus surveys as bait so you will share your email address. Once they have this information, they’ll use it to spam you with scam emails, phishing schemes, malware or worse. Alternatively, they’ll sell your email address to another scam ring to be used for similar purposes. 

  1. They offer too much money

If a survey is offering you $100 for a 20-question survey that shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to complete, you can be sure you’re looking at a scam. No legitimate survey company is that desperate. The pay for authentic survey-taking is generally on a much more modest scale. 

  1. You’re directed to download attachments 

Any time an unknown contact asks you to download attachments to your device, be super-suspicious. More often than not, these are scams and the attachments are loaded with malware. Don’t respond to the offer, and if it was made via email, be sure to report the email address as spam. 

  1. They advertise aggressively

If the same solicitation for survey participation keeps popping up across your screen, you may be looking at a scam. Scammers tend to flood their targets with ads in the hopes that one of them will actually work. Similarly, if the survey offer is full of unbelievable testimonials of past

participants, you’re likely looking at a scam. Legitimate survey companies don’t need to try so desperately hard to get people to take their surveys. 

  1. They give you an hour to pre-qualify for the survey

Often, a survey company will want you to answer a few pre-qualifying questions to see if you fit their desired demographic. Scammers exploit the prequalification by having the target answer dozens of questions and then informing them they’ve run out of time and cannot participate in the actual survey. This is false, of course, and the questions the scammer just answered actually were the survey questions, only now they won’t be getting paid for it. Check to see if a survey has a time limit on the prequalification before you start answering questions. 

  1. They require an outrageous minimum before payment

Most legitimate survey companies require the survey taker to complete a minimum number of surveys before the first payment. However, scammers require their targets to take an unrealistic number of surveys before they receive their first paycheck. Often, the victim will just quit before they qualify for a payment and the scammers now have these completed surveys without paying anything for them. 

Survey-taking can be a great way to earn some pocket money, but survey scams are rampant. Follow these tips to stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a survey scam? Share your experience in the comments.