10 Best Places to Buy Shoes & Sneakers Online (at Discounted Prices)

Footwear isn’t just a fashion statement. Shoes should provide comfort, support, and even protection, depending on the type of job or hobbies you have.

There’s also no denying that shoe and apparel shopping is satisfying in general. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, consumers spent nearly $1,900 on apparel and related services. If you’re prone to shopping sprees or have upgraded your wardrobe recently, you understand how easily expenses can rack up.

But if you’re trying to save money on a tight budget, shopping for shoes can cause dread rather than enjoyment. If you want to reduce your footwear expenses, one of the best strategies is to buy discount shoes online rather than shopping in a store.

Best Places to Buy Shoes Online

If you know your size and style, there’s no reason to pay full price for shoes ever again. Try one of these online stores instead.

1. Amazon

  • Price Range: Under $25 to $200 or more
  • Return Policy: Return policies vary depending on the seller and whether you shop for used or renewed products through the Amazon Warehouse or buy new; in most cases, you can return Amazon products within 30 days of purchase
  • Shipping: Free shipping for Prime members; shipping rates vary for non-Prime members based on their purchase and location
  • Verdict: If you already enjoy Amazon’s ecosystem and are a Prime member or Amazon Rewards Visa Signature cardholder, shopping on Amazon for footwear is another way to benefit from your loyalty

It’s already easy to save money on Amazon if you take advantage of a Prime membership, the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card, and generally shop around to find low prices.

Shoes aren’t an exception. In fact, Amazon is one of the best options to buy discount shoes online if you shop through Amazon Warehouse.

Amazon Warehouse is a collection of refurbished and returned Amazon products available for resale. Products get returned all the time for multiple reasons, and warehouse products aren’t in bad shape. Different condition categories include:

  • Used — acceptable
  • Used — good
  • Used — very good
  • Used — like new
  • Renewed (which means the product looks and works like new but might have repairs)

Used products have a 30-day return or replace policy, and renewed products have a 90-day return or replace policy. That means you can safely shop on Amazon’s Warehouse without buying ill-fitting shoes or styles you dislike.

Amazon Warehouse has plenty of footwear options, including brands like Fila, Skechers, Under Armour, Adidas, New Balance, and Ugg. Many shoes are in like-new condition, and you can usually find popular footwear brands for under $30. The Amazon Warehouse also has a clearance section where you can search for footwear discounts.

Amazon’s regular selection of footwear is also worth exploring. If you spend time deal hunting and take advantage of free shipping with a Prime membership, Amazon is one of the best places to buy discount shoes online.

2. Shoes.com

  • Price Range: $13.95 to $1,000 or more
  • Return Policy: You have 60 days to make returns; exchanges are free; refunds to your original payment method cost $7.95
  • Shipping: Free U.S. shipping on all orders
  • Verdict: Shoes.com is one of the most affordable online footwear retailers if you shop using the discount shoe section or make use of coupons

It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping for sneakers, boots, or sandals: Shoes.com probably has what you’re looking for.

Shoes.com has an impressive inventory of shoes for men, women, and kids. You can shop for popular brands like Skechers, Birkenstock, Merrell, New Balance, and Clarks, to name a few. However, where Shoes.com truly shines is in its discount shoe section.

Seasonal and warehouse sales mean you can find shoes for up to 75% off. These are leading shoe brands, and there are enough inventory and size selections to give you options. If you don’t find a style you like, you can also use Shoes.com coupons to buy regularly priced shoes at a discount.

For more savings, you can join the Shoes.com rewards program. As a member, you earn one point for every $1 you spend, and 100 points equal a $5 reward. Plus, first-time members earn a $5 welcome bonus, making your first purchase at Shoes.com even cheaper. You also earn points for writing product reviews on Shoes.com. The only downside is that points expire within six months, so you have to spend them quickly.

U.S. shipping is free, and you get most orders within three to 10 business days. Shoes.com also ships internationally. You have up to 60 days to return your purchase if you’re unsatisfied. Returns must be unworn and include original tags and packaging. Shoes.com provides a prepaid shipping label for returns.

Between the range of discounts and a fair return policy, buying from Shoes.com is an economical yet fashionable choice.

3. 6pm

  • Price Range: $7 to $75 or more
  • Return Policy: You have 30 days to make returns; customers are responsible for shipping charges
  • Shipping: Free shipping on orders of at least two products or orders totaling $50 or more; standard shipping is $3.95 otherwise
  • Verdict: Shop at 6pm if you want extensive brand selection and to take advantage of a well-stocked clearance section

Like Shoes.com, 6pm has a range of shoe options for adults and kids. Plus, the clearance section and overall brand variety is nothing to scoff at.

The retailer carries over 1,400 brands, many of which go on clearance for up to 80% off. Some of the most notable brands include:

  • Asics
  • Coach
  • Cole Haan
  • Michael Kors
  • Nike
  • Reebok
  • Skechers
  • Toms

Clearance aside, you can also find shoes and apparel for under $10.

If you order at least two products or spend $50 or more before tax, shipping is free. If you don’t meet these requirements, standard shipping is $3.95. This shipping policy isn’t as generous as Shoes.com, but your savings can make up for it.

Standard orders arrive within four to five business days. However, 6pm only ships within the United States. For returns, you have 30 days to return unworn shoes with the same tag and packaging. The company doesn’t provide prepaid shipping labels, which is another downside.

Despite slightly less favorable shipping and return policies, 6pm is still a reliable option for Americans who want to buy inexpensive shoes and accessories online.

4. DSW

  • Price Range: $9.98 to $200 or more
  • Return Policy: You have 90 days to make returns; return shipping costs $8.50; returns made within 60 days process to your original payment method, while returns made after 60 days refund as store credit; some loyalty club members have longer return windows and free return shipping
  • Shipping: Shipping costs $7.95; loyalty club members get free shipping
  • Verdict: Shop at DSW if you can take advantage of its VIP rewards program and want the flexibility to shop in-store or online to save on footwear

If you live in the U.S., there’s a solid chance you’ve shopped at Designer Shoe Warehouse, or DSW, for footwear. With over 500 stores and affordable prices, DSW is a convenient way to buy shoes in person.

But DSW also lets you shop online for footwear to save money. Its website offers hundreds of brands for adults and kids. Footwear brands include Adidas, Converse, Cole Haan, Nike, Asics, and Brooks. Additionally, with DSW’s acquisition of footwear design company Camuto Group, private-label brands are also in the works.

Whether you shop for private-label DSW shoes or name-brand shoes, DSW helps you save money. The online clearance section has thousands of shoes to choose from, and that’s just scratching the surface.

DSW has three tiers of VIP membership that also unlock more savings and perks:

  • VIP Club: Free to join; earn 1 point for every $1 you spend; 100 points for a $5 reward; $5 birthday gift; free shipping and in-store returns
  • VIP Gold: Requires $200 annual spending at DSW; same benefits as Club members, but you also get free online returns and two double-point days per year
  • VIP Elite: Requires $500 annual spending at DSW; earn 2 points for every $1 you spend; $10 birthday gift; triple point day once per year whenever you choose; free two-day shipping and returns

If you shop with the DSW Visa credit card, you also receive 1 point for every $1 you spend anywhere outside DSW. VIP Club and Gold members earn 2 points for every $1 spent at DSW, and Elite members earn 3 points. Plus, if you spend $500 outside DSW within 90 days of your first purchase, you get a $25 bonus regardless of your VIP level. Note that you must join DSW’s VIP membership program to apply for the credit card.

The DSW Visa isn’t the most lucrative cash-back credit card. However, if you stack DSW Visa rewards with its clearance sales and VIP program, you can certainly save money on your annual footwear expenses.

5. Zappos

  • Price Range: $15 to $200 or more
  • Return Policy: Free returns or exchanges for 365 days
  • Shipping: Free shipping on all orders
  • Verdict: Zappos’ generous return policy is useful if you’re an astute online shopper and want the flexibility to return or exchange footwear for free, and teachers, students, and military members should take advantage of the 10% discount

Zappos is an Amazon-owned apparel and footwear company, but it still operates independently and offers its own unique and affordable styles.

Zappos carries a variety of shoes for adults and kids. Top brands include Nike, Ugg, Vans, New Balance, and The North Face. On Zappos, filters help you shop by brand, color, occasion, material, and price.

What makes Zappos an excellent choice for buying shoes at low prices is its extensive sales section. There are thousands of shoes to choose from, and you can easily compare the sale price to the regular MSRP. Zappos also offers free shipping on all orders with no minimum purchase requirement.

Additionally, you can save money on your wardrobe by joining Zappos VIP, a free loyalty program that unlocks:

  • Free expedited shipping
  • 1 point for every $1 you spend, with 100 points equaling a $1 discount code for future purchases
  • 5 points per day for logging in and 10 points for writing a review
  • Bonus points on select brands during promotions
  • 1 extra point for every $1 you spend after linking your Amazon Prime membership

If you’re a teacher, student, or military member, you also save 10% on Zappos. Military members unlock this discount for life, while students and teachers get a year-long discount.

Unfortunately, Zappos doesn’t ship internationally. However, you have 365 days to return your order as long as it’s unworn and still has original tags. This generous return policy makes Zappos a risk-free way to buy affordable shoes online.

6. OnlineShoes

  • Price Range: $19.95 to $150 or more
  • Return Policy: You have 30 days to make returns; returns cost $5 to ship
  • Shipping: Free shipping on orders over $25; shipping costs $3 for orders under $25; Alaska and Hawaii shipping costs $30
  • Verdict: OnlineShoes makes up for its lack of brands with competitive discounts and low prices, making it an excellent footwear choice if you aren’t incredibly brand-loyal

As the name suggests, OnlineShoes is a one-stop destination to buy shoes online. While the company also sells clothing, affordable footwear is still the focus.

You can save up to 60% by shopping for sales, and OnlineShoes carries classic shoes and new arrivals from brands like Sperry, Merrell, Keds, and Hush Puppies.

OnlineShoes ultimately keeps things simple by carrying only a dozen brands. That inevitably means it has less selection than websites like Shoes.com and 6pm. However, if you’re shopping for work boots or hiking boots, OnlineShoes is a particularly good choice due to its low prices. Plus, you can still find other footwear styles, provided you don’t mind the limited brand selection.

Free shipping for U.S. orders over $25 and a 30-day return policy also help you shop with confidence. Returns also process to your payment method rather than in-store credit.

If you’re OK with a limited number of brands and find a style you like, OnlineShoes is another way to buy affordable shoes online, especially if you find a 60%-off sale. If you’re immensely brand-loyal to a company OnlineShoes doesn’t carry, retailers like 6pm and Shoes.com are better alternatives.

7. Zulily

  • Price Range: Under $10 to $500
  • Return Policy: You have 30 days to return footwear for store credit; shipping one return costs $4.95; shipping two to five returns costs $8.95; every extra five returns then costs an additional $8.95
  • Shipping: Shipping costs $5.99 for your first order of the day; you can buy free shipping for 30 days for $5
  • Verdict: Shop at Zulily if you can take time to wait for the right deal and aren’t in a rush to buy a new pair of footwear

While Zulily doesn’t exclusively sell shoes, it’s still an effective way to keep more money in your wallet when shopping for footwear and apparel.

Zulily is a flash sale website that sells apparel, toys, electronics, sports gear, books, and maternity wear. However, this diverse catalog doesn’t make Zulily feel cluttered. Its goal is to help you find sales and save.

Zulily has regular sales that are usually available for 72 hours. After you make a purchase, it waits until the sale ends to bulk order the inventory before shipping to you. This type of fulfillment process takes time, but buying in bulk lets Zulily save money and offer the best price possible. That’s why you can find many products for up to 70% off.

Shopping for shoes on Zulily is no exception. While most sales are for specific brands and styles, sales happen every day. If you regularly check for deals, you can find footwear that suits your needs without spending hundreds of dollars.

It’s worth noting that Zulily usually carries popular brands like Adidas, Hush Puppies, Asics, Reebok, and Puma. But the shoe section also has plenty of lesser-known brands and different categories.

Zulily ships to dozens of countries, and domestic shipping starts at $5.99. However, you can buy 30 days of free shipping for $5, and if you place multiple orders in a single day, you only pay shipping for the first order.

Consider the pros and cons of flash sale websites before placing an order. Ultimately, the best way to save money with Zulily is to shop often and keep an eye on sales. If you only shop for what you need, it’s another effective way to find affordable footwear.

8. Famous Footwear

  • Price Range: Under $30 to $75 or more
  • Return Policy: You have 60 to 90 days to make returns, depending on your rewards program level
  • Shipping: Free shipping on orders of at least $75; orders under $75 cost $7.95 unless you’re a rewards program member
  • Verdict: Famous Footwear has one of the best rewards programs and a competitive clearance section, making it an outstanding retailer for frequent shoe shoppers

Famous Footwear is a nationwide footwear retailer similar to DSW in terms of brands and pricing. With thousands of shoes for adults and kids, there’s no shortage of selection. Plus, like DSW, Famous Footwear carries dozens of name-brand shoes, like:

  • Nike
  • Converse
  • Fila
  • New Balance
  • Puma
  • Reebok
  • Toms
  • Vans

There’s no lack of shoe type either. Famous Footwear carries everything from dress shoes and heels to casual sneakers and boat shoes.

In terms of savings, Famous Footwear is also competitive. The company runs seasonal sales, and its clearance section has thousands of shoes, some up to 50% off. Parents can also find kids shoes for $29.99 and under.

Regular shipping is $7.95 on orders under $75. You have up to 60 days to return unworn shoes. In-store returns are free, but sending returns by mail costs $7.95.

If you plan to shop at Famous Footwear regularly, joining the Famously You Rewards program is also a smart financial move. You can join the program in stores or through the mobile app for Android or iOS. As a member, you unlock multiple perks, including:

  • Reward Cash. Earn 1 point for every $1 you spend and get $5 in store credit for every 100 points. You can earn up to $250 per year in reward cash.
  • Free Shipping. As a Famously You Rewards member, you always get free shipping.
  • Birthday Rewards. Get $5 in reward cash on your birthday and earn double the points per dollar you spend during your birthday month.
  • Extra Deals. Redeem a buy-one, get-one 50% off deal and an extra double-points day once per year.
  • Member Deals. Members receive exclusive offers and discounts throughout the year, and you can stack reward cash with coupons or member-exclusive deals.
  • Upgrade to Superstar. If you spend at least $200 in one year at Famous Footwear, your membership upgrades to Superstar. That lets you earn 50% more in reward cash, get a $10 birthday reward, and redeem a triple-points day during the year. Superstar members also have up to 90 days for returns.

Famous Footwear becomes more affordable the more you shop because of its rewards program. If you rarely buy shoes online, that isn’t a selling point. But if online shopping is how you typically buy your shoes, take advantage of the clearance section and rewards program, especially if you can upgrade to Superstar for extra perks.

9. Overstock

  • Price Range: Under $20 to $150 or more
  • Return Policy: You have 30 days to make returns; non-Club O members pay for return shipping; Overstock only provides refunds for defective products (otherwise, expect store credit)
  • Shipping: Free U.S. shipping in all states except Alaska and Hawaii
  • Verdict: Overstock is worthwhile if you’re willing to check for red tag sales regularly or shop enough to warrant paying for the Club O program

While Overstock doesn’t exclusively sell footwear, there’s no denying that this liquidation titan has affordable prices and an extensive selection.

Overstock carries shoes for adults and kids. Brands include Nike, Adidas, Clarks, Kenneth Cole, Jimmy Choo, Geox, Prada, and Steve Madden. Regular footwear pricing starts under $20 and even includes more expensive categories like boots, running shoes, and heels.

However, in terms of savings, red tag sales are the name of the game. These time-sensitive discounts apply to a range of products, including furniture, kitchen appliances, and footwear. For footwear, you generally find red tag deals between 10% to 30% off. Deals last for 24 hours or less, so it’s worth checking Overstock regularly to see what’s on clearance.

If you’re a serious Overstock shopper, you can also join the Club O program for $19.95 per year. Club O is free for active military members and veterans, first responders, nurses and medical providers, teachers, and students. This loyalty program unlocks:

  • Rewards. Earn 5% back on every purchase and redeem reward points for future Overstock purchases.
  • Free Returns. As a Club O member, you get free return shipping for in-store credit.
  • Price-Match Guarantee. Overstock price-matches with select competitors, including Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Hayneedle, and Home Depot. You can price-match up to three products per month and send price-match requests within seven days of your purchase.
  • Extra Rewards Store. Earn up to 40% in rewards for shopping in the Club O Extra Rewards Store.
  • Double Review Points. Earn double the rewards for writing reviews for your purchases on Overstock.

Paying $19.95 per year probably isn’t worth it if you just buy footwear on Overstock. However, 5% back on major purchases like furniture or appliances could add up.

Overstock currently offers free U.S. shipping to every state except Alaska and Hawaii, in which case shipping costs vary based on your purchase and location. Overstock also ships to 200 other countries with variable shipping rates.

You have 30 days to return unwanted items for store credit, but you pay for shipping unless you’re a Club O member.

As an extra tip, sign up for Overstock’s email the next time you shop to get a 15% off coupon. If you stack this coupon with Overstock’s already low pricing, you can score your next pair of footwear at a serious discount.

10. Poshmark

  • Price Range: Under $25 to $500 or more
  • Return Policy: All sales are final unless your order doesn’t match the listing
  • Shipping: Buyers pay $7.11 for shipping
  • Verdict: Poshmark is best for buying designer shoes at lower prices as long as you don’t mind buying from other people instead of a retailer

Poshmark is a consumer-to-consumer marketplace where you can buy and sell apparel, footwear, home decor, jewelry, and beauty supplies. For sellers, Poshmark is an effective way to make extra cash on gently used pieces in your wardrobe. For buyers, Poshmark is an excellent place to buy sustainable clothing and footwear while staying within your budget.

Clothing is undoubtedly the most popular category on Poshmark. However, plenty of Poshmark sellers list footwear for adults and kids. There’s also a healthy mix of designer and casual brands, including:

  • Aldo
  • American Eagle
  • Balenciaga
  • Birkenstock
  • Dr. Martens
  • Jordan (Nike)
  • Keds
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Target

Poshmark lets you search for listings under $25 to find the lowest-priced shoes. If you don’t want to buy used, look for “NWT” (new with tag) listings. These products have never been worn, so you can benefit from Poshmark’s low prices while enjoying new shoes.

For shipping, Poshmark charges a flat rate of $7.11 for buyers. All sales are final, but you can ask for a return within three days of receiving your order if the shoes don’t match the listing.

Ultimately, Poshmark takes some digging to find the right size, brand, and style. However, particularly for designer shoes, you can find some incredible deals on Poshmark, even with the lack of free shipping.

Final Word

Buying shoes online might seem difficult at first. There’s something reassuring about trying on shoes in a store and giving them a test-walk before spending.

However, if you know your size and avoid common online shopping mistakes, buying online can save you money and time. This trend will only continue as more retailers turn to e-commerce.

Plus, with money-saving browser extensions, you can also earn cash-back rewards and use online coupons to take your savings one step further. For example, the Capital One Shopping extension automatically applies coupon codes at checkout and lets you earn free gift cards for shopping at partner retailers.

Just remember to read return policies carefully to avoid getting stuck with an ill-fitting pair of shoes. Shopping for footwear online takes getting used to, but your wallet will ultimately thank you for making the change.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Find Studs in the Wall (With or Without a Stud Finder)

Tell me about it, stud.

You’ve been planning your gallery wall from the moment you first walked into your apartment. You’re ready to go with all of your frames, photos and overall design. But have you checked where the wall studs are? Those wood studs will keep your frames secure on the wall — and help you keep that security deposit.

But do you know how to find the studs? Hammering into the wrong spot is frustrating. Here’s how to find studs in a wall and how to use a stud finder in your apartment.

What is a stud?

During construction, contractors use vertical parallel wood pieces, equal space apart, to create the framework of each wall. Then on top of those, drywall or another material goes on top to make it look like the wall you’re used to seeing. As the wall frame goes up, contractors will place plumbing, insulations and other wires in between to protect them.

Besides hanging a heavy picture frame, you should also always find them when wall-mounting a TV or an appliance to keep the wall damage-free. The stud will keep it safely attached to the wall.

wall stud

How far apart are wall studs?

The vertical wood studs are found with equal spacing of 16 inches on average. Some bigger homes may go up to 24 inches in between wall studs. However, time and moisture may warp the wall studs as the building settles and they sometimes are off by an inch or more.

Luckily, it’s easy to identify where a wall stud is since most trim is nailed on a stud and outlets are always housed on a wall stud. With this referral point, you should be able to get started on your wall-mounting task. It’s important to find the center of the stud and there are a few ways to do so.

Finding a stud with a stud finder

There’s truly a tool for everything out there. If you haven’t yet, add a stud finder to your toolbox. It’s the easiest way to find the wall stud you need and decorate.

You can find a stud finder at any local home improvement store. Prices range from $15 to above $100, depending on features. There are two types: magnetic stud finders and electric stud finders. Magnetic stud finders use the stud’s metal fastener to find the stud, while electric stud finders detect changes in the wall density with sensors.

For the novices, an electric center-finding stud finder is a good fit as it shows the edges of the stud, so you know where to put the nail. First, to use one, clean the targeted wall area to make sure debris doesn’t interfere with the reading.

Once you have your handheld stud finder, place it flat on the wall and slide it over the area where you want to hang your frame. The finder scans and beeps as it detects a stud. Mark the edges with a pencil so you know where the wall stud’s actual center is.

Run the stud finder over the area again to double-check your work and look for the wall studs on both sides of the one you marked. Once marked, hammer a nail in the middle of the stud and hang your photo frame.

person using a level trying to find a wall stud

Finding a stud without a stud finder

Sometimes you have everything ready to go except the stud finder, and well, going to your home improvement store isn’t feasible. That’s OK! You can still use a few tricks to find a stud in the wall without a stud finder.

1. Download a stud finder app

No stud finder? Grab your phone and head to the App Store to download one of the best stud finder apps out there. Download Stud Finder (available on iOS and Android) to detect metal and find the wall studs. This app functions as a magnetic stud finder, and all you have to do is slide your phone on the wall.

2. Knock on the wall

This old-school trick typically locates where a stud starts — all you need is a good ear. Knock on the wall and slowly move toward the area where you are hanging the picture frame. As you progress, you’ll hear a hollow sound since there’s nothing behind it. Pay attention as you’ll listen to a solid, not as hollow sound when you hit a stud.

Knocking is not an infallible test, so if you’re hanging a TV, double-check with another method if possible.

3. Find a window

As part of the framework of a building, there are studs on either side of a window. You can start measuring 16 inches from a window and use an app to check if there’s a stud nearby. Once you find it, mark the spot and keep going until you have a good idea of the wall stud placements.

4. Look for outlets and trim nails

Electric outlets are installed on a wall stud, so finding an outlet along the wall you want to use will help you line up your gallery wall. Then move up to eye level and mark the spot. If your apartment has trim or molding along the floor and ceilings, you can try to identify where the nail holes are.

Usually, in construction, the trim and molding are nailed to a wall stud. Depending on your building’s quality and age, this may not be an excellent way to tell, but it could help when paired with another technique.

Hanging pictures on a stud

White wall with gallery of colorful framed art pieces, a black and white rug is in front

Now that you know what studs are and how to find those wall studs in your room, here are a few tips on how to hang your pictures after you find that stud:

  • Dust off the area where you’re hanging the picture frame
  • Make sure you find where the wall stud is before committing to a spot
  • Once you have the wall stud spot, hold up the picture frame at the height you need it and mark the top of the frame on the wall with a pencil
  • Grab a measuring tape and using the end metal hook, hook it to the hanging wire or hanging metal piece in the back of the frame. It should mimic how it will hang on the wall.
  • Note down the distance between the tip of the wire and the top of the frame
  • Mark the distance on the wall below the height you marked earlier — hammer in a nail that holds the frame’s weight and hang your picture frame

Keep it secure

Don’t skip the step of finding the wall studs when hanging heavy frames or TVs in your apartment. If these things are not safely attached to a wall stud, every movement you make in the apartment could dislodge it and bring the drywall down with it.

So take the time to add a stud finder to your toolbox before planning your decor to avoid any headaches and keep your security deposit.

Source: rent.com

Save on Every Single Purchase With These Tricks

Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic clobbered our economy, many Americans were struggling to make ends meet. And now, more than ever, it’s important to know all the tricks to avoid creeping costs. Start with this rule: Never pay retail.

These savvy tactics help you make every penny count. A dollar you don’t spend on needs or wants can be working for you in an emergency fund, a health savings account, retirement savings or a college plan for your kid.

1. Use a cash-back shopping site

Computer with "Cash Back" on screen.
one photo / Shutterstock.com

Sites like Rakuten and TopCashback typically get a finder’s fee when they send shoppers to any of thousands of retailers with links on their portal. They split those fees with consumers, so you get a rebate of from 1% to 30% on what you spend through their sites. Swagbucks Shop, which offers shoppers several ways to save, has a cash-back option, too.

How it works: On a cash-back site, type in the name of a retailer, click through to the site and sign up. You’ll typically need to accumulate a minimum amount in rebates ($25, say) before you can cash them in.

After finding the best price and accessing it through a cash-back site, you can add yet another layer of savings if you …

2. Use a rewards credit card

auto expense
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

Why would you not pay with a rewards card? It’s free money — or hotel or airline points. If you handle the card wisely, the benefits are potentially great.

There are two reasons not to use a rewards card:

  • You tend to carry a card balance. In that case, your priority is finding a card with the lowest interest rate possible.
  • The card has an annual fee. You don’t want to spend more on fees than you’ll reap in rewards although, in some cases, the rewards are enough that it’s worth paying to own the card.

As always, use credit cards wisely: Pay off your entire account balance each month. Otherwise, interest rates can eat up any benefit and can throw you into debt.

Money Talks News’ credit card finder helps you choose a card that’s right for your personal circumstances.

3. Pay with discounted gift cards

Target gift card
Perry Correll / Shutterstock.com

You’ll find tons of gift card resellers offering to buy cards consumers don’t want or can’t afford to keep.

How do you save money using gift cards, you ask? Here’s how: Buy gift cards at a discount from these resellers and then use them to do your shopping. Suppose you’ll be shopping at Target, for instance. Buy discounted Target cards to use at the store, effectively saving 2% to 20% or more on your purchases.

A couple of sources for discounted cards:

  • Aggregator sites like Raise, which point you to good deals. Also at Raise, you can sell gift cards you aren’t using.
  • Multipacks of discounted gift cards, found at warehouse stores like Costco (membership required).

4. Use shopping tools

pixinoo / Shutterstock.com

Shopping apps are another path to savings. Ibotta’s mobile (Android or Apple) app offers rebates for purchases. Use it while shopping to:

  • Upload receipts.
  • Link your store loyalty cards for automatic tracking.
  • Amass points for gift cards and cash (through Venmo or PayPal).

Programs like Dropand Target’s Circle let you track your purchases and receive discounts and/or points to cash in for rewards.

5. Look for coupons

Sharaf Maksumov / Shutterstock.com

Coupons can save you a bundle, both online and off. Find them through:

  • Coupon websites: A few are RetailMeNot, Savings.com and Coupons.com.
  • Store websites: Download coupons to your store’s loyalty card.
  • Regional publications: I look forward to my monthly local “Good Deals” magazine, with coupons for all kinds of stuff, from ice cream cones to bathtub restoration. Watch for a shopper publication in your area.
  • Valpak: You may receive the familiar blue envelope in the mail; if not, visit Valpak.com and insert your ZIP code.
  • Social media: Follow your favorite retailers, and they’ll often mail you coupons regularly.

6. Be a preferred customer

Ikea Family
AlesiaKan / Shutterstock.com

Everyone’s a VIP these days. To claim your “special” status:

  • Sign up for email lists with favorite companies. You’ll be notified of sales and may get one-time discount codes, too.
  • Join the club. Establishments offering membership programs can include free products, discounts, birthday freebies and other goodies. When you check out at a store, ask if a rewards club exists.
  • Sign up for a store loyalty card. These can earn discounts and possibly points for more savings.
  • Rewards with every purchase. Some retailers go over and above, offering rewards with each purchase you make.

If you’re not a member of Costco and have been wondering whether you should be, check out this special promotional offer for online signups.

7. Hit the dollar store

Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock.com

Certain items should never be purchased at a dollar store.

But if you follow these shopping secrets, dollar stores can have plenty of great deals on other things you need. (Really, how much do you want to pay for a mop bucket, greeting cards, reading glasses or other necessary or handy items?)

Recently I helped my daughter clean and repaint her rental unit. The mop, sponges, cleanser, white vinegar and other supplies all came from a dollar store.

8. Buy secondhand

A woman sells items at a yard sale
Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko / Shutterstock.com

“Used” doesn’t have to mean “shoddy,” as our veteran thrift shopper explains, sharing his best tips.

At thrift stores and yard sales, you may even find clothing with department-store price tags still attached and unopened shrink-wrapped gift items.

Consignment stores are a happy medium between secondhand stores and retail stores. The managers at these places can be discriminating, so you’ll spend less (maybe a lot less) for new-looking goods.

A few more possibilities for pre-owned goods:

  • Craigslist.org is the grandaddy of local secondhand sales sites. Letgo and its affiliate OfferUp are newer additions to this rich world of previously-used items.
  • Facebook has local sales pages: Type in your city or ZIP code and search terms like “yard sale” or “garage sale.”
  • The Freecycle Network has thousands of chapters in the United States with goods people offer free of charge. Or, post an “ask” for something you’re seeking.
  • The Buy Nothing Project, a hyper-local version of Freecycle, is a nonprofit effort to get neighbors to give to neighbors. I’ve seen great stuff offered for free, and, as with Freecycle, you can ask for things you want.

9. Use social buying sites

Kzenon / Shutterstock.com

Need the chimney swept or your windshield replaced? Can’t afford pricey restaurants? Social buying sites — Groupon and LivingSocial are two — offer discounted products, services, activities and even travel packages. The prices can be downright startling, and they offer a cheaper introduction to fun activities like ceramic painting, laser tag or bowling.

Pro tip: For even more savings, access Groupon and Living Social through a cash-back shopping site. Go to Rakuten and others mentioned above and type in “Groupon” or “Living Social” in the search box to enhance your savings.

10. Buy in bulk

Tyler Olson / Shutterstock.com

You don’t have to join a warehouse club to pay less by purchasing in bulk. Other places for bulk pricing:

  • Ask a supermarket manager if you can get a price break for buying an entire case of canned goods.
  • Produce auctions are a great source of sometimes unbelievable deals. Search online for “produce auction near me.”
  • Restaurant supply stores often are open to the public.
  • Check prices in your supermarket’s natural foods section for spices, rolled oats, cornmeal and other bulk goods at substantial discounts.
  • “Ethnic” markets often feature larger-sized options, especially for staples like rice and beans.

And of course, you’ll find discounts at Costco, Sam’s and BJ’s. See “10 Best Buys at Warehouse Clubs” for ways to use your memberships to the fullest.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to Feed Your Family on a Tight Budget – 20 Cheap Ways to Save

Are you worried about how you’re going to feed your family this month? If so, you’re not alone.

According to a May 2020 analysis by Feeding America, pre-pandemic, 37 million people, including 11 million children, lived in a food-insecure household. Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, Feeding America expects food insecurity to increase in the United States in 2020 and beyond.

The U.S. is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, yet the World Economic Forum reports that we have one of the highest percentages of children living in poverty.

Many families go through tough financial stretches at some point. And having to organize a grocery list and put food on the table when you’re juggling bills is an incredibly stressful experience. But knowing where to shop, how to meal-plan, and what to buy can help you make the best of a difficult situation and save money on groceries until things improve.

How to Buy Food on a Tight Budget

When your grocery budget gets slashed, you need to do whatever you can to cut back and keep your family fed. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stretch your food budget and maximize what you can buy.

1. Get Help With Food

If you qualify, several food assistance programs can help you feed your family when money gets tight. These include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC.

In addition to signing up for food assistance programs, you can also visit a local food pantry or soup kitchen. A food pantry can provide you with fresh and packaged foods, while a soup kitchen serves prepared hot meals to the community.

Few food pantries and soup kitchens require you to have a referral or income verification, but you might need to provide proof of address in some locations. You can also visit multiple food pantries in your area throughout the month to make sure your family has enough to eat.

2. Know Where to Shop

Food prices can vary dramatically depending on where you shop. Some stores, like Kroger, have notoriously high prices compared to others, such as Walmart.

According to the 2019 Dunnhumby retail preference index, the following grocery store chains have the most affordable prices in the U.S.:

  1. Aldi
  2. Market Basket
  3. WinCo
  4. Food4Less
  5. Costco
  6. Walmart
  7. Trader Joe’s
  8. Walmart Neighborhood Market
  9. Lidl
  10. Amazon
  11. H-E-B
  12. Sam’s Club

To see just how much money you can save by selectively shopping at some stores, look at this fourth-quarter 2020 pricing for ingredients for a basic taco night and compare the grocery bill between a Kroger and Walmart located in the Mid-Southern region of the United States (prices displayed at the links may vary by region, date, and sale price).

To buy these ingredients at Kroger, each one would cost:

Final cost: $15.64

To buy the same or similar ingredients at Walmart, each one would cost:

Final cost: $12.72

While most prices are lower at Walmart, Kroger does have some products for less than the retail giant. That’s especially true when it comes to weekly sales.

Walmart does rollbacks on some items, but smaller grocery chains often offer significant savings on certain products to get you in the door. So if you can shop in multiple locations each week and pay close attention to what’s on sale, you can save a significant amount of money. If not, choose the grocery store that has the best deals on what you need that week, and you’ll still save.

But you’re not just limited to traditional grocery stores.

Salvage grocery stores, which are also called “discount grocery stores” or “grocery outlets,” sell food at a deep discount, making them a convenient option for saving money on your grocery budget.

At these stores, you might find food that is:

  • At or near its expiration date
  • Scratched or dented or in torn packaging
  • Salvaged from truck wrecks
  • Seasonal in nature (for example, Christmas-decorated packaging after Christmas)
  • Sourced from stores that are closing
  • Overstock from the manufacturer

Unlike regular grocery stores, discount grocery stores always have something different on the shelves because their food stock comes from unpredictable sources. You might find unique foods like hummus or gluten-free options or pantry products like toilet paper and paper towels. You never know what will be in stock until you walk through the door.

Use the search term “discount grocery store near me” or “salvage grocery store near me” to find a retailer in your area. And call ahead before you go. Some discount grocery stores only accept cash or debit cards.

You can also find deals at international grocery stores, which focus on a particular region’s cuisine, sometimes referred to as “ethnic” grocery stores. They’re excellent sources for staple foods and spices used in that cuisine.

For example, there are often deals on rice and condiments like soy sauce at Asian grocery markets. Latin markets often sell rice, dry beans, and spices like cumin for a song compared to your local grocery store. Use the search term “international grocery store near me” or “ethnic grocery store near me” to find a retailer.

3. Shop in the Right Order

Once you’ve signed up for all the benefits you qualify for, it’s crucial to shop in the right order to maximize the food you can bring home.

Start your shopping at your local food pantry or a salvage store. Then use your WIC card, then your SNAP card, to purchase other food and household items. You can then use your own funds to buy whatever else you need.

4. Buy Generic

There is a clear advantage to buying generic versus brand-name foods. How much you save varies. But Consumer Reports notes that generic foods are 25% cheaper on average than the name brand. And according to their testing, generic foods are just as palatable as their more expensive counterparts.

To see just how much you can save buying generic, compare brand-name and generic prices for some of the ingredients you would need for a lasagna recipe at the same Mid-Southern U.S. Walmart.

You can buy the Great Value brand of the ingredients at these prices:

Final cost: $18.90

But if you were to buy the name brand of the same or similar-quantity ingredients, it would cost you:

Final cost: $26.39

5. Avoid Convenience Foods

How often do you buy convenience foods for your family? You can usually find convenience foods in the middle aisles of the grocery store. They include processed or premade foods, such as microwavable rice, casserole mixes, breakfast oatmeal mixes, granola, canned soups, cookies, chips, or frozen meals.

According to a 2010 study published in the journal Family Medicine, the cost per calorie of convenience foods was 24% higher than whole foods. And a 2017 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition examined the cost of home-cooked meals compared to takeout meals in New Zealand. In this study, researchers came to the same conclusion: Home-cooked meals are less expensive.

However, a 2018 study published in the journal Agricultural Economics found that these price differences can depend on where you live. If you live in a food desert, an urban or rural area with very few options to purchase healthy foods, healthy whole foods might cost 9.2% more than if you lived in a location with greater access to markets.

But most people will eat healthier and spend less money buying raw ingredients and cooking meals from scratch. In general, the more work someone else has put into prepping your food, the more it’s going to cost you per serving.

For example, a box of Quaker Instant Oatmeal cost $0.21 per ounce on Amazon in Q4 2020, while a container of Old Fashioned Quaker Oats cost $.0.15 per ounce. Although the price per ounce might differ at your local grocery store, you’re generally going to pay less per serving when you put in the time and work to cook food yourself.

To save money when shopping for fresh produce, opt for fruits and veggies closest to their raw, natural form. And keep in mind you can regrow many fruits and vegetables from scraps, which can help further stretch your food budget.

No matter what you need, focus on buying raw ingredients and cooking them from scratch rather than purchasing preseasoned or prepared convenience foods.

6. Buy Fresh Produce In-Season

Another way to save money on produce is to plan family meals around in-season produce.

For example, fall is apple season, which means they cost much less per pound than they do in spring. Strawberries are much less expensive in June than they are in January.

To see a full list of when each fruit and vegetable is in-season, check out the USDA’s Seasonal Produce Guide.

7. Opt for Canned or Frozen Produce When It Makes Sense

In a 2016 report on the cost of satisfying the government’s fruit and vegetable recommendations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated the cost of 156 fruits and vegetables to show that a family of four can get their recommended daily allowance of healthy foods on a tight budget. But you have to know what to buy. Some of the most affordable fruits and vegetables include:

  • Watermelon: $0.21 per cup
  • Bananas: $0.29 per cup
  • Apples: $0.41 per cup
  • Oranges: $0.58 per cup
  • Grapes: $0.72 per cup
  • Potatoes: $0.18 per cup
  • Dried Pinto Beans: $0.19 per cup
  • Dried Lentils: $0.20 per cup
  • Onions: $0.41 per cup
  • Canned Tomatoes: $0.50 per cup
  • Broccoli: $0.72 per cup

Frozen or canned vegetables can be cheaper than fresh produce in some cases. They can also make cooking at home more accessible because they speed up preparation and cook times, often without sacrificing flavor. But are they less nutritious?

According to Harvard Health, frozen vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh, especially when those “fresh” vegetables are several days or weeks old. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found that the flash-freezing process used on frozen vegetables and fruits can actually lock in enough nutrients to make them just as healthy — if not healthier — than fresh produce that’s been losing nutrients in refrigerated storage.

But as Harvard Health notes, canned vegetables and fruits may have added sodium and sugar content due to the liquids they’re packaged with. The USDA notes you can reduce some of the negative effects of the sodium (and possibly the sugar) by rinsing and draining your canned goods, though they may lose some water-soluble vitamin content in the process.

That said, frozen and canned vegetables are definitely more nutritious than convenience foods and can be even more of a bargain because they often go on sale. Check your grocery store’s sale circular each week and only buy what’s discounted.

You can also save money by avoiding produce prepped for easy consumption. For example, it’s easy to see the price difference between raw produce and prepared produce at the Mid-Southern Walmart:

When you’re shopping, take the time to determine which foods are the best bargain: fresh, canned, or frozen. It can vary depending on how much food you’re purchasing, what’s on sale, and what’s in season.

8. Buy Overstock Bakery Products

Many grocery retailers put out a cart of day-old baked goods they need to get rid of quickly. These baked goods are sold at a significant discount, and shopping there first is a straightforward way to eat well and save money on groceries.

You can also search for a bakery outlet near you. Bakery outlets are most often owned and run by major baked goods brands like Wonder Hostess, Schwebel’s, Pepperidge Farms, and Bimbo. And these stores provide an outlet for brands to sell overstock or soon-to-expire goods.

If you find a great deal on bread or tortillas, buy extra and put it in the freezer. Bread products freeze well. To defrost it, simply let it sit out on the counter at room temperature at least six hours before you need it.

If you come home with bread that’s a little too stale for sandwiches, use it to make French toast, or cube it and lightly bake it in the oven for croutons. You can also use stale bread to make breadcrumbs.

If you have a crusty loaf or baguette rather than slices, you can also try this trick from Bon Appetit to revive it. Run the loaf under running water and bake it in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. The water turns to steam and revives the bread. Some sources say you have to go 30 minutes or longer for larger loaves.

9. Plan Meals Around Sale Items

Before you head to the grocery store, check the store’s sale flyer to see the week’s discounts. You can plan your menu around what’s on sale. Creating a menu plan helps you stick to your shopping list and avoid impulse buys (which can quickly eat up what you have left for food) and help you stay out of the store for last-minute purchases.

If the store runs out of a particular sale item, ask for a rain check. Rain checks allow you to purchase products at the sale price once they get them restocked.

It can be time-consuming to gather many different sales flyers, and that’s where the Flipp app (available on iOS and Android) comes in. Flipp allows you to browse through local circulars to find the best deals in your area. Circulars from your preferred stores come to your phone automatically. There are over 2,000 retailers to choose from, including supermarket, pharmacy, and dollar store chains.

10. Use Coupons & Loyalty Card Discounts

You also need to use coupons as much as possible. You can find coupons in the Sunday paper, but if you don’t already subscribe, that’s an unnecessary expense for most people. A better option is to use printable coupon websites like Coupons.com to download and print coupons at home. You can also download smartphone apps like Fetch Rewards and Ibotta.

Some coupon sites — and even some grocery store loyalty programs — let you download coupons to your phone or connect them to your loyalty card. Upon checkout, all you do is pull up the coupons on your device and show them to the cashier, no printing necessary. It can be even easier on loyalty cards, some of which automatically apply the coupons when you swipe your loyalty card.

11. Use a Slow Cooker

Another easy way to start cooking inexpensive meals at home is to use a slow cooker. Slow cookers help you save money because they use a minimal amount of electricity, and the low, slow cooking time can turn even the toughest cut of meat into a tender and delectable meal.

Slow cookers are also a great tool to use when you have a large family because it’s easy to put together meals to feed a crowd.

There are many easy slow cooker recipes to get you started using this timeless appliance. Just search for “easy slow cooker [name of dish]” to find your favorites.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can often find one for a few dollars at your local thrift store. You also might be able to find one for free on Freecycle or by asking around on your city’s Facebook or neighborhood Nextdoor group. There are also many under-$25 2- and 3-quart slow cookers available on Amazon.

12. Shop the Bulk Bins

If you’ve never purchased food from your local store’s bulk bins, now is the time to start. Buying food in bulk means you don’t pay for expensive packaging and brand names. You can also buy only the amount you need to ensure nothing goes to waste. Most stores carry bulk goods like:

  • Spices
  • Grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Sugar
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Dried fruit
  • Loose tea

If you’re not sure how to cook with things like whole grains and dried beans, check the video series created by Bon Appetit’s food director, Carla Lalli Music, called “Bin It to Win It,” in which she prepares quick and healthy dinners using bulk food ingredients.

13. Eliminate or Reduce Luxuries

When you have some wiggle room in your budget, you can splurge on some food luxuries like candy or soda. But these expensive items have to go when your budget is exceptionally tight. If you can’t omit them entirely, cut down significantly or try a substitute.

Some everyday luxuries to avoid include:

  • Alcohol. Eliminate alcohol purchases entirely or cut back to half of what you typically consume.
  • Fruit Juice. For adults, try these fruit-infused water recipes from Wellness Mama. For kids who just can’t live without it, water the juice down.
  • Soda. You can buy less and purchase generic brands to save. Store brands are often around $1 per 2-liter bottle.
  • Candy. You can typically buy the ingredients for candy much cheaper than buying candy bars, even in bulk. You can always snack on semisweet chocolate chips for a quick hit of chocolate. Or you can learn to make your own. Blogger Shugary Sweets has a list of over 100 candy recipes you can try.
  • Coffee. Purchase generic coffee to save, or check international grocery stores for less expensive options. And definitely avoid anyplace that employs a barista to whip up your caffeinated delights. Instead, save money by learning to make your own fancy coffee.
  • Cookies and Other Baked Sweets. Try making your own cookies and sweets. There are recipes all over the Web, including multitudes of blogs and crowdsourced recipes sites like Allrecipes, for cookies, cakes, and pies.

14. Buy Inexpensive Sources of Protein

According to the USDA, Americans eat 40% more meat than federal guidelines recommend. And this meat is costly compared to other protein sources.

For example, in the last quarter of 2020, prices for meat at the Mid-Southern U.S. Walmart were as follows:

To save money on beef, purchase inexpensive cuts, such as beef shank, flat iron, or sirloin steaks. You can transform these cuts into tender, delicious meals using a slow cooker or Instant Pot.

If you do purchase chicken, opt for bone-in cuts, such as bone-in chicken thighs or bone-in breasts. Once you’ve cooked the chicken, freeze the bones along with any vegetable scraps, such as celery tops and carrot skins. You can throw those into your slow cooker to make nutritious bone broth, which you can use as a base for homemade soups or a hot drink when you need a boost. You can find an easy bone broth recipe for the slow cooker or Instant Pot at Wholefully.

Ground turkey is often overlooked in the meat department. But you can use this mild meat in many different recipes. You can add ground turkey to traditional chili, whip up some ground turkey tacos, or make a ground turkey noodle bake. You can substitute ground turkey for beef in any recipe by adding a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce while you’re browning it.

Or instead of shopping for beef, chicken, or turkey, get your protein from less expensive sources (all prices from the same Mid-Southern Walmart):

  • Pinto Beans. Great Value pinto beans cost $0.74 per pound. And there are so many ways to cook this tasty and inexpensive bean. You can make pinto beans with Mexican-style seasoning or pinto bean soup.
  • Lentils. Great Value lentils cost $0.98 per pound, and there are many ways to serve lentils for dinner. You can cook a big pot of lentils to use on salads or as a side during the week. You can also use those precooked lentils as a topping for sweet potatoes for added nutrition and fiber. Lentils are common in the cuisines of many countries. For example, you can use them to make Indian coconut-apple-ginger dal or Middle Eastern mujadara.
  • Eggs. Great Value eggs cost $1.71 for 18. Eggs are an excellent and inexpensive protein source, and there are many ways to serve them up for dinner besides traditional breakfast food. You can make a dinner quiche, egg salad sandwiches, or frittatas with leftover vegetables.
  • Cottage Cheese. Great Value cottage cheese costs $1.76 for 24 ounces. While many people think of cottage cheese as a snack, there are many ways to use this creamy cheese to add flavor and protein. For example, you can build cottage cheese breakfast bowls, add cottage cheese to pancakes, make cottage cheese enchiladas, or whip up Polish noodles.
  • Greek Yogurt. Great Value Greek yogurt costs $3.47 for 32 ounces. While Greek yogurt makes an excellent breakfast, especially drizzled with a bit of honey and fruit, there are many other ways to use Greek yogurt in cooking. You can add Greek yogurt to biscuits or pancakes or make Greek yogurt carbonara.
  • Tilapia. Great Value tilapia fillets cost $3.09 per pound. To serve tilapia for dinner, try broiling it with Parmesan and lemon, pan-searing it, or coating the tilapia with Cajun seasoning and baking it.
  • Canned Tuna. A 5-ounce can of Great Value canned tuna costs $0.68. Tuna is a delicious and inexpensive protein source. Aside from making tuna salad, you can use canned tuna to make canned tuna fish cakes or tuna noodle casserole.
  • Peanut Butter. Great Value peanut butter costs $2.74 for 40 ounces. If you and your family get tired of peanut butter and jelly, liven things up by making peanut butter noodles, purple apple slaw with peanut butter dressing, or even some high-fiber breakfast bars. If you’re craving sweets, Allrecipes alone has almost 20,000 peanut butter dessert recipes.
  • Hot Dogs. Ball Park Franks cost $2.84 for eight. Hot dogs are another inexpensive source of protein. If your family gets tired of eating them in a bun with ketchup and mustard, cut the franks to put in soup or spaghetti. For more ideas, check out Delish’s extensive list of things to do with hot dogs.

15. Rethink What Dinner Means

Many Americans’ meat-and-potatoes mentality conjures a pan of succulent roast beef with mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables when we think of dinner. But when you’re feeding your family on a small budget, it’s time to reexamine what dinner means.

Dinner is often the most expensive (and largest) meal of the day, so it helps to think outside your recipe box when planning. These options can save you loads of money — and sometimes time:

  • Soups and Stews. Soups and stews are some of the best dishes to make when your food budget is stretched thin. A little meat goes a long way, and if you don’t have meat or can’t afford it, you can still make a filling meal with beans, lentils, or vegetables. Additions like rice, pasta, or potatoes bulk up the dish to fill you up without costing a lot of money.
  • Casseroles. Casseroles aren’t just for Thanksgiving dinner. You can make breakfast casseroles, tuna or meat casseroles, or casseroles with plenty of fresh vegetables to take advantage of what’s currently in season. Allrecipes has a list of casserole recipes full of unique ideas, like Southern grits casserole and King Ranch chicken casserole.
  • Sandwiches. Many people think of sandwiches as a lunch dish. However, you can make many unique and filling sandwiches for dinner, like Reubens, chicken melts, or po’boys. You can also pair sandwiches with soup, such as grilled cheese and tomato soup or a leftover steak sandwich and French onion soup, for a heartier meal. Check out the Kitchn’s list of 25 hearty dinner sandwich recipes for more ideas.
  • Breakfast for Dinner. Pancakes are filling and cost only a few cents per serving. You can add protein with a layer of peanut butter or a side of Greek yogurt with honey. Other breakfast options, like eggs, biscuits and sausage, or French toast, are also filling and relatively inexpensive.

But those aren’t the only options for inexpensive meals. If you need some recipe ideas when meal planning, check out the following resources:

  • Great Depression Cooking. This charming and useful YouTube channel is full of budget-friendly Great Depression recipes cooked by nonagenarian Italian grandmother Clara Cannucciari.
  • 45 Cheap Recipes for Rent Week and Beyond. This fantastic list of recipes from Bon Appetit has some unique and inexpensive ideas for keeping dinner delicious on a shoestring budget.
  • 77 Cheap and Easy Dinner Recipes. This recipe compilation from Delish has some creative ideas for dinners when you’re pressed for time.
  • 60 Cheap Dinner Ideas for Under $10. Taste of Home compiled a fairly extensive list of recipes for meals that cost less than $10 for a family of four.
  • Budget Bytes. All the recipes on Budget Bytes come with a cost calculation to give you an idea of how much the meal will cost.
  • $5 Dinners. This budget-minded food blog has recipes for every food category organized by cooking method, recipe type, or ingredients. And they all cost $5 or less.

You can also cook more food for less using recipes from cultures that use inexpensive ingredients and plenty of vibrant spices to create an incredibly healthy and varied diet that won’t break the bank. And because the flavors are so complex, you can enjoy these cheaper ingredients without getting bored. Some examples include:

  • Ministry of Curry. Food blogger Archana Mundhe grew up outside Mumbai, and she shares flavorful and inexpensive Indian recipes. Indian cuisine relies heavily on unique spices, but once you make this modest investment, there’s an endless number of ways to cook cheap ingredients like chickpeas, rice, and lentils.
  • Isabel Eats. At Isabel Eats, first-generation Mexican American Isabel shares authentic and inexpensive Mexican recipes like chicken pozole, vegetable stir-fry for fajitas, and easy chicken enchiladas.
  • My Latina Table. At My Latina Table, food blogger Charbel shares many of the recipes her grandmother made for her growing up on a ranch in Mexico. Many of these recipes rely heavily on rice, beans, and cheese, which can help stretch your food budget.

16. Transform Leftovers

You don’t have to eat leftovers the same way you initially prepared them. For example, you can transform the chili you made two days ago into a delicious topping for a hot dog or baked potato. You can turn Monday’s meatloaf into meatloaf sandwiches or crumble it up for a boost of protein on your salad.

Look for versatile leftovers recipes that let you change ingredients based on what you have on hand or found on sale. For example, you can make vegetable soup using leftover fresh or frozen potatoes, kale, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, okra, squash, corn, Swiss chard, or onion. You can also use various beans to change the flavor and substitute spices to keep things interesting.

Or make a leftover casserole or potpie using leftover meat with assorted fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables. You can also follow this useful casserole template from The Tasty Cheapskate to make a casserole from what you have in the pantry or fridge.

Transforming your leftovers is one of the best ways to avoid food waste and ensure you don’t throw away money on uneaten food.

17. Use SuperCook

You probably have a hodge-podge of different foods and spices in your kitchen, and if you’re out of money and can’t go to the store, you’re going to have to use what you have on hand. But how do you make a meal out of a strange assortment of different ingredients?

That’s where SuperCook comes in. With SuperCook, you check off every ingredient you have in your kitchen, from spices to dairy to pantry items. The site then gives you a list of recipes you can make using only what you have in the kitchen.

You can download the free SuperCook app for iOS and Android.

18. Round Up at the Store

When money is tight, buying groceries can be a stressful experience. To make sure you don’t overspend, try this trick: Bring a notebook, pen, and a calculator with you to the store. Every time you put something in your cart, round the price up to the next half-dollar, and write it in the notebook. So, if an item costs $1.85, write it down as $2, and if an item costs $1.15, round up to $1.50.

Before you check out, add up everything on your list to ensure you haven’t gone over your budget. Rounding up the cost of each item makes this task much quicker. And when you check out, you’ll have some extra money left over for your next shopping trip.

You can also use an app like AnyList, which can help you keep track of what you’re spending while you’re shopping.

19. Learn to Forage

Scouring an urban or suburban neighborhood for wild edibles might not appeal to some people. However, you can often find real food to eat if you know how to forage.

For example, some of the most common wild edibles include:

  • Dandelion greens
  • Wood sorrel
  • Plantain
  • Burdock
  • Purslane
  • Evening primrose
  • Curly dock
  • Chickweed
  • Spiderwort

You can find many of these plants in dense urban areas, your backyard, or a nearby empty field. While they won’t keep your family wholly fed, they provide a free and healthy way to keep fresh vegetables on the table. Wild edibles can also provide an essential boost in nutrients.

Before you head out foraging, make sure you’re aware of what’s safe and what isn’t. Never harvest a wild plant from ground sprayed with pesticides or an area tainted with heavy metals or toxic chemicals.

It’s helpful to have a reference book with you when you go. Check your local library to see what they have available. You can also download the Falling Fruit app, which helps you find local edible plants and wild fruit based on your location. The website Edible Wild Foods also has excellent pictures and tutorials on the most common wild edibles to help you learn how to find safe and healthy foods for your family.

20. Grow Your Own Food

Another way to save money on a tight budget is to grow your own food. You can easily grow fresh herbs or vegetables like tomatoes or carrots in containers set out on a porch or balcony.

Starting a garden does require an upfront investment, but there are plenty of ways to start a garden on a budget.

For example, you might be able to get seeds from a local seed library or from the nearest cooperative extension office. Your local extension is an excellent resource for learning how to garden and getting free or low-cost plants. You can search for your local extension office at Gardening Know How.

Final Word

When money is tight, it’s time to look carefully at what you’re spending at the grocery store and find creative and economical ways to purchase and prepare healthy and inexpensive food. Having affordable foods like potatoes, rice, pasta, and fresh vegetables on hand gives you a foundation for creating budget-friendly meals during the week.

There are many ways to maximize your food budget, and you can use those savings to help your family even more. For example, you can start saving up to purchase a stand-alone freezer, which will enable you to preserve food from your garden or a bountiful sale at the grocery store. You can also learn how to reuse leftovers to ensure no food goes to waste.

Source: moneycrashers.com

10 States Where Shoppers Love to Get Cash Back

Woman using an app on her phone
Photo by Aruta Images / Shutterstock.com

Residents in three Sun Belt states could teach the rest of us a thing or two about getting cash back from purchases.

Florida, Texas and California shoppers have earned more cash back using the rebate app Ibotta over the past five years than residents in other states, according to a new study from Ibotta itself.

Of course, it’s also true that these three states all have large populations. So, it stands to reason that these places would earn a bit more cash back as a group than states with smaller populations.

But a state’s population size doesn’t completely explain the numbers. For example, North Carolina has a much smaller population than New York, but residents of the Tar Heel State earn more cash back as a group than New Yorkers.

According to Ibotta, the states where shoppers have earned the most cash back using the app over the past five years are:

  1. Florida — $72,666,574
  2. Texas — $70,823,896
  3. California — $58,568,887
  4. Ohio — $43,095,785
  5. Pennsylvania — $39,537,895
  6. North Carolina –$35,268,274
  7. Georgia — $34,659,409
  8. Illinois — $33,749,148
  9. New York — $33,091,948
  10. Michigan — $30,619,987

Ibotta estimates that in most states, about 15% of the adult population uses the app. But the numbers are higher in some places. For example, 18% of Florida adults use Ibotta.

In some states, Ibotta users are particularly active. Here are the three states where each user, on average, has saved the most money:

  1. Maine
  2. New Hampshire
  3. South Dakota

What is Ibotta?

Ibotta is a free app available for Android and Apple devices. To get started using it, simply sign up for an account and download the app.

The rebate app helps you get cash back on in-store and online purchases from all kinds of retailers. As Ibotta’s website put it:

“Ibotta is a free cash back rewards and payments app that gives you real cash for everyday purchases when you shop and pay through the app. Ibotta provides thousands of ways for consumers to earn cash on their purchases by partnering with more than 1,500 brands and retailers. Whether you’re buying groceries, clothing, electronics, or wine and beer, Ibotta will pay you cash for your purchases.”

There are two ways to save with Ibotta:

  • Make purchases from online retailers by going through Ibotta.
  • Use Ibotta’s browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.

Other ways to earn cash back

Ibotta is hardly the only way to get cash back on your purchases.

Cash-back portals like Rakuten make it easy to earn cash rebates on online purchases, especially if you don’t want to download an app or browser extension. While Rakuten offers a mobile app and browser extension, you don’t have to use it. You can go right to Rakuten’s website, log into your account and start shopping from there.

To learn more about cash-back portals, check out “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.”

You also can boost your cash back by paying with a cash-back credit card, provided that you are paying off your balance in full each month to avoid interest.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

The 6 Best Things to Buy in February — and 3 to Avoid

Valentine's couple kissing

February might not seem like a good month to shop, but it does bring at least a few opportunities to save. We routinely see February sales branded around the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents’ Day, and some retailers offer sales that have nothing to do with those holidays, as well.

But not everything will be on sale in February, and not every deal will be a good one. Check out our February buying guide below to learn what items should see excellent discounts this month, and what products you should hold off on for now.

What to Buy in February

TVs for the Big Game

If you’re wondering, “When is the best time to buy a TV?”, it’s always going to be Black Friday. But if you missed out in November and can’t wait another nine months, keep an eye out during February. Of course, there’s a chance that a random excellent TV deal could drop at any time during the year. But February often has a decent number of TV offers overall, and some of the best ones appear during the first week of the month.

Some of the best February deals on TVs appear during the first few days of the month.

For instance, during the first few days of February 2020, we saw plenty of Staff Pick-worthy deals, meaning we considered them as some of our “best of the best” offers. These included a refurbished Vizio 55″ set for only $272 in-cart on eBay, and a refurbished Samsung 55″ for $500 at Walmart.

But it’s not only refurbs you’ll find — there will be plenty of new units among the great deals, too. Last year, Dell Home offered a new Vizio 65″ Quantum X TV for $1,270. That’s a definite investment, but the good news is it was also bundled with a $300 Dell gift card, which made it the best deal we’d seen on the set.

You’ll find new units for sale at stores like Walmart, as well. The retailer offered a Samsung 65″ set for $478 last February, which was the lowest price we could find at the time.

Don’t forget about the general TV sales in February either. Keep an eye out for Dell Home and eBay to take up to 50% off TVs, and for stores like Target to knock up to 30% off select sets.

Valentine’s Day Sales

The first Valentine’s Day sales we saw last year appeared in early to mid-January, around one month before the holiday itself. Retailer 1-800-Flowers, for example, knocked up to 40% off Valentine’s Day gifts and flowers during that time. But if you’ve missed out on the early Valentine’s sales, don’t fret! There will be plenty of February sales to take advantage of in the days leading up to the holiday.

SEE ALSO: What to Expect From Valentine’s Day Sales

Watch for retailers to take anywhere from 20% to 30% off jewelry, though some may cut even more. And while February 1 tends to brings a jump in flower prices, you can still save by opting for “less romantic” arrangements — namely, avoid roses if you can. If you’re not opposed to fake flowers, keep an eye out for retailers like Wayfair to knock up to 70% off gorgeous displays that’ll last long beyond Valentine’s Day.

Don’t miss out on the Valentine’s Day candy either. Expect retailers like Amazon and Target to offer discounts of up to 25% on all kinds of chocolatey treats, from Valentine’s-themed M&M’s to huge packages of Dove Hearts and Reese’s Hearts. But if you want something more sophisticated, Godiva will likely offer up at least 20% off.

Presidents’ Day Sales

Presidents’ Day sales are excellent opportunities to save on electronics, clothing, mattresses, home goods and furniture, and large appliances.

You can expect to save up to 70% on laptops and desktops during these February sales at stores like Dell Home, Lenovo, and HP. But retailers like Best Buy and Walmart will probably offer Presidents’ Day sales that are even bigger. Shop those stores if you’re hoping for Presidents’ Day savings on other electronics, including tablets and smartphones.

Expect to get up to 75% off clothing, up to 70% off computers, and up to 60% off mattresses during Presidents’ Day sales.

Historically, we’ve seen more than a third of all Presidents’ Day sales feature clothing in some capacity. If you’re hoping it’ll be a good time to stock up on discounted spring apparel before the weather warms up, though, you’re out of luck. We expect most items in these sales to be winter clothing, as retailers try to clear out stock to make room for those new spring items. Watch for stores to knock between 20% and 50% off clothing, though some could cut up to 75% off. Last year, Macy’s, PUMA, and J.Crew Factory all boasted discounts in this range.

If you’re in need of a new mattress, be sure to check out sales advertising furniture. Even though you might not think of mattresses in the same way you’d think of a sofa, they’re often included in the same sales. Expect to save as much as 60% at stores like Macy’s, while Home Depot could knock up to 40% off. Online mattress retailers will likely have their own sales in February, but odds are the discounts will be smaller.

Looking for large appliances? Historically, we’ve seen stores take up to 40% off refrigerators, washing machines, and more for the holiday weekend. Be ready to shop at retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot, and Lowe’s if you’re in the market for these deals.

Winter Clothing

Spring may be so close we can almost smell it, but this month is an excellent time to shop for cozy clothing. Last February we listed more than 1,500 clothing deals, and 27% of those received our Staff Pick designation. For instance, we saw waffle thermal underwear bottoms for as little as $3, and long-sleeved henley shirts and thermal socks for $4. We also saw sweatshirts for as little as $5, beanies for $6, and gloves for $7.

SEE ALSO: What to Buy Every Month of the Year in 2021

Watch for clothing sales, too. Men’s Wearhouse knocked an extra 50% off cold weather accessories last year, while Original Penguin took an extra 50% off, plus an extra 20% off via a coupon code in what was the best discount we’d seen all year from them. Old Navy cut an extra 40% off its clearance items, and Hanes took up to 70% off. Additionally, look for boot sales in February from retailers like Converse, which knocked 50% off last year. Ecco, meanwhile, cut an extra 50% off.

Gardening Items

It might be too early to plant anything in much of the country, but you can still stock up on garden tools and other items for less. In February 2020, we listed 88 garden deals. While that might not sound like much, nearly a quarter of those earned our Staff Pick designation.

We saw fertilizer spikes for as little as $2 for a 50-pack, an AeroGarden 6-pod kit for only $9, and a 3-pound bag of Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun & Shade Mix for $9. But you can find more than garden items like these. We also saw deals on grilling accessories last February, like a thermometer for $11 and a 20-pound steel propane tank cylinder for $26.

Look for top-notch deals on fertilizer spikes, grass seed, and garden tools in February.

Count on garden tools also being among the best offers we see. For instance, last year a Worx blower/mulcher/vacuum combo was $40, which was the lowest price we could find by $21.

Winter might be wrapping up, but we also expect to see items like patio heaters at notable lows. In 2020, Sam’s Club had a Westinghouse patio heater for $80 for members; the retailer also featured a Masterbuilt 24″ pellet grill and smoker for $149 for members. Even if it’s too cold to spend much time in your backyard right now, you can certainly get ready for the warmer temperatures ahead!

Seasonal Fruits and Veggies

If you’re still holding strong on your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier, buying seasonal produce is a budget-friendly way to do so. In February, that means you can shop things like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, leeks, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips. Looking for fruit? Grapefruit, lemons, oranges, and tangelos will all be in season, and their bright flavors could help lighten up the lingering grey days of winter.

If you’re interested in seeing what’s in season and local, be sure to check the Seasonal Food Guide website. Choose your state and time frame, and you’ll see what kinds of fresh produce you should keep an eye out for.

Don’t Buy These Things in February

You’ll find better deals and a greater selection if you wait until later in the year to shop these items.

Item Don’t Buy Buy Why?
Cruises In February In March (at the earliest) The travel industry is still experiencing issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, so there’s no guarantee we’ll even see any cruise deals in March. If we do, we recommend booking them only if you can book far in advance.
Luggage In February In March March usually brings decent luggage deals, and we’re expecting the same this year. Watch for prices to be as low as $6.
Android Phones In February From July to November Mobile World Congress is running in Barcelona from June 28 to July 1 this year, which is later than normal. That’s typically when Android companies announce their latest flagships, so we don’t expect notable discounts before then.

Readers, what do you think are the best things to buy in February? Let us know in the comments below!

Related DealNews Blog Posts:

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).

Source: dealnews.com

6 Best Live TV Streaming Services of 2021

After a long day at work, you probably just want to come home, settle into some comfy clothes, and catch up on your favorite shows without any fuss. But between network outages, rising cable company costs, and frustrating satellite dish issues every time there’s a storm, traditional TV service can be more stressful than relaxing.

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s an easier, better alternative, there is: TV livestreaming services.

With the popularity of on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, some people have forgotten about live TV altogether. But if you’ve been hesitant about cord-cutting because you want to be able to watch a live sports game or flip through the channels on a whim, livestreaming services like Sling TV and Philo can scratch that itch.

Livestreaming services bring your favorite shows to you in real time, just like traditional TV — but without the high monthly bills. Once you’ve decided to cut the cord, the only thing left is to choose the livestreaming service that meets your needs.

Which Live TV Streaming Service Is Right for You?

The sheer variety of livestreaming options is a TV lover’s dream come true. However, trying to choose among them can seem more like a nightmare. Of course, you could just sign up for every available service — but the cost would quickly add up to far more than you’d pay for cable.

To get the most for your money when shopping for a livestreaming service, think about what types of shows you want to watch the most. Then compare different services based on the types of content they offer and which streaming devices you can use to watch. Based on these details, you can choose the service or services that give you the best bang for your buck.

1. Sling TV

Sling TV offers streamers an experience very much like a slimmed-down version of cable TV. It provides various channels, including sports networks, country- and language-specific channels, and plenty of traditional cable channels, such as A&E, Disney, Bravo, ESPN, and the Food Network.

Sling’s simple-to-use interface and Cloud DVR capabilities make it an appealing choice for customers looking for an easy, inexpensive live TV option.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

Sling offers two basic plans. The company bills Sling Orange, which costs $30 per month, as a good choice for families and sports fans. It provides 33 channels, including all ESPN networks, Disney, and Nick Jr. With this plan, you can only watch one stream at a time.

Also $30 per month, Sling Blue offers a selection of 45 channels geared more toward news and entertainment. Its offerings include NatGeo, SyFy, Fox News, and MSNBC. This plan allows you to watch up to three simultaneous streams on different devices.

You can access some channels on both plans, such as HGTV, AMC, CNN, TNT, Lifetime, BET, and BBC America. However, if you want all the available channels from both Orange and Blue, you can sign up for both services at once. The Orange + Blue package allows you to watch up to four simultaneous streams. It also comes with a free month of Showtime, Starz, and Epix.

Sling also offers numerous add-ons for $5 to $10 extra per month. Options include Spanish and other foreign-language TV programming, sports, news, movies, lifestyle programming, kids’ programming, and outdoor pursuits. You can also add individual premium channels such as Showtime for $3 to $10 per month.

All Sling packages include 10 hours per month of free cloud DVR. That means you can store up to 10 hours of programming at a time in the cloud (online) to watch later.

Sling also provides access to a library of thousands of movies and TV shows on demand. One extra perk is Sling Watch Party, which lets you video chat with up to three friends or family members as you watch the same show from your own homes.

What’s Missing

None of Sling’s packages includes ABC, Animal Planet, CBS, MLB Network, MTV, Nickelodeon, PBS, or VH1. HBO also isn’t available, even as an add-on. Sling Orange doesn’t include Bravo, Fox, FS1, FX, MSNBC, NBC, or USA Network, while Sling Blue doesn’t have the Disney Channel or ESPN.

Another limitation of Sling TV is that, while you can store shows in your cloud DVR, you can’t download them for offline viewing. That means if the Internet goes down, you lose access to your TV service as well.

Compatible Devices

The Sling app works on computers and mobile devices running iOS, Android, Fire, Chrome, and Windows 10. It’s also compatible with most dedicated streaming devices, including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast. If you don’t have a streaming device already, you can get a free AirTV Mini when you prepay for a two-month Sling TV subscription.

You can also view Sling content on Xbox One and some LG and Samsung smart TVs. And if you pair any of these devices with an HD antenna, you can watch all your local channels at no extra cost.

When to Choose It

Sling TV is the best option for those who want to save the most cash on their TV services but also want to keep major networks like ESPN, Fox, and NBC.

Sling is also a sound choice if you like to watch on the go using your mobile device. However, it’s worth noting you can only stream Sling Orange on one device, so if you have a family or a multiperson home and prefer the ability to stream on multiple devices at once, look into one of the other plans.

2. Hulu + Live TV

Hulu is a well-established name among on-demand streaming services, and they’ve recently added a live TV option to their spread. This new service, Hulu + Live TV, bundles livestreams with Hulu’s existing on-demand service.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

For $55 per month, Hulu + Live TV gives you ad-supported access to over 65 live and on-demand channels. Its channel lineup includes ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN, CNN, HGTV, the Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel as well as local channels available in your area. There’s also an ad-free version of the service available for $61 per month.

In addition to the live channels, subscribers also gain full access to the thousands of shows and movies in the Hulu streaming library. If you don’t want this on-demand content, you can subscribe only to Live TV, but that only saves you $1 per month.

You can customize your Hulu + Live TV service with a variety of add-ons. For instance, premium channels such as Starz, Showtime, HBO, and Cinemax are available for $9 to $15 extra per month. You can also expand your choice of channels with the Entertainment add-on ($8 per month), which provides additional news, entertainment, and lifestyle programming, or the Spanish add-on ($5 per month), which gives you a selection of popular Spanish-language channels.

The standard Hulu + Live TV service allows two simultaneous streams and includes 50 hours of cloud DVR storage. However, you can expand these capabilities with add-ons. Enhanced Cloud DVR ($10 per month) gives you an additional 150 hours of cloud DVR storage. It also allows you to skip over ads in your recordings and stream them anywhere on any supported device.

The Unlimited Screens add-on ($10 per month) allows you to watch on an unlimited number of screens at home and up to three screens at once while on the go. You can add the Enhanced Cloud and Unlimited Screens add-ons as a combo for $15 per month.

What’s Missing

The Hulu channel lineup varies by area. Depending on where you live, you might be unable to get AMC, BBC America, BET, Comedy Central, MLB Network, MTV, NBA TV, NFL Network, Nickelodeon, PBS, or VH1.

Additionally, the basic service excludes the Cooking Channel, Discovery Family, DIY Network, Science, any premium channels, or any Spanish-language channels. While you can get these extras through add-ons, it starts to get pricey pretty quickly. And you can’t skip commercials unless you purchase the ad-free package, which adds another $6 to the cost.

In the past, there have been many complaints about Hulu’s terrible interface, which many users found confusing and hard to navigate. In May 2020, Hulu rolled out an updated interface intended to make navigation and show discovery easier. According to Mashable, the new interface is an improvement, but the format for individual show pages is still a mess.

Compatible Devices

Hulu + Live TV runs on all major streaming devices, including Chromecast, Apple TV, Fire TV, Fire TV stick, and some Roku and Roku stick models. It also works on Android, iOS, and Fire mobile devices, and you can view it through a Web browser on PC and Mac computers. Other supported devices include the Echo Show smart speaker, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and certain LG and Samsung smart TV models.

When to Choose It

If you already have a Hulu account and enjoy their digital library, upgrading to Hulu + Live TV for your live content could be a good value. Hulu + Live TV is also worthwhile for cord-cutters who don’t want to miss out on broadcast television. In addition to their original content, Hulu allows you to stream current shows from ABC, Fox, and NBC, older shows from CBS, and the entire “Seinfeld” collection.

However, if what you really want is a lighter version of cable TV, Sling TV offers that experience for less money.

3. AT&T TV Now

AT&T used to offer two livestreaming services. One, known as AT&T Watch TV, is no longer open as a stand-alone plan to new subscribers. (Existing customers and those who have a qualifying AT&T Unlimited plan can still use the service.) The other, formerly known as DirecTV Now, has been reborn as AT&T TV Now.

AT&T TV Now offers the widest selection of packages in the live TV market, with prices ranging from $55 to $183 per month. Reviewers like its intuitive interface, which will remind many users of traditional cable TV. However, one of the original DirecTV Now’s biggest selling points — the inclusion of HBO with every plan — is no longer a feature, making its value a bit questionable.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

The introductory AT&T TV Now plan, called Plus, offers 50 channels for $55 per month. It covers the basics for both kids and adults with ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox,  CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, BET, Comedy Central, ESPN, the Disney Channel, Hallmark, MTV, Nickelodeon, and VH1.

Premium movie channels — including HBO Max, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz — are available as add-ons for $5 to $15 extra. You can also add Spanish-language or international programming.

For $80 per month, you can get the 60-plus-channel Max package. It includes Cinemax and HBO Max, with other premium channels available as add-ons for $5 to $11 per month. It also adds more sports coverage, such as the Olympic Channel, Tennis Channel, and Golf Channel on NBC.

Other packages offer more specialized content. For instance, Optimo Mas ($86 per month) has 90 channels with added Spanish-language programming. The top-of-the-line Premier package ($183 per month) has more than 140 channels, including all the premium movie channels.

Plus, Max, and most other plans available on AT&T TV Now come with 500 hours of cloud DVR storage. You can store a show on the cloud for up to 90 days. These plans also allow up to three simultaneous streams on different devices.

What’s Missing

You can get premium content on AT&T TV Now, but you’ll pay a hefty price for it. To get A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, Discovery, HGTV, History, and Lifetime, you must choose one of the higher-end packages, such as the 65-plus-channel Entertainment plan ($93 per month). And PBS isn’t available on any plan.

For extra sports content like the MLB Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network, you need the 105-plus-channel Xtra plan ($124 per month). And some sports channels, like NFL Network and NFL Red Zone, aren’t available on any plan.

Compatible Devices

You can stream AT&T TV Now on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast streaming devices. It also works with Samsung smart TVs from 2017 or later. For watching on the go, it’s compatible with Apple and Android mobile devices but not Fire or Windows. You can watch on the Web using the Chrome browser (version 58 or later) or Safari (version 10 or later).

When to Choose It

All AT&T TV Now plans, including the basic Plus plan, include some channels that aren’t available on either Sling or Hulu + Live TV, such as Nickelodeon, MTV, and VH1. For those who want premium movie content, the Max plan offers two premium channels and more cloud DVR storage than Hulu + Live TV.

However, for those who just want the widest variety of content at the best price, other options offer subscribers more bang for their buck.

4. YouTube TV

Don’t confuse YouTube TV with the original YouTube, a free forum where users can share their own videos. It still exists, but the newer YouTube TV is a completely different service with different content and features.

It offers a robust assortment of channels, up to six accounts on a plan, and unlimited cloud DVR storage — a rare feature among livestreaming services. And according to PCMag, both the TV interface and the DVR features are easy to use.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

YouTube TV currently offers only one package. For $65 per month, it provides access to over 85 channels. Its channel lineup includes AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, the Food Network, Fox News, FS1, HGTV, MSNBC, the NFL Network, Nickelodeon, and TNT along with the basic network TV channels — ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and PBS. Many of these networks also offer on-demand access to recent episodes of shows. Additionally, it provides access to local stations that vary by area.

YouTube TV doesn’t offer any upgraded packages, but it does offer a few add-ons. For an extra $10 per month apiece, you can purchase additional premium channels, including HBO Max, Showtime,  Starz, and Epix. For $3 per month, you can get the Sports Plus add-on, which includes extra sports channels, such as NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports, and Stadium.

You can also use YouTube TV to watch any video available on regular YouTube. Many of these videos are ad-supported, but you can avoid the ads with a YouTube Premium subscription, which costs an additional $12 per month.

A subscription to YouTube TV includes up to six individual accounts per household, each with its own personalized watching recommendations and live guide. Users can stream up to three shows simultaneously. One major perk of YouTube TV is its unlimited cloud DVR storage. Each account has its own library, and you can store shows for up to nine months.

What’s Missing

The channel lineup for YouTube TV varies by location. Depending on where you live, it may not include A&E, History, or Lifetime. Premium movie channels and NFL RedZone are available only as add-ons.

Additionally, there are a few places in the United States where YouTube TV isn’t available at all. However, over 99.5% of U.S. households can use it. Enter your zip code on the YouTube TV website to see if it’s available in your area and which channels it includes.

Live TV programming on YouTube TV comes directly from content creators, many of whom include ads in their programming. Most of the ad revenue goes to support the creators of the videos. You can’t fast-forward through these ads while watching a livestream, but you can when watching a stored show on cloud DVR. Also, if you pause while watching a show, you can fast-forward until you catch up with the live version.

Compatible Devices

You can stream YouTube TV to a standard TV set using a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, or Xbox One. It also runs on select smart TVs from Roku, Vizio, Samsung, and LG and on any Android TV, AirPlay for Apple TV, or Google Smart Display.

For on-the-go viewing, YouTube TV is available as an app for mobile devices running Android L or later and iOS 11 or later. You can also watch directly on the Web at tv.youtube.com. This site works best in the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome.

When to Choose It

YouTube TV offers just about everything you’d expect from a cable or satellite TV subscription at a lower monthly price. It’s an appealing choice for cord-cutters who want access to all their favorite cable TV shows in one simple package.

However, it’s pricier than many other TV livestreaming services, so it’s only worth the cost if you really need its full array of channels and features.

5. FuboTV

FuboTV started as a service that livestreamed soccer, which is called “futbol” in Spanish. Over the years, it has expanded to include more than 100 live channels with a heavy focus on sports. It has numerous sports channels as well as news, entertainment, and lifestyle content.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

Fubo offers a choice of three packages. Its basic Family service ($65 per month) offers 118 channels. The channel lineup includes ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, A&E, AMC, BBC America, Bravo, Comedy Central, the Disney Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Hallmark, Lifetime, and Nickelodeon. It also comes with plenty of sports channels, including ESPN, CBS Sports, and the NFL Network.

This package provides up to three simultaneous streams and 250 hours of cloud DVR space. You can test it out for seven days free before paying.

Upgrading to the Elite plan ($80 per month) gets you an additional 46 sports and entertainment channels. It includes the DIY Network, MTV, Nicktoons, Logo, Stadium, and NBA TV. With this package, you get up to five simultaneous streams and 1,000 hours of cloud DVR.

The Fubo Latino package offers only 32 channels for $30 per month. It focuses on Spanish-language content, with channels like NatGeo Mundo, Univision, Galavision, and Zona Futbol. It also provides 250 hours of cloud DVR, but it allows only two streams at once.

With any of these packages, you can get add-ons to expand your capabilities. For instance, adding Family Share ($6 per month) to the Fubo Latino plan boosts your simultaneous streams to three, and Family Share Max ($10 per month) increases them to five. With Cloud DVR 1000 ($17 per month), you can bump up your cloud DVR space on the Family or Latino plan to 1,000 hours. You can also add premium channels such as Showtime and AMC Premiere and various packages of additional foreign-language, entertainment, or sports channels for between $5 and $20 per month.

What’s Missing

None of Fubo’s packages include NFL RedZone. You can only get it by purchasing the Sports Plus with NFL RedZone add-on for $11 extra per month. BET is also unavailable with any of the packages, although BETHer and BETSoul come with the Elite plan and the Fubo Extra add-on ($6 per month). HBO and Starz aren’t available on FuboTV, even as add-ons.

Also, unlike many TV livestreaming services, FuboTV doesn’t offer any on-demand content. However, its generous cloud DVR allotment means you can easily save the game to catch later if you can’t watch it live.

Compatible Devices

Fubo runs on all the major streaming devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromecast. You can also watch on certain Samsung smart TVs, Xbox One, and iOS and Android devices with the Fubo app. On a computer, you can watch online using the Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari browsers.

When to Choose It

For hardcore sports fans, FuboTV offers access to all the sports you want for less than the price of a cable TV package with extra sports content. However, if sports aren’t your primary interest, FuboTV’s high cost makes it a poor value.

6. Philo

If you just want the basics at a reasonable price, Philo TV is definitely worth a look. This inexpensive, no-contract service offers both live and on-demand content, simultaneous streaming, and unlimited DVR. Its channel lineup isn’t as substantial as most, but it’s hard to beat for the price.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

Philo TV has just one basic plan: 63 channels for $20 per month. It focuses primarily on entertainment and lifestyle channels like A&E, AMC, BET, Comedy Central, the Cooking Channel, Discovery, Hallmark, HGTV, Lifetime, Nickelodeon, and VH1.

Available add-ons include Epix for $6 per month and Starz for $9 per month. You can try out the service for free for one week before subscribing.

With a Philo account, you can create up to 10 individual profiles and stream content on up to three screens at once. You can also record as many shows as you want on Philo’s cloud storage and keep them for up to 30 days. All you need to get started is a broadband Internet connection, a supported device, an email address or mobile number, and a payment method.

What’s Missing

Philo definitely isn’t the right choice for sports fans. It includes no sports channels, and even the major broadcast networks — ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and Fox — aren’t represented here. It’s not a suitable choice for news, either, as it doesn’t include CNN or any other major news network. The only news channels are BBC America and BBC World News.

Compatible Devices

Philo works on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromecast via Android. You can watch it over the Web on a Mac or PC with Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari. There are also apps available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets.

When to Choose It

This service is a solid choice for channel surfers who just want to lie back and be entertained at a bargain price. If you don’t mind the lack of news and sports content, you can get livestreaming cheaper with Philo than with just about any other livestreaming service.

Final Word

There’s no one best TV livestreaming service. Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s a question of choosing the right provider for you.

Consider what general type of content interests you most, what specific channels are must-haves, what other features you need, and how much you’re prepared to spend. Then choose the service or services that give you the most of what you want at the best price.

If none of the current services seem right for you, don’t despair. The market for streaming services is an ever-changing one.

Several networks have introduced their own livestreaming services that provide access to their content and nothing else, such as HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock Premium. And existing services often drop off the market — such as PlayStation Vue, which ended in January 2020. So if there isn’t a perfect livestreaming service for you today, there could be one tomorrow.

In the meantime, don’t forget that there are other ways to amuse yourself without cable TV. You can also get your video entertainment from on-demand streaming, old-fashioned DVDs, or network TV with an antenna. Or you could explore other alternatives, such as music, books, computer games, and tabletop games.

Source: moneycrashers.com