Why Is the Housing Market So Hot?

Real estate Q&A: “Why Is the Housing Market So Expensive Right Now?”

If you asked me this same question a few years ago, I would have had the same basic answer I’m about to explain.

And since that time, home prices have surged much, much higher, which basically tells me the same fundamentals have been at play for quite a while now.

Additionally, they may continue to more years to come.

Similar to a market downturn, when things are hot, they remain hot for years, which is why it can pay to hold on, just like those who didn’t sell their bitcoin at first-profit.

Reason #1: There Is Very Limited Inventory and Lots of Buyers

The top reason why the housing market is so high right now has to do with limited inventory, or supply.

It’s one of those fundamental concepts even a child can comprehend. When you have a small or finite amount of something, and people want it, its value goes up.

This is basically what’s been going on with real estate since the market bottomed in 2012.

In reality, supply has been tight ever since the market peaked and the foreclosure crisis took hold because banks were careful to flood the market.

Even back then, it was difficult to scoop up a property because many of them were either foreclosure sales, which aren’t for novice home buyers, or short sales, which took bank approval and months and months to close.

I remember looking at homes in 2012 and it wasn’t much different than today. Sure, home prices were significantly lower, but inventory wasn’t all that great.

Much of what was listed either needed work or wasn’t in the most desirable area. For me, that hasn’t changed over the past decade.

Yes, a good property comes on the market here and there, but if and when it did/does, it becomes a “hot home” and a bidding war ensues.

It’s for this main reason that home prices are at all-time highs nationwide, with the median home valued at roughly $273,000, up from $215,000 in early 2007, per Zillow.

Reason #2: Record Low Mortgage Rates

  • Despite a recent uptick mortgage rates are lower than they were a year ago
  • This has allowed purchasing power to stay strong while home prices rise
  • The only increased burden is a higher down payment for prospective buyers
  • It may remove some buyers from the picture but not enough to lower prices

Now if reason number one weren’t reason enough for real estate to be booming, sprinkle in some record low mortgage rates.

To get this straight, there’s a short supply of something people want and it’s on sale from a financing point of view. No wonder everyone is going wild.

While the listing price might be quite a bit higher than it was five or 10 years ago, the fact that mortgage rates are roughly half the price they were then is huge.

This has kept home purchasing power intact despite a big run-up in home prices, basically only making the required down payment an issue for some prospective buyers.

And remember, because there’s a limited supply of homes available, it doesn’t really matter if some would-be buyers are shut out of the market due to affordability constraints.

There are still enough willing and able buyers to come in and pick up any slack, of which there isn’t much of to begin with.

So the bidding war might only have 20 participants instead of 30 – that’s not going to make any impact whatsoever on the final sales price.

Reason #3: Rising Incomes and Inflation

home price affordability

Lastly, we can’t simply look at unadjusted (nominal) home prices and say whoa, they’re even higher than they were back in 2006 when real estate was in a massive bubble. They must crash!

Yes, unadjusted home prices are about 22.2% above the peak seen in 2006 when the housing market last boomed, per First American (see the blue line above).

But that alone isn’t enough to determine whether the market is overvalued or not.

Ultimately, you have to factor in inflation, mortgage rates, and wages to get a complete picture.

Speaking of wages, median household income rose 6.2% year-over-year in January and is up 74.8% since January 2000.

Meanwhile, real house prices (those adjusted for inflation) were about 25.6% less expensive to begin the year than in January 2000.

And so-called “house-buying power-adjusted house prices” are still 47.8% below their 2006 housing boom peak, meaning rather incredibly, there’s still a lot of room to run.

Just check out the chart above – from October 1993 to December 1994, nominal home prices barely budged one percent, but the Real House Price Index (RHPI green line) increased over 20% because purchasing power decreased by 16% due to rising mortgage rates.

Then from January 2005 to March 2006, nominal house prices surged about 13% while mortgage rates remained mostly steady, pushing the RHPI up a big 15%.

At that time, affordability was eroded because nominal home price appreciation far outpaced purchasing power.

Finally, nominal home prices increased more than 13% year-over-year in January 2021, but house-buying power (yellow line) jumped 19% as the RHPI fell nearly five percent.

Why did housing affordability improve despite rising home prices? Because median household income increased and the 30-year fixed fell from 3.62% in January 2020 to 2.74% in January 2021, per Freddie Mac.

In other words, you can’t look at nominal home prices in a vacuum, aka firing up the Redfin app and saying OMG, that $500,000 home from last year is now selling for $600,000!

You need to consider the big picture and factor in wages and how cheap/expensive financing is.

If you look back at that chart, nominal home prices (blue line) have risen steadily since around 2012, and are now above the scary 2006 housing peak levels.

But the RHPI has reached its lowest point since the series got started in 1990, and at the same time the House-Buying Power Index has surged higher, especially recently.

All of this may explain why despite double-digit year-over-year gains and nominal home prices that might be up nearly 100% from 2006, the buyers are still coming. And they’re bidding over asking!

It also supports the idea that the next housing crash (or beginning of a decline) won’t happen for a while still, perhaps my longstanding prediction of 2024.

In other words, if you’re a prospective home buyer, don’t get your hopes up for a discount anytime soon, though if mortgage rates do rise, we might see a moderation in home price appreciation and perhaps less competition.

But the only real relief will come from increased home building, which is beginning to ramp up as housing starts and housing completions are both up significantly year-over-year.

As to how real estate could go from red hot to ice cold again, picture a scenario a few years out when home builders overshoot the mark and mortgage rates are back at 4-5% for a 30-year fixed.

Oh, and asking prices are up another 10-20% from today’s levels. That’s where you can start to imagine another major correction, especially if the wider economy hits another snag.

Read more: 2021 Home Buying Tips

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

Save Money When You Buy Frozen Produce Over Fresh

“A broccoli floret is a broccoli floret whether that be store brand or Birds Eye,” Wesley said. “It is a single-ingredient food. It is a broccoli floret. Period. End of story.”
The fruit and vegetables that end up in the frozen foods aisle of your local supermarkets are often picked and frozen at the peak of freshness. Essentially, they end up being more “fresh” than some of the produce that has to travel from farms to the stores to your kitchen counter.
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily She said that people who keep their favorite produce stocked in the freezer tend to eat more fruits and vegetables. For the healthiest outcome, make sure you’re buying frozen produce that doesn’t include added sauces or seasoning, which will increase your saturated fat and sodium intake.
In addition, frozen produce often is a better choice because it reduces food waste. Frozen berries and green beans, for example, can last up to a year in the freezer. If you accidentally leave their fresh counterparts in the fridge for longer than a week, you’ll end up with moldy berries and limp green beans that you’ll have to throw away.
“I’ve had a lot of my patients tell me that they do not consume fruits and vegetables because they cannot afford organic,” said Wendy Wesley, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based registered dietician and nutritionist.
The winning quality of frozen fruits and vegetables is that they’re ready when you are, Wesley said. With fresh produce, on the other hand, the clock is ticking to eat it before it goes bad. Privacy Policy
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. The high price of fresh, organic produce can be a deterrent for shoppers who want to be healthy but need to stick to a budget.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
From a nutritional standpoint, there is no downside with frozen produce, Wesley said.
“For a long time, I would only buy fresh produce,” Wesley said. “I wasted a lot of fresh produce, because life got in the way and I didn’t get to it in time. And that’s when I became an advocate for frozen vegetables.” <!–

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Choosing frozen produce over fresh also means there’s more of a chance for you to find manufacturer or store coupons to help cut down the price. Keep in mind, however, there’s often little to no difference in the generic version of frozen produce versus its name-brand counterpart — and you can usually save money by buying the cheaper store brand.

City vs Suburbs: Which Location is Right for You?

One decision can majorly impact your day-to-day life — whether to live in a city vs. the suburbs.

Both have their own unique spate of benefits and drawbacks to consider, so give it more thought than you may give to what type of wine to order with dinner (although that’s still important).

City vs. suburbs: What’s the difference?

Cities and suburbs vary widely by size and scope.

Cities are territories inside an urbanized area that are also inside a principal city, like Los Angeles or Atlanta. Of course, some cities aren’t as big as those, so whether or not it’s a small, midsize or large city depends on the population.

Suburban areas, however, are the territories outside a principal city, but that are still inside an urbanized area. Suburbs also range in size. For context, a small suburb is under 100,000 population, but a large suburb is greater than 250,000.

Suburbs are also considered lower-density areas. So they might have a similar population to that of a city, but it’s spread out over more land. Commercial and residential zones are thus separated, unlike in cities, where they can literally be one on top of the other.

People walking over a crosswalk in a city. People walking over a crosswalk in a city.

Pros and cons of renting in a city

There are a lot of songs devoted to singing the praises of city life, and many people would shudder at the thought of relocating to the ‘burbs.

Although the ability to get a churro at 2 a.m. might not make our list of the top three perks, it’s still way up there. However, it’s not all sunshine and roses, so check out these pros and cons of living in a city vs. a suburb.

City pro: Closer to the action

The convenience factor is huge for city slickers, especially if you live, work and play there. Although cities do have their fair share of chains, restaurants are often locally owned and operated. Thus, they are more unique.

Entertainment, from bars and clubs to museums and other cultural amenities, is also more varied than in the suburbs. There are more employers (that density thing, again), so you’re more likely to find or keep work nice and close to home.

City pro: Tons of variety

Life in the city comes with an abundance of choices. Whether it’s deciding between three amazing local pizzerias or three amazing local hospitals for that upcoming surgery, city areas simply have more options than the suburbs.

Cities are also more culturally diverse than their suburban counterparts, a trend that’s likely to continue since 70 percent of U.S. cities are more racially diverse now than in 2010. So if you wish to surround yourself with a wide variety of people and cultures, city life is probably the way to go.

Subway system. Subway system.

City pro: Transportation benefits

People who don’t want to waste away their lives commuting through gridlock highway traffic often opt for a city residence.

Although some people prefer to have their own wheels, in certain cities public transportation options are so great that it’s not even necessary to own a car! So whatever premium you pay on an in-town apartment is offset at least somewhat because you save on a car payment, gas and insurance.

Incidentally, the best cities for public transportation are New York City, San Francisco and Boston.

City con: Noise levels

All those people crammed in a relatively small land area can make it pretty loud. Traffic noise is the biggest culprit, with 80 percent of urban noise pollution due to cars, trucks, emergency vehicles and the like.

As electric and hybrid vehicles become more affordable and common, however, hopefully, this will start to taper off. But don’t count on it.

City con: More expensive

Rent prices are usually (but not always) higher in the city versus the suburbs. A 2017 Forbes report found an average price difference of $600 per month, with some major cities even more than that! That’s a pretty big chunk of change for most people.

Even though some of that is offset if you don’t need a car, there’s still the cost of public transportation to consider.

City con: Air pollution

Air pollution in cities poses a major health hazard, especially for sensitive groups like those with allergies or asthma. Poor air quality is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. This is particularly a problem in low-income cities.

Suburban street. Suburban street.

Pros and cons of renting in the suburbs

The suburbs catch a bad rep sometimes, but there are millions who swear by life in (comparatively) wide open spaces. Suburbanites do enjoy some pretty significant perks that evade city residents, but there are tradeoffs, too.

Suburbs pro: More space

Everything’s bigger in the suburbs. There’s simply more land to go around per person, so as a result, apartments, houses, restaurants, roadways, green spaces and much more are larger, more plentiful and often better.

If you’ve ever navigated an SUV down a city side street you’ll appreciate this distinction.

Suburbs pro: Less crime

Cities are notoriously higher in crime than the suburbs, although activity in both types of areas is thankfully on the decline.

In 2014, rates of violent victimization for women and men, respectively in urban areas was 9.4 and 9.3 per one thousand people. This, compared with 7.8 (men) and 6.0 (women) in the suburbs. Property theft and other types of crime are also more common in cities versus the suburbs.

Suburbs pro: Your dollar goes further

There’s nothing to say that you won’t still spend just as much money in the suburbs versus living in the city, but you will get more bang for your buck. Most things usually cost less the further you get from the principal city, such as gasoline, food, taxes and rent.

If you’re okay with paying more with less to show for it (other than convenient city access), city life is just fine. Otherwise, the suburbs are a better choice.

Traffic in the evening. Traffic in the evening.

Suburbs con: Commute time

A long and weary commute is often the price people pay for living in the suburbs. Unless you’re lucky enough to find a job nearby, the city (or closer to it) is where employers are.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute time is 26.9 minutes, or nearly an hour both ways. Sure, some areas are less than that, but many are actually higher. Yikes!

Suburbs con: Less eclectic

A lot of suburban neighborhoods are pretty cookie-cutter in nature. They feature a lot of the same home/apartment styles, businesses, restaurants and so on. Although suburbs are becoming increasingly more diverse, culturally speaking, they’re still no match for cities.

Suburbs con: Car required

You might be able to walk to a place or two safely from your apartment, but the vast majority of the suburb will be out of reach without a car. This means a working vehicle, insurance and funds to maintain/gas up the car are not only advised but mandatory.

City vs. suburbs: The choice is yours

As long as you clearly understand your own situation and priorities, the choice between city vs. suburbs will be clear. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions, either. Everyone’s circumstances are different, so make the decision that’s right for you!

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Source: apartmentguide.com

20 Cheap and Easy Meals That Cost Under $10

The average American household spends more than $6,600 per year on food, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. That makes up roughly 10% of the median household income in America.

This is particularly noteworthy from a personal finance perspective because food is one of the major household expenses for which frugal choices can make a huge difference. Committing to preparing most meals at home, coupled with a smart and sensible grocery store strategy, can significantly cut the amount of money spent annually on food. Even cutting your food spending by 30% can save $2,000 per year.

The challenge, of course, is time and effort. For busy families, food preparation is a task that is often relegated to others simply by grabbing takeout, getting delivery, or buying premade meals. The solution isn’t to abandon them entirely, but to move toward a greater reliance on very inexpensive and easy to prepare meals. The easiest way to do this is to center your meals on low cost and easy to prepare ingredients, such as beans, rice, eggs, chicken, pasta and oatmeal, and accentuate them with a wide variety of flavorings and ingredients. If the core of your meal is inexpensive, then your whole meal will be!

Prices listed in this article were taken from Walmart.com at the time of writing, in order to approximately standardize nationwide pricing. The recipes themselves are ones used in our own family kitchen, mostly from handwritten notes.

In this article

Breakfast meals

Breakfast meals are inexpensive and fast meals our family uses that work well for family breakfasts, centered on using eggs, oatmeal, yogurt and other inexpensive ingredients. These can be used for other meals as well, but these often come out at the start of a school day, as the children are getting up and ready for their day.

Scrambled eggs

Simply crack several eggs into a bowl (three per person is a good number) and rapidly stir them with a fork until the yolk is well combined with the egg white. Add a small amount of salt: just a pinch. Put a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted, then pour in the eggs. Every minute or so, gently scrape the bottom of the skillet with a spatula to pull the cooking eggs off of the bottom (so they don’t burn). When the eggs appear to be moist but solid, serve them. You can sprinkle some cheese or other flavorings on at the end, as per your choice.

1 dozen eggs – $1.99
1 tablespoon butter – $0.12
1 cup shredded cheese – $0.80
Total cost to serve four – $2.91

Slow cooker steel cut oats

This uses a small slow cooker. Just put 1 1/2 cups steel cut oats, 2 cups of milk and 4 cups of water into a slow cooker just before bed. To that, add whatever flavorings you like. We often add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 2 or 3 overripe mashed bananas, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, as our family loves peanut butter-banana oatmeal. Aside from the oats, milk and water, you can add pretty much anything you like. Just set the slow cooker on low just before you go to bed and you’ll wake up to perfect oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups steel cut oats – $0.26
2 cups milk – $0.30
Flavorings of choice – $1.00 (est.)
Total cost to serve four – $1.56

Egg and bean burritos

Make the scrambled eggs in advance, as described above. Along with them, set out a package of flour tortillas, some heated beans, some shredded cheese, and some salsa, and allow people to assemble their own egg and bean burritos. These are very portable for a grab-and-go breakfast.

Scrambled eggs with cheese – $2.91
15 oz. black beans – $0.58
Salsa – $0.94
8 flour tortillas – $1.63
1 cup shredded cheese – $0.80
Total cost to serve four – $6.86

Overnight oats

This is another extremely simple overnight breakfast that’s great during the summer, since it’s a cool breakfast. Pull out a large drinking cup or a jar, add 1/2 cup rolled oats, then add whatever ingredients you like, followed by 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup milk. Cover the cup and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, it’s delicious. For flavoring, any and all fruits, nuts, and nut butters will work – again, we often use peanut butter and bananas with a bit of vanilla flavoring.

2 cups rolled oats – $0.52
2 cups milk – $0.30
1 cup yogurt – $0.85
Flavorings of choice – $1.00 (est.)
Total cost to serve four – $2.67

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Soups and stews

Soups and stews usually take advantage of our family’s trusty slow cooker, as you can dump in the ingredients for a soup early in the day, turn the slow cooker on low, and enjoy a nice soup in the evening. The recipes here that include beans utilize dry beans, which, if soaked overnight in water the night before and cooked with additional liquid as per the bean package directions, turn out incredibly well.

Lentil stew

Note that dry lentils do not require soaking like other beans! You use dry ones right off the bat with this recipe. Just mix these ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for six hours. It’ll produce a fairly thick stew.

3 carrots, cut into discs – $0.43
3 celery stalks, sliced – $0.46
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
2 tablespoons olive oil – $0.06
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning – $0.10
1/2 teaspoon paprika – $0.06
1 1/2 cups dry green or brown lentils – $0.80
4 cups water – $0.00
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes – $0.87
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes – $0.72
1 tablespoon salt – $0.01
Total cost to serve four, with lots of leftovers – $4.21

Chili

Chili without meat is an incredibly inexpensive and simple meal to make, whether in a slow cooker or on a stovetop. Chili con carne (chili with meat) adds to the price, but not unbearably so. There are lots of variants to chili, but almost none of them are pricy. Here’s the one we use, which cooks in a slow cooker for about six hours after the beans soak overnight. If you don’t want to do that, use 2 cans of cooked beans to replace 1 cup dry beans. If you want extras to serve with the chili, like crackers or cheese, that will add a bit to the cost, but it’s still a great low-cost meal.

1 cup dry black beans – $0.54
1 cup dry pinto beans – $0.54
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes – $1.44
1 15 oz can tomato sauce – $0.72
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
1 packet chili seasoning – $0.50
2 cups water – $0.00
4 cups additional water (if using dry beans) – $0.00
Total cost to serve four, with lots of leftovers – $4.44
Optional – 1 lb. cooked ground beef – $2.67

Ham and beans

This is the best use of leftover ham after the holidays, and a great reason to cut up any leftover ham and freeze it for the future. You can buy a single pound of ham and cube it yourself for $3-$4, which is still cheap, but using leftover ham is the real trick to making this cheap. Just soak the beans overnight, drain them, then cook this recipe in a slow cooker on low for six hours.

1 lb leftover ham, cubed – $0.00 (or $2.98)
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder – $0.11
1/2 teaspoon salt – $0.01
1/2 teaspoon black pepper – $0.01
1 lb dried great northern beans – $1.89
6 cups water – $0.00 (optionally, use vegetable broth)
Total cost to serve four generously – $2.72 (or $5.70)

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Making your own tomato soup is simple. Just take an onion and chop it to size (I like to cut it into wedges, because I like big pieces of onion — the smaller you cut it, the better). Get out a large pot, put it over medium heat, and melt a whole stick of butter in there. When the butter is melted, add the onions and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes. Then, add the crushed tomatoes, raise heat to high until it’s bubbling, then drop it to medium-low so that it’s just barely bubbling, and leave it for 40 minutes. While that’s going, make sandwiches. Just butter one side of eight pieces of bread, assemble cheese sandwiches with the butter side outwards, and cook them each over medium heat in a skillet, flipping halfway through when the bottom is golden.

For the soup:
1 stick butter – $0.74
1 yellow onion, cut up – $0.70
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes – $1.74
Dash of salt to taste – $0.01
3 cups water – $0.00
Total cost to serve four very generously – $3.19

For the sandwiches:
8 slices bread of choice – $0.57
2 tablespoons butter – $0.21
8 slices cheese of choice – $1.40
Total cost to serve four – $2.18

Pasta meals

These are very simple and quick weeknight meals that my family frequently enjoys. These are almost always very cheap, and always accompanied with a side or two, which you can read about at the bottom of the article.

Three-ingredient mac and cheese

This is based on J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt’s amazing three-ingredient mac and cheese recipe. Our home version is slightly tweaked, but it makes enough for the five of us with leftovers for lunch the next day if served with a couple of sides. It’s so easy and so much better than boxed mac and cheese. Get out a large saucepan or small pot, add the mac, add water until the macaroni is just covered, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir constantly while boiling for six minutes, then add the evaporated milk, then stir constantly for three more minutes. Stir in the shredded cheese and serve. This stuff is amazing.

1 16 oz box elbow macaroni – $0.78
1 12 oz can evaporated milk – $0.70
4 cups shredded cheese of choice – $3.50 (can vary depending on cheese choice)
Total cost to generously serve four – $4.98

Spaghetti with marinara sauce

This is as simple as it gets. Boil a box of pasta according to package directions. Drain the water. Add a jar of marinara sauce of your choosing. Serve. My family loves this and it’s simple enough that my children often prepare it for dinner (we have our children fully take charge of some meal preparation in its entirety as a teaching tool).

1 16 oz. box spaghetti – $1.28
1 20–27 oz. jar marinara sauce – $1.28
Total cost to serve four – $2.56

Chickpea pasta

This is a pasta meal that’s a bit more complex than the spaghetti with marinara sauce, but follows the same idea. You’ll need a blender and a saucepan in addition to the pot for cooking pasta. Just cook a package of angel hair pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, put two cans of chickpeas, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons cumin, a dash of salt and pepper, and the juice of a lemon into a saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes. Put half of the chickpeas and all of the liquid into a blender and puree it, then mix the chickpeas, liquid and pasta all together and serve.

1 16 oz. box angel hair pasta – $1.28
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas – $1.76
1/4 cup olive oil – $0.38
1 lemon – $0.40
2 teaspoons dried cumin – $0.08
Dash of salt and pepper – $0.02
Total cost to serve four generously – $3.92

Cheese lasagna

We often assemble this in the morning, pop it in the fridge, and bake it in the evening. All you need is a box of no-boil lasagna noodles, a small container of ricotta or cottage cheese, 4 cups shredded mozzarella, and a large jar of marinara sauce. We’ll often add a layer of vegetables, too – I particularly like adding a layer of mushrooms.

Just pour 1/3 of the jar of sauce into the bottom of a 9″ by 13″ pan, put a layer of no-boil noodles on top, then 1/3 of the cottage or ricotta, then 1/3 of the vegetables if using, then 1/3 of the mozzarella. Just repeat those layers twice more — sauce, then noodles, then cheese, then vegetables, then ricotta. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour covered with aluminum foil, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown the cheese a little.

1 16 oz. box no boil lasagna noodles – $1.97
1 20–27 oz. jar marinara sauce – $1.28
4 cups shredded mozzarella – $3.20
1 15 oz. container cottage or ricotta cheese – $1.17
8 oz. sliced mushrooms – $1.96 (or another vegetable)
Total cost to serve four generously with a full meal of leftovers – $9.58

Bean and rice meals

These meals rely on beans and rice, two of the most inexpensive staples in your kitchen. Dry beans and rice are easy to prepare (you mostly just add water, put them over low heat, and wait) and provide tons of nutrition for the dollar. We invested in a rice cooker because we cook rice so often; a good rice cooker makes rice incredibly simple to make.

Sticky rice, vegetables and soy sauce

This is incredibly simple, yet my whole family enjoys it. This often turns up as a quick lunch, one that my kids often prepare. Simply cook two cups of uncooked rice according to the package directions. Take a package of frozen vegetables and cook them according to package directions. Then, add three tablespoons of soy sauce to the cooked rice and mix in the steamed vegetables. It seems comically simple… but it’s tasty and fast and cheap!

2 cups uncooked rice – $0.52
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Soy sauce – $1.99 (full bottle, you’ll have lots of leftovers)
Total cost to serve four – $3.70

Red beans and rice

There are some wonderful pre-made kits for this — basically a mix of seasoning, dry red beans and dry rice — and I highly recommend them, especially on sale. If you want to make your own any time, it’s easy.

Just bring two cups of water to a boil, add 1 cup uncooked rice, reduce heat to low, cover, and let it sit on low heat for 20 minutes. Get out a skillet, add 1 pound of sliced kielbasa, and cook over medium-high heat for five minutes. Add a chopped onion, chopped bell pepper, 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, and a 15 oz. can diced tomatoes. Add a dash of oregano, salt, pepper and garlic powder and let this all simmer together for 15 minutes. When the rice is done, you can either mix it all together or serve the beans over rice.

1 cup uncooked rice – $0.26
14–16 oz kielbasa – $2.87
1 yellow onion, chopped – $0.70
1 green bell pepper – $0.88
2 15 oz. cans kidney beans – $1.76
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes – $0.88
Dash of oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder – $0.02
Total cost to serve four – $7.37

Cheesy risotto

This is an extremely kid-friendly recipe that we sometimes serve as the main course with a few sides. It also works as a side for something else, if you’d like.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the onion and stir regularly for 8 minutes, seasoning with the salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth and stir regularly for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the broth and lower heat to a simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Stir in the grated Parmesan and serve!

3 tablespoons butter – $0.31
1 yellow onion finely chopped – $0.70
Salt and pepper – $0.02
1 cup uncooked rice – $0.26
4 cups chicken broth – $1.98
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese – $0.50
Total cost to serve four – $3.77

Fried rice

This is our family’s favorite use of leftover rice and why we don’t sweat it if we cook extra rice. Just take three tablespoons of butter and melt over medium-high heat in a skillet. When it’s melted, add four whisked eggs and cook until scrambled, and then remove the scrambled eggs to a separate plate. From there, add a bag of chopped frozen mixed vegetables right to the pan and cook for 6 minutes. Then, add four cups of leftover cold chilled rice and 4 tablespoons of soy sauce and cook for 3 more minutes. Mix the eggs back in and serve.

4 cups leftover cooked rice – $0.50
3 tablespoons butter – $0.31
4 eggs – $0.66
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Soy sauce – $1.99 (full bottle, you’ll have lots of leftovers)
Total cost to serve four – $4.65

Chicken and tuna meals

These four meals are focused on chicken and tuna, which are the least expensive meat staples consistently found in grocery stores. If you want a bargain, canned tuna and whole chickens are the best deal. Tip: If you have a recipe that calls for cooked chicken, consider buying a whole rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and tear it apart. You can get cooked chicken for as little as $1 per pound doing this.

One-pot chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole

This is a comfort food that my parents made when I was younger and we now enjoy as a family. It’s also a great use for cooked rice. Just mix the following in a casserole dish and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

4 cups leftover cooked rice – $0.50
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese – $3.20
1 lb. cooked chicken (rotisserie) – $1.25
2 cups chicken broth – $0.99
1 cup milk – $0.50
2 tablespoons melted butter – $0.20
Total cost to serve four – $6.64

Chicken noodle soup

Egg noodles, cooked in chicken broth, with some diced chicken added. It’s so simple and yet, so delicious. You can add diced vegetables as desired — carrots, celery and onions all work here. Just get a 16 oz. package of egg noodles and cook according to package directions using 6 cups of chicken broth as the liquid and adding the chicken and vegetables before cooking.

6 cups chicken broth – $2.97
1 lb. cooked rotisserie chicken – $1.25
1 16 oz. package egg noodles – $1.98
1 bag diced frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Total cost to serve four – $7.39

Tuna melts

This is one of my family’s favorite meals, and it’s super easy. OK, so this one goes a bit over $10, but it’s oh, so good. Just mix up tuna, mayonnaise, and pickle juice, then put a large teaspoon of the mix on each hamburger bun. Top with cheese, wrap each sandwich in aluminum foil, place the sandwiches on a baking sheet, and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Delicious!

4 5-ounce cans tuna, drained – $5.43
4 tablespoons mayonnaise – $1.59 for the full bottle
2 teaspoons pickle juice – $0.05
8 hamburger buns – $1.59
8 slices cheese – $1.29
Aluminum foil – $0.15
Total cost for 8 sandwiches – $10.01

Tuna patties

These simple tuna patties fry very well in a skillet. Just add a tiny bit of oil and fry these in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, 5–6 minutes per side. The patties are made by mixing the below ingredients and forming them into patties. You can serve them on the plate or on bread or buns as a sandwich (with a slice of cheese on top).

2 5-ounce cans tuna – $2.71
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard – $0.17
4 slices white bread torn into small pieces – $0.26
1 raw egg – $0.17
Dashes of salt, pepper, hot sauce, and lemon juice – $0.05
Total cost for four patties – $3.36

What about sides?

These 20 meals can each provide a main course, but what about side dishes? We usually pair our main dishes with two of the following items, depending on what pairs well and what’s on sale.

Flash frozen vegetables in a microwave steamed bag, which usually cost $1.29 and are often found on sale for $0.99. We usually cook them for about a minute less than the directions on the bag then season them extensively with salt, pepper, and other odds and ends.

Fresh fruit including apples, bananas, grapes, oranges — whatever’s on sale that week.

Fresh vegetables from our garden are almost always our side dishes during the summer months.

Baked potatoes just need to be wrapped in foil and baked in the oven at 350 F for up to an hour, depending on size. They’re cheap and are wonderful topped with butter or sour cream.

A side salad, usually a kit from the store when they’re on sale, is commonly on our table. Kits provide a side salad that’s adequate for our family for $2 when on sale.

Yogurt is often on sale, and we just buy whatever’s on sale. Containers of yogurt are an inexpensive finish to many meals.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

How to Clean Refrigerator Coils

Let’s face it: In the summertime, your refrigerator is your best friend.

There’s nothing like the first sip of a cold beverage to cool you off when temperatures are sweltering, and you don’t even want to think about where you’d be without the freezer. A summer without ice is not a summer you’ll enjoy.

Since so much is riding on it, this month’s green tip focuses on keeping your favorite appliance running smoothly. Regular refrigerator maintenance involves vacuuming the condenser coils on the back or the bottom to clear out the dust and gunk about twice a year.

These coils are critical to pushing heat out, so removing the dust and dirt will allow them to more efficiently keep the inside of the refrigerator cold. Not only will this effectively keep things cold, but you’ll be using less electricity which saves you money and helps the environment. Now that’s cool.

So want to know how to clean refrigerator coils? We’ve got the process of vacuuming these coils laid out for you, step by step.

What you’ll need:

  • Refrigerator (duh)
  • Vacuum cleaner with brush and crevice attachments
  • Paintbrush or other small brush
  • Rag

photo of before and after cleaning refrigerator coilsphoto of before and after cleaning refrigerator coils

How to clean refrigerator coils: A step-by-step guide

Now that you have your tools, you can get started cleaning. Simply follow these eight steps and refer to the photos for clarity.

Step 1: Gently pull the refrigerator away from the wall

Your refrigerator probably has wheels on the bottom, so you should be able to do this with relative ease. Just be sure to go slowly so you don’t damage your kitchen floor. (Note: You don’t need to do this if your coils are on the bottom of the fridge.)

Step 2: Unplug the refrigerator

Yes, you have to. Always disconnect the power source before performing any maintenance on any appliance. It’s unlikely that anything will go wrong, but when the downside is electrocution, you don’t want to take the risk.

Step 3: Locate the coils

The coils should be located in one of two places:

  1. On the back: They should be easy to locate. Look for a metal grid attached to the back of the appliance.
  2. On the bottom: This is where it gets tricky. You don’t want to upend your fridge, so coils on the bottom usually have a grate in front that you can remove and then stick the vacuum cleaner attachment in there for cleaning. Look under the door for the grate and gently remove it. If you have trouble, consult your owner’s manual for more specific instructions.

photo of how to clean refrigerator coils step 2photo of how to clean refrigerator coils step 2

As you can see, the refrigerator coils here are on the bottom.

Try not to scream in horror when you see how much gunk and grime has collected there. If you don’t clean it often, it’s going to be a mess.

photo of how to clean refrigerator coils step 3photo of how to clean refrigerator coils step 3

Gross.

Step 4: Start vacuuming

Use the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner hose. The crevice tool might come in handy as well — there are even some vacuum attachments made specifically for refrigerator coils, so you may want to look into that. Be firm but cautious — you want to get as much grime off the coils as possible without damaging them, so take your time and don’t force it.

photo showing how to vacuum your refrigerator coilsphoto showing how to vacuum your refrigerator coils

While you’re at it, you might as well clean the normally inaccessible areas around the fridge. Vacuum the floor underneath where the fridge usually sits, and wipe down the sides/back of the fridge itself. You’re already moving it out of the way, so you may as well take advantage of the situation.

Step 5: Use the paintbrush to remove any stubborn bits of dirt

It doesn’t have to be pristine but poke around all the nooks and crannies to get it as clean as you can.

Step 6: Vacuum up all the dirt you knocked loose onto the floor

The floor is probably a bit of a mess thanks to the brush, so you can clean that up now.

Step 7: If your coils came off the bottom, replace the front plate

If your coils were on the back, plug the refrigerator back in and push it back into its home.

Step 8: Reward yourself with a cold beverage

You’ve earned it.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Make Your Home Look Picture Perfect | Apartminty

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Combining Different Fabric Textures and Patterns

It’s amazing how upholstering or even simply covering your furniture with different kinds of fabrics can completely change a room. By playing around with the various textures and fabrics you can put on the sofas, pillows, and rugs, you can breathe new life into your space. With that in mind, we wanted to take a second to talk about how you can combine different fabric textures and patterns when you are designing your home.

How to Combine Different Types of Fabrics and Patterns in Your Home

Most of the rules of interior design aren’t set in stone. However, if you want to give your home some kind of cohesive appearance, here are some tips you can follow.

Pick an Accent Color Early On

Having a single color that appears in several of the patterns and fabrics you’re using in a space is a great way to bring it all together. That’s why it’s important to pick an accent color or even a whole palette early in the design process.

Some people decide to incorporate their accent color into their space by putting it on a wall. But if you want to keep your walls neutral, you can plan the whole room around an accent piece of furniture instead. Even a painting can be the focal point in a room if you make sure the fabrics and patterns you introduce reflect some of the same colors the artist used.

Match Your Patterns to Basic Pieces

If you love to play around with different patterns, you should ideally have a strong anchor piece to tie them to. So if you have a red sofa, you can top it off with a patterned pillow that references that shade. Alternatively, you can layer a complementary color on top by placing a leafy green pillow over a red sofa.

Either way, you’ll want to have some solid basic pieces before you start incorporating crazy patterns. Best of all, this tip can work with all kinds of patterns!

For one, geometric patterns can stand out even in monochromatic spaces. On the other hand, animal print fabrics can spice up even the most boring pieces. Your crisp white bedding can completely transform with a cheetah print throw blanket.

You can also match your patterns and fabrics to the textures of your furniture pieces. Like, if you have a large mahogany dining table in the middle of the room, you wouldn’t want the color of your curtains to clash with the rich brown of the table.

Stick to a Theme

As we have established, the goal of interior design is to make a space seem cohesive. With that in mind, it’s good to have a theme that encompasses the whole room, at least.

Accent colors can help us achieve that, but so can different patterns and fabrics. For example, you can balance out the pattern on your area rug by inserting another element with a similar design. So if your tan carpet features red flowers, you can put some red flowers in a tan vase.

Remember, those patterns don’t have to match, but they should ideally have a similar theme. If you have ticking stripe fabrics on your armchairs, you don’t have to get striped curtains too. Instead, feel free to mix and match with other patterns.

Layer Your Patterns

When it comes to patterns, most people seem to think that less is more. But if you needed a sign that it’s okay to mix several patterns or even put them on top of each other, this is it.

There are ways to mix patterns tastefully. For example, you can get the same pattern in different colors so you’d have green and orange gingham pillows next to each other. Alternatively, you can get pieces with different patterns that feature a similar range of colors. If you have a nature-inspired wallpaper, you can still use polka dot-printed pillows, as long as they’re in a similar shade.

Mix Modern and Vintage Pieces

There’s nothing better than the feeling you get from managing to work your grandma’s old curtains into the design of your home. Those kinds of vintage pieces can bring just the right amount of nostalgia into an otherwise new space.

But remember: using too many vintage items can easily make a space feel outdated. To prevent that, you’ll want to bring some modern elements into the mix.

For example, one way to make an old armchair new is to reupholster it with modern materials. On the other hand, if the original fabric is in good condition, you can make the piece appear more contemporary by adding a flashy throw pillow on top.

Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Rules

As we have previously mentioned, the rules of interior design are by no means set in stone. If anything, the tips we’ve been discussing are more like vague guidelines. Needless to say, you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. After all, there’s more than one way to achieve cohesion.

To prove that point, you just need to look at some examples of eclectic interior design. Whether you opt for a colorful bohemian look or another deceptively chaotic style, mixing different patterns and fabrics can breathe new life into a room. So make your home match your bold personality!

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By playing around with the various textures and fabrics you can put on the sofas, pillows, and rugs, you can breathe new life into your space. With that in mind, we wanted to take a second to talk about how you can combine different fabric textures and patterns when you are designing your home
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Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water?

From your cable and Internet bill to utilities like heat and electricity, there are a lot of costs that must be added into your monthly budget (as I discovered upon moving into my first apartment). There are always ways, however, of cutting back on those expenses. You can save water and lower your water heating costs by installing a low-flow showerhead.

What is a Low-Flow Showerhead?

In short, a low-flow showerhead is one that comes with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less. While this still seems like quite a bit of water, these showerheads can actually decrease your shower water usage by about half.

A regular showerhead has a water flow of about 3.8 gallons per minute, so if you took an eight minute shower, you would be using approximately 30 gallons of water. But with a low-flow showerhead, you would only use about 20 gallons.

With this fixture, you’ll also need less energy to heat your shower, reducing your power bills.

How do Low-Flow Showerheads Work?

With a low-flow showerhead, it may not feel like you’re using less water, but you are. The showerhead restricts water flow while still maintaining a strong pressure, giving you the experience of a normal shower.

Aerating showerheads mix air in with the water stream. This maintains strong water pressure while still using less water than a traditional showerhead. However, because there is air combined with the water, the temperature may not stay as hot for as long as traditional showerheads.

A non-aerating showerhead doesn’t use air; instead, it pulses to keep the pressure strong. The water with a non-aerating showerhead tends to be hotter because there is no introduction of air.

How to Measure Your Current Flow Rate

In order to discover whether you would benefit from a low-flow showerhead, it’s important to figure out the flow rate of your current fixture. Turn on your shower and let the water run into a bucket for 10 seconds, then turn it off.
Measure the amount of water that’s in your bucket, then multiply that figure by six. The number you end up with will be your water flow per minute, or gallons per minute. If your shower is releasing about 3.8 gallons or more per minute, think about replacing your current showerhead with a low-flow fixture.

Here’s another helpful rule of thumb: If it takes fewer than 20 seconds for your showerhead to fill up a 1-gallon bucket, you could benefit from installing a more environmentally friendly fixture.

Which Low-Flow Showerhead is Best for Your Bathroom?

If you’ve chosen to get a low-flow showerhead for your bathroom, then you must decide which type you would like. You could opt for the traditional stationary model or a handheld showerhead that’s attached to a flexible hose.

While handheld models may offer convenience, they’re typically a bit more expensive than the stationary fixtures. However, a handheld showerhead may be slightly more environmentally friendly than the traditional model because there is less distance between the showerhead and your body.

Other Green Bathroom Ideas

Installing a low-flow showerhead isn’t the only way you can go green. Here are a few other bathroom ideas that may lower your overall energy costs:

Use Green Cleaning Products: Some bathroom cleaners contain harsh chemicals, which is why it’s more environmentally friendly (and often cheaper) to just make your own.

For instance, a tub cleaner can be made using 2/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Mildew can be removed by mixing 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup borax.

Rethink Your Towels: Think about swapping your current regular cotton towels for towels made from organic cotton. This material requires the use of fewer pesticides, natural dyes and softeners, making it better for your skin and for the environment.

Bamboo towels are another eco-friendly choice, as bamboo is a fast-growing sustainable alternative to cotton, not to mention it has antibacterial properties.

Fix Leaks: A simple leak in your tub or sink might not seem like a big deal, but you may actually be losing a lot of water. Talk to your landlord about the problem and get it fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can put a bucket under the leak and use the collected water to hydrate your houseplants.

Replace Your Shower Curtain: Many shower curtains are made of polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC plastic. The material actually releases chemical gases, and it can’t be recycled. Instead, opt for a PVC-free shower curtain. Hemp shower curtains, for instance, are resistant to mold and mildew.

Take Shorter Showers: A low-flow showerhead can only do so much to save water when you’re taking extremely long showers. Do your best to cut back on your bathing time by creating a five-minute playlist of a song or two. This way, you’ll know exactly how long you have before you should turn off the water.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

The Best Parks and Green Spaces in Philadelphia

From the moment William Penn, founder of the Colony of Pennsylvania, set aside Philadelphia’s Five Great Public Squares as part of his “Greene Countrie Towne” city plan, Philadelphia has been recognized for its amazing public green spaces and parks, large and small, urban and woodsy. Nearly every neighborhood contains an inviting, safe, inspiring public space. But what are some of the best?

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park PhiladelphiaFairmount Park Philadelphia
Fairmount Park

Every discussion of Philadelphia parks must start with Fairmount Park, the largest space within the world’s largest urban park system.

Stretching from the Strawberry Mansion to the Spring Garden neighborhoods, the East Park half of Fairmount Park lies on the Schuylkill River’s east bank. This side features scenic running and biking trails that wind past historic sites such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boathouse Row, with its famous light display, large plateaus near Brewerytown, which include the Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course and Strawberry Green Driving Range and the vast Fairmount Park Athletic Field, where you can hop into a pickup hoops game or join an organized sports league. For a quieter outing, the recently renovated East Park Reservoir is one of the best bird-watching enclaves in the city.

Across the river, though still in Fairmount Park, the West Park runs from the Wynnefield neighborhood down to Mantua. Here you can take the kids to the first-in-the-nation Philadelphia Zoo, the Please Touch Museum or the John B. Kelly Pool right next door.

For a more adult excursion, take in a concert and an amazing view at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts or fling a Frisbee at the Edgely Ultimate Fields. In the winter, Philadelphians of all ages take to Belmont Plateau for the city’s best sledding hills.

Wooded parks

Wissahickon Valley ParkWissahickon Valley Park
Wissahickon Valley Park

For everything Fairmount Park has to offer, other city parks boast their own perks. The expansive Wissahickon Valley Park extends from Chestnut Hill through East Falls in North Philly. There you’ll find people on mountain bikes and on foot traveling the winding gravel paths of forested Forbidden Drive, youngsters learning while having fun at the Wissahickon Environmental Center Tree House and anglers casting into the trout-stocked Wissahickon Creek.

Running from Bustleton to the Delaware River in Northeast Philly’s Holmesburg section, Pennypack Park is a 1,300-acre wooded creekside hiking and biking oasis that provides nature programs at Pennypack Environmental Center, a full working farmstead with cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens at Friends of Fox Chase Farm, and King’s Highway Bridge, the oldest in-use stone bridge in America.

In extreme South Philly, you’ll find Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, adjacent to the professional sports complex, which contains a full 18-hole golf course, a nationally-celebrated skateboard park and the Meadow Lake Gazebo, long a popular spot for wedding photos.

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, a little farther south in Eastwick next to the Philadelphia International Airport, is a top hiking, canoeing and fishing spot within a stunning environmentally-protected tidal marsh.

Urban parks

Spruce Street Harbor ParkSpruce Street Harbor Park
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Photo courtesy of Anastasia Navickas

If you prefer parks that feel part of the city rather than those that feel like you left the city, Philadelphia won’t disappoint.

Atop the Circa Centre South Garage in University City is Cira Green, a new rooftop greenspace boasting seasonal coffee carts, summer movies and some of the best views of downtown.

Named by Jetsetter Magazine as one of the “World’s Best Urban Beaches,” Spruce Street Harbor Park at Penn’s Landing is an eclectic recreational sanctuary along the Delaware River with seasonal food and beer trucks, a riverside boardwalk and a cluster of more than 50 cozy hammocks, which hang under spectacular LED lights strung amongst the trees.

From biking to basketball to bird-watching, Philadelphia’s city parks and green spaces offer unlimited means of escape from the bustle of urban life.

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Uses for aluminum foil

Aluminum foil is a Penny Hoarder’s BFF when it comes to preserving leftovers. But if you’re just using that handy foil to wrap up day-old food, you’re totally missing out on so many other uses for this extraordinary kitchen standby.

The Many Uses of Aluminum Foil

You might be dating yourself if you are still calling the shiny workhorse “tin foil” though it’s not uncommon to hear that phrase used. Foil was made of tin until after World War II when the stronger and cheaper aluminum became widely used. Now you know. Read on for 10 clever money-saving ideas.

1. Sharpen Scissors

Don’t toss a pair of dull scissors or pay someone else to sharpen them. Sharpen scissors with aluminum foil, says Rachel Timmerman, a Virginia blogger with The Analytical Mommy. Fold a piece of 10-by-10-inch aluminum foil three times. Then, cut the foil about 20 times with the scissors to make them as sharp as the day you bought them.

2. Substitute for Dryer Sheets

Crumble a ball of foil and toss it into your dryer, says Gladys Connelly, technical writer for The HouseWire, a product review site. This works exactly the same as a dryer sheet would, Connelly says. “It eliminates static and fluffs up your clothing,” she says. Spray lavender oil or your favorite scent into the middle of the aluminum sheet before you crumple it to make the foil smell just as good as a dryer sheet, Connelly recommends.

3. Lower Your Heating Bill

If you have cast-iron radiators, you can DIY a heat reflector out of aluminum foil. Tape some heavy-duty aluminum foil to a piece of cardboard with the shiny side up. That’s literally it. Place the heat reflector behind your radiator or under the radiator’s top. The heat waves will naturally bounce from the foil into the room instead of going into the wall behind the radiator.

4. Cover Your Paint Tray

Don’t toss your plastic paint tray after each use. Keep the tray clean by wrapping it in aluminum foil. When you’re done, just pull off the foil and your paint tray will look as good as new, Connelly says.

A woman uses aluminum foil to get gel nail polish off her nails.
Getty Images

5. Remove Gel Nail Polish

You can’t use acetone and a cotton pad to remove gel nail polish. Instead, you’re supposed to soak your nails in acetone. But it would be wasteful to use a bowl of acetone just to remove the polish. So Malaika Desrameaux, a Miami content creator with Self Care Sunday Love, figured out an aluminum foil method. 1. File the tops of your gel nails to get rid of the glossy layer. 2. Soak a cotton ball with acetone and put the cotton ball over your nail. 3. Wrap your nail (with the cotton on top) with a 3-by-5-inch piece of aluminum foil. 4. Repeat on all fingers, and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. 5. Remove cotton and aluminum foil, and peel off the gel nail polish.

6. Polish Silver

No need for a special polish or even any elbow grease to make Nanny’s heirloom silverware gleam again. Place a sheet of aluminum foil into a pan, add cold water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Put silver into the pan, and leave it for two minutes. Rinse off with water and let it dry. The aluminum causes a molecular reaction, cleaning the silver for you.

7. Clean Jewelry

Similar to the process for polishing silver, you can use aluminum foil to clean jewelry by creating an ion exchange (a molecular reaction with the aluminum). Place aluminum foil in a bowl, and fill the bowl with hot water and 1 tablespoon of bleach-free powdered laundry detergent. Soak jewelry in the solution for one minute, rinse with water and air dry.

8. Battery Replacement

You’re desperate for a battery to fire up the flashlight. Try aluminum foil, says Melanie Musson, a home safety expert with US Insurance Agents. “If your flashlight requires two C batteries but you only have one, you can fill the empty space with compacted foil,” Musson says. It may not be at full strength, but you’ll have a little light to get you by.

9. Garden Buddy

Aluminum foil will miraculously improve your green thumb. Birds are afraid of the shiny foil because of the noise it makes. So tie foil strips around the branches of your fruit trees, you’ll keep the birds from nibbling at the bounty. Same goes for mice and rabbits. These creatures don’t like the feel of the aluminum foil, so placing bits of it on your shrubs serves as a natural deterrent. Bugs bugging you and eating your plants? Nestle foil with soil or stones at the base of plants. Or mix some strips of aluminum foil in with your mulch. In both cases, the foil will keep the moisture in your soil and prevent the weeds from growing while keeping the pests at bay.

10. Custom Cake Pan

Don’t run to the store every time your child wants a cake that looks like something other than a rectangle. Need a dog-shaped pan? A heart pan? Make the shape out of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and place your DIY foil creation into a baking pan big enough to accommodate the shape.

11. Grill Cleaner

Don’t bother purchasing pricey grill scrubbers when a rolled up ball of aluminum foil works perfectly well, Connelly says. The foil ball should be large enough – about 3 inches around – to hold comfortably with tongs (remember that the grill is hot). Grab the foil ball with the tongs and swipe back and forth across the grate before it has cooled. Food bits will be easier to remove when the grate is warm. If you already have stubborn burnt food on the grill, then put a piece of aluminum foil on the grate, and close the grill. Turn on the heat and let it run for a few minutes. Then, remove the foil, turn off the heat and try the original cleaning method. It should be easier now because the foil sheet trapped the heat to help loosen any stubborn debris.

12. Ironing

Aluminum foil is a natural heat reflector. So if you place a piece of it under the cover of your ironing board, the aluminum foil will speed up your ironing time.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

10 Best Health Care ETFs of 2021

Technological innovation is everywhere you look, especially in health care. New technologies are making simple work of some of the most pressing medical conditions known to man.

Even the COVID-19 pandemic has been proof that the health care sector is evolving, with vaccines being created and marketed within a year of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Of course, the health care industry is massive. Well-researched investments in a variety of health care stocks and bonds have proven to be lucrative moves. But what if you don’t have the time or expertise to do the research it takes to make individual health care investments?

That’s where health care exchange-traded funds (ETFs) come in.

Best Health Care ETFs

Health care ETFs are funds that pool money from a large group of investors and then invest in health care stocks and other health care-focused investments.

As with any investment vehicle, not all health care ETFs are created equal. Some will come with higher costs than others, and returns on your investment will vary wildly from one fund to another.

With so many options available, it can be difficult to pin down which ETFs you should invest in. Here are some of the best options on the market today:

1. Vanguard Health Care Index Fund ETF (VHT)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.10%
  • One-Year Return: 29.89%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 15.10%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.42%
  • Morningstar Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UHC), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TOM), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 14
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

Vanguard is one of the best-known wealth managers on Wall Street. So, you can rest assured that when you invest in a health care ETF or any other Vanguard fund, your money is in good hands.

The Vanguard Health Care Index Fund ETF is focused on investing in companies that sell medical products, services, equipment, and technologies using a highly diversified portfolio.

As a Vanguard fund, the VHT comes with an incredibly low expense ratio and a strong history of providing compelling returns for investors.

Pro tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up, you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals.


2. Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.12%
  • One-Year Return: 23.75%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.15%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.49%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), AbbVie (ABBV), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 17
  • Years Down Since Inception: 5

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund is offered by State Street Global Advisors, one of the largest asset management companies on Wall Street. The firm behind this health care ETF is one with pedigree.

As a passively-managed fund, the XLV was designed to track the returns of the Health Care Select Sector Index, which provides a representation of the health care sector of the S&P 500.

As a result, the XLV ETF provides diversified exposure to some of the largest U.S. health care companies. The fund provides compelling returns and relatively strong dividends for the health care industry.

As is the case with most funds provided by State Street Global Advisors, this ETF comes with incredibly low fees, far below the industry average.


3. ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.75%
  • One-Year Return: 174.19%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 43.78%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.93%
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Teladoc Health (TDOC), Twist Bioscience (TWST), Pacific Biosciences of California (PACB), Exact Sciences (EXAS), Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 4
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

The ARK Genomic Revolution ETF is offered by ARK Invest, yet another highly trusted fund manager on Wall Street.

The ETF is designed to provide diversified exposure to companies that are working to extend the length and improve the quality of life for consumers with debilitating conditions through technological and scientific innovations in genomics.

Essentially, this fund invests in companies focused on the editing of genomes, or base units within DNA, to solve some of the most pressing problems in medical science.

With genomics being a relatively new concept that’s showing incredible promise in the field of medicine, companies in the space are experiencing compelling growth, making the ARKG ETF one of the best performers on this list.

However, it’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the higher-volatility ETFs on the list, which adds to the risk of investing.


4. Fidelity MSCI Health Care Index ETF (FHLC)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.08%
  • One-Year Return: 29.76%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 15.11%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.46%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), AbbVie (ABBV), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 6
  • Years Down Since Inception: 1

Fidelity is a massive company that has grown to become a household name thanks to its insurance division. It’s also one of the biggest and most well-trusted fund managers on Wall Street.

The company’s MSCI Health Care Index ETF has become a prime option for retail investors who want to gain diversified exposure to the U.S. health care industry.

The ETF was designed to track the MSCI USA IMI Health Care Index, which represents the universe of investable large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap U.S. equities in the health care sector.

As can be expected from the vast majority of Fidelity funds, the FHLC is a top performer on the market with a relatively low expense ratio.


5. iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.46%
  • One-Year Return: 38.14%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.38%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.19%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Amgen (AMGN), Gilead Sciences (GILD), Illumina (ILMN), Moderna (MRNA), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 15
  • Years Down Since Inception: 4

iShares has become yet another leading fund manager on Wall Street, and the firm’s Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF is yet another strong option to consider if you’re looking for diversified exposure to the U.S. health care sector.

The fund was specifically designed to provide exposure to the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals subsectors of the health care industry. It does so by investing in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies listed on the Nasdaq.

As an iShares fund, investors will enjoy market-leading returns through a diversified portfolio of investments selected by some of the most trusted professionals on Wall Street.

The IBB expense ratio is around the industry-average ETF expense ratio of 0.44%, according to The Wall Street Journal, but the fund’s expenses are justified by its outsize returns.


6. iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF (IHF)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.42%
  • One-Year Return: 31.67%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 16.5%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.54%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: UnitedHealth Group (UNH), CVS Health (CVS), Anthem (ANTM), HCA Healthcare (HCA), Teladoc Health (TDOC)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 13
  • Years Down Since Inception: 1

The iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF is designed to provide exposure to a different area of the health care industry.

Instead of investing in companies that create treatments and therapeutic options, the IHF fund invests in companies that provide health insurance, specialized care, and diagnostics services.

To do so, the ETF invests in an index designed to track large U.S. health care providers.

The fund comes with an expense ratio that’s slightly lower than the average for ETFs while providing performance that’s hard to ignore. While IHF isn’t the best dividend payer, the iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF does provide compelling returns, making it a strong pick for any health care investor’s portfolio.


7. iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF (IHI)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.42%
  • One-Year Return: 36.77%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 23.60%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.50%
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO), Medtronic (MDT), Danaher (DHR), Stryker (SYK)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 12
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

The iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF gives investors access to a diversified portfolio of stocks in the medical device subsector.

Investments in the company center around products like glucose monitoring devices, robotics-assisted surgery technology, and devices that improve clinical outcomes for back surgery patients.

In order to provide this exposure, the iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF tracks an index composed of domestic medical devices companies.

While the expense ratio on the fund is about average, its performance over the past 10 years has been anything but, with annualized returns throughout the period of more than 18%, earning it a perfect five-star rating from Morningstar.


8. iShares Global Healthcare ETF (IXJ)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.46%
  • One-Year Return: 19.93%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 11.51%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.27%
  • Morningstar Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Roche Holdings (ROG), Novartis (NOVN), Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 12
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

If you’re not interested in choosing subsectors of the health care industry to invest in and would rather have widespread exposure to all sectors of health care in all economies, whether developed or emerging, the iShares Global Healthcare ETF is a strong pick.

The ETF comes with an expense ratio that’s nearly in line with the industry average, but its holdings are some of the most diverse in the health care ETF space.

Moreover, the IXJ ETF is known to produce relatively reliable gains year after year, closing in the green in 12 of the past 15 years.


9. Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care ETF (RYH)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.40%
  • One-Year Return: 27.93%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.81%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.51%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Illumina (ILMN), Eli Lilly (LLY), Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN), Abiomed (ABMD), Catalent (CTLT)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 11
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

Founded in 1935, Invesco is a fund manager that’s been around the block more than a few times. It’s all but expected that the firm would make an appearance in just about any “top ETF” list.

Based on the S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care Index, the ETF provides diversified exposure to all health care stocks listed on the S&P 500. That means when you purchase shares of RYH, you’ll be tapping into a wide range of health care stocks.

In fact, the S&P 500 represents more than 70% of the market cap of the entire U.S. stock market, which is why it’s often used as a benchmark. So, by tapping into every health care stock listed on the index, you’ll be tapping into some of the highest quality U.S. companies in the space.


10. SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.35%
  • One-Year Return: 66.31%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 22.56%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.2%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Vir Biotechnology (VIR), Novavax (NVAX), Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND), Agios Pharmaceuticals (AGIO), BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 11
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

Another fund offered up by State Street Advisors, the SPDR S&P 500 Biotech ETF is an impressive option. While it’s the last on this list, it’s also been the top performer on this list over the past year and the third-best performer in terms of annualized returns.

The XBI ETF was designed to track the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index, an index designed to track the biotechnology subsector of the health care industry. As a result, an investment in this fund means you’ll be investing in all biotechnology companies listed on the S&P 500.

Not to mention, while returns on the XBIO have been impressive, to say the least, the expense ratio on the fund is below the industry average.

While the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF isn’t the biggest income earner on this list, it is a strong play with a relatively consistent history of producing gains far beyond those seen across the wider market.


Final Word

Health care ETFs are a great option for investors who are interested in using their investments to create some good in the world.

Not only are the top ETFs in this space known for producing incredible returns, it feels good knowing that your investment dollars are helping companies produce medications, devices, and services designed to improve quality of life and extend the length of the lives of your fellow man.

Although investing in health care ETFs is a promising way to go about building your wealth in the stock market, it’s important to remember not all ETFs are created equal. So, it’s best to do your research, looking into key stats surrounding historic performance and expenses before diving into any fund.

Nonetheless, the ETFs listed above are some of the strongest performers in the health care industry and make a great first watchlist for the newcomer to health care ETF investing.

Source: moneycrashers.com