16 Best Ways to Save Money at Pottery Barn in 2021 – Discounts & Sales

If you’ve ever gone shopping for home decor, furniture, and bedding, you’ve probably visited a Pottery Barn.

The Williams Sonoma subsidiary is best known for its upscale products and stunning floor displays. Since its founding in 1949, Pottery Barn has branched out into Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teens to appeal to a wider audience.

Despite these changes, Pottery Barn has always maintained a premium status for their brand. But if you’re shopping on a tight budget, there are numerous creative ways to save money at Pottery Barn.

Between in-store hacks and ways to save money on furniture and home furnishings, you probably don’t have to pay full price when you hit up this popular retailer.

Best Ways to Save Money at Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn is unlikely to compete on pricing with more affordable retailers like Ikea. But you don’t have to pay full price just because a store is stylish.

Many money-saving Pottery Barn hacks can help you make your next home furnishings upgrade affordable without sacrificing quality.

1. Join The Key Loyalty Program

The easiest saving trick every shopper can use is to join The Key member rewards program. This loyalty program extends to Williams Sonoma’s family of brands, meaning it covers Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barns along with Mark and Graham, and West Elm.

Joining The Key is free. You start by picking your favorite brand and then sign up for The Key through that brand’s website. To sign up, provide your name, email, address, phone number, and birthday.

Once you’re a member, benefits include:

  • Earring 3% cash back across the family of brands
  • Getting exclusive access to new deals and releases
  • Using Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma’s free design service

You can redeem cash back as store credit across any Williams Sonoma family store once you reach $15. You can use cash-back rewards from The Key program with your cash-back credit card rewards to increase your savings, and you can redeem your balance online or in-store.

2. Follow Local Stores on Social Media

You can follow Pottery Barn on social media if you want general updates about sales and country-wide initiatives. However, truly frugal shoppers are better off following their local stores.

Local store pages are useful for several reasons. For starters, you can reference them to find store hours or a contact number and to check whether the store’s open on holidays.

Additionally, local stores post photos of their inventory and sales. That’s when you can find specific pieces on clearance or products that are only in stock at your preferred location.

But note that not every Pottery Barn has a local Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

3. Sign Up for Pottery Barn Emails

If you want a low-effort way to save, sign up for the Pottery Barn email list.

Subscribers receive information about exclusive sales and promotions, so you can wait for a sale or event before you shop. You also learn about new Pottery Barn products and upcoming store events.

4. Use Online Pottery Barn Coupons

Another trick to save money at Pottery Barn is to use online coupons.

There are numerous online coupon databases you can search for deals, including:

These websites let you activate online coupon codes before shopping, potentially earning percent discounts and perks like free shipping.

Similarly, you can also use shopping browser extensions for online shopping to automatically apply available coupons at checkout. Two popular browser extensions that work with Pottery Barn are Capital One Shopping and Honey.

Both extensions apply coupon codes at checkout, ensuring you don’t miss out on savings. Both platforms also let you earn rewards by shopping at hundreds of partner retailers.

An advantage of using extensions over coupon websites is that you don’t waste time manually searching for coupon codes on the Internet. However, it’s important to note that coupon codes don’t always work, and you might find a particular website or extension works better for you than others.

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

5. Shop With Discount Gift Cards

If you shop at Pottery Barn frequently or are planning a shopping spree, buying discount gift cards is a simple way to save more money.

People regularly sell unwanted gift cards to marketplaces that then resell them at a discount. Usually, discounts range from 1% to 2%, so you can buy a $50 Pottery Barn gift card for around $48.

That’s not a lot, but for larger purchases, discount percentages often increase. For example, on some discount gift card websites, you can find $100 and $500 Pottery Barn gift cards with $10 to $20 discounts.

Some popular gift card marketplaces include:

Gift card availability and denominations vary based on supply and demand. Raise generally has the most extensive collection, and you can usually find Pottery Barn gift cards ranging from $25 to $100.

Plus, new members get a 10% discount bonus with the coupon code “FIRST” for a maximum savings of $20.

Since more significant discounts provide the most savings, the key is to plan your Pottery Barn shopping trip. That way, you know exactly how much money you need and don’t overspend on gift cards.

6. Understand Shipping Rates

At Pottery Barn, shipping costs depend on your total order price and whether you want standard shipping or next-day shipping. Standard shipping arrives in four to five business days and upgrading to next-day costs $26.

To potentially save more, consult Pottery Barn’s shipping rates and fees table. For orders under $200, you’re looking at up to $21 in shipping fees. However, orders of $200.01 or more charge 10% in shipping until you reach $3,000 or more, at which point shipping costs drop to 5% of your total order value.

If you’re on a massive Pottery Barn shopping spree, consider what a 5% or 10% shipping rate does to your bill.

For example, at $2,900, you’re looking at $290 in shipping costs. However, spending $100 more to reach $3,000 brings shipping costs to $150, netting you $40 in total savings.

If you’re close to a shipping-reduction threshold but don’t need anything else, ask friends and family if they need anything or think about any upcoming gifts for birthdays and holidays. But crunch the numbers.

If buying a low-cost product still saves you significant cash, it’s worth it. You can always donate unwanted merchandise and get a charitable donation tax deduction. Just check the sale and clearance section for deals.

Finally, look for products that are available for pickup when shopping online. If you live near a Pottery Barn, making the drive is probably worth it to avoid paying for shipping.

7. Shop on Clearance

If you want to find Pottery Barn products at a discount, your best bet is to wait for a clearance sale or floor sales event.

Pottery Barn’s website has a sales section, so you can begin your search for deals online. But visiting your local Pottery Barn allows you to find markdown products the retailer doesn’t advertise online.

Occasionally, Pottery Barn also sells floor models during floor sales events. That includes furniture and other inventory previously used for in-store displays, which the company can’t sell as new. This inventory often has minor scratches or dents but is sold at a discount.

If you don’t mind buying furniture with a potential scratch or two, floor sales are worth keeping an eye on. Alternatively, check the online clearance section regularly to look for deals.

8. Shop Off-Season

Chances are you’ve tried shopping off-season to save money on clothing or back-to-school supplies. But have you ever considered shopping off-season for home decor?

Like other retailers, Pottery Barn rotates their floor displays and inventory to match the upcoming season. So you can buy a set of summer linens and bright throw pillows as you enter the fall to save money in the long run.

9. Visit a Pottery Barn Outlet Store

Pottery Barn has several outlet stores where you can find floor models, returns, overstocked inventory, and slightly damaged or worn inventory it can’t sell in regular stores.

Essentially, outlet stores help Pottery Barn liquidate excess and gently used merchandise, which means you can potentially find discounts.

Currently, the following states have one or more outlet locations:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia

Just remember: Outlet prices aren’t always lower than the regular retailer, and you should also factor travel time into your bargain hunt. When in doubt, call ahead and ask for specific pricing on pieces you’re considering and for a store attendant to check product availability.

You can also sign up for Pottery Barn Outlet emails to receive outlet store-specific newsletters about new product arrivals and deals.

10. Buy Gently Used Pottery Barn Products

If you don’t live near an outlet, you can shop at companies that resell used and like-new Pottery Barn products at lower prices.

Several websites where you can find used Pottery Barn products include:

You can also shop on auction sites like eBay if you don’t mind bidding and potentially negotiating with sellers.

Selection can be limited when looking at resellers, but the effort is worth it if you find your next living room set or coffee table for half the price.

11. Use the Pottery Barn or Other Cash-Back Credit Card

The Pottery Barn credit card is perfect if you’re a serious Pottery Barn shopper. There are zero fees and plenty of perks. For example:

  • Earn 10% back for shopping at Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, and Pottery Barn Teens when you spend $250 or more on a single purchase.
  • Receive early access to sales, limited-edition collaborations, and information on new arrivals.
  • Shop for $0 down with 12 months of financing on purchases of $750 or more.

The 10% back in reward points is the primary selling point for this card. For example, if you spend $3,000 redesigning your living room, that’s $300 in rewards — not bad for a no-fee credit card.

However, you must spend $250 in one transaction to get the reward, which severely limits the usefulness of this card if you don’t spend much money on your Pottery Barn trips.

If that’s the case, shop with some type of cash-back credit card to maximize savings.

Cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review) and American Express Blue Cash Preferred® card (read our American Express Blue Cash Preferred review)  are excellent options that have welcome bonuses and cash-back rewards for everyday spending, making them a better choice if you don’t frequently shop at Pottery Barn.

12. Take Advantage of the Military Discount

If you’re an active military member or veteran, you and your family can take advantage of Pottery Barn’s 15%-off military discount. This discount also applies to Pottery Barn Kids and Teens as well as Williams Sonoma.

Plus, military members also get 10% off on electronics at Williams Sonoma.

13. Create an Online Registry

If you have an upcoming wedding or want to save money on newborn expenses, Pottery Barn has registries you can use to save money.

The Pottery Barn wedding registry helps your wedding guests shop for gifts you’re actually going to use. Plus, you can add products from any retailer in the Williams Sonoma family of brands to a single registry.

You can also ask a registry expert to help you craft a registry list that suits your style.

After the wedding date, you get a 10% completion discount for up to six months, meaning you have six months to buy out the remaining merchandise on your registry at a discount.

The baby registry from Pottery Barn Kids works the same way, except you get a 20% completion bonus.

14. Save on your New Move

Paying for moving supplies to pack and ship all your stuff adds up fast.

Thankfully, Pottery Barn has several incentives to help keep moving costs down. For starters, you get $15 off when you spend $75 or more on Sherwin-Williams paint.

Since 2 gallons of Sherwin-Williams paint typically costs between $75 and $150, depending on the paint type, that’s generally enough to paint an average-size room if you’re applying two coats.

Note that Sherwin-Williams is on the pricier side, so unless you’re in love with one of its colors or need high-quality paint to cover up darker colors, brands like Behr and Valspar are typically more budget-friendly.

You can also sign up for the New Mover Program to receive a welcome catalog and design advice for your new home. Pottery Barn also offers free design services to new movers.

However, the best part of the moving program is the installation service. The retailer can mount your TV, hang curtains, paint your new home, and assist with other installation and assembly for a small fee.

First, verify the Pottery Barn in your area offers this service. Then get a quote and compare the price to hiring another professional or doing the work yourself.

15. Use the Pottery Barn Employee Discount

Pottery Barn employees get up to 40% off regularly priced merchandise and an additional 20% off on clearance. So if you’re looking for a side gig and have a redesign project coming up, applying to Pottery Barn could be worth it.

Plus, you can use the extra money to help pay for your upcoming project and take the sting out of paying for it with your regular paycheck.

The Williams Sonoma family of brands hires throughout the year, especially during the holidays, so keep an eye out for job postings if you’re considering this saving trick.

16. DIY Pottery Barn Knockoffs

Crafty shoppers might be better off getting creative than paying higher prices for official Pottery Barn items.

If you’re open to a DIY project, start by searching for Pottery Barn knockoffs on Pinterest. A single search yields hundreds of knockoff ideas, tutorials, and decor ideas you can use to transform your home while staying on budget.

Some design bloggers also focus on knockoff DIYs. Knock Off Decor has a category that’s full of Pottery Barn DIY projects that can save you money.

Often, these projects involve purchasing more affordable materials from places like the dollar store or a local hardware store. Some projects simply involve upcycling existing pieces of furniture to match Pottery Barn’s aesthetic.

Just remember to consider your time and level of experience before taking on a DIY project. If you can score massive savings and enjoy working with your hands, the knock-off route is one of the best ways to decorate your home on a budget.

But if you’re busy or just all thumbs, it’s probably a waste of time.


Final Word

Saving money and scoring discounts probably aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think of Pottery Barn. But it’s possible.

However, you should still shop around, especially if you have a massive home renovation project coming up. Retailers like Wayfair, Overstock, Crate & Barrel, and even general retailers like Target often carry cheaper alternatives to Pottery Barn products.

You might have to get creative and mix and match products from different retailers to achieve that Pottery Barn aesthetic. But if shopping at Pottery Barn alternatives saves you money and matches your design vision, it’s worth the effort.

If you’re committed to Pottery Barn, give yourself as much time as you can when planning your home makeover. If you can wait a few months for a clearance event or for specific pieces to go on sale, you can furnish your home with high-quality furniture and home decor without spending a fortune.

Source: moneycrashers.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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How do annuities work?

A mother and her daughter play together.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Many people know about 401(k)s and IRAs, but there are many other options for retirement planning and wealth-building. Find out more about annuities and whether this option might be right for you.

What is an annuity?

Annuities are a type of insurance product, but instead of insuring yourself or your property against potential future losses, annuities let you insure income. Specifically, they help ensure that you will receive an agreed-upon amount of money periodically at some point in the future, which makes them a popular vehicle for retirement planning.

Annuities are a type of income insurance product that helps ensure that you will receive an agreed-upon amount of money periodically in the future, which makes them a popular vehicle for retirement planning.

How annuities work

The basic concept behind annuities is that you purchase a product now. You pay for it either in a lump sum or via agreed-upon payments—sometimes in the form of insurance premiums over a period of years.

In exchange, at some point in the future, you begin to receive payments on your annuity. Those payments typically come periodically, such as monthly, quarterly or annually. Depending on the annuity product you purchase, you can receive those payments for a certain period of time or for the rest of your life once the annuity payout begins.

You can generally expect to get back more in annuity payments than you pay into the product. That’s why they’re considered an investment. The reason for this is that your annuity purchase price or premium payments are put into a pot with all the other payments being made by annuity customers for that product or provider. Those funds are invested, and the earnings over time result in a profit for you and the insurance provider.

The main types of annuities

How much you can earn, when and how it pays out and the risk associated with your investment all depend on what type of annuity you buy. The types of annuities are summarized below to help you determine if any might be a good choice for you.

Deferred annuities versus immediate annuities

The first major decision to make when purchasing an annuity is whether you want a deferred or immediate annuity. Deferred annuities begin paying out at some agreed-upon point in the future, making them potential vehicles for retirement planning. Immediate annuities start paying out immediately, which might make them a better option if you’re close to retirement or want to ensure a certain level of income in the near future.

Three categories of annuities

Once you decide when you want your payouts to begin, you’ll need to pick a more specific type of annuity to invest in. Both immediate and deferred annuities have three major categories which are outlined below.

3 types of annuities

1. Fixed annuities

Fixed annuities are those that pay out an agreed-upon, guaranteed amount each time you receive income. This can be a good option if you want a stable income you can count on. The downside of fixed annuities is that the lower risk comes with lower potential reward from a returns perspective.

2. Fixed indexed annuities

Fixed indexed annuities guarantee at least a minimum amount paid out, so they can help provide stability for your budget. But part of your returns is tied to the performance of a market index. Market indexes include options such as the Dow Jones or S&P 500. If you have a fixed indexed annuity, then you might earn more payout than the minimum if the market performs well in a given period.

3. Variable annuities

Variable annuities are tied to a group of mutual funds. The amount of your annuity payouts depends on the performance of those funds. That can mean greater long-term reward, but it also comes with more risk than either of the other two categories of annuities.

Can you withdraw your money early?

You may be able to withdraw money from an annuity early if you find that you need your investment back or can’t wait until payouts are scheduled to begin. But this can be a costly move.

First, if you take money out of a retirement account, including some annuities, before reaching retirement age, the IRS may levy a 10% penalty. You’ll also have to pay any applicable taxes on the income.

For the purposes of annuities, penalties and taxes are only paid on the amount you earned on the investment. You’re not taxed on the amount you paid into the annuity because you were already taxed on that amount when you earned it the first time.

In some cases, the IRS waives the 10% penalty. Such cases include the total disability of the annuity owner or the annuity owner taking early withdrawals to pay for qualified education expenses.

How are annuities taxed?

Taxes on annuities can be complex, so it’s important to consult a tax professional to understand what your tax burden might be. Typically, payments you make toward an annuity are not made with pre-tax dollars. That means the money you pay into an annuity is already taxed, and you won’t pay income tax on it again in the future.

But you might owe taxes on any earnings you make from the investment. That means when you begin to receive payouts, you will have to report the income and calculate how much of it is taxable.

Is an annuity right for you?

Deciding whether any investment is right for you is an individual matter. You must look at your current financial state, your goals for the future and the level of risk you’re comfortable with. Since annuities are based on contracts, they’re typically considered less risky than stock market investments, but no investment is 100% guaranteed. Consider talking to a financial adviser to understand what investment and retirement planning options might be right for you.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

12 Cheapest Small Towns in America

Small-town living has plenty of perks: light traffic, a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. Perhaps best of all, there’s the cost of living, which typically is cheaper in small towns than in expensive big cities.

To get a better sense of what inexpensive small-town living really has to offer, we compiled a list of the 12 cheapest small towns in America, with small towns defined as places with populations of 10,000 to 50,000 people. We based our rankings on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 269 urban areas. C2ER’s expansive study tracks prices for housing, utilities, healthcare, groceries, transportation and miscellaneous goods and services (such as going to a movie theater or hair salon).

It goes without saying that you should weigh the pros and cons before you pack up and relocate to one of the 12 cheapest small towns in America. While a low cost of living is attractive, it can be offset by issues such as scarce jobs, small paychecks or a lack of things to do in the area. Plan an extended visit to ensure the small town fits your lifestyle.

The most recent Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) Cost of Living Index, published February 2021, is based on price data collected during the first three quarters of 2020. City-level data on city populations, household incomes and home values come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 7 for the period ended February 2021.

1 of 12

Benton Harbor, Mich.

photo of lighthouse and pierphoto of lighthouse and pier
  • Cost of living: 12.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 9,843
  • Median household income: $21,916 (U.S.: $65,712)
  • Median home value: $63,300 (U.S.: $240,500)
  • Unemployment rate: 6.0% (U.S.: 6.0%)

Benton Harbor sits by the shores of Lake Michigan about 50 miles west of Kalamazoo, which is one of the cheapest larger cities in the U.S. The small town’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s home to Whirlpool (WHR), the global manufacturer of washers, dryers, refrigerators and a range of other home appliances.

But despite being host to a Fortune 500 company, Benton Harbor is among America’s cheapest small towns, boasting a cost of living that’s more than 12% below the national average.

True, median income is roughly a third of the national level, but the unemployment rate is in line with the country as a whole. Poverty and crime are also high in Benton Harbor – factors that contribute to a median home value that’s an eye-popping 74% lower than the national median. Indeed, housing-related costs, including rents and mortgages, are 32% cheaper in Benton Harbor, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Neighboring St. Joseph, about the same size as Benton Harbor, is a popular beach resort town with significantly higher household incomes and home values.

2 of 12

Hutchinson, Kan.

Strataca salt mine Strataca salt mine
  • Cost of living: 13.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 40,914
  • Median household income: $46,927
  • Median home value: $96,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Hutchinson, known as “Hutch” by the locals, is about an hour’s drive northwest from Wichita. Founded in the early 1870s as a railroad town, Hutch soon became known for its salt deposits, which were first discovered in 1887.

Today, Hutch is synonymous with the Kansas State Fair, which it hosts annually. The town is also home to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Basketball Tournament. Local cultural attractions include the Fox Theatre, which opened in 1931. The grand movie palace is considered to be among the finest examples of theater art deco architecture in the Midwest.

Where Hutch stands out among America’s cheapest small towns is that it boasts the lowest housing costs on this list. Indeed, they run 41.3% below the national average. Apartment rents are 43% lower than national average, while home prices come in at a 40% discount.

However, other major costs of living aren’t too far off from what the average American pays. Although prices for groceries are almost 7% lower than the national average, healthcare and miscellaneous goods & services are essentially the same as the U.S. average.

3 of 12

Meridian, Miss.

photo of a courthousephoto of a courthouse
  • Cost of living: 14.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,848
  • Median household income: $32,422
  • Median home value: $83,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%

Meridian was rebuilt from 1890 to 1930 after being almost totally destroyed in the Civil War. As a result, it has not one but nine registered historic districts. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, dating back to 1909, is one of the more whimsical ones.

Meridian’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music.” Music remains a centerpiece of Meridian’s cultural scene to this day.

Today, the federal government plays an important role in its economic life, as Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field are two of the largest employers.

Happily, the men and women in uniform, and Meridian’s civilian citizens, catch a break on expenses. The cost of living stands 14.1% below the U.S. average; what really pushes Meridian into America’s absolute cheapest small towns are its comparatively modest housing costs. Indeed, housing expenses are a third lower than what the average American pays.

4 of 12

Burlington, Iowa

photo of a bridge in Iowaphoto of a bridge in Iowa
  • Cost of living: 14.3% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,974
  • Median household income: $47,540
  • Median home value: $93,200 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Burlington sits on the Mississippi River, about 165 miles east of Des Moines. Manufacturing has long been a staple of the area economy, but a number of major employers have left over the years. Today, top employers include Great River Health System and American Ordnance, which makes ammunition for the U.S. military.

Utilities in Burlington are close to 12% more expensive than the national average and healthcare costs are essentially the same. Inexpensive housing is what makes Burlington a truly affordable small town. Housing-related costs are 35% cheaper compared to what the average American pays. Rents, on average, are almost 40% lower than the national average.

True, median incomes are 28% lower than the national figure, but then, median home values are cheaper by more than 60%.

5 of 12

Ponca City, Okla.

photo of a courthouse in Ponca City, OKphoto of a courthouse in Ponca City, OK
  • Cost of living: 14.5% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,134
  • Median household income: $44,043
  • Median home value: $96,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

Ponca City traces its lineage back to the days of the Land Run of 1893, when pioneers decided to build a town in north-central Oklahoma near the Arkansas River and a freshwater spring. Not long after its founding, enterprising oil men successfully drilled wells in the area, and Ponca City remains an oil town to this day. The area’s largest employers include energy companies such as Schlumberger (SLB), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66 (PSX).

Household incomes are well below the national median, but housing is a heck of a deal. The median value of a Ponca City home is just $96,600. Nationally, it’s $240,500. Indeed, total housing costs are just two-thirds of what the average American pays, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Residents also catch a break on healthcare, which is 12.4% less expensive.

Although it’s among the cheapest small towns in America, Ponca City’s low costs of living do come at a cost of their own: The town sits pretty much in the middle of Tornado Alley.

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Martinsville, Va.

photo of Martinsville Speedwayphoto of Martinsville Speedway
  • Cost of living: 15.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 12,852
  • Median household income: $34,371
  • Median home value: $87,700 
  • Unemployment rate: 9.8%

Martinsville needs no introduction to race fans. The tiny Virginia town, an hour’s drive south of Roanoke, lays claim to the Martinsville Speedway of NASCAR fame. Racing enthusiasts laud the short track for its tight turns and intimate seating.

Beyond the track, manufacturing has always been central to the area’s economy, and although a number of firms have moved on over the past decades, factory work remains important. Major employers include Eastman Chemical (EMN), a manufacturer of plastics, and Monogram Foods.

Martinsville has a rich history dating back to colonial times, and the town boasts multiple historic districts and historic sites including the John Waddey Carter House and the Dry Bridge School.

But Martinsville also is notable as one of America’s cheapest small towns. Housing expenses are 32% below the national average. Fittingly for a racing town, gasoline is about 6% cheaper per gallon.

7 of 12

Salina, Kan.

photo of downtown Salina, KSphoto of downtown Salina, KS
  • Cost of living: 16.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 46,998
  • Median household income: $50,490
  • Median home value: $129,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3%

The small town of Salina sits at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135, about 90 miles north of Wichita and 180 miles west of Kansas City.

Manufacturing and healthcare are among the town’s most important industries. Major employers include Schwan’s Company, the maker of Tony’s frozen pizza; Great Plains Manufacturing, which serves the agricultural industry; and the Salina Regional Health Center. Salina is also home to several institutions of higher education, including the University of Kansas School of Medicine Salina Campus and Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

This economic mix is producing both low unemployment and low living costs. Housing expenses run two-thirds of the national average, according to C2ER. Groceries are cheaper too, running about 8% lower than the national average.

Utility bills, however, take a bit of a bite. In Salina, they’re almost 2% higher than the U.S. average.

8 of 12

Statesboro, Ga.

courthouse Statesboro, GAcourthouse Statesboro, GA
  • Cost of living: 16.8% below U.S. average
  • City population: 31,495
  • Median household income: $29,203
  • Median home value: $113,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

As home to the flagship campus of Georgia Southern University, Statesboro offers many of the benefits of college-town living but at exceedingly affordable prices. Thanks to its status as an academic hub, cultural attractions tied to the local university include a performing arts center, symphony, museum, planetarium and botanic gardens.

Another perk? The charming city of Savannah is just an hour’s drive to the southeast.

Although the university is the area’s largest employer, manufacturing jobs also play an important part in the local economy. At the same time, it should be noted that Statesboro has a high poverty rate, or 41.8% vs. 13.3% for the state of Georgia as a whole.

Statesboro’s place among America’s cheapest small towns is largely due to housing costs, which are about 32% lower compared with the national average, while healthcare runs roughly 14% below average. For example, a visit to a doctor costs about 24% less in Statesboro. Dental care is about a fifth less expensive, according to the C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

9 of 12

Tupelo, Miss.

photo of house where Elvis Presley was bornphoto of house where Elvis Presley was born
  • Cost of living: 19% below U.S. average
  • City population: 38,271
  • Median household income: $50,694
  • Median home value: $145,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%

Tupelo’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Indeed, the town, 100 miles southeast of Memphis’s Graceland, is looking forward to hosting its 23rd annual Elvis Festival in June. (Last year’s gathering was a virtual-only affair.)

Not a fan of The King? The cultural scene also includes the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Tupelo Automobile Museum. But Tupelo’s second-biggest claim to fame is arguably its super-low living costs. Electric and gas bills are about 12% lower than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Housing is 34% cheaper and groceries go for 16% less.

For residents not making a living as Elvis impersonators, major employers include North Mississippi Health Services, Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB) and BancorpSouth (BXS), which is headquartered in Tupelo.

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Richmond, Ind.

Amish man in horse and buggyAmish man in horse and buggy
  • Cost of living: 19.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 35,539
  • Median household income: $39,724
  • Median home value: $88,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Few cities of any size can claim Richmond’s place in the early history of recorded jazz. Some of the first jazz records were made in this small town, featuring greats such as Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. There’s a Walk of Fame celebrating jazz and other artists who recorded with Richmond’s Gennett Records.

While jazz will always be part of its history, today’s Richmond, which is an hour’s drive west from Dayton, Ohio, is known more for its colleges and seminaries. They include Indiana University East, the Earlham School of Religion (part of Quaker-influenced Earlham College) and the Bethany Theological Seminary.

Inexpensive housing is a key to Richmond’s place among our nation’s cheapest small towns. Residents spend 34% less on housing than the average American does. Apartment rents are about half the national average. Average home prices are 26% less. Healthcare is also a bargain. For example, a visit to the eye doctor costs about 50% less than the national average. An appointment with a physician is cheaper by a third.

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Muskogee, Okla.

museum in Muskogee, OKmuseum in Muskogee, OK
  • Cost of living: 19.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,624
  • Median household income: $38,194
  • Median home value: $92,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Muskogee packs a lot of history, culture and colleges into a small package.

Located about 50 miles south of Tulsa, the town traces its roots back to 1817. It’s home to four institutions of higher learning, as well as the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Jim Thorpe – All-American, the 1951 film starring Burt Lancaster, was shot on the campus of what was then known as the Bacone Indian University in Muskogee. The town also boasts six museums and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

And let’s not forget what is arguably the town’s most famous appearance in popular culture – Merle Haggard’s hit song “Okie from Muskogee,” which became an emblem of Vietnam-era America. 

Today, the area’s employers include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a VA medical center and paper company Georgia-Pacific.

But what really puts Muskogee on the map is its ultra-low cost of living. The biggest break comes from housing-related expenses, which are more than 35% lower than the national average, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Transportation, groceries and healthcare are notably cheaper, too.

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Pittsburg, Kan.

Russ Hall at Pittsburg State UniversityRuss Hall at Pittsburg State University
  • Cost of living: 19.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 20,171
  • Median household income: $34,956
  • Median home value: $88,500 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%

The cheapest small town in America is Pittsburg, Kan., based on the 269 urban areas analyzed by C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Pittsburg is about a two-hour drive due south from Kansas City on Route 69. When you get there, you’ll find a small town with a cost of living more than 19% below the national average.

Once upon a time, the town was known for its abundance of coal and the Southern and Eastern European immigrants who worked the mines. Today, the area relies more heavily on higher education, thanks to the presence of Pittsburg State University. Famous alumni of Pittsburg’s local university include actor Gary Busey and Brian Moorman, retired two-time Pro Bowl punter for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Although median incomes are almost $31,000 below the national average, median home prices are a whopping $152,000 cheaper. That helps make housing costs 37.2% less expensive than what the average American pays. A myriad of other items are cheap, as well. For example, a haircut will set you back an average of $14.82 vs. $18.88 nationally. Shampoo costs 89 cents, whereas the average American pays $1.05.

Source: kiplinger.com

Creating a Debt Reduction Plan

When you’re worried about money and feel your options are limited, debt can feel like a pair of handcuffs. And if it feels like you can’t do what you want to do—which is to pay it all off and get yourself free—there’s the temptation to do nothing. But there are some things that can be helpful when crafting a debt reduction plan that will work for your situation.

Prioritizing Expenses

Before you start prioritizing expenses, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what income is available and how much is being spent. This can be done with pen and paper, or by leveraging an all-in-one app, such as SoFi Relay.

Keeping a roof over their head is a number one priority for most people. Mortgage lenders are not very patient when it comes to getting their money, and failing to make a house payment can leave a big black mark on a person’s credit record. For renters, paying the property owner on time each month may have a positive impact on their credit report.

Making sure a car loan and car insurance are current, especially if that’s the only way to get to work, might be next in order of importance. After that come big debts, such as student loans, but those may be eligible for student loan forgiveness depending on the type of loan and if the qualifications for forgiveness are met. Refinancing student loans into one manageable payment might be worth considering if that would save money with a lower interest rate or a shorter loan term. (For federal student loan borrowers, though, refinancing may not be the best option right now since the CARES Act has offered some relief through September 30, 2021.)

Making a plan to tackle credit card debt is also important. Each month, making the monthly minimum payment is important, otherwise, a person’s credit report can quickly reflect any lack of payment . And to manage the outstanding balances on those credit cards, it may be time to work out a new payment plan to get out from under credit card debt.

Once all that information is accounted for, moving forward with a personal debt reduction plan will make it easier to deal with all those long-term bills and relieve debt-related worry.

There are four popular approaches to knocking down debt. The debt avalanche method is probably best suited to those who are analytical, disciplined, and want to pay off their debt in the most efficient manner based solely on the math.

The debt snowball method takes human behavior into consideration and focuses on maintaining motivation as a person pays off their debt.

The debt fireball method is a hybrid approach that combines aspects of the snowball and avalanche methods.

And a personal loan may be an option for those who have a solid financial history or whose credit score has improved since they first signed up for their high-interest loans and credit cards.

Here’s how each strategy typically works.

Debt Avalanche

This method puts the focus on interest rates rather than the balance that’s owed on each bill.

1. The first step is collecting all debt statements (e.g., credit card, auto loan, student loan) and determining the interest rate being charged on each debt.
2. Making a list of all those bills is next, looking past the total amount owed on each debt. This method puts the debt with the highest interest rate in the spotlight, so that one will be at the top of the list, with the other debts listed in order of interest rate, second highest to lowest.
3. Some things to keep in mind might be any fees, prepayment penalties, or tax strategies that could make one debt more or less expensive than the others. When using a balance transfer credit card to save money on any particular debt, reprioritizing the list once the introductory rate runs out and a higher rate kicks in plays a part in how this method works.
4. Continuing to pay the minimum on each bill—on time, every month—is important. But paying extra (as much as possible) toward the bill at the top of the list will help that debt be paid off as quickly as possible.
5. When the first debt is paid off, moving on to the next debt on the list and starting to pay extra there will start the process over again. Money will be saved as each of those high-interest loans and credit cards are eliminated, which can allow all the bills to be paid off sooner.

Debt Snowball

This approach can be effective in getting a handle on debt by slowly reducing the number of bills there are to deal with each month.

1. This method also starts with collecting debt statements and making a list of those debts, but instead of listing them in order of interest rate, organizing them from the smallest debt to the largest (total amount owed, not monthly payment amount).
2. Continuing to pay the minimum—on time, every month—but paying as much extra as possible toward the smallest debt on the list is key to this method. (If possible, completely paying off the balance on that very first bill might provide some sweet momentum to get started.)
3. As with the debt avalanche method above, paying attention to fees, penalties, and tax strategies may determine which debt gets paid first.
4. Moving on to the next debt on the list, and so on, will keep this method in motion. Keeping track of paid-off debts with a visual tracker might help with motivation.
5. No longer using credit cards that have been paid off is a good way to stay out of debt for the long term. And having a goal to set up an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses—a medical bill or car repair, for example—to stay on track is a good way to stay ahead of the game.

Debt Fireball

This strategy is a hybrid approach of the snowball and avalanche methods. It separates debt into two categories and can be helpful when blazing through costly “bad debt” quickly.

1. Categorizing all debt as either “good” or “bad.” “Good” debt is generally in the form of things that have potential to increase net worth, such as student loans, business loans, or mortgages, for example. “Bad” debt, on the other hand, is normally considered to be debt incurred for a depreciating asset, like car loans and credit card debt. As this list is being developed, identifying all debt with an interest rate of 7% or higher is likely the “bad” debt that may be beneficial to focus on first.
2. Listing bad debts from smallest to largest based on their outstanding balances will provide the working order.
3. Making the minimum monthly payment on all outstanding debts—on time, every month—then funneling any excess funds to the smallest of the bad debts is the focus of this method.
4. When that balance is paid in full, going on to the next smallest on the bad-debt list will keep the fireball momentum until all the bad debt is repaid.
5. When that’s done, paying off good debt on the normal schedule can be a smart way to invest in the future. Applying everything that was being paid toward the bad debt to a financial goal, such as saving for a house—or paying off a mortgage, starting a business, or saving for retirement, for example, is a good way to look forward to a financially secure future.

Personal Loan

Consolidating debts at a lower interest rate or with a shorter term offers another option to pay those debts off in less time than expected.

1. Gathering debt statements and totaling up the debts to be paid off is the first step.
2. To have an idea of interest rates that might be available (most lenders will offer a range), making sure the information on credit reports is accurate is the next important step. Any errors found on a credit report can be reported to the credit reporting agency.
3. Looking at a variety of lenders to find the best interest rates and terms available will help when setting a goal to find a manageable payment while paying off the debt load as quickly as possible.
4. Considering member benefits or other perks that lenders may offer, such as a hardship deferral or a discount on a future loan might make a difference when choosing a lender. Then, applying for the loan that best suits the borrower’s needs is the next step in the process.
5. Paying off old debts with the personal loan and staying current with the new loan payments will help keep things manageable. Sticking to a budget that prevents the same spending mistakes from being made again is important to keeping debt at bay.

Personal loans used for debt consolidation can help pull everything together for those who find it easier to keep up with just one monthly payment. A bonus is that because the interest rates for personal loans are typically lower than credit card interest rates, the amount paid on the total debt may be less than what would have been paid just by plugging away at those individual debts. For those who qualify for a rate that’s less than their credit card rates, a personal loan can make sense.

The Takeaway

With an unsecured personal loan from SoFi, debts can be consolidated and paid off in a way that works for your income, budget, and timeline.

Whatever payoff method you choose, the point is to do something. Having a debt reduction plan in place is key to getting rid of those financial handcuffs and being able to look forward to a successful financial future. Planning ahead, saving for specific goals, and sticking with a budget will go a long way to minimizing dependence on credit cards or high-interest loans in the future.

Ready to tackle your debt head-on? A personal loan from SoFi can help you consolidate your debt into one easy-to-manage monthly payment.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

SOPL18129

Source: sofi.com

How Expensive is Too Expensive for a Trash Can?

Everyone has one chore that they simply can’t stand to do. For my roommate, it’s loading the dishwasher. She would clean the toilet, mop the floors and massage my feet 10 times over before ever willingly loading all of our dirty dishes. For me, it’s taking out the garbage.

The bag tears when I take it out of the trashcan every single time, it always smells and there never fails to be some unknown juice leaking out, which drips all the way down our building’s hallway.

For years I simply accepted that taking out the garbage was terrible. It wasn’t until recently that I realized having a better trash can could actually alleviate some of the problems. Upon further investigation into better trash cans, I found something shocking: Some people are paying upward of $100 for their receptacles. As someone who’s only ever bought $15 bins at Target, I was immediately intrigued. Is that really worth it? And how much is just too expensive for a trash can?

Though the question is absolutely subjective – some people are content with cheap plastic trash cans, and that’s absolutely OK – I found that there are several reasons people will splurge on the more expensive ones. Here are some of the qualities that might make buying an expensive trash can worth it:

Easy Handless Opening

The most common quality of the very expensive trash cans seems to be a handless opening mechanism. While some cheaper garbage bins have foot pedals, they often don’t work well, especially after years of use.

The pricier options include those with motion-activated lids, and ones with more high-tech foot pedals that offer soft opens and closes, which won’t bang up your walls or hands. The motion-activated ones often require batteries to continue working well, which could be an extra expense down the road.

Deodorizing

This isn’t as common a feature, but many people will pay extra money for this. Some models have a carbon deodorizer, which keeps the receptacle smelling nice no matter what garbage is in it. If this sounds like something you’d need, you’re probably already getting your wallet out to buy one.

Style

For those in small apartments, there often isn’t room for trash cans in the kitchen cabinets or hall closets, which means the garbage will be sitting out in the open. For this reason, people spend a little more on the ones that look much nicer. The most popular trash cans tend to be silver and black with sleek lines.

Quality Material

Going along with style, many people splurge for trash cans made of quality material – most often stainless steel. Some of the most expensive trash cans from simplehuman and iTouchless are made from stainless steel that’s fingerprint-proof so that the can always looks pretty. Plus, stainless steel is sturdier and much more durable in the long run than plastic, and it won’t absorb odors.

Easy Trash Bag Removal

This is a big selling point for those who find the bag tears every time it’s removed from the trashcan. Many expensive designs keep the trash bag intact with various methods.

One $140 simplehuman trashcan has an inner liner with an area to pull through any excess bag to keep it from getting snagged in the lid’s hinges. Plus the liner itself can be removed and carried to the garbage room, so you don’t have to lug around an awkward bag.

After my research, I made my own personal conclusion: I don’t think I would ever pay more than $50 for a garbage can, but a little bit of a splurge, say one that’s between $30 and $40, might be worth it to make my most detested chore a little bit easier.

Comments

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Cord-Cutters Guide: The Best Alternatives to Cable TV

Maybe you first heard the term whispered in hushed corridors at work or in a back-alley near your house, but now there’s no escaping the fact that “cord cutting” has gone mainstream. And it’s no wonder why. The monthly cost of cable TV in this country now averages more than ever before: a whopping $123 per household. But thanks to à la carte streaming services and the disruptive technology that’s taken over the living room in recent years, it’s easier than ever to save serious cash. Cancel your cable subscription, and join the growing ranks of cord-cutters streaming their shows.

Four out of five Americans still pay cable companies for hundreds of channels they’ll never watch. You don’t need to be one of them. Here’s what you need to know about seeing the shows you love without paying an arm and leg.

Cord cutting 101

Although millennials are leading the charge in the cord-cutting movement, anyone with a decent Wi-Fi connection can take advantage of the many available cable TV alternatives. And the soaring number of streaming services on the market means you can watch just about any TV show and sporting event in existence without going through a cable company.

If you watch a lot of shows on your local stations—think ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX—you can tune into them for free. These channels are publicly broadcast and the signals are easy to pick up in most metropolitan areas. All you need is a good HD antenna, which you can score for under $40 on Amazon. Depending on the terrain in your area and your proximity to TV towers, one type of antenna might be better for you than another. But once you’re set up, you’ll be able to enjoy the latest episode of Modern Family with the same crisp picture you were getting through your cable company, minus the monthly bill.

"À la carte streaming services and the disruptive technology taking over the living room make it easier than ever to save serious cash." MintLife Blog

Living the stream

Unless you’ve been held captive in an Indiana bunker for the past 15 years, you likely already know about the three biggest names in streaming: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Each of these services lets you watch hundreds of movies and television shows plus tons of original content you won’t find anywhere else. Both Hulu and Amazon offer a large selection of TV shows—with new episodes available a day after they air on cable—while Netflix has a vast library of movies and binge-worthy original series awaiting your eager eyeballs.

Aside from those streaming behemoths, an increasing number of cable channels have launched their own independent services. HBO Now is at the high-end of this category, but many stations offer the ability to stream their shows for free, albeit with a few commercial breaks. And then there’s Dish Network’s newly launched Sling TV service, which streams a variety of live cable channels, including ESPN, for $20 per month.

Plus, there are more niche streaming services, such as MUBI, which focuses on independent and foreign films, and the forthcoming FilmStruck platform, which will soon showcase an extensive library of cult-classics and art-house flicks.

With the exception of Sling TV and HBO Now, the latter of which is available for $15 per month, prices for these services start at under $10 apiece. It’s easy to mix-and-match providers as none of these companies require contracts. You can even share login info with a friend down the block or sibling on the other side of the country, without worrying about anyone getting on your case.

Think outside the (cable) box

A ton of devices are available to help you cut the cable, with more tools debuting all the time. As of now, there are basically two routes you can choose: streaming sticks or streaming boxes.

Streaming sticks, which include the Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Roku Streaming Stick, aren’t much bigger than a pack of gum, and they plug right into your TV’s HDMI port. You can then use your smartphone, laptop or—in Roku’s case—a remote control to launch hundreds of steaming apps. These devices are available for well under $50 apiece, and, on their own, don’t require a monthly fee.

Streaming boxes, on the other hand, such as Apple TV, Android TV and the Roku Player, as well as newer Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles, offer all of the advantages of the streaming sticks, plus the ability to install more apps. These boxes vary in price, but again, aren’t tied to any monthly fees. For serious TV watchers interested in cutting the cord, these boxes are the way to go.

Breaking the news

When you’re ready to cut the cable, invest the money you save on boosting your internet speed. To get the highest quality picture with the least amount of buffering, you need a connection that’s at least 10 Mbps.

Another way to shave a few bucks off your monthly bill is to shell out some money for a modem of your own. Many cable companies charge a monthly fee for renting a modem, but in the long run, it’s far more economical to buy one outright.

Are your utility bills bogging you down? Embrace the cord-cutter lifestyle and never pay for cable again. Not sure where you stand financially? Sign up for a free Mint.com account and get an instant overview of your money. See you on the couch!

List of cable TV alternatives

Streaming service

Monthly fee

Known for

Netflix

$7.99

TV shows, movies, and Netflix exclusives
Hulu

$7.99

New TV episodes a day after they air on cable
Amazon Instant Video

$8.99

Hundreds of old and new movies and shows
HBO Now

$14.99

First-run films, Game of Thrones
Showtime

$10.99

Original series (Homeland, Masters of Sex)
STARZ

$8.99

Modern movie library and exclusive originals
CBS All Access

$5.99

7,500 episodes of classic and new CBS shows
MUBI

$5.99

Cult-classics, foreign and independent films
Sling.TV

$20

Dozens of live cable channels, including ESPN
Crackle

FREE

Funny, feel-good shows and movies
FilmStruck

TBD

Turner Classic Movies and Criterion Collection

Streaming sticks and boxes

Device

Price

Known for

Chromecast

$30

Stream video from your laptop or smartphone
Roku Streaming Stick

$50

Portable tool with tons of popular apps
Roku Player

$50-$100

Enhanced picture quality, solid remote control
Amazon Fire Stick

$40

Best for users in the Amazon ecosystem
Apple TV

$149

Easiest way to play iTunes purchases on your TV
Android TV

$100

Access Android apps, Chromecast built-in
XBOX One or PlayStation 4

$200-$400

Play games, some streaming services built-in
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Source: mint.intuit.com