The Social Security COLA the Year You Were Born

Social Security checks, Social Security card, cash
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Each year, Social Security benefits increase by an amount based on the rate of inflation over the previous year. That’s known as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, and 2022 saw the biggest one in decades.

The COLA for 2023 is likely to be even bigger — but how does it compare with past increases? We took a look at Social Security data to find out.

Following are the cost-of-living adjustments for every year dating back to 1975, when automatic annual benefit increases began, as well as details for the years prior. Note that each COLA is listed under the year in which Social Security beneficiaries started receiving it.

2022

Retiree holding cash
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2021 (which beneficiaries received in January 2022)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) — which is a measure of inflation — over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2021

2021

President Joe Biden
archna nautiyal / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2020 (which beneficiaries received in January 2021)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2020

2020

man quarantined at home
Anna Lurye / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2019 (which beneficiaries received in January 2020)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2019

2019

Social Security and money
J.J. Gouin / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2018 (which beneficiaries received in January 2019)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2018

2018

Ventura, California home after fire in 2018
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2017 (which beneficiaries received in January 2018)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2017

2017

President Donald Trump
Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2016 (which beneficiaries received in January 2017)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2016

2016

Man with empty wallet
AJR_photo / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2015 (which beneficiaries received in January 2016)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2015

2015

Supreme Court after gay marriage was legalized in 2015
Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2014 (which beneficiaries received in January 2015)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2014

2014

Senior checking her mailbox
Victorpr / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2013 (which beneficiaries received in January 2014)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2013

2013

Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2012 (which beneficiaries received in January 2013)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2012

2012

Home destroyed by hurricane
Mishella / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2011 (which beneficiaries received in January 2012)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2011

2011

Uncle Sam cutting Social Security benefits
Jim Barber / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2010 (which beneficiaries received in January 2011)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2010

2010

Worried seniors reviewing bills
WHYFRAME / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2009 (which beneficiaries received in January 2010)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2009

2009

Barack Obama
Ron Foster Shari / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2008 (which beneficiaries received in January 2009)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2008

2008

Newspaper headline about the 2008 financial crisis
Norman Chan / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2007 (which beneficiaries received in January 2008)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2007

[relared]

2007

First generation iPhone in 2007
marleyPug / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2006 (which beneficiaries received in January 2007)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2006

2006

Social Security payment
Alexey Rotanov / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2005 (which beneficiaries received in January 2006)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2005

2005

George W. Bush
Joseph August / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2004 (which beneficiaries received in January 2005)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2004

2004

Facebook on a laptop introduced in 2004
Thaspol Sangsee / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2003 (which beneficiaries received in January 2004)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2003

2003

Sad senior man
Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2002 (which beneficiaries received in January 2003)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2002

2002

2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah
Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2001 (which beneficiaries received in January 2002)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2001

2001

The Twin Towers in New York City, 2001
Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2000 (which beneficiaries received in January 2001)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2000

2000

George W. Bush
Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1999 (which beneficiaries received in January 2000)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1999

1999

Sad senior looking out a window
didesign021 / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1998 (which beneficiaries received in January 1999)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1998

1998

Woman getting mail
Spectruminfo / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1997 (which beneficiaries received in January 1998)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1997

1997

Bill Clinton
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1996 (which beneficiaries received in January 1997)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1996

1996

Social Security
Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1995 (which beneficiaries received in January 1996)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1995

1995

Michael Jordan
Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1994 (which beneficiaries received in January 1995)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1994

1994

Central Perk cafe, a set for the series Friends in 1994
Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1993 (which beneficiaries received in January 1994)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1993

1993

Bill Clinton
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1992 (which beneficiaries received in January 1993)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1992

1992

1992 Los Angeles riots
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1991 (which beneficiaries received in January 1992)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1991

1991

senior men having fun
Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1990 (which beneficiaries received in January 1991)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1990

1990

Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990
Olivier LAURENT Photos / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1989 (which beneficiaries received in January 1990)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1989

1989

George H.W. Bush
mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1988 (which beneficiaries received in January 1989)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1988

1988

Compact discs or CDs which passed vinyl in popularity in 1988
kazzpix / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.2%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1987 (which beneficiaries received in January 1988)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1987

1987

Worried man in retirement
Erickson Stock / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1986 (which beneficiaries received in January 1987)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1986

1986

Social Security Administration branch in Indianapolis
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1985 (which beneficiaries received in January 1986)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1985

1985

President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan
mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1984 (which beneficiaries received in January 1985)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1984

1984

senior couple working on budget
Lena Evans / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1983 (which beneficiaries received in January 1984)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1983

1983

Social Security cards
zimmytws / Shutterstock.com

Beneficiaries saw no bump in their benefits in 1983. The COLA that was scheduled to go into effect in July 1983 was delayed by Social Security amendments, which pushed its effective date back to December 1983 and meant beneficiaries started receiving it in January 1984. The amendments also made all subsequent COLAs payable in January instead of July.

The CPI-W on which COLAs were based also changed in 1983. From 1975 through 1982, COLAs had been based on increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending in the first quarter of the year they became effective instead of the third quarter.

1982

360b / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 7.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1982 (which beneficiaries received in July 1982)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1982

1981

Ronald Reagan
mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 11.2%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1981 (which beneficiaries received in July 1981)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1981

1980

Lake Placid, New York
nyker / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 14.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1980 (which beneficiaries received in July 1980)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1980

1979

Sony cassette Walkman
Ned Snowman / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 9.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1979 (which beneficiaries received in July 1979)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1979

1978

Social Security Administration brick sign
James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 6.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1978 (which beneficiaries received in July 1978)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1978

1977

Atari video game system, invented in 1972
Pit Stock / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1977 (which beneficiaries received in July 1977)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1977

1976

Jimmy Carter
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 6.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1976 (which beneficiaries received in July 1976)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1976

1975

Social Security payments
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1975 (which beneficiaries received in July 1975)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1975

1974 and earlier

U.S. Capitol
Orhan Cam / Shutterstock.com

Prior to 1975, cost-of-living adjustments were not automatic or annual — they happened only by legislation. According to the Congressional Research Service, they included:

  • July 1974: 11% increase
  • April 1974: 7%
  • October 1972: 20%
  • February 1971: 10%
  • February 1970: 15%
  • March 1968: 13%
  • February 1965: 7%
  • February 1959: 7%
  • October 1954: 13%
  • October 1952: 12%
  • October 1950: 77%

The Social Security Act became law in August 1935. Social Security numbers were first assigned after November 1936, and the taxes that fund Social Security to this day were first collected in January 1937.

The first monthly benefit was distributed in January 1940 — it was for $22.54. That’s about $456 in today’s dollars.

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Chapter 07: Using the 50-30-20 Rule to Budget

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

So far in this series, we’ve answered important questions about budgeting, such as “What is a budget?” and “Why is budgeting beneficial?” This series has been focusing on how using a budget can help you keep your spending in check and ensure your savings goals are on track.

One way to do that is using Mint’s free 50/30/20 calculator to budget.

The 50/30/20 rule (also referred to as the 50/20/30 rule) is one method of budgeting that can help you keep your spending in alignment with your savings goals. Budgets should be about more than just paying your bills on time—the right budget can help you determine how much you should be spending, and on what.

The 50/30/20 rule can serve as a great tool to help you diversify your financial profile, reach dynamic savings goals, and foster overall financial health.

In this post, we’re taking you through the steps of budgeting using the 50/30/20 approach so that you can learn how to set up a budget that’s sustainable, effective, and simple. Use the links below to navigate or read all the way through to absorb all of our tips on how to budget using the 50/30/20 method:

In the previous chapters, we discussed what to include in a budget and the various ways you can create your own budget, like with a budget template. If you haven’t read through them already, we highly recommend going through them to get a comprehensive overview of budgeting.

What is the 50/30/20 Budgeting Rule?

The 50/30/20 budgeting rule–also referred to as the 50/20/30 budgeting rule–divides after-tax income into three different buckets:

  • Essentials (50%)
  • Wants (30%)
  • Savings (20%)

Essentials: 50% of your income

To begin abiding by this rule, set aside no more than half of your income for the absolute necessities in your life. This might seem like a high percentage (and, at 50%, it is), but once you consider everything that falls into this category it begins to make a bit more sense.

This will include your living expenses each month, which are essential expenses that you would almost certainly have to pay, regardless of where you lived, where you worked, or what your future plans happen to include. In general, these expenses are nearly the same for everyone and include:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Transportation costs
  • Utility bills

The percentage lets you adjust, while still maintaining a sound, balanced budget. And remember, it’s more about the total sum than individual costs. For instance, some people live in high-rent areas, yet can walk to work, while others enjoy much lower housing costs, but transportation is far more expensive.

How much your essential expenses cost will differ for each person depending on where they live and what their lifestyle is. If you’re thinking of relocating to a different part of the country, it’s a good idea to calculate your cost of living beforehand so you can know if you can realistically afford to live in that area based on your current total income.

Wants: 30% of your income

The second category, and the one that can make the most difference in your budget, is unnecessary expenses that enhance your lifestyle. Some financial experts consider this category completely discretionary, but in modern society, many of these so-called luxuries have taken on more of a mandatory status. It all depends on what you want out of life and what you’re willing to sacrifice.

These personal lifestyle expenses include items such as:

  • Your cell phone plan
  • Cable bill
  • Trips to the coffee shop
  • Savings for travel
  • Gym memberships
  • Weekend trips
  • Dining out

If you travel extensively or work on-the-go, your cell phone plan is probably more of a necessity than a luxury. However, you have some wiggle room since you can decide upon the tier of the service you’re paying for.

Only you can decide which of your expenses can be designated as “personal,” and which ones are truly obligatory. Similar to how no more than 50 percent of your income should go toward essential expenses, 30 percent is the maximum amount you should spend on personal choices. The fewer costs you have in this category, the more progress you’ll make paying down debt and securing your future.

Savings: 20% of your income

The next step is to dedicate 20% of your take-home pay toward savings. This is essentially how much you should set aside from your paycheck each month for savings. This can include different types of savings like:

  • Savings plans
  • Retirement accounts
  • Debt payments
  • Rainy-day funds

These are all things you should add to, but which wouldn’t endanger your life or leave you homeless if you didn’t. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but hopefully you get the gist. This category of expenses should only be paid after your essentials are already taken care of and before you even think about anything in the last category of personal spending.

Think of this as your “get ahead” category where you can challenge yourself to save. Whereas 50%(or less) of your income is the goal for essentials, 20%—or more—should be your goal as far as obligations are concerned. You’ll pay off debt quicker and make more significant strides toward a frustration-free future by devoting as much of your income as you can to this category.

The term “retirement” might not carry a sense of urgency when you’re only 24 years old, but it certainly will become more pressing in decades to come. Just keep in mind the advantage of starting early is you will earn compounding interest the longer you let this fund grow.

You don’t want to cash out your 401k to be able to pay off debt. The more you put towards savings now, the quicker you can pay off your debt and achieve financial stability.

Use our compound interest calculator to see how your money can grow over time.

Establishing good habits will last a lifetime. You don’t need a higher paying job to follow the tenets of the 50/30/20 rule; anyone can do it. Since this is a percentage-based system, the same proportions apply whether you’re earning an entry-level salary and living in a studio apartment, or if you’re years into your career and about to buy your first home.

A note of caution, though: Try not to take this rule too literally. The proportions are sound, but your life is unlike anyone else’s. What this plan does is provide a framework for you to work within. Once you review your income and expenses and determine what’s essential and what’s not, only then you can create a budget that helps you make the most of your money. Years from now, you can still fall back on the same guidelines to help your budget evolve as your life does.

Give our 50/30/20 budgeting calculator a try to see how this budgeting method works:

50/30/20 Budget Calculator

Here’s how much you have for:

Essentials$0.00

Wants$0.00

Savings$0.00

Ask Yourself: Why is a 50/30/20 Budget Necessary?

According to Consumer.gov, there are plenty of different reasons why people start a budget:

  • To save up for a large expense such as a house, car, or vacation
  • Put a security deposit on an apartment
  • To reduce spending habits
  • To improve their credit score
  • To eliminate debt
  • To break the paycheck to paycheck cycle

Identifying the reason why you’re budgeting with the 50/30/20 method can help you stay motivated and create a better plan to reach your goal. It’s kind of like the “eye on the prize” mentality. If you’re tempted to splurge, you can use your overarching goal to bring you back to your saving senses. So ask yourself: why am I starting to budget? What do I want to achieve?

Additionally, if you’re saving up for something specific, try to determine an exact number so that you can regularly evaluate whether or not your budget is on track throughout the week, month, or year.

How to Budget with the 50/30/20 Rule

To make the most of this budgeting method, consider following the steps below:

Deep Dive Into Your Current Spending Habits

Before implementing a 50/30/20 budget, take a long, hard look in the mirror (or maybe your wallet, rather). We’re talking about analyzing your spending habits. Think about whether you tend to overspend on:

  • Clothes
  • Shoes
  • Food
  • Drinks

Figuring out your spending vices from the very beginning will help you learn how to use a 50/30/20 budget that effectively cuts spending where you need it most.

Take a look at your bank and credit card statements over the last few months and see if you can find any common trends. If you find that you’re overspending on going out for food and drinks, come up with a plan for how you can avoid this scenario.

There are plenty of ways to budget and save money without compromising your social life, such as:

  • Cook dinner at home before you go out
  • Have a potluck with friends
  • Find happy hour specials around town.

You can also try budgeting for groceries to make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach and you don’t overspend every time you step foot into the grocery store. The 50/30/20 budget rule is a good way to figure out exactly how much you have to spend on certain expenses.

Pro Tip: Using Mint’s easy budget categorization, you can identify where you can cut back on unnecessary expenses.

Identify Irregular Large Ticket Expenses in the “Wants” Category

Of course, there are expenses in life that we simply can’t avoid. Maybe you need to make a repair on your vehicle, or perhaps you’re putting a down payment on a house in the next six months. Oftentimes these bills are necessary expenses, so you’ll have to factor them into your budget.

When you’re coming up with your 50/30/20 budget, take a moment to look at your calendar so that you can plan for these expenses and adjust your spending in the time before and after you incur the expense.

Add Up All Income

Totaling your income is an important first step when learning how to budget your money using the 50/30/20 rule, but it’s not always as simple as it sounds. Depending on your job, you might have a relatively steady paycheck or one that fluctuates from month to month. If the latter is the case, collect your paychecks from the last six months and find the average income between them.

The last thing you want to happen is to end up in a budget deficit, which is when your spending is greater than your income. If you’re finding that you’re not able to meet that 20% for savings each month, that might mean it’s time to make some changes.

There are various ways you can increase your savings each month, such as:

  • Consider a minimalist lifestyle to cut back on some of your expenses
  • Increase your income with an additional stream of income
  • Negotiate your salary with your current employer

If you want an additional stream of income, but don’t want to leave the house to do so, you should look into how you can make money at home.

What Are the Benefits of the 50/30/20 Rule?

There are many benefits of using the 50/30/20 rule to budget:

  • It can help you get on top of your finances: The 50/30/20 rule is a simple way to get on top of your finances so you make sure you’re not spending beyond your means.
  • It can help you make a financial plan: Everyone’s financial plan looks different, but using the 50/30/20 rule is a great way to outline your finances so that you can figure out exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals. For example, if your goal is to invest more, the 50/30/20 rule will help you figure out exactly how much you need to put towards investments.
  • It’s easier to use than some other budgeting tools: There are a myriad of different budgeting tools and methods out there. Some people use financial calculators to calculate their budget, some people use a journal to write down all their expenses. But the 50/30/20 budget rule is often much easier to use than most other budgeting tools. It clearly outlines your expenses and savings so you can figure out if you’re staying on track with your finances.

Is the 50/30/20 Budget Right for You?

The 50/30/20 budget isn’t the only option. Other popular methods include:

  • Zero-sum: The principle of the zero-sum budget is that you must allocate each and every dollar you earn toward a specific expense, savings account, debt, or disposable income account. This style can help deter unnecessary spending because you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend on what items.
  • Envelope budgeting: Swiping your card left and right is easy—but the envelope method doesn’t let you succumb to this temptation. Rather than using your card to spend, you use a predetermined amount of cash as your spending pool, nothing more.

Choosing a budgeting style that works for you depends on a variety of factors; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting and saving money. That said, the 50/30/20 tends to be a simple yet effective option for getting started on your budgeting journey.

Main Takeaways: How to Budget Using the 50/30/20 Rule

Here are the key tenets of the 50/30/20 rule of budgeting:

  • This budget rule is a simple method that can help you reach your financial goals.
  • This budgeting method stipulates that you spend no more than 50% of your after-tax income on needs.
  • The remaining after-tax income should be split up between 30% wants or “lifestyle” purchases, and 20% to savings or debt repayment.
  • This style of budgeting is a good way to save up for larger expenses, reduce your spending habits, and break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
  • The 50/30/20 budget rule is a much more straightforward budgeting method than some of the other common strategies.

Try the 50/30/20 Budgeting Rule & Take Control of Your Finances

Mint offers budgeting software and a helpful budgeting calculator that makes it easy to live in accordance with the 50/30/20 rule (or any budget that suits your lifestyle) so that you can live life to its fullest. After spending just a little bit of time determining which of your expenses fall into which category, you can create your very first budget and keep track of it every day. And when your situation undoubtedly changes, Mint lets you adjust, so your budget can change with you.

Sign up for your free account today, build your 50/30/20 budget, and make this the year you build a strong foundation for your future.

Now that you know what the 50/30/20 budget rule is and how you can use Mint to make a budget, you can move onto the next chapter in the series, which covers zero-based budgeting. Continue reading our series to learn more about how budgeting can help you reach your goals and achieve financial stability.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

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Source: mint.intuit.com

Paying for College With No Money in Your Savings

With the high cost of a college education, affording college with no money set aside might feel impossible. However, there are many forms of financial aid — whether from federal, state, school, or private organizations — that can help you pay for your college degree.

Learning how to pay for college with no money might require approaching your higher education costs from different angles. This includes cutting your college expenses, finding alternate financial aid sources, or both.

Average Cost of College

How much you can expect to pay for college varies, depending on the school you choose, your degree level, whether you’re a state resident, and other factors.

According to the CollegeBoard’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, the average tuition and fees for a full-time, in-state undergraduate student attending a public four-year school in 2021-22 is $10,780. Out-of-state students can expect to pay an average of $27,560 in tuition and fees for the same academic year. And students attending a nonprofit four-year private institution are charged an average $38,070 in tuition and fees.

Institution Type Average Annual Tuition and Fees
Public Four-Year College, In-State Student $10,740
Public Four-Year College, Out-of-State Student $27,560
Private Four-Year College, Nonprofit $38,070

Keep in mind that these figures are exclusively for tuition and fees. This cost doesn’t account for additional expenses that college students often face, like textbooks, school supplies, housing, and transportation.

Ways to Pay for College

The cost of being a college student can seem overwhelming when you don’t have savings or out-of-pocket funds available to directly pay for school.

If you want to go to college but have no money or are a parent who’s helping your child pay for college, here are a few ideas on how to go to college with no money saved.

Fill Out FAFSA® to See if You Qualify for Financial Aid

The best way to pay for college with no money — and really, the first step you should always take — is submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.

The FAFSA is the first step in finding out if you qualify for a federal financial aid program. For example, you can see if you’re eligible for the Pell Grant, Federal Work-Study, and Direct Loans. The information on your FAFSA is also commonly used to determine your eligibility for state, school, and other privately sponsored aid.

Grants

In addition to federal grants, search for grants from your state and school for additional funding. Grant funds generally don’t need to be repaid as long as you meet the grant program’s requirements.

Some organizations — nonprofit and for-profit — also host their own need- or merit-based grant programs for college students.

Scholarships

Scholarships are considered gift aid, meaning they typically don’t need to be repaid. There are a plethora of scholarship opportunities that are awarded due to financial need or merit.

You can search for scholarships online from various companies, organizations, community groups, and more. Ask your school’s financial aid office for help finding these advantageous sources of aid.

Negotiate With the College for More Aid

If your financial circumstances have changed since you submitted your FAFSA, request a professional judgment to have your school reevaluate your financial aid package.
Not all schools accept this request, but if yours does, this process gives you a chance to provide additional documentation that’s used to recalculate your financial need.

Start With Community College and Transfer

If you want to go to college but have no money, one option is to attend a community college for the first two years of your college education. According to the same CollegeBoard report, the average 2020-21 cost for tuition and fees at a local two-year college is $3,800 for a full-time undergraduate student.

After completing your general education courses at a junior college, you can then transfer to a four-year school.

Choose a Less Expensive University

The type of school you choose can also help you afford college if you don’t have money saved. As mentioned earlier, the cost of college varies widely between a public versus private institution.

Additionally, choosing a public school in your home state generally costs less than attending an out-of-state school. When reviewing cost, be sure to factor in the scholarships and grants you may qualify for.

Live at Home

Room and board is one of the largest expenses facing students. Instead of having to account for costs toward a dorm room or off-campus housing, living at home and commuting to school can help you keep expenses lower.

Talk with your parents about whether living at home while you earn your degree is an option.

Study Abroad

Some students may explore pursuing their degree abroad, as one solution to cut expenses. Thanks to government subsidies in some countries, attending university abroad can be less expensive than staying in the U.S. In some cases, American students may even qualify for free tuition.

Work-Study

The Federal Work-Study program allows you to earn financial aid with part-time work through an employer partner.

Federal Student Loans

If you need to borrow money for college, a federal student loan is the first choice for students. The Department of Education offers subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans to students. These loans need to be repaid.

Undergraduate students might be eligible for subsidized federal loans in which the government pays for accrued interest while you’re enrolled in school, during your grace period and while in deferment. These are awarded based on financial need.

Private Student Loans

After exhausting all of your federal student aid opportunities, students may apply for a private student loan if they need additional cash to pay for college.

Private student loan rates and terms differ from federal loans. Generally, private student loans don’t offer borrowers income-driven repayment plans, or flexible deferment or forbearance terms when you’re having trouble repaying your loan.

Also, loan details often differ between lenders. To find a competitive private student loan, compare rates from a handful of lenders before choosing one.

Working Part-Time

To supplement the financial aid you’ve received, consider working part-time while you’re enrolled in school. Funds from a part-time job can help you pay for day-to-day costs as a student, like groceries, transportation, or general living expenses while you’re studying for your degree.

Borrowing From Family Members

If you have a money gap between the financial aid you’ve received and your college expenses, an option is to ask a close family member if they’re willing to offer you a loan.

Depending on your family’s financial resources and your relationship with your parents or relatives, you might have access to this alternative low-interest financing option. When borrowing money from family, be clear about how much you need, how the funds will be used, and expectations regarding repayment after you leave school.

Is College Right for You?

Attending a degree-granting, four-year college isn’t the only choice you have for furthering your education and career prospects. Enrolling in a trade school or seeking vocational training can help you advance your skills for more job-focused opportunities.

Trade School

A trade school offers programs that teach students the hands-on skills for a technical or labor-based profession.

Vocational Training

Vocational schools provide students with the education to earn a certification or formal training quickly for service-oriented professions.

SoFi Private Student Loans

If you’ve decided that a traditional college education is for you, you might still need additional funds, despite exploring alternatives to afford college with no money. A SoFi private student loan can help by offering easy financing through a fast online process.

It provides competitive rates and flexible terms to suit your repayment needs. Plus, checking your rates can be done in just three minutes.

Interested in seeing how a private student loan from SoFi can help you pay for college? Learn more and find out if you pre-qualify in a few minutes.*

FAQ

Is there any way to go to college entirely for free?

Yes, but financial aid is highly variable and is determined based on your unique situation. Students might be eligible to enroll in college at no cost, depending on their financial need. Similarly, some students might be able to attend college for free based on merit, like with a full academic or athletic scholarship.

Is relying completely on student loans for college a good idea?

No, relying completely on student loans for college isn’t a good idea. To keep your student loan debt out of college as low as possible, it’s generally wise to seek out a mix of financial aid options. Prioritize aid that you don’t have to repay, like grants and scholarships, and use student loans as a last option when funding your college education.

Why is the cost of college so high in the US?

The high cost of college in the U.S. can be attributed to various factors. An increased demand for higher education, and unrestrained administrative and facility costs have been cited as reasons for the ongoing rise of college costs.


*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.
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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Source: sofi.com

The Best Apartment Flooring Options When Living With Pets

Choosing the right flooring will help ensure a smooth rental experience for both you and your pets.

Pet owners know it’s important to consider units with pet-friendly floors. For most pet owners, the damage from pet claws and pet stains are their biggest concerns. Choosing a pet-friendly flooring to resist pet stains and is extremely scratch resistant is ideal. Be sure to read your lease agreement as many landlords often add a clause about pets. It’s worth taking the time to find the best pet-friendly apartment possible.

Here are some things a pet owner may want to consider when choosing the best floor option for both you and your furry friends in kitchens, family rooms or living rooms.

What’s the best flooring for living with pets?

Finding flooring types with a scratch-resistant finish for our furry friends isn’t easy, especially if you’re seeking the best flooring for dogs since they’re generally more active than cats. A dog’s nails, even when they’re clipped regularly, can do damage to wood floors. Other things to consider are stains caused by liquids, whether it’s urine or water from a water bowl.

Each type of flooring has a list of pros and cons. Dog owners might choose waterproof flooring options because they’re easier to clean after they walk their dogs while a cat or dog owner may look for the right flooring based on how easy it is to wipe off pet hair.

hardwood floors are the best apartment flooring when living with pets.

hardwood floors are the best apartment flooring when living with pets.

Most common types of floors in apartments

Most apartments have hardwood floors, luxury vinyl flooring or laminate flooring in the living room and dining room areas. Kitchens usually feature ceramic tile, vinyl flooring or porcelain tile because these are more water-resistant than hardwood flooring. Water and wood don’t like to mix so you’ll want to avoid using a mop with water or soap-based cleaners on any type of wood floor.

Not as common but also found in homes are cork flooring, bamboo flooring, luxury vinyl plank, concrete floors and natural stone.

Choosing the best type of flooring based on pet use

To help minimize the way scratches appear on floors, consider lighter stains, woods with more grains or lighter-colored tiles if leaning toward vinyl, laminate or ceramic options. The disadvantage of lighter colors is they might show more dirt trekked in from the outdoors.

Think about your pet and how they navigate their spaces in your apartment. If they can go weeks with unclipped claws and scratches are a bigger issue, go lighter. If trekking in dirt from walks is a problem, go with more patterns or darker colors.

dog on hardwood

dog on hardwood

Are solid hardwood floors good for pets?

Not all hardwood is the same. Homes can feature different types of wood species, grains, styles and thickness levels. It’s best to consider your budget and the look you want before buying or installing this type of flooring.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), it’s possible for pet owners to enjoy having a solid hardwood floor with some considerations. If you’re a wood floor lover, make sure you trim your dog’s nails regularly and you wipe up any messes immediately — whether accidents or muddy paw marks.

The organization also recommends engineered hardwood flooring with the most scratch-resistant finish available as one of the best flooring for dogs if you want that wood floor look. Another recommendation by AKC is to choose the hardest wood you can find, such as teak, mesquite or hard maple, if you’re adding new flooring. “Wood with a matte or low-gloss look will do a better job at hiding scratches,” the organization notes. “And be sure to finish your floor with a scratch-resistant finish.”

Hardwood floors offer a few benefits from a general lifestyle and use perspective. You can usually include them in any décor, whether traditional or modern and installed in most spaces. You can buff or refinish them multiple times before you’re left with a thin layer and need to replace the entire floor.

Refinishing damaged hardwoods

The manufacturing process of some engineered hardwood floors allows you to refinish after sanding. For best results, it’s best if the wear layer is thick. Ideally, you want the wear layer at least three millimeters thick, otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the floor to the point that you’ll need to replace it.

Still, even in high traffic areas, a simple buffing can usually remove unsightly scratches without needing to go through the expense and trouble of refinishing.

Some negatives of hardwood floors: water and wood don’t like to mix so you’ll want to avoid using a mop with water or soap-based cleaners on any type of wood flooring. Instead, use cleaners designed for wood and keep a duster nearby to clean up any messes. Also, wood can get expensive to buy and install. Finding options that are more readily available, such as walnut or ash, can help keep this flooring option more affordable than opting for exotic hardwood species where you’ll be paying a premium.

Other flooring options besides hardwood floors

Another option? Go with distressed or reclaimed wood. While not pet-proof, these flooring options look scratched and well-loved so any marks from pets’ nails aren’t noticeable.

Not a hardwood floor since it’s technically a grass, bamboo flooring has similar features to hardwood and between the two options, is usually slightly more affordable flooring of the two.

Is laminate flooring stain-resistant?

Laminate flooring is the favorite thanks to its stain resistance and durability. It’s also less expensive than hardwood, luxury vinyl tile, ceramic tile and natural stone. When paired with a strong sealant layer, it’s relatively scratch-proof, making it ideal as flooring if you have pets at home.

Laminate flooring can get slippery for pets so finishing it with some texture will help keep those paws from skidding all over the place. Like any flooring, you want to wipe off any surface moisture and keep towels handy by doors where pets walk in and out to clean up any excess moisture or dirt that trails inside.

cleaning floors

cleaning floors

Caring for floors when you have pets

Not everyone has a say in which type of floor comes with their apartment or home. The best types are the ones that make it easy to keep clean and you’re not stuck giving up your security deposit because the floors need refinishing or replacing.

If you have any type of tile, such as porcelain, luxury vinyl or ceramic tile, keep in mind you’ll need to clean grout lines, as well as the tile when things get wet or dirty.

If you find an apartment you love but the flooring will be an issue with your pet, be proactive and think of solutions that will make everyone happier. Some pet owners throw down a thin-piled rug on hardwood, for example, to make it easier for their pets to walk around. Others will add that little mat beneath their pet’s food and water bowl to catch any spills and not let water sit on the floor for too long. If a room has thick or shag-type carpet and your pet can avoid that room, cordon off the room with a baby or pet gate.

Best floors when living with pets

Pets make our lives fuller and more fun and according to the Humane Society, 72 percent of renters have pets. Since more of us have pets than don’t, choosing apartments that are a good match to our lifestyle will go a long way toward an enjoyable rental experience. Taking the time to consider an apartment based on its amenities, whether that means the building includes a pool or a dog run, is one thing. But it’s overlooked details like flooring that sometimes get missed when looking at a place.

If you have pets, it’s a good idea to review apartments based on how your life, and the life of your pet, would be easier and more enjoyable. While flooring isn’t obvious, choosing the best flooring when living with pets will help you both enjoy the place and be as stress-free as possible.

Source: rent.com

How To Stop Paying ATM Fees- Money Under 30

I rarely pull out cash, so when I do, I’m often greeted with a message that lets me know there’s a fee. Like most people, I just click “Yes” and move on with my day. Most of the time I don’t even register what the fee actually was.

It was a major bummer when I started researching this piece and one of the first things I found was that the average ATM fee has increased over the last few years and now sits at $3.08, on average. So every time I take cash out, I’m paying $3. And for some folks, that’s double because they’re paying a fee to their bank, as well as the ATM servicer.

I think it’s time we all decide unanimously to stop paying those pesky fees! Today, I’ll offer a few ways to do just that. Let’s get started!

What’s Ahead:

Use a bank that doesn’t charge ATM fees

How To Stop Paying ATM Fees - Use a bank that doesn't charge ATM fees

An ideal way to avoid ATM fees is to choose a bank that doesn’t charge them, to begin with. While nearly every bank will let you use their in-network ATMs for free, you will get hit with a charge if you use an out-of-network ATM. As you’ll see below, some banks will reimburse those fees, but many do not, and many only reimburse them up to a certain amount.

A few banks charge NO ATM fees and reimburse all fees that you incur when using an ATM, even an out-of-network one. As you’ll see below, I lay out the case for moving away from cash. That is my personal preference and where I see spending going in the future. However, if you are a heavy cash user, I strongly recommend finding a bank that charges no ATM fees, period.

A few banks come to mind, but my favorite and most recommended is Axos Bank. Axos will let you use ANY ATM in the United States, and they will not charge you a fee. Also, if any type of fee is assessed, they will reimburse you up to an unlimited amount. So you can withdraw $20 in cash from an ATM five times a day every day of the week, and you won’t pay a dime for that. 

Find a bank that reimburses ATM fees

Nowadays, most banks have a reasonably sizable ATM network. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get hit with ATM fees. One of the best ways to avoid ATM fees is by using a bank that reimburses any assessed fees.

Remember that just because your bank doesn’t charge you a fee for using an in-network ATM, it doesn’t mean you won’t be hit with a fee for using the machine. For example, some in-store ATMs (though technically “in-network”) will charge a fee to use.

Using a bank that credits these fees back, you’ll easily avoid ATM fees (up to a certain amount, of course). One example is CIT Bank’s Checking account. Not only do they not charge ATM fees, but they’ll reimburse you up to $30 per month on other banks’ ATM fees.

Bank with a credit union

Credit unions are often forgotten about, especially in today’s “next-gen” banking world. Credit unions are often small banks that don’t have a flashy mobile app or effective marketing. That’s because they are nonprofit organizations owned by the members that they serve.

But there are some significant perks to using a credit union. One of those includes ATM usage. If a credit union is part of the co-op ATM network, you will get access to more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs across the United States and nine other countries. It’s the nation’s largest network of free ATMs for credit union members. It even has a more extensive fee-free network for ATMs than Chase bank.

There are downsides to using a credit union, though, so I suggest you do your research first. But if you’re in an area that has a credit union with multiple co-op ATM network ATMs, and you don’t care about having a flashy mobile app, then it might make a lot of sense for you.

Use a rewards credit card instead

As you’ll notice, some of my suggestions involve avoiding cash entirely, and this is another one that I am passionate about. Using a rewards credit card will not only earn you rewards for your spending, but it will also safeguard your money and your purchases. You can quickly lose cash, too. While it may seem unlikely, data shows that over 400,000 pickpocketing incidents occur in the world every single day.

Besides these risks, credit cards are just safer. If you have to dispute the transaction, your credit card will put a hold on that amount so you won’t have to pay for it while that transaction is being disputed. If you try to do this with cash or a debit card, it will be far more complicated, and you won’t have the cash to use if you need it. 

A credit card will also give you extra benefits—for example, extended warranties and purchase protection. Lastly, and going back to my first point, by using a rewards credit card and paying it in full each month, you will not pay interest, and you will earn reward points, which you can exchange for things like cash, gift cards, travel, and more.

Apply Now On the Secure Website

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is an excellent example of a card that offers all of these benefits and much more. 

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases. Plus, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. And if that’s not enough, know that you’ll also get 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s equal to $1,000 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Leverage the mobile app

How To Stop Paying ATM Fees - Leverage the mobile app

If you are using an acceptable bank, chances are they also had an excellent mobile app. Usually, within that mobile app, there is a feature to locate the free ATMs around you by using your location with the GPS in your phone. 

One such example is Chime. Not only does Chime have a fantastic, clean, easy-to-use app, but they have a nice ATM locator feature within the app. The locator will find where you’re currently at and pull up ATMs around you that don’t charge a fee. Chime also has this feature on their website if you’re not on your phone, which is unlikely based on the statistic that I just shared.

Outside of your bank’s mobile app, certain apps are separate from a bank designed just to help you find a fee-free ATM. The Allpoint ATM network, for example, has over 55,000 fee-free ATMs across the world. Allpoint now has an app where you can locate their ATMs based on your current location.

Chime Disclosure – Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
1Chime cannot guarantee when files are sent by the IRS and funds can be made available.
^Early access to direct deposit funds depends on payer

Get cash back at the store

Sometimes, moving to a new bank doesn’t make sense. Maybe you’ve been with your bank for years, and you want to stay with them. In that case, a great way to avoid ATM fees is to take advantage of in-store cash back.

To do this, you have to pay with your debit card and make sure you choose “Debit” at the register (instead of swiping it and charging it as a credit card). Assuming you’ve done this correctly, you’ll enter your PIN to pay for your purchase, and the machine will ask if you want cash back. 

This is most often done at the grocery store, and all you need to do is make a small debit card purchase. You can even buy a pack of gum for less than two dollars. After that, you can get cash back up to the amount that your bank allows, which I’ve seen as high as $500 per day. However, Novo enables you to get up to $1,000 per day in-store cash back using your Novo debit card. 

Use a digital wallet instead

A digital wallet is a “wallet” on your phone to store credit and debit cards electronically. The best example is Apple Pay, which is now being accepted by over two million merchants, both online and in-store. If you’ve never used Apple before, it’s quite simple. Instead of swiping a card or using cash, you hold your phone up to a sensor, which will automatically charge your debit or credit card.

And this isn’t just a fad. More and more merchants are beginning to accept digital wallets, and more and more fintech companies are coming up with forms of payment. Some of the more recent ones I’ve seen are Cash App, created by Square; Venmo, which is now owned by PayPal; and Zelle, which many banks already use within their mobile apps (like PNC). This is in addition to Google Pay and Samsung Pay, which are already quite popular.

So there is a legitimate argument that digital wallets could eventually replace cash entirely. While that seems unlikely, I agree with the notion of digital wallets becoming more prevalent as cash usage continues to dwindle. So if you start getting on board now and use your digital wallet, you will rely less on cash from ATMs and thereby pay little to no ATM fees in the long-run.

Skip cash altogether

According to the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, consumers use cash only 26% of the time when making a purchase. The data also shows that cash usage decreased by one payment per month. All this is to say that, generally, people are using cash a lot less.

So that begs the question, should we even be using cash in 2021? I think there was a time and a place for it, but overall, you have far more security with a credit or debit card, and nearly all places accept those forms of payment anyway. 

In the rare circumstance that a vendor does not accept a card, it’s probably smart to carry a small amount of cash in your wallet. And as you can see throughout this article, there are plenty of ways to get that cash without paying a fee.

Take out the most you can

How To Stop Paying ATM Fees - Take out the most that you can

From a budgeting perspective, this might seem counterintuitive but hear me out. Whether you pay a fee or not, it often makes the most sense to withdraw as much cash as you can from an ATM when you’re going to do it. Even if you don’t use that full amount, you can stash it away in a safe or a dresser drawer for when you need it. This way, you won’t be stuck in a situation where you either have to pay an ATM fee or you have to make another run to a free ATM that may not be near you at the time.

Another nice thing about having a large amount of cash on hand at home or in your wallet is if you are in a situation where cash is your only option. I have had contractors come over, such as plumbers or somebody to fix an appliance, and only accept cash or check.

Summary

Whether you use cash or not is entirely up to you. If you are a cash user, make sure you are using the right bank, and you have an extensive network of free ATMs around you. Also, take advantage of some of the other tips I shared in this article.

However, I would encourage you to explore other options outside of cash, such as a rewards credit card or a digital wallet. There are far more benefits to using these types of payment than cash, and you can accomplish the same thing.

Read more:

Source: moneyunder30.com

Are Cats Happy in Apartments? 21 Experts Weigh In

Are cats happy in apartments? Learn from the experts what it takes to make sure your feline shines at home.

Whether you’re loving life in an enormous industrial loft, sticking it out in a small studio or living the high life in a highrise downtown, odds are, you either have a pet or you’d like to get one. If you are one of the many people that side with cats in the great cats vs. dogs debate, this article is for you.

Listed below are the responses from over 20 cat experts to the question: Are cats happy in apartments? If not, what can a cat owner do to improve their furry friend’s quality of life?

Read up and redefine your relationship with your cat or use the information to ready your apartment for a new addition in the form of a furry feline friend.

1. Bring the outside in

Man at the window with his happy cat

Man at the window with his happy cat

“Cats that have been raised indoors can be perfectly fine in an apartment, but the key is to provide them with enough stimulation,” explains Daniel from Catpointers.

“Possible solutions would be to adopt another feline friend or to get some interactive toys that your cat can play with. But my favorite solution is to bring the outside in. Consider building a natural cat tree or placing a few non-toxic plants around the house. My cat loves exploring them!”

2. Create cat territory

According to Amy Shojai, CABC, “Cats CAN be happy in apartments but it depends.”

“Kitties want to own territory and in apartments that have limited space, that can increase feline stress. A stressed cat tries to relieve their angst by spreading self-scent, scratching or urinating outside the box.” In an apartment or home of any size, this is a serious problem.

“When limited space poses problems, remember that cats love heights. Create second-story real estate for cats by clearing off one shelf in the bookcase or top of the refrigerator for a feline perch.”

3. Provide entertainment options

Cat on a cat stand looking at a plant

Cat on a cat stand looking at a plant

“Yes, cats can be happy in apartments,” says Katherine Kern, the award-winning author behind the Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat website.

“In fact, some cats might feel more secure in a smaller space. To maximize your cat’s space in an apartment, I’d recommend several cat trees, maybe some cat shelves/perches and a great window sill for your cat to look out the window. These options are important for cats in big houses, as well. This way, your cat has an outlet for scratching behavior (which is instinctual), room to run and jump and space to survey his or her domain.”

Speaking specifically to apartment residents, Momma Kat explains, “In a small space, it’s even more important that humans consider a cat’s enrichment needs.”

“Most cats aren’t satisfied with just laying around and doing nothing. They need mental stimulation and outlets for their instinctual behaviors, like scratching and hiding. When these needs aren’t met, we’re more likely to see feline behavior that humans dislike.”

4. Consider vertical space

“Are cats happy in apartments? Of course! But I understand the space concerns. We should think vertically, as cats do,” says Pamela Merritt from The Way of Cats.

“The best way to solve this is to give the cat the tallest, sturdiest cat tree we can afford. We’ve doubled the runway space in the room when we play wand toy with them. Racing to the top will exercise all their muscles.”

Training your cat to forego picking away at furniture for a scratching post instead, Pamela explains, is not as hard as it may seem from the outside. “We take them from the furniture to their own scratching post and tell them how happy we are when they scratch it. Now we have trained them to use their post. It’s that easy.”

“Cats are ambush hunters. They don’t need a lot of aerobic exercises. They need short, intense, bursts of activity. A cat tree and a loving person will take care of many needs. Even in an apartment.”

5. Make space for naps

Apartment cat napping atop a cat tower

Apartment cat napping atop a cat tower

No strangers to a daily nap, “Cats sleep anywhere between 12 and 20 hours per day, so apartment cats mostly need lots of nice, cozy and warm places to take naps,” explains Isabel Ludick, the Brand Coordinator, Marketing Director and Avid Animal Advocate behind Excited Cats.

Isabel explains the reasoning behind this by saying, “Cats instinctively sleep this much so they can build up energy to hunt at night. Therefore, apartment cats need lots of playtime and stimulation when they wake up in order to put their preserved energy to good use. Otherwise, they might direct their energy toward destructive behavior.”

Isabel capped off her thoughts by reminding everyone, “Cats are creatures of habit. If you provide them with enough stimulation, playtime, chill zones and lookouts, your cat will adapt to their new environment soon enough and get comfortable in their space.”

6. Buy an extra litter box (or two)

“Most cats will do just fine in an apartment, although you may wish to keep it to no more than two or three cats in a one-bedroom, provided they get along well,” explains Ro Delrose a Cat Behavior Consultant at Feline Fab.

She suggests that people, “Place several large, open-top litter boxes (one per cat plus one extra) throughout your home in the areas where your cat likes to hang out. The litter box is a very significant source of the scent and helps cats feel that their territory is well marked and secure!”

7. Give your cat something to look at

Happy cat staring out the window

Happy cat staring out the window

“I have had three cats and ALL were happy in apartments,” explains Caren Gittleman from Cat and Dog Chat with Caren.

The key to her success, she explains is, “I have a cat tree in every room with a window. I have LOADS of toys. I save empty boxes and provide multiple lounging areas.”

Caren also mentioned, “Having a dog doesn’t hurt either or a companion cat. A playmate is always fun!”

8. Create a custom catio

“Cats generally prefer larger spaces, but they can absolutely be happy in an apartment with their owners,” explains Molly DeVoss, CFTBS, CCBC, CRM, FFCP of Cat Behavior solutions.

Molly explains that “There are many things a cat parent can do to improve quality of life. These include:

  • Engaging in prey play. An example would be interactive play with a wand toy, simulating the hunting sequence at least two times a day for 10-minute sessions each.
  • Creating a safe catio experience where kitty can get some fresh air but not get fully out
  • Taking walks in a harness and leash or an enclosed stroller.”

Molly was also sure to add, “When you have to leave your cat alone, play Cat TV (YouTube) for them to watch and hide food puzzles around the home.”

9. Make time for play

Cat riding on a skateboard with a kid watching

Cat riding on a skateboard with a kid watching

“Your favorite feline can absolutely be happy living in an apartment,” According to Amanda O’Brien of The Discerning Cat.

Amanda concedes that “Of course, cats would love lots of space to hunt and prowl. But this isn’t a pre-requisite for cat happiness.”

According to her, “There are two things you can do to make your apartment as cat friendly as possible:

  • Invest in a cat tower with scratching posts. If you have limited space invest in a cat tower that has a small footprint on the ground but goes quite high. Your cat will most enjoy jumping up and down the tower and investing in some serious scratching action. Cat towers can also be a great place to store cat toys and other cat paraphernalia, saving more room.
  • Try to spend some time every day playing with your cat. This may be with a feather toy or simply throwing a ball or a puzzle toy. If your cat has less space to move, keeping its brain busy will increase its happiness and playtime is a great bonding time for you and your favorite kitty.”

10. Get a furry friend for your feline

“Many of Meowtel’s clients are thriving in apartments,” explains the Meowtel team.

“Cat parents can make even a small studio apartment comfy for their kitties. Strategically placing furniture near windows will provide a source of entertainment when they’re not home. Cats love watching squirrels, birds and people outside!”

“Finding a companion for your kitty is another option.” The Meowtel team notes that this solution may not be applicable in every situation by saying, “Some cats enjoy being in pairs and appreciate the company, while some prefer to be on their own.”

Be sure to make the right choice for your feline friend!

11. Be attentive

white cat playing with a wand toy on wood apartment floors

white cat playing with a wand toy on wood apartment floors

“Cats definitely can be happy in apartments. What is important is not the size of the space, but how much enrichment and attention they get, no matter what kind of cat,” explains Mary Tan of Whisker Media.

“Too many people think cats are like living room furniture and don’t need anything. If you don’t have activities for them, that’s when destructive behavior happens. They will get bored. While not having a lot of space, a studio apartment can still be a playland!”

“Cats need toys, scratching posts and catnip. They need to play to stimulate their senses. It’s also important that you rotate their toys daily, so they think it’s a brand new toy! I have three rotating sets of toys that I change out daily, and my kitty, Dr. Farley Waddlesworth, thinks they are new each day! Also, cats are hunters and predators by nature.”

Mary summed it all up by saying, “I recommend hiding their food and treats throughout the apartment, even up high, so they have to work for their food just like they do in the wild.”

12. Enrich your cat’s environment

“We from Katzenworld believe that, just like with humans, some cats are happy living in apartments while others are not.”

“It’s all about environmental enrichment,” the Katzenworld team explains. “We are not talking about a gaming console or a TV for your feline friend. We are talking about species-appropriate enrichment, such as scratch pads, interactive cat toys, catnip or valerian toys! The more enrichment you provide your cat, the happier they will be.”

13. Equip your cat with the comfort essentials

Cat relaxing on a green couch in a modern apartment

Cat relaxing on a green couch in a modern apartment

“Of course, cats can be happy in an apartment,” says Phil from Upgrade Your Cat.

“Most breeds of cats have fairly small environments. What’s more important is what they have within their immediate surroundings than what’s available across a large area.”

“As long as you have a good cat tree, a couple of litter boxes that are not near their food or sleeping areas and provide plenty of affection, I’m sure you’ll have a happy and healthy cat no matter how small your apartment is!”

14. Stimulate your cat’s natural instincts

“With all cats,” explains Patience Fisher of Patience for cats, “simulating hunts with a wand toy is an important part of each day. Cats were born to hunt, and being able to do this instinctual behavior can greatly add to a cat’s contentment. When living in a confined space this is even more important.”

15. Mimic your cat’s natural environment

Feline on a white couch. Wand toy in the foreground, person on computer in the background

Feline on a white couch. Wand toy in the foreground, person on computer in the background

According to Chris from Caredicat, “Cats can be perfectly happy in small spaces such as apartments.”

“The things that make a cat happy in the outdoors are climbing, scratching and predatory behavior, such as chasing prey. The key is to mimic this as closely as possible inside of your apartment. Here’s how to do it:

  • Cat hammock – This allows your cat to look out into the world and watch birds and people walk by which creates great stimulation for your cat
  • Scratching posts – A number of vertical and horizontal scratching posts around your apartment will allow your cat to sharpen its claws, as well as provide exercise and allow them to stretch their muscles
  • Toys – A big selection of toys and interactive toys is essential to provide physical and mental stimulation
  • Private space – Cats like somewhere to retreat if they are scared or anxious. Cardboard boxes or cat towers that feature a hideout box are excellent choices.
  • Playtime – It’s important to have a couple of short play sessions with your cat on a daily basis. This helps to create a great bond between the pair of you, as well as providing stimulation to keep your cat happy.”

If you can give your cat those five things consistently, the Caredicat team believes you and your cat will love life in your apartment.

16. Respect your cat’s basic requirements

“Cats can be happy anywhere as long as the right provisions are made available, says Katenna Jones of Jones Animal Behavior.

“The happiest cat in the world could thrive in a tiny studio apartment or an RV. At the same time, a very unhappy cat could be languishing in a sprawling mansion or farm. It’s all about environmental enrichment.”

Katenna elaborates on this idea of enrichment by explaining, “Environmental enrichment involves enhancing an animal’s environment to facilitate as many natural behaviors for that species as possible.”

The apartment cat happiness checklist:

  • Vertical climbing options such as shelves or stairs
  • Vantage points that are positioned at human foot height as well as waist height, as well as head height
  • Feeding out of food puzzles like those at Food Puzzles for Cats
  • Clicker training
  • Exercise wheels
  • Two large, easy-to-access litter boxes with small, natural granules

“Think of all the things that cats do naturally. Things like digging, sleeping, rolling around, running, playing, hiding and so on.”

17. Abide by the five pillars

White cat hanging out on a black book shelf

White cat hanging out on a black book shelf

“Whether they live in an apartment, townhouse or a traditional single-family home, all cats need access to important environmental resources. This includes access to food, water, litter boxes, rest and sleep areas and elevated areas or perches. These are known as the five pillars of a healthy feline environment,” states Dr. Michelle Meyer, the President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).

18. Make space for hunting and hiding

According to Holly, the founder of Cat Care Solutions, “Cats can be fantastic companions for apartment-dwellers. In fact, I once lived in a very small apartment with four cats of my own!”

Take it from Holly, “The key to a happy indoor apartment cat is enrichment. Simply put, enrichment satisfies your cat’s natural instincts, such as hunting, mental stimulation, bonding with you, observing their surroundings from a safe hideaway and getting up high. Bored cats are unhealthy, unhappy, destructive creatures. This is especially true for higher-energy breeds and personalities that don’t get enough activity.”

19. Take the time to take proper care

Happy woman holding her cat in her apartment bedroom

Happy woman holding her cat in her apartment bedroom

“Cats are happy in apartments as long as they are being well taken care of, they have all their needs and they are being trained to what their environment looks like every day,” says Zac Yap from Top Cat Breeds.

“Different cat breeds have different personalities. Not all cats like to go outside, for instance. They can adjust to their environment as long as the fur parent is giving them enough attention and treatment and not triggering them with any sudden noises.”

“Our team recommends investing in small, affordable cat furniture to increase the spaces where they can spend their time in your apartment.”

20. Understand your feline friend

“If your cat is going to be happy in an apartment, you need to know your cat,” Explains Anita Aurit of Feline Opines.

“For example, if you have a very active breed, like a Bengal, you’ll need to add some exercise and exploring time for your energetic feline.”

“It’s also possible to take your cat for a neighborhood stroll. Your cat should have a well-fitting harness and leash and you both can explore the neighborhood together. If things are a bit too busy in your neighborhood or your cat is not a fan of walks, consider a cat stroller.”

Anita encourages cat owners to remember, “Spending time with your cat makes them happy no matter whether you live in an apartment, a house or a mansion. Give them a little TV time with their favorite video from the cat YouTube channel of their choice. If your TV is safely secured, you can also leave a kitty video running for your cat to provide some interest to their day when you are away. One of my cats took a flying leap at the birds in the video and knocked the TV down which was good for the cat’s enrichment but not so good for my TV!”

“Finally, a little catnip always makes a day fun, whether it’s in a spray, a refillable toy or a catnip infused bag. No matter where you live, you and your cat can have a happy, fun and even adventuresome life when you are intentional about enriching their environment.”

21. Your cat can be content in a small space

Kitten kicking back on a small blanket

Kitten kicking back on a small blanket

“In our opinion cats are the purrr-fect animal for apartment living,” says Linda Hall, ABCCT, Executive Purrrr-ector and Meownipulator at Cat Behavior Alliance.”

One factor making felines the premiere apartment-friendly pets, explains Linda is, “They don’t need to go outside for walks or to relieve themselves and they don’t require as much floor space as dogs do. They can be happy even in a studio apartment.”

Find what works for you and your cat(s)

Regardless of the type of building in which you reside, what city you call home or where you go from nine to five, it’s possible to create a completely cat-friendly environment for your furry friend. Not an environment where your cat will simply survive, but one that both promotes comfort and incites excitement for you and your feline confidant for all the years you spend in your place together.

Source: rent.com

How to Save Money on Groceries: 28 Tools and Tricks to Save $100 or More

Penny Hoarder Favorites


We’ve got tons of tips to share with you, but first, here are a few of our staff and reader favorites

Want to slash your grocery store tab? Saving money on groceries is easier than collecting binders of coupons and buying 455 rolls of toilet paper.

We’ve compiled a list of simple (and some unexpected) tips to help you maximize your grocery budget.

How to Save Money on Groceries: 28 Tools and Tricks

If you know what you’re doing, you can save a purse-full of money next time you hit the grocery store. Here are our favorite ways to save money on groceries.

8 Tools and Apps That Help You Save Money on Groceries

Your phone is a powerful tool, so download these grocery apps. (Using them all is easier than clipping coupons!)

1. Nielsen Consumer Panel: Share What’s in Your Fridge

Want to get rewarded for showing off your grocery haul? Nielsen will do that for you.

You’re probably familiar with Nielsen. It’s the company that tracks TV ratings. Now, it wants to track what’s in your fridge.

Join the Nielsen Consumer Panel, then use your smartphone to scan your items’ barcodes after your next grocery run. When the data is sent off to Nielsen, you’ll earn gift points, which you can use to redeem for free electronics, household items or toys.

2. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Get a $150 Bonus

If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

The card also offers 5% cash-back on select rotating categories. For example, in one quarter, you can earn 5% cash back on gas. The next quarter? Groceries. The categories continue to rotate throughout the year.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire.

*The information for the Chase Freedom card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

3. Ibotta: Find Freebies, and Snag $20

Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

Here’s how it works: Before heading to the store, search for items on your grocery shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Pro Tip

Browse your grocery list on Ibotta before heading to the store — you might find a cash-back alternative to something you planned to buy already.

Bam. Cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $20 sign-up bonus after redeeming your first 10 offers within 14 days.

4. Ebates: Get a Free $10 Walmart Gift Card Plus Cashback On All Purchases

Want $10 for your next Walmart haul?

Download the free browser extension from Rakuten, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you make an online purchase. When you give the site a try, you’ll pocket a $10 Walmart gift card.

Here’s how:

  • Sign up for Rakuten.
  • Use the online portal next time you make an online purchase from a popular retailer like Walmart, Amazon or Target. Make this purchase within 90 days of signing up, and spend at least $25.
  • Your Ebates account will be credited with points, which you can cash out for a $10 Walmart gift card.

5. Phil: Get up to $30 off Your Next Prescription

man reaches for one of his prescription medication bottles as he sits at his dining room table.
Getty Images

Are you running to the local grocery store pharmacy because you forgot to pick up your refill? Next month, save time and money with Phil, a refill service that delivers your prescription right to your door.

It even talks to your insurance company to handle payment issues and renew refills so you don’t have to.

Plus, as a new customer, you’ll get up to $30 off your first prescription.

6. Swagbucks: Get $5 Cash for Shopping Online

Coffee and a muffin enjoyed on a budget in St Petersburg Florida
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Here’s a simple trick to snag a $5 gift card for your next grocery trip: Use the Swagbucks extension on Google Chrome on your computer or laptop, and save even more on purchases at some of your favorite sites like Amazon and Target.

You’ll get a $5 Swagbucks bonus when you earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days of signing up. Cash the bonus out through PayPal.

7. Fetch: Get Paid to Take a Picture of Your Grocery Receipt

At this point, tons of grocery-savings apps have hit the market — and we don’t hate it. But having so many options can become overwhelming, especially for the lazy saver.

If that’s you — the one who just wants to get in and out of the store and save money on groceries without doing much thinking — there’s an app we recommend. It’s called Fetch Rewards, and all you have to do to earn rewards is take a photo of your receipt.

No scanning barcodes; no searching for offers; no store limitations.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Download the Fetch Rewards app. (Pst: Enter the code PENNY and scan your first receipt to earn 2,000 free points!)
  2. Create an account with your email address or through Facebook.
  3. Take a photo of your grocery receipt (must be from the past 14 days).

Fetch Rewards finds opportunities for you to earn rewards for your everyday purchases.

Every time you scan a receipt that includes one of more than 250 participating brands, you’ll earn points — without worrying about matching specific product offers.

If the app does find a match, you’ll earn even more. For example, we recently saw an offer of 2,000 points when you purchase a Suave female hair product. And another for 2,000 points for a 12-pack of Blue Moon.

Once you collect enough points (as little as 3,000), cash out for a gift card to any of a number of retailers, including Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Go ahead, and start fetching points toward gift cards by downloading Fetch Rewards.

(And, yeah, we somehow resisted the obvious “Mean Girls” reference. You’re welcome.)

8. Store Loyalty Apps: Clip Digital Coupons

What’s your go-to local grocery store? Chances are, it has a loyalty app.

For example, the Aldi app allows you to tap into its weekly coupons, create a grocery shopping list and find the nearest store. The Publix app works similarly, allowing you to clip digital coupons to use at checkout.

11 Simple Ways to Save Without Coupons

Jennifer Bishop brings her piggybank as she prepares to grocery shop, Tampa Fla, on November 3th, 2017
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Now that you’ve got your go-to savings apps and your coupons, it’s time to hit the aisles. Use these tips to save even more money on groceries.

1. Check Unit Prices

Sure, it’s tempting to think buying in bulk is better, but that’s not always the case. That modest two pack of paper towels might actually be more affordable than the insanely large case of 16.

Pro Tip

Divide an item’s price by its quantity before you buy — that bulk purchase might not be the better deal.

To calculate the unit price, divide an item’s price by its quantity. Consider how much you’ll actually be saving (if anything — and definitely not shelf space) by buying the bulk item.

2. Meal Prep to Make a Grocery Shopping List

Food items photographed in St Petersburg, Fla., on May 5th, 2018.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

We know, we know. This seems soooo obvious, but meal planning for the week and making a grocery list can help you stay on task, not waste food and avoid frivolous purchases — like cheese wedges.

3. Don’t Shop at Eye Level

Dedicated professionals study the psychology of grocery shopping.

For example, shelves at eye level are prime real estate. You’ll often find more expensive items there — or items that attract kids.

Or think about this: Between 1975 and 2000, the size of shopping carts tripled. A bigger cart doesn’t mean you have to fill it all the way up.

Once you recognize these mind games, you can more easily avoid them.

4. Ask for a Rain Check

You know when there’s a BOGO for Nutella — but then you get to the store and it’s gone? Someone else got greedy.

Don’t be afraid to ask your grocer for a rain check so you can still snag the sale when the store restocks.

5. Store Your Food Properly

You buy a container of spinach or bundle of avocados, but before you’re able to devour all the green goodness, it goes bad.

Avoid wasting money at grocery stores by storing your food properly, so it lasts longer.

6. Have Your Groceries Delivered

paper shopping bags in male hand
Getty Images

Sure, you’ll have to pay for a grocery delivery service if someone brings your groceries to you, but opting to get your groceries dropped off at your door can actually save you a ton of time and money because you’ll be forced to plan out your meals.

Plus, there’s no veering off into the snack aisle.

7. Don’t Shop Hungry

The golden rule of grocery shopping: Thou shall not step into an aisle the least bit hungry.

Seriously.

You’ll start grabbing anything and everything that looks good. Then, because you’re planning for an immediate meal, you’ll have a ton of fresh, ready-to-eat impulse purchases that’ll linger in your fridge and go bad before you have time to devour them all.

8. Shop Your Pantry First

Before your next grocery run, take stock of what’s already in your pantry, fridge and freezer. What can you make with those items? Chances are you have a box of noodles or a carton of eggs. Use those already-purchased staples to build out your weekly meals.

9. Don’t Buy Pre-Cut Produce

man peeling vegetables at home
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Yes, it’s tempting to buy the already-spiralized zucchini or the pre-cut butternut squash. However, it costs a lot more than buying the “real” thing. Plus, you won’t get nearly as much, and the pre-cut stuff won’t stay fresh nearly as long.

10. Practice Meatless Mondays

Plain and simple: Meat is expensive. Enough ground beef for tacos for two can cost nearly $8. You might as well go to Taco Bell at that point…

To save money on your weekly grocery haul, practice meatless Mondays. Just giving it up once a week can help you save money.

Check out these meatless meals to get started.

11. Compare Stores

Ah, the store loyalists.

It’s easy to lean into one grocery store. You grow close with its aisles, its products, its cashiers… But you can save a bundle of money by jumping around. Use a grocery comparison chart to determine the best grocery stores to buy your go-to items.

For example, you could save a ton of money on paper products at the dollar store. Then, hit up your favorite grocer for your fresh fruits and veggies.

Use These Sites to Get Coupons for Groceries

A simple way to save a ton of money at checkout is to deal stack, the art of layering cash-back apps and coupons.

If you’re looking for coupons — because not many of us receive the Sunday newspaper anymore — you can find a trove of coupons to print from these sites.

1. Betty Crocker: Up to $250 in Free Coupons

Give Betty Crocker your email address, and it’ll send you up to $250 worth of coupons that can help you get deeply discounted or free canned goods, cereal and yogurt at grocery stores.

In addition to coupons, Betty Crocker’s free email delivers the best of Betty’s 15,000 kitchen-tested recipes, how-tos and more — straight to your inbox!

If you’re like us, you probably get bored making the same food week after week, so wouldn’t it be nice to occasionally be surprised with simple recipes you can make on a budget?

2. Pillsbury: Up to $250 in Coupons

Sign up for Pillsbury.com emails to receive up to $250 in yearly coupons, access to free product samples (quantities limited, one per member) and the easiest recipes sent right to your inbox.

Because of the high value of these coupons, they’ve limited it to one set of coupons per person, so if you need more, get someone else in your household to sign up, too.

Pillsbury's free Pie Guide sign-up page.

3. Tap Into This Free Coupon Portal

Just when you think you’ve exhausted all your coupon resources, think again.

Tap into exclusive discounts through the Kellogg’s Family Rewards portal. Find printable and digital coupons for great deals on cereals, diapers, laundry detergent — more than just Kellogg’s products.

Additionally, use the tool to earn points on other qualifying items. Exchange them for gift cards to popular retailers, like Starbucks, Domino’s and Sephora.

Sign up with your email address and answer a few questions to earn an easy 100 bonus points. Then start collecting!

 6 Ways to Save on Organic Groceries

A women tends to her home Garden. Saturday Aug. 24, 2018, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

We get it: You just feel better about buying some items organic. That doesn’t mean you have to spend more money, though. Here are some strategies to help you save on organic groceries:

1. Grow a Cost-Effective Garden

If you have a yard — or even shelf space for herbs — consider growing your own fresh produce.

Because some veggies require more time, money and love upfront, plant the most cost-effective vegetables, which include salad greens, cherry tomatoes, green beans, herbs, summer squash, carrots and zucchini.

Another perk? You’ll know exactly how your produce was grown.

2. Shop Seasonally

Woman working, arranging produce at farmer's market
Getty Images

Stay in your lane — or season.

Buying organic strawberries out of season, for example, can cost you a ton of money. Instead, shop and plan your meals seasonally. If you need out-of-season produce, buy it frozen.

3. Buy Organic Meat in Bulk

Did you know you can buy meat in bulk? The idea of it sounds kind of gross, but you can save a ton of money by shopping at your local wholesale meat supplier.

Penny Hoarder contributor Shannon Quinn buys her meat in bulk from her local supplier.  She gets three months’ worth of beef, pork, chicken and fish for $50 — and it all fits in her standard-sized freezer.

4. Tap Into a Local CSA

Find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to tap into your area’s organic fruits, vegetables, meat and even honey.

It’s like a subscription box. You’ll receive monthly, biweekly or weekly boxes of goods. Plus, you’re supporting local agriculture!

Find CSA programs near you by searching the USDA’s CSA database.

5. Know the Organic Store Brands

woman comparing fruit in grocery store
Getty Images

You probably know grocery stores offer store-brand items, which can typically help you save some money over regular name brands. But did you know some also offer organic store brands?

Here are a few examples:

  • Aldi: SimplyNature
  • Kroger: Simple Truth
  • Publix: Greenwise
  • Safeway: O Organics
  • Target: Simply Balanced
  • Whole Foods: 365 Everyday Value

6. Understand What’s Worth Buying Organic

If you’re tried-and-true, always organic, that’s fine. But if you buy organic because you’re a sucker for green labels or simply feel like it’s healthier, then do some research. Make sure you know what that “organic” label means, and determine what’s worth buying organic and what’s not.

Saving Money on Groceries: Easier Than You’d Think

Maximizing your grocery budget doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right apps, coupons and strategies, you can easily cut your monthly grocery spend.

If you’re looking for even more ways to save money, check out our ultimate step-by-step guide to saving money.

*The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com