The Cost of Living in San Antonio

San Antonio is one of the best places to live in Texas. You’ll have access to an abundance of bars, restaurants, shopping and entertainment opportunities.

People who live in San Antonio say it’s Texas’ best-kept secret. And most of them would like to keep it that way! That doesn’t mean they’re not open to new neighbors, though. If you’re thinking of moving to The Alamo City, you’re in good company. On average, approximately 66 people move to the city every day.

With affordable real estate and lower than average rent, combined with the big city amenities and a small-town feel, it’s no wonder San Antonio is booming.

The cost of living in San Antonio is below the national average by 7.5 percent, making a move to this city an affordable option for many. To find out if San Antonio is right for you, consider the cost of living in the following categories.

San Antonio Riverwalk high rise

San Antonio Riverwalk high rise

Housing costs in San Antonio

The biggest part of your monthly budget is your rent. According to financial experts, the “rule of thumb” when it comes to renting is that it should make up no more than 30 percent of your monthly budget. However, according to a 2020 Harvard report, nearly 25 percent of renters spend over half their budget on rental fees.

What you decide to spend on rent is up to you and where you decide to live, which is why it’s smart to check out rental fees in various cities. You might be able to find the apartment of your dreams at an affordable rate (that doesn’t eat up half your income) in a city like San Antonio.

So, how does this city stack up? The average rent in San Antonio is 16.8 percent cheaper than the U.S. average. You can expect to pay about $1,103 per month, which is an 18.3 percent decrease from the previous year.

Of course, some neighborhoods are a bit pricier, like Downtown San Antonio. There you’ll pay a little less than $2,000 per month on rent.

Or, you might pay less if you move to a neighborhood like Woodlawn Hills, where the average rental fees are around $750 per month.

Average rent prices in cities near San Antonio

If you aren’t comfortable with the average rent in San Antonio or aren’t sure if this city is the right one for you, you still have plenty of options. Texas is full of awesome cities that have the amenities that will fit your needs — and at prices that fit your budget.

In addition to browsing through various neighborhoods in San Antonio, you can also research nearby cities, such as the following.

Home prices in San Antonio

Another option is to save up your money and put a down payment on a San Antonio home. Many people feel this is a better option than renting because you’re putting your money into something that’s going to appreciate and benefit you (and potentially other members of your family) instead of simply putting money into a landlord’s pocket.

The average price for a home in San Antonio is $279,000 — an amazing price considering houses in some cities like Los Angeles, CA or Manhattan, NY go for $920,000 and $1,170,000, respectively, on average. Even Dallas, TX has significantly higher housing prices (averaging nearly $400,000).

However, San Antonio is booming, which means the housing market is very competitive right now. On average, homes sell for between 1 and 5 percent higher than the asking price and sell within 11 to 18 days.

What about your mortgage payment? Depending on your down payment and the price of the home you’re interested in, you can expect to pay at least $1,188 per month, according to Redfin. This is higher than the average rent in San Antonio, so you’ll definitely have to weigh the pros and cons of renting vs. buying.

Tex Mex food in San Antonio

Tex Mex food in San Antonio

Food costs in San Antonio

Another category that can quickly and substantially increase the cost of living in San Antonio (or any city for that matter) is food costs, which fall into two categories: groceries and eating out.

Most people will tell you that eating out is more expensive than eating at home. But for a lot of people, eating out is a necessity at times due to their busy schedule, which contributes not only to a lack of time but also to exhaustion.

Thankfully, you have plenty of dining options in San Antonio. If you’re a fan of Bon Appétit magazine, then you’ll love their recommendations, like the 2M Smokehouse, which is where you’ll find the best barbeque in Texas. But there’s more to Texas cuisine than barbeque. You’ll also find:

  • Seafood
  • Vegetarian restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Middle Eastern
  • Italian
  • Ethiopian
  • Jamaican

Just to name a few!

The average cost of a meal out is around $13, though that’s for budget-friendly options. If you choose to eat at a fine dining establishment or want to have your food delivered (with delivery fees and driver tips), expect to pay much more.

Eating at home

If you’re trying to save money, you can cook most (if not all) of your meals at home. Grocery costs in San Antonio are 10 percent cheaper than the national average.

Let’s say you want to make some fried chicken with a side of corn and a coke for a fast and easy, Southern comfort meal. Your grocery bill for that meal will be around $3.82. Other cities in the country will average a bill of about $4.45. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference but when you’re doing your weekly or monthly shopping, it will add up. And you’ll really be able to see the difference when you evaluate what you spent on food over the course of a year.

Utility costs in San Antonio

Utility costs in San Antonio are also lower than the national average by 11.3 percent. Utilities are one of the most important figures to factor into the cost of living in San Antonio. They can quickly and radically increase your costs each month, including the average rent in San Antonio.

The average monthly electricity/power bill in the U.S. is $161.20. In San Antonio, the average cost is $136.97.

Other utilities include:

San Antonio high way

San Antonio high way

Transportation costs in San Antonio

Another important feature of the cost of living in San Antonio is transportation. After all, you need to get to and from work and be able to run errands efficiently — and affordably — if possible.

Fortunately, transportation costs in San Antonio are 4.6 percent lower than the national average. These costs include:

  • Public transit: A one-way trip on the VIA Metropolitan Transit bus costs $1.30. You can purchase a 7-day pass for $12 or a month-long pass for $38.00. The Transit Score for San Antonio is 37.
  • Parking: The average parking rate in the city is $5.50 per hour or $16 for 24 hours.
  • Fuel: A gallon of gas is currently around $2.43, which is 12.7 percent cheaper than the national average and 59.54 percent cheaper than the price of gas in Sacramento, CA.
  • Vehicle maintenance: One of the most common maintenance fees is tire rotation and balancing. You’ll pay about $59.50 for this service in San Antonio, which is 12.7 percent higher than the U.S. average.

Another common way to get around a city is to walk or bike. While this is possible in San Antonio, the walkability and bike scores aren’t great. They are well-below average (38 and 45, respectively). However, San Antonio is trying to change that.

In addition to the mostly flat topography of the city, you’ll also have access to San Antonio B-Cycle, which is a bike-share program that has over 50 stations throughout the city. For a 30-minute ride, you can rent a bike for $3.75. Or you can purchase a monthly or annual membership for $22 per month or $100 per year.

Healthcare costs in San Antonio

Though this is an important category in which to figure out your unique cost of living in San Antonio, these prices are typically difficult to determine. The reason for this is because healthcare impacts every person differently.

Some people pay less because they’re single, healthy and have great insurance. Others pay more because they don’t have insurance. And others may pay more even if they have insurance because they must pay for the coverage of a spouse/partner and dependents and/or have chronic health conditions that require frequent trips to the doctor or regular prescription medications.

Overall, the cost of healthcare in San Antonio is 6 percent lower than the national average. If you make an appointment for your annual physical, you’ll pay $116 for that visit. In other cities in the U.S., you’ll pay around $112.81. A trip to the dentist will cost $91.33 before insurance, whereas residents of other cities will pay approximately $99.44.

Over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications range from 4.27 percent to 6.35 percent cheaper, respectively.

San Antonio Riverwalk

San Antonio Riverwalk

Goods and services costs in San Antonio

Non-essential goods and services can radically increase the cost of living in San Antonio if you’re not careful. We don’t always pay attention to these costs because, while we purchase or invest in them regularly, most aren’t a monthly expense like rent or food.

Getting a baseline idea of how much you spend each month on these items can give you a good idea of whether you can afford the average rent in San Antonio.

On average, the cost of goods and services in San Antonio is 1 percent higher than the national average. For the most part, that’s not a huge price hike but if you’re like most people, you’ll want to look for a deal to save a few bucks each month.

Here are a few price comparisons.

  • Haircut: $27 in San Antonio; $20 U.S. average
  • Yoga class: $18.20 in San Antonio; $15 national average
  • Visit the salon: $51.70 in San Antonio; $38.64 U.S. average
  • A trip to the movies: $11.88 in San Antonio; $11.12 national average
  • Veterinary check-up: $50.64 in San Antonio; $52.45 U.S. average

Taxes in San Antonio

One of the perks of living in San Antonio is that there’s no state income tax. However, you’ll still have to pay sales and property taxes, and these can end up being relatively higher than average.

If you choose to purchase a home in San Antonio for the median price ($279,000), you’ll pay around $5,496 each year in residential property taxes. The property tax rate is 1.970 percent and can exponentially increase the cost of living in San Antonio, depending on your mortgage rate and the price of your home.

The sales tax rate in San Antonio is 8.25 percent, 6.25 percent of which goes to the state of Texas. If you make a $1,000 purchase, you’ll end up paying an additional $82.50 in taxes.

How much do you need to earn to live in San Antonio?

How much you need to earn depends on the total cost of living in San Antonio, most of which you’ll likely allocate to your rental or mortgage fees. Many financial experts recommend spending no more than 30 percent on this expense.

If you’re paying the average rent in San Antonio, you’ll pay $13,236 per year toward rent. If that makes up 30 percent of your budget, you’ll need to make an additional $30,884 to live comfortably. That means your total annual income needs to amount to $44,120.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average income in San Antonio is $52,455. If you make that, congratulations! You’ll be able to afford the average rent in San Antonio with a little extra leftover for an emergency fund, investments or other expenses that may increase your cost of living in San Antonio.

If you’re not sure whether you can afford to live in this fine Texas city, check out our free rental calculator to get a better idea of what you can afford.

Understanding the cost of living in San Antonio

The prospect of moving to a new city is a daunting one because there are so many unknown variables. But when you take the time to understand all the factors involved in figuring out the total cost of living in San Antonio, you’ll feel more confident about your decision to move to a new city. You’ll know that such a move is within budget, which will allow you to not only live comfortably in San Antonio but to thrive in your new hometown.

When you’re ready to make the move, make sure to check out our listings to find apartments for rent in San Antonio that are sure to make you feel at home.

Cost of living information comes from The Council for Community and Economic Research.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and’s multifamily rental property inventory of two-bedroom apartments as of August 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.


Our Best Value Tech Holiday Gifts for 2021 (Plus the Best, Period)

Yes, the 2021 edition is arriving a little earlier than usual, but there’s a reason for that. The supply chain disruption, chip shortages, and transportation woes that have been so disruptive over the past year continue. That means popular products may be more difficult to find than usual, and retailers are warning that some may quickly sell out when holiday shopping kicks off.

To put that in perspective, a full year after launch, many gamers are still struggling to get their hands on a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X game console.

So this is your head start. The gift guide is divided into two sections. The first is tech gifts that offer great value. They have an excellent combination of performance, features, and quality at a compelling price point. The second section is for tech products that stand out and offer more of a wow factor. They still deliver on value, but they’re higher up the price scale. I have had hands-on experience with virtually all of these products and published reviews for the majority of them, so you can count on each of these being much more than a pretty picture.

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Best Value in Chromebooks: Lenovo Chromebook Duet 10.1-inch 2-in-1

photo of Lenovo Chromebook Duet 10.1-inch 2-in-1photo of Lenovo Chromebook Duet 10.1-inch 2-in-1

Chromebooks were already popular with students, but two school years where remote and hybrid learning have been a frequent reality has made them indispensable for many families.

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet has wowed us since its 2020 debut. It’s a 2-in-1 with a detachable display so it can be used as a tablet, which is ideal for running Android apps or reading. Unlike many companies, Lenovo includes the magnetically connecting keyboard in the box. At under $300, you’re not going to find a fire-breathing processor, extra RAM or a lot of storage. In this case it’s a MediaTek Helio P60T 8-core CPU, 4GB or RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage.

However, in a Chromebook, that does the job. When I reviewed the Chromebook Duet, I could easily have a dozen Chrome tabs open without slowdown. It’s equipped with a built-in webcam for video conferencing. I was really impressed by Lenovo’s inclusion of a 1080p IPS touchscreen display (many entry level Chromebooks still have 720p displays), and the 10 hours of battery life I averaged.

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Best Value in Gaming Laptops: Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-55-53E5)

Photo of Acer Nitro 5Photo of Acer Nitro 5

Gaming was already big, but in the pandemic, popularity soared. And then kept growing. Online PC gaming platform Steam just keeps breaking its own record for concurrent users. Gaming laptops have been incredibly popular because they allow PC gaming from wherever you can carve out the space to sit down, and they can do double-duty for school. But to play PC games, you really do need a gaming laptop, though — a standard computer lacks the graphics processing unit (GPU) to be able to handle popular triple-A games. 

You can actually get a pretty capable gaming laptop for well under $1,000. Acer’s Nitro 5 series has been an affordable gaming laptop leader for years. There are dozens of models to choose from, but this year’s crop includes the Nitro 5 (AN515-55-53E5).

For $799, you get a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3050 GPU capable of real-time ray tracing, a 15.6-inch 1080p display with a 144Hz refresh rate, Wi-Fi 6, and ultra-fast NVMe storage.

RAM and storage are both on the low end but usable (8GB and 256GB respectively), but can be easily and inexpensively upgraded at any time thanks to free slots.

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Best Value in Laptops: Apple M1 MacBook Air

Photo of Apple M1 MacBook Air Photo of Apple M1 MacBook Air

Once again, the M1 MacBook Air tops our list as the best value in laptops. We’re expecting a new version in 2022, but that one is undoubtedly going to go a little more upscale.

The current M1 MacBook Air — released last November — is a powerful performer thanks to Apple’s custom-designed M1 CPU. It features a silent, fanless design, a premium machined aluminum enclosure (in gold, silver or space gray), a very nice 13.3-inch Liquid Retina display, and battery life of up to 18 hours. It runs macOS instead of Windows, but there are macOS or cloud versions of most popular applications including Microsoft Office, so that shouldn’t be a big issue for most users.

With a starting price of $999 ($899 if you qualify for educational pricing), there’s no better value to be found in a laptop.

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Best Value in Smart Speaker: Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

Photo of Google Nest HubPhoto of Google Nest Hub

The pandemic has made connected digital photo frames popular as a way to create a digital connection with people less comfortable with laptops, tablets or similar equipment. This year’s suggestion is the second-generation Google Nest Hub.

This device is truly a great value. Priced at $99.99, it’s a smart speaker with a built-in 7-inch touchscreen. Use it to play music, stream videos, voice control smart home devices, and take video calls. And when not doing all that, the display can double as a digital photo frame as well, playing a slide show of your favorite snaps from Google Photos.

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Best Value in TVs: TCL 6-Series 4K Roku TV

Photo of tvPhoto of tv

Last year, the TCL 4-Series 4K Roku TV made this list as the best value in TVs, with a $229.99 starting price. This year, TCL is on the list again (the company is on a roll), but with the 6-Series, which has a $949.99 starting price.

Why the big price difference, and should you pay it?

First, sky-high demand for TVs combined with parts shortages and higher shipping costs have pushed prices considerably higher for all TVs this year. The TCL model that went for $229.99 last year is priced at $349.99 this year. That was also a 43-inch TV, where the smallest 6-Series is a 55-inch model ($499.99 for that size in the 4-Series).

The TCL 6-Series is equipped with advanced technology including a quantum dot display and a 120Hz refresh rate. It supports features like Dolby Atmos surround sound and Dolby Vision HDR. It delivers an excellent viewing experience and with its THX certified game mode, it is consistently rated as one of the best TVs for gaming with the new Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X game consoles. It’s a tremendous value in a TV and well worth the higher price tag — which is still well below the competition.

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Best Value in Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Charge 5

Photo of Fitbit Charge 5Photo of Fitbit Charge 5

Smart watches like the Apple Watch continue to gain popularity, but the reality is that many people who buy these are primarily using them for their health and fitness-tracking capabilities, and those you can get for less.

The Fitbit Charge 5 is an attractive-looking fitness tracker, with an aluminum case (in a choice of colors), swappable bands, a vibrant, always-on AMOLED touchscreen display, built-in GPS, and seven-day battery life. It offers a full array of health and fitness tracking capabilities including a heart rate sensor, ECG, oxygen saturation (SpO2) levels, breathing rate, and sleep monitoring.

It can also show notifications from an iPhone or Android smartphone.

If you’re shopping for someone who wants to be on top of all aspects of their health and fitness, the Fitbit Charge 5 is a great value at $100 less than Apple’s entry-level Apple Watch SE.

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Best Value in ANC Wireless Headphones: PuroPro Hybrid ANC Volume Limited Headphones

Photo illustration of PuroPro HeadphonesPhoto illustration of PuroPro Headphones

Wireless headphones are always a popular gift. The latest must-have feature — thanks to the trend working from home trend — is active noise cancellation (ANC). You can spend a lot of money on a pair of over-ear headphones that offer wireless connectivity and ANC, but you don’t need to. These will handle your neighbor’s leaf blower just fine.

In testing, I found the PuroPro Hybrid ANC wireless headphones deliver on the noise cancellation front, with two levels of ANC. They are comfortable and modern-looking, and offer an enjoyable music listening experience with plenty of energy. It’s on a level comparable with more expensive offerings. But there’s a twist. These headphones have a built in volume limiter to prevent hearing damage, making them ideal for those who habitually crank their music to 11. Odds are, they’ll never even notice.

PuroPro headphones fold compactly for carrying and come with a hardshell carrying case. They ship in a unique wooden box instead of cardboard, making for an attractive gift you won’t even need to wrap. 

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Best Value in Wireless Earbuds: 1More ComfoBuds Pro Aura Blue

Photo of 1More ComfoBudsPhoto of 1More ComfoBuds

True wireless earbuds make a great gift, and as with headphones, active noise cancellation is the latest must-have feature. The default when it comes to earbuds are Apple’s incredibly popular AirPods. If you want ANC, that means moving up to the $249 AirPods Pro.

However, at less than half that price, the 1More ComfoBuds Pro Aura Blue wireless earbuds are a much better value.

They are designed to be extremely comfortable (hence the name) and music sounds great thanks to 13.4 mm titanium composite dynamic drivers and custom tuning. You can customize the sound with 22 pre-set EQ settings. Six microphones support voice calls and multiple ANC modes, including pass-through (which basically means amplifying outside sounds so you can hear nearby voices or warning noises like car horns over top of the music). The stems are equipped with customizable touch control. They have a unique and very attractive metallic blue paint job and tiny LED “firefly” indicator lights on the tips. Sweat and rain are no problem with IPX4 water resistance.

ComfoBuds Pro also beat the AirPods Pro when it comes to battery life, with up to six hours per charge with ANC on and eight hours with ANC off.

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Best Value In Kids’ Tablets: Amazon Fire HD Kids Tablets

Photo of Amazon Fire Kids ProPhoto of Amazon Fire Kids Pro

Tablets make great gifts for kids. The devices let them stream their favorite videos, play games, read, listen to music, snap photos, and more. A tablet is entertainment that can be used anywhere, including in the car during road trips.

But: Tablets can be expensive, they’re fragile, and security can be a problem. Apple’s iPad is the go-to tablet, but it starts at $329. The smaller iPad mini that’s a more kid-friendly size costs even more with a $499 starting price.

Amazon has a proven solution for parents. It has a series of Fire tablets made specifically for kids. These include models starting at 7 inches, with features like a protective case, parental controls, a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+ content, access to Amazon’s app store, support for video calls, and free replacement for two years if the tablet is broken.

Prices start at $99.99 for the 7-inch Fire 7 Kids Pro and range to $199.99 for the 10-inch Fire HD Pro Kids tablet. Amazon even offers discounts on multiples if you’re shopping for more than one kid. These do tend to sell out frequently, so keep checking back for stock.

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Best Value in Portable Power Banks: Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL With PD

Photo of Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL WPhoto of Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL W

Everyone can use a portable power bank. With so many of our devices being battery-powered, running out of charge is a constant risk. If it’s not your smartphone, it’s a tablet or wireless earbuds. Having a portable power bank handy in a purse, backpack, or glove compartment means you can easily charge these devices on demand and on the move, without clinging to an AC outlet.

I’ve always been a fan of Mophie products. The company has been making battery packs for smartphones and mobile devices for years. They know what works. My current pick among Mophie’s offerings is the Powerstation Wireless XL with PD.

This portable power bank is on the large size for a portable (it’s just over 5 inches long and weighs almost 8 ounces), but it packs a big 10,000mAh battery. That’s enough to charge most smartphones twice. Its top is a Qi wireless charger for convenience, and it has both USB Type-A and USB-C output ports. So you can charge just about anything, and charge multiple devices simultaneously. It’s also covered with fabric for a premium touch.

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Best Portable Gaming System: Nintendo Switch OLED Model

Photo of Nintendo Switch Photo of Nintendo Switch

The first gift idea among the “best of” pack is a new version of the must-have portable game system for the past several years. There are now hundreds of games in the Nintendo Switch library, including best-sellers like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The Nintendo Switch is a mobile gamer’s dream. The new Switch OLED Model adds $50 to the price of the original, but addresses that system’s primary weakness with a vibrant new OLED display. Colors pop like never before and the size increases to 7.0 inches from 6.2 inches. The Switch OLED Model also features an improved stand, better audio, and adds a wired LAN port to its stand for use in docked mode.

Heads up: the Nintendo Switch has proven to be tough to find, especially during the holiday season, so don’t leave this one to the last minute.

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Best All-In-One Music System With Turntable: Andover Audio Spin System

Andover Audio Spin SystemAndover Audio Spin System
  • Our pick: Andover Audio Spin System
  • Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: Components sold individually, ranging from $199 to $599

Andover Audio is an American audio brand led by an engineering team with backgrounds at firms Cambridge SoundWorks, Bose and Harmon. Designing high-end audio gear since 2012, the company has serious audiophile cred. And it’s focused on compact, turntable-based systems. In last year’s gift guide, the Andover Model One all-in-one system was featured. This year, it’s Andover’s Spin system.

This is a modular approach that you can add to. The base configuration is the SpinBase turntable speaker system ($299) plus a SpinDeck ($349) or SpinDeck MAX ($599) turntable. That configuration provides a solid, compact audio system with 270-degree sound, the ability to play your record collection in style, and Bluetooth streaming.

You can add to that base system with the SpinSub subwoofer ($299) and SpinStand system and record stand ($199) for a killer, compact audio system in a black or white finish.

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Best Compact Tablet: Apple iPad Mini

Photo of Apple iPad Mini Photo of Apple iPad Mini
  • Our pick: Apple iPad Mini
  • Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: Starting at $499

Compact tablets make great gifts. A small tablet is easy to slip into a bag for travel and it’s small enough to sit on a nightstand. It provides a bigger display than a smartphone, but it’s not too large. Compact tablets don’t get much better than Apple’s recently-launched 6th generation iPad mini.

Apple went with an all-screen design in this 2021 release, losing the Home button and increasing the screen size to 8.3-inches. It’s equipped with a high resolution Liquid Retina display with True Tone and P3 wide color support. The iPad mini is extremely powerful, with Apple’s latest chip — the A15 Bionic — inside. Apple also incorporated high end cameras with a 12MP rear shooter, and a 12MP FaceTime HD camera that supports Center Stage intelligent focus. It’s also great for jotting notes or sketching with the optional Apple Pencil 2.

The latest iPad Mini is perfect for reading, web browsing, streaming video, checking your social media feed, videoconferencing, and even snapping photos. It also packs the power for mobile gaming. It’s available in four colors and starts at $499 with 64GB of storage. Additional storage and 5G connectivity is available at extra cost.

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Best Wireless Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 Over-Ear Wireless Headphones with ANC

Photo of Sonny HeadphonesPhoto of Sonny Headphones

It should come as no surprise that Sony makes great headphones. When I reviewed the company’s WH-1000XM3 wireless headphones with ANC, I wore them to a water park on a hot summer day and parked myself in a chair just feet from a roller coaster track. With ANC active, there was nothing but silence despite hundreds of screaming kids and a thundering coaster hurtling past. Music sounds fantastic and spatial audio in the 360 Reality Audio format is supported. Battery life is excellent, at up to 38 hours.

Sony managed to top those with the WH-1000XM4 headphones, which scooped a CES 2021 Innovation Award. Voice call performance is improved, and they gain multi-point Bluetooth so they can be connected to two devices simultaneously (useful when working from home). ANC somehow gets even better and they gain DSEE Extreme upscaling, a feature that makes lossy files like MP3s sound better.

While there’s a strong case for Apple’s AirPods Pro headphones in this category, Sony’s WH-1000XM4s simply offer a better value.

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Best Wireless Earbuds: Ultimate Ears UE FITS

Photo of Ultimate EarsPhoto of Ultimate Ears

One of the most important factors in terms of how good earbuds are going to sound is their fit. Without a tight seal, bass in particular drops off, and even the best buds sound tinny. Of course  if they don’t fit properly, they are also unlikely to stay in place. Sometimes all the tips and wings in the world just won’t do it.

Ultimate Ears drove this point home when I tested the company’s UE 18+ CX earbuds. These are custom-molded buds that fit like a glove and sound phenomenal — but they cost as much as a mortgage payment. Fortunately, the company has adapted that custom-molding technology in the consumer UE Fits wireless earbuds.

An app walks you through the fitting process and after less than a minute you have custom-molded wireless earbuds that fit perfectly. They sound great, they’re extremely comfortable, and they stay in place. They’re available in midnight blue, gray, or lilac. What makes a better gift for a music lover than custom-molded earbuds? Especially when they cost a very reasonable $249…

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Best Portable Speaker: Ultimate Ears HYPERBOOM

Photo of the Hyperboom SpeakersPhoto of the Hyperboom Speakers

Ultimate Ears’ second product in this gift guide is making a repeat appearance after being featured in our 2020 gift guide. The reason why is simple: if you’re looking for a portable wireless speaker, there is nothing else (at a reasonable price point) that can touch the sound the Ultimate Ears HYPERBOOM puts out.

This is a big speaker (it weighs 13 pounds) and it’s packed with drivers including a pair of 4.5-inch woofers, two 1-inch tweeters, and two 7.5-inch passive radiators — a setup that delivers thumping bass, wide dynamic range, and 270-degree sound. A built-in adaptive EQ with mic automatically optimizes the audio for whatever environment you’re in and the mobile app lets you customize the audio to your heart’s content with a 5-band EQ.

It’s big and powerful, but also portable. The HYPERBOOM is equipped with an integrated handle, it has an IPX4 water resistance rating, and its battery will keep the music going for up to 24 hours.

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Best TV Soundbar: Sonos Beam (Gen 2)

Photo of Sonos BeamPhoto of Sonos Beam

You can spend a lot on a soundbar these days. Once considered a compromise solution for when someone lacked the space or budget for a full home theater rig, sound bars have evolved into fully featured systems in their own right.

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a top pick for 2021. In its second generation, it adds support for Dolby Atmos 3D audio. It lacks upward-firing drivers, but two arrays are dedicated to reproducing overhead and surround effects. It’s not quite as effective as the Sonos Arc soundbar, which is equipped with actual upward-firing drivers — but that model retails for $899. The Sonos Beam 2 is pretty convincing while saving money that could be put toward a Sonos Sub wireless subwoofer for true movie theatre rumble.

The Sonos mobile app is required to set up the Beam (Gen 2), but you don’t need to be invested in the Sonos ecosystem to use this soundbar. In fact, it supports Wi-Fi music streamed via Apple AirPlay 2. Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is available in matte black or matte white finishes.

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Best Smart Lighting System: Nanoleaf Shapes

Photo of Nanoleaf ShapesPhoto of Nanoleaf Shapes
  • Our pick: Nanoleaf Shapes
  • Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: Kits start at $119.99

I test a lot of smart lighting solutions. Color-changing bulbs and LED strips are fine, but I’ve been a fan of Nanoleaf’s interlocking. wall-mounted smart light panels since the first version was released in 2016. I currently have around 50 Nanoleaf panels on my office walls. Nanoleaf’s Canvas took the best-smart smarting lighting honors in the 2020 gift guide.

Nanoleaf is back again in 2021, but this time with the all-new Nanoleaf Shapes. These new panels — available in hexagons, triangles, and small triangles — finally allow the mixing and matching of different shapes and sizes in a single Nanoleaf setup. This opens up a whole new level of custom designs. They also feature an improved connection system that makes it easier to remove panels.

Everything else that makes Nanoleaf smart panels great (and a great gift) remains. They’re Wi-Fi connected, support all the main smart home standards, they can display millions of colors and scenes, and they can pulse to music in various patterns.

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Best Whole Home Mesh Router System: Netgear Orbi Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

Photo of Netgear RouterPhoto of Netgear Router

It seems like virtually everything in our homes is connected these days. It’s not just your smartphone, tablet, or PC. Smart TVs, video streamers, smart watches, smart speakers, game consoles, smart thermostats, smart door locks, smart lights, home security systems, and more are all connected. They all rely on the internet and they connect to the internet using your home’s Wi-Fi network.

Too often that Wi-Fi just isn’t up to the task. Connections drop, video streams buffer, games lag, and websites load slowly.

One of the best gifts you can give someone these days is a Wi-Fi upgrade. I’ve been testing a lot of routers over the past two years as Wi-Fi 6 makes its way into the mainstream. From my perspective, the ultimate solution to any home Wi-Fi woes is a Wi-Fi 6 mesh system. You get next-gen speed and features, plus whole-home coverage that a traditional router just can’t match. Netgear’s Orbi is the leader of the pack. It may cost more than other whole home mesh router systems, but Orbi is worth it.

The current sweet spot among the company’s offerings is the Orbi Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System. Comprised of a router and one satellite, it supports Wi-Fi 6, offers a maximum throughput of 6Gbps, supports over 100 devices with concurrent connections, and blankets 5000 square feet with seamless, reliable, fast Wi-Fi.

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Best eReader: Kobo Sage

Photo of Kobe Sage eReaderPhoto of Kobe Sage eReader
  • Our pick: Kobo Sage
  • Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $259.99

For someone who reads a lot, an eReader is an excellent gift option. Chances are, even if they own one already, it’s getting long in the tooth. The new generation of eReaders makes models from even a few years ago look primitive in comparison, especially with advances in lighting and screen resolution. If you’re shopping for someone who is already heavily invested in Amazon Kindle eBooks, then the cream of the crop is the latest Kindle Oasis.

However, for anyone else, my suggestion is the Kobo Sage. The latest release from Kobo is the perfect piece of hardware for people who read a lot. Its 8-inch display is the largest in its class, and the E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen is razor-sharp at 300 PPI. Kobo pioneered temperature-changing side-lighting with its ComfortLight PRO system that adjusts the lighting colour temperature and brightness to reduce eyestrain. It is IPX8 water resistant and can survive a dunking in three feet of water. The Sage offers 12 fonts and 50 font styles for complete customization of the reading experience.

Kobo e-readers also include integrated Overdrive support, which makes it easy to borrow eBooks from local libraries.

The Sage includes a number of new features (to Kobo) including upgrades to 802.11ac Wi-Fi and USB-C, Bluetooth connectivity and support for audiobooks, dark mode, plus support for an optional Kobo Stylus for penning notes.

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Best Gaming Laptop: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 (GA503QS-BS96Q)

photo of laptopphoto of laptop

Finally, what might be the most popular gift on the 2021 list: the best gaming laptop. The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 isn’t the most expensive gaming laptop you can buy. Far from it. But it offers a near-perfect balance. Between cost and performance, weight and battery life, performance and portability. This is the gaming laptop that does it all, and does so without feeling like compromises are being made.

Brace for the letters and numbers (the gamers will appreciate them):

  • The GA503QS-BS96Q version is equipped with AMD’s screaming Ryzen 9 5900HS Processor at 3.1 GHz.
  • There is a 16GB of DDR4 RAM onboard, upgradable to 40GB. 
  • Graphics are taken care of by Nvidia’s mighty GeForce RTX 3080 GPU with 6GB of DDR6 RAM. 
  • Storage is a super fast 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD.
  • The six speaker audio system supports Dolby Atmos.
  • The 15.6-inch IPS display has WQHD resolution, a 165Hz refresh rate with FreeSync support, 3ms response time, and the color is Pantone validated. Heat is effectively dissipated by a pair of 84 blade fans and six heat pipes.

All this in a 0.78-inch thick laptop that weighs just 4.1 pounds and can stream video for eight hours on a charge.


Here’s How to Negotiate a House Price, Even in a Seller’s Market

When you’re in the market to buy a house, the fun part is browsing listings and touring places in person, imagining yourself in your new abode.

The intimidating part: the negotiation. Especially in the current seller’s market.

According to a report from Freddie Mac, the housing shortage has recently increased by 52% from 2.5 million in 2018, to 3.8 million in 2020. Translation? There aren’t nearly enough houses, making the current market sway very strongly in the seller’s favor.

Despite this unsettling news, everything in real estate is still relatively negotiable, and the back-and-forth can work in your favor. But there are a few general ground rules you’ll want to keep in mind.

We’re here to demystify the process and explain how you can best negotiate the price on your future home, even in a sellers market.

When Does the Negotiation Start?

Some real estate agents like to say the negotiation process starts when you go “under contract” with a seller — in other words,you’ve made an offer and they’ve accepted it.

But it’s worth considering your negotiation power even before then, as in the very first time you see the home in person.

“Realistically, anything the buyer doesn’t like can be a negotiating point,” says Peter Farsai, senior partner at California Top Brokers Inc. This can include repairs that need to be done, what appliances or furniture may come with the home, and any facets of the property that may need to be fixed up or completed.

For example, if a house has an unfinished guest suite, this might not be considered a “repair” but is still a worthy point of negotiation. Since completing this space would require your time and funds in the future, it might be worth running those costs by your real estate agent (or even asking a builder to provide an estimate) and then asking the seller to come down in price to accommodate them.

Any concrete estimates you can provide a seller will ultimately be better than spitballing, so consider making an upfront investment to get those estimates if you’re serious about a home that will need major repairs.

How Does the Negotiation Work?

If negotiation starts the first time you see the house, it’s important to note that it doesn’t end until you actually close on the property.

Take the Pre-Closing Paperwork Seriously

Closing usually occurs 45 days after you sign the contract, and in between a whole lot happens to protect the buyer and make sure you’re fully informed on your investment.

That means that from the time the seller accepts your offer, you typically have over a month to review the home and its documentation and go through the necessary steps to make sure the house doesn’t have any hidden problems and is worth the price you’re paying.

Be thorough here. The paperwork is exhausting, but well worth the read.

Schedule the Inspection ASAP — and Don’t Be Shy

One key step in this process? Getting a home inspection. Home inspectors check out all the systems of your house, plus all the nooks and crannies.

Once you go under contract, schedule a home inspection ASAP, as this — more than anything — will alert you to anything major that needs to be discussed and negotiated with the seller.

Don’t be shy about bringing these issues up, even if you’re buying in a sellers market.

Once problems are found (and documented) by a home inspector, the seller has a legal obligation to address them. Meaning, those problems will follow them as homeowners, no matter who they decide to sell to.

Even if your deal falls through, that documentation should theoretically be passed on to the next buyer. In other words, the seller has every incentive to address the problem with you, and you definitely shouldn’t accept faulty terms or a bad deal on a fixer-upper house, no matter how much you love it.

A row of houses sit on a hill with a mountain behind it.
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

It’s Not Just About Price: What Else Can You Ask For?

Beyond what the home inspector finds, or anything obvious (such as unfinished construction projects), there are a lot of small things you might want to try and negotiate as well.

Keep in mind that small details may not actually affect the value of the home. Rather than negotiating on price (especially if you have a money-motivated seller), you might just be asking a seller to include (or remove) something from the property.

“The most important factors impacting the value of a home is the location in which it is found, its livable square footage, and the size and usability of the land on which it sits,” says real estate attorney Rajeh A. Saadeh.

“Other factors, such as the presence and size of garages, whether the basement and attic are finished, water damage, old carpeting, old appliances, and even creaking floors all impact value because it can affect whether a buyer is willing to purchase a property with these conditions.”

If you love the furniture in a home you’re viewing, you might even ask the seller if they’d be willing to include it. If there’s old carpeting that smells like mold, this could be something you negotiate to have removed before closing.

Keep in mind that negotiation isn’t just about your findings and perceptions of the property. A lot depends on the seller.

Understanding Your Market (and Seller)

Negotiating is a lot like playing cards, and it’s helpful to know a bit about the cards your seller is holding.

Get a sense of why your seller is moving and how motivated they are to sell. If your seller is already settled somewhere else and is renting out the home for extra income, they may be less likely to deal with many buyer contingencies — aka your requests.

Pro Tip

When sellers really need to get rid of a place either for financial or logistical reasons, they’ll likely be more willing to go along with whatever needs to be done to close the deal.

Another thing to keep in mind when negotiating: the market you’re in, and whom it favors.

“It’s basically a supply and demand situation,” says real estate developer Bill Samuel. “Right now, almost every market is at record low inventory levels, making it very much a seller’s market.”

Depending on what other offers the seller knows they can get, they may be more or less willing to negotiate the finer details with you. And in the current market that’s almost certainly true.

Work with your real estate agent to strike the right balance between getting the best possible deal and also keeping your seller happy. This last bit will go a long way in ensuring the deal actually closes, and that the negotiation process remains amicable for both of you.

Is This the Home of Your Dreams?

Finally, ask yourself how much you love the home. Does it check enough boxes? How much more money will you need to pour into it after closing, and can you afford to do that?

Seller’s markets are tricky times to buy, mainly because they can create panic among buyers. Unless you have a very urgent reason to get into a new home, don’t fall into this trap. Weigh the pros and cons of your investment, and decide in advance how much you’re actually willing to negotiate to secure your dream home.

Contributor Larissa Runkle specializes in finance, real estate and lifestyle topics. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.  




Companies Hiring for the Holidays Looking to Fill 930K Jobs

As the holidays near, the same companies that you’re browsing through to find gifts and supplies are likely hiring — in the thousands. And maybe even tens or hundreds of thousands.

Seasonal jobs can help you recoup costs related to gift giving or traveling, and they may even blossom into a full-time career come January and beyond.

Even in a “normal” year, it’s difficult for companies to find and onboard a fleet of new seasonal recruits. This year hiring for the holidays may prove especially tricky. Long before this hiring season, employers in the service industry experienced what they called a “labor shortage.” Basically, for reasons that are hotly contested, they couldn’t find or hire enough workers.

If you’re looking for seasonal work, this all translates to good news. To entice workers, many employers are offering $15 starting wages or higher, sign-on bonuses and interesting benefits.

Here’s a look at who’s hiring ahead of the holidays and how to apply.

Walmart (and Sam’s Club): 170,000 Seasonal and Permanent Jobs

In recent years, Walmart’s seasonal hiring plans have been modest (20,000 last year) or nonexistent. This hiring season, however, Walmart reigns supreme with the largest hiring initiative we’ve seen so far.

Walmart first unveiled 20,000 permanent openings related to its supply-chain operations and then followed up with 150,000 more openings, “most of them permanent” and full-time, according to the announcement. Openings at Sam’s Club, which Walmart owns, are also included in these figures.

Supply-chain openings include:

  • Order fillers
  • Forklift operators
  • Freight handlers
  • Technicians
  • Operations managers

In-store positions include:

  • Cashiers
  • Online order fillers
  • Stockers
  • General merchandise retailers
  • Auto-care retailers
  • Pharmacy retailers

While Walmart does not provide a company-wide minimum wage, it says its average starting wage for in-store jobs is $16.40 with some paying as much as $34 per hour. For supply-chain positions, the average starting pay is $20.37.

Apply: or through the [email protected] app.

A woman works at an Amazon fulfillment center.
Amazon is hiring 165,000 permanent positions. The majority of the jobs openings are at warehouses and fulfillment centers. Photo courtesy of Amazon

Amazon: 165,000 Permanent Jobs

Since the start of the pandemic, Amazon says it’s hired more than 450,000 people. And it’s about to add 165,000 more.

Amazon’s massive hiring spree was announced at the start of hiring season. However, all of the positions are permanent. In recent years, Amazon has eschewed hiring temporary positions and instead has focused on permanent ones.

Amazon revealed its hiring plans in waves, first announcing 40,000 tech and corporate openings — then 125,000 more logistics and warehouse related roles.

Major corporate and tech openings are in IT, engineering, administrative work, HR, customer service and other areas. The majority of Amazon’s openings are at warehouses and fulfillment centers, which include package sorters, delivery drivers and shoppers (which work in grocery warehouses or embedded in WholeFoods stores).

Amazon boasts a company-wide minimum wage of $15, and all full-time positions are eligible for health care, retirement and paid-time-off benefits starting the first day.

Apply: For corporate positions, use; for warehouse positions, use

UPS: Over 100,000 Seasonal Jobs

Between October 2021 and January 2022, UPS plans to boost its workforce with more than 100,000 seasonal workers. The shipping and logistics company frequently hires en masse ahead of the holidays to be able to handle an influx of packages.

A slew of part- and full-time roles are available this hiring season. In-demand positions include package handlers, delivery drivers, driver helpers and personal-vehicle delivery drivers (i.e., you use your own vehicle to deliver packages).

Eligible seasonal workers may receive up to $1,300 to offset college expenses, and the company has a track record of offering seasonal workers permanent positions.According to UPS’s hiring announcement, applicants may get a job offer within 30 minutes of applying.


A woman works at a Target store location in San Diego, CA.
Target is adding 100,000 season jobs ahead of the holidays this year. Sandy Huffaker/AP Images for Target

Target: 100,000 Seasonal Jobs

Target is known for its mass hiring sprees each fall. And while 100,000 is a notable sum of openings, it’s 30,000 fewer than the previous two years.

Part- and full-time store-front positions are available, including roles in general merchandise, technology, beauty, guest services, order fulfillment and more. And those embedded Starbucks stores? They need a ton of baristas as well.

All seasonal workers at Target will be eligible for the company-wide $15 minimum wage, a 10% in-store discount (and 20% for certain wellness products) and free mental health counseling. Seasonal workers who are 18 or older also qualify for free virtual doctor visits.

This year, Target is also unveiling a new employee-scheduling app that is intended to make picking up, swapping and dropping shifts much easier.

“Many seasonal team members will have the opportunity to remain with Target following the holiday season,” the company stated in its hiring announcement, and those permanent employees — part or full time — are eligible for Target’s new debt free college program.


United States Postal Service: 100,000 Seasonal and Permanent Jobs

Widespread delays plagued the USPS this past year or so. A new $40 billion investment seeks to remedy that, and a handsome portion of the money is going toward onboarding 100,000 new postal workers.

This hiring initiative has been in place since the start of the year, but it will run until January 2022, and a massive chunk of the hiring will take place in preparation for the holidays.

Open positions include retail-counter clerks, mail couriers (on-foot and by vehicle), tractor trailer delivery drivers, mail-truck drivers, mail processors and more.

Part-time, full-time, permanent and seasonal jobs are available. The USPS doesn’t have its own agency-wide minimum wage, though several job listings for entry-level roles indicated hourly wages start at more than $18.


FedEx: 90,000 Seasonal Jobs

FedEx recently wrapped up its “National Hiring Day” in a bid to start filling 90,000 seasonal openings.

The company is hiring primarily for its “FedEx Ground” division, which specializes in package delivery services at stores and warehouses. Store-front customer service reps, truck drivers, package handlers, operations managers are a few of the many in-demand positions.

FedEx does not have a company-wide minimum wage, but according to PayScale, the average FedEx Ground wage is about $16 — but can range from $10 to $33 depending on the position.


The outside of a Kohls store is shown with two palm trees near it.
Kohl’s is hiring about 90,000 seasonal workers ahead of the 2021 holidays. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Kohl’s: 90,000 Seasonal Jobs

Big box retailer Kohl’s is ramping up recruitment in its stores, distribution warehouses and e-commerce fulfillment centers. The company said it’s giving out bonuses of $100 to $400 for all hourly workers scheduled to work during the holidays.

Seasonal positions include stockroom, sales and customer-service workers, team leaders and general warehouse workers. Listings for in-store positions generally do not include pay. However, several listings for seasonal warehouse roles indicate wages between $14 and $17.

All hourly workers get a discount of at least 15% (35% on certain days), and those who work at least 30 hours per week can qualify for health insurance — seasonal workers included.

Kohl’s hiring announcement also suggests seasonal gigs have the opportunity to develop into permanent roles. Permanent employees who work at least 30 hours per week can also get dental and vision insurance.

Apply: or text APPLY to 24508

Macy’s Inc.: 76,000 Seasonal and Permanent Jobs

Macy’s seasonal hiring surge is nearing pre-pandemic levels. Macy’s Inc. comprises Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury stores.

Last year, ostensibly due to the pandemic, the corporation did not announce a major recruitment spree ahead of the holidays.

This year, its announcement is big — and quite specific:

  • Roughly 48,000 positions are seasonal.
  • 28,000 positions are expected to become permanent.
  • About 21,000 jobs are fulfillment-center related.
  • Approximately 54,415 positions will be in-store (50,000 in Macy’s, 4,100 in Bloomingdale’s and 315 in Bluemercury).
  • The remainder of the positions will be focused on tech and customer-service for Macy’s credit-card holders.

In-store positions are related to customer-experience, sales, merchandise and operations, and key fulfillment-center openings are for general warehouse workers, package pickers and forklift operators. Part- and full-time jobs are available.

Macy’s Inc. did not share wage or benefits information for seasonal positions in its announcement, and that information isn’t included on seasonal job listings either.

Apply:, and www.

A person is checked out by a cashier at Aldi's.
Aldi is hiring adding 20,000 permanent jobs. The openings comprise part- and full-time positions. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Aldi: 20,000 Permanent Jobs

Fueled by “aggressive” growth, the discount grocer Aldi is hiring 20,000 workers. While the timing of Aldi’s announcement comes during peak holiday hiring season, these positions will be permanent.

The openings comprise part- and full-time positions. Cashiers, general grocery workers, warehouse workers and stockers are especially in demand.

Aldi is also raising wages so that its average starting pay is $15 for grocery-store positions and $19 for warehouse positions, the company said in the announcement.

Aldi employees are eligible for health benefits (but not insurance), paid time off and retirement plans.


Michaels: 20,000 Seasonal Jobs

Surpassing last year’s recruitment numbers, the arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels plans to bring on 20,000 new seasonal workers this year. It hired 16,000 seasonal workers last year.

In-store positions include cashiers, customer-service and sales team members, framers, stockers and more. Some positions are also available at Michaels’ distribution and support centers.

Michaels doesn’t offer a company-wide minimum wage, and pay isn’t included on most listings. Some warehouse jobs start between $16 and $17 an hour. According to Glassdoor wage data, retail and sales positions typically start around $10 or $11.

Seasonal workers are eligible for a 30% in-store discount but do not qualify for permanent employee benefits. However, the company stated in its hiring announcement that more than 50% of seasonal workers stayed on permanently last year.


Adam Hardy is a former staff writer for The Penny Hoarder who specializes in stories on the gig economy. 


31 Ways To Save On Back to School Shopping

Back-to-school time is here, which means that it’s time to start spending money on all the necessary supplies for the upcoming school year. In 2021, back-to-school shopping will cost an average of $498, and one in three parents of school-aged children say that they will go into debt to be able to afford supplies.

Here are 31 back-to-school shopping tips that will save you money this school year and beyond.

1. Check the Circulars

You might receive weekly circulars in the mail that include coupons to local stores that can help you save money on school supplies. If you don’t receive any circulars or you want more, using a website like Flipp can give you access to digital circulars and coupons you can use at the store.

2. Download Honey

The Honey browser extension is helpful when it comes to back-to-school savings. Installing Honey on your web browser will enable the extension to automatically search for coupon codes and deals when you check out online, saving you both time and money.

3. Use Online Coupons

Some websites, such as, RetailMeNot, and, offer online coupons. Browsing these sites may lead to savings on school supplies you need.

4. Join Target Circle

Doing back-to-school shopping at Target will let you earn rewards through Target Circle . You can access hundreds of deals as well as earn 1% back when you shop (or 5% back when you shop with your Target RedCard). Then, you can redeem your savings on later purchases.

5. Use Cash Back Credit Cards

Making school-supply purchases with a cash-back credit card is another option to save some money. Then, you can put your savings towards future purchases or use the cashback to pay a portion of your credit card bill.

6. Get Cash Back for Shopping

On sites like Rakuten and Swagbucks , you can earn cash back when you shop at your favorite stores. Check these sites for cash back offers before heading out for back-to-school shopping.

7. Sign Up for Store Emails

If there are a few stores you know you’re going to be shopping at this year, then sign up for their email list ahead of time to receive coupons and find out when they are running sales. Some stores offer a percent-off coupon or a dollar-amount discount for signing up for their emails or texts.

8. Download Store Apps

Along with signing up for emails, you can also download store apps to receive exclusive savings and deal alerts. You may receive a one-time coupon at the beginning and then additional deals after that.

9. Ask Friends for Their Old Supplies

If you have friends who aren’t using their old supplies anymore, they may be willing to give them to you so they don’t go to waste. This could save you a lot of money, especially when it comes to
paying for college textbooks.

Recommended: College Essentials: What to Bring to College

10. Join Parent Groups

Consider joining local parent groups on Facebook or other social media platforms to see if anyone is giving away supplies or selling them at a steep discount. Connecting with other parents before the first day of school can also be a good way to form friendships and trade back-to-school shopping tips.

11. Look on Used Goods Marketplaces

You may also be able to find the supplies you need on used goods marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Keep safety precautions in mind when meeting strangers to complete a transaction: consider meeting at a police station, bring someone with you, and trust your instincts if you feel the situation is unsafe.

12. Wait to Make Some of Your Purchases

Your children are not going to need all of their school supplies on the first day, or perhaps even in the first month of school. Instead, you can ask your children’s teachers what they will need right away and then wait to shop for the rest of the supplies when retailers start marking down their inventory, which typically happens in September or October.

13. Create a Budget

Before setting foot into a store, come up with a back-to-school monthly budget so you know exactly how much you can spend and avoid impulse purchases. Without a plan, it can be easy to spend too much and get caught off guard when you get your credit card statement in the mail.

14. Take Inventory of What You Already Have

You may already have what you need for back to school in your home. Look around for extra pencils, art supplies, books, and other items that you thought you needed to purchase but may already own.

15. Pay With Cash

One of the old tricks for sticking to a budget and saving money is to pay with cash instead of a debit or credit card. Paying with cash may make you more mindful of your purchases because you see the cash disappear when you spend it. You might not be tempted to spend as much if you opt for good, old-fashioned dollar bills and coins.

Recommended: Pros & Cons of Living Cash-Only

16. Negotiating on a Cash Purchase

Cash is also helpful for negotiating. Though you may not be able to negotiate prices at a big-box store, you might be able to at a local shop, flea market, or yard sale if that’s where you’re headed for school supplies. Let the merchant know how much you’re willing to pay, and they may just be willing to cut a deal with you.

17. Look for Price Matching

Some stores will match another store’s price if you show them that their competitor is offering a better price on the same product. Prior to going to the store, take a few minutes to compare prices online, and bring proof of the lower price when you shop. Price matching policies vary from store to store and can usually be found on a store’s website.

18. Buy in Bulk

When it comes to how to save on school supplies, you may be able to save big if you buy in bulk from warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. Some of the best things to buy in bulk for back-to-school include pens and pencils, folders, and notebooks. Bulk purchases of things like paper towels, toilet paper, and shampoo might also make good financial sense. Joining other parents to split costs on bulk purchases might just result in a new, like-minded friend group.

19. Buy Refurbished Electronics

If you need to pick up electronics like laptops, tablets, or phones, consider buying a refurbished version instead of a new device. Certified used models are often available directly from the manufacturer or from reputable online sellers.

20. Head to the Dollar Store

While the dollar store isn’t the ideal place for all your back-to-school shopping needs, you can find a number of inexpensive items there to save money on. These items include pencils, pens, crayons, folders, and clipboards.

21. Shop on Tax-Free Days

Some states hold annual tax-free days, usually in July or August, which is perfect for back-to-school shopping. Check online to see if and when your state offers this money-saving option.

22. Use Your Student Discount

College students may be able to use their college ID or student email address to score discounts on electronics and other items. Check out stores around your college that offer deals to students.

23. Buy Used Textbooks

Another way to score some back-to-school savings is to purchase used textbooks. searches all the bookseller websites to find the best deals on your textbooks.

24. Keep Your Receipts

If you keep your receipts and find out that items you purchased have been discounted further, then you may be able to get a price adjustment or a partial refund to make up for the price difference. Policies vary by retailer, but it doesn’t hurt to check sales after you’ve made a purchase and ask the store if they offer price adjustments.

25. Buying From Thrift Stores

Thrift stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army often have back-to-school essentials like clothing and backpacks. Plus, buying used items can be environmentally friendly. Families who are facing financial difficulty affording school supplies may qualify for assistance through various charitable organizations, such as The Salvation Army, or even their local school districts.

26. Find Brand Giveaways

By following brands on social media or contacting them directly, you may get free samples or promo codes to get discounts on goods.

27. Turn in Those Rebates

Sometimes, you won’t be able to access back-to-school savings at the time of purchase. Instead, you’ll need to send in rebates. Look for products that offer rebates and remember to keep your receipts and anything else required for the savings.

28. Invest in Quality Purchases

While you may want to buy everything at discount stores, poor-quality items may not even last an entire school year. For items that get a lot of use, such as a backpack, consider paying a bit more so they last. For example, you may be able to use the same high-quality, well-made backpack for several years before it wears out.

29. Use Alternatives for Your Kids’ Favorite Characters

Your child might really want a backpack with a specific character on it, but next year’s favorite character will probably be different. Buying your child a plain backpack and then adding some keychains or stickers that feature their favorite character is an inexpensive compromise that will keep your kids happy and save you big bucks.

30. Buy Reusable Items

While plastic and paper bags may be convenient, you’ll save much more money (and the environment) if you buy a reusable lunch bag and containers instead. Find a lunch bag that’s easy to clean to save time as well.

31. Hold a Clothing Swap

Kids quickly grow out of clothes, so it’s not budget-friendly to buy a lot of expensive new garments. You can invite over some friends and neighbors who have kids and swap used clothing instead.

The Takeaway

Taking some pre-shopping time to estimate costs is a good practice when trying to figure out how to save on school supplies. Setting a financial goal and saving a little bit at a time is a good thing to do whether the goal is purchasing school supplies or something a little more expensive. Whatever the goal, a cash management account like SoFi Money® can help you get to where you’re headed, financially speaking.

There are no account fees with SoFi Money, including no ATM fees within the Allpoint® Network worldwide, and using the SoFi app makes it easier to manage your account wherever you spend money.

Consider SoFi Money a part of your back-to-school plan.

Photo credit: iStock/TARIK KIZILKAYA

SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
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7 Online Flea Markets Where You Can Find Deals on Treasures

Similar to Craigslist, Flea-bay simply connects you with sellers. No transactions take place on the site, so haggle away!
Of course, a few online flea markets are industry giants you almost certainly already know about.
And there’s also a wonderful category called “Everything Else,” with subsections like “Metaphysical” (which features “haunted” items) and “Weird Stuff” (We found cockroach earrings).

A New Way to Browse: Online Flea Markets

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a freelance writer, and Adam Hardy (@hardyjournalism) is a freelance reporter and editor. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors contributed to this post.
This site is truly a gem. It’s one online flea market you don’t want to overlook. With subcategories like vintage sewing tools and breweriana (read: old signage, steins and more from classic breweries), TIAS really makes it feel like you’re about to stumble upon unique treasures with each click.
Another great feature? “Finds,” Nextdoor’s very own local buy-and-sell section. You can browse listings to find deals across all kinds of categories. Toys, games, furniture, vehicles and much more! Its nifty filters make finding exactly what you want a breeze.

The Obvious Online Flea Markets

Where can you find antique Pez dispensers, hot vintage heels and (finally!) the perfect lamp to match your weirdly patterned bedspread — all on sale for just a few bucks?

  • Amazon: A once humble bookselling website, Amazon has become an online marketplace so powerful that its astronomic growth sent its founder, Jeff Bezos, into space. Vendors big and small can sell new and used products on the site — including handmade goods — and they can appear on your doorstep in as little as one day.
  • Craigslist: Known for sending shivers down the spines of journalists due to upending newspaper revenues, the online classifieds site is an easy way to pawn off your tchotchkes to neighbors, find some hidden treasures yourself — and so much more. It’s all anonymous, though. So give out your personal deets sparingly, and always meet in a safe, public space!
  • eBay: This classic buy-and-sell site has been around for more than a quarter century. Although it bills itself primarily as an online auction site, it operates like most online flea market sites. Many of its listings are available for immediate sale — and it seems you can find just about anything you might desire.
  • Etsy: Sort of like eBay’s quiet, artsy little sister, Etsy specializes in handmade goodies, but it’s also a treasure trove for lovers of all things vintage. In fact, it has a whole category devoted to vintage items, and it’s well-organized enough that you can dive into niches as specific as bolo ties, fedoras and marbles.
  • Facebook Marketplace: Compared to the other geezer sites so far, Facebook Marketplace is very new. Launched in 2016, the online marketplace feature is built into regular ol’ Facebook, and you can buy or sell all kinds of stuff on Marketplace, including cars and campers. You can even find rental properties. Marketplace is locally focused, but it also supports shipping.

7 Online Flea Markets You Might Not Have Heard of Yet

The site looks a bit dated. But, hey, it sells antiques. Maybe that’s an intentional part of its charm? It still functions just fine. The category’s sidebar makes browsing simple. And, before you click, it shows upfront how many listings are in any given category — a feature other virtual flea markets could learn from.
But everything is virtual these days. You turn to your laptop (or, let’s be real, your smartphone) for everything from takeout to taxi rides to a date for Friday night.
So it’s no surprise there’s a whole world of online flea market shopping out there. And it’s just as quirky and addictive as the real thing — especially since you can see it all with just a few clicks.

1. Fleabay(.net)


  • Wide array of categories (even rentals and services!)
  • Each listing is “reviewed by a human”
  • Free stuff!


  • Clunky website
  • Pop-up ads
  • Few listings

You may notice that Srchie is included in just about every “top online flea market” article. (It was even included in an older version of this article.) However, the beloved website and its social media accounts have been abandoned since 2017. RIP Srchie. We’ll never forget all your great deals.
Like most online flea markets, items are organized by tags as well as categories, creating better searchability and organization. The site populates the number of listings currently available in each category in parentheses, so no mysteries there.
In a battle of the Fleabays, the dot com version comes out on top. Flea-bay (notice the hyphen) is a solid online flea market that features a pared-down and slightly dated interface. But that doesn’t make it at all difficult to use.
OK, we covered our basic-online-flea-market bases. On to the weird and wonderful ones. Half the fun of a traditional flea market is stumbling upon offbeat items and great deals you never would have found elsewhere.

2. Flea-bay(.com)


  • Easy to use and navigate
  • Has smartphone apps
  • Haggle friendly


  • Lots of empty categories
  • Very little information on seller
  • Listings may include very little information

Here’s everything else you should know about online flea markets.
Not only are regular flea markets wacky and wonderful, but their goods are usually pre-owned, pre-loved and dirt cheap. (Who wants to pay the full retail price?!) In short, they’re a Penny Hoarder’s dream.
What’s great about Mercari is how easy it makes reviewing the seller. Click the seller’s name and, boom, you can see more details about them and quickly check out any reviews. Mercari also handles payments. So no worrying about forking over cash to strangers in person!
Although Bonanza seeks to be the best eBay alternative, it doesn’t offer bidding or bartering options.

A man grows excited as he buys something online with his credit card.
Getty Images

3. vFlea


  • Easy to see if items are pickup only or shippable
  • Useful filters
  • Bartering and haggling allowed


  • Unencrypted website
  • PayPal account required for payments
  • Lots of old listings

Mercari touts a user-friendly experience whether you’re browsing on its websites or scrolling through listings with the smartphone app.
Generally speaking, yes, online flea markets are safe. As with any online purchases, guard your personal information. And if you need to make a transaction, be sure the website is encrypted. This sounds fancy, but it’s actually pretty easy to confirm. You can check by looking at the address bar of your browser: You should see “https” before the website’s name. The letter s in https means the website is secure. Many small or old websites ignore this crucial security feature.
Here’s what we found out.
Yes, you can sell stuff online, and it’s an extremely popular way to make some extra cash. Almost every flea market website mentioned in this article allows everyday sellers and established vendors to sign up and start selling.

4. Bonanza


  • Sleek interface
  • Fun and quirky inventory
  • Active community forum and blog
  • Vets sellers to some extent


  • Can be tough to verify vendor reviews
  • No bidding

Technically, Nextdoor is a social media site for your community. And it takes that seriously. You actually need to input a valid address, which you will have to verify, to join your community group.
The list of prohibited items includes wine, credit cards and “human parts and remains.” Used airbags are merely “questionable,” though.
The most frustrating thing? A number of the categories were empty of listings — but there’s no way to tell that without clicking through. There’s also no baked-in way to make an offer on an item; if you’re interested, you’ll have to fill in an online contact form.
Founded in 1995, The Internet Antique Shop (TIAS) is a bit of an antique itself. While it never took off quite like its buy-and-sell siblings eBay or Craigslist, TIAS has carved out a remarkable niche for all things antique.

5. Nextdoor


  • Verified locals only
  • Popular option
  • Lots of easy-to-use filters to help you find the best bargains
  • Frequent listings for free stuff
  • Haggle friendly


  • Lengthy signup process
  • Smaller towns may not have any users
  • All purchases made offline

There’s even a “Vintage” section under fashion so you can easily shop for those precious duds from another era.
We’ll give you a hint: It’s not Walmart. At least, not our Walmart. (And if yours fits the bill… would you let us know where you live?)
Depending on the online store, it could be as easy as creating a listing and publishing it for the world to see. Other sites are more selective on who they let sell items, and the sign-up process might require you to provide lots of personal information to verify your identity. Shipping is something you should definitely factor in when you get started: some sites allow it — and may even cover the shipping costs, and some sites are only for local sales.

6. Mercari


  • Pick-up and shipping options
  • Easy to review sellers
  • Tons of listings and categories
  • Haggling accepted
  • Very polished site and app


  • No niche — inventory fairly bland

The site has dozens of categories to browse, but most listings seem to be focused on electronics, clothes or accessories. Like many small online flea markets, it lacks the thousands — or even millions — of listings like some of the better-known online marketplaces.
It does, however, list categories for everything from home goods to collectibles, including coins and paper money.
Finally, vFlea still has some weird stuff available, although it draws the line at community events. For instance, you’ll come across the occasional hilltop timeshare, which apparently can be shipped or picked up locally.

7. The Internet Antique Shop (TIAS)


  • Inventory chock full of antique goodies
  • Simple browsing
  • Replicates the wonder of sifting through a quiet antique market
  • Still active after a quarter century
  • Verified vendors


  • Listings contain little info
  • Usually only one picture per listing

Exercise good judgement, just as if you’re at a real flea market. Verifying sellers and vendors is a tough nut to crack for almost all online shops — even major corporations like Amazon. As best as possible, try to check who’s selling the item on any given listing before you make your purchase. Some flea market sites more than others make it easy to see the reputation of the seller. For sites that are locally-focused, the sellers are likely neighbors. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay vigilant.
Compared to other online flea markets, vFlea feels the closest to actually thumbing through junk until you find a treasure — before leaning across the table to make a bid. The interface is also a touch more polished.
A bit like a cross between Craigslist and eBay, Fleabay (a .net domain not to be confused with!) lists items from all over the world — and includes categories as diverse as rental properties and ride shares. There’s even a free stuff section.

A collection of vintage things sit on a table.
Getty Images

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Online Flea Markets

No, it’s your favorite online flea market.

Are Online Flea Markets Safe?

Still, it’s fun to browse when you’re trying to get a quick flea-market fix online.

Are the Sellers Legitimate?

Each listing’s thumbnail specifies whether items are shippable or for local pickup only and also includes an asking price. The platform has built-in “buy now” and “haggle” options, and even an opportunity to “barter” with goods of your own.

Can You Make Money Selling on Online Flea Market Sites?

To replicate real flea market experience virtually, we checked out a variety of smaller online flea markets and compared inventory, prices and user experience to help you find the best deals at the digital folding table.
There are tons of freshly listed items across a host of different categories. And if you live nearby the seller, you can opt for pickup. Otherwise shipping allows you to tap into a massive selection of goods.

What About the Online Flea Market Srchie?

Fleabay’s listings feature little more than an item description, location, the seller’s information and an expiration date. Shipping or local pickup is arranged on a per-listing basis, and you reach out to the poster directly.

The Penny Hoarder Shop is always stocked with great deals, including technology, subscriptions, courses, kitchenware and more. Check it out today!

Once you’re in, you can do all sorts of stuff. Gossip. Post community PSAs. Discover local events. (Our photo director uses Nextdoor to save money by polling neighbors for recommendations and hunting for deals from local businesses!)

The Best Things to Buy at Estate Sales

Housewares at a garage sale
Nature1000 /

I love a good estate sale. It’s one of the few opportunities in life to walk into someone’s home, look around and snag whatever catches my eye. Who could resist?

My love of estate sales started in Chicago, a city where weekend “estate sale-ing” is practically a contact sport. Twenty years later, it’s still my favorite way to discover new treasures for my own home and for my online resale business.

If you’ve never been to an estate sale, make it part of your summer bucket list. Nearly every town has one or two sales every weekend, and in major cities, there can be dozens.

Find them by scouring ads in your local paper, browsing online classifieds sites like Craigslist, or just keeping an eye peeled for posted signs.

Estate sales are sometimes referred to as “tag sales” because everything that’s for sale is tagged with a price. But some estate sale deals are better than others.

The following are among the things I always buy at estate sales.

1. Furniture

antique dining room table and chairs /

Whether you’re furnishing an entire house or just a guest room, frequenting estate sales is one way to get good furniture cheap. But be choosy.

Look for signs of quality like solid wood construction, dovetail joints and bookmatched veneers, as I detail in “10 Secrets to Finding Quality Secondhand Furniture.”

One word of caution: Never buy upholstered furniture without first giving it a smell test — a nose-to-the-fabric sniff. Some estate sale proprietors attempt to mask cigarette, pet and mold odors by using scented candles and strong aerosol sprays.

2. Tools

tools in a workshop
Bas van der Pluijm /

A couple of generations ago, folks fixed things instead of simply replacing them. And to keep everything in tip-top shape, homeowners had a small stockpile of tools.

Nearly every estate sale I attend features a little pegboard paradise — a basement workshop or garage filled with essential tools everyone should have.

Though they may need a bit of cleaning and TLC, vintage pieces by Craftsman, Skil and Stanley are exceptionally well-made and likely have years of faithful service left in them. Even better, such tools can be had at an estate sale for a fraction of what new versions would cost.

3. Vintage toys

Vintage toys
Salvatore Chiariello /

Everyone gets nostalgic about toys from their childhood, and in the resale business, nostalgia sells. Not convinced? Check out these Lego sets that resell for thousands.

If you’re buying to resell, keep an eye out for classic board games, early electronics and toys that inspire personal creativity (think paint-by-number kits, Lite-Brite and Lincoln Logs). And remember, don’t toss the box! Buyers pay more for toys in their original packaging.

4. Vintage jewelry

Dee Dalasio /

In my resale business, vintage jewelry — both the real stuff and quality costume jewelry — is always a hot seller.

But before you hit the estate sale circuit, invest in a jewelers’ loupe (your eyes will thank you) and brush up on common gold and silver purity marks. Then, buy what you love and try to score complete jewelry suites — matching sets that typically include a necklace, bracelet, brooch and pair of earrings.

Prefer rhinestones over diamonds? Pieces by famous costume jewelry brands such as Miriam Haskell, Eisenberg and Schiaparelli are highly prized by collectors.

5. Flatware

Dee Dalasio /

Whether you’re looking for stainless steel, silver plate or sterling, estate sales are the perfect place to find cutlery.

I gravitate toward well-made stainless steel sets from the 1960s and ’70s. Typically, they’re made of heavier-gauge metal and have more interesting designs than contemporary options.

If you’re buying to resell, look for vintage pieces made by Dansk, Lauffer or Cromargan. I once bought a 45-piece set of flatware by Dansk for $15 at an estate sale. Within a week, I’d flipped it for $147.

6. Barware

Supermop /

Making cocktails used to be a ritual complete with beautiful decanters, drink-specific glasses and elaborate mixing tools. Those days don’t have to be lost forever. Estate sales are treasure troves of sexy “Mad Men”-era barware.

Move beyond 2-liter plastic bottles and disposable cups. Stock your own bar cart with vintage jiggers, cocktail shakers, mixing beakers and elegant glassware — all for a fraction of retail prices.

If crafted cocktails aren’t your thing, flip your finds for profit. Retro mixology equipment is a consistently hot seller on eBay and Etsy.

7. Small kitchen appliances

VanoVasaio /

Again, older often means better-made. If you’ve bought a toaster lately, you know that the life expectancy for many new appliances can be measured in months, not years.

I’d much rather pick up a 1970s-era toaster for $5 at an estate sale than a new one for $30. The used model has proven itself, the price is right, and I can cope with a few avocado-green accents in my kitchen.

The same goes for vintage coffee makers, blenders and slow cookers. These items were built to last and can often be had for next to nothing at estate sales.

8. Original artwork

man looking at artwork
SeventyFour /

Tired of mass-produced screen-printed “paintings”? Me too. Though every estate sale doesn’t feature original artwork, those that do usually have high-quality pieces.

Follow your personal taste and look for paintings, pottery, sculptures and glass that match the aesthetic of your home. Not sure how to distinguish an original painting from a mass-produced copy? Start by paying close attention to:

  • Texture: Most original acrylics and oils will show layers of built-up paint. Look for pieces with surface texture and clear, individual brush strokes.
  • Signature: Original art usually includes an original signature. Do asearch for the artist and see what similar works are selling for.
  • Canvas: Check the back of the painting. Original pieces will be on canvas or canvas board — and these materials may have yellowed over time.
  • Frame: Solid wood frames are a good indicator of age and hint at the level of investment and value the original owners put in the piece.
  • Labels: Gallery labels indicate that artwork started life in a studio, not a factory.

9. Towels

Bath towels
ruzanna /

Ever notice that new towels don’t absorb as well as vintage ones? Even after a thorough washing, their material just doesn’t have the same “thirsty” quality that older towels have.

It’s a big pet peeve of mine and one of the reasons towels are always on my estate sale shopping list. If I’m comfortable with the general cleanliness of a home, I beeline to the linen closets and bathrooms.

Some older folks reserved their “good” towels for visitors and never used them. Not only are big colorful bath sheets and hand towels like these perfectly preserved, they’ll last forever and whole sets can be had for pennies on the dollar.

10. Plants

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema) houseplant
dropStock /

I know it sounds strange, but I love buying plants at estate sales! They’re typically more mature and better cared for than the selection at my local nursery.

A few years ago, I bought (adopted?) a 7-foot ficus tree for $40 at a local tag sale. Though getting it home was an adventure, that tree is thriving and it’s the centerpiece of my office.

11. First-edition books

Old books
Manu Rodriguez /

I’ve sold a few dozen first-edition books over the years, and most came from estate sales.

Often in a rush to liquidate decades worth of accumulation, families overlook the details. After all, it takes time to examine each book, locate the publication information, and research value.

As a result, most books are sold in bulk (a few dollars per box) or for a flat rate (a dollar or two apiece). Take a few minutes to comb through the selection. You just may stumble on first-edition treasure.

12. Cleaning supplies

Dragon Images /

Since many estate sales are wholesale liquidations of everything that’s in a home, you can score great deals on practical items other shoppers may overlook. It may sound odd, but I like to load up on cleaning supplies at estate sales.

Window cleaner, disinfectant, brooms, buckets, squeegees — when these types of items are donated to thrift stores, they usually don’t make it onto the shelves. Instead, stores put them to use internally, which means no bargains for you or me.

Though cleaning supplies may not be the sort of estate sale find you brag to your friends about, paying 95% below retail still feels great.

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


How to Become an Audiobook Narrator | Beginner’s Guide

While readers and writers have skeptically watched the fluctuating publishing industry in recent years, one literary market has caught us all a bit by surprise: audiobooks.

An audiobook (sometimes stylized as “audio book”), like the name suggests, is a recording of a book that readers can listen to. Somewhere along the path of lengthy commutes (pre-COVID 19, anyway) and ubiquitous smartphones, a market for audiobooks erupted — people who don’t otherwise read much.

Whether you’re on a treadmill or have a couple hours to kill before boarding your flight, audiobooks are a great way to fit in learning and entertainment. Not to mention, it’s a nice reprieve from staring at a screen all day.

How to Pursue Audiobook Narration as a Career or Side Gig

While this market explodes — audiobook sales totaled a stunning $1.2 BILLION in 2019 and hit eight years of double-digit revenue growth — you may be wondering how you can get a piece of the pie.

Whether you’re a budding voice actor or seasoned recording professional looking into how to become an audiobook narrator, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll touch on the industry as a whole, what you need to get started and, of course, how much you can get paid.

First, let’s tackle a couple of Audiobook-101 topics.

What are the Most Popular Audiobook Platforms?

Like we mentioned, audiobook popularity has been on the rise for about a decade. This booming market makes it imperative for authors and publishers to get traditional books into audio form ASAP and on the most popular platforms: Audible (owned by Amazon) and iTunes (owned by Apple).

Enter Amazon’s Audiobook Creative Exchange (ACX), which connects audiobook narrators with books to narrate. Like other publishing services you’ll find at Amazon — CreateSpace for print-on-demand books, CDs and DVDs; and Kindle Direct Publishing for ebooks — ACX simplifies the process of producing an audiobook from start to finish (you can view their comprehensive guide here on how to get started)..

So, to recap, two of the top players in the industry are Amazon and Apple *quelle surprise*.

With that said, there are quite a few indie audiobook publishers out there, too.

SUMMARY: You can publish audiobooks through giants such as Audible and iTunes, as well as smaller houses.

How Long Does it Take to Record an Audiobook?

Speaking of “from start to finish,” how long does it take to actually record the thing?

To put it bluntly: It depends. And it can vary based on a number of factors.

For instance, if you’re working with shoddy equipment (where you may have to abandon recordings or re-record often), you’ll add to your total time. Whether or not you have a home studio or need to rent space can muddy up your timeline, too. Whether it’s your first or 500th recording will also add to your tally.

A 350-page audiobook will be roughly 10 hours of audio, and take about 35 hours to record and edit it, according to Sound Adventurer. Writer Peter Mitchell saw varying numbers, and based on the average data he saw, he found it took around 3.5 hours — of both recording and editing  — to arrive at one hour of polished audio.

SUMMARY: It can take anywhere from a couple hours to several days (and longer) to record and edit an audiobook, depending on a number of factors.

How Much Can You Make Recording Audiobooks?

So, similarly, the data varies here. Depending on your years of experience, where you’re located and whether or not you’re a union worker can affect your wages.

ACX doesn’t set or recommend rates for producers to charge. But, it does point out many narrators are members of the SAG-AFTRA union, which lists minimum rate restrictions. For instance, if you’re a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), you’ll be paid $139.25 per hour as a new narrator, according to Veteran narrators command about $168.25 per hour. So, either group would make over $1K for an eight-hour-day’s worth of work.

These guaranteed rates vary by publisher/producer. Author Roz Morris tells authors to expect to pay around $200 per finished hour for audiobook narration.

If you check Indeed and gig-work sites, you’ll find a range of responses there, too. For instance,a quick search on Indeed pulled up a few six-figure jobs for voice-over artists.

SUMMARY: You can make over $100 an hour if you’re in a union. You can also find gig and full-time salaried work for voice professionals, and payment will vary.

Equipment that Audiobook Narrators Need

Of course your voice is important when it comes to narration. But it’s not the only tool you need to be successful in the field.

If you want to become an audiobook narrator, you need solid equipment. And when it comes to equipment, there are a few good items you need to get started:

  1. A laptop or PC
  2. A quality microphone
  3. Headphones
  4. Audio editing software (such as Audacity or Garage Band)

You might want to purchase noise-canceling attachments, items to better sound-proof your home studio and a microphone stand, to name a few.

The Ins and Outs of Working as an Audiobook Narrator

Now that we covered some ground, let’s dive deeper. We’ll touch on how voice professionals can find work in this field, prepare for jobs and more.

How to Become an Audiobook Narrator: One Woman’s Story

Actor Kris Keppeler has been doing voice-over work for over a decade.

“I got started through freelancing and bidding on work,” Keppeler said. “I bid on a short audiobook and got that, and it went well. When ACX came along, I started auditioning there… It’s taken a little bit to discover where my voice fits.”

Based on her experience, Keppeler shares some advice — and warnings — for anyone interested in doing audiobook work.

Kris Keppler is pictured in this photo she took of herself.
Kris Keppler is an audio book narrator who has worked on more than 50 book projects. Photo courtesy of Kris Keppler

What You Need to Know Before Auditioning

Before you spend months auditioning to land your first gig, we have some tips to help you get started.

“My voice just fits with audiobook work,” Keppeler said. “Actors are especially tuned in for audiobook work, by the nature of our training.”

That’s because actors learn how to voice multiple characters, necessary for fiction narration in particular. Even for nonfiction, acting training can help you animate narration and make a book interesting.

“You definitely have to have some training,” Keppeler said. “If you regularly listen to audiobooks and like them, that’s a good starting point. But you have to have a real desire to do this kind of work, because it’s a lot of work.”

How is narrating an audiobook different from just reading a book aloud?

“When you read a book, you’re seeing and hearing things in your mind,” she said. “When you’re narrating that book, what you’re seeing and hearing in your mind you have to then vocalize. That’s not easy!”

Because an audiobook listener relies entirely on your narration, painting the picture just right (and meeting the author’s vision) is vital. It’s a distinct difference from other voiceover work, like commercials, where images or video complement the narration.

Because of this need to draw the reader into a made-up world, narrating fiction requires acting skills. Not everyone is cut out for it.

But, “nonfiction has its own challenge,” Keppeler said. “Sometimes what you’re reading is kind of dry, but you still have to make it interesting.”

She says it doesn’t necessarily matter whether a book is interesting to her.

“At this point, whether it is or not, I am narrating it and finding the interesting bits for me and putting it into my voice,” Keppeler said.

Even if you don’t enjoy the subject matter, you can still enjoy the process of producing the book for readers.


  • Acting training can be beneficial to voice acting.
  • Regularly listen to audiobooks to pick up on technique.
  • Since a listener will be following your voice (and won’t have visual cues), you have to vocalize what you’re seeing and hearing in your mind for them. This is a skillset on its own.
  • Practice, practice, practice! And don’t feel bad if a certain genre, or narrating in general, isn’t for you.

Learn Proper Technique

Before landing her first gig through ACX, Keppeler submitted auditions to the platform for well over a year.

Why does it take so long to land a gig?

Some of it, Keppeler says, is just learning how to narrate correctly. “I had some coaching that finally brought me to the point of doing a fairly good job.”

Author Joanna Penn recorded the audio versions of some of her own books. If you can’t afford coaching, she offers some tips for beginners at The Creative Penn to help you get started.

Some tricks to consider:

  • If you’re new at recording, schedule sessions a few days apart to ensure you have enough energy.
  • Try to avoid dairy before recording. Same goes for foods like peanut butter or anything that clogs up your mouth or throat (yeck!).
  • Try to modulate your breathing so you don’t end up holding your breath. This has a real effect on stamina.


  • It may take a while (months or even years) to get your foot in the door.
  • Consider hiring a voice coach.
  • Bottle your energy ahead of recording sessions so your voice will be fresh.
  • Avoid certain foods and drinks before you record audio.
  • Learn proper breathing techniques.

Find Your Niche

Once she’d mastered the audiobook reading techniques, Keppeler said, she had to find her niche.

She used trial and error. She took whatever narration work came her way, and listened to client feedback. When an author liked her voice, she knew it was a good fit.

“In voice-over in general, there are so many different genres,” she said. “Most people find you have certain specialties and certain ones don’t fit.”

Once you know your voice and which genres are the best fit, she says, jobs come much more quickly.

Only audition for gigs that fit your voice, and the success rate is much higher. You can even search for books by genre.

“I’m becoming a bit of a nonfiction specialist,” Keppeler said. “[When it comes to fiction], it’s hard to learn to do the different voices… Fiction books are heavily character-based, so you’re going to have to handle [those] unless you’re hired to work with a group, but that’s not that common.”


  • Finding the right niche will take some trial and error.
  • Listen to client feedback and don’t be afraid to experiment with different genres.
  • Once you find a fit, stick with that niche so you can grow in that specialty.

The Challenges of Audiobook Narration

Some of the work involved goes beyond just recording the voiceover. “Especially if you work through ACX, you have to do the production yourself,” Keppeler said. “[That’s] editing and mastering yourself. There’s a technical learning curve.”

Audiobooks require hours and hours of editing, making them much more labor intensive than a lot of other voice-over work.

“What I learned editing smaller jobs contributed a lot to being able to jump into audiobooks,” Keppeler said.

So you might consider starting small.

Search online for voiceover jobs — you’ll find promotional videos under five minutes or corporate training videos of five to 15 minutes.

Even online course videos requiring a few hours of voice-over are much shorter than most audiobooks, which run closer to 10 to 15 hours. Hone your skills on smaller jobs and work your way up to the lengthier projects.

What about contracting the technical stuff out to an audio editor? Keppeler says that for what you’re paid, it’s not usually worth it for an audiobook.

You’re expected to record, produce and deliver a finished product. Any additional help you bring in will cut into your pay. Keppeler says you’re better off just learning to do it yourself.

The Creative Penn also offers a few editing tips:

  • Avoid page turning noises — read from a tablet, Kindle or other electronic device.
  • Turn off any devices’ Wi-Fi connections and set them to Airplane mode to avoid static noises. (They may be there, even if you can’t hear them.)
  • Each ACX file needs to be a single chapter of the book. It’s easier to record these as separate files rather than cut it up later.
  • The ACX technical requirements mean you have to add a few seconds of Room Tone at the beginning and end of the file.


  • Recording audio can be labor-intensive work.
  • Consider mixing smaller audio jobs into your workload.
  • You can pay for audio editors and other professionals to help you with the finished project, but it’s often worth learning these skills to keep more of what you earn.
  • Always be aware of  — and avoid — any excess noise when recording.

Earning Royalties for Audiobook Work

Keppeler says most freelance audiobook work will be paid in royalties. As you might guess, this reduces an author’s upfront cost — as well as their risk in hiring you.

While ACX may be a good place to find the work, the pay is usually lower, especially compared with freelance broker sites that aren’t dedicated solely to audiobook narration. When you record an audiobook with ACX, you’ll choose between setting your own per-finished-hour rate or splitting royalties 50/50 with the rights holder (usually the book’s author or publisher).

If you charge a flat rate, you’ll be paid upon completion of the book. Royalties are paid monthly based on sales from the previous month. Mostly, Keppeler focuses on short books she can quickly complete. And she gets paid a flat rate of about $100 per finished hour, rather than royalties.

“I have done royalty deals but only on ACX with short books,” she said. “I don’t want to tie up my time, because you [typically] make very little on royalty books… I have four royalty books [on ACX], and about $20 trickles in every quarter.”

Whether or not a royalty deal pays off is largely based on an author’s platform, The Creative Penn points out. Research an author before signing an agreement.

If you’re just looking for a quick job and aren’t concerned with long-term sales, you can work with an author regardless of their audience. Set a flat rate, and get your money when the job’s done.

But if you want to develop a long-term relationship with an author and you’ve found someone with a sizable audience, you may be better off with the royalty deal.

Long term, you could make much more money in sales royalties. Your working relationship with the author also will be strengthened, because you’ll be invested in the book’s success.


  • Most freelance audiobook work is paid in royalties.
  • If you record an audiobook with ACX, you’ll often either set a flat rate or split royalties with the rights holder.
  • There are pluses and minuses to royalty deals; figure out what will work for you.
A man records audio at a recording booth.
Getty Images

Where to Find Audiobook Work

As with any freelance work, booking a gig directly with the client in your network allows you the most autonomy in setting your rate.

Connecting with a client through a freelance broker like Upwork and Freelancer offers less autonomy and usually lower rates than working with someone directly.

Bidding through an exchange site like ACX offers the lowest of both. “I only go out to ACX when I don’t have other paid work,” Keppeler said.

ACX makes it difficult to achieve one of the staples of successful freelance work: repeat clients.

Keppeler said the platform isn’t really set up to connect authors with narrators long-term. Instead you audition for each job. It eliminates a huge opportunity for narrators to work with an author on a series or future books.

What ACX is good for, she said, is building your portfolio. If you’re just getting started, the platform gives you an opportunity to hone your chops.

Practice your narrating and editing skills through auditions, and improve from author feedback. Once you land a few gigs, use those as samples to land clients elsewhere.

As audiobooks increase in popularity, Keppeler is seeing more audiobook work appear on Upwork. Freelancers, she says, tend to be better for general voiceover gigs, but not audiobook narration.

Whether you want to be an audiobook narrator, do voice-over work in a recording studio or do something else in the audiobook industry, there’s never been a better time. Check out job postings, casting calls and freelance work, and network with other voice actors.

Begin auditioning, and see what happens. Put that great voice of yours to good use!


  • You find audio gig work on platforms such as Upwork and, and on exchanges like ACX.
  • Your past gigs will help you land future (and potentially more lucrative) opportunities.

If you’re just getting started in voice-over work, try browsing Upwork for smaller projects you can use to find your voice, build your technical skills and grow your portfolio.

Or reach into your network, and get creative to find freelancing gigs on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are the top FAQs regarding audiobook narrators and audiobook narrator jobs.

How Much Does an Audiobook Narrator Make?

A voice actor in a union can make about $100-$200 an hour to record an audiobook. Depending on the gig and a host of other factors, compensation will vary per person and per job. Refer to the section “How Much Can You Make Recording Audiobooks?” in this article for more information.

How Much Do Audiobook Narrators Make a Year?

Related, this will depend on a number of things, from your years of experience on the freelance circuit to what type of salaried job you get. The range is anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to tens (or even hundreds) of thousands a year.

How Do I Become an Audible Narrator?

Amazon has a guide for budding Audible audiobook narrators.

Can Anyone Be an Audiobook Narrator?

Technically yes, though you’ll increase your chances of getting hired with training or coaching, lots of practice and past successful work you can showcase. In general, being an audiobook narrator would be an aligned gig for voice-over artists, vocal talent and other voice actors.

Dana Sitar and Kathleen Garvin are contributors to The Penny Hoarder.


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