Try the 4-Gift Rule to Keep Your Holiday Spending in Check

This strategy sets clear boundaries on what types of gifts to get and caps how much you buy. It’s a great family tradition to adopt if you want to reduce the financial stress of the holiday season.
These tips for using the four-gift rule will help you stay within your holiday budget and avoid post-Christmas shopping regrets.
This gift category is a way to sneak in learning opportunities for your kids, but you can make it fun too. Even if your children aren’t major bookworms, they might love a book based on their favorite TV show or a new movie that’s coming out. Graphic novels and comics count as books too!
But really though — socks and underwear. Do it.

What Is the Four-Gift Rule?

Or go for something a little more exciting, like headphones, hats or headbands.
Just make sure to set a spending limit for this gift — whatever works best for your budget.

  • Something they want
  • Something they need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read

If you’ve got room in your budget, don’t forget about jolly old St. Nick! You can opt for one Santa gift for the whole family — like a game — or get each kid one present from Santa that you know they’ll love. Look for small trinkets at the dollar store or somewhere similar to fill up the kids’ stockings.
Fortunately, the solution to keeping the kids happy without going overboard with your spending comes down to an easy gift-giving strategy called the four-gift rule.

See, there’s more to this category than just socks and underwear.

Something They Want

This one is quite easy if you save it for last and see what’s left in your budget. It can be as simple as a paperback, or as grand as an e-reader.
You buy one gift per category — that’s it.
Those of us who have fond memories of opening stacks of presents under the tree on Christmas morning want to re-create that same magical feeling for our kids when the holidays roll around.

Something They Need

You can get creative with this category and find something that you and your kids both agree they need.
What we don’t need, of course, is for our eyes to grow wide when checking our credit card statements and our hearts to sink with disappointment when realizing it’ll take months to pay down all the holiday debt.
Using coupons and shopping sales can really help you score a gift from this category without spending hundreds of dollars.

Something to Wear

Your kids may not have included any clothing items on their wish lists, so think hard about what would be exciting for them to get — like a shirt with their favorite cartoon character on it or a personalized piece of jewelry.
This is a no-brainer if your kids play sports and their gear is getting a little worn. Maybe your children are shoe fanatics and would really appreciate a new pair. Or perhaps your little one loves playing dress-up and could use a nice jewelry box to store their many accessories.
If you were under your budget on your shiny “want” gift, maybe you could package up an entire outfit.
Trim your holiday spending budget by finding free books for your kiddos. This article shares 14 ways to get free kids books.

Something to Read

This is where you can make kids’ wishes come true. Go ahead and get the gift they circled in that catalog or saw on a TV commercial. It will be your shiny present with a bow on top, so make it count. Meghan McAtasney is a freelance writer. Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Ready to stop worrying about money?

Bonus: One Gift From Santa

By following the four-gift rule and sticking to one present from Santa, the meaning of giving goes a little further instead of letting Santa get all the credit.
The four-gift rule is super simple. It even rhymes, so it’s easy to remember.
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Without being overwhelmed with a plethora of presents, the kids will be able to really focus their attention on the gifts they receive. The magic of Christmas will remain intact — without the extra financial stress. <!–

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How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car – 10 Simple Steps

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

Do you recognize this scenario? You’re planning to rent a small car for a vacation or business trip. Yet somehow, when you walk away from the car rental counter, you’re holding the keys to a much bigger car with a much bigger price tag. 

If this has happened to you, it was no accident. You were a victim of upselling — one of the many tricks car rental companies use to squeeze more money out of you. They lure you, scare you, or badger you into driving away with a bigger car than you planned. 

To save money on car rentals, you need to beat the agencies at their own game. First, do some research to figure out exactly what car you need. Then, shop around and use discounts to make sure you pay the lowest possible rate for it. 

How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car

Getting the best rate on your car rental is largely a matter of doing your homework. You have to know what kind of car you need, when to book it, and where to shop for the best prices. You also need to know how to avoid tricky upsells and hidden fees.

1. Know What You Need

If you’ve ever rented a car before, you know rental companies often try to upsell you. When you arrive to pick up your vehicle, they don’t hand over the keys right away. 

Instead, they suggest you upgrade to a larger model than the one you booked. Often, they say it will offer more comfort, more power, or even better gas mileage. 

That last statement is unlikely to be true. In general, bigger cars use more gas than smaller ones. If you let the rental clerk talk you into a bigger model, you’ll end up paying more for gas and the car itself.

As for the extra room and extra power, they probably don’t matter. If you’re driving by yourself or with just one or two other people, a compact car should have enough space. And you’re unlikely to need more power unless you’re planning to drive up steep mountain roads or in deep snow.

If there’s any doubt in your mind about how much car you need, do some research before you book. Look for reviews of the model you’re considering and see what owners say about its comfort, mileage, and power. 

Then, when the clerk starts trying to sell you on a bigger model, you can say with confidence that the one you booked is just fine for your needs.

2. Book Early, Especially During Peak Travel Times

Car rental companies have a limited number of cars in their fleets. During peak travel times, every vehicle is in demand as customers flock to travel destinations. And when demand outstrips supply, prices go up. That’s simple economics.

So if you’re traveling during a busy travel season, reserve your car as far in advance as possible. You’ll avoid paying a premium for booking during the busy season or, worse still, finding the vehicle you want is unavailable.

3. Take Advantage of Discounts

Never pay full price for a rental car without checking for discounts first. There are all kinds of programs that can offer you a better price on a rental, including:

  • Military Discounts. Many car rental companies, including Alamo and Budget, offer discounts for military service members and veterans. Some also have special deals for other government employees or first responders, such as firefighters and police. If you belong to any of these groups, always ask about discounts when booking a rental.
  • USAA Rates. If your spouse or parent is in the military, you could get a discount through USAA. This financial provider serves active military members, veterans, and their spouses and children. Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz have special USAA rates. 
  • Senior Discounts. Several rental car agencies work with AARP to provide discounts for older adults. AARP members can save up to 30% at Avis, Budget, and Payless. And all travelers over 50 can get lower prices from Hertz through its Fifty Plus program.
  • Corporate Codes. Many businesses have partnerships with car rental companies. Their employees get better rates, and the agencies benefit from the extra business. Check your corporate travel site to see if your company has such a program. 
  • University Codes. Universities also cut deals with rental car agencies. Both students and alumni can get lower daily rates and other perks, such as a free additional driver. Check the student benefits or alumni deals page for rental car discounts.
  • Frequent Flyer Programs. Some frequent flyer programs can get you a reduced rate on a car rental. For instance, United MileagePlus members enjoy discounts and earn bonus miles when they rent through Hertz.
  • AAA. Being a member of AAA gets you discounts on all kinds of services, including rental cars. Currently, members can save between 8% and 20% off the base rate with Thrifty, Dollar, or Hertz. Check your local AAA website for the latest deals.
  • Costco. This warehouse club offers discounts on a lot more than groceries. One of the many benefits of Costco membership is its discounts on car rentals from Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Visit the Costco Travel site to access the latest exclusive deals.

4. Join a Loyalty Program

Many rental car agencies have loyalty programs that offer various discounts and perks. Most loyalty programs are free to join, and it takes only a few minutes to sign up.  

Joining one of these programs could get you benefits like:

  • Free upgrades
  • The ability to skip the line when you pick up your rental
  • A guarantee the car you sign up for will be available
  • An account that stores your rental preferences for future use
  • Rewards points you can cash in for free rentals or upgrades

And there’s nothing to stop you from signing up for multiple programs. You could join one for each rental agency you use. In fact, if you’ve already reached elite status with one company, you can usually carry over that status when you sign up for another agency’s program as well.

Some agencies, such as Avis and Hertz, also have special programs just for small-business owners. If you own a small business, these programs can give you a percentage off the base price every time you rent a car.

5. Compare Prices

Joining a loyalty program doesn’t mean you have to be loyal to one car rental company. It always makes sense to shop around and see if another company can offer a better price.

You could do that by calling several companies for quotes, but you don’t have to. There are several websites you can use to check rental prices across multiple agencies. 

One leading comparison site is AutoSlash. This free site factors in discounts from AAA and Costco and searches for online coupons to cut your rental price. It even notifies you if the rental rate drops after you book your car. That allows you to cancel it and rebook at the lower price.

However, AutoSlash isn’t the only site in the business. Other places to look for deals include CarRentals.com, Kayak, and Priceline.

6. Check Smaller Car Rental Companies

When you’re comparing prices, don’t limit yourself to the major rental car agencies. Small off-brand agencies such as Fox Rent A Car can offer significantly lower rates than the big companies.

These small agencies aren’t available everywhere, and they may not show up in results from sites like AutoSlash. But if there’s one in your area, it’s worth a call to see if they can beat the big companies’ prices. To find small local agencies, search the Internet for “car rental near me.”

7. Look for Coupon Codes

When you’re searching for rental car prices, do an extra search for coupon codes you can tack on at checkout. With the right code, you can save as much as 50% off the regular rental rate. 

On top of that, you can often combine these coupon codes with other discounts. For instance, they sometimes stack with savings from loyalty programs or frequent flyer programs.

If you shop through AutoSlash, it automatically seeks coupon codes for you. Other places to look for deals include Groupon and LivingSocial. Also, money-saving browser extensions like Capital One Shopping search for coupon codes and apply them every time you shop. 

8. Read the Fine Print

It’s not unusual to see online ads promising car rentals as low as $15 per day. These prices sound too good to be true — and they are. The price you pay is usually much higher due to taxes and fees excluded from the advertised rate. 

You can’t avoid all these extra fees. However, you can at least be aware of them to avoid any surprises. And you can always say no to extraneous car rental fees.

When comparing prices, look at the final price with all taxes and fees included. That way, you know you’re comparing apples to apples. 

9. Prepay

Most car rental companies offer two different daily rental rates: one for prepayment and a higher one for paying when you pick up the car (or simply renting on the spot). For instance, Budget charges rates up to 35% less when you pay ahead.

But despite the savings, prepaying isn’t always the smart move. If you prepay for your car and have to change your plans, you could get hit with a hefty cancellation fee. 

For instance, Alamo charges $50 for canceling a prepaid rental or $100 if you cancel with less than 24 hours’ notice. Canceling a regular reservation is only $50 with less than 24 hours’ notice and free if you cancel earlier than that. 

To avoid these fees, don’t prepay for your rental unless your travel schedule is fixed.

10. Use a Rewards Card

Once you’ve decided which car to rent and where, there’s still one more way to save: by choosing the right card to pay with. Many travel rewards credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer special perks and discounts on car rentals. 

Depending on the card, you could pay a lower daily or weekly rate or earn extra rewards points. You could also get perks like free upgrades, free rental car insurance, a free additional driver, or a grace period on late returns.

Moreover, if you already have rewards points on one of these cards, you can sometimes get a bonus by cashing them in for travel deals, including car rentals. If your card offers a 50% bonus on travel, you could book a $30-per-day car rental with only $20 worth of rewards.


Final Word

There’s one tip that could potentially save you more than anything else. When planning your trip, think carefully about whether you need a rental car at all. 

In some cases, you can get by without a car. Instead, you can rely on a combination of rides from friends, public transportation, and ridesharing. 

That works particularly well if you only need the vehicle to get to and from the airport. In that case, paying by the ride is probably cheaper than renting a car that will spend most of the trip parked.

Another option is to take advantage of the sharing economy. It’s often possible to get a car through a peer-to-peer service like Turo for much less than a traditional rental. 

These services can offer access to vehicles rental agencies don’t have, such as sports cars or electric vehicles. And you don’t have to deal with any high-pressure sales tactics at the rental counter.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Fixed Expense vs Variable Expense

Budgeting is the best way to get a better handle on where your money is going — which can help you get a better handle on where you’d like to see your money go.

But before you dive into the nitty-gritty of each individual line item on your ledger, you first need to understand the difference between fixed expenses and variable expenses.

As their name suggests, fixed expenses are those that are fixed, or unchanging, each month, while variable expenses are the ones with which you can expect a little more wiggle room. However, it’s possible to make cuts on items in both the fixed and variable expense category to save money toward bigger financial goals, whether that’s an epic vacation or your eventual retirement.

Let’s take a closer look.

What Is a Fixed Expense?

Fixed expenses are those costs that you pay in the same amount each month — items like your rent or mortgage payment, insurance premiums, and your gym membership. It’s all the stuff whose amounts you know ahead of time, and which don’t change.

Fixed expenses tend to make up a large percentage of a monthly budget since housing costs, typically the largest part of a household budget, are generally fixed expenses. This means that fixed expenses present a great opportunity for saving large amounts of money on a recurring basis if you can find ways to reduce their costs, though cutting costs on fixed expenses may require bigger life changes, like moving to a different apartment — or even a different city.

Keep in mind, too, that not all fixed expenses are necessities — or big budget line items. For example, an online TV streaming service subscription, which is withdrawn in the same amount every month, is a fixed expense, but it’s also a want as opposed to a need. Subscription services can seem affordable until they start accumulating and perhaps become unaffordable.

Recommended: Are Monthly Subscriptions Ruining Your Budget?

What Is a Variable Expense?

Variable expenses, on the other hand, are those whose amounts can vary each month, depending on factors like your personal choices and behaviors as well as external circumstances like the weather.
For example, in areas with cold winters, electricity or gas bills are likely to increase during the winter months because it takes more energy to keep a house comfortably warm. Grocery costs are also variable expenses since the amount you spend on groceries can vary considerably depending on what kind of items you purchase and how much you eat.

You’ll notice, though, that both of these examples of variable costs are still necessary expenses — basic utility costs and food. The amount of money you spend on other nonessential line items, like fashion or restaurant meals, is also a variable expense. In either case, variable simply means that it’s an expense that fluctuates on a month-to-month basis, as opposed to a fixed-cost bill you expect to see in the same amount each month.

To review:

•   Fixed expenses are those that cost the same amount each month, like rent or mortgage payments, insurance premiums, and subscription services.

•   Variable expenses are those that fluctuate on a month-to-month basis, like groceries, utilities, restaurant meals, and movie theater tickets.

•   Both fixed and variable utilities can be either wants or needs — you can have fixed-expense wants, like a gym membership, and variable-expense needs, like groceries.

When budgeting, it’s possible to make cuts on both fixed and variable expenses.

Recommended: Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Benefits of Saving Money on Fixed Expenses

If you’re trying to find ways to stash some cash, finding places in your budget to make cuts is a big key. And while you can make cuts on both fixed and variable expenses, lowering your fixed expenses can pack a hefty punch, since these tend to be big line items — and since the savings automatically replicate themselves each month when that bill comes due again. (Even businesses calculate the ratio of their fixed expenses to their variable expense, for this reason, yielding a measure known as operating leverage.)

Think about it this way: if you quit your morning latte habit (a variable expense), you might save a grand total of $150 over the course of a month — not too shabby, considering its just coffee. But if you recruit a roommate or move to a less trendy neighborhood, you might slash your rent (a fixed expense) in half. Those are big savings, and savings you don’t have to think about once you’ve made the adjustment: they just automatically rack up each month.

Other ways to save money on your fixed expenses include refinancing your car (or other debt) to see if you can qualify for a lower payment… or foregoing a car entirely in favor of a bicycle if your commute allows it. Can you pare down on those multiple streaming subscriptions or hit the road for a run instead of patronizing a gym? Even small savings can add up over time when they’re consistent and effort-free — it’s like automatic savings.

Of course, orchestrating it in the first place does take effort (and sometimes considerable effort, at that — pretty much no one names moving as their favorite activity). The benefits you might reap thereafter can make it all worthwhile, though.

Saving Money on Variable Expenses

Of course, as valuable as it is to make cuts to fixed expenses, saving money on variable expenses is still useful — and depending on your habits, it could be fairly easy to make significant slashes. For example, by adjusting your grocery shopping behaviors and aiming at fresh, bulk ingredients over-packaged convenience foods, you might decrease your monthly food bill. You could even get really serious and spend a few hours each weekend scoping out the weekly flyer for sales.

If you have a spendy habit like eating out regularly or shopping for clothes frequently, it can also be possible to find places to make cuts in your variable expenses. You can also find frugal alternatives for your favorite spendy activities, whether that means DIYing your biweekly manicure to learning to whip up that gourmet pizza at home. (Or maybe you’ll find a way to save enough on fixed expenses that you won’t have to worry as much about these habits!)

The Takeaway

Fixed expenses are those costs that are in the same amount each month, whereas variable expenses can vary. Both can be trimmed if you’re trying to save money in your budget, but cutting from fixed expenses can yield bigger savings for less ongoing effort.

Great budgeting starts with a great money management platform — and a SoFi Money® cash management account can give you a bird’s-eye view that puts everything into perspective. You’ll also have access to the Vaults feature, which helps you set aside money for specific savings purposes, no matter which goals are the most important to you, all in one account.

Check out SoFi Money and how it can help you manage your financial goals.

Photo credit: iStock/LaylaBird


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
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Source: sofi.com

Cost of Goods Sold Formula: A Step-by-Step Guide

Cost Of Goods Sold Definition
Cost of goods sold (COGS) is the cost of producing the goods sold by a company. It accounts for the cost of materials and labor directly related to that good and for a designated accounting period.

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As a company selling products, you need to know the costs of creating those products. That’s where the cost of goods sold (COGS) formula comes in. Beyond calculating the costs to produce a good, the COGS formula can also unveil profits for an accounting period, if price changes are necessary, or whether you need to cut down on production costs.

Whether you fancy yourself as a business owner or a consumer or both, understanding how to calculate cost of goods sold can help you feel more informed about the products you’re purchasing — or producing.

What Is Cost of Goods Sold?

Cost of goods sold is the cost of producing the goods sold by a company. It includes the cost of materials and labor directly related to that good. However, it excludes indirect expenses such as distribution and sales force costs.

What Is the Cost of Goods Sold Formula?

Four illustrations help explain the cost of goods sold formula, which accounts for beginning inventory, purchases, and ending inventory.

When selling a product, you need to understand the production costs associated with it in a given period, ​​which could be a month, quarter, or year. You can do that by using the cost of goods sold formula. It’s a straightforward calculation that accounts for the beginning and ending inventory, and purchases during the accounting period. Here is a simple breakdown of the cost of goods sold formula:

COGS = beginning inventory + purchases during the period – ending inventory

How Do You Calculate Cost of Goods Sold?

To calculate cost of goods sold, you have to determine your beginning inventory — meaning your merchandise, including raw materials and supplies, for instance — at the beginning of your accounting period. Then add in the new inventory purchased during that period and subtract the ending inventory — meaning the inventory leftover at the end for your accounting period. The extended COGS formula also accounts for returns, allowances, discounts, and freight charges, but we’re sticking to the basics in this explanation.

Taking it one step at a time can help you understand the COGS formula and find the true cost behind the goods being sold. Here is how you do it:

Step 1: Identify Direct and Indirect Costs

Whether you manufacture or resell products, the COGS formula allows you to deduct all of the costs associated with them. The first step is to differentiate the direct costs, which are included in the COGS calculation, from indirect costs, which are not.

Direct Costs

Direct costs are the costs tied to the production or purchase of a product. These costs can fluctuate depending on the production level. Here are some direct costs examples:

  • Direct labor
  • Direct materials
  • Manufacturing supplies
  • Fuel consumption
  • Power consumption
  • Production staff wages

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs go beyond costs tied to the production of a product. They include the costs involved in maintaining and running the company. There can be fixed indirect costs, such as rent, and fluctuating costs, such as electricity. Indirect costs are not included in the COGS calculation. Here are some examples:

  • Utilities
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Office supplies
  • Accounting and payroll services
  • Insurance costs
  • Employee benefits and perks

Step 2: Determine Beginning Inventory

Now it’s time to determine your beginning inventory. The beginning inventory will be the amount of inventory leftover from the previous time period, which could be a month, quarter, or year. Beginning inventory is your merchandise, including raw materials, supplies, and finished and unfinished products that were not sold in the previous period.

Keep in mind that your beginning inventory cost for that time period should be exactly the same as the ending inventory from the previous period.

Step 3: Tally Up Items Added to Your Inventory

After determining your beginning inventory, you also have to account for any inventory purchases throughout the period. It’s important to keep track of the cost of shipment and manufacturing for each product, which adds to the inventory costs during the period.

Step 4: Determine Ending Inventory

The ending inventory is the cost of merchandise leftover in the current period. It can be determined by taking a physical inventory of products or estimating that amount. The ending inventory costs can also be reduced if any inventory is damaged, obsolete, or worthless.

Step 5: Plug It Into the Cost of Goods Sold Equation

Now that you have all the information to calculate cost of goods sold, all there’s left to do is plug it into the COGS formula.

An Example of The Cost of Goods Sold Formula

Let’s say you want to calculate the cost of goods sold in a monthly period. After accounting for the direct costs, you find out that you have a beginning inventory amounting to $30,000. Throughout the month, you purchase an additional $5,000 worth of inventory. Finally, after taking inventory of the products you have at the end of the month, you find that there’s $2,000 worth of ending inventory.

Using the cost of goods sold equation, you can plug those numbers in as such and discover your cost of goods sold is $33,000:

COGS = beginning inventory + purchases during the period – ending inventory
COGS = $30,000 + $5,000 – $2,000
COGS = $33,000

Accounting for Cost of Goods Sold

There are different accounting methods used to record the level of inventory during an accounting period. The accounting method chosen can influence the value of the cost of goods sold. The three main methods of accounting for the cost of goods sold are FIFO, LIFO, and the average cost method.

Two illustrations help explain the difference between FIFO and LIFO, which is an inventory method of accounting for the cost of goods sold.

FIFO: First In, First Out

The first in, first out method, also known as FIFO, is when the earliest goods that were purchased are sold first. Since merchandise prices have a tendency of going up, by using the FIFO method, the company would be selling the least expensive item first. This translates into a lower COGS compared to the LIFO method. In this case, the net income will increase over time.

LIFO: Last In, First Out

The last in, first out method, also known as LIFO, is when the most recent goods added to the inventory are sold first. If there’s a rise in prices, a company using the LIFO method would be essentially selling the goods with the highest cost first. This leads to a higher COGS compared to the FIFO method. By using this method, the net income tends to decrease over time.

Average Cost Method

The average cost method is when a company uses the average price of all goods in stock to calculate the beginning and ending inventory costs. This means that there will be less of an impact in the COGS by higher costs when purchasing inventory.

Considerations for Cost of Goods Sold

When calculating cost of goods sold, there are a few other factors to consider.

COGS vs. Operating Expenses

Business owners are likely familiar with the term “operating expenses.” However, this shouldn’t be confused with the cost of goods sold. Although they are both company expenditures, operating expenses are not directly tied to the production of goods.

Operating expenses are indirect costs that keep a company up and running, and can include rent, equipment, insurance, salaries, marketing, and office supplies.

COGS and Inventory

The COGS calculation focuses on the inventory of your business. Inventory can be items purchased or made yourself, which is why manufacturing costs are only sometimes considered in the direct costs associated with your COGS.

Cost of Revenue vs. COGS

Another thing to consider when calculating COGS is that it’s not the same as cost of revenue. Cost of revenue takes into consideration some of the indirect costs associated with sales, such as marketing and distribution, while COGS does not take any indirect costs into consideration.

Exclusions From COGS Deduction

Since service companies do not have an inventory to sell and COGS accounts for the cost of inventory, they can’t use COGS because they don’t sell a product — they would instead calculate the cost of services. Examples of service companies are accounting firms, law offices, consultants, and real estate appraisers.

salary, business owners should have a well-rounded view of the costs associated with their goods sold. Following this step-by-step guide to learn how to use the cost of goods sold formula is a good starting point. As always, it’s important to consult an expert, such as an accountant, when doing these calculations to make sure everything is accounted for.

Sources: QuickBooks

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The Best Cities for Public Transportation

If you’re looking to have an easy commute or just want to spend less time in your car, these cities are great options for using public transportation.

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans board public transportation 34 million times. Every. Single. Weekday.

That adds up to a whopping 9.9 billion trips per year. And why not? Beyond the obvious savings of traveling by bus, train, trolley or metro — both financial and environmental — leaving the driving to someone else allows you to kick back and text, read, work, or snooze to your heart’s content. And let’s be honest, road rage is for suckers.

If you’re one of us in-the-know commuters, you’re going to want to check out our list of the best cities in America for public transportation.

Takeaways about the best cities for public transportation

You’re used to looking at route maps, right? Yeah, we know. This is why we created this interactive map to highlight the top 150 cities for public transportation. Can you guess which cities made our top 10? You’re probably not too far off.

Dashboard 1
  • The Northeast region has the strongest representation among our top 10.
  • The No. 1 city boasts a whopping 1,148 stations across the city.
  • Providence, RI has the lowest price for a monthly unlimited pass.

These are the 10 best cities for public transportation

The best cities for public transportation are mostly urban centers with fantastic infrastructure. So, don’t expect to see a “city” like Des Moines make the cut.

And while the East Coast may have the slightest overall edge, you’ll find at least a couple of cities in every major region of the country represented here. Read on to find out which U.S. cities are the best for public transportation.

10. Minneapolis, MN

minneapolis mn

minneapolis mn

Minneapolis is serious about keeping its citizens warm and comfortable. Take, for example, the Minneapolis Skyway, a 9.5-mile network of enclosed heated walkways. And while that makes traveling on foot a breeze — even in the dead of winter — sometimes, you need to travel farther than your own two feet will take you.

And for those trips, there’s the METRO light-rail, along with 18 bus lines to choose from, including fare-free “Free Ride” buses you can hop on along Nicollet Mall.

Even for the rides that aren’t free, your public transportation budget will go far in Minneapolis — the second cheapest city in our top 10 for transport (monthly unlimited).

Think living in this half of the Twin Cities is your speed? Get the scoop on the best neighborhoods in Minneapolis, find an apartment and stock up on some serious winter wear.

9. Miami, FL

miami fl

miami fl

Is Minneapolis too chilly (OK, frigid) for your taste? Perhaps you should consider the opposite tip of the country. Down in Miami, the vibe is endless sunshine and permanent vacation mode. And while traffic is no joke (understatement), public transportation is a stress-free way to get around the city.

First, you’ve got the charming free trolleys, which come every 15 minutes. If no-charge sounds pretty good, you’ll also love the Metromover, which you can pick up in Brickell or Downtown. Trying to get down to Coral Gables, Coconut Grove or South Miami? Hop on the Metrorail. And for getting around Miami Beach, the bus is your best option. Get up to speed on everything you need to know about living in Miami and start searching for your South Florida apartment.

8. Philadelphia, PA

philadelphia pa

philadelphia pa

Living in Philly gives you all the East Coast arts, culture, education and sports you can handle — without the N.Y.C. price tag. You get a lot more bang for your buck in Philadelphia, and you’ll still find a public transportation system that rivals that of the Big Apple.

The Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is the country’s sixth-largest public transit system. More than 1.3 million people ride SEPTA’s train, subway, trolley and bus lines every day. The extensive system makes it simple and convenient to explore all that both Philadelphia and the surrounding areas have to offer.

7. Providence, RI

providence rhode island

providence rhode island

If you live in Providence, you’ll enjoy the cheapest price for a monthly unlimited travel pass among our top 10. The capital of our nation’s smallest state is home to Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Getting around town is a breeze for co-eds, commuters and everyone in-between.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) provides low-cost bus and trolley services around the city. In the summer, there are even routes to the beach. Better yet, all of the buses have bike racks so you can explore Rhode Island on two wheels. And if you want to really soak up the scenery, take the hour-long ferry ride from Providence to Newport.

Plus, Providence is a stop on one of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) commuter rail lines, so you can get to Boston in just over an hour.

6. Seattle, WA

seattle wa

seattle wa

Have you ever gazed out over the Puget Sound at the majestic Cascade Mountains on one of those magical sunny days in Seattle? It’s the kind of scene you don’t soon forget. And while those sunny days are somewhat rare, there’s a lot to love about living in Seattle, from the coffee culture to the ease of getting around on the fantastic public transportation system.

Grab an ORCA card and hop on the city’s easy-to-navigate streetcars, light rail and busses. Not only are there ferries from which to soak up those amazing views, but Seattle also boasts a monorail. Considering a move to Emerald City? Scope out the best neighborhoods in Seattle, then start searching for a place to live.

5. Chicago, IL

chicago il

chicago il

Even if you’ve never ridden it before, you’ve probably heard of “the L.” Short for “elevated train,” locals and visitors alike love the L because it’s both cheap and easy to use. And here in a city with two airports, easy public transportation is key.

Take the L’s Blue Line to O’Hare International Airport (ORD) or the Orange Line to get to Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). The Chicago Transit Authority also has an extensive bus system, while the Metra regional train system will take you through downtown Chicago and to the suburbs and cities beyond. Whether you’re looking to live large in a luxury apartment building, or you’re looking for a budget-conscious ‘hood, you’ll find a wide range of apartments in Chicago.

4. San Francisco, CA

san francisco ca

san francisco ca

Here’s the thing about living in San Francisco. As far as cities go, it’s fairly compact, so nothing is too far away. Which makes it seem like you’ll probably be fine on foot. But there’s one huge consideration — the hills. Depending on how big your calf muscles are, and how hard you want them to work, you’re going to need to lean on public transportation at some point to cruise you up those inclines.

Fortunately, you can travel in style on the city’s iconic trolleys. Or, take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), a rail system that will take you all around the Bay Area. If you’re staying in the city, MUNI has you covered with an extensive network of trains, buses and cable cars. If there’s one place you don’t need a car, it’s San Francisco. Plus, the city is expensive enough without paying for your own set of wheels.

3. Washington, D.C.

washington dc

washington dc

OK, let’s start with the bad news: Washington, D.C. is the third-most congested city in the country. Boo. But that’s exactly why you don’t want a car here, or really need one for that matter. The best way to escape road rage? On the subway. The Metrorail is the most efficient way to get around Washington, D.C. There’s also the Metrobus and the D.C. Circulator if you want to brave the roads — and prefer your public transportation with a bit of natural sunlight.

And since there are so many sights to see, even locals can appreciate the more tourist-oriented modes of transportation. Spend a sunny day on a boat ride across the Potomac, or hop on one of D.C.’s trolley tours to soak up the sights without stress. Fancy living in the nation’s capital? Take a quiz to find out which Washington, D.C., neighborhood is best for you.

2. Boston, MA

boston ma

boston ma

Beantown is an excellent city to traverse on foot. And when you’re not walking, you’re going to want to hop on the “T.” More formally known as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the five-line system has subways, trains, buses and trolleys that connect you to all of downtown Boston’s neighborhoods.

And who doesn’t love water taxis? Cruise across Boston Harbor on a boat and pat yourself on the back for avoiding some of the country’s worst traffic. Warming up to the idea of an East Coast move? Get up to speed on the cost of living in Boston, then find your perfect Boston apartment.

1. New York, NY

new york ny

new york ny

No surprise here, right? New York has long been the best city for public transportation in America. Of course, there are the iconic yellow taxis, but you simply can’t get much more connected than New York’s subway system. This impressive 24-hour network goes well beyond the city to shuttle commuters to both Long Island and New Jersey. With 1,148 train stations and 1,224 station lines, New York is untouchable when it comes to public transportation.

Having a car in N.Y.C. is not only near impossible (financially and otherwise), it’s simply not necessary. Put all of the energy you save in navigating the roads into your New York apartment search. It’s no secret that the Big Apple requires a big budget, and finding an affordable apartment is going to take some research. Start by figuring out which New York neighborhood is best for your lifestyle.

Methodology

To find the best cities for public transportation, we looked at metrics related to public transportation usage, accessibility and cost.

Features were normalized and then weighted based on the following scale:

Usage: 25 points

  • Percentage of public transportation users: 25 points

Accessibility: 50 points

  • Bus Lines per density: 10 points
  • Public transit stations per density: 10 points
  • Number of tracks: 10 points
  • Transit lines per density: 10 points
  • Number of transit systems: 10 points

Cost: 25 points

  • Price for a 30-day pass: 12.5 points
  • Percentage of pass cost related to local mean income: 12.5 points

Transit system info was from citylines.co. Transit cost was from ValuePenguin. Bus lines were from a database of 8 million commercially available business listings. These listings may not reflect recent changes to bus line availability. Usage is from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory as of October 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each 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.

Source: rent.com

6 Budget Friendly Ways to Support Small Businesses

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When it comes to helping out small businesses, cash is king. The best way to make sure your local mom-and-pop bookstore or coffee shop stays in business is by shopping there as possible.

But for those of us on a budget, extravagant spending sprees aren’t always an option. So let’s take a look at some budget-friendly strategies to support your favorite small businesses.

Write Positive Reviews

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of my favorite local restaurants requested that customers leave positive reviews on Google and Yelp. Several people had recently left negative reviews, complaining about the restaurant’s mask policy. These negative reviews were dragging down their rating average.

I went online, left a five-star review and noticed that several other people had also left positive reviews. Pretty soon, their average rating was higher than it had ever been. Posting positive reviews can have huge implications for a small business to attract more visitors, especially if they’ve just opened.

If you want to support your favorite businesses without dropping massive amounts of cash, leave a review on Google, Yelp, Facebook and TripAdvisor. If you’re reviewing a restaurant, you can also go to delivery apps like DoorDash, GrubHub and PostMates to leave a review there as well.

Search for the business on Google and see where they’re listed, then post a review on as many of those platforms as possible. For example, if you bought a pair of earrings from a local maker at a craft fair, find their Etsy site and leave a review.

Make sure to be descriptive and post pictures if possible. Encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to also leave reviews. In a time when many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, a few positive reviews can make a huge difference.

Share on Social Media

When you buy something from a small business, one of the best things you can do is to post a photo of the item and tag them on social media. This strategy may encourage your followers to check out the small business, follow them and even buy something.

You can try this out even if it’s been weeks or months since you purchased something. For example, if you bought a novel at your local bookstore, post a picture of you with a caption like, “Just finished this amazing book. Thanks to My Local Bookstore for always having my favorite authors in stock!”

Sometimes a business will even offer you a special coupon if you tag them, so it can help you save money on your next purchase. Not every business will offer a discount so don’t expect a special reward, but every once and awhile you may get a nice surprise or thank you from the business.

Interact with Their Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram don’t show posts in a linear order. They only show them based on relevancy. If Instagram thinks you won’t like a post, they may not show it to you.

Unfortunately, social media algorithms can make it hard for small businesses, especially new ones, to gain new followers. It’s much harder for them to successfully advertise if potential customers don’t see their posts.

One of the best ways to help a small business for free is to interact with them on social media. Regularly engaging with a business will show the social media algorithms that their posts deserve to be shown to more people.

You can engage by following the account, liking their posts, leaving a comment, tagging friends, watching their videos and more. Find out which social channels your favorite business uses and follow them on all of those sites.

Mention this strategy to others, because the more people that engage, the more traffic will be driven to their posts.

Answer Google Review Questions

If you ever look at Google Reviews, you may see questions from users about local businesses. If you know the answer, you can respond to the question and help drive more customers to that business. For example, if someone asks if a restaurant offers vegan entrees, you can respond if you know the answer.

Replying to these questions may seem trivial, but it spreads more information about the business and makes hesitant customers more likely to give them a try. At the very least, it can prevent the kind of unnecessary confusion that ultimately leads to a negative review.

Buy Gift Certificates

If you want to support small businesses but don’t need anything from them right now, you can buy a gift card to use later on. Before doing this, make sure their gift certificates don’t have a strict expiration date.

If you’re shopping for a friend’s bridal shower, birthday or baby shower, consider getting them a gift certificate to a small business. With the holidays coming up, you can even implement this strategy with your loved ones. They may actually appreciate the chance to pick out their own gift.

Offer Help

One of the best ways to help a small business is to volunteer your time. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you could ask if they have design needs. Make it clear you don’t expect to be paid for your work, though they may offer you a gift card or store credit in exchange.

Sometimes you don’t even need to have special skills. Recently, a local record store needed help moving boxes from its basement to a storage unit. Anyone could come and help, and it was a free way to support the business.

What are your favorite ways to support small businesses? Let us know below in the comments!

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