How to Get Free Meals for Kids While School’s Out

A little boy recieves food in a bag from a bus driver.

A student picks up food in Fayette, Miss. With the school year ending soon, there are federal programs to help keep kids fed through the summer. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

Millions of families struggle with food insecurity every summer when school is out. Income loss due to the pandemic has only exasperated the situation.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) up to 12 million children are currently living in households where they may not have enough to eat.

If you’re worried about how to put food on your family’s table, help is out there.

How to Get Free Meals for Kids This Summer: 3 Federal Programs

The American Rescue Plan — the coronavirus relief package President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021 — provided funding to expand several USDA programs aimed to reduce child hunger.

1. Pandemic EBT

Families with children eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who qualify for SNAP benefits can receive extra money for food via the Pandemic EBT program, which is being extended through the summer to make up for missed school meals.

The USDA standard benefit amount is $375 per eligible child over the course of the summer. Those living in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands have a higher standard benefit.

You’ll need to enroll in the Pandemic EBT program through your individual state, as funds are disbursed at the state level. Currently, 40 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been approved to operate Pandemic EBT programs.

Money is generally distributed in two or three disbursements throughout the summer.

2. USDA Summer Meals

All families with children 18 and under can participate in the USDA’s summer meal programs, which partners with local agencies including libraries, community centers, parks, churches and schools to distribute meals.

Program rules have been loosened so that meals can be distributed in bulk packages to cover multiple days and so parents can pick up the food without having their children present.

This interactive map helps you find local meal distribution sites. You can also locate a nearby site by texting “Summer Meals” to 97779 or calling 1-866-348-6479.

3. USDA National Hunger Hotline

The USDA National Hunger Hotline can help families seeking food assistance. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. E.T. to reach the hotline. If you need assistance in Spanish, call 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273).

Free Meals Next School Year

Even after summer comes to an end, families will still be able to get a financial break when it comes to feeding their kids.The USDA is extending its National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option so that students can receive universal free lunch throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Waivers will also be given to provide free meals for kids in daycare and preschool programs.

If students are still learning virtually, you’ll be able to pick up meals for children to eat at home. Check with your child’s school or child care provider to see if they are participating in this program.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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8 Tips for How to Sell on Craigslist

Most of us have probably taken a deep, exasperated breath while surveying our homes, wondering how we managed to accumulate so much clutter. But there might be a way to turn that clutter into cash. It comes down to one word: Craigslist.

8 Tips for Selling on Craigslist

Selling on Craigslist seems easy, but it requires some know-how to get the intended result and money in your wallet. We scoured the Internet for the best tips.

So list that chair you’ve always hated. We’re here to help you find success and sell more of your items on Craigslist.

1. Take Photos That Work

Ever seen a Craigslist listing with an object you can’t quite make out? Is that a nightstand or a coffee table? Are they selling the whole dining room table set or just one chair?

A good photo can make your listing stand out while a bad photo has the potential to shut down any business. Take a good photo by posing your object in a well-lit spot, whether it’s in natural light or a warm artificial glow, and focus on the details that make your object special. Only photograph what you’re selling — leave extraneous things out of the picture.

2. It’s In the Details

Your listing can’t simply be a photo and the name of the object. You need a description and any relevant details — think dimensions or number of items or even age of the item, if relevant. It’s ideal for your listing to answer all of the questions a potential buyer might have so they don’t have time to really agonize over their purchase.

3. Tell the Truth

That being said, it’s important to be honest in your listing. If your couch has stains or your wooden dresser is chipped, add images that show the damage. Point that out to potential buyers in your description. People will be more likely to buy an item when they feel they are getting an upfront understanding of it.

One example: do not post the catalogue image of your piece of furniture from when it was brand new. (People do this.) Take a photo of your furniture piece as is — after all, that’s what you’re selling.

4. Be Simple

While you should absolutely share relevant details, there’s no need to tell the story of how your kids bounced around on these couch cushions or how the table was passed down in the family generation after generation. Potential buyers know they’re browsing for a used object, but they don’t want the legacy that comes with it. They want it to feel like their own.

And stick to simplicity in your listing title. Potential buyers often search for specific objects — trash cans or mirrors — and they likely won’t be searching with various adjectives.

5. Offer Delivery

Potential buyers love it when Craigslist sellers offer delivery. It’s an added perk and makes things easier, especially when the site caters to people from all over. Make sure to add a higher cost for delivery — whatever seems worth it to you based on location — and be safe. Bring someone along with you when you go to deliver.

6. The Price is Right

It really does boil down to whether the asking price is right. Craigslist is known for sellers that practically give items away, so it’s better to price your listing lower rather than higher. Interest is always key, and if you price it too high, you may have no takers.

But make sure you price your item at a level with which you’re comfortable. It’s not worth giving something away if it has sentimental value and you think it can go for more.

7. Reach Out to Your Network

Word of mouth is a powerful tool. If you think you might know someone in your social network — whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or more — who might be interested in what you’re selling, share it on those forums.

And better yet, if you have a specific buyer in mind, feel free to be direct and share your listing with friends and family. If it doesn’t work for them, they may know the right person.

8. Always Be Safe

Always remember that you are dealing with strangers online on Craigslist. If someone is coming to your house or you are going to theirs, have a friend with you. Don’t assume that you will be fine if you are alone. Entering a stranger’s house or allowing a stranger to enter yours always comes with risk. It’s better to be prepared and meet in a public place if that is the only way the meeting can take place.

Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.

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Micro Wedding Is Sign of the Times

Micro weddings have become ultrachic in the time of coronavirus. These smaller weddings allow you and your future spouse to exchange your vows, enter into a legal relationship and get access to each other’s health insurance all while living through these socially-distanced times.

What Are Micro Weddings?

A micro wedding is generally a wedding with less than 50 guests. In the before times, micro weddings were often a cost-cutting measure as the most effective way to cut your budget is to cut your guest list.

When you cut your guest list, you’re cutting down on the amount of space you’ll need at the venue. Simultaneously, you’re cutting down on the costs of food, alcohol and favors.

During the time of Coronavirus, micro weddings are helpful to your health as well as your wallet. You may even want or be required to cut your guest list further than the normal standard of 50 guests.

Planning a Micro Wedding

When you’re planning a micro wedding the first thing you’ll want to start with is your guest list. You may only want your closest friends and family there for your big day. Or, in this time of pandemic, you may only want it to be the two of you and the officiant. In some states, you can even eliminate the officiant via a self-uniting marriage.

Whether you have a handful of guests or just the couple at your micro wedding, venues and vendors across the wedding industry have many ways to help you share your big day while saving money.

Get Creative with the Venue

Because you have a smaller guest list, your venue doesn’t need to be nearly as large. Your favorite art gallery might be renting out space, or you might be able to book a private room at your favorite restaurant. If a venue had a minimum guest count prior to 2020, those minimums have likely been reduced or eliminated altogether.

If you are absolutely set on having a larger wedding despite the pandemic, you could book your local park or another outdoor venue to make the event safer. Be sure to remind your guests that they still need to wear masks and observe the 6-foot rule even though the event will be taking place outside.

Newly weds get married as hot air balloons are released all around them on top of a mountain.
Getty Images

Destination Weddings

You may have a bit of pent up wanderlust, dreaming of a destination wedding. Destination weddings are usually micro weddings. Because you or your guests will have to pay for extra expenses like hotel rooms and travel costs, the number of people who can attend usually becomes inherently smaller.

There are certainly some Caribbean destinations that are allowing Americans to visit during the pandemic, and some of the resorts are offering great deals. But despite more and more Americans getting vaccinated, many people are still avoiding air travel. Be prepared for some guests to decline your invitation if air travel is involved.

Instead of air travel, you can either commit to a long road trip through locales where the infection rate is low, or pick a venue within convenient driving distance. Traveling in your car with other members of your bubble is a far safer way to get from point A to point B.

Remember that even if you’re fully vaccinated, there is still potential for you to spread the virus to your guests, your hosts and anyone else you may come into contact with. The more the virus spreads, the more likely it is to harm the unvaccinated, even if those unvaccinated people aren’t in your immediate circle.

Allowing the virus to spread like this also provides it with increased opportunities to mutate into vaccine-resistant variants, which could force us all into lockdown again until boosters for new strains are available.

Invest in Quality Videography

Maybe you never dreamt of having a micro wedding. You might even be upset that you can’t have a huge party with your family and friends.

One way to help soften the blow of having a micro wedding during the pandemic is to share your big day with quality videography. You can either livestream your ceremony or hire a videographer to document the celebration.

Because business has been slower and videography has new importance during the pandemic, some venues and videographers are offering discounts on these services.

Curbside Tastings

The mere fact that you’re feeding less people at your micro wedding means you can spend less on your wedding cake and any catering your micro wedding may require.

During the pandemic, some bakeries, restaurants and caterers are offering curbside tastings to ensure everyone’s safety.

Drive-By Wedding Visits

Maybe in normal times, your sister would have been your matron of honor, but she has a disabled child who is high-risk. Even though you are both vaccinated, her child is not. She can’t risk exposing herself to even asymptomatic cases of the virus as she could unknowingly pass them on to her child.

You still want her to be a part of your big day. If she lives within driving distance, you could schedule a drive-by visit prior to the micro wedding ceremony. Either she and hers could drive by your place, where you’d be on display in your gown or tux, or you could drive by her place, stepping just outside the car to show her how good you look while keeping a masked distance of well over six feet.

It’s not the same. It’s still incredibly sad that she can’t be there, and you might even want to consider postponing your wedding until she can attend. But if the show must go on, these drive-by visits can still provide you both with a special memory from your special day.

Include Remote Readings

If you’re having a Zoom micro wedding, even those who cannot attend can participate in your ceremony. In the case of your sister, she may perform a reading or conduct a prayer through the screen. You can customize your ceremony any way you see fit, using your creativity and the power of the internet to make your micro wedding all that much bigger.

Micro Wedding Ideas for a Smaller Guest List

When planning a micro wedding, you may find that you have a bit of a budget surplus because of these cut costs. Both the budget surplus and the fact that you’ll have far fewer guests at your wedding allow you to get creative and a little more personal with the finer details of micro wedding planning.

Hand sanitizer and face masks are set out for guests to use during a wedding reception.
Getty Images

Wedding Favors

The following are a few favor ideas you might consider for your micro wedding, depending on your budget and your wedding’s theme. The dollar signs are meant to show you the relative expense but the exact dollar amount of each is based on your own budget.

  • Masks. ($-$$) Masks can be custom-printed with names and wedding date, nodding to the extraordinary times we’re all living in while giving your guests a functional gift they’ll be able to use in their day-to-day lives. You may even want to make these favors available to guests upon arrival rather than at the end of the celebration. That way if anyone forgot to bring their mask, they’ll literally be covered.
  • Hand sanitizer. ($) You can find plenty of beautiful yet affordable options for custom-printed hand sanitizer right now. Instead of the “Germ-X” label, your label will include your names, the wedding date and perhaps some adorable quote about love. This is another good favor to make available to your guests upon arrival.
  • Fauci-approved smooches. ($) Want to DIY your micro wedding favors? One cute idea is to get a glass jar, fill it with Hershey Kisses, and affix a label that reads “Social Distance Kisses.”
  • Flip flops. ($-$$) If you plan on driving to the beach for your destination wedding, flip flops can make a great wedding favor. If guests forget about the sand and wear fancy shoes to your celebration, they’ll appreciate the option to switch to beach-friendly attire upon arrival. Because your guest count is small, you can ask each guest for their shoe size beforehand so everyone is accurately accounted for. You can also go the extra mile and order custom flip flops with your names and wedding date printed on them.
  • Custom luggage tags. ($$$) This option is a little more expensive, but if you find yourself with extra padding in your wedding budget you may decide they’re worth it. Luggage tags can serve as a token of hope that life will go back to normal soon and we won’t have to stress as heavily should we have to get on a plane and traipse through the airport.

Guest Book

Similarly, because micro weddings have so few people in attendance, you can use creative ideas for a non-traditional guest book. Your guest book can then be integrated in your day-to-day married life.

Here are some ideas that can be customized to any micro wedding budget:

  • Picture frame. ($-$$$) When you get your wedding pictures back from the photographer, there’s likely to be one photo that just blows you away. Before the wedding, purchase a frame where you can display that much-anticipated picture. Buy a frame with a removable mat. Then, you can have your guests sign the mat in lieu of a guestbook on your wedding day. Their well-wishes can be displayed in your home alongside your favorite wedding photo.
  • Ornaments. ($-$$$) Have you ever known someone who has a tradition of picking up a Christmas ornament on every vacation? Their tree then reminds them of all the journeys they’ve enjoyed. You can do a similar thing for your wedding day — especially if you have a small guest list. Instead of a guestbook, provide ornaments and paint pens coordinated with your wedding colors. Each guest will sign one. Every year, you can display your wedding-day memories on your tree, remembering those who were there with you.
  • Tiles or stepping stones. ($-$$$) Are you and your soon-to-be spouse remodeling? Or doing some landscaping work? If so, you can integrate your wedding day into your design plans. For instance, if you’re doing interior repairs and plan to lay tile, you can put out some tiles at your micro wedding in lieu of a guest book. Each guest would then sign one, and you could integrate your guest book into your home. If you’re doing outside work, you could have each guest sign a wet stepping stone, even adding their handprint if they want to. You can then integrate these stepping stones into your garden.

Stationary

Things are a lot more hopeful right now with somewhat improved vaccine distribution, but there are still so many unknowns. As you plan your micro wedding during uncertain times, you might want to familiarize yourself with some Corona-era additions to the wedding stationary world:

  • Change-the-date announcements. Change-the-date cards are now incredibly common for wedding postponements. Just like wedding invitations, these cards range from cute and witty all the way to incredibly formal. You can look for a template that matches the tone of your wedding day.
  • Virtual wedding invitations. Maybe you’re doing your part by giving the virus as few opportunities to mutate as possible. That’s why you’re doing a Zoom micro wedding with just the two of you plus your officiant. Paper invitations to your wedding are still a beautiful touch, but the most convenient way to invite your guests to livestream the event is through a virtual invitation. With virtual invitations, your guests will have access to a clickable link where they can participate in your ceremony live.
  • Elopement announcements. Whether you elope or simply choose not to announce to anyone but your micro wedding guests that you’re getting married, after-the-fact wedding announcements are a good way to include family and friends. Prior to the pandemic, these were commonly used for elopements, so you can find plenty of templates online even if they predate 2020. But you can also find pandemic-specific announcements whether you eloped or did, indeed, plan and have a few guests. Ideally, this announcement will contain a link to a wedding website where friends and family can view either pictures or video of your celebration after the fact.

It can be hard to break it to family or friends that they are either not invited or are uninvited to your wedding. But you are not the only one going through this situation. The silver lining is that because so many couples have faced the same circumstances, there are plenty of templates online and professionals who have worded the same sentiment for numerous clients. You don’t have to stress about the wording on your own.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She blogs at Femme Frugality.

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3 Easy Ways to Get Free Meals for Kids While School’s Out

A little boy recieves food in a bag from a bus driver.

A Jefferson County School District student receives several bags with meals, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Fayette, Miss. As one of the most food insecure counties in the United States, many families and their children come to depend on the free meals as the only means of daily sustenance. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

Millions of families struggle with food insecurity every summer when school is out. Income loss due to the pandemic has only exasperated the situation.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) up to 12 million children are currently living in households where they may not have enough to eat.

If you’re worried about how to put food on your family’s table, help is out there.

How to Get Free Meals for Kids This Summer: 3 Federal Programs

The American Rescue Plan — the coronavirus relief package President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021 — provided funding to expand several USDA programs aimed to reduce child hunger.

1. Pandemic EBT

Families with children eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who qualify for SNAP benefits can receive extra money for food via the Pandemic EBT program, which is being extended through the summer to make up for missed school meals.

The USDA standard benefit amount is $375 per eligible child over the course of the summer. Those living in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands have a higher standard benefit.

You’ll need to enroll in the Pandemic EBT program through your individual state, as funds are disbursed at the state level. Currently, 40 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been approved to operate Pandemic EBT programs.

Money is generally distributed in two or three disbursements throughout the summer.

2. USDA Summer Meals

All families with children 18 and under can participate in the USDA’s summer meal programs, which partners with local agencies including libraries, community centers, parks, churches and schools to distribute meals.

Program rules have been loosened so that meals can be distributed in bulk packages to cover multiple days and so parents can pick up the food without having their children present.

This interactive map helps you find local meal distribution sites. You can also locate a nearby site by texting “Summer Meals” to 97779 or calling 1-866-348-6479.

3. USDA National Hunger Hotline

The USDA National Hunger Hotline can help families seeking food assistance. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. E.T. to reach the hotline. If you need assistance in Spanish, call 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273).

Free Meals Next School Year

Even after summer comes to an end, families will still be able to get a financial break when it comes to feeding their kids.The USDA is extending its National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option so that students can receive universal free lunch throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Waivers will also be given to provide free meals for kids in daycare and preschool programs.

If students are still learning virtually, you’ll be able to pick up meals for children to eat at home. Check with your child’s school or child care provider to see if they are participating in this program.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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How to Make a Retirement Budget So You Don’t Outlive Your Savings

You’ve spent decades in the workforce earning a living, your schedule dictated by the demands of the job. All the while, you’ve been steadily adding to your savings so that one day you could get to this point. Retirement.

Now, there’s no alarm to wake you up in the mornings and no boss to answer to. You can finally get around to crossing items off your bucket list — or simply have the opportunity to catch a midweek matinee movie.

The world is your oyster.

Life may feel more relaxed and carefree, but that doesn’t mean you no longer have financial responsibilities. In fact, now’s the time you might need to be even more diligent about budgeting your money.

Living on What You Have Saved

When you say goodbye to your 9-to-5, you also say goodbye to your regular paycheck. You’ll rely on Social Security benefits, the money in your retirement accounts and any additional income, like a pension, to cover your expenses.

Sticking to a budget is vital so your retirement savings last. That money you’ve squirreled away in your working years has to stretch for decades. Remember, life on a fixed income means there are no bonuses, overtime or promotions to increase your cash flow.

How Much Should You Have Saved?

If you’re already retired or nearing retirement age, hopefully you’ve done the math to determine whether you’ll have enough money to keep you afloat.

One popular rule of thumb is to have 25 times your average annual expenses saved up. But how much money you need in retirement depends on many factors, like your age, where you live and the type of retirement you want to enjoy.

If you want to retire at 60, rent a highrise in New York City and travel every couple of months, you’ll need considerably more money than a retiree who leaves the workforce at 70, lives in a paid-off home in rural North Dakota and just stays home and knits.

There are also a lot of unknowns in retirement — like what medical conditions you could develop and exactly how many years you’ll need your money to stretch.

That’s why it’s important to have robust retirement savings and be cognizant of your spending in your golden years.

How to Make the Most of Your Nest Egg

To make your savings last, you’ve got to be prudent about how much you withdraw each year.

“The gold standard has always been 4%, but new research has revealed a different number,” said Chuck Czajka, a certified estate planner and owner of Macro Money Concepts in Stuart, Florida.

He said withdrawing 3% a year instead gives you a 90% success rate to last through a 25-year retirement.

Keep in mind, once you’ve determined how much you can withdraw per year, you’ll want to divide that amount by 12 to come up with how much to withdraw each month. Czajka recommends withdrawing money from your retirement accounts on a monthly basis rather than taking out all you’d need for a whole year.

Meeting with a financial adviser can help you come up with a personalized plan to fit your individual situation.

“As people approach retirement, they should work with a retirement professional to determine their expected retirement income,” said Lisa Bamburg, a registered investment adviser and owner of Insurance Advantage in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

Two grandmothers dress in funky classes and brightly colored shirts.
Getty Images

Factoring in Income Beyond Your Savings

In addition to the money you’ve saved in your 401(k), individual retirement account (IRA) or other investment accounts, a portion of your retirement income will come from Social Security benefits.

You can start collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but you’ll receive less money per month than if you waited until full retirement age — 66 or 67, depending on when you were born.

If you delay claiming Social Security benefits past your full retirement age, you’ll receive even more each month. However, there’s no additional increase once you’ve reached age 70.

Pro Tip

This calculator from the Social Security Administration gives you a rough idea of your retirement benefits. This retirement estimator is more accurate but requires plugging in your personal info.

In addition to Social Security, you might have other sources of retirement income, like money from a pension plan or an annuity.

A report from the National Institute on Retirement Security found that many retirees don’t have a great diversity in their retirement income, though more income sources provide for a more secure retirement.

The report found less than 7% of older Americans have retirement income that’s made up of a combination of Social Security, a pension plan and a retirement contribution plan like a 401(k). About 40% rely on Social Security alone.

“Social Security benefits typically are not the equivalent of what it takes for most people to maintain their standard of living,” Bamburg said.

The Social Security Administration states its retirement benefits only replace about 40% of earnings for people with average wages — more for low-income workers and less for those in higher income brackets.

How to Create a Retirement Budget

Once you determine what your retirement income will be, it’s time to make your retirement budget.

If you’ve already been budgeting, you’re off to a great start, though your new budget will likely differ from that of your working days.

Take Stock of Your Essential Expenses

First you’ve got to get an overall look at your current spending. If you don’t already have a budget or track your spending, pull out the past several months of bank or credit card statements. Dig up old receipts if you tend to pay in cash.

Reviewing the past three months will help you find what you spend on average, but an even deeper dive — looking at the last six to 12 months — will give you a more accurate picture and will reveal things like your annual car insurance bill and holiday spending.

Group your spending into categories to get a good picture of where your money’s going. You’ll have fixed expenses, like your mortgage, where the cost stays the same each month. Other expenses, like groceries or utilities, will vary. For those, you should calculate your average monthly spend.

Account for Changes

After leaving the workforce, you’ll probably notice some differences in your spending. You’ll no longer have to pay for downtown parking near the office, dry cleaning your suits or pricey lunches with coworkers. Your monthly retirement contributions will be a thing of the past.

However, not everything will be budget cuts. You’ll have to account for new retirement expenses, like health care premiums your employer previously covered. If you’re 65, you can get health insurance through Medicare, but it’s likely you’ll have increased out-of-pocket medical costs as you age.

And of course, now that you have an influx in free time, you can pursue the things you’ve always wanted to do — which means more new expenses.

A group of retired women have fun.
Getty Images

Make Room for Fun in Your Retirement Budget

A big part of retirement planning is determining what type of lifestyle you want to have when you’re no longer at work 40 hours a week.

Do you want to travel? Spend more time with your grandkids? Explore a new hobby? After you’ve covered your essential expenses, how you spend what’s left in your budget is totally up to you.

Don’t forget to include run-of-the-mill discretionary expenses, like cable, magazine subscriptions and dining out. It won’t all be cruise ships and Broadway plays.

If you’re married, be sure to share your vision for retirement with your partner, so you’re both on the same page about how you’ll spend your time and money.

Adjusting Expectations to Reality

As you create your monthly budget, you may discover you don’t have nearly as much money as you thought you’d have in retirement. That doesn’t mean you have to live out the rest of your life kicking yourself for not saving more. You have a few options to get by.

Take another look at your living expenses. Are there any ways you can cut costs? Slash your food spending with these tips to save money on groceries. Consider downsizing to a smaller home.

When it comes to your discretionary spending, look for ways to enjoy a more frugal retirement. Take advantage of senior discounts. Check out free activities at your local community center. Find ways to save money on traveling.

Although retirement means leaving your working days behind, you may find it necessary to pick up a side gig or part-time job to supplement your income. Seek out opportunities that match your interests so it doesn’t feel like work.

Don’t forget to enjoy this new stage of life. You worked hard — you deserve it.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Our Seasonal Guide to the Best Outdoor Gear Deals

Planning a vacation in the great outdoors in the next year? Now’s the time to start thinking about new gear and how you can get it for less.

Outdoor equipment can be pricey, but buying it at the right time of the year can get you the gear you covet at a better price. The savings will give you more cash to spend on the outdoor adventures themselves.

We’ve noted national retailers as good sources, however you might be able to get better details from Facebook’s Marketplace or Nextdoor for secondhand equipment. At Gear Trade you can buy both new and used equipment.

It’s time to get out there.

Guide to Buying Outdoor Gear at the Right Time

Ski Equipment

Best time to buy: Fall and March

Details: When ski shops shut down for the season, they usually have to clear out the inventory. Many of these stores stay in the outdoor gear business year-round, converting to bicycle or camping gear stores come spring and summer. But there’s always the question of what to do with all the bulky skis and snowboards that are left. The answer is usually to sell them cheaply. While the selection might not be great post-ski season, the prices are. Another option is to buy used ski equipment via GearTrade.com. Every week that an item doesn’t sell, the price drops so you can watch your favorite items until the price is right (unless someone else snags it first).

You’ll save: 50-60 percent

Where to buy it: Backcountry; REI; Gear Trade

Camping Equipment (Mostly Tents, Things to Sleep On)

Best time to buy: September

Details: In September, retailers don’t typically have many people clamoring to buy camping gear because it’s getting cold in much of the country, and they want to sell as much as possible, Priobrazhenskiy says. November through January are also good times to purchase when people are searching for holiday gifts. If you have a last-minute outing, you can find discounted items in late August as well, says Andrew Priobrazhenskiy, the CEO of DiscountReactor, an e-commerce business.

You’ll save: 50 percent

Where to buy: REI;  Dick’s Sporting Goods

Seasonal Sports Clothes (Ski Coats, Bathing Suits, Hiking Clothes and More)

Best time to buy: May

Details: If you wait until July or August, you’ll also be able to get your hands on great sale options and discounts as well, says Priobrazhenskiy.

You’ll save: 50 percent

Where to buy: REI;  Patagonia; Moosejaw

Outdoor Cooking Gear

Best time to buy: February, June and August

Details: These items such as camp stoves and cooking supplies and utensils tend to go on sale during these months. This is when most people plan their camping and outdoor trips, and retailers want to snag the business, Priobrazhenskiy says.

You’ll save: Up to 60 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods

Stand Up Paddleboards, Surf Boards, Kiteboards, Windsurfers

Best time to buy: August

Details: Purchasing your water sports equipment at the end of the summer is best because many stores hold end-of-season clearance sales, says Holly Appleby, a marine conservation researcher and surf instructor who runs Ocean Today, a project dedicated to ocean education. If you purchase at the end of the season, however, ensure you have adequate storage for your new equipment. Surfboards and paddleboards should be stored out of the sun in a cool, dry place, Appleby says. And while many items can be purchased secondhand, Appleby cautions against purchasing water sports equipment this way. “Purchasing secondhand usually means you can get good deals year-round, but while you’ll likely save money, there’s a chance the safety of the item has been compromised,” she says.

You’ll save: 40 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods; REI

Kayaks and Canoes

Best time to buy: End of August

Details: The prime season for paddling around lakes, rivers and other waterways in much of the United States is August. So the end of August is a great time to buy a discounted kayak, canoe or other piece of paddle equipment. Don’t want to store it for a year before you’ll get to use it? Memorial Day usually draws major lake equipment sales, as does Christmas. The worst time to purchase these items is spring, when the new inventory arrives in the stores. Often, you can find used paddling craft and equipment on Craigslist or on local Facebook groups for half the price during the spring and fall months.

Two people kayak in the water.
Getty Images

You’ll save: 40-50 percent

Where to buy: REI; Cabela’s

Hiking Gear

Best time to buy: March and April

Details: The majority of sporting goods retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops and Camping World will have closeouts in the spring to make room for new gear and accessories for hiking such as boots, packs, navigation tools and trekking poles, says Vipin Porwal, founder and consumer savings expert at Smarty and Smarty Plus. “It’s very important to take advantage of any available savings with trending coupons and rewards like cash back in order to assure the best price, regardless of the stores you’re shopping in,” Porwal says.

You’ll save: 10-40 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods; Bass Pro Shops; Camping World

Bicycles and Helmets

Best time to buy: Fall

Details: This is when the stores get rid of the previous summer stock and to make room for new models. But you can also get good deals on Black Friday and around the Christmas season. If you’re looking for a specialist bike, such as a mountain bike or a road bike, these will be on sale whenever they’re out of race season (usually the winter months). Save even more by asking to purchase a demo bike. These are the bikes that shops lend to prospective buyers. They tend to be well-maintained, and are the equivalent of an open box item in an electronics store.

You’ll save: 20-35 percent

Where to buy: You should purchase bicycles at a local store to get the correct fit.

Fishing Gear

Best time to buy: February

Details: About two months after the December holiday season is the sweet spot: It’s too early to fish in much of the country except for all but hardy ice anglers and stores need to sell off their older gear. Make sure to look in the used sections as well because that’s where better deals can be found.

You’ll save: 25-40 percent

Where to buy: Cabela’s; Bass Pro Shops

Car Racks to Carry It All

Best time to buy: November

Details: Black Friday is the best time to snag racks for bikes, watercraft, skis, snowboards and more, but you’ll rarely see these for more than 20 percent off. Want a better deal? Look for these on EBay or Craigslist, or scour local Facebook Marketplace listings. These are sturdy so you don’t typically have to worry about it being damaged and often, people will use theirs for a trip or two before getting rid of it.

You’ll save: 20 percent

Where to buy: REI; Backcountry

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Show Your Teachers Some Appreciation: 21 Teacher Gifts for Under $10

Teacher Appreciation Week, which is the first week of May, is kind of like National Ice Cream Month in July. We should show our gratitude for teachers — and love of ice cream — all year round, not just at a designated time on the calendar.

In the year of virtual classrooms and so many other challenges it’s definitely time for teacher appreciation gifts this week or on the last day of school.

Teacher gifts are usually just small tokens to represent big thanks. Giving a thoughtful gift, however, enhances their value. The Penny Hoarder asked several educators to help create a list of teacher-approved gift ideas.

“The best are the notes from the kids. Honestly, those are the things that you save in your desk drawer,” said Kate Brown who teaches middle school English in Charlotte, N.C.

If you really want to thrill a teacher, suggest your child and several other students write a thank you speech or toast. This was one of the favorite gifts ever for Kathleen Tobin, who teaches high school journalism and multimedia in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“All the seniors got together and wrote a speech thanking me and saying what they had learned for me,” she said. “The seniors each took a part and came up to the microphone and they gave me flowers.”

A thoughtful note or words were the most common response when teachers were asked to name their favorite teacher gift. What they universally don’t love getting: a coffee mug.

Consider these gift ideas for a favorite teacher to go along with a nice note.

20 Teacher Gifts To Buy or Make for Under $10

1. Gift Card for Coffee or Cheap Eats.

A $10 gift card goes a long way at Starbucks, Chic-fil-A or McDonald’s. (A gift card for $10 to a pricey shop or restaurant isn’t a great gift if teachers have to spend more of their own money to use it.)

2. Gift Card for Rare Indulgences.

A $10 gift card won’t buy a week’s worth of groceries at Whole Foods or a local gourmet market (not even close). But it will buy a decadent dessert, pricey body wash or other splurge your teacher might not otherwise treat herself to. A gift certificate to a local bakery is a great option, as well.

3. Chocolate.

“That’s all I ever want and the kids know it,” Tobin said. At the end of that speech in fact, her students threw four bags of Hershey Kisses and miniature Dove bars to her.

 4. Baking Kit.

Buy a new set of measuring spoons and a measuring cup from a dollar store. Add a bottle of vanilla extract and pack them together in a pretty gift bag. Include a copy of your favorite cookie recipe if you like. (Get bags and tissue paper for any teacher gift from a dollar store.)

5. Nailed it.

A fun teacher gift is a cute bag with two bottles of nail polish and an emery board. What a nice treat for summer feet.

6. Christmas Ornaments.

“I have so many ornaments on my tree that students have given me over the years. I really do think of each one when I decorate my tree,” said Penny Manning, who teaches fourth grade in Kinston, N.C. “Some are homemade and some maybe they got on a trip or something.” No worries that it’s May. Christmas is always just around the corner.

7. Custom Tote Bag.

The youngest students can make handprints with fabric paint, then Mom or Dad can write “Best Teacher Hands Down,” with a Sharpie. If the handprints are horizontal, they can be turned into fish by adding eyes, bubbles and waves of water. Older children can decorate the bag with a pattern or picture painted or drawn with Sharpies.

8. Custom Note Cards.

A custom set of stationery designed by a student makes for a unique gift. Fold eight pieces of plain, white printer paper in half and the young artist can draw a picture on the front of each. Add eight standard envelopes (the cards can be folded again to fit) and eight stamps.

9. Dog Treats.

These make great teacher gifts. Buy a box of treats or make your own, then put them in a plastic bag and tie a ribbon around it.

A jar contains cookies against a blue polka dot background.
Getty Images

10. Human Treats.

Homemade cookies, cakes and pies are always yummy. You can think beyond sweets and make a quiche, soup, spaghetti sauce, pineapple salsa or whatever is your specialty.

11. Emergency Kit.

“One time a student made me the cutest emergency kit,” said Robin Clemmons, who was a preschool teacher in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It was a gift bag with Advil, a Tide to Go stick, chocolate, soda and chips. That was one of the most unique teacher gifts.”

12. A plant.

A little bit of green brightens any at-school or virtual classroom. You can buy a succulent, spider plant, one-pint Santiago Palm or flowering bulbs for $5 to $10.

13. Reusable Cutlery.

“One student gave me reusable travel silverware in this little container. It was a thoughtful gift,” said Clemmons. “Teachers bring their lunch too.” Keep scrolling past the pricey sets on Amazon.com and there are several kits for under $10.

14. School Supplies.

Many teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies such as art materials and teaching aids. Several educators we interviewed said a gift certificate to a school supply store is a perfect gift.

15. Combine Forces.

If two or three families plan something together they can go in on a group gift, such as a gift certificate for a nice dinner out.

16. Tea time.

A box of tea bags, from the grocery store or a local shop is nice. Add a little pot of honey and a pack of colorful cocktail napkins from a discount store.

17. Soap.

Many cities have a local soap store selling homemade soaps in a wide range of colors, scents and ingredients. Your kid’s teacher will love a colorful bar with the image of a sunshine, heart, fish or you-name-it embedded in the middle.

18. Memory plate.

Have your student (or you if their handwriting is still emerging) use colorful Sharpies to write experiences the class shared on a plastic dinner plate. Draw a little heart, flower, or circle between each word or phrase. Memories can include titles of books the teacher read aloud, the class pet’s name, a field trip destination, a play conducted, a rainy day game played indoors, a math exercise, or a song the class often sang.

19. Fortune Cookies.

Ask for a few extra fortune cookies when you pick up Chinese food as well as one of the iconic takeout boxes. Place the cookies in the box with a note about how “fortunate” you are to have such a great teacher. Students can decorate the box with a drawing, glitter or a magazine photo collage.

20. Trader Joe’s Candle.

“One year a student gave me a candle from Trader Joe’s. It was in this cute tin and smelled fabulous,” said Robin Tuverson, who teaches sixth grade in Los Angeles. “I had no idea they sell candles and now that’s the only place I buy them. They are just $4. I always think of that student when I get one.” The soy wax candles burn for 20 hours and come in flavors like watermelon mint, strawberry basil, and pineapple cilantro.

21. Class Memory Book

If your child’s school has a Facebook page or you have taken pictures at events throughout the year of the class (not just your little darling), you can get actual photos printed and compile them into an album with funny comments from young students. Ask other parents to solicit answers from their child to questions such as: What you think Mrs. Teacher dreams about at night? What is Mr. Teacher’s favorite food?  What’s the most interesting thing you learned this year? Why do you think it’s important to go to school? And for a big laugh: How old is your teacher?

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com