Can I Afford to Have a Hot Girl Summer?

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

After a year spent indoors, everyone wants to have a hot girl summer in 2021. But when your financial situation is still recovering from the pandemic, can you really afford to?

Whether you’re struggling to get by or just looking to save a few bucks, use these tips to go big this summer – without going over budget.

Cash in rewards points

Millions of Americans stocked up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants during the pandemic. But many consumers inadvertently hoarded another item: credit card rewards points.

If you’re planning to reunite with high school friends or travel to a bachelorette party, cash in your points and miles to save on the trip. If you had to cancel a vacation due to the pandemic, redeem any remaining travel credit.

If you have more rewards points than you need, you may be able to redeem them for cash or as a statement credit on your card, which you can then use toward your trip.

Don’t have any rewards cards? Now may be a good time to sign up. Chase is currently offering a 100,000-point bonus for new cardholders who apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, or a 60,000-point bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Depending on where you’re going, that’s enough for a couple of flights or hotel stays.

Invite friends over for a swap

My new favorite tradition with friends is to host a swap. Everyone brings items they no longer need, and we take turns picking new-to-us items. Last time I got three dresses, a pair of Madewell overalls, a curling iron, and a dog bed.

You’re not limited to clothes at a swap. I encourage my friends to bring anything, including books, kitchenware, makeup and home decor. It’s a free way to get new items, and it encourages you to declutter your house.

Drink like a college student

Back in college, most people would have a couple drinks at home before venturing to the bars. If you’re going out with friends, consider starting with a drink or two at home.

Another money-saving trick is to eat a full meal before you go out, so you’re not tempted to grab pricey appetizers. If you’re getting drinks with your friends, limit yourself to basic cocktails instead of specialty cocktails, or stick to the draft list instead of buying a fancy bottle.

Create rules for yourself

Now that the world is opening up, it’s tempting to throw your budget away and treat yourself to everything you missed during the pandemic. Before doing that, set up some ground rules to keep yourself from going overboard.

For example, make a rule that if you’re getting dinner or brunch with friends, you won’t get take-out that week. These basic rules will help you spend less without having to give up what really matters.

Use a cash budget

Instead of bringing your credit card with you on a night out, only take the amount of cash you want to spend. You can still use your phone to order an Uber or Lyft, but you won’t have the temptation of a credit card. Decide how much you’re comfortable spending and only bring that amount.

Join a sports league

Group sports leagues like softball, soccer, or kickball are one of the most affordable ways to hang out with friends and get some exercise at the same time.

Most group leagues cost between $50 and $75 a person, depending on the sport, and usually last around six weeks. Sometimes you’ll even get a discount at a local bar where you can hang out afterwards.

Plan a budget-friendly trip

For the past few years, my college friends and I have met up every summer at my in-law’s lake house. The house is located near a small town in Indiana, only a few hour’s drive for most of us.

Instead of picking a more exotic locale, we prioritize saving money. It’s free to stay there, and we split the cost of groceries. I usually spend about $100 on gas, food, and drinks for a three-day trip.

If you’re considering a getaway with friends, get creative. Don’t automatically book a trip to Vegas or Miami. Pick a spot that’s close enough to drive, or near a popular airport where flights will be less expensive.

If you’re not lucky enough to have access to a family vacation home, look on Airbnb and VRBO for affordable destinations. Find a house with a stocked kitchen so you can cook most of your meals.

Pro tip: Use Mint’s free travel budget calculator to help you plan your next adventure.

Budget for it

When the world shut down last year, most of us got used to spending less on gas, bars, and new clothes. But as things start to open up, you may find your spending ramping back up.

Use this time to revise your budget and allocate money toward restaurants, rideshare services, and new outfits. As things return to normal, you may have to change your budget a few times before finding a happy balance. Give yourself some grace, as circumstances may change rapidly.

If you find budgeting for one month at a time difficult, give yourself a weekly allowance to use for non-essential purchases. Redirect some of your pandemic habits, like ordering take-out a few times a week, to your rediscovered social habits, like getting dinner with your friends.

Talk to your friends

While some consumers survived the pandemic without getting laid off, millions of Americans lost their jobs and remained unemployed for months. So while your friends may be ready to party, you might be focused on rebuilding your savings.

If you suffered financially during the pandemic, you may not be able to keep up with your friends this summer. Even though it may seem awkward to discuss your money problems openly, it’s better than making excuses.

If you lie about why you can’t hang out, your friends will think you’re avoiding them. But if you’re honest, they may accommodate you by suggesting budget-friendly activities. Give them the chance to understand, even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation. Who knows – one of them might be struggling as well, but too afraid to speak up.

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

Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins. More from Zina Kumok

Source: mint.intuit.com

The 10 Best Stocks for a Bear Market

Bear markets are an inevitable if particularly unpleasant part of the market cycle. But investors who hold the best stocks to buy for bear markets can mitigate at least some of the damage.

No, the S&P 500 isn’t in a bear market – a 20% decline from its peak – just yet. It has, however, been flirting with one for some time. The Nasdaq Composite, for its part, fell into a bear market a while ago. 

Either way, 2022 has been a dismal year for equities with no clear end in sight. Bottoms are hard to call in real time anyway, and, besides, stocks can trade sideways for as long as they feel like it. 

And so if this is how things are going to continue, investors might want to arm themselves with the best stocks they can find. And right now, those stock picks should focus on resiliency during deep downturns.

The best bear market stocks tend to be found in defensive sectors, such as consumer staples, utilities, healthcare and even some real estate equities. Furthermore, companies with long histories of dividend growth can offer ballast when seemingly everything is selling off. And, of course, low-volatility stocks with relatively low correlations to the broader market often hold up better in down markets.

To find the best stocks to buy for bear markets, we screened the S&P 500 for stocks with the highest conviction consensus Buy recommendations from Wall Street industry analysts. We further limited ourselves to low-volatility stocks that reside in defensive sectors and offer reliable and rising dividends. Lastly, we eliminated any name that was underperforming the broader market during the current downturn.

That process left us the following 10 picks as our top candidates for the best stocks to buy for a bear market.

Share prices, price targets, analysts’ recommendations and other market data are as of May 17, courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence and YCharts, unless otherwise noted. Stocks are listed by conviction of analysts’ Buy calls, from weakest to strongest.

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10. Berkshire Hathaway

A Berkshire Hathaway (ticker: BRK.B) signA Berkshire Hathaway (ticker: BRK.B) sign
  • Market value: $694.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 2.25 (Buy) 

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B, $314.81) gets a consensus recommendation of Buy with only modest conviction, but then a mere four analysts cover the stock.

One pro rates it at Strong Buy, one says Buy and two have it at Hold, per S&P Global Market Intelligence, which means the latter two analysts believe Buffett’s conglomerate will only match the performance of the broader market over the next 12 months or so.

That’s a reasonable assumption if stocks do indeed avoid falling into bear-market territory. BRK.B, with its relatively low correlation to the S&P 500, tends to lag in up markets. 

By the same token, however, few names generate outperformance as reliably as Berkshire does when stocks are broadly struggling. That’s by design. And Buffett’s wisdom of forgoing some upside in bull markets to outperform in bears has proven to be an incomparably successful strategy when measured over decades. 

Indeed, Berkshire’s compound annual growth (CAGR) since 1965 stands at 20.1%, according to Argus Research. That’s more than twice the S&P 500’s CAGR of 10.5%.

As one would expect, BRK.B is beating the broader market by a wide margin in 2022, too. The stock gained 5.2% for the year-to-date through May 17, vs. a decline of 14.2% for the S&P 500. 

If we do find ourselves mired in a prolonged market slump, BRK.B will probably not go along for the ride. That makes it one of the best bear market stocks to buy.

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9. CVS Health

A standalone CVS Health (ticker: CVS) businessA standalone CVS Health (ticker: CVS) business
  • Market value: $130.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.1%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.92 (Buy) 

The healthcare sector is a traditional safe haven when markets turn south. Where CVS Health (CVS, $99.60) stands out is that few sector picks possess its unique defensive profile.

CVS is probably best known as a pharmacy chain, but it’s also a pharmacy benefits manager and health insurance company. Analysts praise the company’s multi-faceted business model for both its defensive characteristics and long-term growth prospects.

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“We are bullish on CVS tied to its unique set of assets, robust clinical capabilities and expanding presence in the attractive Medicare business,” writes Truist analyst David MacDonald, who rates the stock at Buy. “We view CVS’ integrated pharmacy/medical benefits as well positioned. Significant scale across its business lines, a strong balance sheet and robust cash flow generation provide dry powder for ongoing capital deployment activities over time.”

MacDonald has plenty of company in the bull camp. Nine analysts rate CVS at Strong Buy, nine call it a Buy and seven have it at Hold. Meanwhile, their average target price of $118.82 gives the stock implied upside of about 27% in the next 12 months or so.

Investors can also take comfort in the stock’s low volatility. Shares have a five-year beta of 0.77. Beta, a volatility metric that serves as a sort of proxy for risk, measures how a stock has traded relative to the S&P 500. Low-beta stocks tend to lag in up markets, but hold up better in down ones.

That’s certainly been the case with CVS stock this year. Shares were off 3.7% for the year-to-date through May 17, but that beat the S&P 500 by nearly 11 percentage points. Such resilience makes the case for CVS as a top bear market stock to buy.

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8. Coca-Cola

Cans of Coca-Cola (ticker: KO) in iceCans of Coca-Cola (ticker: KO) in ice
  • Market value: $285.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.6%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.88 (Buy) 

Few names in the defensive consumer staples sector can match Coca-Cola (KO, $65.79) when it comes to blue-chip pedigree, history of dividend growth and bullishness on the part of Wall Street analysts.

Coca-Cola’s blue-chip bona fides are confirmed by its membership in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. But the company also happens to be an S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrat, boasting a dividend growth streak of 60 years and counting.

Oh, and Coca-Cola also enjoys the imprimatur of no less an investing luminary than Warren Buffett, who has been a shareholder since 1988. At 6.8% of the Berkshire Hathaway equity portfolio, KO is Buffett’s fourth-largest holding. 

Coca-Cola’s more immediate prospects are bright too, analysts say. It’s an unusually low-beta stock, for one thing, and that has been very helpful during this dismal 2022. Shares in KO have gained more than 11% for the year-to-date through May 17, beating the broader market by more than 25 percentage points.

True, KO was hit hard by pandemic lockdowns, which shuttered restaurants, bars, cinemas and other live venues. But those sales are now bounding back. Analysts likewise praise Coca-Cola’s ability to offset input cost inflation with pricing power. 

“We think KO’s strong fourth-quarter results reflect its brand power and ability to thrive in an inflationary environment, as top line improvement was entirely driven by price and mix,” writes CFRA Research analyst Garrett Nelson (Buy). 

Most of the Street concurs with that assessment. Twelve analysts rate KO at Strong Buy, six say Buy, seven have it at Hold and one calls it a Sell. With a  consensus recommendation of Buy, KO looks to be one of the best bear market stocks to buy.

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7. AbbVie

A picture of an AbbVie (ticker: ABBV) buildingA picture of an AbbVie (ticker: ABBV) building
  • Market value: $273.5 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.5%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.88 (Buy) 

Pharmaceutical giant AbbVie’s (ABBV, $155.30) defensive characteristics stem from it being part of the healthcare sector, as well as a low-volatility Dividend Aristocrat. 

But the Street is outright bullish on the name for other reasons as well. 

High on analysts’ list are ABBV’s growth prospects and its pipeline. AbbVie is best known for blockbuster drugs such as Humira and Imbruvica, but the Street is also optimistic about the potential for its cancer-fighting and immunology drugs.

“After the recent weakness in ABBV, we revisited the model, and we came away even more confident regarding the growth prospects and pipeline,” writes Wells Fargo Securities analyst Mohit Bansal, who rates AbbVie as his Top Pick. “We think the consensus forecast significantly underestimates post-2023 growth. There are multiple pipeline catalysts in the 2022 to 2023 timeframe which are not in consensus models.”

At Truist Securities, analyst Robyn Karnauskas (Buy) largely agrees with that view. Although ABBV is suffering with the expected erosion of sales of Humira, newer drugs such as Rinvoq and Skyrizi are rapidly gaining momentum, the analyst says.

The bottom line is that bulls outweigh bears on this name by a comfortable margin. Twelve analysts rate ABBV at Strong Buy, four say Buy, seven call it a Hold and one says Sell.

AbbVie also stands out as a top bear market stock to buy because of a half-century of annual dividend increases. Same goes for ABBV’s low beta. The latter indicates relatively low correlation to the S&P 500, and is evidenced by ABBV stock gaining 14% for the year-to-date through May 17. That beat the broader market by 28 percentage points.

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6. Medtronic

A Medtronic (ticker: MDT) glucose monitorA Medtronic (ticker: MDT) glucose monitor
  • Market value: $142.6 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.4%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.85 (Buy) 

Medtronic (MDT, $106.39) is another low-volatility healthcare stock with a long history of dividend growth that analysts say remains poised for even more market-beating returns.

Shares in one of the world’s largest manufacturers of medical devices gained nearly 3% for the year-to-date through May 17, a period in which the S&P 500 shed more than 14%. Even better, with an average price target of $123.18, the Street gives MDT implied upside of 17% in the next 12 months or so.

That’s why analysts’ consensus recommendation stands at Buy, with fairly high conviction. Of the 26 analysts surveyed by S&P Global Market Intelligence covering MDT, 13 rate it at Strong Buy, four say Buy and nine call it a Hold.

Part of MDT’s appeal stems from its reasonable valuation. Shares change hands at 18.8 times analysts’ 2022 earnings per share (EPS) estimate. And yet MDT is forecast to generate average annual EPS growth of nearly 10% over the next three to five years.

“We see this as an attractive valuation,” notes Argus Research analyst David Toung (Buy), adding the company “has solid post-pandemic growth opportunities from both current and soon-to-be-launched products.”

Indeed, the Street singles out MDT’s strong portfolio of existing products, as well as promising new ones under development.

“We believe Medtronic’s deep product pipeline should drive improving revenue growth and enable margin improvement resulting in high single-digit EPS growth and multiple expansion,” writes Needham analyst Mike Matson (Buy).

The best stocks to buy for bear markets often return cash to shareholders, too. And MDT’s history in that regard is as solid as they come. This Dividend Aristocrat has increased its payout annually for 44 years and counting.

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5. General Dynamics

An F-16 Fighting Falcon, made by General Dynamics (ticker: GD)An F-16 Fighting Falcon, made by General Dynamics (ticker: GD)
  • Market value: $64.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.1%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.81 (Buy) 

Shares in defense contractor General Dynamics (GD, $232.02) benefit in down markets both from their relatively low volatility and dependable dividends. That alone makes GD worth considering as one of the better bear market stocks to buy.

What puts General Dynamics over the top, however, is its robust long-term growth forecast and potential for high share-price appreciation, analysts say.

GD’s defensive characteristics have certainly been well documented so far in 2022. Shares gained 11% for the year-to-date through May 17, a period in which the S&P 500 fell more than 14%. 

And the Street sees more outperformance ahead. Of the 16 analysts issuing opinions on the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, nine call it a Strong Buy, two say Buy, four have it at Hold and one calls it a Sell.

Analysts forecast General Dynamics to generate average annual EPS growth of 11.6% over the next three to five years. And, notably, their average target price of $266.07 gives GD implied upside of about 15% in the next 12 months or so.

“Over the long term, GD management is focused on driving growth through modest sales increases, margin improvement, and share buybacks,” writes Argus Research analyst John Eade (Buy). “The company also aggressively returns cash to shareholders through increased dividends (most recently with a hike of 6%).”

If we do find ourselves slogging through a bear market – or just a sideways market – 15% price upside would be outstanding. And as a Dividend Aristocrat with 31 consecutive years of payout increases to its name, shareholders can at the very least count on GD for equity income.

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4. Iron Mountain

An Iron Mountain (ticker: IRM) datacenter against a white backgroundAn Iron Mountain (ticker: IRM) datacenter against a white background
  • Market value: $15.6 billion
  • Dividend yield: 4.6%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.71 (Buy) 

Iron Mountain (IRM, $53.99) is a real estate investment trust (REIT) with a twist. While the company is growing out a more modern datacenter arm, its legacy business is to store, protect and manage documents. In some cases that means it merely shreds them. The good news is that when corporate customers do indeed store paper documents, they tend to do so for very long periods of time.

That sort of predictability not only helps Iron Mountain maintain a generous dividend, but it allows IRM stock to trade with relatively low volatility. No wonder analysts particularly like Iron Mountain as one of the best bear market stocks to buy. 

“We view IRM as a defensive stock in the current environment, with significant valuation discounts to more traditional REITs (storage and data centers), an improving organic revenue growth story, and the very strong likelihood that the dividend will start to be raised at a 5% to 7% annual pace starting in 2023,” writes Stifel analyst Shlomo Rosenbaum (Buy).

Only seven analysts cover the stock, per S&P Global Market Intelligence, but their consensus recommendation comes to Buy with fairly high conviction. Four pros rate IRM at Strong Buy, two say Buy and one has it at Sell. Meanwhile, their average target price of $61.67 gives IRM implied upside of nearly 20% in the next year or so. 

Such returns would be extraordinary in a bear market, but then, IRM has been holding up its end of the bargain on defense so far. Shares have improved by 2.3% for the year-to-date through May 17 to beat the S&P 500 by about 12 percentage points.

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3. Mondelez International

A stock of Oreo cookies made by Mondelez International (ticker: MDLZ)A stock of Oreo cookies made by Mondelez International (ticker: MDLZ)
  • Market value: $91.0 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.1%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.67 (Buy) 

Consumer staples giant Mondelez International (MDLZ, $65.45) is one of the best stocks for a bear market for many of the same reasons that it’s one of the best stocks to stave off sizzling inflation. 

The company’s vast portfolio of snacks and foods include Oreo cookies, Milka chocolates and Philadelphia cream cheese, to name a few. Sales of such consumer favorites tend to hold up well amid rising prices thanks to fickle palates and brand loyalty. 

Where MDLZ stands out among analysts, however, is in its ability to handle higher input costs thanks to a longstanding hedging program. The company also has been successful in passing higher costs on to consumers.

“We hold a strong growth outlook for Mondelez as its sales growth continues to outperform our expectations driven by strong market share performances and strong category growth rates,” writes Stifel analyst Christopher Growe (Buy). 

Nine consecutive years of dividend increases and a stock that trades with much lower volatility than the S&P 500 should also serve investors well in a tough market. Indeed, MDLZ was essentially flat for the year-to-date through May 17, vs. a decline of more than 14% for the broader market. 

Stifel is in the majority on the Street, which gives MDLZ a consensus recommendation of Buy, with high conviction. Twelve analysts rate it at Strong Buy, eight say Buy and four have it a Hold. 

Pricing power, market share gains and low volatility all help make the case for MDLZ as one of the best bear market stocks to buy.

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2. UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group (ticker: UNH) signUnitedHealth Group (ticker: UNH) sign
  • Market value: $462.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.2%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.63 (Buy) 

Blue-chip stocks in defensive sectors such as healthcare tend to hold up better in bear markets, which is why it’s no surprise to see UnitedHealth Group (UNH, $492.93) make the cut.

This Dow Jones stock is the market’s largest health insurer by both market value and revenue – and by wide margins at that. But UNH’s sheer size alone is hardly a reason to hold it through a market downturn.

Shareholders can also take comfort in 13 consecutive years of dividend increases, a stock that’s historically been much less volatile than the broader market, and an outsized profit-growth forecast.

Analysts praise UNH on a number of fronts, with contributions from the Optum pharmacy benefits manager business being a regular highlight. A steep decline in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 is also a welcome relief.

“We maintain our Strong Buy rating on UNH as we believe shares continue to offer an attractive risk-reward tradeoff, and expect management to execute on its mid-teens EPS growth target,” writes Raymond James analyst John Ransom. 

The Street, which gives the stock a consensus recommendation of Buy with high conviction, expects the company to generate annual EPS growth of nearly 14% over the next three to five years. 

Lastly, this low-vol stock is performing as expected in 2022. It is off less than 2% for the year-to-date through May 17. That’s better than the S&P 500 by 12 percentage points.

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1. T-Mobile US

T-Mobile (ticker: TMUS) storeT-Mobile (ticker: TMUS) store
  • Market value: $161.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.55 (Buy) 

Telecommunications stocks have always been favored for dividends and defense, and those are good attributes to have in a bear market. Where T-Mobile US (TMUS, $129.00) stands out is that shares in the wireless carrier have tremendous price upside too, analysts say.

You can chalk TMUS’s bright future up to the company’s $30 billion merger with Sprint. The deal closed two years ago, but the benefits have been escalating ever since. 

That’s because the “trove” of mid-band spectrum Sprint brought to TMUS allowed the telco to rapidly build out its next-generation 5G mobile wireless network, notes Argus Research analyst Joseph Bonner (Buy). The high-speed network, in turn, gave the company a competitive advantage over Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T).

“The success of the company’s service plan innovations has been evident in its robust subscriber acquisition metrics,” Bonner writes. “T-Mobile remains the best positioned of the national carriers to take market share.”

T-Mobile’s clear advantages over peers is key to the Street’s consensus recommendation on the stock, which stands at Buy, with high conviction. It also factors into analysts’ average price target, which, at $167.55, gives TMUS implied upside of 30% in the next year or so.

With a five-year beta of 0.51, TMUS can kind of be thought of as being half as volatile as the S&P 500. That low-vol character has paid off handsomely so far this year. TMUS is up nearly 11% for the year-to-date through May 17, a period in which the broader market has fallen more than 14%. 

If the recent past is prologue, TMUS will prove itself as one of the best bear market stocks to buy.

Source: kiplinger.com

5 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas For The Summer

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

Summer is typically a time when many families look to take some time off. With school out, the traditional “summer vacation” brings back memories of kids stuffed in the back of a minivan, on the road to some exotic (or less-than-exotic) destination. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more families are looking for ideas to get out of the house without having to travel too much. 

For most vacations, the two biggest costs are lodging and the travel costs to get to the final destination. Planning a staycation minimizes or eliminates these two costs, helping you to have a great time while keeping things budget-friendly. Here are a few budget-friendly staycation ideas for the summer.

What is a Staycation?

A staycation is a portmanteau of the words “stay-at-home” and “vacation” and is, as the name implies, a way to take a vacation without traveling too much. Staycations can come in many different flavors. In some staycations, you take a variety of day trips but return each night to your own home. In other staycations, you might travel to more local or regional destinations instead of going too far.

Be a Tourist in Your Own City

One of the most popular staycation ideas is to be a tourist in your own city. To take a staycation like this, you might look at some of the top things to do in your city. Look at your city not as a resident, but as a tourist — what would a tourist do if they only had a few days to visit your hometown? 

Chances are good that even if you’ve lived there for many years you may not have seen all of those attractions. Take a few days to visit some of those sites and see your city from a fresh new perspective. A few years ago, my family and I spent a few days touring our hometown of Cincinnati like tourists. We went to the top of the tallest building in the city, visited the US Air Force Museum, saw a Cincinnati Reds game, and had a great time. Each night we came back home and stayed in our own beds.

Camping

Another staycation idea is to hit the great outdoors. While camping may bring back traumatic memories of childhood summer camps gone bad, there are a lot of different ways to camp these days. In addition to a traditional tent in a campsite, many state and national parks offer cabins and other “glamping” experiences that you might enjoy more. That can give you the right mix of both outdoor and indoor comforts.

Movie Night

Another budget-friendly staycation idea for this summer is to have a movie night (or two). In order to make a movie night more of a staycation, consider how you can spice things up a bit. You don’t want to just turn on Netflix for a few hours and call it a movie night! Some ideas include renting a projection screen, moving your movie night outside, or combining movie night with a special dinner.

Visit the Beach

A day at the beach is something that many people enjoy and can be a great thing to include in any staycation. Of course, how you might visit a beach will depend quite a bit on where you actually live. Still, even if you don’t live near the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, you can still include a beach day on your vacation. Consider spending the day at a nearby lake or river, or even just visiting a local swimming pool.

Food Tour in Your Own City

Another great staycation idea is to have a food tour in your own city. Many cities have sponsored food tours or tours that you can pay for. Depending on your budget, interests, or the number of people in your family, that can be an option. But if you’re looking to keep things under budget, consider doing your own city food tour. Depending on where you live and how long you’ve lived there, you probably already know the restaurants and foods your city is famous for. Take a day and visit a few of them to make your own food tour at a fraction of the cost.

The Bottom Line

It’s important to your mental health to be able to take a break from the regular daily grind and get away for a bit. But taking a vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. The two biggest costs for most vacations are your lodging costs and the travel costs to get to your destination. Planning a staycation minimizes or eliminates these two costs, helping you to stay within your budget while still having a great time.

Which of these staycation ideas do you like most? What would you add to the list?

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

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

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

There are so many fashion trends that come and go; but what does that mean for your pockets? You’re left overspending, making impulse decisions, or buying items because others are doing the same thing. Remember, fashion is a personal experience. It’s unique to each one of us as we all express our personal style in different ways. The cost of living along with everyday essentials are on the rise; what are a few ways to remain stylish while making sure it’s budget friendly? Use the following tips to build a classic wardrobe that’s always on trend – no matter the occasion.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe consists of a set of tops, bottoms, outerwear, shoes, and various accessories that are versatile and can be mixed based on occasion to create a multitude of looks. The focal point of a capsule wardrobe is to own more on quality pieces that can transcend through the various seasons.

Ranging from between 25 – 75 pieces (or more; just depends on your preference) the key is to be able to identify all your clothing items easily and severely cut down on the time it takes to decide what you’re going to wear from day-to-day. Your new wardrobe should be able to reflect you personally while also remaining super functional.

Step 1: Take an assessment of your closet

Before we get started with hitting our favorite stores or buying everything online; take note of what’s currently in your closet. Begin to create a few mounds of clothes – keep, purge, and repurpose piles. What are the items that no longer fit? What items don’t necessarily fit your personal style anymore?

Be honest with yourself during this exercise. For example, if the clothes fit but you haven’t worn them within the past six months, chances are you may not be in love with them like you thought during the initial purchase. Also consider gently used clothes that are still in good shape to donate or sell to a consignment shop. The funds made from items already in your closet can go toward new pieces for your capsule wardrobe! Consider your current lifestyle as well – are you self-employed, working a 9-5 or a stay-at-home parent? All of this will impact your personal decisions as it relates to clothing.

To streamline this process even further, take pictures of the items you’re going to keep and have them all in one album on your phone. This way, you’re able to track each piece you have before making any new purchases. We often believe we have nothing to wear when it’s time to get dressed – when we really are just unsure of what we have. Reprogram your mind to utilize what you already have versus spending out of impatience and frustration.

Step 2: Identify your personal style and experiment

Social media exposes us to so many people, their personal styles and fashion inspirations. When you take a step back from everyone else’s thoughts and opinions; who inspires you? Create a mood board with outfits that pique your interest, that are classic in nature and are flattering to your body type. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are these pieces something I’m going to love years from now?
  • Will I feel confident no matter the occasion?
  • Does this fit my work and personal lifestyle?
  • Am I committed to investing in quality items?

Answering these truthfully are a great baseline to tailoring your wardrobe for you – regardless of what’s ever changing on social media. Next is the fun part; begin experimenting with what’s in your closet! Make sure all your items are in one area in your closet or buy a fashion rack so you’re able to easily identify your growing capsule wardrobe. Using either of these methods should not only cut down your decision time when getting dressed, it gives you the opportunity to create multiple looks with the same pieces. The main goal is functionality – make sure it’s adaptable to your lifestyle and its’ demands.

Step 3: Spend wisely and fight the urge against fast fashion

Quality over quantity is the mantra to live by when wanting to build a capsule wardrobe. Think about it in this way – how can you remain timeless while also having a distinct personal style?

When you’re looking for items to add to your capsule, focus on durability and quality. There’s no point in buying a lot of clothes that can’t withstand a few cycles in the washing machine (lack of quality) or shopping for one specific event (non-functional pieces). Refer to the pictures that’ve been taken of your current items so they’re handy during any shopping trip. Don’t forget to leverage consignment shops or thrift stores during this process. Bulkier, yet timeless items such as trench coats or vests with neutral colors can often be found. If you find that shopping for each season initially is too difficult, begin offseason shopping. During the summer, fall and winter clothes can be reduced heavily in price; use these opportunities as a cost savings.

Step 4: Take your time and have fun!

Transitioning from your current wardrobe to a fully functional one isn’t easy. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to finalize each piece in your closet over a designated amount of time. Not only is that not realistic, but it’s also expensive (which partly defeats the purpose) and stressful. This should be a fun, experimental, yet intentional time.

Take note of the outfits you enjoy the most. What about them makes you confident? You’ll discover you love every item in your closet versus simply dealing with pieces to complete an outfit. Take a note of items that may be currently missing from your wardrobe that can be worn at least three ways.

Taking this into account, you’ll be able to add those items into your rotation easily. Every purchase should be strategic and purposeful. While others are chasing trends that change every season, you’ll be peaceful and empowered with a wardrobe distinctly curated by you and your wants.

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

Marsha Barnes

Marsha Barnes is a finance guru with over 20 years of experience dedicates her efforts to empower women worldwide to become financially thriving. Financial competency and literacy are a passion of Marsha’s, providing practical information for clients increasing their overall confidence in their personal finances. More from Marsha Barnes

Source: mint.intuit.com

How Moving to a New City Can Give You a Fresh Financial Start

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

Summer is a common time for many people to change up their living situations by moving either across town or across the country. And whether you are moving for a new job, a recent graduation, or just a change of scenery, moving to a new city can help give you a fresh financial start. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your move.

Changing (lowering) your cost of living

The biggest thing to make sure that you’re aware of when moving to a new city is that your overall cost of living is going to change. This may be obvious to many people, but goods and services cost different amounts in different areas of the country and world. From very expensive places like New York and San Francisco to less expensive places like Tulsa or Boise and everywhere in between. 

Before you move to a new city, make sure to understand the difference in the cost of living between your current city and your new city. There are many online calculators that can compare the cost of living between two different cities. Make sure to dig deeper than just the overall cost of living. The cost of living accounts for lots of different areas of spending like housing, food, transportation, and more. Understanding how different things might change in price from what you’re used to can help you plan a budget for your new city.

Hopefully, you are moving to an area with a lower cost of living. That’s a great opportunity to take your extra money and start saving or investing it. If you are moving to a higher-cost area, you can take the chance to really get serious about budgeting

New friends and family

Your new city will also give you the chance to change who you interact with and how much. You may be moving closer to family, or have the chance to meet new friends. Changes in your family or friend’s situation can also impact your finances. If you are moving closer to extended family, you may have an opportunity to collaborate on child care and save some money that way. 

If you’re moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone, consider how that might affect your budget and your social life. Will you be spending more money at bars, events, and other places to meet new people? Work those expenses into your new budget!

Updating your recurring subscriptions

Recurring subscriptions can be an easy way to lose your money if you’re not careful. Without tracking them with a budgeting tool like Mint, it’s easy to find yourself paying for monthly subscriptions that you don’t actually use. Moving to a new city can be a great way to update your recurring subscriptions and be proactive about which ones you want to pay for.

While some monthly subscriptions like streaming services are easy to transfer with you when you move, others won’t make as much sense. It probably isn’t a good idea to continue paying for your local gym membership if you move halfway across the country. Take the time as part of your move to really take a look at which monthly payments you are making and which are still providing value.

Budgeting for your move

A budget is one of the most important tools you have to achieve a positive financial future. Budgeting for your move is important in two different ways. We’ve talked a bit already about how to adjust your budget for your new situation, but it’s also important to make a budget for the move itself.

Without a budget, it can be easy to spend much more than you intended to on your move. Moving is always stressful, so before you notice it, you can find yourself spending hundreds or thousands of extra dollars. Make sure to do your research on moving options, and don’t forget to give yourself some grace in the budget to account for unexpected things to come up while moving.

The Bottom Line

Moving to a new city is an exciting time, and can be a great opportunity to get a fresh financial start. Make sure to compare the cost of living in your new city, and how it compares to the prices that you’re used to. Adjust your budget for your new living situation and don’t forget to budget for the move itself. One great way to update your budget is to take a look at some of your recurring monthly subscriptions and have an honest conversation with yourself and others in your household about which subscriptions are worth it for you. Following these tips can get you off to a great start in your new city and with your new life.

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

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller

Source: mint.intuit.com

Here’s All You Need to Know About Unlimited Chuck E. Cheese Games

Chuck-e-cheese stands outside of a vehicle after a reopening of a Check E Cheese store.
Contributor Jenna Limbach writes on financial literacy and lifestyle topics for The Penny Hoarder from her home base in Utah. Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer.

Thinking of having a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese? The Ultimate Fun and Mega Fun party options both come with 2 hours of all you can play for each child.
To keep patrons safe, Chuck E. Cheese has COVID-19 protocols implemented during birthday parties and some aspects of playtime. There are hand sanitizing stations, regular sanitizing of surfaces and touchless pay options, as well as the touchless Play Passes and bands.
You’d think taking the little ones to a pizza and games place like Chuck E. Cheese would bring some distraction-induced reprieve. But alas, they’re coming at you every five minutes for more tokens.
Just think: Your kids might wear themselves out for less than . Might.

How Chuck E. Cheese All You Can Play Works

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If you do a traditional party at Chuck E. Cheese but want social distancing, you can book a VIP party on Saturdays at 8 a.m. or Sundays at 9 a.m.
If you have to cancel a party due to COVID, you can transfer your party deposit to a new date within one year of the canceled date or use it for a to-go party pack.

  • $1 Play Pass
  • $3 Play Pass with coil wristband
  • $7.99 Rechargeable Play Band with $5 worth of game play included

Ready to stop worrying about money?
Some games might still dispense paper tickets, but Chuck E. Cheese has transitioned to e-tickets that are automatically saved to Play Passes. Once kids are done playing, they can redeem their e-tickets at the counter for prizes.
Behold the All You Can Play game option (aka the savior of parental sanity), at participating Chuck E. Cheese locations nationwide.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
For birthday parties, you can find an option that works for you based on state or local guidelines, or even do a Party Pack at home through delivery or carryout. If you choose an at-home option, you’ll still get play points and e-tickets to use on your next visit.

Pro Tip
If you find yourself frequently going to Chuck E. Cheese to keep the kids happy, check out their rewards program.

Chuck E. Cheese and COVID-19 Safety

Privacy Policy
Check that All You Can Play is available at your Chuck E. Cheese location before you go.
The allowed number of party guests and Chuck E. appearances will vary by state and local guidelines. If local guidelines don’t allow for Chuck E. to be there in person, he’ll attend virtually on video monitors.
Not today, children.
Currently, unlimited game time comes in 30-minute increments starting at with any Chuck E. Cheese deals purchase and is good any day of the week. Save even more if you go on All You Can Play Wednesday. Mention the promotion at time of purchase and you’ll get an hour of unlimited play for .99.
Kids and families attend the Chuck E. Cheese Baton Rouge, La. Signature Grand Reopening on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021 in Baton Rouge, LA. Tyler Kaufman/AP Images for CEC Entertainment
Kids like to touch everything, and at a restaurant like Chuck E. Cheese those instincts run free.

Chuck E. Cheese Rewards

For one flat fee, kiddos can play unlimited games without exception for a selected amount of time.
When you download the app and sign-up, you’ll receive 500 free e-tickets. You’ll get 250 e-tickets on your sign-up anniversary and a birthday surprise for your birthday and half-birthday. Refer a friend and you’ll get one free personal pizza when they sign up.

  • For 50 points, you’ll get 15 minutes of play time, an order of Unicorn Churros or 500 e-tickets.
  • At 100 points, you receive 30 minutes of play time, one personal 1-topping pizza or 1,000 e-tickets.
  • For 200 points, you can earn 60 minutes of play time, one large 1-topping pizza or 2,000 e-tickets.

Kids can use Play Passes or Play Bands, which allow them to load time or points with a tap. Play Passes come in three tiers:
Before your next trip, you can also reload time and points onto Play Passes and Play Bands online. <!–

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Being a parent is expensive. And exhausting.