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.

How Much Do You Get Paid to Donate Sperm? We’ve Got All the Answers

Let’s talk about how to make money by selling your sperm. Like, how this actually works.

Popular media sends a strong message: Selling your sperm is a lucrative and simple way to make money when you’re low on cash.

There’s no need to feel weird about sperm donation, despite the many jokes about the process. Sperm banks support thousands of families who struggle with infertility and parents who want to conceive without a partner.

In a span of 30 years, an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 babies were born of anonymous donor insemination, according to an unpublished study by the American Association of Tissue Banks, reported by Cryogenic Laboratories. That’s 4,000 to 5,000 births per year that happened because of sperm donors.

But the process isn’t nearly as simple or fun as the gags might imply.

Don’t expect to pop into your local sperm bank, make a contribution and walk out with a check that afternoon.

Here’s everything you need to know about the process and requirements to donate sperm to figure out whether it’s the right move for you.

How Much Do You Get Paid to Donate Sperm?

The phrase is a little confusing — sperm donation isn’t a charitable act.

You do, in fact, earn money. (Not nearly as much as its counterpart, egg donation, but it won’t take nearly the toll on your body, either.)

Like everything else about becoming a sperm donor, the amount of money you make varies depending on the sperm bank or donation center you work with.

Here are some examples of compensation models:

  • Donors through the Seattle Sperm Bank can earn $100 per approved donation.
  • Donors through the Sperm Bank of California earn $140 per approved sample, with most donors earning between $500 and $700 per month.
  • Donors through the international sperm bank chain Cryos earn per ejaculate delivered, with an increased rate for each approved batch, plus another fee for each batch release — up to $80 cash and a $10 gift card per donation.

Sperm banks also offer free fertility test results, physical exams and blood testing as long as you remain a donor, and some even provide a free annual physical after you stop donating.

Some clinics have more complicated contracts that require you to keep up steady visits and provide regular donations if a recipient chooses you as their donor. That arrangement could affect when you’re paid.

“Just to make sure you follow through (with your visits), your paychecks are kept in escrow by the sperm bank until the end of the contract,” Cracked contributor Sean Berkley wrote about his sperm donation experience in 2011.

Many sperm banks now pay monthly or per visit, however. Like any other side hustle, get details on compensation before you sign any contracts or make any commitments.

3 Things to Consider Before Selling Your Sperm

Take some time to understand all the information before you set your sights on sperm donation as your next side hustle. You might be surprised by the details of the three main requirements, limitations and choices.

  • Donor qualifications
  • Donor offspring limits
  • Anonymous vs. open identity donation

Do You Qualify for Sperm Donation?

Each sperm bank has its own list of physical requirements for donors, but they’re all fairly similar.

Most donation centers require donors to be:

  • At least 5’7” tall and up to 6’6”.
  • Between 18 and 40 years old (none accept donations from minors).
  • Height and weight proportional.
  • In good overall health, based on general physical health screenings and fertility tests.
  • College graduates, enrolled in college or military veterans. Some banks pay more if you have a doctorate degree or attended an Ivy League school (because recipients pay more for those donor qualities).
  • A non-smoker and non–drug user.
  • Able to provide a biological family medical history.

Even if you meet a clinic’s basic requirements, you’re not guaranteed to be accepted.

Sperm banks are for-profit organizations, and like any business, they aim to provide what the market demands.

That means your sperm might be subject to the same kinds of biases you encounter among people face-to-face. In addition to the explicit requirements listed above, you could be denied because of supply and demand at a clinic based on things like your skin color, hair color and eye color.

Based on FDA regulation, potential donors are denied if they’ve ever had sex with “another man” within five years. (The regulation doesn’t address potential nonbinary or transgender women donors.)

You could also be denied for genetic health issues, such as blood clotting disorders.

Some sperm banks will tell you why your application is denied, but some might not. You might want to know that information before you apply, so you’re not left wondering.

Donor Offspring Limits

Donation centers are regularly updating policies and practices to address ethical questions that come up about sperm donation and assisted reproduction.

Every few years, it seems, a news story reveals another serial sperm donor with hundreds of offspring. Check the details, though — in many of these cases, the donor worked with the recipient privately (a.k.a. a “known donor”), not through a donation center.

Most donation centers set a limit on the number of births or recipients per donor.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates sperm donation (and other organ and tissue donation), doesn’t set a legal offspring limit. Instead, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) sets guidelines for the industry and recommends a limit of 10 births per population of 800,000 (roughly the size of Seattle).

Many donation centers set limits well below the ASRM guideline — around 25 families in the U.S. per donor is a common maximum.

Anonymous vs. Open Identity Donation

The FDA requires clinics to keep some donor information for medical purposes, but it doesn’t regulate anonymity. You’ll make that choice based on the clinic you choose.

Ask the donation center about its policies, and be crystal clear about your options and long-term obligations before you donate. Donor arrangements include:

  • Anonymous: Neither the donor nor the recipient get identifying information about each other. You likely won’t even know whether a recipient conceived using your sperm.
  • Semi-open: You and the recipient get some information about each other, but not identifying details or contact information. The clinic is usually a go-between to pass correspondence between you and the recipient. You might learn whether the recipient had a baby using your sperm and even get baby photos. Or you might just stay open to possible contact in the future from the child once they’re an adult.
  • Open: You and the recipient have each other’s contact information and communicate directly, maybe even meeting in person. Ideally, you and the recipient determine together how much ongoing communication you’ll have and whether or not you’ll have contact with the child. But the child could always decide to contact you on their own sometime in the future.

Here’s the catch: Technology, as it often does without trying, has thrown a bit of a wrench in this situation.

Increasingly accessible family-tree DNA testing has made some curious (or unsuspecting!) donor-conceived children privy to their genetic roots — even when donors and recipients agreed to anonymity.

Many countries, including the U.K., have removed the option for anonymity in recent years by legislating a donor-born child’s right to find their biological father (i.e. the source of their donor sperm) after they turn 18.

COVID Considerations for Sperm Donation

Sperm donation centers are medical facilities and are subject to recommendations and mandates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local health agencies.

Stay up to date with those recommendations so you know what to expect regarding mask requirements, social distancing, capacity restrictions and other measures the centers might take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Is Vaccination Required to Donate Sperm?

The FDA hasn’t added a vaccine requirement for sperm donation, and it doesn’t require COVID-19 screening, either, because it doesn’t classify COVID as a relevant disease in reproductive tissue donation. That’s because respiratory viruses aren’t transmittable through reproductive tissues like sperm.

As private facilities, some sperm donation centers might have their own requirements in place to protect their staff and participants. Some centers might request or require proof of vaccination, or require COVID screening, for example, from people who enter the clinics.

The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for everyone at least 5 years old, including people who are trying to get pregnant — including those who provide the sperm. It notes there’s no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility, and in the vast majority of cases, antibodies aren’t transmitted to reproductive tissue.

Rumors about Sperm and Vaccinations

Recent rumors have suggested “unvaccinated sperm” could be worth a lot of money in the near future, but they’re just that: rumors.

Most important to note here is that all sperm is “unvaccinated sperm,” because vaccines don’t affect reproductive tissues, according to the FDA. Because vaccines don’t affect DNA, sperm or fertility, there won’t be a difference between sperm from donors who received a vaccine and those who didn’t, so you probably won’t see a soaring unvaccinated sperm price.

And because potential vaccination requirements would be related to staff health in clinics and not to the screening process for sperm donors, it’s not likely sperm donation centers will even record whether a donor was vaccinated — so recipients won’t have the option to use that as a criteria.

We can’t say how niche perceptions of the COVID-19 vaccine will affect one-to-one sperm donations with known donors. Misinformation about the vaccine’s effects could mean some families will look for unvaccinated sperm donors outside of donation centers.

The Sperm Donation Process

Every donation center dictates its own process for sperm donors, but they’re pretty similar and many parts of the process are regulated by the FDA. After you find a sperm bank, you should expect to be pre-screened, to have a physical exam and share your family medical history, provide a sample and sign a contract.

1. Find a Sperm Bank

Track down a sperm bank that’s close to you through this National Directory of Sperm Cryobanks.

Most centers require donors to live within 25 miles or about an hour of the clinic, because if you’re chosen to be a donor, you’ll be visiting the facility regularly.

A legitimate organization will be registered with the FDA. Enter the clinic’s name in this FDA directory to make sure it’s registered.

2. Get Pre-Screened

All applicants start by going through a pre-screening over the phone or through an online application. Here’s an example application for Cryos.

The pre-screening confirms:

  • Your eligibility to work (and be paid) in the U.S.
  • Some medical history, including potential sexually transmitted infections, mental illness, allergies and drug use.
  • Your height, hair color, eye color and ethnicity.

3. Provide Detailed Family History & Get a Physical Exam

If you pass the initial screening, you’ll be invited in for a thorough interview that takes a deep dive into your family tree.

Berkley says you should be prepared to provide “a detailed medical history for every parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparent you have, as well as any children your siblings or cousins may have, going back four generations.”

That sounds like hyperbole, but this overview of the process from Phoenix Sperm Bank confirms the information you can expect to provide.

You’ll also get a physical exam that includes a blood test, urine test and DNA analysis, and screening for STIs including HIV. You won’t pay anything for this exam, and most clinics provide regular physicals as long as you’re a donor and possibly after.

4. Provide a Sample

If you pass the first two levels of the screening process, you’ll provide a semen sample for the clinic to test.

It’ll go through a fertility test for the kinds of things you’ve probably heard joked about on TV: sperm count and motility, and the overall health of the sperm.

In other words, what’s the likelihood this sperm can help conceive a baby?

Depending on the company, you might have to wait up to six months to find out whether your sperm passes this test. Semen samples are frozen and tested again after several months to make sure they can hold up in storage waiting for a buyer.

You don’t usually get paid for providing this sample, and the sperm bank won’t save it to sell to a recipient in the future.

5. Sign a Contract to Become a Sperm Donor

Eligible donor? Check. Healthy genetics? Check. Hearty sperm? Check!

You’ll be invited to become a sperm donor once you pass the full screening process, and you have to sign a contract with the donation center.

Depending on the clinic, the contract might include things like:

  • How often you’re expected to donate. Sperm banks prefer frequent donors, so your contract might require you to donate several times per month or even multiple times per week.
  • A requirement to abstain from sexual intercourse before donation. Presumably to ensure strong sperm samples, you could be asked not to have sex within a few days before donating sperm.
  • Payment terms. Your contract should spell out how much you’ll earn, and when and how you’ll be paid, plus any stipulations you have to meet.

6. Donate Regularly

You might be surprised to learn how often you’ll be expected to donate — but the rest of this part of the process is pretty much what all the TV and movies have prepared you to expect.

You can’t collect your semen from home and deliver it to the clinic. You have to visit the clinic and deposit your sample on site, in a private room and with access to pornography.

You’ll deposit the sample itself into a sterile container, and the sperm bank will freeze it until a recipient chooses your profile. Then it’s thawed and used for the artificial insemination process.

Are You Ready to Be a Sperm Donor?

Infertility isn’t an uncommon circumstance in the U.S. About 11% of women of reproductive age have experienced fertility problems, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition, women who don’t have fertility issues also use sperm donors to get pregnant.

Sperm donation is one way to help them start the families they want, and the sperm banks all say the need for donors is high and growing.

The onboarding process is quite a bit more involved than most side gigs you’ll encounter, but the payoff is fair. If you’re accepted as a sperm donor, you could earn upward of $1,000 a month for a quick trip to the clinic about once a week.

Contributor Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® who has written about work and money for publications including Forbes, The New York Times, CNBC, Insider, NextAdvisor and Inc. Magazine.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Making the Most Out of Your Self-Guided Apartment Tours

Taking a self-guided tour gives you a low-pressure situation to look closely at a potential home. Take advantage of the opportunity if you can.

Seeing something before you buy (or rent) it is pretty standard when you’re shelling out hundreds of bucks for it. When it comes to renting a new apartment, this is especially true.

It’s often recommended you see at least three apartments when on the hunt, and that means scheduling tours. Traditionally, those tours happened with a leasing agent on hand. They’d walk you through and show you the highlights of any available units, as well as the amenity spaces throughout the building.

This is still helpful, but can also lead prospective tenants to feel pressured into sealing the deal once they’ve seen any apartment units.

To eliminate this issue and give you a little more freedom when it comes to touring a potential home, ask about doing it on your own. Getting access to an apartment for a self-guided tour are a much better experience all around.

What are self-guided apartment tours?

Touring an available unit in-person is one of the best ways to get a feeling for the space. Virtual tours are no longer the only option when it comes to social distancing, and a leasing office may offer self-guided apartment tours now as an alternative.

While a traditional tour consisted of an in-person experience for prospective residents, it was usually accompanied by the leasing agent. Prospective tenants weren’t searching through the property themselves on their own schedule.

A self-guided tour removes leasing agents from the equation, allowing you to access places with the ability to explore the unit free of any pressure or constraints. The process involves making an appointment, like with a traditional tour, but it’s totally dependent on your free time. You no longer have to coordinate schedules with a guide.

Couple checking out an apartment

Couple checking out an apartment

How do self-guided tours work?

To request a self-guided apartment tour, you must make an appointment. The best way to do this is by contacting the leasing office. You may have to fill out an online application and provide a credit card number to protect the leasing agent from any damages that may occur during the tour. Some situations may also require a quick background check.

Once all that’s complete, you pick a time slot that works best within your existing free time, and you’re ready for your visit.

When you arrive, you shouldn’t have to wait at all to gain access to the unit. You’ll most likely receive a code to use on a smart lock or even get access to an app that turns your smartphone into a one-time key. Expect to see cameras in the unit though to monitor your tour from a distance.

What you can do before the tour even starts

If you want to do even more exploring around the building, you can arrive for your tour a little early and scope out a few additional spots around the property, including:

  • Green spaces. Are there any and how do they look? Check out the general landscaping to make sure they’re maintaining their property and look like some effort went into the appearance.
  • Parking areas. Cars up on blocks or in a state of repair don’t look nice, and non-functioning cars loitering in the parking area can devalue the building.
  • Balconies. From what you can see, are the balconies nicely kept, or do they look like extra trash cans for tenants?
  • Security. As you enter the building, take note of how secure the entrance is. Did you have to get buzzed through yourself or could you walk right in? Was there a functioning gate to enter the complex itself? What about security cameras?

Looking at all of these features before you even begin a self-guided tour can help give you the big picture of what living here would be like. Things that aren’t up to par are a clear sign to not live here. You can even complete this exterior review before scheduling any self-guided tours by hopping in your car and taking a drive-by trip of your top choices.

Scope out the neighborhood before you look at an apartment.

Scope out the neighborhood before you look at an apartment.

How to narrow down your choices

Although a self-guided apartment tour makes it easier to see more places on your own than if you had to schedule a guided tour, you still want to narrow down the options for your next apartment beforehand. Seeing too many possibilities can take the fun out of your hunt, and make it more complicated to remember what you liked about each space. Renters may end up with so many choices, it’s impossible to pick one.

Instead, before you begin visiting, use the renter’s information available online to save time and narrow down your possible home list. To do this:

  • Compare lease terms. If you only want pet-friendly places, avoid units that don’t give furry friends access.
  • Compare rents. Try to stick to apartments in your budget.
  • Review locations. It’s all about the convenience of getting to work and being close to shops and restaurants. Of course, you should see what’s within walking distance of each rental, too.
  • Look at pictures. Although online pictures sometimes won’t compare to actually touring a place, they will give you a good idea of what’s out in the world of available properties.

This preparation will save you time when it comes to self touring since you won’t have to waste any time finding slots for a rental without the right amenities. You won’t contact places you’d never rent. You also won’t lose interest while searching by overdoing it.

Make sure the apartment works for you.

Make sure the apartment works for you.

What to look for on a self-guided apartment tour

Once you’re in the apartment, with the freedom of touring the space completely on your own, use the time well. Walking slowly through lets you inspect everything. You may even want to enlist friends to join you for the visit. An extra pair of eyes is never a bad thing.

When walking through, focus on:

  • Appliances. Test them all to make sure they’re working. If the water is on, test the faucets, too.
  • Closets and storage space. Are there enough for your stuff?
  • Overall layout. Does the unit flow well? Is it big enough?
  • Doors and windows. Everything should open and close properly and windows should lock. You may even want to test cabinets and drawers, too.
  • Floors, ceilings and walls. Is everything in good condition without scratches, holes or water stains?

If something isn’t working, that can get fixed, it’s not as much of an issue as something that signifies the building isn’t well-cared for (like water stains from a leak). It’s up to you to decide what pushes the apartment over the edge into the ‘it’s not for me’ category.

Red flags to watch out for

As you check the general status of everything, you and your group of trusted supporters need to watch out for specific red flags, including:

  • Mold. This is a great indicator to pick up and run. Not only is it hard to get rid of, but mold you can see with your eyes is often only a small sample of what’s lingering behind walls.
  • Security features. There are plenty of security features an apartment should have, including deadbolts on all outside doors, peepholes and smoke detectors. Missing any of these could be a red flag that you won’t feel safe living here.
  • Noise. As you take your self-guided tour, listen to what’s going on around you. Can you hear the neighbors while you’re inside? How quiet are the halls and stairwells? You don’t want to live somewhere that’s too noisy, and hearing what’s going on in real-time gives you a great indication of what every day could be like.

You should also trust your gut as the biggest red flag. If you don’t feel right in the building or see anything that makes you uncomfortable, this is not your future home.

The benefits of a self-guided tour

Being able to schedule a self-guided apartment tour opens you up to a much better experience as you hunt. You’re able to go at your own pace on your own time. You’re able to control the schedule, as well. This ensures you won’t run into other prospective tenants. It also allows you to pick an off time when a guided tour wouldn’t be possible. You don’t have to have any contact with leasing agents unless you want to, which means you could even tour at night.

Setting up a day of self-guided tours also means more tours are possible one after another. This saves you a lot of time in finding the perfect place to rent. The environment is also pressure-free, allowing you to closely look at both the home and the amenity spaces to gauge how you feel about all the apartments you like.

There are really very few arguments against a self-guided apartment tour other than the fact that you won’t have a leasing agent on hand to answer questions. However, it’s easy to contact them after your tour to ask questions and discuss submitting an application if you discover this is the place for you.

A leasing agent may not have your best interest at heart.

A leasing agent may not have your best interest at heart.

How a leasing agent can derail your tour

In the opposite corner of the benefits of self-guided tours, having someone from the property with you could completely ruin an apartment tour.

If they’re trying to hide anything, they could rush you through making it hard to catch some hard-to-see red flags. You could end up with an idealized version of the place, which could make it a very disappointing home once you move in. Also, having someone watching you over your shoulder could make it hard to feel comfortable inspecting the place.

There’s also the pressure a leasing agent could bring to the tour, making you feel like you need to sign a lease as soon as you’re done looking around. A request to fill out an application could feel forced since you did take up their time going on the tour itself.

Although a good property manager won’t do these things, there’s no way to know what kind of person they are in this first meeting. Self-guided tours remove all these issues from the equation.

Touring is only one part of the rental process

Apartment tours are a major part of renting an apartment, but they’re not the only piece. There’s a lot to do when going through the entire process of renting, but each step leads to you finding your next apartment.

As prospective residents, it’s up to you to treat every step with care, which includes setting up a property tour that gives you the ability to make up your own mind on where you’ll next call home.

Source: rent.com

What You Need to Know About Virtual Open Houses in the COVID-19 Era

In 2019, the real estate industry celebrated 100 years of open houses. Over the course of those decades that real estate professionals have been hosting open houses, they have evolved, and in some cases, disappeared. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis, the real estate industry has scrambled to evolve once again. That includes if, and how, open houses are conducted. At the guidance of the National Association of Realtors, open houses during this time should look different and those marketing properties have found new ways to make touring the home virtually accessible.

The traditional open house is what we’re all widely familiar with. It’s hosted by a real estate agent and potential home buyers are allowed to come and go while they tour the property. However, since the COVID-19 outbreak, the National Association of Realtors has advised suspending in-person open houses. While this is simply a guidance to brokers, many state and local governments have also enacted “shelter-in-place” orders which deem in-person open houses not permissible.

Virtual Open Houses: A Quick Guide

What is the Difference Between a Virtual Tour and a Virtual Open House?

Many programs exist to provide 24/7, 360-degree virtual tours to buyers. While a virtual tour is the first step any prospective homebuyers should take, if interest is there for that property, a guided tour would be the next step. The difference between virtual tours and virtual open houses are that a real estate professional will guide you through the open house while virtual tours are completed on your own. Virtual tours can be completed from the listing page of a property without any prior scheduling. Virtual tour software goes beyond photography and provides 3-D, walking virtual tours of a property. This allows potential buyers to feel like they are literally standing in the middle of the room touring the home, but without having to leave the comfort of their own home.

Young woman sitting on bed in bedroom and having video call via laptopYoung woman sitting on bed in bedroom and having video call via laptop

Virtual open houses can help provide more insight to potential homebuyers. They’re usually scheduled after you took a virtual tour or looked through the listing’s photos and felt interested enough to see the property in all its glory. Buyers can schedule a virtual open house with an agent directly from the Homes.com listing page. As in-person open houses and home tours are suspended, the prevalence of virtual tours will be of paramount importance.

Having these services are a crucial part of an effective real estate marketing plan during this time, so if you’re looking to sell, make sure you can find an agent that has the capability to utilize virtual tours and open houses.

Questions to Ask, or Be Prepared for, During a Virtual Open House

While your agent helps conduct the virtual open house, it’s always good to be prepared in advance with a list of questions for each property you’re going to see (virtually, that is). Start gathering your list after, or during, the virtual tour of that property. You can find a list of questions to start here, but also take into consideration that you’ll want to know the following:

  1. What’s the neighborhood like? Is it safe and walkable? Are there kids in the area and is it in a good school zone? These questions are important to ask local real estate agents, so make sure you’re working with someone who is familiar with the area you’re shopping around in.
  2. Are the current owners living in the home? Is it move-in ready? If the current owners are still living on the property, get an idea for the length of time to help set a basis for when you’ll be moving.
  3. Is the home in a flood zone? If so, what does the cost of flood insurance look like? If you’re in a coastal city or living near a body of water, these questions are pertinent to ask during the virtual open house.

Looking to Sell? Try These Alternatives in Addition to Virtual Open Houses

Despite a pandemic, many homeowners still need to sell their home which requires creativity on the part of the listing agent to market the home effectively and safely. By hiring an experienced and innovative real estate professional to the list a home, homebuyers can be rest assured that Realtors are working to reinvent the wheel and best serve their clients through a host of options.

Professional Photography

While hiring a list agent that understands the value of professional photography over cell phone list photos has always been crucial, the quality of digital images is even more important as more buyers will be searching on sites like Homes.com. By incorporating high resolution professional photography into the marketing plan, homes have statistically sold 32% faster.

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse.A kitchen in a modern farmhouse.

Drone Video

The rule of real estate is location, location, location. Even with the best professional photography and 3D tours of a home, many of these options lack the ability to properly view the location of the home. By incorporating drone images and video into a marketing plan, home buyers can evaluate surrounding conditions, proximity, as well as other factors. In fact, homes with aerial & drone photography sold statistically 68% faster than listings without aerial images.

As Realtors work to promote social distancing and safe practices, they have not slowed in their efforts to effectively assist buyers and sellers. If anything, real estate professionals are working harder than ever to reinvent the wheel and evolve in an ever-changing climate. While open houses and real estate marketing may look different than before, the real estate industry has incorporated multiple tools that adhere to social distancing guidelines without sacrificing the exposure of available properties.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

The Future of Homebuying: Questions to Ask in a Post-Coronavirus World

For almost all of the spring homebuying season, the real estate world has been rocked by ever changing guidelines and procedures due to COVID-19. As some states deemed real estate non-essential and federal guidelines tightened, buyers are experiencing a new landscape in real estate. As Americans slowly transition to the new normal, buying a home in a future that’s post-coronavirus may look a little different. Knowing what changes have occurred during COVID-19, as well as what questions to ask, is going a vital part of navigating the real estate world in the future.

gay couple buying a home gay couple buying a home

How Can I Tour the Property I Want?

One of the most obvious– and fastest– changes during the pandemic crisis was how buyers could safely enter the homes for sale. In most cases, this has been an individual brokerage decision, as well catering to the comfort level of sellers. However, there have been some general guidelines in place, as well as new alternative options, that allow buyers to continue their home search.

  • Masks worn by all individuals viewing the home
  • Requests for individuals that have travelled out-of-state to refrain from viewing in person
  • Shoe “booties” provided to buyers as they tour the property
  • Online virtual tours, like those available on Homes.com, which allow buyers to view the property from the comfort of their own home
  • 360 degree walking tours
  • Zoom tours with a Realtor. Many agents are offering this service to reduce the number of individuals in a property while also allowing people to view the home

In a world post-coronavirus, or at least, post the social distancing guidelines, these safety recommendations may still be in the future of homebuying and selling. People will likely want to stay protected from outside germs, so having extra precautions in place will be around longer than you might think.

Read: How to Buy a Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

Read: What You Need to Know About Virtual Open Houses in the COVID-19 Era

Is My Down Payment Assistance Program Still Available?

Many first time homebuyers have relied on down payment assistance programs to purchase a home without having to pay 20% down; however, once COVID-19 hit and unemployment increased, many of the programs were suspended. It is important to note that not all down payment assistance programs were suspended and in the near future as guidelines loosen, many programs, if not all, will resume. If you as a buyer are relying on a DPA program to purchase your home in a post-pandemic world, it’s important to ask the following questions:

  • Will I still get a rate lock on my interest rate?
  • How will this impact the homebuyer education course that may be required?
  • Will there be a delay in processing my loan?
  • How often will I have to submit employment verification?
  • Has the credit score requirement changed?

Am I Still Approved For My Loan?

Since COVID-19, many lenders have tightened the requirements on loans. For many, they have increased down payment requirements and credit score requirements. In addition, many lenders are doing more employment verification checks throughout the loan process. Buyers may experience a delay in loan approval as processing times have increased, and as we continue to see the requirements loosen up in a post-coronavirus world, loan officers might become busier than before. These are some things to keep in mind about loan approval post-COVID-19 to prevent your approval from being dragged out longer than you want. Ask your broker these questions:

  • What do you need to verify my employment?
  • Is there a new minimum credit score requirement?
  • Will I be able to put less than 20% down? If not, what are my options?

How Will The Closing Process Work?

As attorneys and title companies work to close transactions during COVID-19, many are taking extra precautions to effectively protect themselves, and the public, while still conducting business. Each title company and attorney may have varying precautions, and many are even offering alternative closing options. It’s likely that as we continue to move forward with loosening up the restrictions of social distancing, many of these companies will be continuing to exercise precautionary steps. Here are some options you may be seeing come with us in the future:

  • Curbside closings to offer minimal contact
  • Electronic wire funding providing a touch-free funding option
  • Personal protective equipment required at in-person closings such as masks and gloves

What If I Was In The Process Of Buying But I’m Furloughed?

An unfortunate effect of COVID-19 is that many previously qualified buyers were furloughed or laid off due to no fault of their own. Unfortunately, while lenders may sympathize with the situation, most will not approve a home loan to an unpaid furloughed employee. Since this is uncharted territory even for lenders, requirements may differ. It’s important to ask the right questions if you’re currently furloughed, or expect to be out of work in the future, but are still wanting to buy a home:

  • How will my furlough affect my loan approval?
  • Will my time of employment have to start all over again once I’m not furloughed?

As we all adjust to a new normal, even in real estate, what has been business-as-usual may look differently. Buyers may experience more delays and hurdles in the process, but it is still possible to buy a home during and post-COVID-19. To begin your home search, download the free Homes.com app or search online!


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

How Retirees Can Earn Extra Cash by Turning Their Home into an Airbnb

While staying at an Airbnb in the Hudson Valley last year, Kathy Corby, a retired physician, realized she would love to own a home there and share it as an Airbnb. She soon bought an 1890s Cape Cod with four bedrooms and two bathrooms in Saugerties, N.Y. Corby named it Lilac House after the huge, surrounding lilac bushes. She furnished the home with leftover furniture after downsizing into her Philadelphia condo and bought the rest on Black Friday. In early 2021, she hosted her first Airbnb guests and quickly earned the coveted status of Superhost. Lilac House is not only paying its own way, from mortgage to utilities, but also generating income. In her first nine months, Corby, 72, earned about $1,500 per month after expenses but before taxes. She spends about a week there every month. “I have my cake and can eat it, too,” she says.

Airbnb is an online home-sharing reservation service that connects hosts and guests. The site offers advice and tools to create and manage a listing, whether a house or a single room. According to an annual survey of Airbnb hosts, about 25% are retirees. They use their earnings to pay for living expenses, home improvements and extended travel, like the host who shipped a Volkswagen bus to Europe and used it to tour the continent for five months. But make no mistake: As a host, you are running a business with all the risks and rewards that go with it. “Expect that this will be more work than you anticipate. It’s NOT a get-rich-quick scheme! There is a lot of emotional, physical and financial labor that goes into hosting,” says host Laura2592 in an online post.

Creating a listing is free, but Airbnb deducts a 3% fee from the proceeds of every booking. Airbnb charges guests as soon as you confirm their reservation, and you generally receive payment 24 hours after check-in, usually by direct deposit or PayPal. The interactive tool What’s My Place Worth at Airbnb.com/host estimates your earning potential. Actual earnings will depend mainly on the demand for accommodations in your area, your nightly rate and availability, positive reviews and any municipal restrictions.

After each stay, guests can rate hosts with up to five stars and post reviews, or vice versa. Airbnb says the key to keeping guests happy is warm hospitality and an accurate listing that tells travelers what to expect. The company asks that you respond to inquiries and requests within 24 hours, accept them whenever you’re available, avoid canceling on guests and maintain a high overall rating. The Superhost status goes to those who rate at least a 4.8 from 5.0 overall for the past 365 days of reviews, with minimum cancellations and rapid response times to guest questions or requests, among other requirements. Superhosts can charge higher nightly rates and earn more as a result.

During the pandemic, Corby and other nonurban hosts fared better than urban hosts, as cooped-up city dwellers looked for space where they could work and play. As travel rebounds, guests still want pet-friendly listings with wireless internet and remote workspaces.

The Legalities of Running an Airbnb

Before you begin shopping for luxury bedding, though, make sure you can create a short-term rental legally. Many cities have introduced tougher restrictions for short-term rental properties to protect their community’s quality of life and housing market. Once you accept Airbnb’s terms of service and activate a listing, you agree to comply with its policies and follow your local laws and regulations. Don’t overlook the covenants, conditions and restrictions of your homeowner’s association. If you violate those, the HOA could fine you or place a lien on your property, says Stephen Fishman, a lawyer and author for legal publisher Nolo Press.

Local governments typically require you to register your Airbnb, obtain a permit and a business license, pay fees ranging from $100 to several hundred dollars, and renew those annually. You may be required to pass an inspection and notify your neighbors of the rental. If you have unruly guests, you could incur citations, fines and the enduring wrath of your neighbors.

Make Your Airbnb Comfy

Carla Reissman, 65, of Arlington, Va., began hosting an Airbnb in her home after her husband, Ted Kennedy, 65, retired unexpectedly early. With two kids in college, the couple needed to supplement her income. They outfitted a spare bedroom on their first floor with furniture they bought on Craigslist (bed, beside table, lamp, reading chair, dresser and mirror) and reserved a nearby bathroom for guests in residence. With their master suite on the second floor, the couple preserved their privacy and that of guests. The kitchen was offlimits to guests, except to store their provisions in the fridge. Reissman provided guests with towels, bath soap, a Wi-Fi password and a cup of tea or coffee in the morning. “It was safe, clean, comfortable and not ugly,” says Reissman, who has since stopped hosting to travel with her husband.

Airbnb shows hosts how to create a guest-friendly space, and new hosts can ask questions of Superhosts on Airbnb.com/d/superhost. Corby, however, felt that she learned more from two books: Airbnb for Dummies (Wiley, $19.99) and Optimize Your Bnb (OptimizeMy Bnb.com LLC, $14.99). Her many amenities include five ways to make coffee, a burr grinder and a supply of high-end beans. It’s smart to test-drive your space by staying overnight in it yourself.

Lack of cleanliness is a top reason for a negative review. Airbnb requires a five-step cleaning and sanitizing process, which was developed in response to the pandemic and the standards of the pickiest guest, for whom one stray hair may be one too many. Corby once drove five hours in a snowstorm to clean her house between guests when her maid service couldn’t make it.

Establish Rules for Your Airbnb

Decide how you’ll check in guests. Reissman receives guests in person or hides a key when she can’t. With a lockbox or electronic lock, you can have contactless check-in and change the combination or code between guests for security. Corby uses an Apple smart lock with a keypad at the front door.

Add house rules to your listing to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to poor reviews. Rules can address times for checking in and out; any restrictions for smoking, parties and pets; and health and safety reminders, such as masking and social distancing requirements. In the U.S., Airbnb performs background checks on hosts and guests, and you can also require that guests provide a photo of their government ID for verification prior to their stay.

For the inside skinny on anything Airbnb, visit Airbnb’s Community Forum (community.withairbnb.com), Airhosts Forum (airhostsforum.com) and the Reddit Airbnb Subreddit (reddit.com/r/AirBnB).

How to Price Your Airbnb

You can charge whatever nightly rate you want but be realistic. Many guests choose Airbnb because it’s cheaper than staying in a hotel. Reissman researched Airbnb prices in her area before charging $60 per night. Her rate attracts guests with modest budgets, including retirees, international students, as well as businesspeople living on a per diem. She figures she earned about $20,000 over 80 bookings in two years.

Airbnb suggests starting with a lower-than-average nightly rate until you glean a positive review or two. Airbnb’s Smart Pricing Tool helps you match your price to demand, and you can set custom prices, such as a lower rate during the week and a higher one on weekends or during special events. Corby uses a subscription tool from AirDNA ($20 to $100 a month) that automatically optimizes pricing for her market. It recommends daily rates for up to a year in advance; rates rise with demand or fall to maximize bookings as the date of a special event nears. Corby’s nightly rate has ranged from about $320 to $750.

You can add fees for cleaning and additional guests beyond a number you set. Airbnb also charges most guests a service fee of up to 14.2% of the cost of their stay (excluding Airbnb fees and taxes).

Pay Taxes on Your Airbnb Income

In many cities, Airbnb will collect and remit some of the local occupancy taxes for you.

If you rent out part or all of your home for more than 14 days during the year, you must report your rental income and expenses on Schedule E of your 1040, with income taxes owed on any profit. Airbnb will report to the IRS how much rental income it collected and paid you annually. You can deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, maintenance and other ownership costs for the portion of the property rented out. Because that portion of your state and local property taxes won’t count toward the $10,000 cap on state and local taxes, you may be better off itemizing deductions.

As long as you don’t provide substantial services to your guests — such as breakfast, fresh linens and room cleaning during their stay — you won’t be considered self-employed and won’t need to pay the 15.3% selfemployment tax. For more information, see Every Airbnb Host’s Tax Guide, by Stephen Fishman (Nolo Press, $19.99). Consult your tax adviser, too.

Check Your Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Airbnb provides up to $1 million of Host Protection Insurance to cover liability claims for injury to a guest or property damage to their belongings. Its Host Guarantee ostensibly provides protection for every booking at no additional cost, of up to $1 million in property damage. But don’t rely on those protections alone.

Ask your home insurer about what property damage and liability coverage it offers for short-term rentals by paying guests, which could be excluded as a business activity. “Make clear how often you plan to rent out your home, whether you’ll be at home while renting, and how many people you’ll be hosting,” says Fishman. Your insurer may cover home-sharing up to certain limits as a standard endorsement or you may need to buy a supplement. Corby purchased home-sharing coverage from Proper Insurance for her home, its contents as well as the business liability and income it generates.

Overall, hosting has been a positive experience for Corby and Reissman, who have met people of different nationalities and even made new friends as a result. “If you think about hosting only as a monetary transaction, you might be disappointed,” Reissman says.

Corby recalls a couple of guests who disobeyed all the house rules, smoking inside and leaving debris on the floor, the child who drew tic-tack-toe and his initials into a new leather couch and the guest who texted constantly while Corby was vacationing four time zones away. Reissman had guests who left hair dye in the bathroom sink and sex toys under the bed. You may have to be available at the most inconvenient times and sacrifice your use of the property to guests. Corby hoped to spend leaf season in the Hudson Valley, but by mid-August, guests had booked every opening. Christmas week at Lilac House, however, has been reserved just for her family.

Source: kiplinger.com

21 Best Kirkland Signature Products to Buy at Costco for the Holidays

Many of us are rushing into the holidays hoping to gather with more friends and family than we could last year. This cautious optimism is still shadowed by the uncertainty, once more, brought on by the pandemic.

But if you’re feeling the vibe of the holiday spirit and your Costco membership is good to go, you’ll find the warehouse club chain is fairly undamaged by the supply chain meltdown. The clubs are offering plenty of opps to score holiday goods, from gifts to house-party food and drink, all at bargain rates. In particular, aim for Costco’s Kirkland Signature store-brand items, a wide swath of products that offer the perfect blend of quality and savings for holiday entertaining and gift giving.

After talking to shopping experts and doing our own research, here are 21 great Kirkland Signature products to stock up on for the holidays. One note: Prices may be slightly higher online vs. in-store.

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Costco Kirkland Bakery Sheet Cake or Pie

A closeup of a chocolate sheet cakeA closeup of a chocolate sheet cake

We’re still going to be super-cautious about social gatherings this holiday season, as we were in 2020, but there could be carefully planned and social distancing events you may be attending — especially in warmer climates where you can more comfortably do so outdoors. If so, let Costco’s in-store Kirkland Signature Bakery do the baking for you. You’ll save time, especially if you’re not big on tooling away in the kitchen, and you’ll save money, compared to baked goods you might buy at the supermarket.

If you’re having the family or neighbors over for a holiday gathering, check out the custom-made Kirkland Signature half sheet cakes at Costco. They’re amped with two pounds of chocolate or vanilla filling and baked fresh in-store. You can have one freshly made for you for $19.99.

That’s a bargain compared to ordering a sheet cake from supermarket chain Martin’s, where a frozen-then-thawed half sheet cake starts at $30.

Oh, and those store-made Kirkland Signature pies? Splendid. Grab a giant (4.69 pounds) apple pie for $9.99, or a ginormous (3.63 pounds) pumpkin pie for $5.99.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Milk Chocolate Almonds

Chocolate-coated almonds in glass bowl Chocolate-coated almonds in glass bowl

There’s no such thing as “too many” chocolates or nuts around for snacking at the holidays, and Kirkland Signature Milk Chocolate Almonds are a winning twofer, says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com.

“Around the holidays, it’s always nice to have some sweet treats around,” says Bodge. “I love these chocolate-covered almonds. They are addictive, so I would suggest only putting out small bowls!”

You’ll go nuts for the price: $12.99 for a three-pound container. That’s a buck less than last year’s price. 

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Costco Kirkland Signature Coffee​

High Angle View Of Used Coffee Capsules On Table Against White BackgroundHigh Angle View Of Used Coffee Capsules On Table Against White Background

Coffee partners right nice with those two slices of sheet cake you’re having, along with those chocolate-covered almonds as chasers. And if you know beans about coffee, you know Kirkland Signature’s line of coffees, from ground coffee to K-cups, has a legion of fans. Some of it may even be packaged by that big coffee shop chain that shall remain nameless and is, like Costco, Washington based.

Costco’s Kirkland Signature store brand K-cups for the Keurig line of coffeemakers are a bargain compared to national brands. Boxes of 120 pods of Kirkland Signature medium roast sell for $34.99, or about 29 cents per cup; if it happens to be on sale, as it was when I visited, you can get the same box for $28.99, making your cuppa 24 cents per. Compare that to a box of 100 pods of Newman’s Own organic coffee pods for $36.99, or about 37 cents per pod. Costco has other brands of coffee pods, as well.

DealNews.com consumer analyst Julie Ramhold is a fan of the Kirkland Signature K-cups.

“There are a few varieties to choose from: Pacific Bold, which is a dark roast; Breakfast Blend, which is a light roast; and Medium Roast. There’s also House Decaf, if you want to avoid caffeine,” says Ramhold. “All are organic and as long as you have a K-cup machine, these are great to have on hand, especially if you’ll have guests as they can choose their own flavor. Each box includes 120 K-cups, so you should have plenty to cater to your guests all season long, especially if you opt for a box of each variety.”

Kirkland Signature Columbia Supremo whole bean blend of coffee beans off-loads for $17.99 for three pounds.

Starbucks devotees should try Kirkland Signature House Blend whole bean coffee — “custom-roasted by Starbucks,” Costco’s proud to say — in 40-ounce bags for $12.99. Nearby, a straight-up bag of Starbucks French roast whole bean coffee was selling for $20.99 for a 40-ounce bag.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Spiral-cut Ham

spiral ham on table.spiral ham on table.

It’s another holiday tradition: Plattering up the store-baked (you just warm it up), spiral-cut ham.

Some companies have done well just focusing on selling spiral hams (and sides), mostly around the holidays. We’re looking at you, Honey Baked Ham Co.

But could you have guessed it? Kirkland Signature has its own line of spiral-sliced cooked hams as an option for your holiday dining. They sell for $1.99 a pound; you’ll fork out about $20 for a good-sized ham that could serve as many as 16 people. A Martin’s supermarket  in central Virginia was selling Nature’s Promise (Martin’s store brand) spiral-cut hams for $5.99 a pound, $3 more per pound than Costco.

On the Honey Baked Ham website, a nine-pound ham costs $92.99, or about $10 per pound, five times as much as than the Kirkland Signature ham.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup

Pancakes poured with maple syrupPancakes poured with maple syrup

Those hearty waffles or fluffy pancakes on Christmas morning are nothing unless they’re floating drowned in maple syrup. Think Costco Kirkland Signature organic maple syrup.

“This is the only syrup I can eat now, whether it be on pancakes, waffles, or French toast,” says Ramhold, consumer analyst at the deals website DealNews.com. “We also use it to make homemade maple whipped cream to eat with pumpkin cobbler at Thanksgiving. Basically, one of these bottles should get you through the holidays no problem, and add excellent flavor to whatever you add it to.”

A 33.8-ounce jug of Kirkland Signature organic maple syrup was selling for $11.99. Kroger was selling a 32-ounce container of NOW Real Food organic maple syrup for $24.99, more than twice the price of the Kirkland Signature brand.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Wines, Irish Cream and Liquor

Group of friends having a party at home. Sitting on sofa, dressed fancy. Drinking wine, eating cake, talking and laughing. Evening.Group of friends having a party at home. Sitting on sofa, dressed fancy. Drinking wine, eating cake, talking and laughing. Evening.

Costco is the biggest seller of wine in the U.S., with estimated annual wine sales of $1.8 billion, and the warehouse club’s Kirkland Signature wines are a big reason behind the booming demand. As Annette Alvarez-Peters, who heads Costco’s wine-buying team, told Wine Spectator, “The Costco consumer is very loyal to the [Kirkland Signature] brand. They will always give the item a shot.” And why not? Wine rating websites typically give Kirkland Signature wines high scores in the mid-to-upper 80s out of 100.

One hint for picking especially good Kirkland Signature wines: When you see the Costco brand on the front label, turn the bottle around. You just might find the name of the source winery on the back label. That can tell you a lot about the experience of the wine maker and the quality of the grapes. Alternatively, read reviews online. This Costco-centric wine blog, for one, reviewed plenty of Kirkland Signature wines. In my own taste-testing of whites I found a nice Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and a Kirkland Sonoma County chardonnay for $7.99 each. These are big boys, too,1.5 liter bottles, not the typical 750 milliliters for mass retailers’ house wines, including Walmart, with its private label wines called Winemakers Selection, selling for about $5 to $12.99 per bottle, or Aldi, with its Winking Owl varieties, including chardonnay, pinot grigio, shiraz, zinfandel, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, selling for $2.95 a bottle.

Looking for a drinky-poo to toast the holidays? To Kirkland Signature!

Ramhold has her eye on Kirkland Signature Irish Country Cream ($9.89 for a 1.5 liter bottle). “Bailey’s who?” says Ramhold. “This is one of my personal favorites because to me it tastes richer than other Irish creams but also doesn’t have the same burn. That could be a winning or losing point, depending on how you look at it, I guess. For me, it’s a winning one. This is great on its own or for adding to boozy milkshakes for adults. I try to always keep a bottle on hand!”

Oh, and if your Costco has a full-blown liquor store attached to it, you’re in luck.

“If you’re looking to stock your liquor cabinet this holiday, Kirkland booze is fairly well-reviewed and the prices are excellent,” says Bodge. “For example, the Kirkland Signature American vodka is about 40% less than Tito’s, and 70% less than Grey Goose. Tequila can be as low as half the price as the branded competition. If you prefer beer, Kirkland Signature craft beers can be as low as half the price of a fancier brand.” 

Not every Costco warehouse club has a Costco liquor store attached, due to various state laws. But yeah, you can score the wines and that rockin’ Irish cream at most Costcos. I did.

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Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chicken

Close-Up Of Chicken Rotisserie On BarbecueClose-Up Of Chicken Rotisserie On Barbecue

You need great meals fast during the holidays, especially when guests are rolling in or the kids, back from college, have friends in tow. Costco’s got you covered.

The Costco I go to in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley must roast hundreds of chickens a day in its giant rotisserie oven, which is constantly tended by white-coated chicken changers. These Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chickens are always tasty, and what’s not sold is repurposed in other delicious Costco fresh foods made onsite, including a splendid Kirkland Signature chicken noodle soup. You can also score packages of shredded chicken, great for creating a variety of your own dishes at home (and it freezes well).

The best part: Costco has consistently kept the price of each roasted chicken at $4.99, likely looked at as a loss leader. At a nearby Walmart, a lone roast chicken was selling for $7.67 with nary a rotisserie in sight.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Chicken Stock

Chicken bouillon in a bowl and ingredients on wooden kitchen table Chicken bouillon in a bowl and ingredients on wooden kitchen table

For home chefs who do a lot of cooking, Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Stock is a winner in taste and price. Stock has a long shelf life, and the six quart-size boxes of organic chicken stock you’ll get at Costco cost just $9.99, or about $1.66 per quart, a half-buck less than a year ago. At Kroger, a single quart-size box of Pacific Foods organic chicken stock was selling for $3.40.

For the holidays, says Ramhold, Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Stock “is a must for making homemade dressing and/or stuffing, as well as soups. It’s good to keep on hand all year long, honestly.”

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Costco Kirkland Signature Gift Items

Chocolate in chocolate tray.Chocolate in chocolate tray.

Say you’re that person who loves to give gifts and tips — for the mail carrier, the person who delivers your newspaper, teachers and others on your holiday list, maybe even the dog.

We came across some fine giftables bearing the Kirkland Signature mark, including small boxes of Kirkland Signature peppermint bark with Belgian chocolate ($9.99), Kirkland Signature Belgian chocolate gift boxes ($14.99 for a 1.5-pound box with 46 pieces), containers of Kirkland Signature European cookies with Belgian chocolate ($12.99 for 3.09 pounds), and Kirkland Signature Walkers Shortbread ($19.99 for 4.63 pounds).

Ramhold’s particularly smitten with the KS European cookies.

“These are only available around this time of year,” says Ramhold. “Each tin has 15 different kinds of cookies and these are such an easy dessert to set out after dinner for guests to enjoy with coffee. Each tin weighs 49.4 ounces, and the cookies are on the smaller side so they’re the perfect snack.”

For your fur baby, why not bring a little of the storied Costco food court home? In a way.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Nuts

Cashews spilling out of a bowl on a tableCashews spilling out of a bowl on a table

Holiday tradition demands we stock up on nuts, if only to give the nutcracker’s jaw its seasonal workout.

Costco knows nuts, and its Kirkland Signature Unsalted Cashews are a prime example. That’s not just this nut speaking.

“Costco’s nuts are always super-fresh and high-quality,” raves food and cooking website TheKitchn.com. “Unless you’re a big-time baker, two- and three-pound packages of nuts might seem like a daunting purchase, but don’t forget that they freeze beautifully.” I can also echo TheKitchn’s love of Costco’s Super Extra-Large Virginia Peanuts.

Ramhold of DealNews is a big fan of the nuttiness of Kirkland Signature.

“Walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and pecans are usually available and are a great deal compared to shopping in a grocery store if you need a good amount for holiday baking or like to roast your own varieties for a holiday snack,” says Ramhold.

A 40-ounce package of Kirkland Signature whole fancy cashews goes for $14.99, cheaper than the going rate for Planters whole cashews on Amazon (excluding shipping), which was seeking $14.99 for a 33-ounce package.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Batteries

Close up of the top of AA batteries Close up of the top of AA batteries

Here’s one holiday tradition that hasn’t changed much over the years: Making sure you have enough batteries on hand to power all those new toys and gifts. Kirkland Signature batteries can keep electronic toys and devices charged up at bargain prices. A 48-pack of Kirkland Signature AA batteries (reportedly made by Duracell) is $13.99, or about 29 cents per battery. To get the Duracell name on your batteries, you’ll pay 13 cents more per battery via a 40-pack of Duracell AA batteries for $16.99. (Or wait until Costco puts the real Duracell batteries on sale at prices that rival the Costco Kirkland brand.)

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Costco Kirkland Signature Olive Oil

Close-up view of a bowl of fresh green salad with mozzarella, mixed nuts and dry fruits. A woman’s hand was pouring olive oil into the sClose-up view of a bowl of fresh green salad with mozzarella, mixed nuts and dry fruits. A woman’s hand was pouring olive oil into the s

Costco’s olive oil rises to the top, notes the University of California, Davis, which conducted a chemical and sensory study of olive oils. Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil was one of only a few imported oils that met international and U.S. standards for extra virgin olive oil. The many brands that fell short in the testing were diluted with cheaper oils and exhibited problems with quality and flavor.

Kirkland’s EVOO — especially the two-liter bottle for about $12 — is a must for the holidays, experts say. It’s one product to buy in bulk for the holidays. Even a  big bottle shouldn’t go to waste, with all the cooking and dipping at holiday gatherings.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Cheese Flights

Closeup on trendy woman in gold sequin skirt and white sweater under decorated Christmas tree near present boxes holding cheese platter.Closeup on trendy woman in gold sequin skirt and white sweater under decorated Christmas tree near present boxes holding cheese platter.

You never know when guests will drop in for the holidays, and guess what? They’ve brought a bottle of wine. Be prepared to have some snacks, well, prepared. Pre-prepared, to be redundant, in this case, as in Kirkland Signature cheese flights.

Add your own nuts, grapes, and crackers, and this party spread is done. While ingredients may vary, the one available at the Costco I visited has Gruyere, Bellavitano, Chevre, pecorino, and fontal cheeses. It was $23.99 for almost two pounds.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter on Toast-Peanut Butter on Toast-

You want something fast and filling when all those kids come over for holiday gatherings. And Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter (just peanuts and salt) is a go-to food, for sandwiches or baking yummy peanut butter cookies.

Our favorite brand had been Smucker’s organic creamy peanut butter, we have found Kirkland Signature Organic PB is just as good (and often better) as national brands, and there’s no arguing with the price. You can get two huge 28-ounce jars of Kirkland peanut butter for around $10, or 18 cents per creamy ounce, while just one 16-ounce jar of Smucker’s costs $4.48 at Walmart, or 28 cents per ounce.

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Costco Kirkland Signature Trash Bags

Teenage girl putting a plastic garbage bag in a trash canTeenage girl putting a plastic garbage bag in a trash can

The holidays generate a lot of nifty-gifties, but they also generate a lot of trash. All that wrapping paper! All those food scraps! Costco has you covered with Kirkland Signature Flex-Tech scented kitchen bags. A 200-bag box of 13-gallon bags is $18.99, or 9 cents a bag (still, that’s a more than $4 increase from 2020). At Walmart, a box of 110 13-gallon Glad ForceFlex scented garbage  bags is $24.50, or 22 cents a bag, twice as much as the Kirkland Signature brand.

“There are a variety of different trash bags under Kirkland’s line, but we keep our cabinets stocked with the Flex-Tech bags,” says Ramhold of DealNews.com. “We can cram a ton of trash into them. They work just as well for weekly trash as they do for broken-down cardboard boxes.”

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Costco Kirkland Signature Big Red Cups

Men having barbeque at tailgate party in stadium parking lotMen having barbeque at tailgate party in stadium parking lot

Those legendary big red cups are good for more than pickup beer pong events with your hipster grandparents. They’re also good for socially distanced small holiday gatherings where friends and family aren’t using your dishware and you’re practicing good recycling methods.

And here’s where another major manufacturer, Chinet instead of Flex-Tech, has teamed up with Kirkland Signature. Check out Kirkland Signature Chinet the Big Red Cup for packages of KS-stamped 18-ounce plastic cups, red of course. You can get a package of 240 for $10.49 (up from $8.99 a year ago), or about 4 cents per cup. By comparison, Walmart was selling a package of Solo red plastic cups for $4.12 for 50, or 8 cents per cup, double the Kirkland Signature brand.

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Kirkland Signature Cutlery

Clear plastic cutlery on a white tableClear plastic cutlery on a white table

We’ve often pointed you to dollar stores to pick up holiday dishware, cutlery and cups, but to step up the quality at still-bargain prices, turn to Costco. Its Kirkland Signature cutlery, along with the above-mentioned red cups, are the rave of experts.

Says Ramhold, “Get these ahead of the holiday season and you’ll likely have plenty to host at least a couple of parties. The cutlery box has 360 pieces and includes knives, spoons, and forks for around $16, which comes out to four cents per piece. Stocking up on these means not having to worry about doing dishes after the parties are over and make cleanup much easier.”

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Costco Kirkland Signature Chocolate Chips

Chocolate chips in bowl and on a tableChocolate chips in bowl and on a table

The holidays always feature a lot of baking, and many of us will need our chocolate fix in our sweets.

You can’t go wrong with Kirkland Signature semi-sweet chocolate chips. You can score a giant 72-ounce (4.5-pounds) bag for $7.99 (down $1 from a year ago), but if you can’t do without a national brand, Costco also sells Nestle’s Toll House chips, same size package, for $9.79.

Ramhold is partial to Kirkland Signature’s chips.

“These are still the superior chocolate chips in my opinion and are great to keep on hand during the holidays for all the baking projects, whether it’s cookies, brownies, muffins, or anything else that requires them,” says Ramhold. “Plus, they’re a great value.”

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Costco Kirkland Signature Organic Strawberry Spread

Strawberry jab spread on toast for continental breakfast trayStrawberry jab spread on toast for continental breakfast tray

Spread the red for the holidays. Ramhold and others just absolutely love Kirkland Signature Organic Strawberry Spread, an inexpensive and tasty topper for all sorts of things.

“It smells and tastes like fresh strawberries, and I’ve used it in so many different things,” says Ramhold. “Whether you’re making thumbprint cookies, oatmeal jam bars, or just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, this is the only spread you need. I also recommend swirling it through a no-bake cheesecake batter for an easy dessert.”

A 42-ounce jar sells for $7.49.

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Kirkland Signature Meatballs

Some meatballs and a loaf of breadSome meatballs and a loaf of bread

We’ve never met a meatball we haven’t loved, especially those simmering in a crockpot for easy meals or snacks around the holidays. Kirkland Signature’s cooked meatballs are tops.

You can get a 6-pound bag for about $23 “and you’ll have an easy shortcut to holiday appetizers all season long,” says Ramhold. “Alternatively, if holiday chaos has you considering takeout more often, opt for these and dried pasta for a fast dinner that takes no time at all to make.”

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Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinegar

Close up and midsection of young woman's hand dipping fresh bread in olive oil with balsamic vinegar and enjoying a sumptuous meal in an Italian restaurantClose up and midsection of young woman's hand dipping fresh bread in olive oil with balsamic vinegar and enjoying a sumptuous meal in an Italian restaurant

Kirkland Signature’s balsamic vinegar also gets a big thumbs up from deals experts, including Ramhold.

“If you order online, you can get a 2-pack of 1-liter bottles for around $37 and this balsamic is delicious whether you want to use it straight up or cook it down for a reduction,” says Ramhold. “It’s one of my favorite things to keep on hand all year long, but it’s especially handy around the holidays when we’re attending parties with charcuterie boards and things like that.”

Source: kiplinger.com

12 Consumer Staples Stocks to Buy for 2022

Consumer staples stocks are a traditional safe haven from uncertainty. And as 2022 comes into focus, there’s plenty of that afoot – especially as it pertains to the state of the U.S. consumer.

On one hand, many folks are increasingly worried about the impact of rising prices; October data, for instance, showed the biggest jump in inflation since 1990. And supply chain issues continue to remain a big concern after a tangle of container ships at the Port of Los Angeles added to existing challenges.

Yet at the same time, experts believe the 2021 holiday season will end up as the best one on record. The National Retail Federation expects sales during November and December to grow by a rate of 8.5% to 10.5% compared with the prior year to blow away previous figures. 

There’s admittedly a lot of uncertainty when it comes to consumer spending right now. However, consumer staples are one segment of the stock market that tends to be insulated from the broader challenges that face furniture retailers, restaurants, auto dealers or other operators. While sometimes boring in their business model, these steady stocks can provide a strong foundation for any portfolio.

Here, we examine 12 of the best consumer staples stocks for 2022. Most of these offer up some level of defense, which is typical of the sector – though a few have the potential to surprise as growth plays for the new year.

Data is as of Dec. 2. Dividend yields are calculated by annualizing the most recent payout and dividing by the share price. Companies are in reverse order of analysts’ consensus ratings. Stock ratings provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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Albertsons Companies

Albertsons storefrontAlbertsons storefront
  • Market value: $16.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.3%
  • Analysts’ ratings: 5 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 9 Hold, 1 Sell, 1 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 2.45 (Buy)

Investors may think Albertsons Companies (ACI, $35.98) is little more than a sleepy grocery store operator incapable of significant growth. But a look at share performance disproves this pretty clearly, with the stock up an impressive 130% in the last 12 months.

One catalyst was reports that the company hired former Best Buy (BBY) executive Sharon McCollam as its new chief financial officer, a C-suite veteran who knows a thing or two about digital transformation and modernization in the age of e-commerce competition. 

And the fact that ACI conspicuously unveiled a new Deals & Delivery app and subscription-based offering soon after her hiring is proof positive that big things could be on the way.

It’s also worth noting that while inflationary trends might bother some merchants, the reality is that food prices are rising faster than nearly any other spending category out there – and that gives grocers license to ratchet up prices in kind, protecting margins and thus the bottom line.

The huge rally in ACI is admittedly a bit of an anomaly. It isn’t built on a ton of material improvement in the fundamentals of the business, as current fiscal year revenue is set to finish flat over the prior year. 

And while the run has stretched the stock’s valuation compared with some other grocery store chains, the forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just around 14 isn’t particularly elevated relative to other retailers or the market at large these days.

But momentum matters – and momentum is decidedly on the side of this consumer staples stock.

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Diageo

bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Labelbottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • Market value: $121.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.0%
  • Analysts’ ratings: 9 Strong Buy, 6 Buy, 8 Hold, 1 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 2.04 (Buy)

Coronavirus-related shutdowns really hit global spirits conglomerate Diageo (DEO, $205.24) hard in 2020. The $120-billion company behind liquor brands including Johnnie Walker whiskey, Smirnoff vodka, Captain Morgan rum and Tanqueray gin even went as far as to withdraw its full-year guidance due to the uncertainties.

But while investors were dealt some pretty big share-price declines in the early days of the pandemic, DEO stock had reclaimed its prior highs by the summer of 2021. And as bars and restaurants have slowly reopened, there has been good reason to give this once-battered consumer staples stock a second look.

Proof of this recovery comes most tangibly in the fact that Diageo expects organic net sales growth of at least 16% in the first half of its current fiscal 2022, according to recent forecasts. 

This continued uptrend would be impressive enough, but the company just wrapped up its fiscal 2021 at the end of June with one of the highest reported growth rates in its history. That was driven in part because of “resilient consumer demand” and a replenishment of stocks by distributors who had to adjust to the new normal in 2020 amid food service shutdowns.

Whether you’re personally into cocktails or not, the fact remains that alcohol is big business and DEO is one of the biggest brands out there in this segment. Given recent outperformance and sales momentum, it’s a safe bet to presume it will be one of the best consumer staples stocks in 2022 as well.

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Archer-Daniels-Midland

person holding grains in wheat fieldperson holding grains in wheat field
  • Market value: $34.9 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.4%
  • Analysts’ ratings: 7 Strong Buy, 3 Buy, 5 Hold, 1 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 2.00 (Buy)

Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM, $62.40) is perhaps one of the purest plays you’ll find on the food-inflation trend. 

Though headquartered in Chicago, this multinational crop conglomerate operates an impressive network of more than 300 processing plants and 450 crop procurement facilities. In short, ADM produces the raw grains, oils and other products used to make all manner of foodstuffs across all geographies.

ADM stock has outperformed the market so far in 2021, due in large part to analyst expectations that revenue will jump almost 30% this fiscal year on the back of rising food prices. 

But there are other important developments going on to fuel future growth, including a key investment in agriculture technology company Farmers Business Network – a specialized e-commerce and digital finance platform tailor-made for the industry and currently valued at nearly $4 billion.

Let’s not forget that one of the major appeals in consumer staples stocks is the income potential. And ADM offers a yield of 2.4%, well above the average payout of 1.3% for the typical S&P 500 stock. 

If that figure doesn’t impress you, keep in mind it is sure to grow, given the company’s 47 consecutive years of annual dividend increases. That gives you plenty of incentive to hang on for the future, whether or not food inflation is a short-term trend or not.

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Costco Wholesale

Costco storeCostco store
  • Market value: $232.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 0.6%
  • Analysts’ ratings: 15 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 10 Hold, 1 Sell, 1 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 2.00 (Buy)

A stalwart of retail space, Costco Wholesale (COST, $525.51) has managed to thrive over the last decade even while margins were pinched razor thin for many of its grocery and consumer staples stocks competitors. And progress has been made even as e-commerce options disrupted the old ways of doing business. 

Based on Costco’s recent financial results, it is safe to say that this dominant brand will remain popular in 2022 with consumers and investors alike.

At a high level, investors should be cheered by the fact that COST just ended its fiscal year in September with net sales growth of almost 18%. And looking forward, fiscal 2022 is expected to bring an additional 10% increase in its top line, followed by another 8% or so the year after that. 

That’s a great long-term growth trend to see, but it’s even better when you look at the specifics.

One major detail that stands out is that despite being a brick-and-mortar mainstay, Costco is capitalizing on e-commerce in a big way as its digital channel grew roughly 43% in fiscal 2021 – after a 50% year-over-year jump in fiscal 2020.

There are a lot of foundational reasons to own COST stock, including the fact that it rakes in $3.9 billion annually in membership dues alone and regularly gets top marks for customer satisfaction. But this e-commerce tailwind makes Costco more than just a staples play to hold for stability. Building on a year-to-date gain of 40% so far in 2021, it’s not unreasonable to expect outperformance from COST stock in 2022, as well.

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BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings

BJ's grocery storeBJ's grocery store
  • Market value: $9.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ ratings: 10 Strong Buy, 3 Buy, 9 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.95 (Buy)

BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings (BJ, $64.38) is a warehouse retailer that offers everything from groceries to fuel to electronics through its 220 warehouse clubs and 150 gas locations across 17 states across the east coast. 

At just under $10 billion in market value, it’s not as large as other major discounters, but it has carved out a very profitable niche by catering to local customers in select markets.

The proof of that is in the numbers. 

In November, BJ’s third-quarter report showed revenue of $4.3 billion, up 14.3% from the same period last year. And when you get into the details, a big chunk of that was driven by a 7.7% increase in membership fees that hint at a new and significantly higher base to build on going forward. Sales growth is always good, but given that BJ’s is built on a pay-to-shop membership network, the growth in this category shows it’s getting more people through its doors on top of selling more items per person.

Other plusses: BJ’s board authorized a $500 million stock buyback plan, and first-year membership renewal levels are at an all-time high.

Small wonder then, shares have surged more than 20% in the last 30 days as Wall Street has digested these results – with BJ stock now up roughly 60% for the year-to-date. And investors of consumer staples stocks can likely bank on continued success in the new year.

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Coca-Cola

cans of coke in icecans of coke in ice
  • Market value: $229.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.2%
  • Analysts’ ratings: 11 Strong Buy, 6 Buy, 9 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.92 (Buy)

Coca-Cola (KO, $53.07) is a blue-chip icon, with its massive scale and more than 120 years of operating history in the beverage industry. 

While it’s fair to say Coke isn’t quite the force it once used to be given modern concerns about healthy eating, it’s also fair to say this corporation is not a one-trick pony. KO has a wide array of brands including Smartwater, Vitaminwater, Minute Maid juices, Honest Tea and Fuze teas, Powerade energy drinks and a host of others.

Stability is typically top of mind for most investors of consumer staples stocks. As such, this diversified product portfolio offered at scale by a global powerhouse is incredibly appealing.

What’s more, the company is tracking for more than 15% revenue growth in fiscal 2021, due in part to people returning to restaurants that serve Coke fountain products. It’s also expected to see nearly 6% revenue growth next year according to Wall Street estimates, as it continues to offer new products and adapt to the latest consumer tastes.

And let’s not forget one of the biggest appeals of all: In 2021, the company approved its 59th consecutive annual dividend increase as it shows a long-term commitment to driving shareholder value through a steady income stream. 

With a current yield of 3.2% that is more than double the typical S&P 500 stock, that’s an added sweetener to investors in this soft drink giant.

Don’t just take our word for it. The stock has long been a member of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio, with Warren Buffett’s holding company KO’s largest shareholder.

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Walmart

A Walmart truckA Walmart truck
  • Market value: $382.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.6%
  • Analysts’ ratings: 21 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 8 Hold, 1 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.70 (Buy)

When it comes to consumer staples stocks, it’s hard to outdo Walmart (WMT, $135.47). The $400-billion powerhouse retailer boasts more than 2 million employees and operates north of 11,000 stores in 26 countries.

And believe it or not, Walmart is only getting bigger based on its most recent earnings report. According to Q3 numbers, WMT posted a red-hot 9.2% growth rate in same-store sales compared with the prior year. While investors were expecting things to pick up as pandemic-related restrictions dropped off, few expected that kind of performance. Both revenue and earnings for the quarter topped Wall Street’s expectations as a result.

Furthermore, Walmart is expecting robust holiday shopping in the fourth quarter, with stated expectations of about 5% same-store-sales growth in the U.S. 

Skeptics that have been banging the drum on supply-chain disruptions won’t have much room for criticism of WMT, either, given that the retailer purposefully allowed its inventories to grow by about 11% in Q3. This was in anticipation of unloading plenty of products to U.S. shoppers – particularly the ones who may not find those goods at other merchants.

And let’s not forget that Walmart is fending off Amazon.com (AMZN) with brisk e-commerce growth. Last quarter, digital transactions rose 8% year-over-year – putting the channel up 87% in the last two years – to represent a significant share of its business.

Admittedly, WMT stock has underperformed so far in 2021. However, the stage is set for a big holiday season – and as the top discounter on the planet, it’s always a bad strategy to bet against Walmart for the long term.

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Freshpet

dog looking on counter at fresh fooddog looking on counter at fresh food
  • Market value: $4.6 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ ratings: 11 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 2 Hold, 0 Sell, 1 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.60 (Buy)

Though some investors think about personal care products like toothpaste or foodstuffs like breakfast cereal when they consider consumer staples stocks, pet products are big business in this category as well. The American Pet Products Association estimates that last year nearly $104 billion was spent on pets – up from $97 billion in 2019 and $90 billion in 2018.

One of the most dynamic ways to invest in this big spending area is via Freshpet (FRPT, $107.00), a high-growth company that has made a name for itself selling top-of-the-line meals and treats for our four-legged friends. 

These are decidedly premium pet food products with all-natural chicken or beef as the top ingredients and no preservatives, making most require refrigeration. But just as American humans are more concerned with eating well than in years past, American pet owners are all too willing to splurge on FRPT products to keep their critters healthy and happy for many years to come.

Just look at the numbers: In Freshpet’s third-quarter report that dropped in November, revenue was up about 28% year-over-year in the three-month period. And even despite supply-chain disruptions, the company significantly narrowed its loss compared with the prior year.

Admittedly, Wall Street reacted poorly to the fact that the company missed expectations. But shares are still up 83% in the last 24 months. And the recent rollback has created an opportunity to buy this consumer staples stock at a discount given its continued operational improvements and hopes that supply challenges of the last year will be a thing of the past in 2022.

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Celsius Holdings

glass of sparkling waterglass of sparkling water
  • Market value: $4.9 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ ratings: 5 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 2 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.63 (Buy)

An upstart beverage company looking to wear away at some of the larger and more entrenched brands in the space, Celsius Holdings (CELH, $65.52) offers healthy hydration options like flavored sparkling waters with no sugar and zero calories along with its Heat performance drink line meant to go toe-to-toe with bigger energy drink brands like Red Bull and Monster Beverage.

CELH has been making a name for itself on Wall Street thanks to impressive results lately. That continued again in November after the company posted red-hot revenue gains for its third quarter. Specifically, Celsius reported revenue of $94.9 million for the three-month period – up a jaw-dropping 157% over Q3 2020. 

Admittedly there is still a lot of room to grow if Celsius wants to catch up to the dominant brands, but clearly it is intent on closing that gap.

The company did mention that it was facing some supply-chain problems, including getting enough aluminum for its cans, and that depressed its margins and profits,. However, it also said it added two new contracts with domestic can manufacturers to help support growth.

Shares did pullback in response to the supply-chain worries, but the stock is still up roughly 80% over the past 12 months – roughly tripling the performance of the S&P 500 in the same period.

Over the last several years, consumer tastes have steadily moved away from sugary sodas and traditional coffees towards zero calorie seltzers and canned energy drinks. And for a long time, drinks like Red Bull and Monster Beverage have had this market mostly to themselves. However, CELH is ready to give these leaders a run for their money with products that are clearly connecting with what consumers want right now.

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Spectrum Brands Holdings

toaster oventoaster oven
  • Market value: $4.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.7%
  • Analysts’ ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 0 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.29 (Strong Buy)

A “home essentials” company, Spectrum Brands Holdings (SPB, $101.07) offers an eclectic and diversified portfolio of items including Iams pet products, Remington personal care products, Black Flag pesticides and a mishmash of other products from weed killers to kitchen appliances like the iconic George Foreman grill.

Organic growth in this consumer staples conglomerate has typically been muted, and fiscal 2022 is only projecting about 6% revenue expansion. But earnings are set to accelerate much faster, particularly in the wake of a major September deal to sell its hardware and home improvement assets to a Swedish company in a deal pegged at $4.3 billion. Not only does this help streamline operations and focus SPB management on more related businesses, but the company also intends to use the proceeds to pay debt and find other complementary M&A targets.

Investors bid up the stock more than 15% in a single session in September on the news. Shares continued to respond after it reported strong fiscal Q4 results in November. That report included earnings that topped expectations, and a forecast “mid-to-high” single-digit sales growth even in the face of inflationary pressures. A spate of analyst upgrades followed.

With improving fundamentals and expectations of a stronger foundation after the recently announced deal closes, Spectrum looks like one of the best consumer staples stocks as we look ahead to 2022.

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Beauty Health

woman getting a hydrafacialwoman getting a hydrafacial
  • Market value: $3.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 0 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.25 (Strong Buy)

Based in Long Beach, California, Beauty Health (SKIN, $23.81) designs and manufactures “aesthetic technologies.” Or,as we used to call them, beauty and personal care products.

That’s not to say SKIN offers the same old jars of cold cream your grandmother used. It specializes in sophisticated products including hydradermabrasion systems that cleanse, exfoliate and hydrate skin to keep it looking young and healthy. 

And while some of the jargon may admittedly be a mouthful, it’s not an exaggeration to say companies like Beauty Health have revolutionized what used to be a one-size-fits-all cosmetics industry that either gave you a short list of products or expected you to make a pricey trip to a dermatologist to meet your needs.

There is not a ton of extant information on this stock as it only went public in May through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). 

That said, what we have seen numbers-wise is impressive. This includes a third-quarter financial report in early November that featured raised guidance, a big jump in gross margins and net sales for the first nine months of the year that were up more than 120% over the same period in 2020.

Particularly now that social distancing restrictions have eased in many areas and many consumers are eager to get back out in the world, beauty products are one category of consumer staples stocks that should see strong sales in 2022. And SKIN clearly has the wind at its back to capitalize on this trend. 

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Whole Earth Brands

spoonful of Steviaspoonful of Stevia
  • Market value: $404.0 million
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ ratings: 5 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 0 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.17 (Strong Buy)

Many mainstream shoppers have never heard of Whole Earth Brands (FREE, $10.50), a roughly $400 million company that offers low-calorie ingredients and natural sweets such as jams and chocolates. 

But while some of its nameplates aren’t very high profile, most diners will recognize the Equal nameplate – the sugar substitute found at just about every eatery and coffee shop.

In prior years, more than a third of total revenue at Whole Earth came from its flavors and ingredients segment as it sold products to other packaged foods and foodservice companies. However, in early 2021, it closed its acquisition with foods brand Wholesome Sweeteners, which currently offers the No. 1 organic sweetener brand in North America. That really kicked FREE stock up a notch, as did a separate 2020 acquisition of Swerve: a company producing sweeteners and baked goods with plant-based sweeteners to make them keto-friendly and free from traditional sugars.

It’s hard to overstate the power of the healthy eating megatrend these days, but the numbers of Whole Earth hint at the potential here. In fiscal 2022, revenue is expected to jump nearly 10% based on brisk growth of these incorporated product lines. But more importantly, earnings are set to nearly triple thanks to the efficiencies gained by working these businesses together under one roof.

Though the smallest among the consumer staples stocks on this list, investors can still have confidence that FREE has a bright future. Its dominance of a fast-growing niche in the North American foods market is likely to continue paying off for years to come. 

Source: kiplinger.com

12 Best Monthly Dividend Stocks and Funds to Buy for 2022

For all the changes we’ve experienced in recent years, some things remain regrettably the same. We all have bills to pay, and those bills generally come monthly. Whether it’s your mortgage, your car payment or even your regular phone and utility bills, you’re generally expected to pay every month.

While we’re in our working years, that’s not necessarily a problem, as paychecks generally come every two weeks. And even for those in retirement, Social Security and (if you’re lucky enough to have one) pension payments also come on a regular monthly schedule. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in our investment portfolios. 

That’s where monthly dividend stocks come into play.

Dividend-paying stocks generally pay quarterly, and most bonds pay semiannually, or twice per year. This has a way of making portfolio income lumpy, as dividend and interest payments often come in clusters.

Well, monthly dividend stocks can help smooth out that income stream and better align your inflows with your outflows.

“We’d never recommend buying a stock purely because it has a monthly dividend,” says Rachel Klinger, president of McCann Wealth Strategies, an investment adviser based in State College, Pennsylvania. “But monthly dividend stocks can be a nice addition to a portfolio and can add a little regularity to an investor’s income stream.”

Today, we’re going to look at 12 of the best monthly dividend stocks and funds to buy as we get ready to start 2022. You’ll see some similarities across the selections as monthly dividend stocks tend to be concentrated in a small handful of sectors such as real estate investment trusts (REITs), closed-end funds (CEFs) and business development companies (BDCs). These sectors tend to be more income-focused than growth-focused and sport yields that are vastly higher than the market average.

But in a market where the yield on the S&P 500 is currently 1.25%, that’s certainly welcome. 

The list isn’t particularly diversified, so it doesn’t make a complete portfolio. In other words, you don’t want to overload your portfolio with monthly dividend stocks. But they do allow exposure to a handful of niche sectors that add some income stability, so take a look and see if any of these monthly payers align with your investment style.

Data is as of Nov. 21. Dividend yields are calculated by annualizing the most recent payout and dividing by the share price. Fund discount/premium to NAV and expense ratio provided by CEF Connect.

1 of 12

Realty Income

7-11 store7-11 store
  • Market value: $40.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 4.2%

Perhaps no stock in history has been more associated with monthly dividends than conservative triple-net retail REIT Realty Income (O, $70.91). The company went so far as to trademark the “The Monthly Dividend Company” as its official nickname.

Realty Income is a stock, of course, and its share price can be just as volatile as any other stock. But it’s still as close to a bond as you’re going to get in the stock market. It has stable recurring rental cash flows from its empire of more than 7,000 properties spread across roughly 650 tenants.

Realty Income focuses on high-traffic retail properties that are generally recession-proof and, perhaps more importantly, “Amazon.com-proof.” Perhaps no business is completely free of risk of competition from Amazon.com (AMZN) and other e-commerce titans, but Realty Income comes close. 

Its largest tenants include 7-Eleven, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), FedEx (FDX) and Home Depot (HD), among others. The portfolio had relatively high exposure to gyms and movie theaters, which made the pandemic painful. But as the world gets closer to normal with every passing day, Realty Income’s COVID-19 risk gets reduced that much more.

At current prices, Realty Income yields about 4.2%. While that’s not a monster yield, remember that the 10-year Treasury yields only 1.6%. 

It’s not the raw yield we’re looking for here, but rather income consistency and growth. As of this writing, Realty Income has made 616 consecutive monthly dividend payments and has raised its dividend for 96 consecutive quarters – making it a proud member of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats. Since going public in 1994, Realty Income has grown its dividend at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5%, well ahead of inflation.

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Stag Industrial

warehousewarehouse
  • Market value: $7.6 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.4%

Realty Income was pretty darn close to “Amazon.com-proof.” But fellow monthly payer STAG Industrial (STAG, $42.77) proactively benefits from the rise of internet commerce.

STAG invests in logistics and light industrial properties. You know those gritty warehouse properties you might see near the airport with 18-wheelers constantly coming and going? That’s exactly the kind of property that STAG buys and holds.

It’s a foregone conclusion that e-commerce is growing by leaps and bounds, and STAG is positioned to profit from it. Approximately 40% of STAG’s portfolio handles e-commerce fulfillment or other activity, and Amazon.com is its largest tenant.

E-commerce spiked during the pandemic for obvious reasons. As stores have reopened, the effects of that spike have dissipated somewhat, but the trend here is clear. We’re making a larger percentage of our purchases online.

Yet there’s still plenty of room for growth. As crazy as this might sound, only about 15% of retail sales are made online, according to Statista. Furthermore, the logistical space is highly fragmented, and Stag’s management estimates the value of their market to be around $1 trillion. In other words, it’s unlikely STAG will be running out of opportunities any time soon.

STAG isn’t sexy. But it’s one of the best monthly dividend stocks to buy in 2022, with a long road of growth in front of it. And its 3.4% yield is competitive in this market.

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Gladstone Commercial

industrial parkindustrial park
  • Market value: $838.2 million
  • Dividend yield: 6.7%

For another gritty industrial play, consider the shares of Gladstone Commercial (GOOD, $22.49). Gladstone Commercial, like STAG, has a large portfolio of logistical and light industrial properties. Approximately 48% of its rental revenues come from industrial properties with another 48% coming from office properties. The remaining 4% is split between retail properties, at 3%, and medical offices at 1%.

It’s a diversified portfolio that has had little difficulty navigating the crazy volatility of the past few years. As of Sept. 30, 2021, the REIT had a portfolio of 127 properties spread across 27 states and leased to 109 distinct tenants. In management’s own words, “We have grown our portfolio 18% per year in a consistent, disciplined manner since our IPO in 2003. Our occupancy stands at 97.7% and has never dipped below 95.0%.”

That’s not a bad run.

Gladstone Commercial has also been one of the most consistent monthly dividend stocks, paying one uninterrupted since January 2005. GOOD currently yields an attractive 6.7%.

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EPR Properties

movie theater and tub of popcornmovie theater and tub of popcorn
  • Market value: $3.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 6.1%

The COVID-19 pandemic was rough on a lot of landlords. But few were as uniquely battered as EPR Properties (EPR, $49.21). EPR owns a diverse and eclectic portfolio of movie theaters, amusement parks, ski parks, “eat and play” properties like Topgolf, and a host of others.

EPR specializes in experiences over things … which is just about the worst way to be positioned at a time when social distancing was the norm. Essentially every property EPR owned was closed for at least a time, and crowds still haven’t returned to pre-COVID levels across much of the portfolio.

But the key here is that the worst is long behind EPR Properties, and the more normal life becomes, the better the outlook for EPR’s tenants.

EPR was a consistent dividend payer and raiser pre-pandemic. But with its tenants facing an existential crisis, the REIT cut its dividend in 2020. With business conditions massively improving in 2021, EPR reinstated its monthly dividend in July, and the shares now yield an attractive 6.1%. If you believe in life after COVID, EPR is one of the best monthly dividend stocks to play it.

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LTC Properties

senior living propertysenior living property
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 6.7%

For one final “traditional” REIT, consider the shares of LTC Properties (LTC, $34.24).

LTC faces some short-term headwinds due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, but its longer-term outlook is bright. LTC is a REIT with a portfolio roughly split equally between senior living properties and skilled nursing facilities.

Needless to say, COVID-19 was hard on this sector. Nursing homes were particularly susceptible to outbreaks, and nursing home residents were at particularly high risk given their age. 

Senior living properties are different in that the tenants are generally younger and live independently without medical care. But a lot of would-be tenants were reluctant to move out of their homes and into a more densely populated building during a raging pandemic. And many still are.

These lingering effects won’t disappear tomorrow. But ultimately, senior living facilities offer an attractive, active lifestyle for many seniors, and that hasn’t fundamentally changed. And home care might be a viable option for many seniors in need of skilled nursing. Ultimately there comes a point where there are few alternatives to the care of a nursing home.

Importantly, the longer-term demographic trends here are all but unstoppable. The peak of the Baby Boomer generation are in their early-to-mid-60s today, far too young to need long-term care. But over the course of the next two decades, demand will continue to build as more and more boomers age into the proper age bracket for these services.

At 6.7%, LTC is one of the higher-yielding monthly dividend stocks on this list.

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AGNC Investment

couple going over financials with mortgage brokercouple going over financials with mortgage broker
  • Market value: $8.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: 9.0%

AGNC Investment (AGNC, $15.98) is a REIT, strictly speaking, but it’s very different from the likes of Realty Income, STAG or any of the others covered on this list of monthly dividend stocks. Rather than own properties, AGNC owns a portfolio of mortgage securities. This gives it the same tax benefits of a REIT – no federal income taxes so long as the company distributes at least 90% of its net income as dividends – but a very different return profile.

Mortgage REITs (mREITs) are designed to be income vehicles with capital gains not really much of a priority. As such, they tend to be monster yielders. Case in point: AGNC yields 9%.

Say “AGNC” out loud. It sounds a lot like “agency,” right?

There’s a reason for that. AGNC invests exclusively in agency mortgage-backed securities, meaning bonds and other securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae or the Federal Home Loan Banks. This makes it one of the safest plays in this space.

And here’s a nice kicker: AGNC almost always trades at a premium to book value, which makes sense. You and I lack the capacity to replicate what AGNC does in house and lack access to financing on the same terms. Those benefits have value, which show up in a premium share price. Yet today, AGNC trades at a 9% discount to book value. That’s a fantastic price for the stock in this space.

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Dynex Capital

little house on chartlittle house on chart
  • Market value: $640.6 million
  • Dividend yield: 8.9%

Along the same lines, let’s take a look at Dynex Capital (DX, $17.47). Like AGNC, Dynex is a mortgage REIT, though its portfolio is a little more diverse. Approximately 85% of its portfolio is invested in agency residential mortgage-backed securities – bonds made out of the mortgages of ordinary Americans – but it also has exposure to commercial mortgage-backed securities and a small allocation to non-agency securities.

It’s important to remember that the mortgage REIT sector was eviscerated by the COVID-19 bear market. When the world first went under lockdown, it wasn’t immediately clear that millions of Americans would be able to continue paying their mortgages, which led investors to sell first and ask questions later. In the bloodbath that followed, many mortgage REITs took catastrophic losses and some failed altogether.

Dynex is one of the survivors. And frankly, any mortgage REIT that could survive the upheaval of 2020 is one that can likely survive the apocalypse. Your risk of ruin should be very modest here.

Dynex trades at a slight discount to book value and sports a juicy 8.9% yield. We could see some volatility in the space if the Fed ever gets around to raising rates, but for now this looks like one of the best monthly dividend stocks to buy if you’re looking to really pick up some yield.

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Broadmark Realty

real estate contract with keys and penreal estate contract with keys and pen
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.6%

Broadmark Realty (BRMK, $9.75) isn’t a “mortgage REIT,” per se, as it doesn’t own mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. But it does something awfully similar. Broadmark manages a portfolio of deed of trust loans for the purpose of funding development or investment in real estate.

This is a little different than AGNC or Dynex. These mortgage REITs primarily trade standardized mortgage-backed securities. Broadmark instead deals with the less-liquid world of construction loans.

Still, BRMK runs a conservative book. The weighted average loan-to-value of its portfolio is a very modest 60%. In other words, Broadmark would lend no more than $60,000 for a property valued at $100,000. This gives the company a wide margin of error in the event of a default by a borrower.

At current prices, Broadmark yields an attractive 8.6%. The company initiated its monthly dividend in late 2019 and sailed through the pandemic with no major issues.  

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Main Street Capital

person doing business on computerperson doing business on computer
  • Market value: $3.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 5.5%

We know that the pandemic hit Main Street a lot harder than Wall Street. It is what it is.

But what about business development companies. This is where the proverbial Main Street means the proverbial Wall Street. BDCs provide debt and equity capital mostly to middle-market companies. These are entities that have gotten a little big to get financing from bank loans and retained earnings but aren’t quite big enough yet to warrant a stock or bond IPO. BDCs exist to bridge that gap.

The appropriately named Main Street Capital (MAIN, $46.61) is a best-in-class BDC based in Houston, Texas. The last two years were not particularly easy for Main Street’s portfolio companies, as many smaller firms were less able to navigate the lockdowns. But the company persevered, and its share price recently climbed above its pre-pandemic highs.

Main Street has a conservative monthly dividend model in that it pays a relatively modest monthly dividend, but then uses any excess earnings to issue special dividends twice per year. This keeps Main Street out of trouble and prevents it from suffering the embarrassment of a dividend cut in years where earnings might be temporarily depressed.

As far as monthly dividend stocks go, Main Street’s regular payout works out to a respectable 5.6%, and this does not include the special dividends.

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Prospect Capital

man signing contractman signing contract
  • Market value: $3.5 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.0%

For another high-yielding, monthly-paying BDC, consider the shares of Prospect Capital (PSEC, $8.97).

Like most BDCs, Prospect Capital provides debt and equity financing to middle-market companies. The company has been publicly traded since 2004, so it’s proven to be a survivor in what has been a wildly volatile two decades.

Prospect Capital is objectively cheap, as it trades at just 89% of book value. Book value itself can be somewhat subjective, of course. But the 11% gives us a good degree of wiggle room. It’s safe to say the company, even under conservative assumptions, is selling for less than the value of its underlying portfolio. It also yields a very healthy 8.0%.

As a general rule, insider buying is a good sign. When the management team is using their own money to buy shares, that shows a commitment to the company and an alignment of interests. Well, over the course of the past two years, the management team bought more than 29 million PSEC shares combined. These weren’t stock options or executive stock grants. These are shares that the insiders bought themselves in their brokerage accounts.

That’s commitment.

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Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund

Ecofin logoEcofin logo
  • Assets under management: $269.7 million
  • Distribution Rate: 6.0%*
  • Discount/premium to NAV: -14.3%
  • Expense ratio: 2.28%**

There’s something to be said for orphan stocks. There are certain stocks or funds that simply don’t have a “normal” go-to buying clientele.

As a case in point, consider the Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund (TEAF, $15.00). This is a fund that straddles the divide between traditional energy infrastructure like pipelines and green energy projects like solar panels. It also invests in “social impact” sectors like education and senior living. Approximately 68% of the portfolio is dedicated to sustainable infrastructure with energy infrastructure and social impact investments making up 13% and 19%, respectively.

But this isn’t the only way the fund is eclectic. It’s also a unique mixture of public and private investments. 52% is invested in publicly traded stocks with the remaining 48% invested in private, non-traded companies.

Is it any wonder that Wall Street has no idea what to do with this thing?

This lack of obvious buying clientele helps to explain why the fund trades at a large discount to net asset value of 15%.

That’s okay. We can buy this orphan stock, enjoy its 6% yield, and wait for that discount to NAV to close. And close it will. The fund is scheduled to liquidate in about 10 years, meaning the assets will be sold off and cash will be distributed to investors. Buying and holding this position at a deep discount would seem like a no-brainer of a strategy. 

Learn more about TEAF at the Ecofin provider site.

* Distribution rate is an annualized reflection of the most recent payout and is a standard measure for CEFs. Distributions can be a combination of dividends, interest income, realized capital gains and return of capital.

** Includes 1.50% in management fees, 0.28% in other expenses and 0.50% in interest expenses.

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BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term

BlackRock logoBlackRock logo
  • Assets under management: $1.9 billion 
  • Distribution rate: 2.9%
  • Discount/premium to NAV: -4.6%
  • Expense ratio: 1.01%**

We’ll wrap this up with another term fund, the BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term Fund (BTT, $25.49).

As its name suggests, the fund is designed to be liquidated in 2030, roughly eight years from now. A lot can happen in eight years, of course. But buying a portfolio of safe municipal bonds trading at a more than 4% discount to book value would seem like a smart move.

The biggest selling point of muni bonds is, of course, the tax-free income. The bond interest isn’t subject to federal income taxes. And while city, state and local bonds aren’t “risk free” – only the U.S. government can make that claim – defaults and financial distress in this space is rare. So, you’re getting a safe, tax-free payout. That’s not too shabby.

As of Oct. 29, 2021, BTT’s portfolio was spread across 633 holdings with its largest holding accounting for about 3.4%.

BTT sports a dividend yield of 2.9%. That’s not “high yield” by any stretch of the imagination. But remember, the payout is tax free, and if you’re in the 37% tax bracket, your tax-equivalent yield is a much more palatable 4.6%.

Learn more about BTT at the BlackRock provider site.

** Includes 0.40% in management fees, 0.61% in interest and other expenses

Source: kiplinger.com