When it comes to selling your old records to make extra cash, don’t get your hopes up.
And know this: Condition matters most. Frank Sinatra matters least.
“At one time the shelf that held all the Sinatra albums was 70 feet wide,” said Doug Allen, owner of Bananas Records, which is based in St. Petersburg, Florida. “We have way too much of that.”
What Bananas Records buys and sells the most are classic rock ‘n’ roll, punk and jazz albums. And that’s for around $5 — if the album and the cover are in great condition.
“Records don’t compare to coins and stamps and books,” Allen said. ”There’s not really anything that’s worth $100,000 or more.”
Many records that sold in the millions are still popular with collectors and album buyers, but so many copies are still in circulation that they don’t sell for much.
On the other hand, records that only sold 20,000 copies — jazz from the 1950s, early punk rock — may be worth more. Allen has seen jazz albums from that era, such as early Miles Davis, go for $500 to $700 a piece, while classic punk might sell for $50 to $100.
Most record collectors these days are between the ages of 18 and 35, and used record dealers will try to buy records that will appeal to both avid collectors as well as other, more casual buyers. That includes artists like Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and John Coltrane.
“There are still some Beach Boy fans out there,” Allen said. “There’s some country that’s worth something. Early Hank Williams. Some Johnny Cash.”
Allen would pay around $3 to $5 an album for these in good condition. He noted that Michael Jackson albums in good shape are selling.
“Two weeks after his death you could sell anything you could get your hands on for $30 to $40,” Allen said. “Now they are worth about $7 to $10.”
However, don’t bother bringing your Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow or Elvis Presley records.
“These kids who are buying records today, many of them have never heard of Elvis,” Allen said. “That era is gone.”
An Album’s Value Is About More Than the Music
Other factors affect the value of an album, including a record label or address of the recording studio, which can indicate if it’s a first or second pressing; the country in which the album was released; and whether the album was autographed.
The condition of the album cover is as important as the vinyl itself. Water damage, tears and marks can all decrease an album’s value. However, Allen and other collectors frequently buy the album alone if it’s in good shape and the cover isn’t, and vice versa.
Allen advises anyone who is trying to sell their collection to take it to their local vintage record store and have them take a look and let you know what’s worth money.
One couple recently brought two wheeled suitcases full of albums into Bananas Record, and they were able to sell many of them for a total of $60.
Here’s What Your DVDs and CDs Are Actually Worth
What about DVDs, CDs and even 8-tracks? Allen and Genny Stout, manager of Bananas Records, have some guidance for anyone trying to unload their old movies and music.
CDs are less popular each year, as there are fewer cars with CD players. Stout usually pays 25 cents for them.
Stout will offer up to 50 cents for DVDs from the ‘80s and ‘90s that aren’t very common. This does not include romantic comedies and blockbusters like “The Matrix.”
“Nobody wants to buy romantic comedies, or all the Adam Sandler movies,” Stout said.
A Disney classic in good shape might bring $1 or $2.
“Most of those are destroyed because people let their children put them in and out [of the DVD players],” Stout said.
“We haven’t purchased those in 5 to 6 years,” she said, adding that it’s hard to find non-profit retail stores that accept them.
“I would say there’s no market for them with the exception of a cult following,” Allen said. “Maybe a KISS 8-track, something you wouldn’t expect.” Those might bring in $10 to $15.
Katherine Snow Smith is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
Marcelo Avila holds his daughter while cooking dinner in St. Petersburg, Fla. Keeping some basic pantry essentials on hand allows you to whip up tasty meals with minimal effort. Some basics include pasta sauce, chicken broth and coconut milk. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder
You finished another long day at work, and you’re ready to kick back.
But you’re hangry, and the last thing you want to do is stand over a hot stove and make dinner.
We’ve all been there. Saving money doesn’t mean becoming a superhuman who can ignore the stress of the day to create a three-course, budget-friendly meal.
Saving money on food comes down to working smarter, not harder. And that starts with keeping some basic pantry essentials on hand at all times, so you can whip up tasty meals with minimal effort (and thinking).
The Budget Cook’s 9 Kitchen Pantry Essentials
If you’re trying to cut down on eating out and looking to stock your cabinets on the cheap, grab these pantry essentials to build quick and easy low-cost meals.
1. Whole Grains and Breads
Quinoa and rice are standard bases for taco bowls, curries and fried rice. What you may not realize is that oatmeal is just as versatile. In addition to overnight oats and oatmeal cookies, you can create a savory breakfast bowl by adding some cheese and an egg.
Throw anything between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich, or add some cheese in a tortilla and call it a quesadilla. These vessels are a tasty way to mix up the delivery of leftovers to your mouth.
Reducing food waste for the win!
You don’t necessarily need these specific noodles, but a long noodle and a short noodle will do all the things you need noodles to do.
Say that 10 times fast.
Your short noodle can make mac and cheese or a great pasta primavera with leftover veggies. Long noodles are made for a good sauce like Alfredo, pesto or marinara.
3. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes cost a fraction of the price of meat, making them an affordable way to add protein to soups, chilis and tacos. Roasted chickpeas make a healthy salad topper, while lentils are great for a fantastic curry.
You can buy these canned, but buying them dry is even cheaper. Bonus: You can store them in decorative jars, and friends will think you know what you’re doing in the kitchen.
All-purpose or whole-wheat flour is essential for more than just cakes and breads. You can use it to make your own pancake mix, biscuits or even fresh egg pasta. Flour is also used as a thickener in homemade sauces.
A little sugar can make a yummy sweet-and-savory sauce or quick fruit crisp in the microwave.
Sugar shouldn’t be a staple in your diet, but it’s necessary in your kitchen. You’re likely to consume less sugar when you make your sweets at home instead of buying them at the store.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Basic nuts and seeds have a dual purpose: They’re a great snack on their own, and they give a nice crunchy texture to salads, oatmeal and baked goods.
They’re also ultra healthy. Pumpkin seeds are chock-full of nutrients — just 1 ounce has 7 grams of protein. Nuts also contain a hefty dose of healthy fats and nutrients, so skip the chips and keep these tiny gems on hand.
6. Oil and Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
You can make some awesome marinades and salad dressings with this classic combo. Apple cider vinegar makes a tasty vinaigrette; add sesame oil to peanut butter and soy sauce to create your own peanut sauce.
If you want to expand your oil and vinegar inventory, balsamic and rice vinegars add a lot of options to your pantry arsenal.
7. Condiments and Sauces
Much like oil and vinegar, condiments and sauces give new life to bland meats and veggies. Mix Dijon with a little oil and vinegar for a salad dressing. I’ve found that a little hot sauce corrects all recipe mistakes.
Peanut butter toast makes a great snack — and we’ve found that, surprisingly, there are a lot of household uses for it, too.
If you’ve already got a lot of condiments to work with, don’t let them die in your fridge. There are several ways to put them to good use.
8. Herbs and Aromatics
Crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper are a given. But buying pre-minced garlic saves time — and allows you to add fresh garlic to anything. Cumin is a staple in Mexican dishes.
Italian seasoning is a frugal life hack. It includes all the seasonings you want in the ratio you want them, without having to buy seven different bottles.
And crushed red pepper is an easy one to have on hand because you can always refill your container with the packets that come with your pizza.
Stock or bouillon
Coconut milk, stock and tomatoes are necessary bases for many soups, chilis and curries. You can also cook rice and quinoa in stock or coconut milk to add some flavor.
It’s always nice to have a fancy pasta sauce on hand if you don’t have time to make your own — even though it’s really easy.
And if you’re embarking on a pantry challenge by eating what’s on hand before buying additional groceries, having ample canned goods will help you tie together some delicious meals.
Jen Smith is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
When it comes to my 401(k), daily alarm clock or, yes, even my rotisserie chicken, I’ve embraced the set-it-and-forget-it mantra. But for car insurance? You’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t shopping for better car insurance rates at least once a year.
That’s what makes tools like Gabi so helpful. In our Gabi insurance review, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of using an insurance comparison tool, instead of directly working with insurance agents, when shopping for new car insurance rates.
What Is Gabi Insurance?
Gabi Insurance is a newcomer to the insurance scene. The San Francisco insurance company was founded in 2016, four years after The Zebra (another car insurance comparison site that I had mixed feelings about; get the full scoop in my Zebra car insurance review). While Gabi is known primarily for its auto insurance quotes, users can also rely on Gabi to compare insurance providers for renters insurance, home insurance, condo insurance, landlord insurance and umbrella insurance. (I could not find an option for life insurance.)
Gabi is a fully licensed insurance broker in 50 states plus the District of Columbia, meaning they can underwrite, price and sell policies and handle claims. It also means that, when you generate quotes on the site, you can buy directly on the site. One of the issues with sites like The Zebra is that, after generating your auto insurance quote, you’d have to leave the site and go to the actual insurance company’s site to complete the process.
Gabi works with more than 40 top insurance agencies to help you find the best rate for your car(s), driving history and budget. Among those insurance companies are Nationwide, Travelers, Progressive, Clearcover and Safeco.
Gabi claims it saves drivers an average of $961 per year and can provide quotes in a matter of minutes. It’s time to test those promises.
How Gabi Works: A Review
Getting your Gabi insurance quotes can be relatively painless, depending on the route you take. You have three options:
Don’t provide any of your current auto insurance information.
Provide your car insurance login information.
Upload a PDF of your current auto insurance policy.
Because I’m private by nature (and because I just had the pleasure of dealing with a fraudulent unemployment claim in my name), I was hesitant to provide any login information. I first tried to advance without providing any information, but as we’ll see, this doesn’t get you very far. Eventually, I uploaded a PDF of my policy.
Getting started is easy. First you’ll make your decision re: providing insurance information or not (more on that below). Then you’ll enter your name. (Like I did when reviewing The Zebra, I started the process with the very real, honest name of Joe Schmoe.)
After providing your name, Gabi will ask for a handful of other contact info: birthday, address, whether you own or rent your home, email address and cell phone number. When asking for the email address, Gabi promises your information is never sold or shared. The Zebra says something similar, yet Geico conveniently sent an email to my inbox addressing me as Joe just minutes after I hit submit on The Zebra’s site.
Contact update: As of two hours after creating my account, I have received one text and two emails from Gabi, but none from any third-party insurance providers. Could it be that Gabi is telling the truth when they say they won’t share or sell your data?
To Provide Insurance Info Or Not to Provide Insurance Info? That Is the Question
That’s what Hamlet said, right?
As I mentioned, in my first attempt at using Gabi’s car insurance comparison platform, I resisted their pleas for my personal info. “They don’t need to know anything about me to build a quote tailored to me,” I foolishly asserted.
But when I got to the magical part where Gabi was supposed to tell me I’m a schmuck who has been paying too much for auto insurance, I was instead given a list of common insurance companies, all with blue buttons that said “View My Quote.”
“Surely I must just click each and see a quote at the ready, despite the platform having no knowledge of my car, driving history or policy preferences,” I told myself. Oh, Joe Schmoe, what a fool you are.
I quickly learned, upon clicking into Liberty Mutual, Allstate and Progressive, that giving Gabi such limited info meant the site would merely direct me to individual insurance companies to provide more detailed personal information to generate a quote.
That’s right: In that instance, Gabi serves no purpose, because you must start from scratch on every insurance company’s site to compare.
If you’re unwilling to provide either your login info for your current insurance company or a PDF of your auto insurance policy, then Gabi is not right for you.
In the name of research, I decided I was comfortable enough downloading a copy of my policy from Allstate and then uploading it into Gabi. While it does have some personal data within it, my email and password were still safe with me.
It took only a few seconds for the artificial intelligence on Gabi’s site to read my policy and tell me in intricate detail what those pages contained. (This is either really convenient for insurance shoppers or a warning sign that robots are just days away from taking over.)
From there, I was able to input more personal information about myself as a driver, my partner (who is also on my policy) and our car. I tried to remove my partner for a good five minutes just for kicks and eventually gave up. Later on, I learned if I had just waited a few more clicks, I would have had the option of toggling secondary drivers on and off. If Gabi had made that clear, it would have saved me time and frustration.
Actually generating my quotes did take about a minute, which is notably fast. However, I had just used The Zebra a few days before, and that experience was faster, so Gabi seemed slow by comparison.
The Car Insurance Quotes I Got from Gabi
I was pleasantly surprised to see a few insurance agencies whose names I recognized among my top results. And the savings were quite large.
My top quote came from Stillwater and would save me $622 a year. I was dubious upon seeing that, so I clicked into the “View Details” portion of the quote and did find some discrepancies. The largest: My property damage coverage dropped from $500,000 with my current policy to $100,000 with this potential new policy.
Still, the changes were so minor that it ultimately felt like a good deal. But buyer beware: You shouldn’t necessarily expect your current policy and quoted policy to be one-to-one. Go through and make sure all the coverages you want are still represented by the new policy.
Quotes two and three purported to save me $573 and $468 a year, respectively, but again, those quotes weren’t an apples-to-apples comparison with my current policy, as some of the coverages differed.
That said, all three quotes were large improvements over my current auto insurance. My current auto policy is bundled with my homeowners insurance and thus linked to my escrow, so I’ve got some calls to make, but I can safely say I will be using Gabi again soon to find a better bundled policy for auto insurance and home insurance.
What We Like About Gabi Insurance
Clearly, as someone who has just publicly stated he’ll be using Gabi to generate a real quote down the road, I’m a fan. Here’s some of what I liked about Gabi:
You don’t have to leave the site. If you find a quote you like, you are able to purchase the insurance on Gabi’s own platform, as long as you are in the United State, since Gabi is a fully licensed insurance broker.
It’s got an easy-to-read gauge during the process. It’s a small thing, but I can’t breeze past a good website UX when I see one. I found Gabi’s top-of-the-page tracker for percentage of completion to be a nice touch, especially for a site that is all about efficiency in generating a quote.
Uploading my policy was easy. Assuming you want your new coverage at the same or similar levels you’re used to, you can get a quote in minutes by uploading your current policy.
You can bundle home insurance with auto insurance. I currently bundle my auto and home coverage, and I would like to continue. It’s convenient to have all my insurance policies in one app, and it earns me discounts.
I would legitimately save money. While I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, Gabi could deliver real savings over the course of a year from one of several different insurance companies. More than $600 for me; Gabi truly means it when they promise to find the best insurance company for your needs.
What We Don’t Like About Gabi Insurance
I may be a new Gabi fanboy, but that doesn’t mean I’m onboard with the entire experience. Here’s where I found the car insurance comparison platform fell short:
There isn’t an option to describe the policy you want. Gabi pushes you into a scenario where you have to hand over your current insurance account login information or uploading a copy of your policy. If you’re strict about who has access to your data, this could be problematic, as it’s the only way to get quotes to compare on the site.
It can sometimes take days. Though I did not provide my login information, some customers have complained that it could take up to two days (depending on the current insurance provider) for Gabi to get into the account and grab the relevant information. That takes the speed out of the process that is supposed to be a hallmark of Gabi.
The policies I was provided weren’t perfect matches for my current policy. And Gabi wasn’t upfront about this. I had to do some digging to realize that, by opting for the No. 1 policy choice, some of my coverages would be reduced.
They required my cell phone number. I understand needing my number if I decided to move forward with one of the policies, but for the general comparison purposes, I don’t think customers should have to input their numbers.
What Customers Are Saying About Gabi Insurance
Overall, I had favorable opinions of Gabi, but I wanted to see what other customers were saying about the company.
I started with Better Business Bureau and was actually shocked to see that, despite having a BBB rating of an A-, it has an average 1.77 out of 5 stars based on 22 customer reviews. Ouch.
Reviews on the Better Business Bureau website were largely around problems with the actual Gabi service, but some have said working with customer service is not a pleasant experience either, whether due to agent miscommunications or just generally slow customer service response time.
These poor customer reviews are notably absent on Gabi’s site, where it instead shows off its 4.8 out of 5 stars based on “third-party verified reviews” that are certainly not at all curated to paint a favorable picture.
Gabi does score well in terms of its mobile app. In the App Store, it currently has a 4.1 rating. I could not easily find it on Google Play.
The Bottom Line
So should you try Gabi? If you are actually ready to make the switch to a new car insurance provider and don’t mind a little leg work, absolutely. The Zebra is easier since you don’t have to relinquish your personal information, but I found The Zebra to be dishonest about its spam policy, frustrating to use and not really much of a money-saver. With Gabi, you’ll have to actually take the time to give the platform access to your current policy, but in doing so, big savings and an easy sign-up process could be on the horizon.
Timothy Moore is a market research editing and graphic design manager and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor and The News Wheel.
It’s time to cook dinner, and you’ve got a decision to make: Do you use the stove, or do you go outside and cook on the grill?
What if someone paid you to choose the grill? Would that make a difference?
Here’s the thing: You’re not the only person in your area cooking dinner. And all those appliances running at the same time stretches the power grid thin. If you live in California, a company called OhmConnect will pay you to skip the oven at dinner time and give the grid a break.
OhmConnect will send you a text when a lot of people in your area are using power, and it will pay you to cut back for an hour — whether that means going outside to grill, turning off your lights or A/C or even turning off your breaker. The more you do, the more money you can make.
Here’s How to Get Cash from OhmConnect:
Sign up for a free OhmConnect account here.
Sync it with your online utility account through PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison. You must have an online account with one of these electric companies to qualify for OhmConnect.
Receive energy usage notifications during “OhmHours” and “AutoOhms” — high-energy-consumption times that trigger non-green power plants to activate in order to support the overtaxed grid.
Head outside or at least turn the TV off until the OhmHour is up. Heck, you can even play games on your phone during this hour — just resist plugging in any electronics.
Profit! OhmConnect rewards you with cash.
This all works because the California electricity market pays OhmConnect to help power companies avoid turning on expensive, dirty power plants. Your company then passes the savings on to you.
We talked to one woman, Tanya Williams, who recently earned an extra $1,700 in one year with OhmConnect — more than $140 a month. A few evenings each week, the 45-year-old stay-at-home mom shut down her home’s electrical panel and took the kids to the pool, or just played board games. Talk about easy money.
Enter your ZIP code here to open a free OhmConnect account, then sync it with your online utility account to start earning cash. Plus, who doesn’t love to grill?
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s a dad, so he loves to grill.
Every moment is so luxurious — until the moment they hand you your bill.
Spas and all the services they offer are expensive indulgences. But you can create that pampered feeling yourself for a whole lot less money.
Here are some of my favorite ways to indulge myself right in the comfort of my own home.
14 Ways to Get Your DIY Spa Day On
1. Everything you’ve heard about coconut oil is true. Skip the expensive body lotion and the deep conditioner and use this low-cost alternative instead.
Cost: A jar of coconut oil costs about $7 and will last for months.
2. Apply an avocado or egg mask to your hair at the beginning of your spa routine, then wrap your head in a warm towel. Let it work its magic for at least 20 minutes.
Cost: One egg will set you back 10 cents, and an avocado is between $1 and $1.50.
3. Korean sheet masks, cotton-based sheets that address various skin care issues, make your skin look amazing, but they can be awfully pricy. I picked up a handful at my local dollar store for a buck each and discovered they work just as well as the expensive brands. If you buy in bulk, you can save even more.
Cost: Sheet masks can be found online or in dollar stores for as little as $1.
4. Speaking of masks, if you use Lush cosmetics or know someone who does, hang onto those little black pots and bottles the products come in. You’ll score a free face mask when you turn in five clean empties. That’s a savings of at least $9.95!
Cost: The cost of the five products.
5. Clear up blemishes and reduce fine lines with a container of plain yogurt! Whether you use it alone or jazz it up with extras like a dash of honey or oatmeal, your pores will thank you.
Cost: A small container of plain yogurt can cost anywhere from 60 cents to $1.
6. After rinsing off the mask, I like to give myself a five-minute face massage. It’s surprisingly relaxing.
Cost: Totally free!
7. Give yourself a lip scrub to slough off dead skin. Your lips will feel pillowy soft and refreshed.
Cost: The basic ingredients — olive oil and sugar — are probably in your kitchen. So are the add-ons you can use to spice it up, like cinnamon, brown sugar and coffee.
8. This homemade eucalyptus sugar scrub is both energizing and effective. You can make a batch to slough off dry, dead skin, leaving behind a tingly clean that smells luxurious.
Cost: Less than $1 worth of sugar, coconut oil and salt, plus around $10 for eucalyptus essential oil.
9. For a change of pace, I like to mix things up and exfoliate my skin with this three-ingredient coffee body scrub that you can make with the used coffee grounds left over from your morning brew. It reportedly also reduces the appearance of cellulite. (Don’t tell me if that’s just an old wives’ tale — I don’t want to know.)
Cost: Free, if you’re a coffee drinker.
10. Sometimes my skin just isn’t up for a harsh scrub down. That’s when I whip together this gentle scrub that rinses off easily with warm water. (I’ve tried it without wheat germ, and it still works great.)
Cost: About $11 for the oat bran, $6 for the essential oil and $8 for the almond oil — and you can use all of these for other purposes too.
11. If you plan to shave during your spa time, try dry brushing first to prevent ingrown hairs and razor-burn bumps.
Cost: A good dry brush costs around $7.50
12. Give your hands some love. This lemon-sugar hand scrub is so easy to make and smells amazing. After you rinse it off, slather on some hand lotion and take a minute to admire your, er, handiwork.
Cost: A lemon costs about 50 cents, and you probably already have sugar and oil in your pantry.
13. Do you know why every movie spa scene depicts someone with cucumber slices on their eyes? Because they work! You can use the leftovers for cucumber-infused water to really amp up that luxe “I’m in a spa” feeling.
Cost: About $1 for a cucumber.
14. Treat your feet to a nice soak with whatever gentle bath wash you have on hand. Follow it up with a homemade foot scrub. Simply stir one part coconut oil into two parts sugar and scent with a few drops of essential oil. A dash of lemon juice adds extra oomph. To kick (ha!) things up a notch, slather on some lotion and cover your tootsies with thick socks while the moisturizer works its magic.
Cost: Peppermint essential oil costs about $8, or you can use te eucalyptus oil. The rest of the ingredients are likely in your pantry.
10 Easy Ways to Spa-ify Your Surroundings
While planning your day of indulgence, don’t forget to design your own relaxation grotto. Give your bathroom a deep clean and then:
Splurge on a soft, thick towel.
Pick up some pretty containers from the dollar store to hold all the scrubs and potions you make.
Treat yourself to a fluffy bathrobe to wear while relaxing.
Get some inexpensive candles to create ambience during bath time — or make your own.
Set a plant or vase of flowers in the bathroom, because greenery makes everything better.
Cover your bathroom window with frosted contact paper to diffuse bright sunlight that might harsh your mellow.
Put a few sprigs of eucalyptus on the corner of the bathtub to create a clean, refreshing scent when you run the hot water.
Buy a bathtub overflow drain cover so you can fill the tub extra deep and soak all the way up to your chin.
Queue up this chill Spotify playlist.
Use the cucumber you bought for your eyes to make some cucumber-infused water to sip as you spa.
Want even more DIY spa ideas? Check out how to make your own sea salt spray, body lotion and more.
Lisa McGreevy is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Let us guess: You’ve sort of thought about getting life insurance — Hmm, I should probably do that sometime.
That way, if something bad happens to you, you’ll still be able to look out for your loved ones. Thanks to your thoughtfulness and smart decision-making, they’ll be more financially stable and won’t be left stressing about paying the bills without you.
But you just haven’t gotten around to it. You figure it’ll be kind of a hassle, and you really don’t need another bill to pay, right?
Are we getting warm? OK, but what if we told you it’s surprisingly easy and affordable to check this off your list?
An Affordable Solution
Let’s start with the basics: Life insurance is probably cheaper than you think. In general, people overestimate the cost of life insurance. For instance, nearly half of millennials think life insurance costs about five times what it actually does, according to a study by the insurance industry group LIMRA.
Meanwhile, a company like Bestow offers term life insurance rates starting at just $16 a month.
No Waiting, No Medical Exam
Here’s another thing: It’s not the hassle you think it is.
Historically, getting life insurance could be a weeks-long process. You could be asked to go to a doctor’s office to get a physical and bloodwork, then organize and send back results and other paperwork.
But newer companies like Bestow are changing the game. Bestow uses algorithms instead of medical exams to evaluate applicants.
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 60, you can get a free quote without a medical exam — or even having to get up from the couch. In fact, most customers who apply for a Bestow policy do it from their phones. It takes as little as five minutes.
With Life Insurance, Sooner is Better
I’ll worry about this later, you’re thinking. Maybe 10 or 15 years from now.
Here’s the problem with that: You probably won’t get a better deal on life insurance than you will right now, while you still have your health. You’ll never get any younger than you are right now. And the younger you are, the lower your premiums usually are. So, by getting in early, you’ll be protecting your loved ones at what’s likely your best possible price.
“Term life insurance is an affordable way to get started with a death benefit that can cover you through the most important upcoming years — a new mortgage, young children, etc,” says Kerri Moriarty, a financial business strategist based in Boston.
Getting a free quote from Bestow takes just minutes, and if approved, you could get coverage today. Now’s a great time to start planning for the future. To get the best deal, apply while you’re young and healthy.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He has life insurance.
When you need a loan, finding one — and getting approved — can bring as much anxiety as the thing you need the loan for. Whether it’s for debt consolidation, medical expenses or big home projects, waiting weeks just won’t cut it. On top of it all, big banks may charge you insane rates after making you jump through qualification hoops.
There’s another option, though. If you need to borrow up to $40,000, a website called Fiona can help you get a loan through a company called LendingClub. You can save an average of $1,000 on interest payments1, plus, you could get your money in only a few days — talk about relief!
Fiona will also show you additional offers from other lenders — because comparing your quotes can help you save even more money in the long run.
How to Borrow up to $40,000 and Pay Off Debt Faster
Getting started is simple. The application process only takes a few minutes, and you’ll see your loan offers immediately. Once you choose your loan, you could see your money in just a few days.
It costs nothing to apply, and it won’t affect your credit score, either. And by the way, your information is totally safe — the website uses higher encryption security than many banks.
Interest rates with LendingClub start at 8.05% — way better than the 20% or more your credit card is charging you — and many people may actually improve their credit scores when they take out a personal loan and make their payments on time each month. These lower rates can save you an average of $1,000 in interest payments and help you pay off your debt faster.
If you have a credit score above 600 and need a loan, let Fiona find your offers in only a couple of minutes. You can get approved and see your money in just a few days.
1On average, personal loans from LendingClub Bank are projected to be offered at an APR of 15.99% (based on loan approval amounts in aggregate) with an origination fee of 5.30% and a principal amount of $13,411 for loans with term lengths of 36 months, based on current credit criteria and an analysis of historical borrower data between September 2020 and October 2020. For credit card purchases made in October 2020, the average APR was 20.23%, according to publicly available information published by TheBalance.com. If you pay off a credit card balance of $12,700 with an APR of 20.23% over 36 equal monthly payments, you will pay $4,345 in total finance charges. If you obtain a loan with a term of 36 months and an amount financed of $12,700 (principal amount of $13,411 with an origination fee of $711) at 15.99% APR, you will pay $3,372 in total finance charges over the term of the loan, a savings of $973 as compared to the average credit card.
Too much financial advice is about pulling yourself up out of hardship.
I’m glad it exists; people in a money hole need a way out. But wouldn’t you love to skip the hole-digging and get right to the having your life together part?
Your early 20s is a key place to set a financial foundation. You can quickly erode your financial health with unmanageable debt and expenses, or you can build a solid safety net and a plan that helps you weather this transitional period and come out on the other side on solid ground.
Hint: Choose the latter.
Here are five things to know about your money by the time you leave college to set yourself up for a solid financial future.
5 Things to Know About Your Money After College
Figure out the answers to these questions now to set yourself up for financial success for years to come.
1. What’s Your Credit Score?
This sounds like a dreadfully boring place to start, but it’s key to making a solid financial plan. Understanding your credit history and the factors that make up your credit score give you a solid financial picture you can build from.
You can get a free credit report directly from a credit bureau, but that won’t include your score. Instead, I recommend a tool that shows you your credit score and the elements of your credit history that affect it.
Among other information, these tools will let you see:
Your FICO score or VantageScore. Each of these types of credit scores can be useful. They’re different, though, so make sure you know which one you’re looking at and how it compares to what creditors and lenders will see.
A breakdown of your debts. Any credit cards, auto loans, personal loans and student loans in your name will show up, including how much you owe and which company you owe it to.
Payment history. You’ll see if you have any outstanding negative marks, like unpaid bills. You can use this information to pay them off and clean up your credit or, if they’re old, wait for them to fall off after seven years.
Word of warning: These tools earn money by recommending products like loans and credit cards. Their recommendations can be useful to help you save money and improve your credit — but first make a plan and shop around. You might find better options on your own.
You might learn that you have no credit score, which is also useful information. It means you haven’t borrowed or used credit cards long enough to generate a credit history.
If that’s the case, choose one of these steps to start building credit:
Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card — like your parents or another family member.
Open a secured credit card with a deposit and low credit limit.
Take a credit builder loan.
Open a store credit card — but don’t use it too much.
Finance a big purchase, like furniture or appliances, with the store.
Use a cosigner for a credit card or small loan.
Use a service that reports your rent payments to credit bureaus.
Act now: Check your credit score and report details for free through a tool like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
2. How Do You Make a Budget?
This is so basic you might overlook it: You have to know how much you spend each month versus how much you earn.
Making and following a budget can be especially tricky during a transition period, like starting a new job or moving. Right after college, you might not have a stable monthly income, and a lot of budgeting advice probably doesn’t feel like it applies to you.
But you should figure out how to make a budget that works for you.
My favorite is envelope budgeting, because it lets you plan for your necessary expenses, debt repayment and savings, and then lets you do what you want with whatever’s leftover. So you don’t have to keep a detailed log of every burrito you buy.
You can use actual paper envelopes if you deal with a lot of actual paper cash — or you can make a digital envelope budget using an app or bank account that includes the feature, like Qapital or Qube.
Or you could simply create a spreadsheet budget and set a weekly money date for yourself (and your partner, family or housemates) to log spending and income and make a plan for the following week.
However you prefer to set it up, a budget should help you see in one place:
Income. If you have a set salary, you can plan ahead for your after-tax monthly take-home pay. If you have an irregular income, creating a budget to track it can help you find a three-month or 12-month average you can use to plan ahead.
Expenses. Tracking your recurring expenses, like housing, bills and food, lets you see how the amount compares with your income and could help you spot places to cut back. For example, your housing shouldn’t cost more than 30% of your income, and there are tons of ways to keep your utility bills down.
Spending. This is what typical budgeting apps show you: Where your money goes day to day. These are your everyday transactions, like eating out, shopping or entertainment. Track this at least when you first start budgeting to spot any trends and places you can cut back when money’s tight.
Debt. Minimum loan and credit card payments fall into your expenses, because those are necessary monthly bills. Adding debt-specific categories gives you a productive place to funnel extra money each month, so you can pay debts down faster.
Savings. Don’t forget to budget for saving money after college! If you build savings in around your income and expenses, it’s easy to find room to set a little aside each month.
Act now: Create a simple spreadsheet or download a budgeting app to keep track of your money.
3. How Will You Pay off Debt?
Getting your credit score and report details will help you see how much debt you’re dealing with and who you owe money to.
That means you can make a plan.
Your plan depends on how much debt you have and how much extra money you have to work with each month, so there’s no best plan for everyone and your plan might change as your income changes.
The debt snowball method is a smart plan if you’ve got multiple accounts to pay off with limited income. It eliminates the overwhelm of debt payoff by letting you focus on one debt at a time with however much money you can afford to allocate to it.
If you have federal student loan debt, look into your repayment options. By default, you signed up for a 10-year standard repayment plan, and that might make monthly payments tough to handle. An income-driven repayment plan could help.
Private debts and even credit cards might have more repayment flexibility than you think, too. You might be able to:
Refinance private student loans to get a lower interest rate.
Ask for a deferment or forbearance period due to economic hardship.
File for bankruptcy to wipe out most of your debts.
Negotiate a payoff amount, especially for debt in collections.
Negotiate a payment plan that’s easier for you to keep up with.
Act now: Prioritize your outstanding debts in a way that makes sense for you — by interest rates or balances. Use your monthly budget to see how repayment fits in.
4. What’s Your Long-Term Savings Plan?
You’re probably just getting started in the workforce, so I’m sorry to bring this up, but… retirement.
I know: OK, boomer. It’s far off. It doesn’t matter. You’ll probably work forever.
I’m not asking you to pick out your condo in the Florida Keys. Just add a retirement savings bucket to your budget, and thank your wise young self later.
Here’s why: The earlier you start saving for retirement, the easier it is — and the more you can get for free. Retirement savings accounts are invested into the stock market, with interest earned going back into the account to earn more interest — i.e. compound interest.
Because of compound interest, you only have to save a little bit each month if you start now, and it’ll likely grow to quite a lot by the time you retire… or start your third act or whatever knowledge workers do in their 60s.
Act now: Set up paycheck contributions if your employer offers a 401(k). If not, set up an IRA on your own, and contribute anything. The rule of thumb is to save 10% to 20% of your income for retirement, but save less if it’s all you can afford — it’ll pay off in interest later.
5. Do You Have an Emergency Fund?
One of the best things you can do for your financial health and security — even when you’re on a tight budget — is build an emergency fund.
When money’s tight, it can be tough to set some aside for a rainy day, but won’t you be glad you did? (I’ve been there, and the answer is definitively: YES.)
Don’t be intimidated by recommendations that an emergency fund needs to cover six months’ salary. If I were you, that would keep me from ever starting one in the first place.
Instead, just set aside money as you can.
A few hundred or a few thousand dollars might not pay your rent for six months, but it could keep your budget intact when you get an unexpected electric bill. Those small moments can make or break your financial health, so find tiny ways to always be prepared.
Savings apps can help you save money without even noticing — by taking a little out of each paycheck, rounding up purchases to stash “digital change” or secreting away bucks from your bank account.
Once you have an emergency fund you’re comfortable with, start saving for other short-term goals, too.
You might want to make a down payment on a car or a house, take a vacation, get married or upgrade your living room furniture. Whatever it is, saving ahead in small increments helps you spread the expense across several months so you don’t feel the hit to your budget all at once.
Act now: Add a savings “envelope” or bucket to your budget, and start funneling money into it regularly.
Build a Solid Financial Foundation
As you embark on adulthood, enter new jobs and move into new cities, you’re going to be bombarded with advice to optimize your finances — investing this, credit card rewards that.
This advice is fine, but you need a solid foundation first.
Quiet the noise, and make sure you have these five pillars in place to stabilize your finances before you start gambling on crypto and travel points.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media.
When your salary finally tips over $100,000, all your worries about living paycheck-to-paycheck should be gone, right?
Not necessarily. In fact, 16% of six-figure earners said they have difficulty covering basic expenses, such as food, rent or mortgage and car payments, according to a November 2020 survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
They’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.
How is that possible? Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how much money you make if your expenses outweigh (or are equal to) your income. That’s why it’s so important to have a solid plan for your budget. Otherwise, you could end up with no savings and in debt.
No matter how much you earn, here’s how to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Make a Budget and Stick to It
It’s no question that the cost of living is going up at a rapid pace — not just in big, growing cities, but all around the country.
Yet slowly rising wages can’t take all the blame for our $0 balances at the end of the month. Poor budgeting — and lack of budgeting education — is holding millions of us back. So if you don’t have a budget or haven’t updated yours in a while, get one together.
If you don’t know where to start, a simple and straightforward approach is a good way to begin your budget overhaul. We like the 50/30/20 method. You map out all your expenses like this:
50% of your monthly take-home goes to what you need. That includes rent, groceries, utilities, minimum debt payments, childcare, etc.
30% goes to your wants — like your Netflix subscription, dinners with friends and travel costs.
20% is earmarked for financial goals, like paying down debt, growing your savings and adding to your retirement fund.
If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, that last 20% likely isn’t getting the attention it needs from your bank account. And while the “wants” can easily get out of hand, it’s your “needs” that can be the biggest culprits.
So, how do you fix that? Here are some secrets to help you regain control of your spending and put more money in your savings:
Cut Costs and Bills Where You Can
Usually, your biggest monthly expense is your rent or mortgage payment. And unless you’re living the #vanlife or have a sweet month-to-month set up, chances are finding a cheaper place to live next month is out of the question.
But there are some necessary bills you can cut down significantly, without sacrificing the services you need.
Car Insurance: Shop around for new car insurance every six months, and you could save some serious cash. Compare car insurance prices on a website called Insure.com and you could save an average of $489 a year. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.
Homeowners Insurance: Homeowners insurance can be a huge waste of money if you get the wrong coverage. Luckily, an insurance company called Policygenius makes it easy to find out how much you’re overpaying. It finds you cheaper policies and special discounts in minutes. Plus, it saves users an average of $690 a year.
Eliminate Credit-Card-Debt Payments
If you have credit card debt that you’re just paying the minimum on, chances are you’re paying a ton in interest. And why would your credit card company care? They’re getting rich by ripping you off with those high interest rates — some up to 36%.
Credit card payments alone could keep you in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle for years. That means it’s time to get rid of those payments for good. A website called AmOne wants to help.
If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.
The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.
AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.
Create a Separate Account for Savings
Once you’ve cut down your monthly costs, make sure you’re prioritizing your savings. Whether that’s contributing to your retirement plan, investing in the stock market or building up an emergency fund — you did it! Congrats on breaking the cycle and cleaning up your spending habits.
But speaking of emergency funds, many Americans don’t even have $400 saved in case their car breaks down or their kid ends up in the ER.
Where should you start saving for one? A typical savings account won’t earn you much interest.
That’s why we like a free account from Aspiration. Its Spend and Save account could earn you up to 16 times the national average interest on your money, plus up to 5% cash back, if you use Aspiration’s debit card. It’ll help grow your emergency savings fund that much faster.
Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”
Follow these secrets, and you’ll be well on your way to breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
As with any insurance, buying life insurance puts you in a pickle:
You want to make sure you have enough coverage to protect your family and loved ones in case you die but you don’t want to play it so safe that the monthly premiums bust your budget.
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you exactly how much life insurance you need. That number is up to you and your family, and it’s different for everyone.
But we can help you figure it out for yourself.
4 Questions to Ask to Determine How Much Life Insurance You Need
Ask yourself these questions to determine whether you need life insurance and how much coverage you should buy.
1. Are You a Parent?
Having children is one of the most common forces that drives people to purchase life insurance. That makes sense: Your kids depend on you for everything, so you want to make sure they’re financially safe in case you die.
Even if you’re part of a two-parent household where your family doesn’t rely on your income (or you don’t earn income), consider life insurance.
Life insurance could help cover costs your family suddenly faces in your absence, like child care, housework or home maintenance. These costs could fluctuate significantly if the other parent has to change jobs or make other lifestyle adjustments once you’re gone.
Life insurance with benefits that you leave to your kids could help put them through college, which could be especially helpful if you’re otherwise planning to cover their education or living expenses while they’re in school.
To figure children into your coverage amount, take into account:
How many children or other dependents does your household support?
What current costs does your family rely on your income for?
What, other than money, do you contribute to the household that would mean new costs for your family if you were gone?
What future costs do you plan to cover for your children?
2. Does Anyone Else Rely on Your Income?
Whether or not you have children, are you in a relationship where the other person relies on your income?
Maybe you earn 100% or the majority of your household income for yourself and a spouse or partner. Maybe you support an older parent or a relative with disabilities. Maybe you have a unique financial arrangement with a roommate, friend or sugar baby.
Whoever it is, what would these people lose financially if you died?
Consider their current and future costs, including:
Housing and living expenses
Health insurance and health care
Assisted living facilities
3. Which Lingering Costs Will You Leave Behind?
Other than basic living expenses, what are the costs you’ll leave to your family if you die?mThe most common costs to consider are:
Funeral expenses. What kind of ceremony, memorial, burial or other traditions does your family expect to hold when you die? Regardless of any other financial responsibilities, many people buy life insurance just to cover these costs.
Mortgage. If you share a mortgage with another person, they’ll remain responsible for repaying the mortgage balance even if you die. With the loss of your financial or domestic support, life insurance could protect them from being burdened with that debt.
Credit card debt. Do you share credit cards with someone else? Just like mortgage debt, they’ll shoulder that repayment without you.
Student loans. If you’re repaying federal student loans or a parent PLUS loan for your kids, the government will discharge those student loans if you die. But some private lenders aren’t so lenient reasonable. Some do discharge loans in case the borrower dies, but some don’t. They could try to recoup the debt from a co-signer (if you have one), or from your estate, which would cut into any inheritance your family receives. Student loan debt will not be directly transferred to your survivors.
Personal loans. Personal loans will work like private student loans if you die. A co-borrower will remain responsible for the debt. In the absence of another borrower, the lender will recoup what it can from your estate.
Taxes. Your beneficiaries will have to pay an Estate Tax if they receive a large inheritance when you die. The Estate Tax threshold for 2021 is $11.7 million, so maybe a lot of us aren’t worried about it. BUT your loved ones could face taxes on forgiven debt they shared — something a lot more of us probably should think about.
If you can, take out enough life insurance to pay off these costs for your beneficiaries. If you can’t afford or don’t qualify for enough coverage, at least consider the monthly costs of these debts when calculating how much runway you can provide.
Business owners, you’ve got more than just your family to think about when you’re considering life insurance.
If your business would stop functioning without you, or it would have to be sold to cover debts and other costs, consider the impact on your employees.
Take out enough life insurance to cover your personal and business debts to keep your business safe. And, for small businesses, you could name your employees as beneficiaries to give them a financial cushion in case the business is suddenly pulled out from under them.
4. What’s Your Annual Income?
Income replacement is one of the biggest factors most people consider for figuring out how much life insurance coverage to buy. Calculate your annual income multiplied by the number of years of runway you want to leave your family.
Starting with replacing your annual income can give you a good base understanding of how much coverage your beneficiaries might need. But don’t stop there.
Consider the factors we mentioned above — your family’s financial situation and needs will likely change after you die.
Plus, you might want to make a plan that sets them up for financial success in the long term, rather than just helping them weather the immediate consequences of your death.
The DIME Life Insurance Formula
How much life insurance you need to leave your loved ones is totally subjective — but experts love to make a formula for everything, so we can’t leave this out.
For years, financial advisors just advised a simple “annual income X 10” formula for life insurance coverage. Until they realized humans are all quite unique with a broad spectrum of life insurance needs And that humans who don’t earn an income still make a valuable contribution to a household.
The DIME formula gives more leeway for what’s actually going on in your life. It’s imperfect, but at least the acronym is easy to remember. It stands for:
Debt: The amount of your non-mortgage surviving debt and funeral costs.
Income: Your annual income and/or unpaid household contribution, multiplied by the number of years you want the death benefit to support your family.
Mortgage: Your outstanding shared mortgage debt.
Education: The estimated cost of your kids’ K-12 and higher education.
Life Insurance Example
To help you see how you might calculate the amount of life insurance coverage you need, let’s look at a hypothetical.
Kris and Sam, both 35 years old, are married with two children ages 2 and 3. They own a home together and share a mortgage with a $100,000 balance remaining. Sam has $25,000 in federal student loan debt, and the couple has $10,000 in shared credit card debt. Sam earns $75,000 a year, and Kris stays home with the kids.
At their age, Kris and Sam could each be eligible for pretty low rates for life insurance, so this is a good time to buy.
Considering their young dependents, they could each consider 20-year term life insurance, a common policy for parents that offers affordable protection throughout your kids’ childhood.
How much life insurance do they need? Sam should consider a term life insurance policy with:
$100,000+ to pay off their mortgage balance and interest.
$10,000+ to pay off their credit card debt and interest.
$75,000 x 10 years for income replacement.
$6,000/year x 3–5 years for child care costs.
$2,000 to $10,000 for funeral costs.
$100,000 x 2 for their kids’ education.
Sam would need a policy with around $1 million to $1.5 million in coverage.
That might sound like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be costly. Plenty of life insurance companies make it easy for you to sign up for life insurance online and get that coverage amount for less than $20 per month while you’re young and healthy.
Kris’ life insurance policy would probably be lower, but not a lot lower. While Kris doesn’t have an income to replace, Sam would likely be left with child care costs and other new expenses if Kris died.
For additional scenarios and unexpected life insurance considerations, check out our post on three types of people who need life insurance (and five who don’t).
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media.