Archives June 2021

7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover

Medicare Part A and Part B, also known as Original Medicare or Traditional Medicare, cover a large portion of your medical expenses after you turn age 65. Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient hospital stays, stays in skilled nursing facilities, surgery, hospice care and even some home health care. Part B (medical insurance) helps pay for doctors’ visits, outpatient care, some preventive services, and some medical equipment and supplies. Most folks can start signing up for Medicare three months before the month they turn 65.

It’s important to understand that Medicare Part A and Part B leave some pretty significant gaps in your health-care coverage. Here’s a closer look at what isn’t covered by Medicare, plus information about supplemental insurance policies and strategies that can help cover the additional costs, so you don’t end up with unexpected medical bills in retirement.

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Medicare Doesn’t Cover Prescription Drugs

Senior at drugstoreSenior at drugstore

Medicare doesn’t provide coverage for outpatient prescription drugs, but you can buy a separate Part D prescription-drug policy that does, or a Medicare Advantage plan that covers both medical and drug costs. (Some retiree health-care policies cover prescription drugs, too.) You can sign up for Part D or Medicare Advantage coverage when you enroll in Medicare or when you lose other drug coverage. And you can change policies during open enrollment season each fall. Compare costs and coverage for your specific medications under either a Part D or Medicare Advantage plan by using the Medicare Plan Finder. 

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Medicare Doesn’t Cover Long-Term Care

Empty bed at nursing homeEmpty bed at nursing home

One of the largest potential expenses in retirement is the cost of long-term care. The median cost of a private room in a nursing home was roughly $105,800 in 2020, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Study; a room in an assisted-living facility cost $51,600, and 44 hours per week of care from a home health aide cost $54,900.

Medicare provides coverage for some skilled nursing services but not for custodial care, such as help with bathing, dressing and other activities of daily living. But you can buy long-term-care insurance or a combination long-term-care and life insurance policy to cover these costs. 

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Medicare Doesn’t Cover Deductibles and Co-Pays

Paying cash at drugstorePaying cash at drugstore

Medicare Part A covers hospital stays, and Part B covers doctors’ services and outpatient care. But you’re responsible for deductibles and co-payments. In 2021, you’ll have to pay a Part A deductible of $1,484 before coverage kicks in, and you’ll also have to pay a portion of the cost of long hospital stays — $371 per day for days 61-90 in the hospital and $742 per day after that. Be aware: Over your lifetime, Medicare will only help pay for a total of 60 days beyond the 90-day limit, called “lifetime reserve days,” and thereafter you’ll pay the full hospital cost.

Part B typically covers 80% of doctors’ services, lab tests and x-rays, but you’ll have to pay 20% of the costs after a $203 deductible in 2021. A medigap (Medicare supplement) policy or Medicare Advantage plan can fill in the gaps if you don’t have the supplemental coverage from a retiree health insurance policy. Medigap policies are sold by private insurers and come in 10 standardized versions that pick up where Medicare leaves off. If you buy a medigap policy within six months of signing up for Medicare Part B, then insurers can’t reject you or charge more because of preexisting conditions. See Choosing a Medigap Policy at for more information. Medicare Advantage plans provide both medical and drug coverage through a private insurer, and they may also provide additional coverage, such as vision and dental care. You can switch Medicare Advantage plans every year during open enrollment season.  

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Medicare Doesn’t Cover Most Dental Care

Senior at dentistSenior at dentist

Medicare doesn’t provide coverage for routine dental visits, teeth cleanings, fillings, dentures or most tooth extractions. Some Medicare Advantage plans cover basic cleanings and X-rays, but they generally have an annual coverage cap of about $1,500. You could also get coverage from a separate dental insurance policy or a dental discount plan. An alternative is to build up money in a health savings account before you enroll in Medicare; you can use the money tax-free for medical, dental and other out-of-pocket costs at any age (you can’t make new contributions to an HSA after you sign up for Medicare).

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Medicare Doesn’t Cover Routine Vision Care

Senior at eye doctor for examSenior at eye doctor for exam

Medicare generally doesn’t cover routine eye exams or glasses (exceptions include an annual eye exam if you have diabetes or eyeglasses after having certain kinds of cataract surgery). But some Medicare Advantage plans provide vision coverage, or you may be able to buy a separate supplemental policy that provides vision care alone or includes both dental and vision care. If you set aside money in a health savings account before you enroll in Medicare, you can use the money tax-free at any age for glasses, contact lenses, prescription sunglasses and other out-of-pocket costs for vision care.

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Medicare Doesn’t Cover Hearing Aids

Senior couple with hearing aidsSenior couple with hearing aids

Medicare doesn’t cover routine hearing exams or hearing aids, which can cost as much as $3,250 per ear. But some Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing aids and fitting exams, and some discount programs provide lower-cost hearing aids. If you save money in an HSA before you enroll in Medicare, you can also use that tax-free for hearing aids and other out-of-pocket expenses.

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Medicare Doesn’t Cover Medical Care Overseas

Senior couple abroadSenior couple abroad

Medicare usually doesn’t cover care you receive while traveling outside of the U.S., except for very limited circumstances (such as on a cruise ship within six hours of a U.S. port). But medigap plans C through G, M and N cover 80% of the cost of emergency care abroad, with a lifetime limit of $50,000. Some Medicare Advantage plans cover emergency care abroad. Or you could buy a travel insurance policy that covers some medical expenses while you’re outside of the U.S. and may even cover emergency medical evacuation, which can otherwise cost tens of thousands of dollars to transport you aboard a medical plane or helicopter. 

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How to Look Up What Is and Isn’t Covered by Medicare

Senior online doing researchSenior online doing research

To look up Medicare’s coverage rules and other types of care and procedures, go to and use the “Is my test, item or service covered?” tool. Also see What Original Medicare Covers. If you believe a claim was unfairly denied, see How to Appeal a Denied Medicare Claim.


25 Smart Things to do With Your Graduation Money

When you graduate from college, you may be feeling a great sense of accomplishment, along with excitement about the future. As a nice bonus, family and friends may give you monetary gifts to help you celebrate your achievement and start your new life.

Whether you receive a small or large amount of cash for your graduation, you may be wondering–should you spend it? Save it? Invest it? Use it to pay off debt? Depending on the amount you receive, you could possibly make a big financial leap forward by paying off credit cards or saving for your future home or business.

While the best way to use your graduation money will depend on your goals and current financial situation, here are some ideas you may want to consider.

1. Jump-Starting an Emergency Fund

Establishing an emergency fund can be a great first step toward financial stability. Having this cushion can help you to handle a financial setback, such as a costly car repair, trip to the ER, or loss of income, without having to rely on high interest credit cards.

A good target is to have enough money set aside to cover three to six months of living expenses. It’s fine to start small, however, and build this fund up over time.

2. Paying Off Credit Card Debt

It’s not uncommon to accumulate credit card debt in college. Laptops and textbooks can be costly, and it can be hard to have time to work a significant number of hours. The sooner you pay off any balances you are carrying, however, the less you’ll pay in the long run–and the easier it will be to handle new expenses, like rent and car payments.

3. Buying Interview Clothes

Whether you graduated from college early or just completed grad school, you may be job hunting. While the knowledge, skills and attitude you can bring to a company may be what’s most important, how you dress for the interview can also form a lasting impression on potential employers. Depending on your industry, that might mean a suit for men and a suit or dress for women.

4. Reducing Your Student Loan Debt

If you took out a college or graduate student loan, you may want to use some of your graduation money to start paying down your loan balance. The more you can knock down your loans, the less interest you’ll owe–and the less you’ll pay overall.

If you make an extra payment, however, it can be a good idea to make sure that your loan officer applies the extra amount to the balance, rather than next month’s payment.

5. Saving up for an Apartment

If you’ll be moving into your own place after graduation, you’ll likely need to come up with your first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit, in one fell swoop. You may also want to save up for furniture and household items, like dishes, cookware and linens, to set up your new place.

6. Investing in Mutual Funds

While investing can sound intimidating, one easy way to get started is to invest in a mutual fund. While these funds typically charge an annual fee and involve risk, they are managed by professional investors who spread your money over a mix of securities, such as stocks and bonds. You can choose a mutual fund based on its past performance, how aggressive (or stock-heavy) it is, and the type of fees they charge.

7. Opening a High-Interest Savings Account

Traditional savings accounts typically offer very low interest. If you are saving your graduation money for a short-term goal, like buying a car or building an emergency fund, you may want to put it in an account that offers higher interest than a traditional savings account, but is still safe and allows easy access to your money. Some good options include: a high-yield savings account, money market account, online savings account, or cash management account.

8. Getting a Start on Retirement Saving

It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. Thanks to compounding interest (which is when the interest you earn on your money also earns interest), the earlier you start putting money aside for retirement, the easier it will be to meet your goal. If your employer offers a matching program for your 401(k), you may want to consider taking full advantage of it and contributing at least up to their match.

9. Going on a Trip

Before you jump into the working world, you may want to take some time off and explore some new destinations. Travelling is not only fun, it can also be a way to learn more about the world, gain insights into different cultures, and potentially even make some new connections.

The experience of traveling may also energize you and help you gain clarity about what you want your future to look like.

10. Saving up for Grad School

If you’re planning to pursue a higher degree, you may want to use your graduation money to jump start your grad school fund. In general, it can be better to pay for your education out of pocket rather than taking out student loans which, thanks to interest, make the cost of higher education even higher.

11. Putting Money Into Real Estate

You may not have enough money to purchase a home yet, but you could try investing money into a REIT (real estate investment trust). Modeled after mutual funds, REITs offer a lower-cost way to invest in the real estate market–you can invest in a fund with as little as $500.

These trusts are also liquid, which means you can sell at any time. Like stocks, you can buy and sell REIT shares on an exchange. As with any investment, investing in a REIT involves some risk.

12. Buying a Car

If you’ll be needing a car to get around, it can be a good idea to start saving for a downpayment or, even better, paying for the car in cash. Whether you buy a used or new vehicle, the more cash you can put down initially, the less you’ll have to finance–and the less you’ll end up paying for that car.

13. Joining AAA

Whether you already have a car or you’re planning to buy one, you may want to use a bit of your graduation money to join AAA . Having a AAA membership can provide peace of mind when you’re out on the road, and can end up paying for itself should you get a flat tire or two, or need a tow in the wee hours of the morning. AAA membership also gets you discounts on many hotels, rental cars, and other products and services.

14. Starting a Business

If you are planning to launch your own business straight out of college, you may want to funnel your graduation money right into your new venture. If you need additional cash for your start-up, you might also consider taking out a small business loan or crowdfunding your idea on a site like GoFundMe and Kickstarter.

15. Joining a Wholesale Club

As you transition from dining hall or parent-supported dining, you may want to look into joining a wholesale club like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club. These member-only stores can save you a lot of money when you buy in bulk, and could especially come in handy if you’re splitting costs with your roommates.

16. Donating to Charity

Donating some money to charity can be a solid option when you’re deciding what to do with graduation money. If you have a particular cause you’re passionate about, you can look for relevant charities on Charity Navigator .

If the charity you donate to is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization, you may be able to write the donation off on your taxes.

17. Taking Your Parents to Dinner

If your parents helped pay for your college education, you might want to show your gratitude by taking them out to dinner. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy–the idea is to let them know that you truly appreciate their love and support. This could apply to a grandparent, family member, or a friend who funded your education as well.

18. Saving for a Home

While owning a home might not be in your immediate future, you may want to use your graduation money to start saving up for a down payment.

To get a sense of how much you might need, you can start looking at real estate prices in the area where you would like to live. Ideally, you would want to put 20 percent of the purchase price down.

19. Saving for Your Wedding

Weddings can run well over $10,000. Of course, there are ways to have a cheaper wedding, such as keeping it small or having it in your backyard, but wedding costs can still add up quickly. If you’re engaged or planning to be soon, you might want to use some of your graduation money to start a wedding fund.

20. Paying for Additional Classes or Certifications

Even though you graduated with a degree, you may find that you need some additional training to stand out in your field.

To be more competitive when it comes to the job market, you might want to use your graduation money to pay for additional classes or certifications. This could possibly lead to an increase in your salary as well.

21. Paying for Personal Care

When you go in for job interviews, you’ll want to look your best. Along with buying professional clothes for your interviews, you may also want to invest in other aspects of your personal appearance, such as getting your hair cut or styled, getting your nails done, or having your teeth whitened. Putting your best foot forward can help you feel more confident.

22. Moving to an Area with a Stronger Job Market

If your home town doesn’t have the best job market for your field, you may want to consider moving somewhere that offers more opportunities. You could put your graduation money towards moving expenses, sucy as renting a truck or professional movers.

23. Hiring a Career Coach

If you’re having trouble finding the job you want, you might consider using your graduation money to hire a professional career coach. These pros can help you revise your resume, improve your LinkedIn profile, build your network, and help you plan out your career. Typically, the best career coaches will have extensive experience in human resources and/or recruiting.

24. Getting Health Insurance

If you graduated from college later than your peers or you’re finishing up grad school, then you may no longer be on your parents’ health Insurance. You may want to start by looking for a health insurance policy on the government marketplace. As you compare policies, it can be a good idea to keep your medical needs, such as prescriptions and specialty doctors’ visits, in mind.

25. Paying Back Anyone You Owe

If you borrowed any money from family or friends during college, you may want to use graduation money to settle up. This shows that you are responsible and true to your word. If you end up in a bind again in the future and need to borrow, your family and friends will know that you can be trusted to pay them back.

The Takeaway

If you’re not sure whether to spend or save your graduation money, it can be helpful to look at both your short-term needs, such as paying off credit cards and buying a car. as well as your long-term goals, like creating a comfortable retirement nest egg.

The answer to how to use graduation money is different for everyone, but it can be a good idea to weigh all of the options before you make any major spending decisions.

Whether you’re saving for something specific or storing cash until you’re ready to invest, SoFi Money® can help you put your graduation money to good use.

SoFi Money is a cash management account that allows you to earn competitive interest, spend, and save all in one place.

Consider using your grad money to open a SoFi Money cash management account.

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Can You Work and Collect Social Security? Yes, with Limits

As simple words go, “retirement’’ carries a lot of weight and a lot of baggage.

Now that retirement is bouncing around in your mind, and you entertain the thought of giving up your day job, you ask yourself:

  • Is my retirement income and Social Security going to be enough for my preferred lifestyle?
  • What am I going to do with myself every day?

One answer responds to both questions. You can “retire,’’ collect Social Security, still work and be productive. The trick is there’s a limit to how much you can make depending on your age.

If you are at what Social Security deems full retirement age, you can collect and keep your full Social Security benefits and make as much money as you want.

If you are not yet at full retirement age but are receiving Social Security benefits, you can make up to $18,960 a year without penalty. That’s $1,580 a month, or $364 a week. We get into more details later in this post of what happens when you go over that amount.

How You Can Work and Collect Social Security

So let’s dive into the particulars that allow you to work while you are retired and collecting Social Security. And then let’s consider some types of work you can do in retirement to bring in some extra income.

The Meaning of Retirement

There is no such thing as “officially retired.” There is no legal definition, nor is there a legal designation.

You just decide one day you don’t want to work at the job or in the field to which you dedicated the first 30 or 40 years of your professional life. Often this coincides with your 65th birthday because that’s when you qualify for Medicare.

However, you can start taking Social Security benefits before 65, beginning at 62.

Full Retirement Age

The Social Security Administration website is clear and precise about making money while accepting benefits, but here is what you need to know:

Your full retirement age: If you were born Jan. 2, 1959 through Jan. 1, 1960, your full retirement age for retirement insurance benefits is 66 years and 10 months.

Every year earlier reduces the full retirement age by two months. Born in 1958, 66 years and 8 months. Born in 1957, 66 years and 6 months, and so on.

If you were born after the 1959 date, your full retirement age is 67 years old. If you were born 1943 to 1952, your full retirement age is 66.

The government has changed the full retirement age stipulations because people are living longer.

THIS IS IMPORTANT!: If you have reached your full retirement age and you work, you may keep all of your Social Security benefits no matter how much you earn. 

Salary Restrictions

If you are not yet at full retirement age but are receiving Social Security benefits, you can make up to $18,960 a year without penalty. That’s $1,580 a month, or $364 a week.

If you make more than that, your benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 you make over the $18,960.

But get this: once you reach full retirement age, the money that was subtracted from your Social Security benefits previously are refunded to you. You never really lose those funds, they are just held from you until you reach that magic age.

There are special rules depending on whether you receive a salary or are self-employed when you are working, but they differ based on when they are counted (when you earn the money versus when you get paid). The Social Security Administration website can address those particular items for you.

Suggestions for Work Even Before You Reach Full Retirement Age

Here are some suggestions of part-time jobs that can bring in some extra money. They may be more about what you want to do than what you have been doing. Check out these 13 ways to make money you might not have thought about. And more:

A senior citizen woman does book keeping from home.
Getty Images

1. Indoor work

According to the AARP, bookkeeping is the most popular part-time position for workers of a certain age. This makes some sense: it is not physical, requires patience, and is likely not a popular job among younger people.

And if you’re so inclined to start your own virtual bookkeeping business you could make up to $69 a hour.

2. Health Care

Perhaps knowing that you may someday require healthcare assistance, it becomes attractive to offer help to those already in need. Older people are encouraged to apply for jobs as assistants to nursing homes and hospitals.

Certainly, certifications will make you more attractive as an employee, but there are jobs specifically for those people who want to help but did not originally work in healthcare and don’t have licenses or certificates.

There may also be opportunity in a less structured way. If you have a friend, or a friend who has a friend, with an older family member or neighbor that needs assistance during the day, let them know you are looking for work. You can offer your services to dive them to medical appointments, make lunch or simply provide a few hours of companionship.

Pro Tip

The Penny Hoarder’s Work-From-Home Jobs Portal makes the remote-job hunt easy. Our journalists scour the web for the best gigs, vet the companies and aggregate the latest listings in one place.

3. Work with Children

Safety and care are uppermost in the minds of school administrations, and they offer several positions for older people interested in part-time work.

While “crossing guard’’ may be the first thing that comes to mind, schools, colleges and universities need staff that can provide some level of security for special events, and older people who may have grandchildren of their own have built-in radar for the well-being of children.

A senior citizen poses for a portrait with an axe and tree behind him.
Getty Images

4. Outdoor Work

Your city or county leisure services or parks department may have work for you. If there’s a forestry department in your area, contact them.

From cleaning parks to walking through wooded areas looking for environmental concerns (downed trees, unexpected flooding, etc.), being paid to take a walk in nature is not a bad way to spend a day.

5. Helping Other Seniors

Many communities have Senior Centers that provide activities and services. Yes, there are people at Senior Centers playing bridge, canasta and chess.

But Senior Centers are also one of the first places employers turn when looking for people to fill paid positions that require attendance and attention. Consider your local Senior Center as a resource for finding a position that suits your interests.

Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.


10 Things Your Guest Room Needs

Try spending a night in your own guest room. What seems like an abstract problem quickly turns very tangible, and you’ll see what’s missing or inadequate. To help make sure your guest room is up to snuff, here are ten items every guest room needs:

1. Space in the room and closet for clothing and luggage

Even a small carry-on needs space to avoid getting in the way. Make sure there’s a space for the carry-on to sit out of the way, while still being accessible, especially if you have no dresser or closet space for them.

If possible, though, offer them closet or dresser space. A small set of hangers (5-6 per person) and a couple drawers in a dresser should be more than enough. It’s a bit of an investment, but the payoff is making your guest feel truly welcome, not forcing them to live out of their suitcase.

2. A comfortable bed with lots of pillows and bed covers

You can’t put your old squeaky bed frame into the guest room and expect any couple to get a good night’s sleep. When one of them moves, the squeak awakens them both. Ditto for a comfortable mattress. You can invest in a nice firm mattress during a sale (January is typically hot for mattress sales) and then add a soft, inviting topper.

Don’t stop at the mattress. Add an assortment of different pillows and pillowcases to help set up whatever arrangement is most comfortable for them.

The same goes for bed covers. A heavy down comforter will cater to anyone who likes it warm and offering a variety of quilts and blankets will help let your guest get the bed exactly the temperature they like.

3. A bedside table and reading light

Everyone likes having some things near them when they sleep: a glass of water, a book, or their glasses, to name a few. Guests won’t want to leave them on the floor, so a bedside table is an inexpensive way to make sure they’re easily accessible.

A lamp is another great, inexpensive addition to the bedside table. A lamp with a three-way bulb accomplishes everything a guest might need: soothing bedside light to read by at night and a brighter light to dress by in the morning.

4. Wastebasket

There are a lot of little things you need to throw away and having an obvious place for them to go just helps to smooth things over. Yes, they could just throw out the trash in the bathroom or the kitchen, but saving your guests the hassle of having to leave the room to take care of something so basic will pay off greatly.

5. Convenient power outlets for phones and tablets

Nearly everyone has a cellphone and other devices they need to charge overnight. Give them an easy way to do so, without having to move furniture or crawl around on their hands and knees. Extension cords on either side of the bed will be well received. If possible, find out what type of devices they have ahead of time, and have the correct chargers ready and plugged in ahead of time.

Article + Video: How to make a great first impression

6. Towels and basic toiletries

Most people bring their own items, but everyone forgets from time to time. Having extra soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, hair dryer, and the like will help cut down on those last-minute trips to the nearest drug store.

Towels might already be in the bathroom, but if it’s a shared bathroom, it’s a good gesture to set out towels separately in the room, to avoid confusion later.

7. Water bottles or drinking glasses

Offer guests a way to have a middle-of-the-night drink.  Bottled water on the bed stand is a real nicety, but if your tap water tastes great, a clean drinking glass works just as well.

8. TV channel guide & remote instructions

If your guestroom has a television, spend a few minutes creating a channel guide. Include networks, news and sports channels, special interest channels (History, Smithsonian, Nature, Travel, DIY, Bravo) and movie channels. If your TV has Netflix access, list that too.

Be sure to include directions for turning on the TV, as each remote is different.  Test your remote to make sure it’s working and doesn’t need batteries.

Hot Tip:  After creating your channel guide, consider laminating it so it lasts a long time and won’t get destroyed by a spilled drink or a tear.

9. A nightlight

A simple low-wattage nightlight lights the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. You don’t want your guests to bump their shins or ram their toes while they’re in unfamiliar surroundings.

10. A full-length mirror

You probably have guests over for a reason, and that reason is likely an event where appearance is important. A full-length mirror is an obvious help for anyone who needs to dress up for a special occasion. This is especially helpful if there isn’t a bathroom attached to the guest room where they could get dressed.

Bonus Items:  Local magazines and map

Okay, we confess, this isn’t a necessity . . . but it certainly makes for a nice welcome, especially for out-of-state guests. You can even use sticky notes in the magazine to point out places you’d like your friends or family to see. Highlight your home on the map with a star. Make sure the magazines are no older than a year.

Hot Tip: If you have grandkids coming to visit, put some age-appropriate magazines into the room. 

Related: The Perfect Bar Cart , How to Make Your Guests Feel at Home, What to Do With a Spare Bedroom, Things to Keep on Hand for Parties

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11 Ways to Save Money When Shopping Online – Tips & Tricks

It’s hard to beat the convenience of online shopping — you can browse stores at any hour in your pajamas and have purchases delivered right to your door. But saving online isn’t as easy without a little forethought and footwork on your part.

But free shipping, deep discounts, and additional rewards are within your grasp if you know how to find them.

Ways to Save Money When Shopping Online

There are numerous ways to save money when you’re online shopping, from apps and browser extensions to group buys and digital marketplaces.

1. Apps

Most savings apps are available for free for both iOS and Android devices as well as through online portals. Some of the best rewards-based shopping apps include:

  • Ibotta. Get cash-back rewards on purchases you make through the platform. It offers rewards on online grocery purchases as well as other products, like clothing and beauty products. For a complete list of pros and cons, see our Ibotta review.
  • Drop. Available only for mobile, Drop rewards shoppers who make purchases through its app. You can earn points in various ways, including shopping through the app, playing games, and completing surveys and redeem your points for online gift cards.
  • Fetch Rewards. Scan receipts for groceries and household purchases from grocery, convenience, pet supply, hardware, and liquor stores as well as gas stations into Fetch Rewards. It checks to see if you made any purchases from their partnered brands, such as Heinz, Knorr, and Kraft. For more information, see our Fetch Rewards review.
  • Store-Specific Apps. Many stores, such as Target, Instacart, and Asos, have their own apps, which can keep you from having to pay full price on your online purchases. Many store-specific apps offer exclusive discounts and rewards to app users, so before you make a purchase, check to see if a simple download can help you save money.

2. Online Tools

You can use rewards-focused online shopping tools in various ways, from browsing and shopping to earning points through games and surveys. Others save you money by tracking price changes for purchases you’ve already made.

  • Groupon. Groupon allows you to search for deals on products and services from local merchants. It’s perfect for local classes and events and activities like photography lessons, festivals, and city tours. But you can also find discounts on products and services, like flower bouquets and massages. Learn more in our full Groupon review.
  • Swagbucks. You can earn rewards by shopping through Swagbucks, completing surveys, conducting online searches, playing online games, and watching videos. Find more details by reading our Swagbucks review.
  • RetailMeNot. If you’ve ever searched for online coupons before making a purchase, chances are you’ve visited RetailMeNot. Although the site has been a popular place to find coupons and deals, it now offers a rewards program as well. You can shop via a browser extension, the RetailMeNot website, or a mobile app for free. See our RetailMeNot review for all the details.
  • Paribus. Paribus works a little differently from other savings apps. Instead of providing coupons and discount codes, it tracks purchases you make and lets you know when the price changes. When it detects a lower price than the one you paid, it lets you know so you can request a price match.

3. Browser Extensions

Browser extensions work with most browsers, such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, and Edge. Most extensions conveniently apply coupons to your virtual carts before you make a purchase, making saving money simple and stress-free.

  • Honey. Honey gathers coupons and discount codes from across the Web and automatically applies them to your shopping cart. Honey’s codes are typically more reliable than the ones on other sites. As you shop, you accrue rewards points from qualifying stores, which you can then redeem for digital gift cards from various popular retailers. To learn more, read our complete Honey review.
  • The Camelizer. Always get the best price with this Amazon-specific browser plugin from CamelCamelCamel that monitors and tracks the highest and lowest prices of specific products, sends you price-drop alerts, and saves you from having to monitor your wish list or cart. It also features Amazon’s pricing history so you can see if merchandise is currently at its lowest historical rate.
  • Rakuten. Formerly known as Ebates, Rakuten gets you cash back on purchases you make at hundreds of online retailers, from Walmart to Dyson. Just add the extension, shop, and get paid through PayPal. Rakuten also has an app for in-store shopping. Take a look at our Rakuten review for more information.
  • Capital One Shopping. Formerly Wikibuy, Capital One Shopping’s browser extension applies discounts to online checkouts and offers coupon codes, a price-comparison tool, price tracking, and loyalty rewards from partner retailers. For a full breakdown, read our Capital One Shopping Review.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

4. Avoid Shipping Fees and Order Minimums

Shipping fees can significantly increase the amount of money you spend at an online store. That’s especially true if you only need a few inexpensive products that don’t add up to the free shipping minimum.

But there are several ways to save on shipping costs and meet order minimums to keep more cash in your pocket.

Group Shopping and Bulk Buys

Group shopping is when you go in on an online order with friends, family members, or neighbors. You can even find Facebook groups for group buys among strangers, who come together to place large orders to save on delivery costs at stores like Ikea.

Group shopping is ideal for meeting minimum shipping amounts and saving on delivery costs, especially for large merchandise like furniture. Some products even go down in price the more you buy, so having multiple people go in on a single bulk order reduces or eliminates shipping costs and gets you the lowest price on your purchase as well.

Even when you can’t avoid shipping fees, bulk buys allow you to split the cost with the other buyers, which can significantly reduce your delivery charge.

Curbside Pickup

Sometimes, the style or size you want is only available online. If you can’t avoid having the goods shipped but don’t want to pay fees, check to see whether the retailer offers free delivery to your local store. You may even be able to pick it up curbside.

Place Larger Orders

Most stores have a minimum you have to meet to qualify for free delivery. It’s partially a ploy to get you to spend more. But you can benefit from it if you wait to place a larger order that includes only things you need.

For example, if you’re ordering clothing or home goods, save what you want in a cart or on a wish list until you have enough to make a single order instead of making one-off purchases more than once. By waiting a few weeks, you can save money and avoid waiting for multiple deliveries.

5. Browse Incognito

Almost every online store uses cookies to store information about you as a user. When you leave the site and then visit again later, the results you see can differ from someone else’s based on the products you looked at, what you searched for, and whether you made a purchase.

You could be shown different pricing, messaging, and discounts than other users simply based on your cookies, meaning you aren’t necessarily getting the best price.

To prevent that, browse incognito (also called private browsing) to keep websites from seeing and storing your cookies. If a website can’t identify you, they can’t customize the prices or discounts you see.

6. Shop at the Right Places

Aside from shopping at traditional retailers, you can receive hefty discounts by using online marketplaces, scoring outlet deals, and purchasing open-box and refurbished goods. Peruse these alternatives before making a purchase.

Digital Marketplaces

Digital marketplaces are where regular people sell new and used goods. Typically, they let you skip the retailer and buy directly from an individual.

Some examples include Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Craigslist. Although you may have to dig for a deal, many people sell items in like-new condition because they can’t or don’t want to return them or just want to make some quick cash.

When possible, look for merchandise with tags or original packaging or that’s still under warranty. That way, you score a brand-new product with a discounted price tag.

Online Outlets

Most top brands have online outlets where they send their out-of-season or overstocked merchandise. Even Nordstrom, Adidas, and Guess have virtual outlets where you can shop for deals and markdowns. In terms of fashion and home decor, they may not stock cutting-edge fashion trends. But you can find basics and seasonal pieces at discounted prices.

Before hitting the buy-now button in your digital shopping cart, check whether the store also has an online outlet. As a bonus, most browser add-ons like Honey still work for online outlets, so if you nab a working coupon code, you save even more.

Warehouse, Refurbished, and Open-Box Sections

Warehouse, refurbished, and open-box merchandise isn’t limited to brick-and-mortar stores. Digital marketplaces and shops have them too. You just have to know what to look for.

Expensive gadgets like kitchen appliances and personal electronics come with hefty price tags, but scoring an open-box or refurbished deal can save you a huge chunk of change.

For example, on Amazon, warehouse deals are typically barely used — like-new gifts people returned, impulse buys, or merchandise in packaging too damaged to sell. An Amazon employee assesses each product before listing it, and each listing details its condition.

And technology companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Dell sell refurbished laptops and phones on their website at a significant discount.

Many retailers even offer warranties and returns on these goods, so you aren’t left in a bind if it’s defective or isn’t quite what you were looking for.

You can’t always find the specific open-box product you’re looking for. But it’s worth a little digging before you take the plunge and pay full price.

Google Shopping

Google Shopping helps consumers compare prices from different retailers without navigating through multiple websites.

Enter the name or description of the product, and Google populates results from various sellers. You can broaden or narrow your search as needed and filter your results by factors like price, brand, delivery cost, and rating.

And since Google Shopping searches stores for you, retail websites can’t identify you and modify the prices you see. That ensures you see the best price every time, instead of a price based on a website’s ability to recognize you.

7. Join Email Subscriptions

Most stores offer their first-time email subscribers a discount, such as a percentage off, free shipping promo, or discount code. Plus, if you stay subscribed, you hear about new coupons and upcoming deals before anyone else.

It helps to create an email address specifically for promotions to keep your personal inbox from being overloaded with marketing emails.

But if staying subscribed isn’t worth it for you, sign up, claim your code, and unsubscribe.

8. Shop Seasonally

Most retailers stock merchandise based on seasonality. As one season ends, they sell any leftover products at a deep discount because it’s the store’s last chance to profit from them.

For example, buying patio furniture in the fall or a winter jacket in the spring comes with the perk of saving yourself a considerable sum of money.

Everything from books to video games and electronics experience seasonality. Even large appliances have best seasons to buy. That’s because their industries often base new releases around prime shopping times, like the holidays.

So if you can, don’t buy products at the peak of their popularity. Instead, wait until they’re out of season and reap the rewards of being a strategic and patient online shopper.

9. Buy Discounted Gift Cards

We’ve all received a gift card we can’t use, whether it’s because of personal taste or location availability. And that’s why sites that allow you to sell and swap gift cards exist.

Some of the most popular include:

These sites allow you to purchase people’s unwanted gift cards at discounted rates, saving you money on things you actually want. You can also find unwanted gift cards on digital marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

10. Join Loyalty Rewards Programs

Many brands have loyalty programs that provide coupon codes and discounts based on previous purchases. If you buy from a particular brand regularly, joining their loyalty program lets you save money shopping online just for buying products you’d purchase anyway.

But read the fine print and watch out for disclaimers. For example, some loyalty programs prohibit combining rewards with other promo codes or coupons. Check which price is better before using your rewards to maximize your savings.

11. Wait for Discount Days

You know Black Friday and Cyber Monday are go-to discount days you can expect each year. But there are other discount days and periods throughout the year, such as Prime Day, and on certain holidays like Independence Day, Memorial Day, New Year’s Day, and Presidents Day.

You can also find a ton of discounted seasonal goods immediately after holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. The best finds during these periods are often holiday-specific. But it’s the perfect time to buy discounted decorations and gifts for next year.

Final Word

Saving money when online shopping helps with budgeting and enables you to make strategic purchases. With a little planning, you can get the most bang for your buck through discounts and rewards on brand-name products.

Pay attention to how, where, and when you shop to maximize your savings and snag the best deals.


Cardless Launches Miami Marlins Card ($250 Bonus)

New card issuer Cardless has launched a new credit card in partnership with ‘Miami Marlins‘. Card offers the following:

  • 25,000 points when you spend $2,500 within the first three months
  • No annual fee
  • Card earns at the following:
    • 5% cash back at retail and concessions at loanDepot park
    • 5x points on points on Marlins tickets
    • 3x points on dining, food delivery, gas, and drugstores
    • 1x points on all other purchases
  • Points are worth 1¢ each towards statement credit or 1.25¢ towards marlin gear

Cardless has previously launched Manchester United & Cavaliers Cards.

Hat tip to FM


What Is the Social Security COLA?

For 2021, Social Security benefits increased by 1.3%. That was the smallest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) since 2017 — but consider that, initially, thanks to pandemic-induced price gyrations — retirees were looking at the prospect of no increase at all in 2021. 

The estimated average monthly Social Security benefit payable in January 2021 increased from $1,523 in 2020 to $1,543 — that’s one Andrew Jackson. The average monthly benefit for a couple who are both receiving benefits rose $33, from $2,563 to $2,596. And the maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at full retirement age increased from $3,011 per month to $3,148, an additional $137.

Also, more of workers’ income is subject to the Social Security tax in 2021. The Social Security tax will apply to the first $142,800 of earnings, up $5,100 from $137,700 in 2020.

COLAs are calculated using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (similar to, but not exactly the same as, the urban dwellers’ consumer price index used in inflation reporting). If prices don’t increase and even fall, the COLA is zero. That happened in 2010 and 2011, as the economy struggled to recover from the Great Recession, and again in 2016, when plummeting oil prices swept away any chance of a COLA for that year.

As for 2022, seniors could get a significant increase in their benefits. In May, the Kiplinger Letter forecast that the annual COLA for Social Security benefits for 2022 would be 4.5%, the biggest jump since 2009, when benefits rose 5.8%. 

How Is the 2021 Social Security COLA Calculated?

As mentioned, any COLA adjustment is driven by changes in the wage earners’ consumer price index. National average prices are used, not regional. SSA also calculates the percent change between average prices in the third quarter of the current year with the third quarter of the previous year. The reason the fourth quarter isn’t used is because that number is typically not available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics until mid-January, and the SSA has to make its adjustment on January 1.

History of Social Security COLA Adjustments, 2009-2021

  • 2021: 1.3%
  • 2020: 1.6%
  • 2019: 2.8%
  • 2018: 2.0%
  • 2017: 0.3%
  • 2016: 0%
  • 2015: 1.7%
  • 2014: 1.5%
  • 2013: 1.7%
  • 2012: 3.6%
  • 2011: 0%
  • 2010: 0%
  • 2009: 5.8%