Category Apartment Decorating

Is it Worth it To Refinance Into a 15-Year Mortgage?

If you’re trying to pay off your mortgage loan as quickly as possible, you might be wondering whether to make higher payments each month to get the job done. But can you pay a 30 year mortgage in 15 years? It’s possible, but in many cases it might be easier or cheaper to refinance to a 15-year mortgage instead.

Homeowners often refinance to get a better rate on their mortgage payments, but that’s not the only reason to refinance. You can also refinance to change your mortgage term, too — while still taking advantage of those lower rates.

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When does it make sense to refinance?

There are many times when it makes sense to consider refinancing your mortgage loan.

One of the main drivers behind refinancing is to save money by lowering your interest rate. If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage note and need to find a way to cut down on your mortgage-related costs, you might be able to refinance to a lower interest rate. In most cases, doing so will help you save money on your monthly payments and the total amount you pay in interest over the life of your loan.

Or, if you want to pay off your loan more quickly, you can opt to refinance to a shorter loan term. Refinancing from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan will help you pay off your home a lot faster and save you money in the interim.

In many cases, 15-year mortgages will have lower interest rates than 30-year mortgages, and you’ll be paying interest for a shorter period of time, too. Both help you save money on the total amount of interest you pay, but you’ll need to be sure you can afford the higher monthly payments before you take the leap.

Another reason to refinance is to change your loan from one type to another. Let’s say you bought your home with an adjustable-rate mortgage. If you’re approaching the end of the fixed-rate period of your ARM, you may want to refinance to a fixed-rate loan instead to avoid the fluctuations in interest.

And, sometimes it’s a good idea to refinance so you can tap into your home equity to get access to large sums of cash. This can be necessary if you want to pay off debt, deal with an emergency or take advantage of an unexpected opportunity.

There are plenty of drivers behind refinancing. Ultimately, the reason for refinancing is a personal one, and each person has their own goals and reasons for refinancing. 

Read: When to Refinance Your Mortgage

Is refinancing a good idea when it comes to 15-year mortgages?

Is it worth refinancing to a 15-year mortgage? It can be. There are plenty of reasons to refinance to a 15-year mortgage, and most revolve around time and money.

The benefits of refinancing to a 15-year mortgage include:

  • Lower rates: In many cases, 15-year fixed mortgages will come with lower interest rates than 30-year mortgages, though it will depend on a number of different factors. 
  • Saving money: You can save a lot of money over the life of the loan when you refinance from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan due to a lower interest rate and a shorter period of time in which you’ll be stuck paying interest.
  • Equity: When you’re making larger 15-year mortgage payments, it can help you pay down your interest quickly. You can, in turn, chip away at the loan principal much faster than you could with a longer mortgage term. 
  • Out of debt faster: You’re paying down your mortgage loan in half the time when you switch from a 30- to a 15-year mortgage loan. That means you’ll be out of debt much faster — at least when it comes to your mortgage. 

Drawbacks of refinancing to a 15-year mortgage

There are a few drawbacks to refinancing your mortgage to a 15-year loan. Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? You’ll have to decide the answer on that one, but some of the drawbacks include:

  • Higher monthly payment: Refinancing to a 15-year loan will cost you more each month on your loan payments. You could end up digging a hole that’s hard to get out of or have less money for emergencies or repairs.
  • Close to paying off your loan anyway: If you’re close to paying off your mortgage loan, it could cost more than it’s worth to refinance to a shorter term. You might be better off just paying down your loan faster each month rather than shelling out the money to refi. 
  • Less money for savings or investments: Refinancing could make you so cash strapped that you can’t invest or save as much as you want to. You may be able to make more in earned interest than you’ll save with a refinance, so do the math before you decide. 
  • Other debts are more pressing: If you have a lot of other high-interest debt, it could be worthwhile to pay off your other debt first before refinancing due to what the other debts are costing you in interest.
  • The cost of refinancing: When you refinance you pay closing costs similar to the ones you paid with your first mortgage. Closing costs generally range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount, which can make it too expensive to refinance when weighed against what you’ll save. 

How to refinance your mortgage

If you want to refinance, you can probably complete most of the application and approval process from your home computer.

To refinance your mortgage, you should:

  1. Research lenders, their rates, as well as any fees they charge. You need to narrow it down to the lenders that would work for your needs before blindly submitting applications to refinance your loan.  
  2. Submit all lender mortgage applications within the same general time frame. In general, you’ll have 45 days from the first hard pull to your credit for all other mortgage-related inquiries to be lumped together as one. This will minimize any damage to your credit score from hard pulls. 
  3. Once all offers are in, you need to decide on a lender and lock in an interest rate. Doing this ensures you’ll get the interest rate you want. If you wait, rates can fluctuate and end up costing you more. 
  4. Submit any required paperwork and financial information to get the final approval on your loan. This process can take a while, so make sure you have the documents you’ll need on hand to expedite the process. 
  5. Close on your loan. Closing on a refi will be similar to the first time you closed on your home. You’ll have to pay closing costs and sign the documents to close on the loan. 

Read: How to Offset the New Mortgage Refinance Fees

Is refinancing worth it?

Whether refinancing to a 15-year fixed mortgage is worth it will depend on your goals for refinancing. This type of refi will likely lower your interest rate and shorten the life of your loan

You’ll build equity at a much faster rate than you would with a 30-year loan, but you’ll be paying more each month since you’re paying down your loan in half the time. That can be tough if you’re on a limited budget or your income fluctuates from month to month in a sales or contract position.

It’s worth looking into if your goals align with what the outcome of refinancing would be. At the very least, you should talk to a lender to see what possibilities exist.

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Is New Tech Worth the Cost?

It’s very likely that, at some point, you’ve fallen prey for the desire for a new tech product. You hear about a new technology product and it sounds really cool! It has all of these great features that sound amazing. It’s expensive… but it’s really, really tempting. Should you buy it? Consider these things.

I’ll use myself as an example here. I use almost exclusively Apple products, dating back to my previous job, which was an all-Apple workplace. The synergy between all of the devices is something I like. So, when Apple has new product announcements, I’m often enticed. Is it time for me to buy something new? I’ll use Apple’s most recent product announcement as an example of how to think about tech products.

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What would you do with it that you can’t already do?

The first thing to consider is whether this new tech product would enable you to do something that you can’t already do. Does it really do something new and novel that you couldn’t already do with the things you have? Does a $100 electric toothbrush introduce anything novel, or could you already achieve that by just brushing your teeth well?

When I look at the new Apple products announced at that show, I see a new iMac … but I already have one that does everything I need from it. I see a new iPad, but I already have one that works like a charm. Why would I spend all that money on something that doesn’t do anything that I can’t already do?

Are there less expensive alternatives?

Another thing to consider with a new tech product is whether or not alternatives already exist that cost less money. Many companies like to make a big marketing splash with their new product, but there are often already things much like it already on the market. Truly revolutionary products are rare.

When I look at the recent Apple announcement of AirTags, I’m reminded of the Tiles that already exist. They do practically the same thing and cost a lot less. (In fact, we have a few Tiles around our house already, for things like keys.)

Are you just hoping to impress?

When a new tech item appears, many people have visions of impressing friends and family with the new item. You’ll pull out a new phone and someone will be impressed and want to see it, for example.

The truth is that most people simply don’t think about or notice things about other people too much. We drastically overinflate how much people think about us and how much they notice things about us. It’s called the “spotlight effect.” We see ourselves in the “spotlight” when the truth is, we usually aren’t. That person who is wowed about your gadget usually isn’t wowed by you, but instead merely thinking about purchasing one for themselves.

Are you an early adopter?

What if the tech item really is new? Brand new tech can seem amazing, but there are some drawbacks to being an early adopter.

First, there’s no real-world sense of how truly usable the item is. Does this product actually solve the problems it claims? With a new item, there are no real-world reviews of it, so you’re just trusting marketing hype.

Second, new tech generally has serious bugs that aren’t going to show up in the product demo. While it should mostly work, there are often limitations and errors that you only find while using it. These are usually ironed out in later versions.

A good rule to follow with new technology is to wait for the second version. For example, the initial Fitbit was a great product, but it had a couple of crippling design flaws that caused it to easily break with regular use. Later versions were far better.

Are you afraid of missing out?

A sense of “missing out” comes straight from social pressure. If your friends are all talking about a new gadget, there might be a sense that you’re the only one who’s not getting it, and you fear missing out.

In fact, the fear of missing out in this way is so common it has an acronym — FOMO. It shows up in all kinds of things, not just tech products. FOMO even shows up in investing.

Here’s the thing: If the product is really good, it won’t disappear tomorrow. It will stick around for a long while and likely receive updates and improvements. If you hold off and let your friends get it first, you can find out from them if it really is all it’s cracked up to be, or if it’s forgotten in six months. If it’s great, you can get the next version, which is probably going to be better anyway.

What else could you do with that money?

One final thing to consider is the cost itself. Every time you buy something, it comes with an opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is simply the things you were unable to have because you spent money on something else instead. If you spend $500 on a new tech gadget, that’s $500 you aren’t spending on other things.

Often, realizing opportunity cost leads to financial guilt, but you can avoid that by simply putting some thought into the purchase before you do it. What else might you do with that money? Could you invest it? Could you pay down debt? Is there a more vital purchase in your life that you could make?

One good approach is to give yourself a 30-day waiting period before making a purchase. If you still want the item after 30 days, then buy it. Likely, you’ll find that the strong desire has faded and you’ve found other, more worthwhile uses for the money.

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6 Costs of Working and How To Save on Those Expenses

Most of us work in order to make money so that we can afford our basic needs and some of our wants. We do the job we do for that paycheck.

However, your job has expenses:

  • Child care. 
  • Transportation. 
  • Wardrobe. 
  • Food. 
  • Travel. 
  • De-stressing. 

All of those are expenses that we face simply by working a job for money. Those expenses eat away at how much of our pay we actually get to keep.

If your job has a very steep cost of working, it might be worth considering a different job, one that pays less but has a much lower cost of working. Even if your job’s cost of working is reasonable, there are ways to cut those costs down to size and keep more of your paycheck.

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The cost (or expenses) of working

Child care costs

If you have children, you already know that being a parent is a huge financial responsibility, and child care is one big part of that. Your job likely requires you to provide some sort of care for your child while at work. Public schools can cover some of that gap for older children, but for parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, the cost of child care can be immense. For some, this cost alone is enough to have one parent exit the workforce for a few years.

How to cut child care costs:

  • Consider doing a child care exchange with a friend a day or two a week. On a day you have off, you watch their children, and on a day they have off, they watch your children. This reduces the number of days you have to pay for child care.
  • Ask a grandparent or relative for help. They may be willing to watch the child sometimes for a very reasonable fee, or even for free.
  • Discuss different schedules with your employer. Can you switch to a schedule where the amount of time that at least one parent is at home increases, thus decreasing the amount of child care needed?

Transportation costs

If your commute requires a car, your work expense includes depreciation on your car, part of the cost of insurance, fuel costs, part of the costs of maintenance on your car and part of the cost of registration. For many families, the reason for owning a second (or third) car is simply commuting for work.

How to cut transportation costs:

  • Use mass transit. Take the bus, the train or the subway to work.
  • Carpool. Find coworkers, or others who work near where you do, that also happen to live close to you, and take turns driving to work. This can drastically reduce commuting costs.
  • Use a bike, or walk. If you live close to your workplace, a bicycle or even a walk can get you there instead of using a car. (It’s good exercise, too.)
  • Ask your employer about remote work options. Yes, many people all over the world did this during COVID and either loved or hated it. However, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Consider remote work two or three days a week.

Wardrobe costs

Many workplaces have a dress code, so part of the cost of work is investing in clothes that match that dress code. If you work at a restaurant, for example, you may have to invest in white dress shirts. If you work in an office, you may need suits. 

How to cut wardrobe costs:

  • Work remotely. The dress code at home or at the coffee shop is often much more relaxed than at the office.
  • Buy clothing that mixes and matches well. This enables you to buy fewer pieces of clothing because, by mixing and matching, you can create the appearance of more outfits.
  • Buy sturdy, well-made clothes. Know how to identify well-made clothes. For example, well-made clothes have very neat seams.

Food costs

For most jobs, the time at work overlaps at least one meal. If your workplace has a culture  that involves eating together, this can actually create a sizable expense. There’s also an ongoing expense if you tend to stop for a snack on the way to work or the way home from work.

How to cut food costs:

  • Take leftovers or your own “brown bag” lunch to work, and encourage others to do so. Try to start a culture of eating together in or near your workplace rather than going out.
  • Take advantage of food provided by your company in the kitchen. Bring your own items as well to mix things up.
  • Have snacks in your car or work bag. Keep a few granola bars or other items in your car or in your work bag. That can keep the hunger at bay so you’re not tempted to stop for something much more expensive during your commute.
  • Work remotely. It makes eating quite cheap if you can just eat at home.

Travel costs

Some jobs require travel. While workplaces do tend to reimburse some travel costs, there are still usually extra costs involved for things you didn’t plan for. This can eat away at your finances.

How to cut travel costs:

  • Know the reimbursement rules. Know exactly what you can and can’t get reimbursed for, and stay carefully within your reimbursement limits.
  • Be selective with travel. Look for alternatives to travel for less important trips. Can these meetings be done virtually?
  • Use a good travel packing checklist to make sure you don’t overlook things you need. Here’s a great travel packing checklist to get you started.

De-stressing costs

Many jobs are stressful, and that stress seeps into your daily life. People leave work mentally and/or physically exhausted and need something to help them unwind and relax. Often, those de-stressing activities are expensive. They don’t have to be.

How to cut destressing costs:

  • Try different approaches to de-stressing that don’t involve spending money. For example, try an after-work walk or a meditation session.
  • Take care of your health. Get a good night of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and get more fruits and vegetables on your plate. Get some exercise. Even low-intensity stuff like walking is great. These moves will help you handle stress better.
  • Consider what specific elements of your job cause the most stress and attempt to address them head-on. Talk to your supervisor about those elements and see if there’s something you can come up with together to permanently fix it.

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The Average Cost of Home Insurance

We’ll get straight to the point: The cost of home insurance varies widely, but the average American homeowner pays $1,249 a year in premiums, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s 2018 figures, the most recent available.

(This is based on the HO-3 homeowner package policy for owner-occupied dwellings, 1 to 4 family units. It provides all risks coverage (except those specifically excluded in the policy) on buildings and broad named-peril coverage on personal property, and is the most common package written.)

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Home insurance premiums can vary widely in part because of:

  • Your location
  • Your history of claims
  • Your credit score
  • The age and condition of your home

However, there are ways that homeowners can save money on their insurance costs, which we’ll get into. We’ll also walk through which areas in the U.S. are the cheapest and most expensive, typical coverages and more.

[ Read: Home Insurance Quotes, Explained ]

How much does home insurance cost by state?

As you can see below, the average home insurance premium varies widely by state. As you might expect, weather events figure big in the average annual premium by state, although there are other factors, of course, such as your credit score and the age of the home. The figures in this table come from 2018 data provided by the Insurance Information Institute.

State Rank Average annual premium State Rank Average annual premium State Rank Average annual premium
Ala. 13 $1,409 Ky. 26 $1,152 N.D. 18 $1,293
Alaska 36 $984  La. 1 $1,987 Ohio 44 $874
Ariz. 46 $843 Maine 42 $905 Okla. 4 $1,944
Ark. 12 $1,419 Md. 32 $1,071 Ore. 51 $706
Calif. 31 $1,073 Mass. 10 $1,543 Pa. 40 $943
Colo. 7 $1,616 Mich. 38 $981 R.I. 5 $1,630
Conn. 11 $1,494 Minn. 14 $1,400 S.C. 19 $1,284
Del. 45 $873 Miss. 8 $1,578 S.D. 20 $1,280
D.C. 21 $1,264 Mo. 15 $1,383 Tenn. 23 $1,232
Fla. 2 $1,960 Mont. 22 $1,237 Texas 3 $1,955
Ga. 17 $1,313 Neb. 9 $1,569 Utah 50 $730
Hawaii 27 $1,140 Nev. 48 $776 Vt. 41 $935
Idaho 49 $772 N.H. 36 $984 Va. 34 $1,026
Ill. 28 $1,103 N.J. 24 $1,209 Wash. 43 $881
Ind. 33 $1,030 N.M. 30 $1,075 W.Va. 39 $970
Iowa 35 $987 N.Y. 16 $1,321 Wis. 47 $814
Kansas 6 $1,617 N.C. 28 $1,103 Wy. 25 $1,187

Based on the HO-3 homeowner package policy for owner-occupied dwellings, 1 to 4 family units. Provides all risks coverage (except those specifically excluded in the policy) on buildings and broad named-peril coverage on personal property, and is the most common package written.

Most expensive states in home insurance premiums

Below are the most expensive average home insurance premiums by state, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s figures from 2018. Premiums can vary widely within the state, and of course, there are more factors in your premium than the location of your home.

  • Louisiana: $1,987
  • Florida: $1,960
  • Texas: $1,955
  • Oklahoma: $1,944
  • Rhode Island: $1,630

Cheapest states in home insurance premiums

Below are the cheapest average home insurance premiums by state, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s figures from 2018. Premiums can vary widely within each state, and of course, there are more factors in your premium than the location of your home.

  • Wisconsin: $814
  • Nevada: $776
  • Idaho: $772
  • Utah: $730
  • Oregon: $706

What determines the cost of homeowners insurance?

The cost of an individual homeowners insurance policy is determined by a wide range of factors. Some of those factors are within your control, and some of them are not. 

For instance, home insurance can be more expensive in areas with a high risk of flooding or fires than in places where natural disasters are uncommon. Newer homes often cost less to insure than older dwellings — especially those in need of repairs. Insurance companies also look at your personal credit history before covering your home, so people with good credit histories could receive a lower premium than those with poor credit histories.

Every insurance company calculates rates differently. Some carriers place a higher value on credit score and claims history, while others look more closely at the condition and age of the home. Below is a more comprehensive list of the considerations that might determine your homeowners insurance premium.

[ Read: The Best Homeowners Insurance Companies ]

  • State, city and neighborhood: Some states are more prone to wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes than others.
  • Location of home: This information is pulled for crime and claim statistics in your home’s area.
  • Construction of the home: Is the home made out of wood, brick, or vinyl siding?
  • Heating system: Is the home heated with an HVAC or wood stove?
  • Security system: Homes with security systems might be less likely to be broken into.
  • Previous claims on the home: If the home has a history of water and electrical issues, then the homeowner may be more likely to file a future claim.
  • Homeowner’s previous claims: If the homeowner has a history with other insurance companies, he or she may be more likely file a claim again in the not-so-distant future.
  • Credit score: People with low credit scores may be more likely to file a claim.
  • Nearest fire station: The distance between your home and the nearest fire station can be a factor.
  • Marital status: Married couples are statistically less likely to file claims with insurance companies.
  • Replacement cost: The cost to replace an older home and bring it up to code can be more expensive than replacing a new home.
  • Pets: Certain animals might be considered a greater risk for liability claims.
  • Outside structures: Things like pools, sheds or greenhouses can also affect your policy rate.

Aside from these factors, the cost of an individual policy can also be determined by which features you chose to include in your coverage. A few of the options that can affect the cost are:

  • Deductible amount
  • Extra coverage add-ons
  • Bundled insurance policies
  • Discounts

[ More: Complete Guide to Home Insurance ]

Types of coverage

There are many different types of homeowners insurance coverage. Some coverages, like dwelling and liability coverage, can come standard with most policies. But insurance companies also often sell add-on policies that offer protection in certain areas. Here are some of the most common home insurance coverages you might find:

  • Dwelling coverage is insurance that covers qualified damages to the home itself. If the siding of your home tore off in a major storm, dwelling insurance might cover the cost of repairs. Insurance companies might sell add-ons for roof damage, water back/sump pump overflow, flood insurance and earthquake insurance.
  • Personal property coverage pertains to the cost of replacing possessions in your home, such as furniture. If someone broke into your home and stole personal items, personal property coverage might reimburse you. If you need to protect valuables, your agent might recommend you purchase a scheduled personal property endorsement for higher coverage limits.
  • Personal liability coverage protects against lawsuits for property damage or injury. If a delivery driver slipped and fell on your icy driveway, liability coverage might pay for their medical expenses and court costs if they sued you. Some insurance companies offer add-on policies that extend your liability coverage limits.
  • Loss of use coverage might cover additional living expenses you have after your home has been damaged. This might include hotel stays, groceries and gas while your home is being repaired. If your house is under construction after a covered claim, loss of use coverage might pay for your temporary hotel and food expenses up to your policy’s limit.

Generally speaking, your agent may recommend that your home insurance coverages be based on your lifestyle, where you live and the value of your assets.

Keep in mind that your agent may recommend you add coverage as time goes on. If you adopt a puppy six months after you purchase your home insurance policy, your agent may recommend you add pet coverage when the time comes. Or, if you take on a remote job, you can contact your insurance company and see if you should add home business coverage for a small fee.

Every home insurance coverage has a policy limit. A policy limit is the highest amount of money your insurance company will give you after a covered loss. For example, if your dwelling coverage limit is $400,000, that may limit how much is paid out if your home is damaged or destroyed by a covered peril to no more than $400,000, although factors like your deductible may come into play.

When you purchase a home insurance policy, you may be able to set your own policy limits. As a rule of thumb, you may be recommended to have enough dwelling coverage to rebuild your home in its current state, enough personal property coverage to cover the full value of your personal items and enough liability coverage to protect your personal assets.  

[ Read: What is Dwelling Insurance? ]

Reimbursement coverage types

There are three different coverage options commonly provided by home insurance companies. Each option affects your premium differently.

  • Actual cash value (ACV) is based on the current market value, or how much your home and personal property is worth, with depreciation factored in. Most home insurance policies offer ACV reimbursement by default. It can be the lowest option.  
  • Replacement cost value (RCV) works in the same way as ACV, but without depreciation factored in. That means you might get a higher payout after a covered claim. RCV home insurance policies can be more expensive than ACV policies, and you may need to purchase an endorsement to get it. Your agent may recommend this if you own valuables or have an expensive home.
  • Guaranteed replacement cost (GRC) is also referred to as extended replacement cost (ERC), and this option can cover the complete cost of rebuilding the home, even if that cost exceeds the policy limit. GRC can be the most expensive replacement cost type, and not all insurance companies offer it. Your agent may recommend this if you live in areas with extreme weather, wildfires, earthquakes or any place where home destruction is more likely. 

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Discounts and ways to save on home insurance

Homeowners insurance can be costly, so before selecting a plan, shop around to find the best deal based on your needs. It can be helpful to consult an insurance agent, read consumer reviews and check online insurance quotes to find companies with the lowest rates. Here are some other ways to save money on home insurance:

  1. Ask about available discounts: Some companies offer discounted policy rates if your home is in a gated community, if you bundle with your car insurance or if you’re part of a homeowner’s association.
  2. Bundle your insurance policies: Oftentimes, companies that sell home, auto and life coverage may deduct up to 15% off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them.
  3. Make your home safer: Some providers may offer a discount if you install fixtures that make your home safer, such as smoke alarms or a security system, that reduce the likelihood that damage or theft will occur in the first place.

How do past claims impact home insurance cost?

It depends on the nature of the claim. Just how much a claim raises your premium varies in part on the provider and the nature of the claim.

There are also further complications when you make the same type of claim twice. Not only can this increase what you pay each month, but, depending on you and your home’s history, it’s possible the provider may even decide to drop you.

Though your premium may increase if you are found at fault, it’s also possible for your monthly bill to increase even if you’re not found to be liable. Your home may be considered riskier to insure than other homes.

Home insurance cost FAQs

No, states do not require homeowners to get insurance when they purchase a home. However, if you choose to get a mortgage loan, most lenders will require you to have some insurance.

To determine how much coverage you should purchase, talk to your agent about your home inventory, your overall worth, and of course, comfort level. Also discuss factoring in the location of your home, and evaluate risks based on weather, fires and other events that could potentially damage or destroy your home.

There are a few ways to potentially get home insurance discounts. Discount options include things like:

  • Bundling your home insurance policy with another policy (such as auto).
  • Going claims free for extended periods of time.
  • Making certain home improvements.
  • Living in a gated community.
  • Installing a security system.

In 2018, 34.4% of home insurance losses were wind and hail related, 32.7% were fire or lightning related and 23.8% were water damage or freezing claims. Only 1% of claims were related to theft, and less than 2% of losses were liability claims. These figures are according to the Insurance Information Institute.

In Florida the most common claims may be related to hurricanes, wind damage, water damage and flooding. In California, earthquake, flood and wildfire claims may be more common. When you purchase insurance, talk to an agent about the specific risks in your area and ask about separate insurance policies you might need, like flood or earthquake coverage.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at with comments or questions.


100 Ways To Save Money Fast

Lasting financial success takes time. It takes time for investments to accumulate, for the power of compound interest to work and for career moves to pay off.

The problem is that when you face a financial crisis, you usually don’t have a lot of time. Bills are piling up. Debtors are calling. A big expense just got dumped on your plate. You need to make financial changes, and fast.

In those situations, frugality is the key. Effective ways to cut your spending without drastically cutting your quality of life is what you need. Choose from among these tips and apply them to your life where they make sense to cut your spending down so that you have the resources to get your bills paid and stabilize your financial situation.

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100 ways to save money fast

  1. Write a list before you go shopping. Before you go into a store for any reason, make a list of what you intend to buy. A grocery list will help you keep focus there, but it’s good for niche stores, too, like bookstores or clothing shops. Do any research about sales or which item to buy before you enter.
  1. Find a better bank. Ideally, your bank should have no-fee checking, a wide ATM network and good online banking services. If your bank regularly hits you with account maintenance fees or ATM fees, look for another bank. Here are some great full service banks that offer these features and some great online-only banks that excel at online banking in particular.
  1. Turn off the television. Television consumes electricity, usually involves a costly service and is laden with advertisements even within the shows themselves (product placement). Consider watching less television and replacing that time with something else, like many of the items on this list.
  1. Stop collecting, and start selling. Rather than accumulating more and more possessions (meaning you have less and less time and energy to give to each one), consider aiming for a small number of possessions that you really love and use. Start by selling off some of your unused stuff.
  1. Sign up for free customer rewards programs. If you’re already making a purchase at a store, see if they offer a free customer rewards program and, if they do, sign up. Create a new email address just for these rewards programs so your regular email isn’t overwhelmed with offers, then check that email if you’re considering making a purchase. These programs will often result in discounts and rewards on things you’re already going to buy.
  1. Pay off your rewards credit card in full each month. If you’re a credit card user, get into the habit of paying off your card in full each month. This ensures you’re not hit with finance charges or interest. Once you’re in that habit, focus on using a rewards credit card that matches your spending habits so that the rewards are a pure benefit for you.
  1. Master the 30-day rule. The 30-day rule means if you’re about to make a major purchase (say, anything over $20) that isn’t absolutely necessary, wait 30 days before you buy. Stick that item on a wishlist somewhere, and come back to it in 30 days. If you still want it, go for it! If you don’t want it any more, then you’ll have saved yourself a lot of cash on something you didn’t even really want! This is a great way to get around bad buying impulses.
  1. Master the 10-second rule, too. The 10-second rule simply states that if you’re about to make any purchase, think for 10 seconds about why you shouldn’t buy it. Do you really need it? Do you already have something like it? Can you borrow something like it? If you begin to have doubts, just put the item down. You can always buy it some other time!
  1. Invite friends over. There’s a strong temptation to go somewhere for social events, but going somewhere often results in having to spend money just to enjoy someone else’s company. Instead, mix it up sometimes and have friends over. Have a movie night at home. Borrow from strategy #74 and have a low-cost dinner party.
  1. Repair clothing. Many minor clothing issues are easily resolved with a bit of thread and a needle. Rather than tossing a shirt with a fraying seam or a missing button, do the simple repair yourself and get a lot more life out of that garment.
  1. Don’t spend big money entertaining your children. This is particularly true for younger children, but often older ones as well. Children mostly want time, not stuff. If you prompt them for stuff, they’ll come up with a list, of course, but it’s time together that they really crave. 
  1. Pay off your credit cards. Avoid putting additional money on your credit cards until they’re paid off. Every charge you make on a credit card pushes the balance in the wrong direction, increasing the interest you’ll owe. Learn to live on the cash in your checking account.
  1. Negotiate rates with your credit card company. If you’re carrying a credit card balance, talk to your credit card issuer about lowering the interest rate. 
  1. Transfer your credit card balance via a zero interest offer. If #13 doesn’t work for you, look for a zero interest balance transfer offer. This will allow you to move your balance to a new card, and that balance will be interest free for a time, often 12 or 18 months. When you make payments on it, all of the money goes to reducing the balance instead of vanishing in the form of interest payments.
  1. Clean out your closets. Pull everything out of your closets and storage spaces, figure out what items you actually want to keep, and put those back. Everything that’s still out of the closet should be sold off. Take that money and use it to pay down debts.
  1. Drink more water and less soda and juice. Water is incredibly inexpensive. Juice and soda cost more. Furthermore, juice and soda can have long-term health consequences. 
  1. Skip fast food. Fast food is convenient and it seems like a good deal sometimes, but in terms of the calories you get, it’s not a great deal. Buy a box of granola bars and keep some in your car if you want a convenient and much cheaper snack option when you’re out and about. Use other meal prep strategies in this article when you’re dining at home.
  1. Quit smoking and drink less. Alcohol and tobacco are all vices that damage your long-term health while also costing you financially. Dump those habits! 
  1. Save soups and casseroles. When you make soups or casseroles, make some extra batches and freeze the extras. This makes for an easy and quick meal when you’re busy.
  1. Use the library. The library offers free books for checkout, sure, but did you know that many libraries allow you to check out things like DVDs and Blu-rays and tools and other equipment? Libraries also have free clubs, presentations and other activities.
  1. Turn off the lights. A 75-watt lightbulb eats up approximately one kilowatt-hour of energy every 13 hours. A kilowatt-hour of energy costs you $0.13. So, if you leave many bulbs on for long, it starts to add up. The solution is twofold: Turn your lights off when you leave rooms, and install energy-efficient LED bulbs that provide similar lighting for much less cost.
  1. Lower your thermostat. Rather than setting your thermostat to “perfectly comfortable,” aim for a temperature that’s a little lower in the winter and a little higher in the summer. Wear a sweatshirt in the winter, and take off your shoes and socks in the summer.
  1. Open the windows. Rather than using energy to achieve a livable temperature in your home, open the windows and keep ceiling fans running. That will use far less energy than your AC or furnace. Use them only in the most extreme times, when open windows and fans aren’t cutting it.
  1. Run your ceiling fans in the correct direction. There are a number of great energy saving ceiling fan tricks, but this one is likely the best. There’s a little switch on your fan that sets the direction that the blades turn. In the winter, you want the blades to spin clockwise when you look up at them. In the summer, you want them spinning counterclockwise. This keeps warm air in the middle of the room in winter and cool air in the middle of the room in summer.
  1. Buy appliances based on reliability. Reliability should be the top factor that you consider when buying home appliances if you want to maximize your dollars. Use Consumer Reports for reliability data and stick to models and manufacturers with great reliability scores for the type of appliance you’re buying. When you buy an appliance that lasts 15 years instead of 10, you’re buying only two of them over the course of 30 years instead of three.
  1. Use the grocery store flyer. This is the core strategy for effective low-cost meal planning for busy families. Each week, grab the grocery store flyer from your store of choice, identify some on-sale ingredients you want to use, and make a meal plan based on them. Then, build your grocery list from that plan.
  1. Switch to your local discount grocery store. Do a price comparison of local grocers by buying a week’s worth of groceries from each and comparing prices on the common things. Start shopping at the one with the lowest average prices. Some discount grocers include Aldi, Fareway, and Lidl.
  1. Don’t browse at stores for entertainment. “Retail therapy” is something many people practice, but it actually makes financial problems worse, not better. Find other ways to entertain and de-stress, like going on hikes or giving yourself blocks of uninterrupted free time for hobbies.
  1. Choose a hobby that involves making things. Move away from hobbies that orient toward collecting and consuming things and more toward hobbies that involve doing or making things. Some examples of hobbies that center around making things that are easy and low cost to get started are baking, cooking, knitting, crocheting and making fermented foods.
  1. Make a maintenance schedule. A home, auto and appliance maintenance checklist is a combined list of all ongoing maintenance tasks. Go through the list once a month and take care of everything that’s due. This extends the life of your cars and appliances and makes costly home repairs much less frequent.
  1. Cancel unused subscriptions and memberships. Got any magazines you don’t read? Gym or other club memberships you don’t use? What about streaming services? Cancel them! Go through your bank and credit card statements to make sure you haven’t missed any!
  1. Look for a used option first. Whenever you’re considering buying anything nonperishable, consider looking for a used option first. Of course, this won’t always be a great fit, but it works for a lot of things, from musical instruments and sporting goods to small kitchen appliances and clothes.
thrift store teacupsthrift store teacups
From tea cups to T-shirts, make it a habit to shop used first and you’ll often find what you’re looking for at a big discount. Photo: Laura D’Alessandro
  1. Shop around for a new insurance package. Homeowners insurance and auto insurance are always big expenses. There’s a lot of money that can be saved by shopping around and getting discounts for switching. Here’s how to shop around for car insurance and homeowners insurance.
  1. Remove your credit card numbers from your online accounts. Having your credit card number stored in an online account might seem convenient, but it’s actually a temptation. It makes it just so easy to tap a few times and make a purchase. 
  1. Do holiday shopping right after holidays. Right after a holiday, decorations and other items related to that holiday go on steep discount at lots of stores. Buy Christmas paper and lights right after Christmas. Buy spooky Halloween items right after Halloween. Buy egg-dyeing kits right after Easter. Then, just put them in storage until next year.
  1. Join a volunteer program. Spending your free time doing volunteer work means that not only are you doing things that don’t cost you money, you’re likely also learning useful skills along the way. For example, a day spent working on a Habitat for Humanity house is a free day of activity, plus you learn some useful carpentry skills.
  1. Try generic or store brand versions of items. Rather than buying the familiar name brand version of everything, give the store brand version a try. You’ll often find that the store brands work just as well and you’ll save going forward. 
  1. Switch to term life insurance. Term life insurance protects your family in the case of unexpected death.
  1. Make as many meals as you can at home. Cooking at home is almost always cheaper than eating out. The drawback, of course, is the labor and the know-how. The solution is to get into the cooking groove by making simple, inexpensive, but tasty meals at first until you get the kitchen skills.
  1. Buy cars based on reliability and fuel efficiency. When you’re purchasing a car, focus on reliability and fuel efficiency. Reliability means fewer repairs and a longer lifespan, particularly if you follow the maintenance schedule, and fuel efficiency means fewer stops at the gas pump.
  1. Swap babysitting with your neighbors. If you have young children, babysitting is an ongoing cost. One great solution is to talk to the parents of your children’s friends and discuss regular babysitting swaps, giving you and your partner a free date night. 
  1. Learn to jazz up leftovers. Almost all leftovers can be used effectively. Many meals can just be directly reheated, but what about spare items? Here are smart ways to use leftover bread and leftover rotisserie chicken!
  1. Cut down your wardrobe. By this, I don’t mean that you should toss out everything you don’t wear. Instead, put most of your wardrobe into storage and wear a small subset of your clothes until they start to wear out, then “shop” for replacements in storage. This way, you don’t have to buy clothes for a very long time.
  1. “Brown bag” your lunch. Instead of eating out for lunch with coworkers, bring your own lunch from home. Encourage your coworkers to do the same thing so that you can enjoy camaraderie while eating together.
  1. Try making repairs yourself. Instead of throwing up your hands and calling a repair person as soon as there’s a problem, try fixing it yourself. Start by looking at YouTube for a video on how to handle the problem and, if it looks possible, give it a shot. Many simple repairs are quite easy, like fixing most plugged toilets or handling a leaky faucet.
  1. Get in the habit of taking notes on your phone. Whenever you have a good idea for saving money or anything else you might want to remember, jot it down on your phone. Then, once every day or two, review it. This will keep good bargains or money-saving ideas from slipping your mind.
  1. Move to a lower cost-of-living area. If you can find work in a different area, make the conscious decision to move to an area with a lower cost of living, particularly if you can maintain your salary. This is a great option if you work remotely.
  1. Look for free events. Check out your city’s website as well as any free local newspapers. Both are great sources for free events in your town: free concerts, community festivals, business grand openings.
  1. Properly inflate your car tires. Underinflated tires increase friction with the road, which means faster wear on your tires and worse fuel efficiency. Once a month, check the air pressure in your tires and fill them to the maximum recommended pressure.
  1. Ride a bicycle. Want to cut down on your transportation costs? Use a bicycle for your commute or, if you have detachable bags on your bike, use it for simple errands like groceries. 
  1. Take public transportation. If you live in a city, you can save a ton of money on fuel, car wear, and parking by simply using public transportation options. 
  1. Walk. If your destination is just a mile or two away, consider walking instead of driving. 
  1. Carpool. If you consistently commute to your workplace (or some other place), see if there are others who consistently commute there as well, at similar times. If so, work out a carpool arrangement. If you can ride-share twice a week, that means a 20% reduction in wear on your car and fuel costs due to work each week.
  1. Cut your own hair. If you have a simple, short haircut, it’s easy to cut your own hair with clippers and a mirror. Simple, longer haircuts can be done with scissors and a mirror, but are often better done with someone else. Save stylists and barbers for more complex hairstyles.
  1. Get a slow cooker. A slow cooker is one of the best investments for your kitchen. There are countless slow cooker recipes that require you to mix in a bunch of ingredients and set the slow cooker on low before you go to work, then come home to a delicious meal.
  1. Buy staples in bulk. You can save a lot of money buying nonperishable food items and household supplies in bulk, provided you consistently use them and have a place to store them. Buy large quantities of these items on sale or buy the largest bulk packages you can and you’ll usually save money.
Costco detergentCostco detergent
Buy generic products, and buy them in bulk — especially if they’re non-perishable. Photo: bnilsen
  1. Pay attention to price per unit. Although bulk buying usually saves money, it’s not always true. Learn how to compare the prices of items per unit, not just the sticker price. Compare food items by serving or by weight, and many household items by use. 
  1. Eliminate unused services. Take every bill you get regularly and go through it line by line, looking for any charges you don’t use or don’t understand. Contact the issuer of the bill and request that the items be eliminated.
  1. Cut the cord of cable/satellite television. If you’re watching less television (see tip #3), why not just eliminate cable/satellite television entirely? Replace it with over the air television and a streaming service or two and you’ll save quite a bit per month.
  1. Consolidate your student loans. Consolidating your student loans into a single loan with a locked-in low interest rate can make your monthly student loan payments lower while also saving you money over the long haul.
  1. Use a simple razor. Instead of using a cartridge razor with expensive cartridges, or an electric razor that’s very expensive to begin with and uses expensive blades, try switching to an old-fashioned safety razor. The individual blades are very inexpensive, cutting your cost per shave down to literal pennies. It takes practice, but you can get a perfect, amazingly close shave with a safety razor.
  1. Go through your employee benefits in detail. If your job provided you with an employee handbook, look through it carefully and see if there are any benefits you’ve overlooked.
  1. Make your own cleaning supplies. Many home cleaning supplies are easily made with just a few inexpensive products. For example, you can put 2 cups of water and 1/4 cup white vinegar in a spray bottle and it makes a fantastic window cleaner.
  1. Have a money-free weekend. A money-free weekend is a full weekend, from Friday evening to Monday morning, where you commit to not spending any money at all. It’s not nearly as tricky as it seems and you might just pick up a new hobby or interest along the way.
  1. Don’t speed. Driving significantly above the speed limit only saves you a moment or two at best on shorter drives, introduces an increased risk of speeding tickets and an increased risk of accidents, and eats up more fuel to boot.
  1. Buy a smaller house. A bigger house means a bigger mortgage, bigger insurance rates, bigger property taxes, bigger utility bills and bigger maintenance costs. Consider a smaller home, and remember that most of the difference in space would just be used to store stuff you don’t really need.
  1. Optimize your commute. Make sure that you’re driving the most efficient commute to and from work, aiming to minimize mileage and temptations. The best commute is the one that takes you directly home with the shortest distance, ideally not going near places where you’re tempted to stop. 
  1. Always ask for fees to be waived. Whenever you get an invoice or a statement with extra fees tacked on, ask what they are and, if you can’t see the point, ask for them to be waived.
  1. Eat less meat and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Meat is far more expensive per calorie than most fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and shifting to less meat will reduce your food bill. 
  1. Air seal your home. This means going to every window and door frame in your house and making sure that no air is leaking through. This prevents cool air from escaping your home in the summer and keeps warm air inside during the winter, causing your AC and furnace to run less. Most of the steps are really inexpensive and just involve a caulking gun and a tube of caulk. Here’s a great guide to air sealing your home.
  1. Plan “looser” vacations. When you plan a vacation, make it more “loose” than you normally would. Rather than pre-filling every day with tons of activities, loosen it up and let serendipity strike you when you’re traveling. You’ll often find free things to do and unexpected things to see when you’re out exploring.
  1. Sign up for the automatic repayment plan for your student loans. Many student loans offer an interest rate reduction if you sign up for automatic payments. It will not only reduce your monthly bill (or reduce your number of payments), it will also ensure that you’re not late in the future out of forgetfulness.
  1. Change your oil and air filter on your car. These are car maintenance tasks that you can pull off yourself with simple tools. Your car manual (and YouTube) will show you everything you need to know. 
  1. Have a potluck dinner party. Invite people to have dinner with you and ask them to bring plenty of a side dish and/or a beverage and/or an item for the grill. This means you only have to cover a portion of the food and everyone gets to have an inexpensive delicious meal with friends.
  1. Pack food and beverages for road trips. If you’re going on a road trip, buy snacks and beverages at the grocery store in advance. If it’s a long trip, pack a meal, too. Keeping yourself out of convenience stores and fast food places will save you cash.
  1. Consider the possibility of downsizing a car. Do you have two or three cars? Could your household operate with one fewer car? How often are all autos in use? If it’s rare, are there ways around those situations? 
  1. Make your hobbies geared toward participation. Many hobbies, such as reading, board games, video games or hiking, can easily turn into a collecting hobby (which is expensive) rather than a participation hobby (which isn’t). Set hobby goals for yourself centered around actually doing things rather than accumulating stuff. Make a list of books you’ve read and aim to add to it, or a list of trails you’ve hiked, or video games you’ve conquered.
  1. Get into a “meal-prep Sunday” routine. Set aside a few hours each Sunday to make meals in advance for the week ahead and beyond. This encourages more eating at home by freeing up time when you’re super-busy (weeknight evenings) and doing those tasks when you’re not so busy (Sunday afternoons).
  1. Have a “make ahead meal” party. With some planning, you can turn your “meal-prep Sunday” into a social event. Invite some friends who are also into meal prepping and share some of the tasks. This can actually make it easier to buy lots of ingredients in bulk, too, such as large bags of rice.
  1. Invest in a deep freezer to store more “make ahead” and bulk foods. If you get into a routine with make ahead meals, you might find a deep freezer to be a great investment. You can fill that freezer with meals made in advance as well as take advantage of food sales.
  1. When your furnace or AC fails, look at geothermal options. In many areas, geothermal heating and cooling can actually be much more cost efficient than a traditional AC or furnace. Such systems rely on a steady temperature deep underground to efficiently heat or cool your home.
  1. Cancel your landline. Unless there’s a strong reason to keep your landline, cancel it if you have a cellphone.
  1. Take a class each month to learn a money-saving skill. Devote some time each month toward learning a skill that can save you money in the long run. YouTube can help. Spend some time learning how to cook something you’ve struggled with, or how to fix a toilet, or how to repair a leaky faucet. Learn these things when there’s not a crisis so that you feel prepared to handle the problem when there is one.
  1. Anticipate replacement needs. Don’t wait until something is broken before you start thinking about replacing it. If you’re doing a maintenance schedule (see #30), you’re very likely to notice major problems starting to crop up before they become a crisis. 
  1. Keep an ongoing grocery list. Whenever you notice something you need, jot it down. This increases trust in your grocery list (tip #1) so that you spend less time in the store tempted by impulse buys and can focus on your list instead.
  1. Do authoritative research on expensive purchases. Take the time to stop by the library and look at their archives of Consumer Reports or other trusted publications.
  1. Use a pump bottle in the shower. Most shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap bottles dispense far too much at a time, meaning most of it just runs down the drain. Get a pump bottle for each, fill it up, and use a couple of pumps when you need them. 
  1. Get a roommate. Having a roommate can significantly reduce your rent or mortgage, your utilities, and even other expenses depending on how you share things.
  1. When you shop for clothes, start at secondhand stores. Don’t just rush for expensive full-priced clothing stores when you need new pants, shirts, blouses, or dresses. Instead, start by examining the racks at secondhand stores, then move to discount and clearance racks.
  1. Ask around on social media. Don’t just go buy something you discover that you need. If a secondhand version is fine, ask your social circle if anyone has this thing stowed away in their closet. 
  1. Plan a camping vacation. Camping is an extremely inexpensive vacation if you have the necessary gear. If you want to try out camping and see if it’s for you, borrow gear and give it a whirl. If it clicks, then start slowly investing in camping gear. You’ll either have one very cheap vacation, or you’ll open a door into a lot of them!
  1. Widen your search range when booking hotels. If you need a hotel room for some reason, don’t just focus on hotels in the exact city where you need to be. You might find far less expensive hotels if you’re willing to drive 10 or 20 miles each day.
  1. Consider generic medications. If you take a name-brand medication, talk to your doctor and see if there is a generic version of that medication that can meet your needs. Generic medications can save you a ton of money on your prescription costs.
  1. Go where you can haggle. For example, if you need to buy fresh vegetables, go to a farmer’s market. If you buy several items from one vendor, you can often haggle a little on the price. 
  1. Save worn clothes. When an article of clothing becomes too worn for professional use or for wearing socially, you can still wear them around the house or when working out. Old button-up shirts are perfect for cleaning the house, for example, as there’s no crisis if you damage them.
  1. Make a debt repayment plan. A debt repayment plan is an organized list of all of your debts, usually listed from highest interest rate to lowest. Make minimum payments on each debt and make a big extra payment each month on the highest one on the list.
  1. Have an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a pool of cash set aside to handle emergencies. The best way to build one is to do it automatically, with a small automated weekly transfer from your checking account. Leave it alone until you need it!
  1. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re going to make mistakes during your financial turnaround. Don’t beat yourself up over spending too much. Just aim to do better tomorrow. 
  1. Always keep looking ahead. Focus on what you can do going forward, not what you did in the past. We all have financial regrets, but we can’t go back and undo them. All we can control is today.
  1. Never give up. The road might feel impossibly long. Don’t give up. Focus not on the mountain in the distance, but on putting one foot in front of the other right now. Saving $5 might not seem like much (that’s one Trenta vanilla cold brew a day, right?), but if you save $5 each day, that’s more than $1,800 in a year.

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8 Affordable Furniture Stores To Help Furnish Your New Home

You just moved into your first apartment, or you upgraded to a bigger place for the first time. You have all of this space and big dreams of how to fill it.

But… furniture is expensive. Where can you go to find furniture to fill all of this space?

Don’t do what I did. When I was in that situation, before I had my financial life together, I rushed in and bought a bunch of expensive furniture to fill the first apartment my wife and I shared. Big mistake. The furniture was expensive, we went into debt for it, and it didn’t really match the room. There are many better approaches to furnishing a small apartment or home, and finding a low cost source for furniture is a great starting point.

In this article

Tips for finding affordable furniture

  • Start entry level, then slowly upgrade from there as needed. Rather than buying expensive furniture across the board, start with low-end stuff to meet all your needs, then slowly upgrade pieces of furniture as needed. It’s a horrible move to buy an expensive couch for a room, only to realize later that the couch isn’t really right.
  • Check big box stores. Big box stores often have good low-end and mid-range furniture at a very agreeable price. These items are perfect for initial furniture, and then you can upgrade from there as desired.
  • Ask friends and family In some areas, there may be small chains or local stores with great prices. Talk to friends and family in your area to help find those places.
  • Pick it up yourself, if possible. While a few furniture stores offer free shipping, that’s not usually a feature found with discount retailers. If you possibly can, pick it up yourself.
  • Use thrift stores, but carefully. Thrift and consignment stores can be good places to find inexpensive wooden furniture, but avoid bringing home padded and upholstered items, as they may contain bedbugs or other items you don’t want in your home. Use thrift stores for things like your first end table.
  • Check outlet stores. Many larger furniture stores also have outlet stores, where they put the last few pieces of a model that’s gone out of stock. This can be a good place to get a standalone piece at a great price.
  • Only use store credit cards if you can pay the card off in full immediately. Many furniture stores offer store-brand credit cards to help you finance the furniture. Only use furniture store credit cards if they offer a nice discount on the furniture, and only if you can pay the card off in full immediately. Try to avoid buying furniture at all unless you can afford the whole thing out of pocket, and just use credit as a tool to make the purchase easier.
  • Shop online, but only for entry-level stuff. While online shopping works well for some entry-level items, it’s difficult to perfectly color-match using online tools, and it’s also difficult to assess comfort level. Visiting a store and seeing the assembled pieces is a good idea, especially for anything expensive that you want to last for many years.
  • If buying clearance or outlet items, ask for further discounts. You usually won’t get stores to budge on their full-priced items, but if items are on clearance or in an outlet section, you may be able to get them to lower the price a bit more. This is especially true if you’re buying a floor model and can point out minor issues with it.

8 affordable furniture stores

The stores below have a reputation of selling quality furniture at great prices. While many of them focus on entry-level furniture, they offer solid pieces in that price range that can fit your needs perfectly, particularly if you’re furnishing a space for the first time.


affordable furniture stores - home goodsaffordable furniture stores - home goods

Locations: 45 states and territories
HomeGoods is a general home furnishing store that features furniture as well as linens, kitchen appliances, and other items with competitive prices. Items rotate frequently in store and markdowns are frequent, so repeated visits are worthwhile. However, individual items are often not stocked in large quantities, so if you find the right item, particularly if discounted at that moment, snag it.


cheap bedroom setscheap bedroom sets

Locations: 24 states
IKEA is a Swedish-based store that offers an enormous variety of furnishings and other home goods at static prices. Many items are perfect for first items for apartments and homes, mixed in with others that can serve as upgraded pieces. Their New Movers program offers a nice discount for people buying several items at once, and their IKEA Family card is free and offers multiple discounts. Another plus with IKEA furniture is that it’s very “hackable”, meaning that it’s easy to modify to suit your particular needs.

Bob’s Discount Furniture

Affordable furniture stores- bob'sAffordable furniture stores- bob's

Locations: 22 states
Bob’s Discount Furniture (sometimes just Bob’s Furniture) offers outstanding prices on most types of furniture from their own in-house brand. They’re perfect for your first furniture set, though you may want to upgrade individual pieces over time. They tend to rotate items quickly into their in-store outlet section, so if you visit Bob’s, be sure to always stop by that area, especially if you’re looking for one single item.


cheap furniture stores targetcheap furniture stores target

Locations: Worldwide
Target is a big box retailer that’s everywhere, but they do a good job producing very low cost entry level furniture. This is the best place to go if you don’t have much to spend but really need a single piece that looks good, is comfortable, and doesn’t need to last forever. Super Targets will generally have a much better in-store selection, but smaller Targets are fine for seeing pieces, as there are many variations of most items available online.

affordable furniture stores - overstockaffordable furniture stores - overstock

Locations: Online only makes its name by focusing on overstocked items. This means the items they have for sale will have stellar prices, but the exact offerings change rapidly as the items sell out. is a good place to visit frequently when you have a pretty exact idea of what you’re looking for, as you can patiently wait until something similar appears. When it does, it’s usually available for a great price.

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affordable furniture stores -wayfair.comaffordable furniture stores

Locations: Online only
Wayfair’s big advantage is that their selection is enormous. They have thousands upon thousands of furniture items ranging all over the place in prices. Thus, one strategy is to find an item you like, then look at lower-cost versions in the “similar items” section on the page. Many items on the site are available in lots of colors, too, and they offer free shipping on orders over $49. While you won’t get an amazing discount at Wayfair, you’re more likely to find a good item exactly in your price range simply because of their selection.

Big Lots

cheap furniture stores - big lotscheap furniture stores - big lots

Locations: Nationwide
Big Lots is a discount retailer for all types of goods, but they tend to have very good furniture selection in-store. There are two big reasons to give Big Lots a shot. First, their clearance sales tend to offer very strong discounts, so it’s worthwhile to check the store frequently to see what’s on clearance. Second, their customer service program offers a 15% off discount on your first purchase there after signing up, so sign up when you’re about to make a significant purchase to save even more.


Locations: Online only
Floyd is a newer entrant to the furniture world. They’re the highest priced option on this list, but they’re worthy of note for three reasons. First, the furniture they make is very sturdy and long lasting. Second, their furniture is designed to be easily portable and movable, disassembling very easily into a few pieces for moving around a home or moving to a new place. Third, given those two features, their prices are very reasonable. They’re a great choice if you’re an apartment dweller who may move frequently but you want to slowly start upgrading furniture quality from IKEA and other offerings, as you’ll be able to move with this stuff several times.

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50 Side Businesses You Can Start on Your Own

Believe it or not, The Simple Dollar started as a side business. It began as an email newsletter where I shared thoughts on personal finance, with some embedded links to Amazon to help pay the bills. It was one side business among many that I’ve started over the years, and the biggest success. Each side business started with a simple goal: I saw a need someone else had that I could fulfill and earn some money by doing so, and I was willing to spend some of my spare time and energy doing it.

If you’re interested in turning your spare time and energy into a side business, there are countless opportunities for doing so. The ideas below are inspirations. Take them, look around your life and your community for needs that they might fulfill, and build that idea into something that helps people and makes you money.

(Heads up: Before you leap into starting a side business, research if there are licenses, permits or education required in your city or state for that type of gig.)

In this article

50 side businesses you can start on your own

  1. Auto detailing. Thoroughly clean, wash and wax a car for a client. This usually takes several hours, but you can charge a reasonable hourly rate for the service. This type of business works well if promoted on social media.
  1. Babysitting. Babysitting is child care that tends to fall below the limits of what’s required for licensing by the state. Watching one or two children occasionally usually doesn’t require a license, though it’s harder to turn into a full business. This makes babysitting a perfect side gig for those who love children.
  1. Airbnb hosting. If you have a large home, you can easily turn a portion of your home into an Airbnb rental for vacationers. This is particularly true if you can partition off part of your home with its own entrance and exit, or if you live in another location part of the time. Here’s some advice on starting your own Airbnb.
  1. Freelance writing / blogging. There are many opportunities for online writing to earn money. If you want to write one-off articles for a few bucks, check out sites like Fiverr where people will pay you for articles. If you want to build something for yourself, services like Medium and Substack give you the opportunity to build your own name — it’ll take time to earn much, but it’s the way to go over the long haul.
  1. Buying and reselling on eBay. If you have specialized knowledge of a particular type of item, you can make money buying items and reselling them on eBay. Watch for those types of items at thrift shops and yard sales and jump on big bargains you find.
  1. Cake baking. Baking cakes for birthdays and weddings is a great gig if you love to bake and have a touch for decoration. The costs are low to get started and there’s always demand. Before doing this, you’ll want to check the rules in your state regarding baking and home food preparation.
  1. Snow plowing. If you can invest in a snow plow or blade for your truck, snow plowing is a great way to earn money during winter weather. There are always driveways and parking lots to be cleared of fresh snow to make way for customers.
  1. Dog walking. If you have spare time during a typical weekday and love dogs, being a dog walker can be a great side gig. 
  1. Creating custom T-shirts. If you have a place to install a screen printing machine, you can get into the business of making custom T-shirts for people. With the right equipment and a good eye for design, this can turn into a pretty lucrative side business.
  1. Miniature painting. If you have an eye for detail, there’s a surprisingly lucrative market in painting miniatures and reselling them.  There’s a very large subculture that enjoys collecting painted miniatures, mostly for use in tabletop games. Painting these miniatures is a craft you can easily sell on Etsy, eBay, or other online sales sites.  Here’s a great beginner’s guide.
  1. House or business cleaning. Many people are strapped for time and find basic house cleaning services or business cleaning useful. While there are many organized businesses that do it, you may be able to find clients by going independent and using a lower rate, cutting out the middleman. You might also advertise additional services, such as laundry service (you take X pounds of laundry, clean it, fold it, and return it for a certain amount per pound).
  1. Accounting.  If you’re an accountant, offering your services as a bookkeeper for a small business or institution can be a great side business.  Many institutions have small-scale bookkeeping needs and are glad to hire someone to take care of it, so if you’re looking for a little extra work and income that uses your skills, consider freelance bookkeeping or accounting!
  1. Pet sitting. This is a great extension to dog walking. People would hire you to take care of their pets while they travel, either by bringing them to you or you stopping in and feeding and caring for them while they’re away. 
  1. Freelancing small graphic design projects. If you have graphic design skills, there are infinite small gigs you can find on sites like Fiverr or Upwork, things like designing a quick podcast logo. 
  1. Social media managing. Many small businesses want to have a social media presence, but don’t have the time for it. For a small fee, you can manage the social media feeds of a small business. The owner simply sends you any promotions or new information about the business and you promote them on social media.
  1. Photography. If you have a quality camera setup and photography skills, you can put out your shingle as an event photographer or a portrait photographer. For this, it’s a good idea to put together a portfolio of some of your best photography for people to see. You might want to start by taking portraits of family and friends, as well as taking photos of events that show off your work.
  1. Antique refurbishing. Turning antiques that are in poor shape into stunning pieces is a lucrative side gig. It requires a lot of care and very patient time investment so that you don’t damage or ruin the antique, which requires research into how to properly refurbish items. 
  1. Pet grooming. If you enjoy pets, pet grooming can be a great side business. Washing pets, trimming their nails, trimming their hair, and other tasks are things that many pet owners will hire others to take on. Be aware that in many areas, this requires a kennel license, so you’ll want to look into the requirements in your area before diving in.
  1. Event coordinating. An event coordinator helps people manage smaller events that they want to pull off. Parties, community events and other such things often have event coordinators who organize vendors and make sure things are in place for a great event!
  1. Event DJing. If you have a good speaker system and enjoy playing music for crowds and getting them to dance (some emceeing is usually part of the job), then being an event DJ may be right for you.
  1. Teaching exercise classes. Many community centers and small fitness centers offer exercise classes largely based on the availability of teachers, and teachers are often paid as a percentage of the income of the class. If you’re very familiar with the ins and outs of a particular type of exercise, this might be a good side gig to start.
  1. Gardening, lawn or landscaping services. This involves things like mowing yards, caring for yards with seed and fertilizer, trimming bushes and taking care of gardens around homes. This requires some equipment, but the tasks are very straightforward if you’re willing to do the work!
  1. Handyman services. If you’re willing to perform odd jobs and minor repairs around a home, offering handyman services might be perfect for you. Many people offer their services for this type of work on Thumbtack, so it may be a good place to start.
  1. Catering. Before doing this, you’ll want to check the rules in your state regarding home food preparation. If you’re able to license to be a caterer, catering for events can be a great side gig. It requires food preparation skills and planning skills, but the service is a valuable one in many situations.
  1. Interior decorating. Some people are simply unskilled at tastefully arranging a room in their home and need help making it look appealing (I’d put myself in this category). That’s where an interior decorator can step inExamples of your own decor can help start your portfolio and attract clients.
  1. Pet waste cleanup. Many people find themselves with yards or homes that are overrun with pet waste. With some appropriate tools and patience, you can help resolve this problem.
  1. Knitting, crocheting, or quilting. These types of projects are easily done at home with just a bit of equipment. You can then sell your fabric items online. Make small quilts, knit baby hats or crochet blankets — they’ll all sell well on Etsy.
  1. Writing ebooks. If you enjoy writing and have a firm grasp on how to write longform fiction or nonfiction, ebook writing can be a lucrative path to follow. You self-publish your books on the Kindle store and/or other places where ebooks are sold, do some promotion, and earn money from every sale.
  1. Furniture making. If you have woodworking equipment and tools available, you can make lots of furniture items and sell them for a profit. Things like end tables and Adirondack chairs are easily made in a small woodworking shop and sell well.
  1. Meal-to-go preparing. This one’s easy: You prepare full family-sized meals that they can either take home and eat immediately or take home and freeze, finishing the cooking with a simple step later on. Before doing this, you’ll want to check the rules in your state regarding home food preparation.
  1. Personal or virtual assistant. Many busy people have great use for a personal assistant, whether in-person or virtual. You just handle life tasks or simple business tasks for the client, such as handling phone calls and email communications or other small personal errands.
  1. Public speaking / teaching. Is there a topic you know a lot about? Develop it into an hour-long presentation and then offer to give that presentation at local libraries or other events to hone it. If it clicks, you can find opportunities to be paid to present on that topic.
  1. Jewelry making. If you have the tools, the skills and the taste to make jewelry items, you can turn this into a pretty lucrative side business selling items on online stores like Etsy. Most of the tools are inexpensive, and the know-how to get started can be found on YouTube.
  1. Growing produce to sell. If you have a lot of yard space and enjoy gardening, you can grow lots of produce and sell the excess at farmers markets or directly to grocery stores. This is actually a side business my father engaged in for many years, particularly with tomatoes and potatoes, and he found it quite lucrative.
  1. Proofreading and editing. Someone who is skilled with written language can find many opportunities to start a side business in proofreading and editing. You can get started building a resume by looking on sites like sites like Fiverr or Upwork. Doing good work will generate clients who keep coming back to you.
  1. Scrapbook-making. Many people want to have beautiful scrapbooks and photo albums of memorable events or periods in their life. They hand you some photographs and paraphernalia and you assemble them into a custom scrapbook for a fee.
  1. Delivery driving. This became a very popular side business for people during COVID, with many people making a few bucks driving their own vehicle to make deliveries for services like DoorDash. When you’re available, you fire up the app and you’ll be contacted for deliveries.
  1. Assisting senior citizens. Many families want to hire someone to assist seniors that they care about who might be having difficulty with some basic tasks, like food preparation or grocery shopping or basic house cleaning, and simply being a companion and someone to talk to. If you’re friendly and able to communicate well with senior citizens, this can be a great side gig.
  1. Sewing and altering. If you have a sewing machine and know how to use it, you can turn simple sewing tasks and garment alterations into a side gig. 
  1. Computer troubleshooting. Computer troubles can be frustrating, particularly for people who are less than tech-savvy. Doing home visits to troubleshoot computer and basic home networking problems can be a great side gig. I can vouch for this side gig with personal experience, as I was running a computer troubleshooting side gig around the time of the launch of The Simple Dollar!
  1. Seasonal decorating. Some households love to have tasteful seasonal decorations, but don’t have the time to do it well. You can help people set up yard displays for holidays such as Halloween or Christmas for a fee. They give you a budget, you buy the items within that budget, and you get a fee on top of that.
  1. Making soap and spa products for resale. Many basic soap and spa products can easily be made at home, though some of them involve chemicals you will want to be very careful with. You’ll also want to look into specific rules and regulations about making and selling such products in your state.
  1. Teaching a musical instrument. If you know how to play a musical instrument well and have patience, you can become a private music teacher. You’ll often be teaching performers the basics as they decide if the instrument is right for them, often children.
  1. Tutoring. If you are an expert on a particular school subject, for example, your college major, you might be perfect for tutoring students on that subject. 
  1. Creating smartphone apps. If you’re a skilled computer programmer, you can learn a language like SwiftUI and spend your spare time creating smartphone apps. This starts, above all else, with a great idea for an app.
  1. Website designing. If you’re proficient with web technologies and design, many small businesses and individuals would love to tap your skills to improve their web presence. You can start building a portfolio by volunteering to create sites for small public events, and use that portfolio to find paid clients.
  1. Wedding planning. This expands on the “event coordinator” idea from earlier and focuses on one particular, complex event. Wedding planning involves coordinating lots of vendors and being responsive to the needs and wishes of the bride and groom. If you’re a “people person” and well-organized, this can be a great side gig.
  1. Translating. Can you speak another language fluently? This ability alone opens you up for a great side gig as a translator. There may be situations in which someone has a strong need for someone to be able to translate on their behalf. There are many translation gigs available on sites like Upwork, and a great performance can build a long-term client.
  1. Business or life coaching. Many people have the tools they need to build the life they want, they just need some guidance and motivation. If you’re an effective communicator and good at translating ideas into concrete goals and plans, you might just be a perfect business or life coach. Check your state for certification or education requirements.
  1. Resume writing. People in the job market often need help polishing their resume into something that shines.

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How To Save for Retirement on a Small Income

If there’s one personal finance tactic that almost everyone agrees on, it’s the value of saving for retirement, or at least saving for your second act. There will come a point where you will no longer want to or will no longer be able to do the work that you’re currently doing and switching to something else will mean a significant drop in income. When that point comes, you will be glad to have every drop of savings. Life without retirement savings can be incredibly challenging.

What about Social Security? It helps, but Social Security alone is a pretty threadbare retirement existence.

While retirement savings sound great on paper, actually putting it into practice can be difficult, especially if you are earning a small income. The median American household income charts at below $70,000 per year, which means that half of American households bring in less than $70,000 per year.

In that situation, finances can be a real challenge. Contributing to things like retirement can be hard to justify when you’re worried about keeping the rent paid or the ominous noise coming from your car or making sure everyone has plenty of food to eat. How do households earning a relatively low income save for retirement?

It’s important to note that if your income is relatively low, you don’t need millions in retirement savings to replace your income. Don’t get caught up in people talking about needing millions to retire. You don’t need millions to retire.

In this article

Start NOW. Do not wait.

In terms of retirement savings, you’re better off saving even a tiny, tiny amount now than waiting until later to do so. Save as much as you can as early as you can, even if that amount you can save now is only a few bucks a week.

Why is this so important? It’s because of the power of compound interest.

Let’s say you’re going to retire at age 70, and that between then and now, your retirement investments will return 8% per year. Let’s say you can only afford to put away $500 per year – literally $10 a week, with a two-week break.

  • If you start doing that at age 40, you’ll have $50,000 saved for retirement.
  • If you start doing that at age 30, you’ll have $160,000 saved for retirement.
  • If you start doing that at age 20, you’ll have $370,000 saved for retirement.

Why is there such a huge difference? It’s compound interest. If you invest your money and just let it sit there and grow, it will grow faster and faster the longer it sits. Thus, the sooner you start saving, the more time you give it. If you choose to wait 10 years, you lose a lot of growth.

The point is simple: Take action now, even if you can only take small steps.

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Prioritize getting your daily finances straight

The first, most important actions you can take don’t actually involve retirement savings at all. They involve getting your day-to-day finances straightened up. There are likely financial obstacles already in your way that make it difficult to effectively save for retirement, so take care of those as quickly as you can.

First, pay off your high interest debt. Any debt you have with a double-digit interest rate needs to go. Credit cards. Payday loans. Get rid of them as fast as you can.

Second, build a cash emergency fund. Break free of relying on credit cards or payday loans for emergencies. Start socking away some cash in a savings account somewhere — and if you don’t have one or can’t get one, start by saving it at home for now. Eventually, you’ll want to get a savings account at a bank, which you should be able to do once you have some cash built up.

How can you afford to do these things? Live as cheaply as you can possibly stand it. It’s fine to relax and treat yourself, but explore ways to do it that don’t involve money leaving your pockets. Splurge with long walks without your cellphone. Invite a friend to do something free. Get lost in a book from the library. Don’t splurge by buying stuff or paying for experiences. If you can’t think of fun, free things to do, here’s a giant list of ideas to start with, and it’s highly recommended to do them with friends.

If you’re really struggling financially, there are tons of programs out there that exist solely to help people in your situation get back on their feet. Stop by and discover what might be out there that can help you.

If you get these things under control, you’ll have less stress in your life, and you’ll also find it much easier to come up with a few bucks to save for retirement.

Start small and automatic

Once you have your daily finances stabilized, start your savings off slowly. You don’t need to contribute thousands a month to retirement. In fact, that will probably destabilize your finances and put you in a worse position.

Instead, start by contributing what feels like a completely manageable amount. Go low, not high. If you feel like you can manage $10 a week, save $10 a week. If you can manage more, do it, but don’t push it. You are better off saving a small amount and keeping your day-to-day finances stable than trying to save too much and ending up in a mess.

Whatever you decide to save, make it automatic. If it’s through a workplace plan, have it automatically deducted from your paycheck. If it’s your own plan (see below), have it pulled automatically from your checking account each week. You don’t want to have to think about doing it, or else you’ll find ways to talk yourself out of it. Start small, start automatic.

Increase your savings when your income increases

If you get a raise, use some of it to bump up your retirement contributions. For example, if you’re earning $1 an hour more than you once did while working 35 hours a week, bump up your weekly contributions by $5 or $10. You’re still bringing home more than you were before, but you’re saving more, too.

As you earn more, you’ll naturally inflate your lifestyle a little, and that means you’ll want to save more to be able to maintain a better lifestyle in retirement. So, whenever you get a raise, put aside some of that raise for the future. Just change your automatic contribution whenever your paycheck goes up.

Take advantage of the Saver’s Credit

There’s actually a very nice but little known tax benefit for lower income earners who contribute to retirement savings. It’s called the Saver’s Credit and it will really help come tax time.

Provided that you’re over 18, not a full-time student, and not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s taxes, you can earn a credit for up to $2,000 of retirement plan contributions, both through workplace plans or your individual plan. That credit is worth 50%, 20%, or 10% of your contributions, depending on your income level.

For example, if you’re a married couple that earned $38,000 last year and managed to save $2,000 in a retirement account, you could claim the Saver’s Credit and get 50% of that amount back as a tax credit. That would mean your tax bill would go down by $1,000. That’s a great deal!

Use your workplace account if you can

So, how do you save? If your workplace offers a retirement plan that you can contribute to, such as a 401(k) or a 403(b) plan, use that plan. Your retirement plan contributions will come straight out of your paycheck, making it as easy as can be to sign up and keep it going. If you ever switch jobs, roll your old plan into your new one — just ask for help in doing so. A normal 401(k) or 403(b) allows you to defer taxes on that money until you withdraw it from the account in retirement.

Some workplaces offer a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) option. As a low income earner, you’re in a very low tax bracket, so the tax benefits of a Roth account are particularly beneficial. In a nutshell, a Roth account means you pay the taxes NOW at your current tax rate rather than later at whatever rate you’ll have in retirement (Roth withdrawals are entirely tax-free in retirement). The lower your income, the more likely it is that you’re paying very low or no taxes right now. Our retirement guide will fill you in on all the details if you want to know more.

Otherwise, start a Roth IRA

If your workplace doesn’t have a 401(k) or 403(b), you can still save for retirement with tax advantages by opening a Roth IRA. This is an individual retirement account where you can pull money from your checking account. The value will grow within that account and when you reach retirement age, you can start withdrawing that money tax free, even the gains.

You can set up a Roth IRA on your own with most investment houses, including well-regarded ones like Vanguard, Fidelity and Charles Schwab. Then, set up an automatic small contribution from your checking account each week or each month. It’s easy!

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How To Plan a Frugal (Not Cheap) Wedding for Less Than $4,000

The average wedding and reception in 2019 (the most recent pre-COVID year for which data is available) was $28,000, according to The Knot Real Weddings Study. Given that the median American household income charts in around $69,000, (according to the Census Bureau), that means the average wedding devours nearly half a year’s worth of income.

Many people dream of a beautiful, unforgettable wedding, but not many long for the financial aftermath. The best solution is to take a serious look at all of the expenses involved with a wedding and find realistic, frugal ways to cut back on the expense without tinkering with the magic or the memories. The strategies below can collectively shave away 10s of thousands of dollars from the budget of an average wedding.

According to our calculations, a typical American wedding comes to about $28.5k, which we detail below. By paring down here and there, we got it down to $3,950, if you go with a guest list of 50. (The Knot Real Study says the typical wedding has 131 guests.) If you follow all of our ideas, you’ll reach under $4k in your final tally.

Different people look for different things in their wedding, so go through the list below and choose the ideas that work for you.

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17 steps for a frugal (not cheap) wedding on a budget

Start planning early

The more time you give yourself to plan, the easier it becomes to identify bargains and help make them into a reality. Since so many wedding features are expensive, investing more time yourself can cut those costs down quickly.

Strategy: Give yourself an extra few months between the start of planning and the event
Savings: $0 directly, but it gives you time to implement the strategies below

Choose a location near your guests

Choose a location for your wedding that’s close to the largest number of your guests. While this won’t directly save you money, it will make the next tip much more likely to succeed.

Strategy: Choose a location that’s very convenient for most of the guests
Savings: $0 directly, but it enables some of the strategies below

Ask for wedding help instead of wedding gifts

Talk to some of the friends and family you’re inviting to the wedding and ask them if they would be willing to provide help at the wedding in lieu of a gift. This is particularly true if you have someone on the guest list with a particular talent.

Guests for your wedding might be able to help with photography, provide emcee services, tend the bar at the reception, or perform any of the other endless tasks that a wedding entails. While some guests may prefer not to do this, others will relish the chance.

Many of the roles at our own wedding were provided by family and friends. From our perspective, we felt that everything would be much more meaningful if people we loved were actually involved with the ceremony in some way, and many of them jumped at the chance. Some of them provided supplies as their wedding gift, while others provided discounts.

Getting even a little help can easily shave 5% off of the total cost of the wedding.

Strategy: Ask family and friends for assistance at the ceremony in lieu of gifts
Savings: $1,400

With all that money you’ve saved on your big day, turn to your next big step in life: Buy the home you’ll love as much as each other. Compare mortgages below.

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Hold the ceremony at home or outdoors

According to The Knot, the average wedding venue costs $10,500, adding up to around a third of the total cost of the big day. While trimming the guest list can certainly help reduce this cost, another approach is to think outside the box with your venue.

You might consider hosting the wedding at someone’s home, particularly if they have a nice yard or plenty of space. If your guest list is small, that’s much more feasible.

Strategy: Have the wedding and reception at a friend or family member’s property
Savings: $10,500

Another approach is to see if you can use a public park for the wedding and utilize any structures the parks and recreation department may have for a reception. Many such departments have nice older houses near parks that can be used for events like this. Contacting local parks services in my area found that such venues were available with a range of $1,000 to $4,000, though there would be some additional costs to help set up some services. While there will still be a notable cost involved for this, it’s often significantly lower than paying for a full-service venue.

Strategy: Have the wedding and reception at a park
Savings: $6,500

Do the catering yourself or hire a family-owned restaurant

While trimming the guest list saves quite a bit on catering, you can save more by finding a low-cost catering option. According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, the average cost per catered plate is $51, so if you have 50 guests, that’s $2,550 in meal expenses even with a reduced guest list.

For our own wedding, catering was provided by family and friends, who prepared and served the meal in lieu of (and in addition to) a wedding gift. This may work for you if you have someone who is interested in stepping up to that task.

Strategy: Have friends and family cater for you in lieu of a gift
Savings: $2,550

If not, try asking a local family-owned restaurant to cater for you. They might be hesitant to cater a large event, but if your guest list is already relatively small, they may be willing to do this and work with you on a less expensive option. If a local family-owned restaurant can cater and save 25% per plate, that’s still a nice savings.

Strategy: Ask a locally owned restaurant to cater the meal instead of a wedding catering service
Savings: $638

Buy a small cake or cupcakes from a grocery store

Brides Magazine reports that the average cost of a wedding cake is $350. This is an area where the cost can easily be trimmed by having something a bit more simple. Rather than heading straight to a wedding cake specialist, see what options are available for a smaller, simpler cake from a grocery store. In my area, the local grocery store chain, Hy-Vee, offered an enormous variety of cake options, ranging from very classy tiered wedding cakes that almost matched the $350 tag to much simpler options that would serve 50 guests for around $100.

Strategy: Look at grocery stores for cake options
Savings: $250

Another option is to simply buy cupcakes. You can buy large numbers of cupcakes from many bakeries for as little as $1 each. Pair that with a $30 cake stand and you can provide 70 cupcakes with a beautiful display for just $100.

Strategy: Buy cupcakes and arrange them yourself
Savings: $250

Go minimal with the flowers

Wedding Wire reports that the average cost of flowers at a wedding is $1,500. That’s a lot of money!

Keep the flowers simple! Stick with a simple bouquet and simple arrangements at the wedding, then reuse them as part of the reception. The bouquet itself averages $160, but you can drastically cut your floral expense in other ways by simply having minimal arrangements, relying on seasonal flowers, and using lots of greenery. Wedding Wire’s estimates for less-expensive floral setups range from $175 to $700, so if you simply get into that range with these tips, you’ll be doing great.

Strategy: Cut back on the flowers
Savings: $900

Make your own invitations

Again, according to The Knot, the average cost for wedding invitations is $590. This cost can easily be trimmed, however, by getting a DIY wedding invitation kit and printing them yourself.

My wife and I did this for our own wedding after balking at the hundreds of dollars for more traditional invitations. We chose a nice DIY kit that cost around $70 for our guest list and printed them ourselves. If you have access to a professional-quality printer and can do basic layout, you can easily create a very classy wedding invitation on your own for $100, with another $50 for any extra inserts and $50 for postage.

Strategy: Print your own wedding invitations
Savings: $390

Consider skipping attendants and have them involved in other ways

Rather than having several attendants for the bride and groom, consider trimming that number down to a single attendant for each, or none at all. This not only reduces the complications of the event, including hard choices about who to include, but can also eliminate small incidental costs such as bridesmaid bouquets. You can include people close to you in other ways, such as asking them to do a reading during your ceremony.

Strategy: Minimize your wedding party
Savings: Small, but helps with the next tip

If you do have attendants, go minimal with attendant gifts and make them personal

According to The Knot, the average wedding expense includes $400 in gifts, including party favors. However, most of that $400 goes toward gifts for the attendants. By keeping the wedding party small, you can cut out most of the cost, and with the smaller number, you can be more thoughtful and selective when it comes to a gift.

Strategy: Minimize attendant gifts and make them personal
Savings: $200

Borrow stereo equipment or use yours from home

If you’re having a small event anyway, hiring a DJ might be overkill. Wedding Wire reports that the average DJ cost is $1,000, so you may be able to forgo that cost by setting up your own speakers attached to a computer for a small dance. For music, you are legally allowed to use a music streaming service like Spotify (but such events may violate the terms of service of such services depending on specifics). For emcee services, ask your most outgoing friend to help.

Strategy: Do the DJing yourself
Savings: $1,000

Stock the bar yourself

A wedding bartender typically costs $35 per hour, but that doesn’t include the cost of the alcohol, which adds up to $2,300, according to The Knot. You can save a lot of money here by simply hiring someone to bartend and providing the alcohol yourself, provided the venue is OK with that (check with them). You can save as much as 50% by sourcing your own alcohol.

Strategy: Source your own alcohol and hire a separate bartender (or ask a friend)
Savings: $1,150

Contact the local university

If you’re looking for live music for the ceremony or want a professional photographer, one approach to consider is to contact the local university. There may be music students or budding photographers who would love an opportunity to get started in the field and may charge a very reasonable price as they don’t yet have a large resume to lean on. Often, new people in a field are excited to prove themselves, so they’ll not only charge a reasonable price, but they’ll go the extra mile to perform well and build a reputation. Simply trimming even 20% off of the average wedding musician cost and the average wedding photographer cost adds up. There’s a risk, of course, when using a new person, but they’re also going to be very focused on the task at hand, as this is an opportunity for them.

Strategy: Contact the local university to find budding photographers or musicians who may want the opportunity
Savings: $800

Split the cost of decorations – and consider buying used

Non-floral wedding decorations can cost $600. This can be a perfect opportunity to go minimal by looking for used decorations. If you know someone who is getting married, you may be able to split the cost of decorations with them so that you both use them, cutting the cost by half. If you know of any recent weddings, you can also contact them and ask what they did with the decorations.

Strategy: Split the cost of decorations or buy them used
Savings: $300

If you’re getting married in a church, ask the auxiliary for help

If you’re getting married in a church or in the hall of a civic organization, ask if the auxiliary club associated with that venue has suggestions or ideas. While they might not be able to directly provide a lot of savings, they may be able to offer ideas and small services that can save a little, and they sometimes can point you to something unexpected that can be a huge savings.

Strategy: Ask the auxiliary club associated with the church or other organization where your wedding is being held for help
Savings: Small, but potentially big

Buy the wedding dress off the rack and on sale, or borrow and modify

The Knot reports that the average wedding dress costs $1,600, which is a tremendous cost for an item you’ll likely wear once. A much better idea? See if anyone in your family or among your close friends has their old dress and, if possible, see if you can borrow it. It may need some modifications to make it work well, but spending $200 on adjustments is better than $1,600 on a dress. If this isn’t an option, look for a used dress and modify it similarly — this will still be cheaper than buying a new one.

Strategy: Borrow or buy a wedding dress
Savings: $600-$1,400

Choose affordable, simple wedding rings

According to the Brides American Wedding survey, the average wedding ring pair cost $1,610. This is on top of the engagement ring, of course. A simple wedding band might be a great option, however. A simple band is low cost, understated, and won’t snag on clothing. If you go simple and simply cut 25% off of the cost of the rings, that’s a nice savings.

Strategy: Go with simple wedding bands
Savings: $400

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20 Cheap and Easy Meals That Cost Under $10

The average American household spends more than $6,600 per year on food, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. That makes up roughly 10% of the median household income in America.

This is particularly noteworthy from a personal finance perspective because food is one of the major household expenses for which frugal choices can make a huge difference. Committing to preparing most meals at home, coupled with a smart and sensible grocery store strategy, can significantly cut the amount of money spent annually on food. Even cutting your food spending by 30% can save $2,000 per year.

The challenge, of course, is time and effort. For busy families, food preparation is a task that is often relegated to others simply by grabbing takeout, getting delivery, or buying premade meals. The solution isn’t to abandon them entirely, but to move toward a greater reliance on very inexpensive and easy to prepare meals. The easiest way to do this is to center your meals on low cost and easy to prepare ingredients, such as beans, rice, eggs, chicken, pasta and oatmeal, and accentuate them with a wide variety of flavorings and ingredients. If the core of your meal is inexpensive, then your whole meal will be!

Prices listed in this article were taken from at the time of writing, in order to approximately standardize nationwide pricing. The recipes themselves are ones used in our own family kitchen, mostly from handwritten notes.

In this article

Breakfast meals

Breakfast meals are inexpensive and fast meals our family uses that work well for family breakfasts, centered on using eggs, oatmeal, yogurt and other inexpensive ingredients. These can be used for other meals as well, but these often come out at the start of a school day, as the children are getting up and ready for their day.

Scrambled eggs

Simply crack several eggs into a bowl (three per person is a good number) and rapidly stir them with a fork until the yolk is well combined with the egg white. Add a small amount of salt: just a pinch. Put a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted, then pour in the eggs. Every minute or so, gently scrape the bottom of the skillet with a spatula to pull the cooking eggs off of the bottom (so they don’t burn). When the eggs appear to be moist but solid, serve them. You can sprinkle some cheese or other flavorings on at the end, as per your choice.

1 dozen eggs – $1.99
1 tablespoon butter – $0.12
1 cup shredded cheese – $0.80
Total cost to serve four – $2.91

Slow cooker steel cut oats

This uses a small slow cooker. Just put 1 1/2 cups steel cut oats, 2 cups of milk and 4 cups of water into a slow cooker just before bed. To that, add whatever flavorings you like. We often add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 2 or 3 overripe mashed bananas, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, as our family loves peanut butter-banana oatmeal. Aside from the oats, milk and water, you can add pretty much anything you like. Just set the slow cooker on low just before you go to bed and you’ll wake up to perfect oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups steel cut oats – $0.26
2 cups milk – $0.30
Flavorings of choice – $1.00 (est.)
Total cost to serve four – $1.56

Egg and bean burritos

Make the scrambled eggs in advance, as described above. Along with them, set out a package of flour tortillas, some heated beans, some shredded cheese, and some salsa, and allow people to assemble their own egg and bean burritos. These are very portable for a grab-and-go breakfast.

Scrambled eggs with cheese – $2.91
15 oz. black beans – $0.58
Salsa – $0.94
8 flour tortillas – $1.63
1 cup shredded cheese – $0.80
Total cost to serve four – $6.86

Overnight oats

This is another extremely simple overnight breakfast that’s great during the summer, since it’s a cool breakfast. Pull out a large drinking cup or a jar, add 1/2 cup rolled oats, then add whatever ingredients you like, followed by 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup milk. Cover the cup and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, it’s delicious. For flavoring, any and all fruits, nuts, and nut butters will work – again, we often use peanut butter and bananas with a bit of vanilla flavoring.

2 cups rolled oats – $0.52
2 cups milk – $0.30
1 cup yogurt – $0.85
Flavorings of choice – $1.00 (est.)
Total cost to serve four – $2.67

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Soups and stews

Soups and stews usually take advantage of our family’s trusty slow cooker, as you can dump in the ingredients for a soup early in the day, turn the slow cooker on low, and enjoy a nice soup in the evening. The recipes here that include beans utilize dry beans, which, if soaked overnight in water the night before and cooked with additional liquid as per the bean package directions, turn out incredibly well.

Lentil stew

Note that dry lentils do not require soaking like other beans! You use dry ones right off the bat with this recipe. Just mix these ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for six hours. It’ll produce a fairly thick stew.

3 carrots, cut into discs – $0.43
3 celery stalks, sliced – $0.46
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
2 tablespoons olive oil – $0.06
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning – $0.10
1/2 teaspoon paprika – $0.06
1 1/2 cups dry green or brown lentils – $0.80
4 cups water – $0.00
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes – $0.87
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes – $0.72
1 tablespoon salt – $0.01
Total cost to serve four, with lots of leftovers – $4.21


Chili without meat is an incredibly inexpensive and simple meal to make, whether in a slow cooker or on a stovetop. Chili con carne (chili with meat) adds to the price, but not unbearably so. There are lots of variants to chili, but almost none of them are pricy. Here’s the one we use, which cooks in a slow cooker for about six hours after the beans soak overnight. If you don’t want to do that, use 2 cans of cooked beans to replace 1 cup dry beans. If you want extras to serve with the chili, like crackers or cheese, that will add a bit to the cost, but it’s still a great low-cost meal.

1 cup dry black beans – $0.54
1 cup dry pinto beans – $0.54
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes – $1.44
1 15 oz can tomato sauce – $0.72
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
1 packet chili seasoning – $0.50
2 cups water – $0.00
4 cups additional water (if using dry beans) – $0.00
Total cost to serve four, with lots of leftovers – $4.44
Optional – 1 lb. cooked ground beef – $2.67

Ham and beans

This is the best use of leftover ham after the holidays, and a great reason to cut up any leftover ham and freeze it for the future. You can buy a single pound of ham and cube it yourself for $3-$4, which is still cheap, but using leftover ham is the real trick to making this cheap. Just soak the beans overnight, drain them, then cook this recipe in a slow cooker on low for six hours.

1 lb leftover ham, cubed – $0.00 (or $2.98)
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder – $0.11
1/2 teaspoon salt – $0.01
1/2 teaspoon black pepper – $0.01
1 lb dried great northern beans – $1.89
6 cups water – $0.00 (optionally, use vegetable broth)
Total cost to serve four generously – $2.72 (or $5.70)

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Making your own tomato soup is simple. Just take an onion and chop it to size (I like to cut it into wedges, because I like big pieces of onion — the smaller you cut it, the better). Get out a large pot, put it over medium heat, and melt a whole stick of butter in there. When the butter is melted, add the onions and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes. Then, add the crushed tomatoes, raise heat to high until it’s bubbling, then drop it to medium-low so that it’s just barely bubbling, and leave it for 40 minutes. While that’s going, make sandwiches. Just butter one side of eight pieces of bread, assemble cheese sandwiches with the butter side outwards, and cook them each over medium heat in a skillet, flipping halfway through when the bottom is golden.

For the soup:
1 stick butter – $0.74
1 yellow onion, cut up – $0.70
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes – $1.74
Dash of salt to taste – $0.01
3 cups water – $0.00
Total cost to serve four very generously – $3.19

For the sandwiches:
8 slices bread of choice – $0.57
2 tablespoons butter – $0.21
8 slices cheese of choice – $1.40
Total cost to serve four – $2.18

Pasta meals

These are very simple and quick weeknight meals that my family frequently enjoys. These are almost always very cheap, and always accompanied with a side or two, which you can read about at the bottom of the article.

Three-ingredient mac and cheese

This is based on J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt’s amazing three-ingredient mac and cheese recipe. Our home version is slightly tweaked, but it makes enough for the five of us with leftovers for lunch the next day if served with a couple of sides. It’s so easy and so much better than boxed mac and cheese. Get out a large saucepan or small pot, add the mac, add water until the macaroni is just covered, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir constantly while boiling for six minutes, then add the evaporated milk, then stir constantly for three more minutes. Stir in the shredded cheese and serve. This stuff is amazing.

1 16 oz box elbow macaroni – $0.78
1 12 oz can evaporated milk – $0.70
4 cups shredded cheese of choice – $3.50 (can vary depending on cheese choice)
Total cost to generously serve four – $4.98

Spaghetti with marinara sauce

This is as simple as it gets. Boil a box of pasta according to package directions. Drain the water. Add a jar of marinara sauce of your choosing. Serve. My family loves this and it’s simple enough that my children often prepare it for dinner (we have our children fully take charge of some meal preparation in its entirety as a teaching tool).

1 16 oz. box spaghetti – $1.28
1 20–27 oz. jar marinara sauce – $1.28
Total cost to serve four – $2.56

Chickpea pasta

This is a pasta meal that’s a bit more complex than the spaghetti with marinara sauce, but follows the same idea. You’ll need a blender and a saucepan in addition to the pot for cooking pasta. Just cook a package of angel hair pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, put two cans of chickpeas, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons cumin, a dash of salt and pepper, and the juice of a lemon into a saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes. Put half of the chickpeas and all of the liquid into a blender and puree it, then mix the chickpeas, liquid and pasta all together and serve.

1 16 oz. box angel hair pasta – $1.28
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas – $1.76
1/4 cup olive oil – $0.38
1 lemon – $0.40
2 teaspoons dried cumin – $0.08
Dash of salt and pepper – $0.02
Total cost to serve four generously – $3.92

Cheese lasagna

We often assemble this in the morning, pop it in the fridge, and bake it in the evening. All you need is a box of no-boil lasagna noodles, a small container of ricotta or cottage cheese, 4 cups shredded mozzarella, and a large jar of marinara sauce. We’ll often add a layer of vegetables, too – I particularly like adding a layer of mushrooms.

Just pour 1/3 of the jar of sauce into the bottom of a 9″ by 13″ pan, put a layer of no-boil noodles on top, then 1/3 of the cottage or ricotta, then 1/3 of the vegetables if using, then 1/3 of the mozzarella. Just repeat those layers twice more — sauce, then noodles, then cheese, then vegetables, then ricotta. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour covered with aluminum foil, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown the cheese a little.

1 16 oz. box no boil lasagna noodles – $1.97
1 20–27 oz. jar marinara sauce – $1.28
4 cups shredded mozzarella – $3.20
1 15 oz. container cottage or ricotta cheese – $1.17
8 oz. sliced mushrooms – $1.96 (or another vegetable)
Total cost to serve four generously with a full meal of leftovers – $9.58

Bean and rice meals (400 words)

These meals rely on beans and rice, two of the most inexpensive staples in your kitchen. Dry beans and rice are easy to prepare (you mostly just add water, put them over low heat, and wait) and provide tons of nutrition for the dollar. We invested in a rice cooker because we cook rice so often; a good rice cooker makes rice incredibly simple to make.

Sticky rice, vegetables, and soy sauce

This is incredibly simple, yet my whole family enjoys it. This often turns up as a quick lunch, one that my kids often prepare. Simply cook two cups of uncooked rice according to the package directions. Take a package of frozen vegetables and cook them according to package directions. Then, add three tablespoons of soy sauce to the cooked rice and mix in the steamed vegetables. It seems comically simple… but it’s tasty and fast and cheap!

2 cups uncooked rice – $0.52
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Soy sauce – $1.99 (full bottle, you’ll have lots of leftovers)
Total cost to serve four – $3.70

Red beans and rice

There are some wonderful pre-made kits for this — basically a mix of seasoning, dry red beans and dry rice — and I highly recommend them, especially on sale. If you want to make your own any time, it’s easy.

Just bring two cups of water to a boil, add 1 cup uncooked rice, reduce heat to low, cover, and let it sit on low heat for 20 minutes. Get out a skillet, add 1 pound of sliced kielbasa, and cook over medium-high heat for five minutes. Add a chopped onion, chopped bell pepper, 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, and a 15 oz. can diced tomatoes. Add a dash of oregano, salt, pepper and garlic powder and let this all simmer together for 15 minutes. When the rice is done, you can either mix it all together or serve the beans over rice.

1 cup uncooked rice – $0.26
14–16 oz kielbasa – $2.87
1 yellow onion, chopped – $0.70
1 green bell pepper – $0.88
2 15 oz. cans kidney beans – $1.76
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes – $0.88
Dash of oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder – $0.02
Total cost to serve four – $7.37

Cheesy risotto

This is an extremely kid-friendly recipe that we sometimes serve as the main course with a few sides. It also works as a side for something else, if you’d like.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the onion and stir regularly for 8 minutes, seasoning with the salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth and stir regularly for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the broth and lower heat to a simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Stir in the grated Parmesan and serve!

3 tablespoons butter – $0.31
1 yellow onion finely chopped – $0.70
Salt and pepper – $0.02
1 cup uncooked rice – $0.26
4 cups chicken broth – $1.98
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese – $0.50
Total cost to serve four – $3.77

Fried rice

This is our family’s favorite use of leftover rice and why we don’t sweat it if we cook extra rice. Just take three tablespoons of butter and melt over medium-high heat in a skillet. When it’s melted, add four whisked eggs and cook until scrambled, and then remove the scrambled eggs to a separate plate. From there, add a bag of chopped frozen mixed vegetables right to the pan and cook for 6 minutes. Then, add four cups of leftover cold chilled rice and 4 tablespoons of soy sauce and cook for 3 more minutes. Mix the eggs back in and serve.

4 cups leftover cooked rice – $0.50
3 tablespoons butter – $0.31
4 eggs – $0.66
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Soy sauce – $1.99 (full bottle, you’ll have lots of leftovers)
Total cost to serve four – $4.65

Chicken and tuna meals

These four meals are focused on chicken and tuna, which are the least expensive meat staples consistently found in grocery stores. If you want a bargain, canned tuna and whole chickens are the best deal. Tip: If you have a recipe that calls for cooked chicken, consider buying a whole rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and tear it apart. You can get cooked chicken for as little as $1 per pound doing this.

One-pot chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole

This is a comfort food that my parents made when I was younger and we now enjoy as a family. It’s also a great use for cooked rice. Just mix the following in a casserole dish and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

4 cups leftover cooked rice – $0.50
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese – $3.20
1 lb. cooked chicken (rotisserie) – $1.25
2 cups chicken broth – $0.99
1 cup milk – $0.50
2 tablespoons melted butter – $0.20
Total cost to serve four – $6.64

Chicken noodle soup

Egg noodles, cooked in chicken broth, with some diced chicken added. It’s so simple and yet, so delicious. You can add diced vegetables as desired — carrots, celery and onions all work here. Just get a 16 oz. package of egg noodles and cook according to package directions using 6 cups of chicken broth as the liquid and adding the chicken and vegetables before cooking.

6 cups chicken broth – $2.97
1 lb. cooked rotisserie chicken – $1.25
1 16 oz. package egg noodles – $1.98
1 bag diced frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Total cost to serve four – $7.39

Tuna melts

This is one of my family’s favorite meals, and it’s super easy. OK, so this one goes a bit over $10, but it’s oh, so good. Just mix up tuna, mayonnaise, and pickle juice, then put a large teaspoon of the mix on each hamburger bun. Top with cheese, wrap each sandwich in aluminum foil, place the sandwiches on a baking sheet, and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Delicious!

4 5-ounce cans tuna, drained – $5.43
4 tablespoons mayonnaise – $1.59 for the full bottle
2 teaspoons pickle juice – $0.05
8 hamburger buns – $1.59
8 slices cheese – $1.29
Aluminum foil – $0.15
Total cost for 8 sandwiches – $10.01

Tuna patties

These simple tuna patties fry very well in a skillet. Just add a tiny bit of oil and fry these in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, 5–6 minutes per side. The patties are made by mixing the below ingredients and forming them into patties. You can serve them on the plate or on bread or buns as a sandwich (with a slice of cheese on top).

2 5-ounce cans tuna – $2.71
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard – $0.17
4 slices white bread torn into small pieces – $0.26
1 raw egg – $0.17
Dashes of salt, pepper, hot sauce, and lemon juice – $0.05
Total cost for four patties – $3.36

What about sides?

These 20 meals can each provide a main course, but what about side dishes? We usually pair our main dishes with two of the following items, depending on what pairs well and what’s on sale.

Flash frozen vegetables in a microwave steamed bag, which usually cost $1.29 and are often found on sale for $0.99. We usually cook them for about a minute less than the directions on the bag then season them extensively with salt, pepper, and other odds and ends.

Fresh fruit including apples, bananas, grapes, oranges — whatever’s on sale that week.

Fresh vegetables from our garden are almost always our side dishes during the summer months.

Baked potatoes just need to be wrapped in foil and baked in the oven at 350 F for up to an hour, depending on size. They’re cheap and are wonderful topped with butter or sour cream.

A side salad, usually a kit from the store when they’re on sale, is commonly on our table. Kits provide a side salad that’s adequate for our family for $2 when on sale.

Yogurt is often on sale, and we just buy whatever’s on sale. Containers of yogurt are an inexpensive finish to many meals.

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