12 Things to Do When You Get a Raise at Work

Getting a raise always feels great. It’s tangible proof that you’re good at what you do and your hard work has been recognized.

But what should you do with the extra income? While most of us can’t help but daydream about all the new things we plan to buy, it’s important to take a close look at your personal finances before going on a spending spree.

That way, you’ll have a clear idea of how much your pay raise actually amounts to, what your financial priorities are, and how to make smarter investments and purchases with your additional income.

How to Handle a Salary Increase

When you first get a raise, it’s tempting to make a big, celebratory purchase. But before you do, there are some steps you should take to ensure you’re making decisions that reinforce your financial stability and improve your financial future.

1. Give It Some Time

Initially, the dollar amount of your raise might sound like a significant windfall, but remember that a considerable portion will go toward taxes, health insurance, retirement, and social security, if applicable.

Before you get ahead of yourself, wait for a couple of paychecks to see how much extra take-home cash your raise amounts to on a biweekly or monthly basis. What sounds good on paper may be significantly less in your pocket after all is said and done.

You can also calculate the biweekly amount of your raise yourself, but it won’t be accurate unless you know the amounts of any relevant deductions.

Waiting it out will give you a chance to see real numbers and how much of a difference it’s actually making on each paycheck. This will allow you to determine what any extra money amounts to so that you can spend it wisely instead of overspending or accidentally increasing your monthly expenses.

2. Reassess Your Budget

Once you know how much your new salary increase will put in your bank account, use it as an opportunity to reevaluate your budget. Now’s a great time to review your expenses to determine where any adjustments can be made and how your raise can do the most good.

For example, you may want to allocate a portion of your salary increase to paying off credit card or student loan debt instead of booking an expensive vacation. Or, you may use the extra cash to bolster your rainy day fund.

It’s easy to fall victim to lifestyle creep after a pay increase by indulging in luxuries and not keeping a close eye on your spending habits. Budgeting helps to keep you in check and supports your financial goals.

Instead of increasing your spending on big-ticket upgrades to your lifestyle each time you get a raise, consider how higher bills will affect your financial health. How would buying a bigger home or a new car affect your retirement plans and how much debt you have?

Use your budget to keep an eye on your cost of living so you don’t accidentally overspend after a new raise.

3. Retool Your Retirement

Especially if you aren’t hard up for cash right now, you can use your salary increase to boost your retirement savings.

For example, you can increase the amount you put into your Roth IRA or 401k retirement accounts. Even a small monthly increase can make a significant impact over time, especially if your employer offers contribution matching.

Not only will investing more in your retirement give you long-term financial security, but it will also make sure your raise is put to good use.

4. Pay Off Debts

If you have debts, entering a new salary range is an ideal way to put more money toward paying them off. For example, you can use your pay increase to cover:

  • Credit card debt
  • Student loans
  • Car loans
  • Medical debt
  • Personal loans

The more debt you pay off, the more you save in interest charges over time, keeping a significant amount of money in your pocket. If possible, save the most by paying off debts entirely instead of just making payments.

You can even improve your credit score by paying off debts, helping your financial situation even more, especially if you plan to make any big purchases, such as a home, in the future.

5. Plan for Taxes

When you get a raise, you can expect to pay more in taxes this year than you did last year. Depending on which tax bracket you’re in, you may even find that your raise is barely noticeable if it means you no longer qualify for certain deductions or tax credits.

Understanding how your new salary will affect your taxes gives you an idea of whether you should expect a refund or a bill.

If you aren’t comfortable calculating or assessing your taxes yourself, get in touch with an accountant or financial planner. They’ll be able to give you a good idea of what to expect come tax time based on your pay increase.

If it looks like you’ll owe more money at the end of the year than you anticipated, talk to your employer about increasing your withholdings so the amount you owe is covered.

6. Increase Charitable Donations

Another way to spend your raise is to increase your donations to charities and nonprofit organizations. Not only will it spread the wealth, but charitable donations typically count as tax deductions, potentially reducing the amount you owe each year.

This is especially useful if your raise bumped you into a higher tax bracket.

You can either choose to donate a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your income, whichever works best for your budget. You can also donate items like a used car, however, you’ll need a tax receipt in order to claim it on your taxes.

7. Add to Your Emergency Fund

Your emergency or rainy day fund is meant to lend a hand when your financial situation changes or you need to make an unexpected purchase. For example, it’s helpful to have a buffer of cash set aside if you lose a job or your fridge decides to stop working.

If you don’t have any pressing purchases to make with your new raise, it’s an ideal time to fill up your emergency fund. Having funds you can rely on in the future will give you peace of mind and save you from having to panic about how to cover an expense during a stressful situation.

8. Monitor Your Spending

It’s completely acceptable to celebrate when you get a raise, but it’s important to keep your spending in check. A nice dinner or night out is one thing, but extended overspending and unaffordable purchases are another.

If you do decide to treat yourself — and you should — make sure whatever you reward yourself with is within your spending limits and that it’s a one-time occurrence. Otherwise, you’ll soon fall victim to lifestyle creep and those luxuries will become the norm.

Choose one or two ways to treat yourself and stop there. Just because you’re making more money doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire raise on frivolous items and outings.

9. Consider Inflation

If you haven’t had a raise in a while, you can safely assume that part of your salary increase will go toward covering the costs of inflation. That means that instead of adding up to extra cash in your pocket, your raise will go toward rising prices for everyday expenses like housing and groceries.

Before spending your raise, take a look at the inflation rate to see how much prices have increased since the last time you received a pay bump. This will give you a better understanding of how much added buying power your raise amounts to and what it will mean for your budget and financial planning.

10. Save for a Big Purchase

If you’re planning to make a big purchase in the near future, use your raise to help get you closer to your goal. For example, put it toward:

  • A down payment on a house
  • A wedding
  • A new vehicle
  • A dream vacation
  • Your child’s tuition
  • A home renovation

Consider whether you have any major expenses coming up before spending your raise elsewhere. Setting aside your extra cash to cover upcoming costs will allow you to reach your goals faster and help you to navigate any unexpected costs you encounter.

11. Invest in Yourself

Investing in yourself is an excellent way to use your raise. For example, you could:

You can even do something like get laser eye surgery or have an old tattoo removed. Whatever helps to improve your personal quality of life and makes your future happier and healthier.

12. Do Something Fun

At the end of the day, you earned a raise through your hard work and dedication. You deserve to acknowledge your accomplishment by treating yourself to something special. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a fancy dinner, make sure at least a small portion of your raise goes toward celebrating your success.

Depending on how big your raise is and what you have left after you take care of any financial priorities, you could:

  • Go on a vacation
  • Plan a spa day
  • Buy yourself something nice
  • Treat a loved one
  • Fund a hobby

Take this as an opportunity to recognize your professional achievements and reward yourself for a job well done.


Final Word

Moving up on the pay scale is always worth celebrating, whether it comes with new responsibilities or not. But before you spend all your new money, take some time to consider how to get the most out of it.

That could mean reviewing your budget, paying off debts, or saving up for a big purchase — whatever suits your financial goals and situation.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your raise, remember to set some money aside to treat yourself. After all the time and effort you put into your career, you deserve to celebrate your accomplishments.

Source: moneycrashers.com

12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income

A senior black man uses a smartphone
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

These days, “retired” doesn’t always mean “not working.”

According to a study of U.S. retirees from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), “nine percent … are currently working for pay, including five percent who are employed part-time, two percent who are employed full-time, and two percent who are self-employed.”

More than half — 56% — of those surveyed said their top reason to keep working was “wanting the income.” The good news: You might be able to make some extra dollars via passive income — money that comes in without you doing much work, or any work at all.

Passive income is often synonymous with a large upfront investment, such as buying rental properties or dividend-producing stocks. But the following passive-income strategies can bring in extra bucks without investing a bunch of money or time.

1. Rent out a room in your home

Got an empty nest? Someone may be willing to pay to roost there.

You can advertise your spare space on your own or list it on a vacation rental website such as:

Yes, it takes some work: You might have to keep the room tidy and wash a load of sheets and towels once the guests depart. But in some parts of the country, you can earn enough money in just a few days to cover a mortgage payment, as we detail in “Do This a Few Days Each Month and Watch Your Mortgage Disappear.”

If you’re the gregarious type, you can have fun talking up your town or even showing visitors around. If not, advertise it as a “Here’s your key, we won’t bother you” arrangement. Some people simply want an inexpensive place to sleep and don’t care about sitting around chatting with the host.

2. Rent out your vehicle or gear

Your spare bedroom is just one of many things you could rent to others to bring in extra money.

Use your imagination. Maybe you have a ladder, stroller, surfboard, bicycle, boat, camera equipment or a great selection of power tools.

Peer-to-peer rental sites like the following will help you find folks who occasionally need such things but don’t want to own them:

Whatever you’re renting, keep in mind that ordinary insurance might not cover the commercial use of your property. An insurance rider may cover some items, but you may need a separate policy, so consult your insurance agent.

3. Become a peer-to-peer lender

What is peer-to-peer lending? In short, P2P lending sites such as Prosper accept loan applications from borrowers. Investors like you can put some of your money toward loans to those borrowers. When loans get paid back, so do you — with interest.

Overall, P2P investments “can provide solid returns that are really hard to beat,” according to Clark.com, the website of financial guru Clark Howard.

As with any loan, however, there’s the possibility of default. You may not earn anything or may even lose money.

Sound too complicated? Maybe this simpler form of P2P is for you: Worthy sells 36-month bonds for $10 each. The money that comes in is loaned to U.S. businesses, with lenders who have purchased these bonds getting a 5% annual rate of interest on their investment.

To learn more about Worthy bonds, check out “How to Earn 80 Times More on Your Savings.”

4. Get rewards for credit card spending

If you’re going to shop with plastic, make sure you’re rewarded.

The form that the reward takes is up to you. Some people covet airline miles. Others take their rewards as cash or a credit against their monthly statement.

The number of rewards credit cards — and their pros and cons — can be a little dizzying. For an easy way to compare your options, stop by our Solutions Center and check out travel rewards cards or cash-back cards in the Money Talks News credit card search tool.

5. Use cash-back apps

An app called Ibotta lets you earn cash rebates on purchases from retailers, restaurants or movie theaters.

Or you can do your online shopping through cash-back portals like:

These websites enable you to earn cash back on purchases from thousands of online retailers. To learn more about them, check out “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.”

6. Sell your photos

Smartphones have made decent photography possible for just about anyone. The next time you capture a killer sunset or an adorable kid-and-dog situation, don’t keep the image to yourself. Apps like Foap — which is available for Android and Apple devices — will help you sell it.

You can do even better if you have a good digital SLR camera, a tripod and other equipment. Stock photo companies like Shutterstock and iStockphoto, which favor high-definition, high-quality images, are venues for selling photos on just about any subject you can find.

7. Write an e-book

It’s possible to bring in cash without a high-powered book contract, thanks to self-publishing platforms.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, allows you to write, upload and sell your words fairly easily. My two personal finance books are for sale on Kindle, and they provide a steady stream of passive income.

I also sell PDFs of the books through my personal website. I use a payment platform called E-junkie to handle payments and deliver the book downloads — and this brings me more money per book than Amazon does, even when I offer readers a discount.

If you’re fond of a particular fiction genre, write the kind of stuff you’d like to read. Nonfiction sells, too: cookbooks, travel guides, history, memoirs and how-tos are a few examples. Or maybe you have a specific skill to teach — job-hunting or food preservation or raising chinchillas.

Pro tip: Fiverr.com is a good marketplace through which to find freelancers to hire for help with formatting, design and cover art.

8. Create an online course

If you’ve got useful knowledge, why not monetize it? Sites like Teachable and Thinkific will help you build a course that could change someone’s life, either professionally or personally.

Note that online courses are not limited to computer-based topics. A quick search turns up classes on:

  • Cake-making
  • Watercolors
  • Digital scrapbooking
  • Drone cinematography
  • Free-diving
  • Blacksmithing
  • Yoga
  • Parenting
  • Novel writing
  • Job hunting
  • Building a pet-care business

And that’s just for starters. Like writing an e-book, creating a course will take some work. But again: Once it’s up, the work is done.

9. Join rewards programs

Rewards sites like Swagbucks reward you with points for activities such as searching the internet, watching short videos and taking surveys. You can cash in your points for gift cards or PayPal cash.

Maybe you didn’t retire to spend hours taking surveys. But if you’re going to search the internet anyway, why not use Swagbucks’ search engine and earn some points?

To learn more about Swagbucks, check out “6 Ways to Score Free Gift Cards and Cash in 1 Place.”

10. Wrap your car with advertising

Turn your vehicle into a rolling billboard with companies like Carvertise. They’ll pay you for the privilege of putting removable advertising decals for a business on your automobile.

Writer Kat Tretina describes the process at Student Loan Hero. You can expect to earn $100 to $400 a month, depending on how much and where you drive, she says. Requirements include having a good driving record and a vehicle that has its factory paint job.

Pro tip: Car-advertising scams make the rounds regularly. Tretina offers these tips to avoid being victimized:

  • Legitimate companies don’t charge an application fee, and they’ll have a customer service phone line that lets you talk with a real person.
  • The car-wrapping cost should be covered by the company.
  • Take a hard pass on any company that doesn’t ask questions about your driving record, auto insurance, driving routes and type of vehicle.

11. Create an app

Maybe yours is one of those minds that says, “There should be an easier way to do (whatever) — and I think I know what it is!” If so, creating an app could bring in extra income.

It could also bring in zero dollars. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

For example, personal finance writer Jackie Beck — who cleared $147,000 of debt — used her expertise to create an app called “Pay Off Debt.”

Not a coder? App-builder services exist. The WikiHow.com article “How to Create a Mobile App” tells how to get started. It’s a time-consuming process. But that’s one of the beauties of retirement: You set your own hours.

12. Become a package ‘receiver’

OK, this idea is unproven — so far. But it’s a solution whose time has come. The boom in online shopping has been a boon for thieves who find it easy to swipe packages left outside front doors before the intended recipients get home from work.

You might be able to do your part to thwart those lowdown thieves by marketing yourself as a “professional package receiver.”

Try this: Put the word out — through friends, social media, places of worship — that you are available to accept deliveries. If a package is for someone in your neighborhood, you could watch the shipping company’s tracking info and be at the home to take the package in. Or you could specify that packages be shipped to Original Recipient, c/o Professional Package Receiver — that’s you.

Before asking a fee of, for example, $1 per package, ask the person who wants to hire you what it’s worth to them. You might be surprised by a response like, “I’ll give you $5.” Decide, too, whether you’ll be charging per package or per order, and whether you’ll set a weight limit, such as no packages over 30 pounds.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

7 Signs You are Living Beyond Your Means

When you’ve lived paycheck to paycheck, scrounging up enough money for an emergency fund can feel like a revelation. All of a sudden you’re not living with a dark cloud over your head and setbacks start to seem more manageable. You feel more in control of your life and your finances.

But you can take that even further. Saving for emergencies is just the first step in developing a strong, stable plan for the future. Once you have the foundation laid, it’s time to start deciding just what kind of future you’re trying to build.

That future starts with savings goals. Here are a few examples of how to start saving beyond your emergency fund.

Car Repair Fund

About 18 months ago, my husband and I were driving up for a ski weekend in the Colorado mountains. We were meeting his cousin and wife for a long weekend of winter sports, beer and food. At least, that was the plan.

On the way there our car started making a funny noise. Eventually, that funny noise turned into a persistent whine, and before we knew it the engine was smoking and we were stranded on the side of the road. We had the car towed back to a mechanic, who informed us that it would cost several thousand dollars to repair the damage.

I hadn’t really planned for this. The car had less than 200,000 miles and seemed in good shape. We’d followed the maintenance schedule religiously and had no reason to worry. Luckily, the incident happened just a few days before we received a huge tax refund, so we took the money and bought another car. I learned a valuable lesson that day: always save for a car repair fund.

Since then, I set up an auto draft to a separate savings account solely for car repairs. I picked $75 a month as a starting point but might increase it to $100 in the near future.

I’ve also started a car replacement fund, so I’m prepared for the next time my husband and I need to buy a new car. That account gets $100 every month, and any leftover money I find at the end of the year.

Vacation Fund

Erin Lowry of “Broke Millennial” wrote in a recent post about how she has a separate vacation fund set aside so she can travel more spontaneously. She has at least $3,000 in her vacation fund, so she’s prepared when her girlfriends want to take an impromptu trip or she finds an amazing flight deal to Germany.

If travel is an important part of your life – or you’d like it to be – consider starting a vacation fund. Even if it’s just a long weekend at the family cabin or a short road trip to a neighboring state, giving yourself the option to escape at any time can make the daily grind a little more bearable.

Don’t feel pressured to save aggressively if you don’t want to. Even $300 a month will add up to $3,600 a year, enough for a two-week European stay or a handful of smaller domestic trips. If you keep saving for multiple years, you could end up with enough for a months-long sabbatical.

Personal Goals

When people talk about their greatest financial regrets, they usually reminisce about the investment deal they didn’t take or the house they never bought. For me, it’s the Spice Girls concert I didn’t go to.

The group came to Chicago while I was in college, and a few people from my dorm were carpooling to the concert. They had an extra ticket, which cost $100. I had the money in my bank account, but chose to be “responsible” and stay home. I’ve regretted it ever since.

About a year ago, there were rumors that the Spice Girls were planning to reunite and go on a limited international tour. I live about three hours from Chicago, and I figured the Windy City would definitely be a stop on the tour.

A couple weeks later I got a birthday check from my grandma, which I promptly deposited into a separate Spice Girls savings account. Rumors of a tour have since dissipated, but I still have hope that one day the girls will be reunited. Until then, I’ll be keeping $200 in that account.

It might seem insane to have a whole savings account for one concert that may never happen, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind. If I ever get the opportunity to fulfill this dream, I won’t have to sacrifice a thing. I’ll just pluck the money from my account, close it down and go have the time of my life.

If there’s something you desperately want to do someday, like attend the Super Bowl or run the Boston Marathon, it’s not a bad idea to have the money stashed away for that purpose. If the goal never comes to fruition or you’re not able to get tickets, you can always use it for something else.

Medical Expenses

One of the best ways to save money outside of an emergency fund is in a health savings account (HSA). HSA contributions are tax-deductible, can be withdrawn tax-free and earnings are also not taxed.

You can contribute up to $3,3450 for an individual or $6,900 for families. Once you have more than $2,000 in your HSA, you can start to invest the money like you would for a retirement account. HSAs are only available if you have a high-deductible insurance plan, but don’t have any income limitations.

If you aren’t eligible for a high-deductible plan or it’s just not a good fit, you can still save for medical expenses outside of an HSA. A good rule of thumb is to save as much as your out-of-pocket maximum since that should cover a year of catastrophic medical bills. You can keep this in the same savings account where you have your emergency fund or in a separate one.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or view of Intuit Inc, Mint or any affiliated organization. This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.
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Source: mint.intuit.com

People Say to Give Up These 4 Things and Retire Early — They’re Wrong

If you’re not already rich, the race to early retirement can feel like it’s marred by sacrifice. Give up this, give up that — like the only way to retire before 65 is if you suffer now.

Sure, you want to be able to enjoy early retirement, and that means having enough money saved to do so. But you also want to live your life now in a way that brings you joy.

A study from annuity.com found that people would be willing to sacrifice several of life’s greatest conveniences to be able to achieve FIRE (financial independence, retire early):

The study shows that 20% of people would forgo having children, 27% would live without a pet and 28% would give up dining out just to have their retirement party a decade or two earlier. Some people would even move into a tiny home or sell their car!

But we know there are better ways. You don’t have to give up the things you love just to retire when you’d like to. Here are a few things people suggest giving up to accelerate their retirement timeline — and why we think you shouldn’t.

1. What They Say: ‘Give Up Your Vehicle’

Between car payments, insurance and repairs, having a car can be a big expense. And people eyeing early retirement do tend toward a minimalist lifestyle, so getting rid of your vehicle can be a tempting expense to cut.

But unless you live in a city that’s bikeable or has great public transportation, you’re going to need your own way to get from point A to point B. So instead of selling or letting your lease run out, here are a few tips to cut your car expenses down:

  • Buy a used car. Even though the average interest rate to finance a used car is higher than a new car or leasing one, financially you can save thousands of dollars over the course of a few years.
  • Cut your car insurance costs. By checking quotes every six months, you can save an average of $489 a year on your insurance payments. A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

2. What They Say: ‘Give Up Online Shopping’

Online shopping can be an account drainer — it’s so easy to put things into your cart, click a few buttons and wait for your package to arrive a few days later. And if your aim is to save a lot of money over the next decade or two, online shopping can be a major roadblock.

But here’s the thing — you can still shop online. You just need to be smart about it: Never overpay, and get cash rewards.

That’s exactly what this free service does for you.

Just add it to your browser for free*, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop-up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

3. What They Say: ‘Give Up Dining Out’

While the world was in quarantine, we learned to be more self-reliant in the kitchen, and many of us saw a significant drop in our dining-out expenditures (take-out, maybe not so much). So it’s understandable that 28% of people say they’d give it up entirely to reach their early retirement goals.

But for the other 72% who love going to restaurants and ordering delivery, financial independence isn’t off the table. There are just some strategic moves to make so you can keep supporting your favorite local spots and give your family a break from all the dishes.

First, look for discounts: You can find them on Groupon or with a AAA discount. You can even buy discounted gift cards on websites like Restaurant.com. If you have kids, check out restaurants that let them eat free on certain days of the week.

Next, make sure you’re getting cash back every time you go out to eat (or swipe your debit card in general).

If you’re not using Aspiration’s debit card, you’re missing out on extra cash. And who doesn’t want extra cash right now?

Yep. A debit card called Aspiration gives you up to a 5% back every time you swipe.

Need to buy groceries? Extra cash.

Need to fill up the tank? Bam. Even more extra cash.

You were going to buy these things anyway — why not get this extra money in the process?

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

4. What They Say: ‘Give Up More Living Space’

The tiny home — or small space — lifestyle has become increasingly popular among the retire-early crowd. It’s cheaper to own, likely includes no mortgage and is less expensive to upkeep, as well.

In fact, 17% of people surveyed said they would live in a space smaller than 700 square feet, if it meant they could retire early. For a single person that may be fine, but for couples or families — it might just not be enough.

Instead, you could keep the space you love and find ways to save money and make money with it:

Stop overpaying $690 on homeowners insurance

Luckily, an insurance company called Policygenius makes it easy to find out how much you’re overpaying. It finds you cheaper policies and special discounts in minutes.

In fact, it saves users an average of $690 a year — or $57.50 a month. It’ll even help you break up with your old insurance company. (You’re allowed to cancel your policy at any time, and your company should issue you a refund.)

And just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean you’re skimping on coverage. Policygenius will make sure you have what you need.

Just answer a few questions about your home to see how much money you’re wasting.

Make up to $300 a month from your empty garage

Extra rooms in your house don’t need to be left empty. You can rent out unused storage space — your shed, or your garage — to your neighbors who need it. A website and app called Neighbor can help you earn up to $300 a month, on your terms. Use this calculator to see how much your available storage space is worth.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Here’s What You Need to Know About Investing in 2021

Here’s a good question for the new year: Is 2021 a good time to invest in stocks?

In turbulent times like these, it’s hard to know the right financial moves to make. A lot of the tried-and-true advice we’ve always relied on doesn’t seem relevant anymore. Is now a good time to invest? Should I focus on paying off debt? Or saving?

It’s helpful to consult with a pro. So we asked Robin Hartill, a certified financial planner, as well as an editor and financial advice columnist for The Penny Hoarder, for advice.

Here are six financial questions we’ve been getting from readers lately:

1. ‘The Cost of Waiting is High’

Question: “Is 2021 a good time to invest, or should I wait the market out?”

Hartill’s advice: Take the long view. The stock market will grow your money over time, so you might as well get started sooner rather than later.

“The timing of your investment matters much less than how much time you have to invest,” Hartill says. “The S&P 500 has delivered inflation-adjusted returns of about 7% per year on average for the past 50 years. The cost of waiting for the perfect time to invest is high. You’re missing out on long-term growth.”

Profitable investing is all about taking the long view. Not sure how to get started? With an app called Stash, you can get started with as little as $1.* It lets you choose from hundreds of stocks and funds to build your own investment portfolio. It makes it simple by breaking them down into categories based on your personal goals.

“If you were hoping to make a quick buck off the stock market, now may not be a great time,” Hartill said. “We’re still in a recession, but the stock market has recovered. But true investing isn’t about making a quick buck. It’s about growing your money over time.”

She recommends budgeting a certain amount of money to invest each month, no matter what.

If you sign up for Stash now (it takes two minutes), Stash will give you $5 after you add $5 to your investment account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**

2. ‘There’s Only So Much Fat You Can Cut’

Question: “My monthly expenses keep going up. Anything I can do?”

“There’s only so much fat you can cut from your budget. Eventually, you start chipping away at muscle and bone,” Hartill said. “Cutting costs is often a good way to meet your shorter-term goals, like saving for a vacation or a down payment. But for the really big long-term goals like retirement and protecting your family from a worst-case scenario, cutting back only goes so far.”

If you need to cut back, though, take a hard look at your mandatory monthly bills — like car insurance. When’s the last time you checked prices? You should shop around your options every six months or so.

And if you look through a digital marketplace called SmartFinancial, you could be getting rates as low as $22 a month — and saving yourself more than $700 a year. 

It takes one minute to get quotes from multiple insurers, so you can see all the best rates side-by-side. Yep — in just one minute you could save yourself $715 this year. That’s some major cash back in your pocket.

So if you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a while, see how much you can save with a new policy.

3. ‘If You Have Your Spending in Check… ’

Question: “My budget is tight. What debt should I focus on paying off?”

“The only way to get out of debt is by spending less than you earn,” Hartill said. “But if you have your spending in check, a debt-consolidation loan can help you shed your debt faster.”

She added a caveat: “This option only makes sense if it lowers your interest payments. Many people who don’t have good credit actually find that the interest rate they’re approved for is even higher than what they’re currently paying.”

There’s a quick way to find out if this would work out for you. It takes just a couple of minutes to check out your options on a website called AmOne. If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, it’ll match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online.

4. ‘You Don’t Have to Settle for Nothing’

Question: “My savings account bottomed out. Any other ways to make passive income right now?”

“Although interest rates will stay low until at least 2023, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for earning nothing on your savings,” Hartill said.

Most banks are paying account holders virtually no interest on their savings these days. Try switching to an Aspiration account. It lets you earn up to 5% cash back every time you swipe the card and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account. Plus, you’ll never pay a monthly account maintenance fee.

To see how much you could earn, enter your email address here, link your bank account and add at least $10 to your account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

5. ‘Most of Us Don’t Earn Enough’

Question: “How can I possibly earn enough to ever retire?”

Hartill shared a brutal truth with us: “The overwhelming majority of us don’t earn enough to get to save our way to retirement.”

Ouch, that hurts. But wait, she offers a solution: “Spending money by investing it in the stock market and earning returns that compound into even more money.”

“If you need a $500,000 nest egg to retire, you’d have to trim $10,000 from your budget for 50 years straight to get there through savings alone. But if you invested just $5,000 a year and earned 6% returns, you’d get there in less than 34 years.”

6. ‘The Only Practical Way to Give Your Family Security’

Question: “I have a family. How can I make sure they’re protected in these uncertain times?”

“Spending money on life insurance is the only practical way to give your family the security they deserve,” Hartill said. “Your life insurance needs are greatest when you have young children. Fortunately, this is often a time when you’re still young enough that life insurance is relatively inexpensive.”

Maybe you’re thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But this takes minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

We hear people are paying as little as $8 a month. (But every year you wait, this gets more expensive.)

It takes just minutes to get a free quote and see how much life insurance you can leave your loved ones — even if you don’t have seven figures in your bank account.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He is not a certified financial planner, but he has stayed in a Holiday Inn Express.

*For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

**You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

5 Strategies for Paying Off Car Loan Early

Is your monthly car payment a burden to your budget? Paying off your car loan early can earn you much-needed financial freedom and save you potentially hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in would-be interest. 

You can pay off your car loan early using several effective strategies, but before you do, consider any potential penalties and effects to your credit score.

The True Cost of a Car Loan

It’s no secret that cars are our worst big-ticket investment. Unlike houses, which typically increase in value over time, and education, which theoretically opens the door to higher earning potential, cars lose their value over time. In fact, a new car depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot and will lose 20% to 30% of its value in the first year.

That’s a big deal, especially given the average cost Americans are spending on new cars in 2021. According to KBB, that hard-to-swallow number is over $40,000, up more than 4% over 2020.

That means Americans are shelling out $40,000 for a car that, in a year, will be worth anywhere from $28,000 to $32,000, representing an $8,000 to $12,000 loss.

But there’s more than just the sticker price to consider. In addition to sales tax (average of 10.12% in 2020, though it varies by state), be prepared to pay interest on your car loan. Right now, the average car loan interest rate (also referred to as APR, the annual percentage rate, though there’s a difference) is over 4%.

APR includes the interest rate, in addition to other fees, like loan origination fees or mortgage insurance. You should use the APR, not the flat interest rate, when calculating what you’re paying.

Your APR will depend on the current market and your credit score. The better your credit score, the lower your APR. If you have a weak credit score and can put off buying a car, it is advisable to build up your credit score before applying for a loan.

For 2021, rates are expected to hover between 4% and 5% for 48-month (four-year) and 60-month (five-year) loans. 

Car Loan Calculator: An Example

Interest on a car loan adds up. Let’s take the $40,000 new car as an example, with a $995 dealer fee. Assume you put $2,000 down and have a tax rate of a clean 10% and an APR of 5%. You’ve agreed to pay off the loan over 60 months, or five years. (The typical car loan is anywhere from three to seven years; the shorter the loan period, the higher the monthly payment.)

In this scenario, the total cost of the vehicle after tax and dealer fees is $44,995, minus your $2,000 down payment. That leaves $42,995 to be financed. Given the 5% interest rate over 60 months, your monthly payment would be $811.37.

Over 60 months, you will end up having paid $50,682.20 (including down payment) for a car that, with taxes and dealer fees, cost just $44,995. That means, over five years, you’ve paid $5,687.20 in interest. 

And let’s just ignore the fact that, due to depreciation, that car that you’ve just paid $50,000+ on is now worth just $18,752.41 (average value of 37% of original cost after five years).

Use The Penny Hoarder’s car loan calculator to figure out how much you’ll pay with real-life numbers that match your scenario.

How Car Loan Interest Rates Work

Paying off your car loan early, if you can afford it, seems like a no-brainer then. However, before you start strategizing about how to pay off your car loan ahead of schedule, do some digging to determine what kind of car loan you have.

In an ideal world, your loan will be a simple interest loan. If you have not yet purchased your car, only consider lenders that will offer you a simple interest loan. This means the interest is calculated entirely on the principal balance of the loan.

But if your lender charges precomputed interest, that means they will calculate how much you will pay in interest over the life of the loan and include that in your total balance. That means, even if you pay off your car early, the payoff quote will include all the interest you would have paid had you kept the loan open. In this case, there are absolutely no financial savings in paying your car loan off early.

One other element of your loan to research is payoff penalties. Payoff penalties are legal in 36 states and allow lenders to charge you a penalty (usually a fixed percentage of the remaining balance) for paying off your car loan early. In this case, it may be more expensive than what you would have paid in interest over the life of the car loan.

Will Paying Off Your Car Loan Early Hurt Your Credit Score

It is not likely that paying off a car loan early will hurt your credit score, but it could be keeping you from growing your credit score. Regular, on-time payments account for roughly 35% of your FICO credit score, making it the most important factor. Making monthly payments on a car loan is a great way to show lenders you are responsible with repaying your debts.

In addition, lenders like to see a nice mix of credit (mortgage, car loan and credit cards are the big three). Keeping your car loan open also helps extend the length of your credit history. If you have no other open credit (like a credit card), keeping your car loan open may be advantageous in building up your score if you eventually intend to buy a house.

5 Strategies for Paying Off Your Car Loan Early

If you have a simple interest car loan, your credit is in good standing and your loan doesn’t have any payoff penalties, it may be wise to pay off your car loan ahead of schedule. Not only will you avoid spending heaps of money on interest, but it will also give you the financial freedom of hundreds of dollars back in your monthly budget.

The best advice for paying off a car loan early: treat it like a mortgage. If you are a homeowner, you have likely heard that making an extra (13th) payment toward your mortgage principal every year can shave years off your loan. If you pay even more toward the principal each year, you can easily get your 30-year mortgage down to 15 years—and you’ll be able to drop PMI (private mortgage insurance) costs much earlier.

Of course, home loans tend to be much bigger than vehicle loans, so the potential to save is much larger, but the logic works the same with your car loan.

These strategies for early payoff are all effective, if done right:

1. Make One Large Extra Payment Every Year

If you can count on your grandma slipping a fat check into your Christmas card every year without fail, don’t use that money to splurge on alcoholic eggnog (OK, maybe one bottle). Instead, apply it directly to your car loan as a lump sum.

If you have autopay scheduled online, you can log into your account and simply arrange to make a one-time payment. If you’re old-fashioned and pay by phone or mail, simply call your lender and let them know you’d like to make an extra, one-time payment toward the principal.

Apply this logic to any unbudgeted (aka, not-planned-for) funds, like a bonus at work or a tax refund.

2. Make a Half Payment Every Two Weeks

Talk with your lender to see if you can switch to biweekly payments, instead of monthly. If your lender allows you to pay half of your monthly loan amount every two weeks, you will wind up making 26 half payments. Divide 26 by 2, and you get 13 full months of payments, paid over 12 months. That means, by the end of the year, you will have essentially made an extra car payment.

Just check your budget first to ensure that kind of payment plan is feasible.

3. Round Up

Rounding up to the nearest $50 or even $100, if you can swing it, is a great way to add extra money every month to the principal. For example, if your monthly payment is $337, you could round up to $350 or even $400 to essentially pay an extra $13 or $63 a month. This will wind up knocking a few months off the life of your loan.

If you have autopay scheduled, log onto your loan platform and see if you can add the additional funds toward the principal each month so you don’t even have to think about it.

4. Resist the Urge to Skip a Payment

Some lenders may let you skip one or two payments a year. So kind of them, right? Wrong. They do this knowing it will extend the life of your loan, meaning they will rake in even more of your hard-earned cash in interest fees.

Unless you fall on very hard times, fight the urge to skip a payment. You will wind up paying more in the end if you do.

5. Refinance, but Exercise Caution

If you had a poor credit score when you bought your car and opted for a seven-year loan to keep payments low, it might make sense to refinance. Perhaps you’re two years into the loan, you’ve got a higher-paying job, and your credit score is in great shape. You could potentially refinance at a lower APR and build the loan out over 36 months, saving you two years and lots of money in interest.

But borrower beware: Don’t refinance to get a lower monthly payment by extending a loan, as you will end up just paying more in interest. 

When You Shouldn’t Pay Off Your Car Loan Early

As we’ve seen, it doesn’t always make sense to pay off your car loan early. But there are more reasons to hold your horses than just payoff penalties and precomputed interest.

Here are some other reasons not to pay off your car loan early:

  • Lack of emergency savings. Bankrate reported early in 2021 that most Americans could not afford a $1,000 emergency. Just 39% have enough to cover such an unexpected expense. If you are a part of that 61% without a well-padded emergency fund, prioritize adding funds to a high-yield savings account to protect yourself and your family should the unthinkable happen. And it’s not just your family’s medical emergencies; you may need to cover a deductible on your renter’s insurance in the case of a break-in, the cost of an unexpected car repair or even a terrifying trip to the vet when your dog eats something he shouldn’t.
  • Higher-interest loans. If you have a reasonable interest rate on your car loan but are drowning in credit card debt, focus on the debt that has the highest interest rate. Credit cards historically have interest rates in the high teens, so they make the most sense to pay off first. If you are free of credit card debt but have a mortgage or student loans, compare those interest rates to that of your car loan to figure out which makes the most sense to pay down with extra funds.
  • Lack of credit history. If you refuse to get a credit card and don’t yet have a house, a car loan is your best bet for building your credit score. Keeping your car loan open could positively affect your credit score.
  • Investments. For most drivers, car loan APRs are not terrible. If you have some extra funds and are thinking about paying off your low-interest car loan, consider instead investing in your retirement fund or even buying a few stocks on your own. The average stock market return is about 10%. Obviously, you could wind up losing money, but in general, if you invest and hold, over time, you should expect your money to grow.

Timothy Moore is a managing editor for WDW Magazine, and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, Glassdoor, Aol and The News Wheel. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

25 Best Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

Costco has aggressively turned on its head the notion that a store brand is a notch below a national brand. How? By using its coast-to-coast strength to strong-arm suppliers to put quality as well as value into its Kirkland Signature offerings. A quarter of Costco’s annual sales now reportedly come from its Kirkland product lines, which first hit store shelves in 1995.

It’s no surprise. Costco continually upped its array of Kirkland Signature products, currently numbering 364 individual items, according to Costco’s website. Wary of store-branded items? Don’t be with Kirkland Signature. Many, if not all, are manufactured by top national and regional companies, including Duracell, which makes Kirkland Signature batteries, one of our recommendations.

On some Kirkland Signature products, don’t be surprised to see the name-brand manufacturer’s name co-branded with the Kirkland Signature, including the renowned Stearns & Foster on a Kirkland Signature by Stearns and Foster mattress (starting at $1,049.99), and nationally known Ocean Spray on the Kirkland Signature Cranberry Premium juice.

You’ll find the Kirkland Signature logo on everything from coffee to chicken stock, and golf balls to cheese wheels. We took a closer look at several Kirkland products getting accolades from customers and critics. You should check them out, too.

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Kirkland Signature Organic Animal Crackers

Animal crackers lined up on a table in front of a young boy's mouth Animal crackers lined up on a table in front of a young boy's mouth

Whether you’re feeding your children or your own inner child, Kirkland Signature Organic Animal Crackers are off the leash. The sweet snacks, in case you forgot, are in the shape of bite-size animals. Kirkland organic animal crackers come in a 64-ounce barrel, priced at $9.99, or about 16 cents per ounce. Walmart was selling a 24-ounce barrel of Stauffer Biscuit Co. (non-organic) animal crackers for $3.98, or about 17 cents per ounce. 

If you’re not a Costco member, you can order the same barrel of animal crackers on Amazon.com, but you’ll pay nearly double: $15.98, or about 25 cents per ounce. Shipping is free for Prime members.

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Kirkland Signature Bacon

Close-Up Of Bacon Slices In Barbecue GrillClose-Up Of Bacon Slices In Barbecue Grill

If everything is better with bacon, as the saying goes, then everything is super better with Kirkland Signature Bacon. The product-testing pros at Consumer Reports put bacon to the test and deemed Costco’s store-brand regular sliced bacon the top dog – make that the top pig. Testers raved about the taste, “noting its crispiness and balance of fat and meat flavors.”

They also raved about its price: Kirkland bacon typically sells for $1.50 less per pound than name-brand competitors. The Kirkland Signature sliced bacon comes in a pack of four one-pound individually wrapped packages for $18.99.

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Kirkland Signature Batteries

The tops of a collection of AA batteriesThe tops of a collection of AA batteries

With back-to-school shopping revving up and, ahem, the holiday shopping season not that far away, you’re going to need more power for all those energy-sucking gadgets. Kirkland Signature batteries can keep all those electronic toys and devices charged up at bargain prices. A 48-pack of Kirkland Signature AA batteries — made by Duracell — is $13.99 (down from $15.99 in November 2020), or about 29 cents per battery. BONUS: The day I was there, Kirkland batteries were on sale for $4 off, making this packet of AA batteries $9.99, or 20 cents per battery.

Stepping into name-brand batteries will cost you more at Costco (and much, more at other places). A 40-pack of Duracell CopperTop AA batteries is $17.99, for example, or more than 44 cents per battery. (Costco often puts Duracell batteries on sale, however, so check the flyer or shelf tag if you must have a name brand.)

Meanwhile, Walmart was selling 24-packs of Energizer AA batteries for $16.24, or 68 cents per battery.

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Kirkland Signature Cashews

Roasted cashews in a small bowl and on a tabletopRoasted cashews in a small bowl and on a tabletop

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

“Costco’s nuts are always super-fresh and high-quality,” raves food and cooking website TheKitchn.com. “Unless you’re a big-time baker, 2- and 3-pound packages of nuts might seem like a daunting purchase, but don’t forget that they freeze beautifully.”

A 2.5-pound container of Kirkland Signature whole fancy cashews goes for $14.99, or $5.99 per pound, a good savings over the going rate for 2-pound, 1-ounce containers of Planters whole cashews at Walmart. They were selling for $18.98 per container, or about $9.49 per pound.

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Kirkland Signature Cheese Wheel

Grocer with cheese wheel, partial viewGrocer with cheese wheel, partial view

Excessive, yes, but there’s an odd appeal to having your own 72-pound wheel o’ cheese. Costco knows this and complies. The Kirkland Signature Whole Wheel Parmigiano Reggiano can be yours for $949.99  or $13.99 per pound (up fifty bucks from 2019, when it was $899.99, or $12.50 a pound). I’ve had a piece of said wheel and it’s exceptional.

That per-pound price is a bargain, by the way, compared to Wegmans Italian Classics Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese sold at the regional Wegmans supermarkets, where chunks were going for $20.99 a pound (in various size chunks). But alas, the question inevitably arises: What do you do with a whole wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano? One answer: Pasta – lots and lots of pasta. And some foodie sites note if properly stored, the aged cheese can last for many months, and some say it can be frozen.

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Kirkland Signature Chicken Stock

chicken soup with noodles in a white bowl on wood background in rustic style chicken soup with noodles in a white bowl on wood background in rustic style

For home chefs who do a lot of cooking, Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Stock is a winner in taste and price. But be warned: You’re bulk-buying an entire case of chicken stock.

Still, it’s a good investment. Stock has a long shelf life, and the six quart-size boxes of organic chicken stock you’ll get at Costco cost just $10.99, or about $1.83 per quart. At Walmart, a single quart-size box of Swanson  chicken stock was selling for $2.72; however, it is not organic.

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Kirkland Signature Coffee Pods

Opened and unopened coffee podsOpened and unopened coffee pods

If K-cups for the Keurig brand of coffeemakers help power you through your day, Costco has something for you to brew. Its lineup of boxes of Kirkland Signature K-cups include boxes of 120 medium roast pods for $34.99, or about 29 cents a pod.

You don’t have to go far to price-compare. Costco sells other brands, including a box of 72 Dunkin Donuts original blend medium roast coffee pods for $36.99. That comes out to 51 cents a pod.

Not a podster? Costco features a whole lineup of Kirkland Signature ground and whole-bean coffee, plus those of competitors. 

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Kirkland Signature Diced Tomatoes

Top view of an opened can of diced tomatoes on a tableTop view of an opened can of diced tomatoes on a table

There’s a lot of cooking going on in our house, even by me. We go through a lot of tomatoes, and turn to Costco for help. In my opinion, Costco’s Kirkland Signature organic diced tomatoes — in boxes of eight 14.5-ounce cans — are the best. Each can is packed densely with tomatoes, whereas other, national brands are more watery. Each box sells for $5.99, or about 75 cents per can (and the price hasn’t changed in years). At Walmart, similar-size cans of its store brand Great Value organic petite diced tomatoes sell for $1.08.

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Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pods

Two dishwasher podsTwo dishwasher pods

If you run the dishwasher a lot, costs mount for those convenient dishwasher soap pods, especially if you’re buying name-brand detergent. You don’t have to.

Kirkland Signature Premium Dishwasher Pacs get the job done at a fraction of the price of national brands. You’ll pay $9.99 for 115 pods, or less than 9 cents per load. Costco also stocks packages of Cascade Complete Action pods for $15.99 for 90 pods, or more than 18 cents per load, twice the cost of the Kirkland brand. In recent testing by Consumer Reports, Kirkland’s pods bested all competitors including name-brand pods from Cascade and Finish.

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Kirkland Signature Organic Brown Eggs

Brown eggs in an egg cartonBrown eggs in an egg carton

We go through a lot of eggs in our home, and the 24-pack of Kirkland Signature Organic Brown Eggs are always on the shopping list. They’ve been consistently good, and they come in at the right price: $6.29 for the 24-pack. That’s 29 cents per egg.

By comparison, a carton of 18 Walmart Marketside large organic  was $5.74, or 32 cents per egg.

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Kirkland Signature Energy Shots

A man drinks an energy shotA man drinks an energy shot

Sometimes you need a little liquid encouragement to get through your busy days. Not that. This: Costco sells 48-count packages of 2-ounce Kirkland Signature Energy Shots for $34.99, or about 73 cents per shot. The day I was there an $8-off coupon discounted that price to $26.99, or 56 cents per shot.

By contrast, a single 1.93 ounce shot of 5-Hour Energy was selling for $2.78 at Walmart.

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Kirkland Signature Food Wrap

Plastic food wrap wrapped around a dish with foodPlastic food wrap wrapped around a dish with food

Popularly known as “Saran wrap,” Costco can’t call its food wrap by that name because SC Johnson owns the trademarked Saran brand. By any name, however, the Kirkland Signature version is a winner on quality and price.

And here’s one where Costco’s Kirkland Signature co-brands with a national brand, Stretch-Tite. A single 3,000 square foot roll of Kirkland Signature Stretch-Tite Plastic Food Wrap sells for just $13.49, or about a half a cent per square foot. That’s 3,000 square feet of plastic wrap. At Walmart, a 225-square-foot roll of Reynolds Kitchens plastic food wrap was selling for $2.98, or about 1 cent per square foot.

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Kirkland Signature Gasoline

Cars being fueled at a Costco Gas Station in OregonCars being fueled at a Costco Gas Station in Oregon

Not every Costco has a gas station adjacent to it, but the club locations that do have them see steady, and strong, business. What gives? The savings. A Costco in central Virginia was selling regular Kirkland Signature Gasoline for roughly 9% less than nearby national brand stations. Sure, the difference is a few pennies per gallon, but on a fill-up you might save $3 or more – not bad if you’re heading to Costco anyway.

Factor in how valuable your time is, though. Even on a weekday afternoon, at least 7 vehicles were waiting in line, sometimes for 20 minutes or longer, to get to Costco’s gas pumps. That’s a lot of idling.

And one pro tip, fellow Costco gas guzzlers: Costco’s hoses are extra long, meaning you don’t have to drive up to the pumps on the side of the car where your gas tank door is located. If you’re close enough to the pump, the hose will reach either side. Many people waste precious minutes waiting to pull up to the “right” side of the pump.

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Kirkland Signature Golf Gear

Gloved hand removing a golf club from a golf bagGloved hand removing a golf club from a golf bag

When Costo released its Kirkland Signature golf balls in 2016, they were an immediate sensation, highly lauded by pros and amateurs alike. They also quickly sold out, as they were compared to the highly lauded Titleist Pro V1. 

They’re back. You can pick up a 24-pack of Kirkland Signature V2.0 Performance three-piece golf balls for $24.99. Costco-branded golf balls typically retail for 60% less than a Titleist.

But wait. There’s more: The equally lauded Kirkland Signature KS1 Putter is on Costco shelves for $139.99. Need a bit more in your bag? A Kirkland Signature 3-piece golf wedge set is $159.99.

While you’re at it, pick up a four-pack of Kirkland Signature golf gloves — sizes vary — for $19.99.

We can’t guarantee this Kirkland Signature will improve your game, but we can guarantee you’ll save a few bucks.

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Kirkland Signature Honey

Image of honey dripping from a spoonImage of honey dripping from a spoon

Costco is sweet on its Kirkland Signature brand of 100% U.S. raw, unfiltered honey in 3 pound jars. The price goes down easy: $8.99, or about 19 cents per ounce.  A 12-ounce jar of Walmart’s Great Value raw, unfiltered honey was $3.38, or 28.2 cents per ounce. 

 

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Kirkland Signature Italian Sparkling Water

Sparkling water and lemon on office wooden desk table.Sparkling water and lemon on office wooden desk table.

If you like your Italian mineral water sparkling, you might often turn to the classic San Pellegrino. Costco knows that. It stacks cases of its Kirkland Signature Italian Sparkling Mineral Water near cases of Pellegrino. I detected no taste difference, but there certainly was a price difference.

A case of 24 16.9-ounce bottles of Kirkland Signature Italian sparkling water was selling for $12.99 (same price as 2019), while a similar size case of Pellegrino sparkling water was $17.99 ($1 more a case at Costco than 2019).

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Kirkland Signature Laundry Detergent

Close-up Of A Person's Hand Pouring Detergent In LidClose-up Of A Person's Hand Pouring Detergent In Lid

So … it does all come out in the wash.

Costco tapped its Kirkland Signature brand to help do the laundry, and less expensively than national brands, some stacked and stocked near the KS brand.

For comparison’s sake, we spotted the Kirkland Signature UltraClean Premium liquid laundry detergent in 194-ounce jugs selling for $15.99 and yes, the packaging does look strikingly like Tide’s signature colors. UltraClean comes in at 8 cents per ounce.

Nearby, stacks and stacks of 150-ounce jugs of Tide Advance Power laundry detergent challenged UltraClean. But Tide Advance was selling for $19.99, or 13 cents per ounce. 

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Kirkland Signature Olive Oil

Feta salad with red bell peppers, tomatoes and olive oil Feta salad with red bell peppers, tomatoes and olive oil

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

What’s also nice is the price. A 2-liter bottle of Kirkland Signature EVOO was $11.99, or about 17 cents per ounce. News flash: You can skip the Costco membership and get this same 2-liter bottle of Kirkland Signature EVOO on… wait for it: Walmart.com Um-hmmm. But it will set you back $34.24, nearly three times the cost at Costco.

Walmart does have its own branded EVOO. Its Great Value organic extra virgin olive oil is $9.86 for a 51-ounce jar, or about 19 cents per fluid ounce, and we’re not sure if it’s received accolades.

Note, too, the Kirkland Signature name is on a wide lineup of other cooking oils, including coconut, canola and corn.

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Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter

Child eating peanut butter from the jar using a spoonChild eating peanut butter from the jar using a spoon

When my wife finally weaned me off creamy (and delicious) Jif peanut butter and into the world of peanut butter made without sugar (just peanuts; maybe some salt), my snacking world changed.

Our go-to brand had been Smucker’s organic creamy peanut butter, but after diving into Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter, that, too, has changed. It’s just as good as Smucker’s, maybe even better, and there’s no arguing with the price. You can get two 28-ounce jars of Kirkland peanut butter for around $10, or 18 cents per ounce, while just one 16-ounce jar of Smucker’s costs $4.48 at Walmart, or 28 cents per ounce.

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Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chicken

Dozens of whole chickens being roasted in an industrial broilerDozens of whole chickens being roasted in an industrial broiler

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Toilet Paper

A package of Kirkland toilet paperA package of Kirkland toilet paper

No one longs for the darker days of the pandemic, hunting down toilet paper anywhere you could. Some retailers, Costco included, limited how many packets you could buy. And most of what Costco sells in that department are 30-packs.

TP shortages seem to be a thing of the past. And not that it’s anybody’s business, but our house is Team Costco when it comes to TP. Kirkland Signature 2-ply bath tissue is a steal. Thirty high-quality rolls sell for just $16.99, a price Costco didn’t up during the pandemic. That price has been steady for years.

Facial tissue is another story. One shopping expert we consulted knocked the quality of Costco’s Kirkland Signature facial tissue, earning it a spot on our list of the worst things to buy at warehouse clubs.

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Kirkland Signature Organic Tortilla Chips

Tortilla chips and salsa on a tableTortilla chips and salsa on a table

This one is fairly new on our Kirkland Signature amazing lineup of snacks: 40-ounce (2.5 pounds) bags of Kirkland Signature organic tortilla chips. At about $5 a bag, or 12 cents per ounce, the price is right and the chips are tasty and durable enough to stand up to my amazing salsa-with-a-burn  (made with Kirkland organic diced tomatoes, naturally). Compare that to a 7.5-ounce bag of Simply Doritos Organic White Cheddar Tortilla Chips at Walmart. They sell for $2.98, or 40 cents per ounce.

Or if you crave the Kirkland Signature chips and you’re not a Costco member, you can buy a 40-ounce bag on Walmart.com … for $22.20.

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Kirkland Signature Vitamin Water

Bottles of vitamin waterBottles of vitamin water

Yes, bottles of the fruit-flavored, no-calorie and mineral-rich Kirkland Signature Vita Rain Zero are strikingly similar to Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero, but I dare you to find any difference in taste. There is a difference in price, which is significant to me; I drink a lot of this stuff.

Costco tabbed Kirkland’s 24-count variety pack of 20-ounce Vita Rain Zero bottles at $9.99, or about 42 cents per bottle. Walmart was selling Coca-Cola-owned Vitaminwater Zero Sugar Rise, electrolyte-enhanced water with vitamins for $4.98 for a six pack (these are 16.9-ounce bottles), or about 83 cents per bottle.

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Kirkland Signature Vodka

A drink being make with vodkaA drink being make with vodka

Wine snobs are already familiar with Kirkland Signature wines (more on those later), but spirits snobs might still be in the dark about Costco’s store-brand booze. Costco isn’t allowed to sell liquor in all of its stores; many states limit the warehouse club to beer and wine. But some states do give the green light to Costco selling liquor, and its vodka is a hands-down winner, rave spirits experts including Bon Appetit.

I first stumbled upon Kirkland Signature Vodka while shopping at a Costco on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Not that I’m so into vodka, but I do know good from bad. Kirkland’s vodka ranks up there with my fav, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and it costs less.

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Kirkland Signature Wine

Two glasses of wine and a bottle on a table in sunlight.Two glasses of wine and a bottle on a table in sunlight.

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

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

Source: kiplinger.com

3 Ways to Listen to Free Music Online – Downloads, Streaming & Radio

Back in the day, there were only two ways to listen to recorded music. You could tune your radio to a local station and hear whatever song happened to be playing, or you could go down to the record store and buy a copy of your favorite songs on a vinyl disc.

Today, that sounds quaint. According to The Guardian, digital music downloads overtook sales of physical recordings on CD or vinyl way back in 2012. More recently, even digital downloads have lost ground to music streaming services. In 2020, streaming accounted for 85% of all the music industry’s revenues, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

All this technology has made listening to music significantly cheaper. According to a 2017 Nielsen report (via Digital Trends), the average consumer spends only $156 on music each year. Savvy consumers know there are several ways they can get most of their digital music for free — leaving more money in their budgets to enjoy a live concert or two.

How to Listen to Music for Free Online

There are three primary ways to get your favorite music for free online. Which one you choose depends on what you’re looking for.

1. Streaming Music Online

Today, streaming services are indisputably the most popular way to listen to music. With a streaming music service, you don’t own the songs you play, but on the plus side, you’re not limited to the number of tracks you can fit on your phone or MP3 player.

Streaming services can take several forms. Some are subscription services that play music selected for you, some are more like radio stations, and some simply play tunes on demand. However, many online music sources blur the boundaries between these categories.

Internet Radio

Internet radio stations work the same way as old-school radio: They select songs, and you listen to whatever pops up. But instead of being limited to the few stations in range, you can choose from a vast list of specialized stations that suit particular musical tastes. Also, if you hear a song you really can’t stand, you can just skip it — something you can’t do over the airwaves.

Some services take this personalization to its logical extreme by creating custom radio stations to suit a user’s tastes. Instead of a live DJ choosing which tune to play next, algorithms select songs for you based on which artists and music you say you like.

Advertising funds the majority of Internet radio stations. But some let you upgrade to an ad-free experience for a small monthly fee. Choosing a paid version also lets you skip songs more frequently. Most online radio stations limit users of free accounts to six skips per hour.

There are multiple internet radio stations to choose from.

Pandora

Started in 2000, Pandora is one of the top streaming sites on the Internet. Its music-picking algorithm, known as the “Music Genome Project,” analyzes the songs you like best and then presents you with other songs that share similar qualities.

According to Digital Trends, Pandora’s music collection is pretty decent, with about 40 million tracks for its on-demand service. However, the main reason to listen is its “magic algorithms,” which do a fantastic job of picking out songs to match your tastes. You can listen on a range of devices, including computers, smartphones, TVs, and car audio systems.

Pandora’s basic service is free. However, you can pay to upgrade to ad-free listening with Pandora Plus for $4.99 per month. On-demand listening via Pandora Premium costs $9.99 per month for individuals, $14.99 for families with up to six members, $4.99 for students, and $7.99 for military members.

LiveXLive

Formerly known as Slacker Radio, this service relaunched as LiveXLive in 2017. The new name reflects its focus on providing live music streams. The service earns an Editors’ Choice designation from PCMag, which praises its “curated stations” hosted by experienced and informative DJs.

Along with its extensive music collection, LiveXLive offers live news from ABC and pop culture tales called “Slacker Stories.” It also hosts videos featuring music news, interviews with artists, and even live performances. It’s easy to use on multiple platforms, with apps for Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku.

A free account comes with 128 kilobits per second audio and the ability to skip up to six songs per hour — and plenty of ads. You can remove these limitations and upgrade your speed by upgrading to Plus ($3.99 per month). Going up to Premium ($9.99 per month) gives you access to on-demand and offline listening.

Last.Fm

At Last.fm, you create a custom profile that’s continuously updated with info about what artists and genres you’re listening to. The site uses this feature, which it calls “scrobbling,” to make personalized recommendations for new music. It also has a social media component, introducing you to other music lovers who share your tastes.

A basic subscription to the site is free. An ad-free version with extra features costs just $3 per month. You can listen to Last.fm on the Web or through its desktop and mobile apps. The apps can also track what music you listen to from other streaming music services and use that information to enhance your profile.

Jango

One of the newest players in the Internet radio field is Jango. Like Pandora, this service creates custom radio stations based on your musical tastes. You select your favorite artists, and Jango plays music from those artists and similar ones. You can fine-tune the playlist by rating songs you especially like or never want to hear again.

Jango also has hundreds of ready-made stations. Some are based on different genres, such as country, classical, or hip-hop. Others focus on more specific themes, such as today’s top 100 hits or Christmas songs.

You can listen to Jango over the Web or via an app for Android or iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). The service is 100% free and supported by ads. However, if you link Jango to your Facebook account, you will hear only one commercial per day. The mobile apps sometimes offer ad-free listening as well.

Subscription Services

A subscription streaming music service is like a library filled with songs users can check out but not keep permanently. Most subscription services make money by charging a fixed monthly rate in exchange for unlimited listening. But many also offer free accounts funded by advertising.

Amazon Music

There are two ways to listen to Amazon Music. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, it comes with access to a limited catalog of 2 million songs. This basic, ad-supported service has thousands of stations and playlists, and you can listen offline with unlimited skips. You can also use Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant, to control playback and discover new music.

If you want more music, you can upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited. It gives you ad-free, on-demand access to 75 million songs in HD. Over 7 million songs are available in Ultra HD, and the service also includes access to exclusive Ultra HD remastered albums. Amazon Music Unlimited also gives you access to other audio, such as podcasts.

Your first 30 days of Amazon Music Online are free. After that, it costs $9.99 per month for Prime nonmembers or $7.99 per month if you have a Prime subscription.

Spotify

Named the best all-around music streaming service by Digital Trends, Spotify is by far the most popular on-demand streaming service in the world today. There are several ways to use it:

  • Discover new music through the site’s curated playlists.
  • Create playlists from Spotify’s collection of more than 50 million tracks.
  • Browse playlists created by others, including friends, performers, and celebrities.

All music on Spotify is free, but upgrading to a Spotify Premium subscription for $9.99 per month gives you several extra perks. You get better audio quality, ad-free playback, and the ability to save songs for offline listening. You can also play songs on demand in the mobile app, a feature that’s unavailable with a free subscription.

You can listen to Spotify over the Web or via its iOS and Android apps. It also runs on certain gaming consoles, smart speakers, and car audio systems.

YouTube Music

The free version of YouTube Music is like a cross between a radio station and an on-demand streaming service. It invites you to name some of your favorite artists and uses that information to recommend albums, curated playlists, and custom playlists for you.

But unlike most online radio stations, YouTube Music lets you move around these lists at will, skipping forward or backward. Ads are relatively infrequent, according to Gizmodo, and it’s possible to skip some of them. You can also search for specific artists, albums, and tracks by name, save your favorites to your library, and create playlists.

YouTube Music also has some extra features most music services don’t provide. For instance, you can switch back and forth between audio tracks and music videos with the tap of a button. The service can also search for a song based on its lyrics.

All this is available free over the Web and on Android and iOS. However, upgrading to YouTube Music Premium for $9.99 per month lets you listen ad-free and stream in the background while your device is off. If you subscribe to YouTube Premium for streaming video, you get access to YouTube Music Premium for free.

Deezer

Though it’s not as well known as other streaming services, Deezer is surprisingly full-featured. This service provides a blend of on-demand streaming, live radio, podcasts, videos, and exclusive content — all for free.

On the Web or your desktop, Deezer recommends playlists for you based on your favorite artists and genres. You can also search a library of 73 million for specific tracks to create your own playlists. Deezer also provides synchronized song lyrics. However, the free service is available only on desktops, mobile devices, and a few home devices. It also limits skips.

If you upgrade to Deezer Premium ($9.99 per month) or Deezer Family ($14.99 per month), you get ad-free streaming, an offline mode, and unlimited skips. You can also connect on up to three devices at once, including smart speakers, smart TVs, wearable devices, game consoles, and car audio systems. You can try Deezer Premium free for 90 days.

Free Trials

Some streaming music services don’t have free ad-sponsored versions, but they do offer free trials. These give you a chance to test the service and decide whether it’s worth coughing up the cash for a monthly subscription.

Apple Music

With a library of over 75 million songs, Apple Music is the ideal streaming service for anyone who relies on Apple devices. It’s the only service you can control with the Apple Watch or voice commands to Siri, Apple’s smart assistant. Windows users can also use Apple Music via iTunes on their computers, but it doesn’t work as smoothly, according to Digital Trends.

Apple Music allows you to store up to 100,000 songs in your personal streaming library. If you’re an iTunes user, you can find many of your songs already available in the streaming library when you first sign up. The service also includes Apple Music 1, a 24-hour radio service curated by noted DJs and musicians.

The free trial period is 90 days. But according to Insider, you can double this to six months by signing up through an account with Best Buy. After the trial, choose from three service tiers: student at $4.99 per month, individual at $9.99 per month, and family at $14.99 per month.

Tidal

Both PCMag and Digital Trends agree that Tidal, a streaming service owned by top rap artist Jay-Z, has top-notch audio quality. It also offers exclusive content for hardcore music fans, such as timed releases from top artists like Beyoncé, live streams, concerts, and backstage footage. It even provides early access to certain concert and sports tickets.

Tidal offers a library of over 70 million songs and 250,000 music videos. However, as Digital Trends notes, it’s not easy to discover new music, and the interface can be buggy. Also, Tidal doesn’t provide lyrics, unlike many other services. You can listen on computers, mobile devices, smart TVs and streaming devices, smart speakers, and car audio systems.

The free trial period lasts 30 days. After that, Tidal Premium is $9.99 per month for individuals and $14.99 per month for families. Tidal HiFi, with lossless-quality sound, is $19.99 per month for individuals and $29.99 per month for families. But there are discounted subscriptions available for students, military members, and first responders.

SoundCloud Go

This service is the streaming counterpart to SoundCloud’s music download service. Digital Trends calls SoundCloud Go the best way to discover new indie music thanks to its vast library of 120 million user-created tracks. Its higher-tier SoundCloud Go+ adds another 30 million tracks from major labels and ad-free listening.

The service has nearly 200 million active users each month, and tons of lesser-known artists upload their newest songs regularly. However, unlike many other services, it doesn’t use algorithms to help you find music, so it can take some work to search through all the content to find your new favorites.

The free trial period is seven days for SoundCloud Go and 30 days for SoundCloud Go+. If you like it, you can pay $4.99 per month for SoundCloud Go or $9.99 per month for SoundCloud Go+.

Free Streaming on Demand

Some sites don’t require a subscription to stream music — you just go to the site, pick a track, and listen. For instance, on YouTube, you can type in the name of just about any song and find a video version of it.

The artists or their labels post some of these. But some are amateur videos created by fans, and some have just the music accompanied by a blank screen or lyrics. For example, a search for the popular song “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor turned up Trainor’s official video, a live performance of a jazz cover version, and numerous fan-created videos and parodies.

YouTube is an excellent place to find that obscure song you heard years ago, even if you’re unsure of the title or the artist. Just type in the most memorable line from the song, and let YouTube’s search engine do its thing. Using this method, I tracked down two old novelty songs: “Put the Lime in the Coconut” by Harry Nilsson and “Right Said Fred” by Bernard Cribbins.


2. Free Music Downloads

In the age of the Internet, it’s very easy to download music illegally. However, if you prefer to stay on the right side of the law — and support your favorite artists and the music labels that support them — you need to dig a little deeper to find free music downloads that are also legal.

Amazon

In addition to its streaming service, Amazon has a massive catalog of digital music for download, including more than 5,000 free songs. Many of these are obscure tracks by relatively unknown artists. But there are also a few gems by better-known performers, such as the rock band Foo Fighters and the folk artist Carole King.

Finding free tracks on Amazon is a bit tricky since the site keeps trying to redirect you to Amazon Music. Your best bet is to search the Internet for “find free music downloads on Amazon” and follow the first non-sponsored link you find.

SoundCloud

The primary SoundCloud service is sort of like YouTube for recording artists. Any user can upload music to the site, making it available for other users to download or stream.

Not all the music on SoundCloud is free, but you can find free tracks by both major and lesser-known artists. You can search the site for specific artists or genres or just browse the selections of trending music. SoundCloud’s services are also available through mobile apps for iOS and Android.

SoundClick

Much like SoundCloud, SoundClick provides a place for independent artists to make their music available directly to listeners. Founded in 1997, this site now offers millions of tracks spanning a variety of genres. You can find hip-hop, electronic, rock, alternative, acoustic, country, jazz, and even classical.

You can stream unlimited tracks via SoundClick or download them in both MP3 and lossless format. As a subscriber, you get your own profile page and custom playlists. You can follow your favorite artists, connect with other users, and support artists through tips.

Free Music Archive

Created by independent freeform radio station WFMU in New Jersey and now owned by the Dutch music collective Tribe of Noise, the Free Music Archive is a collection of free legal music tracks submitted by users and partner curators. All music on the site appears under Creative Commons licenses, which let artists make their work available for various uses without surrendering their rights.

Digital Trends calls the archive “a veritable treasure trove of free content” you can search by title, artist, genre, and length. The site also hosts a wealth of podcasts and some live radio performances from big-name artists.

Jamendo

Another site that distributes free music under Creative Commons licenses is Jamendo. Around 40,000 artists from more than 150 countries have contributed more than 500,000 tracks, available for streaming or download, to the site.

According to Digital Trends, this site offers a streamlined user interface that makes it easy to browse and find new musicians. Even though most artists featured here aren’t well known, it’s easy to find the most popular tracks based on their user ratings, so you don’t have to sift through countless songs to find the good stuff.

If you need music for commercial purposes — for instance, in a video you want to distribute for profit — Jamendo offers a licensing service. For a monthly fee of $49, you get an unlimited number of tracks for commercial online use.

NoiseTrade

NoiseTrade is a project of the award-winning lifestyle magazine Paste. The “trade” in the name means artists give you their music on the site in exchange for your email address and postal code. It’s a win-win for users, who get free tracks or entire albums, and for artists, who get to build their fan bases.

Digital Trends describes this site’s interface as simple and clean. You can easily search tracks, browse recommendations, promote your favorite artists via social media, and send them tips with a credit card.

ReverbNation

Many well-known artists, including Imagine Dragons and Alabama Shakes, built their fan bases from scratch by sharing their music on ReverbNation. The site hosts over 3.5 million artists representing a mix of genres, like rock, R&B, indie, hip-hop, country, and folk. Its Discover feature can help you find up-and-coming artists in genres that interest you.

DatPiff

Hip-hop artists have long used mixtapes to spread their work. In that tradition, DatPiff offers access to a variety of new free music from both new rappers and mainstream artists like Drake and Future. According to Digital Trends, it’s the leading place to download new tapes, view release schedules, and listen to compilations created by fans.

Audiomack

A newer, up-and-coming player in the mixtape realm is Audiomack. It focuses on hip-hop, rap, and trap music from both newcomers and established artists like Kodak Black. Some artists on this site allow only online streaming of their songs, but there are still plenty of downloadable tracks.

CCTrax

Another genre-specific site is CCTrax. Although it hosts tunes from various genres, it has an unparalleled collection of electronic music, including dub, techno, house, downtempo, and ambient. Many of the singles and albums are licensed by Creative Commons and free for use in other works.

Musopen

Classical music lovers can find lots of free recordings, sheet music, and even textbooks at Musopen. Most classical music pieces are in the public domain, so it’s perfectly legal to distribute them for free. The site has a vast library of royalty-free recordings you can search by composer, performer, form, instrument, or period.

Live Music Archive

For live concert recordings, Live Music Archive is the place to go. The site is a collaboration between the Internet Archive, a nonprofit repository of digital media, and Etree.org, a community for sharing concert tapes. Recordings date back to 1959 and span a wide variety of genres, including rock, reggae, and jazz — and over 15,000 Grateful Dead shows.

According to Digital Trends, this site can be tricky to navigate. There’s no search function, but you can filter results by artist, title, or date. When you find what you want, you can stream it or download it in MP3 or FLAC (free lossless audio codec) form.


3. Broadcast Radio

Even in the brave new world of digital media, there’s still room for the old-fashioned kind. In fact, according to a 2019 Nielsen report, more Americans tune in each week to old-school radio — over the airwaves — than any other platform, including TV and all Internet-connected devices.

Far from killing off broadcast radio, the Internet has revitalized it. A couple of decades ago, you could only listen to your favorite radio station when you were in range of its antenna tower, which made it hard for smaller stations with less power to compete. Today, as long as you have an Internet connection, you can listen to any radio station that has a livestream.

For example, if I want to listen to my local NPR station, WNYC, I can just type “WNYC.org” into my web browser and click the Listen Live button. It’s a lot easier than fiddling with the radio knobs to hit the right frequency and allows you to listen to local radio, even when you’re traveling.

TuneIn

The Internet can help you discover new radio stations as well. At TuneIn, you can find and listen to Web streams from 100,000 radio stations around the world. Sports, news, podcasts, and talk radio are also available.

You can listen to any station on TuneIn with a free subscription. But your stream will include all the ads played on the radio station. With a premium subscription, which costs either $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year, you can listen to many stations ad-free and reduce the number of ads on others.

In addition to its website, TuneIn is available to download as an app for iOS or Android devices. You can also listen via car audio systems, smart speakers, game systems, smart TVs, streaming devices, and wearables.

iHeartRadio

Another site devoted to traditional radio is iHeartRadio. You don’t need a subscription to tune into radio stations or search for one by location. The site also gives you access to podcasts and playlists based on genres, decades, or moods.

With a free subscription to the site, you can build Pandora-style custom stations based on specific songs or artists you like. You also gain full access to IHeartRadio’s podcast collection as well as a custom library in which you can save your favorite stations, music, and podcasts.

For $4.99 per month, you can upgrade to a Plus subscription. It allows you to skip as many songs as you like, play songs and albums on demand, and save and replay songs you hear on the radio. With an All-Access subscription ($9.99 per month), you can also create unlimited playlists and download songs for offline listening.


Final Word

Despite all the Internet has to offer, digital music may never entirely take the place of physical recordings. There are even signs the old-fashioned record store is making a comeback. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, more than 40% of all profits for sales of physical recordings in 2018 came from vinyl LPs and EPs.

The world of modern music isn’t so much about digital versus analog, recorded music versus streaming, or custom radio versus curated stations. Rather, it’s all about choice. Music lovers today have more options than ever for listening to music exactly the way they want. And thanks to the Internet, they also have plenty of options for how much they spend on it.

Source: moneycrashers.com

3 Questions About Compound Interest — Answered | The Simple Dollar

Compound interest is an incredibly powerful force. It allows your money to start growing on its own, with the returns exploding in value over time, if you have the patience.

While the idea is easy to understand, the actual application of it can be tricky. Does it make a difference if money is compounded monthly or quarterly? How does one teach the idea to young children? Are there any places that offer steady compound interest with a high interest rate? Let’s dig in!

In this article

Impact of bank compounding quarterly

Angie writes:

I used to keep my savings at one bank but I didn’t like their service so I switched everything to a new bank. The new bank is great except that they only put interest in my checking account quarterly. The APR on both accounts is the same. I’m trying to figure out how much I’m losing and if it is worth it to find another bank.

It’s probably not worth it to find another bank if you like the customer service at your current bank.

Let’s say you have a large amount in savings — $100,000. Let’s also say that the bank offers 0.5 percent APR on their savings account, which is a reasonable amount in the current banking world. I’m guessing that your old bank compounded monthly, as that’s very common in banking, and your new bank compounds quarterly.

At your old bank, with monthly compounding, you would earn $501.15 in interest in a year. At your new bank, with quarterly compounding, you would earn $500.94 in interest in a year. That’s right, over the course of a year, with $100,000 in the account at 0.5 percent APR, the difference between the two is about 20 cents.

With interest rates as low as they are, different compounding rates don’t make a huge difference. However, if interest rates rebound strongly, you may want to pay attention. Let’s say that interest rates were 5 percent instead of 0.5 percent. In that case, the monthly compounded account would generate $5,116.19 in interest, whereas the quarterly compounded account would generate $5,094.53 in interest. Suddenly, you’re talking about $22, which might be enough to be concerned with.

Unless interest rates rebound a lot, I wouldn’t worry too much about the rate of compounding in your savings account. If you have a big enough balance that it’s making a large difference, there are likely better places to keep your money than a typical savings account at a local bank. Your best approach is to simply find a bank with a good interest rate and good customer service and stick with them rather than chasing a better compounding frequency.

[Read More: What Kind of Bank Account Is Best for Your Money?]

Teaching son about compound interest

Mindy writes:

How can I teach my son about the power of compound interest? He is 6. We put some money in a savings account but it is growing slowly and he doesn’t really get it.

Speaking from personal experience when teaching my own children this lesson, the key is to make the compounding periods small and the interest rate big so that they see what’s happening.

For my own children, when they were very young, we illustrated compound interest with a bowl of pennies. The goal was to make compound interest as tangible and physical as possible.

We withdrew a bunch of rolls of pennies from the bank and put a bowl of pennies out on the table, starting with 30 or so. We told them that each day, the number of pennies in the bowl would grow by 10 percent — in other words, for every 10 pennies in the bowl, we would add one penny.

We had them guess how many pennies would be in the bowl in one month. Each night, we’d count the pennies, then we would add one penny for every 10 we counted.

Their guesses were all super low, so they were blown away by the growth of it — the bowl was literally overflowing by the end of the month, with incredibly fast growth over the last week.

Later, we offered them a very high weekly compound interest rate on their allowance money if they deposited it at the “Bank of Mom and Dad.” In other words, if they held their allowance in their hand and decided to deposit it with us, we would give them 5 percent interest each week on their savings. At first, our children were hesitant to take advantage of it, but when one of them started to save for a big goal and they saw how the savings were accelerating thanks to the power of compound interest, they all jumped on board. We actually had to put a cap on weekly interest!

The message is simple. If you want your kids to learn about compound interest, make it tangible and visual. Make it important to them. Make the rate of growth rapid, so that their patience is not overly tested. Once they see the idea, it will stick with them for life.

[Read More: Some Thoughts on Parenting and Personal Finance Success from an Experienced Parent]

High rate of steady compound interest

Jerry writes:

Are there any investments that offer a high rate of steady interest? Bank accounts are so low these days and everything else is so variable.

Unfortunately, investments that offer a very steady rate of return offer a very low rate of return these days. It’s not like it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when you could buy U.S. Treasurys that paid 10 percent or more. Even as recently as 2007, online bank accounts could be found that paid as much as 6 percent per year.

Before we dig too much into this, consider why banks offer interest on bank accounts in the first place. In really simple terms, they do it because they need to have a certain amount in their vaults in order to lend out money to other customers. In essence, the money in your checking or savings account ends up being the money that banks lend out to people getting mortgages and business loans.

The reason that you won’t find steady, solid interest rates much above 1 percent right now is because of the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve sets a number of interest rates that dictate how much banks can charge each other for temporary loans and how much the Federal Reserve charges them for emergency loans. If banks have access to money at the low interest rates that the Federal Reserve offers, they don’t have a whole lot of incentive to offer high interest rates to customers.

Think about it this way. If a bank can borrow money from another bank for 0.25 percent, why would they give you much more than that in interest on your deposits? All a bank wants is money in their vaults as inexpensively as possible so they can lend it out in the form of business loans and car loans and mortgages. If they charge a lot more than 0.25 percent, they’re probably going to lose money by doing so.

So, as long as the Federal Reserve keeps interest rates low, your bank will give you low interest rates on your savings and checking accounts. It will only go up when the Federal Reserve raises rates.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

3 Surprisingly Costly Mistakes We Make at Gas Stations

Woman holding coffee while pumping gas
SofikoS / Shutterstock.com

Nobody enjoys the expense of filling up an empty gas tank. But you can easily make the situation much worse with a few simple — and common — money mistakes.

Some of these under-the-radar missteps are especially harmful to your budget, especially if you make them repeatedly. And we’ve probably all made at least one of them at least a few times over, likely without realizing just how much it can cost us.

Following are some of the costliest money mistakes you can make at a gas station.

1. Grabbing a drink

We cite stopping at convenience stores as a major money waster in “7 Ways You Throw Away Money Every Day.” And grabbing water or caffeine at the gas station is really no different.

Say you grab a 16-ounce bottle of water for $1. Surely a convenience purchase is harmless when it’s only a buck, right? Not exactly.

You just paid $8 a gallon — far more than you would ever pay for gasoline — for something that flows freely from your home faucet. That’s not the kind of mistake that most folks can afford to repeat if they hope to retire comfortably.

So, invest in a reusable water bottle or an insulated tumbler already, and never pay for water again.

Then, start adding all those dollars you save to a high-paying savings account or a retirement account.

2. Paying for gas with a debit card

Every time you use a debit card at a gas pump, you effectively increase your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Criminals like to attach skimmers — illegal card readers that steal your card numbers — to gas pump payment terminals because they generally are not manned by employees. We detail this in “9 Things You Should Never Put on a Debit Card.”

If you pay with cash, that’s not an issue. If you pay with a credit card, it’s not much of an issue because credit card transactions are covered by a federal law that limits your responsibility for unauthorized charges to $50.

Your debit card, however, does not enjoy such protections. You have to report such losses in a timely manner to ensure you get most of your money back.

If a criminal steals your debit card numbers from a gas pump skimmer and uses it to ring up hundreds or thousands of dollars in purchases before you realize it, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever see that money again.

In addition, debit card fraud typically allows the thief to tap directly into your checking account. If someone steals all the money from your account — even just temporarily — will you have enough money stashed away in an emergency fund to cover bills while you wait for the stolen money to be recovered?

3. Buying premium gas

If your car requires high-octane gasoline, you should shell out for it. But if premium gas is merely recommended, you’re better off saving your money, AAA says.

Many drivers are not doing either of these things, though. According to a 2018 AAA report, Americans collectively waste $2.1 billion per year on high-octane gas when it isn’t required or even recommended for their cars.

To learn more about whether regular, premium or Top Tier gas is best for your car, check out “This Is the No. 1 Mistake Drivers Make When Filling Up.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com