How to Find Felon-Friendly Apartments After Getting Out of Jail

Yes, you can rent an apartment as a felon — just do your research.

Do you have a felony on your record and happen to need a new place to rent? Well, it may seem daunting to try and find a place that won’t require a background check but it is possible to find felon-friendly apartments.

No background check apartments are rarer but they do exist and are a great option for renters with a not-so-appealing stain on their background. Let’s dive into how to find felon-friendly apartments if you have a record.

Can I rent an apartment if I have a felony record?

Apartment for rent sign.

The short answer is yes, you can rent an apartment with a felony record. However, renting an apartment with a felony record is tricky because almost every landlord or apartment complex runs background checks on future tenants.

They’ll often check everything from your credit score to your criminal history, so it’s best to share with the landlord that you have a felony — it will definitely show up. Unfortunately, landlords can reject your application on the spot if they see a felony.

While some may do this, there are some landlords that will look past it.

How to find apartments that accept felons

Starting the search for apartments that accept felons is overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to look, what to put on your application, what to leave out of your application and how much to disclose.

The best thing to do is to educate yourself and know where to start looking and how to best prepare for the application process. Here are four tips for finding felon friendly apartments:

1. Search for no background check apartments

Criminal background check.

A great place to start is by searching for apartments that don’t run a background check. While many apartments include a background check as part of the standard application process, not all do. This is great news for you as you’ll be able to apply for the rental without having to worry about your felony appearing on the background check portion of the application process.

You can also take the time to search for “second chance rentals.” Here, you’ll be able to find listings that don’t typically ask for background checks and are often felon-friendly apartments. Everyone needs a place to live and there are landlords who are willing to give felons that second chance they need to get back on their feet, find stable housing and have a place to call home.

2. Find an individual landlord

Another way to go about finding apartments that have no background check is to search for individual landlords or private renters as opposed to apartment complexes.

By having an individual landlord, you’ll be able to take the time to discuss your situation one-on-one. Be honest and upfront about your background check. By doing this, they may look past your felony as they get to know you personally and not purely based on your background check.

A realtor is also a good way to find places to rent. They have different resources and may already know where to look for you. Using a realtor may cost money compared to looking on your own, but, you’ll likely be able to find a place to rent more quickly and get settled into a new home right away.

3. Use local and national resources

There are many local and national resources that help those who have felonies get housing. Start by looking into your local non-profits and see if there are any programs that help people with felonies get back on their feet.

A great place to get help is with The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development aka HUD. They offer low-income housing to those in need and also have a list specifically for felon-friendly apartments.

Another place to seek help is with The Lion Heart Foundation. Their goal is to help give people the tools to restart their lives. On their website, they have a list of felon-friendly apartments in every state. Again, by starting your search with places that’ll work for you right away, you’ll save time and stress in the house-hunting process.

4. Be prepared for a more challenging application process

Handshaking over a contract.

Being prepared for the application process is crucial in finding apartments that accept felons. Here are some ways you can better prepare yourself:

  • Write a letter: Handwritten letters are personal and convey a sense of caring. Take the time to write the landlord your story. This way they can start to feel a personal connection. Also, telling your story about your felony and how you’ve changed might make it so they don’t reject your application right off the bat.
  • Have a character witness: Landlords want to make sure they’re renting to good tenants who pay on time and don’t cause trouble. Having someone else vouch for you and your good character is very helpful in convincing a landlord to rent to you.
  • Offer to pay more: Whether it’s a higher security deposit or maybe two months’ rent upfront, paying more might help you to rent an apartment. This also shows that you are serious about renting and can pay on time.

Finding a home

While finding a felon-friendly apartment is difficult, it’s not impossible. There are several different resources and tools to use when searching for a new home.

Having the knowledge of where to start and who to ask for help is the best place to start. By knowing what you’re getting into, the experience will be less stressful and daunting. Like anything, it might seem overwhelming but you can do it!


Where to Find Cheap or Free Tutoring for Your Kids

Whether your kid is struggling to read or to understand advanced calculus, some additional one-on-one instruction can make a world of difference. That’s why parents hire tutors — to boost their kids’ academic progress beyond the constraints of the school day.

But finding the funds to pay a tutor can be tough for a family on a budget. Costs vary, but it’s not unheard of to spend between $40 and $80 … per hour. And if your child is really struggling, chances are you’re going to need way more than one hour.

Here are some alternative ways to get educational assistance, even free tutoring, without breaking the bank.

6 Low-Cost or Free Tutoring Options

1. Get Extra Help With an Online Tutor

Online tutors don’t need a brick-and-mortar building, and they eliminate the need for anyone to commute. Everything is accessible with the click of a mouse. Your screen is your virtual whiteboard.

Some free or low-cost online tutoring websites include:

  • Khan Academy — a nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of free lessons to students all over the world.
  • Learn to Be — a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides free one-on-one tutoring to K-12 students in underserved communities.
  • Chegg Study — a 24/7 tutoring service for high school and college students where you pay $14.95 a month for expert homework help from a variety of subjects including math, science, engineering and business.
  • Free Tutoring Center — a student-run service that provides free one-on-one tutoring to elementary and middle schoolers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • UPchieve — a free online tutoring app where volunteer tutors provide academic help in various math and science subjects. This service also offers free college counseling.
  • Varsity Tutors — an education platform that offers free large group classes and free learning tools for self-study. For more individualized help, Varsity Tutors charges for one-on-one tutoring and small group classes.
  • Outschool — an online learning platform that has a variety of classes for kids ages 3 to 18. Filter your class search by price to find offerings for $9 or less.

2. Browse Your Library’s Offerings

If you’re only using your library card to check out books, you’re likely missing out on all the neat opportunities your library has to offer. Some tutoring companies like and Brainfuse partner directly with public libraries to provide free online tutoring to students.

Ask your librarian about what your local branch offers. Outside of partnering with an online service, your library might host free or low-cost test prep or homework help. Your librarian might also know of students or teachers who offer affordable tutoring. At the very least, you can get pointed in the direction of helpful reference books and research materials related to your child’s topic of study.

3. Go Back to School

Sometimes the best place to get help is directly from your child’s teacher. He or she already knows your child’s unique challenges and learning style and is invested in seeing your kid improve.

Schedule a parent/teacher meeting to ask about opportunities for extra instruction. The teacher may be free to help your child during a study hall period, and you can bypass paying for a Saturday afternoon tutoring session.

Also, ask if there’s a peer tutoring program at school where older students or students excelling in a particular subject volunteer to aid those who need extra help.

Consider that the help may come from outside your kid’s individual school. National Honor Society members at the local high school might have an outreach program that would benefit your struggling middle schooler. Community colleges sometimes have academic resources available for high school students at low or no cost.

4. Be Selective About After-School Programs

Until kids are old enough to go home to an empty house, working parents often turn to after-school programs and extracurriculars. While karate practice and dance lessons sound fun, your kid won’t be working on math equations or language arts.

You can save money by choosing an after-school program that includes tutoring services. The Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA are two national youth nonprofits that often provide help with homework or studying for tests.

5. Call on Your Community for One-on-One Tutoring

Don’t underestimate the power of your social circle. Your friends or coworkers may know of organizations in your city that provide free or low-cost tutoring.

Ask the parents of your kids’ friends for recommendations on affordable tutors. An older sibling of your child’s best friend might be a math whiz. You may be able to barter with a classmate’s mom, exchanging tutoring sessions for free babysitting.

6. Give Into Screen Time on YouTube

Now this last one isn’t quite tutoring in the traditional sense, but you can turn to YouTube for almost anything these days — including K-12 subject matter. In most cases, you’ll be able to access instructional videos at no cost.

Has physics or chemistry got your kid down? Check out these YouTube science channels. This list of YouTube history channels may help students master the details of major world events.

The video-sharing platform just might get your kids to see their worst subject in a new light and find learning — dare I say it? — fun.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.


14 Best Grocery Coupon and Cash-Back Apps to Save Money

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. households spent 9.5% of their disposable income on food in 2019, with 4.9% being for food at home. Additionally, grocery store prices also saw a 3.5% increase between 2019 and 2020.

There’s nothing you can do to avoid food spending altogether. But you certainly don’t have to pay full price the next time you shop. There are numerous ways to save money on groceries, and you don’t need to sacrifice products you enjoy to find savings.

One effective way to reduce grocery costs is to use your smartphone. Apps that help you save on groceries have grown in popularity, which is excellent news for any frugal shopper. The next time you restock your kitchen, download a few money-saving grocery apps before heading out the door to start saving more.

The Best Apps to Save Money on Groceries

There are several app categories that help reduce grocery spending. Mobile coupon apps, grocery-store apps, and various cash-back rewards programs are popular examples. Using a combination of these apps and looking for in-store deals, you can maximize every dollar you spend on groceries.

1. Grocery Store Apps

The best way to save money on groceries is often to use store apps from your favorite grocers. Many supermarkets highlight in-store deals and coupons through a mobile app. Some stores even have loyalty programs that link to your mobile account, letting you redeem savings at the register.

Some of the best grocery store apps that have coupons and reward programs include:

If you stack a store rewards card with mobile coupons and deals, it’s even better. For example, if you do most of your grocery shopping at Kroger, you can sign up for the rewards debit card to save 2% on Kroger brands and earn fuel rewards. Target also has a mobile app that highlights coupons and store promotions, and you can shop with a Target RedCard to get 5% off most in-store and online purchases.

Between in-app coupons and your rewards card, you’re already starting to reduce your grocery bill without having to change stores.

2. is a popular couponing website that’s essentially a database of free printable coupons and online promo codes. On the website, you can find and print coupons for a range of categories, including: usually limits you to printing one or two of each coupon. It’s still an effective way to save, but if you want to earn rewards for grocery shopping, the app for Android or iOS is also worth using.

If you were a fan of SavingStar, acquired them in 2020. As such, through’s app, you can now earn cash-back rewards for buying specific offers, including groceries.

Simply activate rebates in the app by tapping on them, shop, and then take a picture of your receipt with the app to earn cash back. Alternatively, link store loyalty cards from companies like Publix or Safeway to automatically earn cash back for eligible purchases.

Unlike many reward apps, doesn’t have a minimum redemption requirement. You get paid through PayPal, and between paper and online coupons and cash-back rewards, is a comprehensive tool to save on groceries and everyday essentials.

3. Ibotta

Ibotta is another way to earn cash-back rewards for buying specific products from Ibotta partners. The app doesn’t focus on groceries. It also has deals for categories like health and beauty, travel, entertainment, and sports. But grocery delivery and rebate deals are still a significant portion of available offers.

Ibotta partners with more than 300 retailers, including grocery stores like Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, and Whole Foods. You can also find Ibotta deals at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.

Saving money with Ibotta takes four simple steps:

  1. Find Offers. Like other receipt-scanning apps, you preselect rebates before shopping. You can find rebates under the “find offers” tab within Ibotta and search by categories to narrow your search to groceries.
  2. Shop. After you select rebates, you’re ready to shop. Check Ibotta offers for any specific terms to ensure you buy the right brand, size, and quantity. Rebates often have specific requirements, and your purchase won’t credit if you make a mistake.
  3. Verify Purchase. Snap a photo of your receipt with the Ibotta app to verify your purchases.
  4. Redeem Cash Back. Ibotta deposits cash into your rewards account within 48 hours of submitting proof of purchase. You can cash out after reaching $20. Cash-out options include PayPal, Venmo, and gift cards to companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and Target.

Ibotta also lets you link store loyalty cards to your account to automatically earn for eligible purchases so you can skip selecting rebates. Loyalty card linking works at over 100 stores, including Hannaford, Meijer, and Wegmans.

Like other cash-back reward apps, it’s best to stack rebates with other discounts, like coupons or a cash-back credit card. For example, if you find an Ibotta rebate for $0.75 off Cliff Bars at Walmart, look for manufacturer coupons or Walmart store coupons for extra savings. If you then shop with the Capital One Walmart Rewards credit card, you’re maximizing your savings for that product.

It might take a few grocery trips to reach the $20 cash-out minimum. But Ibotta has some of the best offer variety and highest-paying rebates in the grocery rewards app industry, so it certainly has worthwhile saving potential.

Read our Ibotta review for all the details.

4. Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards is another receipt-scanning app for Android and iOS that works almost exactly like Ibotta. But while many Ibotta offers require shopping at a specific store, Fetch Rewards only requires buying specific brands to earn points. That means you can shop at your grocery store of choice without having to drive around town or miss out on offers from stores you never shop at.

Fetch Rewards partners with brands in several categories, including groceries, cosmetics, magazines, alcohol, and baby products. But groceries at the largest category, including recognizable brands like:

  • Betty Crocker
  • Heinz
  • Hershey’s
  • Knorr
  • Kraft
  • Oscar Mayer
  • Pepsi
  • Sabra
  • Yoplait

Once you purchase products from a Fetch Rewards partner brand, you take a picture of your receipt with the app to verify your purchase. Points credit in your Fetch Rewards account after the receipt processes, which typically takes a few hours. You can redeem points for dozens of free gift cards, including Amazon, CVS, Burger King, Dunkin’, Old Navy, and Target.

Receipts that have at least one participating brand pay a minimum of 50 points, or $0.05. Additionally, Fetch Rewards has a page where you can find higher-paying special offers that pay bonus points. For example, special offers might pay 2,000 points ($2) for buying a pack of Tyson chicken breast or 1,000 points ($1) for buying McCain frozen smile potatoes.

One advantage of Fetch Rewards is that you only require 3,000 points, or $3, to redeem many gift cards. Realistically, that means you can enjoy your first reward within a shopping trip or two, depending on how many eligible brands and special offers you buy.

You won’t score massive discounts with Fetch Rewards, but it’s another simple app to save money on groceries if you don’t mind scanning your receipts. The redemption minimum is also one of the lowest out of all reward apps.

Read our Fetch Rewards review for more information.

5. Checkout 51

Another way to turn grocery receipts into cash rewards is to use Checkout 51, a free grocery rewards app for Android and iOS.

With Checkout 51, you select rebates before shopping and upload receipts for proof of purchase. You can also link loyalty cards to your account from over a dozen partners, including Dollar General, Hannaford, H-E-B, Meijer, and Publix. It’s fairly similar to other reward apps.

However, Checkout 51 focuses on groceries for rebates and works at hundreds of stores, including:

  • Aldi
  • Albertsons
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Costco
  • Kroger
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods
  • Winn-Dixie

Additionally, Checkout 51 has a pick-your-own-offer section where you choose grocery essentials like bread, eggs, and produce to earn cash-back rewards for buying. These rewards usually range from $0.25 to $1, but it’s nice to reliably earn cash back on grocery essentials alongside specific products from brand partners.

Checkout 51 offers update every Thursday at 12am. So during the week, you might find that certain offers disappear as more shoppers claim them. That means it’s essential to check for new rebates on Thursday morning, select them, and shop that day to earn rewards. (Don’t wait for the weekend since grocery prices are higher on the weekends and sales usually happen on Wednesdays and Thursdays.)

Overall, Checkout 51 rebates are competitive, and you can redeem many offers multiple times, which is useful if you bulk-shop. Checkout 51 has a $20 cash-out requirement and pays through check. PayPal payments are also coming to the app and are currently in testing.

Reward variety is a downside for this app, but grocery-specific rebates and offer variety still make Checkout 51 one of the best grocery rewards apps around.

Read our Checkout 51 review for all the details.

6. Receipt Hog

If you’re already saving receipts to scan with other apps, add Receipt Hog to your smartphone.

With Receipt Hog, you turn everyday receipts into rewards just by taking a photo of your receipts with the app. But the type of receipt you upload determines the reward you earn:

  • Coin Receipts. Earn coins for uploading receipts for grocery stores, pharmacies, pet stores, dollar stores, supercenters, convenience stores, and alcohol stores. Coins are redeemable for free Amazon gift cards and PayPal cash.
  • Spin Receipts. Receipt Hog has a slots game where you can earn bonus coins or cash prizes for getting lucky. Spin receipt categories include apparel, department stores, home goods, office supplies, and electronics. Spin receipts don’t pay coins, so you have to get lucky to earn with this receipt type.
  • Sweepstake Receipts. Every receipt you scan grants you one entry into a monthly sweepstake where Receipt Hog gives out additional coins and cash prizes. You can also upload receipts from gas stations, restaurants, bars, and cafes for additional sweepstake entries.

Coin receipts are the most common type of receipt. You need 1,000 coins to redeem a $5 reward. Typically, receipts pay between five to 100 coins, with more expensive receipts paying a higher number of coins.

Realistically, it takes dozens of receipts to earn a $5 reward unless you get lucky on the slot game. But if you’re already scanning receipts with other apps, the extra 30 seconds of using Receipt Hog helps you save even more. And for non-grocery receipts, Receipt Hog provides the chance to at least earn something for scanning them versus throwing those receipts out.

Plus, there’s always the chance you get lucky with the slots or monthly sweepstake and earn a few hundred dollars’ worth of bonus coins.

7. The Coupons App

The Coupons App is a free couponing app that’s available for Android and iOS. While the app isn’t exclusively for grocery coupons, it’s still an immensely valuable tool to save on groceries and everyday shopping.

The app works with hundreds of retailers and lets you search, save, and use coupons right from your smartphone. You can also search for local deals and enable notifications to alert you when a nearby retailer has couponing opportunities.

But if you’re looking for an app to save money on groceries, The Coupons App has you covered. Several notable retailers the app regularly has coupons for include:

  • Aldi
  • Costco
  • Dollar Tree
  • Family Dollar
  • Kroger
  • Publix
  • Safeway
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods

Mobile coupons and weekly ads update daily to keep you in the loop about in-store deals. You can also create a grocery list within the app with the corresponding coupons you plan to use. If you frequently buy the same brands, you can set up tracking to receive brand-specific coupon notifications to ensure you don’t miss out on savings.

Other features include a gas-finder tool to save money on gas, an Amazon price tracker, and weekly cash giveaways.

The grocery list tool coupled with brand-specific coupon alerts is a useful money-saving combination. At the very least, it’s worth recreating your existing grocery list on The Coupons App and tracking coupons so you can passively collect coupons for your favorite brands.

8. Flipp

Flipp brands itself as an all-in-one savings app and says users save an average of $45 per week. That translates to over $2,000 in annual savings, which is quite a bold claim for a free app to make.

But if you want to save money on a tight budget and maximize grocery store savings, Flipp is worth downloading. The app lets you browse thousands of digital flyers from more than 2,000 retailers to find weekly deals to build your grocery list with.

Plus, Flipp has several other money-saving features:

  • Add Loyalty Cards. Save store loyalty cards to access during checkout to ensure you always earn points.
  • Mobile Coupons. Find and save coupons to your store loyalty cards for easy use at checkout.
  • Find Deals. Search for weekly flyer deals and trending offers on categories like groceries, household essentials, and electronics.
  • Shopping Lists. Create a grocery list or general shopping list. Flipp automatically finds any corresponding deals for the products you add.
  • Price Matching. Since Flipp provides access to thousands of flyers, you can search for specific products and compare prices between retailers. That makes it easy to price-match at checkout if the store allows price matching.

The price-matching feature is what makes Flipp so powerful. It’s difficult to manually track weekly flyers to find the best deals in town. With Flipp, all you have to do is search for specific products and compare flyer prices to see if there’s an opportunity to price-match.

For example, if you find strawberries are cheaper at Walmart but you prefer shopping at a nearby Target superstore, use Flipp to show the Walmart flyer and strawberry price when cashing out at Target. Since Target matches prices with Walmart on identical regularly priced products, you save money. It also lets you shop at your favorite store without worrying about missing deals at a grocery store across town.

Flipp is available for Android and iOS. Popular Flipp retailers include Kroger, Walmart, Meijer, and Family Dollar, but it also works at dozens of other superstores, grocery stores, and drugstores.

It takes some time to look through the app for coupons and price-matching opportunities. But even using Flipp’s weekly ads section to find in-store deals at your favorite grocery store helps you save money without much effort.

9. Coupon Sherpa

If you want a grocery coupon app that keeps things simple, Coupon Sherpa is a perfect choice. This free app lets you access thousands of mobile coupons while on the go, and there are also hundreds of grocery coupons available at any given time.

Coupon Sherpa also lets you search for nearby stores with available coupons or search for store-specific coupons. These features are handy when planning an upcoming grocery trip, and the in-app coupon map highlights local stores with the most couponing opportunities for the day.

Coupons scan at the register from your smartphone, and there are online-only coupon codes as well. Popular grocery stores Coupon Sherpa usually has coupons for include:

  • Aldi
  • Albertsons
  • Food Lion
  • Kroger
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Wegmans
  • Whole Foods

You won’t find extra features like weekly sales flyers or cash-back rewards, but that’s not Coupon Sherpa’s strength. Instead, Coupon Sherpa helps experienced and novice couponers quickly access coupons while on the go, ultimately saving time and money.

10. BeFrugal

If you want the best of both worlds when it comes to coupons and cash-back rewards, BeFrugal is a must-use resource for savvy shoppers.

In terms of grocery coupons, BeFrugal partners with to provide a database of printable coupons. You can also access weekly ad flyers to find deals at companies like:

  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar
  • Meijer
  • Shop ‘n Save Food
  • Target
  • Walmart

Admittedly, the coupons and flyer selection on BeFrugal isn’t incredibly comprehensive. However, according to BeFrugal, you can earn up to 40% cash back at more than 5,000 stores, which is what makes this platform stand out.

Earning cash back is also simple. Once you create a free BeFrugal account, you browse the website or Android and iOS app to find brands to shop. When you want to shop at a partner store, BeFrugal redirects you to their website. After you make a purchase, you earn cash back. If you use Rakuten, another popular cash-back rewards website, it’s the same process.

Cash back accumulates in your BeFrugal account once the retailer verifies your purchase, which typically takes around seven days. You withdraw cash back through check, direct deposit, PayPal, or Venmo or choose free gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Kohl’s, Starbucks, and Walmart. There’s no minimum requirement for direct deposit, PayPal, and Venmo. Most electronic gift card rewards start at $5. Cashing out by check requires $25.

Some notable grocery partners include:

  • Instacart
  • Postmates
  • Sam’s Club
  • Target
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

Instacart and Postmates are notable because online grocery shoppers can also use BeFrugal to earn cash back. Plus, new BeFrugal members get a $10 sign-up bonus if they earn cash back within one year of joining.

If you’re only looking for grocery coupons, other mobile apps are better choices. But for online grocery delivery and other online shopping, BeFrugal is a reliable way to score cash-back rewards and save. At the very least, use the $10 bonus to offset some of the delivery cost.

11. Mealime

One common way to overspend on groceries is to let good food go to waste.

According to a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the average U.S. family wastes an astonishing 31.9% of the food they buy. That translates to annual U.S. consumer food waste of approximately $240 billion (about $740 per person). And every time you waste food, you waste money, which also offsets any progress you’re making with your grocery savings.

Food waste is either a sign of overspending or a lack of meal planning. If you want to reduce food waste, the first step is to understand what’s in your kitchen and utilize every ingredient.

Thankfully, Mealime helps you stay on track with recipe planning, letting you shop efficiently. With Mealime, you plan weeks of meals in just a few minutes and can choose recipes to fit over 200 different preferences and dietary restrictions. You can also add your own recipes by importing recipes from website URLs, using the Mealime browser extension, or entering ingredients and directions manually.

Once you create a meal plan, a grocery list automatically generates to save even more time. Plus, since Mealime knows how many people you’re cooking for, its grocery lists reduce food waste by making sure you don’t over-shop, saving more money per year.

Mealime is available for Android and iOS. Most features are free, and the $5.99-per-month pro version provides nutritional information and exclusive recipes and lets you view your previous meal plans.

Ultimately, Mealime isn’t as comprehensive as meal-planning services like $5 Dinners that send out weekly hand-picked recipes to suit your tastes. But if you’re confident in the kitchen and want to simplify grocery shopping and avoid wasting food, Mealime is the perfect app.

Even reducing your food waste costs by $10 per month is $120 in annual savings. And you can take comfort knowing you’re being a more socially responsible consumer.

12. SnipSnap

If you currently shop with paper coupons, SnipSnap is the perfect solution to simplify your life and to avoid forgetting coupons at home.

Once you download SnipSnap for Android or iOS, you take pictures of your paper coupons to transform them into digital coupons on your phone. You don’t have to waste time clipping coupons, and SnipSnap can digitize any printed coupon offer you have.

Additionally, SnipSnap has other helpful features:

  • In-Store Reminders. SnipSnap sends a push notification if you enter a store and have eligible coupons you can use.
  • Discover Feature. If you don’t have coupons, the discover tab lets you snip coupons from SnipSnap’s featured coupon catalog. You can also search its database to find store-specific coupons.
  • Expiration Warnings. SnipSnap notifies you when your coupons are close to expiring.
  • Store Success Rating. Check coupon success scores for different retailers to gauge how easy it is to redeem coupons at various retailers.

The in-store reminders feature is handy since it helps ensure you use as many coupons as possible when you shop, saving you more money. Plus, you can find digital coupons to avoid printing coupons, saving you money on ink.

Ultimately, SnipSnap is the modern version of a coupon book.

13. Dosh

One downside of many rebate apps is that you have to preselect products before shopping to earn rewards. That requires time, and if you forget to preselect offers before shopping, you don’t earn a penny.

Thankfully, Dosh takes the traditional rebate model and makes it passive. Once you link the credit and debit cards you shop with to your Dosh account, you automatically earn cash back for shopping at hundreds of Dosh partners. There’s no need to preselect offers or scan receipts since Dosh monitors your spending once you link your cards.

Dosh also works with popular grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and supplement stores like:

  • GNC
  • Instacart
  • Kroger
  • Sam’s Club
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Uber Eats

Additionally, Dosh partners with numerous fast-food chains, clothing stores, and cosmetics companies and adds new partners regularly so you can earn for a variety of purchases.

You withdraw cash back once you reach $25. Redemption options include direct deposit, PayPal Cash, and Venmo. Cash-back rewards vary between brands and are subject to change. But you typically earn an additional 1% to 2% from most partners. Dosh rewards are also stackable with cash-back credit card rewards and coupons.

Exclusively shopping for groceries with Dosh means it will likely take months to reach $25. But if you use linked cards for all your spending, you can reach the $25 redemption minimum more quickly.

Dosh is free for Android and iOS. If you want a humble source of passive income that helps you save money on groceries and everyday purchases, Dosh deserves a spot on your smartphone.

Read our Dosh review for more information.

14. Shopkick

Shopkick is a mix between a rewards app and mystery shopping side gig. With Shopkick, you earn kicks, the in-app point system, by completing various tasks, including:

  • Walking into specific stores
  • Purchasing certain products and uploading a receipt with the Shopkick app
  • Scanning product bar codes
  • Watching videos
  • Shopping online through the Shopkick app
  • Linking your credit card to Shopkick and making purchases at eligible stores

A typical grocery trip with Shopkick might have several opportunities to earn. For example, you earn 15 kicks for walking into a Walmart, 10 kicks for scanning the bar code for Huggies diapers, and 120 kicks for buying a Shopkick offer of Jack Link’s beef jerky.

It takes 250 kicks to get to $1, and you can redeem most rewards at 500 kicks. Shopkick lets you redeem kicks for PayPal cash or free gift cards to retailers like:

  • Amazon
  • Best Buy
  • eBay
  • Nike
  • Sephora
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Walmart

Rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 usually have higher-paying offers than Shopkick. But Shopkick is unique because you can earn rewards without spending money through tasks like walking into stores or scanning bar codes. If you want a versatile and potentially free way to save on groceries, you can stack Shopkick with other rewards apps to earn rewards even faster.

Final Word

The most effective ways to save money on groceries start at home. Creating a family meal plan, reducing food waste, and getting creative with leftovers can help you make the most of what you buy. If you also shop at less expensive grocery stores, like Kroger instead of Whole Foods, you’re also taking steps to cut costs.

But apps that help you save money on groceries are worth using. You also don’t have to download every grocery app that’s out there. Diligently using one rewards app is better than downloading several apps you never open.

Pick one or several grocery apps that catch your eye and take an evening to create accounts for them.

You can also get creative and try other methods to save money at the grocery store and beyond. For example, GetUpside lets you earn cash back on gas and select grocery stores. Similarly, if you order groceries or meal delivery kits online, you can earn cash back by shopping with Rakuten.

Over time, you’ll discover which apps work best for your area and favorite stores and avoid paying full price ever again.


Chase Freedom 5% Cash-Back Categories This Quarter (Calendar)

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card and its predecessor, the original Chase Freedom Credit Card, are among the most popular no-annual-fee cash-back credit cards on the market. That’s due in part to their distinctive rewards programs, which pay up to 5% cash back on select purchases.

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom: Key Differences

Both Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex are no-annual-fee cards, but the original Freedom card offer restricts 5% cash-back earnings to a handful of favored spending categories that change each quarter. Chase also caps the amount of bonus cash back you can earn each quarter at $75 across all bonus categories, or $1,500 in total combined purchases.

Regular purchases and bonus category purchases above the quarterly spending cap earn unlimited 1% cash back. But it’s clearly in the cardholder’s financial interest to maximize bonus cash-back earnings each quarter.

The Freedom Flex card is more generous, with a permanent 5% cash-back category covering travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal and a separate 3% cash-back category covering drugstore and restaurant purchases (including CVS and Walgreens).

But Freedom Flex also has 5% bonus categories that offer serious value for cardholders able to match their spending accordingly.

That’s not as difficult as it sounds. There are plenty of ways to boost your cash-back earnings on the Chase Freedom cards’ 5% bonus cash-back categories this quarter.

Chase Freedom 5% Bonus Category Calendar (Cash-Back Calendar): 2020 and 2021

But first, let’s look at the Chase Freedom cards’ 5% rotating categories for the last half of 2020 and the first three quarters of 2021.

  • Q3 2020: and Whole Foods market
  • Q4 2020: Walmart and PayPal
  • Q1 2021: Warehouse clubs, Internet/cable/phone services, select streaming services
  • Q2 2021: Gas stations, home improvement stores
  • Q3 2021: Grocery stores, select streaming services

To earn a 5% cash-back bonus on up to $1,500 in combined category purchases this quarter, you must manually activate your bonus cash back. Log into your account and click “Activate” near the 5% cash-back icon.

As long as you activate by the 14th day of the quarter’s last month (that’s March 14, June 14, Sept. 14, and Dec. 14), all bonus category spending up to the quarterly category cap earns cash back retroactive to the quarter’s very first day.

Note: While the 2020 quarterly bonus categories are no longer in effect, they exemplify Chase Freedom’s 5% cash-back categories and remind us why these Chase credit cards are among the best cash-back credit cards on the market. All have appeared at various points in the past, so it’s reasonable for cardholders to expect them to return at some point in the future — perhaps later in 2021 — and continue earning bonus points.

Chase Freedom 5% Bonus Categories: Q3 2021

From July 1 through Sept. 30, 2021, Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex have two bonus cash-back categories: grocery stores and select streaming services.

Grocery Stores

This category includes most purchases made at grocery stores and supermarkets with the notable exception of Walmart and Target locations with supermarket sections.

Purchases of the following are generally excluded from bonus cash-back calculations:

  • Lottery tickets
  • Money orders
  • Gift cards
  • Other cash-like purchases made at the customer service desk

Certain other grocery store purchases may not qualify for 5% bonus cash back, including purchases from stores’ prepared foods sections, restaurants and cafes (such as Starbucks and food courts) within supermarkets, and alcohol sold separately from other grocery items.

Select Streaming Services

This category covers purchases made with select streaming content providers, including:

Some eligible providers may not be listed here. Because the streaming landscape is in constant flux, check with Chase for a complete list of eligible providers.

And to be sure you capture 5% cash back on all eligible streaming purchases, designate your Chase Freedom or Freedom Flex card as your autopay method for all eligible services through the end of September.

Historical 5% Bonus Categories for Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex

Chase often recycles past bonus categories, so it’s worth taking a look back at the most recent few quarters for a hint at what could be coming down the road.

Chase Freedom 5% Bonus Categories: Q3 2020

From July 1 through Sept. 30, 2020, Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex had two bonus cash-back categories: and Whole Foods Market purchases.

Unlike some Chase Freedom 5% cash-back categories, this quarter’s were straightforward. All qualifying purchases made on and at Whole Foods Market locations (including online orders for pickup or delivery) qualified for bonus cash back.

Portions of purchases made with redeemed Ultimate Rewards points (using Chase’s Shop With Points feature) aren’t eligible for cash back.

Chase Freedom 5% Bonus Categories: Q4 2020

From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex had two bonus cash-back categories: Walmart and PayPal.


This category covered eligible purchases made at physical Walmart stores and at, including purchases of perishable items like produce and seasonal items that might not be available in-store or online year-round.

Depending on how these purchases are categorized, cash-like purchases or transactions such as lottery tickets and money orders may not qualify for cash back.

Also, Walmart and purchases made using PayPal qualified only for 5% cash back, rather than 10% cash back (as one might assume).


This category covered eligible PayPal purchases made using a Chase Freedom or Freedom Flex card linked to the user’s PayPal account. Because PayPal is accepted by millions of merchants worldwide, this is an unusually versatile category that should be fairly easy to fully exploit.

Chase Freedom 5% Bonus Categories: Q1 2021

From Jan. 1 through March 31, 2021, Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex had three bonus cash-back categories: warehouse clubs; Internet, cable, and phone services; and select streaming services.

Warehouse Clubs (Wholesale Clubs)

This category covered purchases at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale, and Costco.

However, there’s a significant limitation for regular Costco shoppers: Costco doesn’t accept Mastercard in-store or at its fuel pumps, which means these two Mastercard products are only good for use on purchases at

Internet, Cable, and Phone Services

This category covered purchases made with telecommunications providers, Internet service providers, phone companies, and cable TV providers. Eligible services included:

  • Home Internet service
  • Landline telephone service
  • Cellular telephone services and data plans
  • Cable TV service
  • Flat-rate multiservice bundles provided by telecom companies, like cable-Internet and cable-Internet-landline

Purchases of telecommunications equipment, such as smartphones and modems, generally didn’t qualify for bonus cash back unless you made them directly with eligible service providers as part of a service package.

Select Streaming Services

This category covered purchases made with select streaming content providers like Hulu, Disney+, YouTube and YouTube TV, and multiple streaming music providers. The program terms included the complete listing of eligible streaming services.

Chase Freedom 5% Bonus Categories: Q2 2021

From April 1 through June 30, 2021, Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex had two bonus cash-back categories: gas stations and home improvement stores.

Gas Stations

This category covered purchases made at gas stations and travel centers, usually including:

  • Gasoline purchases made at the pump
  • Gasoline purchases made inside the store or with the attendant on duty
  • Purchases made inside convenience stores attached to gas stations, such as snacks, beverages, and automotive supplies

“Gas station purchases” generally do not include purchases made at gas stations associated with warehouse stores like Costco or superstores like Kroger.

At automotive shops or service stations with gas pumps present, purchases of auto-repair services, automotive parts, car washes, and other automotive products and services may or may not count as “gas station purchases” for cash-back purposes. It all depends on the merchant category code used by the vendor.

Home Improvement Stores

This category covered purchases at home improvement retailers like The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards.

Purchases at owner-operated hardware stores, whether franchised under a national brand like Ace Hardware or completely independent, may also have qualified for the 5% bonus.

For ideas to maximize your savings while earning home improvement bonus cash, review these proven Home Depot shopping tips and tricks.

How Chase Tracks Cash Back

The Chase Freedom cards’ cash-back accounting is a bit technical, but there’s not much math involved.

Like most credit card issuers, Chase distinguishes between purchases eligible to earn cash back and cashlike transactions, which aren’t cash-back-eligible. Examples of cashlike transactions include:

  • Balance transfers
  • Cash advances, including ATM withdrawals
  • Purchases of gift cards
  • Purchases of lottery tickets, casino chips, and other gaming tokens

Cash-back-eligible purchases include most net purchases made with merchants online and in the real world. “Net purchases” means the total transaction amount (including tax, if applicable) minus any refunds, discounts, or chargebacks.

All cash-back-eligible purchases earn 1% cash back with no caps or restrictions on earning potential.

Eligible purchases in the bonus categories earn an additional 4% cash back for a total of 5% cash back — up to the $1,500 combined quarterly spending limit, after which bonus category purchases earn unlimited 1% cash back.

Chase Freedom’s credit card statements distinguish between 1% base cash back and 4% bonus cash back.

6 Tips to Earn More Cash Back With Chase Freedom

No matter what’s earning 5% this quarter, use these tips to maximize your Chase Freedom cards’ bonus cash-back earnings.

1. Set a Reminder to Activate Bonus Cash Back Each Quarter

If you forget to activate your bonus categories by the middle of the last month of the quarter, you won’t earn any bonus cash back during those three months — meaning you miss out on up to $75 in bonus cash-back earnings.

Chase sends out activation reminder emails about two weeks before the start of each quarter. Clicking the link in the email activates your bonus cash back with no sign-in required.

Otherwise, set a calendar reminder for the first day of the quarter and activate your bonus cash back then. Remember, bonus cash back is retroactive to the beginning of the quarter when you activate by the 14th of its last month.

2. Avoid Using Digital Wallets or Third-Party Payment Apps

Chase warns that transactions made using digital wallets like Apple Pay and third-party payment apps like Square and PayPal may code differently than standard transactions.

If that happens, you earn just 1% cash back, even when you buy from bonus category merchants. To be safe, don’t use these apps for bonus category purchases.

3. Set Up Autopay With Bonus Category Merchants

A week or two before the start of the quarter, set up autopay with merchants eligible for bonus cash back in the coming three months.

You can usually set up autopay with any merchant that sends you a monthly bill or charges a monthly subscription fee. That typically includes:

  • Streaming content providers
  • Telecommunications companies
  • Digital media providers
  • Grocery delivery services

If you don’t want your Freedom card to remain your default payment method after the quarter ends, set a calendar reminder to remove the card from each autopay vendor.

4. Plan Bonus Category Purchases in Advance

Chase reveals the coming quarter’s cash-back categories several weeks — and sometimes longer — before the quarter begins. As soon as you know what they are, start gaming out your bonus category spending for the next three months.

For instance, if you know home improvement store purchases will earn bonus cash back next quarter, you can move up the start date of that long-planned DIY home improvement project — or at least buy the supplies you’re sure to need when the time comes.

This strategy works best for non-urgent purchases you don’t regularly make because it’s easy to put those on the back burner. But it’s also effective for essential recurring spending, like your weekly grocery bill.

Get into the habit of grabbing your Freedom card and hitting the supermarket, say, every Saturday at 9am to max out your 5% cash-back earnings for the quarter.

5. Make Major Purchases With Eligible Merchants (If It’s Cost-Effective)

If you don’t have to spend more to do so or the effort of shopping around isn’t worth your time, reward bonus category merchants with business you could just as easily have given to other merchants.

For instance, if gas station spending earns 5% back this quarter and your car needs work, have a gas station mechanic handle the repair, not a dealership or standalone repair shop. On a $500 mechanic’s bill, you’ll earn $25 cash back — not a bad discount.

6. Always Carry Your Freedom Card With You

Finally, keep your Freedom or Freedom Flex card in your wallet at all times, even if it’s not your everyday spending card. You never know when you’ll come across an opportunity to earn bonus cash back.

Final Word

If you can maximize your Chase Freedom cash-back cards’ 5% cash-back categories quarter after quarter, you earn $300 in bonus cash back every year. That’s on top of the unlimited 1% cash back on regular purchases if you use your Chase Freedom card for everyday spending.

It does take effort to maintain a perfect cash-back record with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card. For starters, you must remember to activate your bonus categories each quarter.

You also have to make sure you’re actually earning bonus cash back when you think you are — something that’s less likely when you use a digital wallet or third-party payment app like PayPal.

And if you don’t usually spend much in a particular quarter’s favored categories, earning all your cash back on purchases for that quarter might not be possible.

But for many, a challenge like this is just what they need to think more intentionally about their spending. Earning 5% cash back is a victory in and of itself, but finding ways to swap unnecessary transactions for bonus category purchases you need to make anyway — that’s even better.

For a detailed overview of the Chase Freedom Flex card, check out our Chase Freedom Flex credit card review.

While you’re at it, check out our review of its sister card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card, and of Chase’s two popular travel credit cards: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


8 Stock Picks That Could Get a Child Tax Credit Bump

The 2021 child tax credit (CTC) will deliver a hefty economic boost this year, and naturally, that’s welcome news for the estimated 35 million American families that qualify for it.

Just as naturally, that money is going to be spent somewhere. And so, Wall Street’s pros have been evaluating their universes of stock picks to determine which ones will benefit the most from this year’s tax windfall.

You can get the full scoop with our child tax credit FAQs, but in short, 2021’s credit has grown to $3,000 per child (and $3,600 if they’re younger than 6) from $2,000 last year. Additionally, this year’s credit includes 17-year-olds, and it will be partially paid out in advance monthly payments that start on July 15.

While each family’s benefits will differ (our child tax credit calculator can show you how), a number of analysts have cited the expanded CTC as a tailwind for stocks broadly … and a reason for optimism in several specific names.

Here are eight stock picks that the pros believe could earn a child tax credit bump. This is hardly a list of equally lovable equities, however. Although some of these companies are generally beloved by Wall Street’s “smart money,” a couple are viewed as riskier opportunities that just happen to look a little more attractive thanks to the boosted CTC.

Data is as of July 14.

1 of 6

Aaron’s, PROG Holdings

An Aaron's storefrontAn Aaron's storefront
  • Market value (Aaron’s): $1.0 billion
  • Analysts’ ratings (Aaron’s): 2 Strong Buy, 0 Buy, 7 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Market value (PROG Holdings): $3.0 billion
  • Analysts’ ratings (PROG Holdings): 6 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 1 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

In late 2020, rent-to-own retailer Aaron’s (AAN, $28.73) split with PROG Holdings (PRG, $44.91), the parent company of Progressive Holdings, which provides e-commerce, app-based and in-store lease-to-own solutions.

Fast forward a few months, and BofA Securities sees both stocks enjoying a tailwind from the child tax credit.

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“We see both PROG Holdings and Aaron’s as well positioned to benefit from the CTC given the lease-to-own industry serves a customer with an average age of 43,” say BofA analysts. “We also see the transition of the CTC to a stream of payments (vs. lump sum) as a positive for lease-to-own since households are more likely to use it to initiate or make payments on a lease-to-own purchase rather than buy a product outright.”

BofA does mention that the end of expanded unemployment insurance (UI), beginning in September, will offset the benefits of CTC somewhat, however.

Also note that these two stock picks aren’t equal in Wall Street’s eyes.

“We’re especially bullish on Buy-rated PRG given the company’s growth potential in virtual lease-to-own,” says BofA, which rates the stock a Buy. That’s mostly in line with the consensus view, with shares earning a collective Strong Buy rating from the eight analysts covering PROG Holdings.

Aaron’s, on the other hand, earns a Neutral (equivalent of Hold) from BofA, and a Hold from the rest of the Street. BofA’s analysts give the company a discounted valuation compared to other low-growth retailers “given our view that AAN’s store consolidation strategy has high risk if recapture rates are not as high as anticipated.”

2 of 6

Burlington Stores

A Burlington storeA Burlington store
  • Market value: $22.0 billion
  • Analysts’ ratings: 13 Strong Buy, 6 Buy, 5 Hold, 0 Sell, 1 Strong Sell

Burlington Stores (BURL, $330.88) earned a price-target upgrade from Baird analyst Mark Altschwager in late May on the back of better-than-expected quarterly results, which provided more evidence that the company’s “Burlington 2.0” strategy – chasing demand and investing in sourcing – was taking hold.

The company blew out earnings expectations, posting $2.59 per share in profits versus a consensus 83-cent estimate. That was helped by a 230-basis-point improvement in gross margins versus expectations that they would be flat. (A basis point is one one-hundredth of a percentage point.)

“Looking ahead, we see significant opportunity for Burlington to drive market share gains and expand margins, supporting a healthy EPS growth algorithm,” says Altschwager, who hiked his 12-month price target to $370 per share from $325.

The Baird analyst is also raising his estimates for 2021 adjusted EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) by roughly 15%. He sees room for upside if favorable merchandise trends continue, “as well as expectations for ongoing pent-up demand, healthy back-to-school, and stimulus tailwinds (child tax credit).”

3 of 6

Dollar General

A Dollar General truck drives along a highwayA Dollar General truck drives along a highway
  • Market value: $52.2 billion
  • Analysts’ ratings: 15 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 4 Hold, 2 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Raymond James analyst Bobby Griffin issued a bullish note in May on Dollar General (DG, $220.89), reiterating his Strong Buy call on the stock while upgrading his price target to $235 per share from $220.

Griffin calls DG one of the best long-term “all-weather” investment opportunities in hardline retail.

“Dollar General has the capabilities and real estate growth strategy (multi-year) to continue to gain market share by targeting quick ‘fill in’ trips for cash-strapped consumers,” he says.

Griffin admits that it’ll be difficult for Dollar General to lap tough comparisons from 2020, but he adds that there could be additional potential from the child tax credit, as well as stimulus payments and potentially strong customer retention from new shoppers that latched on during the pandemic.

The rest of the Street is collectively in DG’s bull camp, too, rating the stock a Buy.

4 of 6

Big Lots

A couple of Big Lots signsA couple of Big Lots signs
  • Market value: $2.1 billion
  • Analysts’ ratings: 2 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 5 Hold, 2 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

BofA Securities says retailer Big Lots (BIG, $60.03) is “better positioned than Ollie’s (OLLI) to benefit from the enhanced CTC given it serves a younger customer base.” The average estimated age at BIG is 42, versus 57 for OLLI, which leads BofA’s analysts to estimate the average age of a Big Lots customer’s child at 17 versus 32 for Ollie’s.

Thus, Big Lots looks better than it did. But it’s not necessarily one of the analyst crowd’s favorite stock picks.

BofA rates the stock at Underperform (equivalent of Sell), saying “we remain cautious on both stocks given our concern that low-income consumer spending will moderate through the remainder of the year.” Among its other worries are high levels of competition in the discount and general merchandise categories – a risk to earnings given Big Lots’ low operating margins.

On the flip side, BofA does note the possibility for upside depending on success of cost-cutting programs, as well as the potential for better-than-expected comparable-store sales improvements from remodeled stores and new concepts.

The broader analyst community isn’t as bearish, but it’s still hesitant, coming down at a consensus Hold. While the CTC might help Big Lots’ fortunes, it might be best to look for more fertile ground.

5 of 6

Cheesecake Factory, Brinker International

Lavish cheesecakes from Cheesecake Factory.Lavish cheesecakes from Cheesecake Factory.
  • Market value (Cheesecake Factory): $2.4 billion
  • Analysts’ ratings (Cheesecake Factory): 5 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 9 Hold, 1 Sell, 1 Strong Sell
  • Market value (Brinker International): $2.8 billion
  • Analysts’ ratings (Brinker International): 8 Strong Buy, 5 Buy, 8 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Raymond James analyst Brian Vaccaro sees a better value proposition across many full-service restaurant stocks thanks to an industry-wide pullback during the second quarter. He also sees the child tax credit as one of several other drivers of future performance.

“The industry’s strong sales recovery that emerged since mid-March sustained through [the second quarter] and seemed to accelerate a bit moving through June,” he says. “In addition, we are optimistic that many public chains will echo positive remarks from [Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants] a few weeks ago as it relates to food inflation and progress towards re-staffing restaurants.”

Vaccaro believes strong pent-up demand, excess savings and enhanced child tax credit payments can help lift the group, and that labor conditions will thaw, especially after Labor Day once the enhanced UI benefits expire.

As a result, the Raymond James analyst upgraded stock picks Cheesecake Factory (CAKE, $52.45) and Brinker International (EAT, $61.01) to Outperform (Buy) from Market Perform (Hold) “as we see strong upside to 2Q expectations and attractive valuation entry points, with each down 20%+ from their recent highs.

Vaccaro adds that he expects Brinker “to be in a strong position to resume paying a significant dividend soon while also resuming share repurchases moving into [2022].” Brinker enjoys a consensus analyst Buy rating from the rest of Wall Street.

CAKE earns a consensus Buy, albeit a less enthusiastic one. Vaccaro admits he’s a bit more bullish than most about the company’s 2021 and 2022 profits. “We are publishing updated EPS estimates of $2.68 [2021]/$3.33 [2022] that are solidly above current consensus of $2.20/$3.12, and believe the company’s strong 2Q margins could reinforce investor confidence in the company’s post-COVID margin recovery outlook,” he says.

6 of 6

Clipper Realty

New York City at nightNew York City at night
  • Market value: $130.3 million
  • Analysts’ ratings: 1 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 0 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Clipper Realty (CLPR, $8.11) is a micro-cap real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns, manages, operates and repositions a handful of multifamily residential and commercial properties in New York City.

REITs broadly took a hit in 2020, but especially those dealing in properties concentrated in big cities after offices sent their workforces home. Indeed, Clipper Realty lost roughly two-third of its value by 2020’s bear-market nadir, and even after recovering somewhat, it finished down 33%.

2021 has been a little kinder, with shares up 15% year-to-date, though that still trails the real estate sector’s 26% improvement. Fortunately for new money, CLPR’s declines have translated into an elevated dividend yield of 4.7%.

And Raymond James’ Travis Workman sees plenty of reason for optimism in share prices.

“Following conversations with management last week, we are maintaining our Outperform rating and $9 target on CLPR shares while refreshing our estimates,” he says. “As New York City comes back to life post-pandemic, we are increasingly encouraged the worst is over for CLPR’s pricing and occupancy. We expect leasing activity to continue accelerating this summer, as NYC fully gears up for a return-to-office movement later this fall.”

Workman says upcoming child tax credit benefits should “further stabilize rent collection,” and he notes that on the whole, multifamily fundamentals are sharply improving across the city.

Unsurprisingly given its size, Clipper has a small analyst following of just three pros. But they all list CLPR among their recommended stock picks, rating it either Buy or Strong Buy.


Dear Penny: Can We Retire in 6 Months With $190K of Student Loans?

Dear Penny,
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Unfortunately, there aren’t any great relief options if you have private loans. Selling your home and downsizing so that you can pay off your balance, or at least a large chunk of it to make your payments more affordable, may be your best option.
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If you could make a serious dent in your balance by working another year or two, that’s something to seriously consider. But the reality is that 0,000 is a lot of money. Delaying retirement by a couple years may not be enough to make significant headway.

Ready to stop worrying about money?
If you have federal loans, including Parent PLUS loans, Mayotte suggests looking into a program called income-contingent repayment. You’ll need to consolidate your loans to enroll. The advantage is that your payment will be 20% of your disposable income, which will presumably be lower once you retire.
If you incurred any of this debt for your children, it may also be time to look beyond relief programs and ask your kids if they can help you with the payments. “That’s a difficult conversation but sometimes that’s a conversation that needs to be had,” Moyette said.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].
I reached out to Betsy Mayotte, president and founder of the nonprofit The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, to discuss strategies for people approaching retirement with serious student loan balances. She’s advised thousands of student loan borrowers about the best way to deal with their debt. She emphasized just how common your dilemma is.
But if you have federal loans, you have several options. Instead of paying off your loans, a better alternative may be to get your monthly payment as low as possible, even if that means you’ll never be completely out of debt.

My husband wants to sell our home and pay off the debt. If we do that, we won’t have much for a down payment for another house, so we won’t have a low mortgage payment. If we don’t sell, we can afford the student loan payments. But we will be very limited with no extra money left to save for emergencies. 
Help. I have many sleepless nights trying to find the best solution to this.
Only in rare occasions are student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. You probably wouldn’t be a good bankruptcy candidate since it sounds like you have decent home equity.
“They reapply every year and if their income goes down, the payment goes down,” Mayotte said. “If their income goes up, the payment goes up. If they still have a balance at the end of 25 years, the balance is forgiven.”
Dear H.,
Traditionally, the balance forgiven on all the federal student loan programs I mentioned has been treated as taxable income for the year the debt is forgiven. But thanks to COVID-19 relief measures, any balance that’s forgiven between now and 2025 isn’t treated as taxable income. Moyette wouldn’t be surprised if Congress eventually extends that tax break. But if you choose to enroll in a program that offers forgiveness, she suggests preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, since 20 to 25 years is a long way off.
You have even more options if you have federal loans that you took out for yourselves, including income-based repayment, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). These programs make your loan payments as low as 10% to 15% of your discretionary income, and they also offer forgiveness at the end of the repayment period, which is between 20 and 25 years.
About 20% of federal student loan debt is held by people 50 and older. Telling millions of people like you and your husband that they have to work forever simply isn’t a viable solution.
I am in big trouble. My husband and I have a combined student loan debt of 0,000 and we were planning to retire in six months. 
Assuming you have options to lower your monthly payments, it’s really about your personal preference. If you think you’d sleep better knowing that you don’t have this balance hanging over you, it may be better to downsize and pay it off, even if that means having a mortgage payment.

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The options you have available depend on a couple of factors. First of all, are these federal loans, private loans or a combination of the two? Second, if you have federal loans, is the debt from your own education, or did you take out Parent PLUS loans for your kids? While a lot of Baby Boomers are in debt because they paid for their children’s education, many have loans because they went back to school during the Great Recession, according to Mayotte.

PODCAST: Get the Most from the Expanded Child Tax Credit

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David Muhlbaum: Some of us are about to get yet another stimulus from the government. The latest version is the expanded child tax credit, which starting this month means payments to qualifying families. Joy Taylor, editor of the Kiplinger Tax Letter, joins us to talk about how all this will work. Speaking of taxes, as wedding bells ring out again, what does that mean for filers? All coming up on this episode of Your Money’s Worth. Stick around.

David Muhlbaum: Welcome to Your Money’s Worth. I’m senior editor David Muhlbaum, joined by my co-host, senior editor Sandy Block. How are you doing, Sandy?

Sandy Block: I’m peachy.

David Muhlbaum: Just peachy. Yeah. That fruit is coming into season. Question for you though, have you been invited to any weddings?

Sandy Block: Not recently, but it looks like there might be some out there on the horizon.

David Muhlbaum: Oh, who?

Sandy Block: I can’t say, but people are definitely talking about it, getting engaged, talking about it. I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who were going to get married last year and postponed it until fall of 2021 or even later. So it sounds like there’s a lot of marriages sort of in the hopper.

David Muhlbaum: In the works. Yeah.

Sandy Block: In the works. That’s right.

David Muhlbaum: Right. Yeah. That’s why I brought that up, because I feel like we may be on the cusp of an explosion in weddings. Or, not! What I wanted to talk about was a piece Emma Patch wrote for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance that was a good solid recap of how marriage affects taxes. And it’s not like those rules are really going to affect whether someone schedules a wedding in 2021, but they’re good to know and review — you know, personal-finance guidance. But I thought, hey, let’s see what the data says, like, are we on the cusp of a wedding boom? Those anecdotes that you and I have, well, that’s great, but is there data on this? An economic indicator? Because as we know, there’s a ton of money sloshing around the wedding industry. So you would think that people who rent venues, sew dresses, bag bird seed, whatever, they’d want to know. Now, I found a survey from The Knot, the big wedding website that suggested a boomlet. But, it’s a survey of their own readers, so it’s kind of a self-selecting group.

Sandy Block: Right. You’re not going to The Knot if you’re not getting married or at least thinking about it. I guess people could look at marriage licenses. You can’t get married, well, legally, without one of those. I remember getting mine and I got some free household goods out of the deal.

David Muhlbaum: Lucky you.

Sandy Block: Oh yeah.

David Muhlbaum: Well, that’s true. That’s true. But marriage licenses, those are issued by a zillion counties and municipalities, and they don’t tell you what kind of party someone’s going to throw.

Sandy Block: Right. To bring another Emma story into it; we’ve got one in the works. Emma talked to a wedding planner in Portland, Oregon who gave the impression that it’s not necessarily full steam ahead, party down for the wedding industry. Because a lot of her clients still have concerns about guests who might be immunocompromised or have family members who aren’t vaccinated. Young people — what do you do about that? There are still local regulations in many places about large gatherings. So that’s just an anecdote, but it’s from someone right in the heart of the business.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. I guess we’re not going to get a forward-looking indicator on weddings. So let’s recap the marriage stuff so that we at least squeeze in some actual useful facts before we get to our main segment.

Sandy Block: Right. That’s marriage and taxes.

David Muhlbaum: Right. That’s what we’re going to talk about now. Then we’re going to talk about children and taxes. So, okay. Marriage and taxes. Now, one of those is inevitable and the other isn’t, but when you get married, it can change your tax situation. Now, in the old days, and by old days, I mean before 2017, when you were talking about matrimony and taxes, the word marriage was usually followed by penalty, marriage penalty. It was just one of those things that people like you and me would talk about with the younger people getting engaged. “Well, it’s lovely that you and McKayla are tying the knot, but it’s a pity about that marriage penalty.”

Sandy Block: But nowadays, when someone tells me that their partner doesn’t want to get married because of the marriage penalty, I just tell them, “Your partner just doesn’t want to get married.” Because under the 2017 tax law, the marriage penalty pretty much went away except for the very wealthy. In fact, some couples may actually enjoy a marriage bonus, and what this is all about is the idea of filing jointly, putting the spouse’s incomes together. I sometimes hear from people who say, “Well, we’ll just file separately and save taxes.” No, you won’t. The IRS is onto that, and it doesn’t want you lowering your taxes by filing separately. But under the current regime, it’s very unlikely that filing jointly will result in a higher combined tax bill than you would have if you never got married and just lived together.

David Muhlbaum: There still could be reasons though to file separately, to pass up that new marriage bonus.

Sandy Block: Right. I guess the major one, and this is probably something you should seriously think about if you’re thinking about getting married, is that if your spouse commits fraud. Or to be less harsh, maybe your spouse has his own business, and maybe it’s not reported all of his or her income. You could be on the hook for that, if you’re married. if you’re single, you’re off the hook. So certainly file separately if you think that the IRS has the goods on your spouse.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. You might want to have a little chat there.

Sandy Block: I think this is a good thing.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. But the marriage penalty might be alive and well at the state level, right? I mean, we’ve got 50-plus regimes to deal with there.

Sandy Block: Yes. Absolutely, and that’s something that Emma covered in her story. There are 15 states that have a marriage penalty built into their tax bracket structure. Seven states and the District of Columbia, however, offset the marriage penalty in their bracket structure by allowing married taxpayers to file separately in the state, even if they filed jointly on their federal tax return.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. Of course, there are a good number of states that don’t have an income tax at all, or a flat one. Hey, check out Kiplinger’s Tax Map for that, newlyweds. When we return, more on taxes — but different ones — with Joy Taylor, editor of the Kiplinger Tax Letter.

Child Tax Credit with Joy Taylor

David Muhlbaum: Welcome back to Your Money’s Worth. The American Rescue Plan, remember that, is still pumping money into the economy. The latest flow starts this month with advanced payments from the IRS, for the expanded child tax credit. Unlike earlier stimulus efforts that went extremely wide with the goal to put cash in the pockets of just about every taxpayer as quickly as possible, the expanded child tax credit is a more tailored affair. Like number one, you’ve got to have kids, but that’s not all there is to it, and a range of income limits apply. Joy Taylor, the editor of the Kiplinger Tax Letter will help us sort out this complex program to make sure you can take advantage of it in the best way for your finances. If you’re sitting there thinking, hey, I pay taxes. I don’t have kids, what’s up with that? We’ll touch on those issues a bit too. So welcome, Joy. Thanks for joining Your Money’s Worth. First time, right?

Joy Taylor: Yes, it is. Thanks for having me, David and Sandy.

David Muhlbaum: It isn’t our first go round with the expanded child tax credit though. Earlier this year, we had Rocky Mengle, Kiplinger’s senior tax editor here on Your Money’s Worth to talk about stimulus checks. Then Sandy, you asked him about the child tax credit.

Sandy Block: I just like to stay ahead of the news. Are you blaming me for that?

David Muhlbaum: A little. I have no doubt that Rocky did the best job imaginable in laying out how the child tax credit worked up until now, because child tax credits aren’t new, let’s make that clear. And then, how the American Rescue Plan was going to expand it. But at the end, I was still like, oh my God, this is complicated and who is going to remember all those numbers and phaseouts and income levels? That was even before we knew how the government itself was going to administer the program, which is its own new layer of complexity.

Sandy Block: Right. But the news here is that people are going to start getting checks, and that’s one of the things that Joy is going to give us details on.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That’s why we’re doing this again. But the problem of the numbers, and the phaseouts, and the income levels, it hasn’t gone away. So right off the bat, I want to plug a tool that we’ve come up with here at Kiplinger, that you can go online and use to see how the expanded child tax credit works for you. It’s the 2021 Child Tax Credit Calculator, and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Because, even if we do the most exhaustive explanation possible here today, you’re probably going to forget some portion of what we said, and in any case, you’ll want to run your own numbers. So “Child Tax Credit Calculator,” search those words or look in our show notes. The other thing we’re going to plug now, and maybe later, depending on how stuck we get, is Joy’s FAQ piece, “Child Tax Credit 2021. Who Gets $3,600? Will I get Monthly Payments?” I’ll also link to that in the show notes.

David Muhlbaum: Sorry, Joy. I’m trying to make this easier on everyone, you included. In fact, my first question is going to attempt to skip past all those numbers altogether, and just get you to talk about one of the main things that makes the expanded child tax credit so different. That is, if you qualify, you get some of the money upfront, as Sandy mentioned. Government pays you! So if someone wasn’t paying attention to us or lived under a rock or whatever, they could end up having money appear in their bank account, starting July 15th, just like that.

Joy Taylor: Yes. That’s true, David. The expanded child tax credit allows for advanced monthly payments of the credit. It’s sort of based on the stimulus payments from earlier, from last year, and then earlier this year. People who, eligible families who qualify, will receive, starting July 15th, a monthly payment, per child. A monthly credit per child, depending how many children they have, their income, et cetera, for six months this year. So it’ll be July 15th and pretty much the 15th of each month until December. They’ll be getting these payments of this child credit up front. That puts more money in peoples’ pockets to help them, to help them pay their rent, their mortgage, food, or whatever they want to do with the money. Remember, the payments are an upfront sort of advance of a child credit that will be taken on your tax return that you file next year.

Sandy Block: So Joy, David didn’t want to get too bogged down in the numbers, but let’s go for the big number. What’s the most money that parents can get from this program?

Joy Taylor: So it all depends on the number of children you have and the age of the child. So the most money is $3,600 per child under the age of six, $3,000 per child from age six through 17. So when you’re talking about, that is the total annual credit per child that you have. When you’re talking about advanced payments, you’re talking about at least $300 per month, per child under age six, $250 per month, per child age six to 17. Let’s say you have two children, one five, one 10, you’ll be getting, and your income, you qualify for the full credit. You could get payments per month of $550.

David Muhlbaum: Wow. Okay. Just to be clear, there’s no cap on the number of kids, right?

Joy Taylor: Yeah. So there’s no cap on the number of kids, there’s just a cap on the ages of the children, but not on the number of children.

David Muhlbaum: That’s between you and your household, if .. okay, okay., go for it. Since we’ve gone there, in terms of numbers, let’s talk about the income limits. So the child tax credit has always been income-limited, make too much, you don’t get it. But now there are two tiers of income limits in effect? Can you outline how that works a little bit please, Joy?

Joy Taylor: Sure. I think the easiest way to do this is to first discuss the rules that were in effect prior to 2021, prior to this year. So the income levels that were in effect for 2020 was $200,000 for single people and $400,000 for married people. So if your income levels exceeded that, that’s when the child credit started to phase out. For 2021, you still have those $200,000 and $400,000 income levels for the $2,000 child credit. But for the people who qualify for the higher child tax credit of $3,000 or $3,600, based on the age of the child, those income levels are different, they’re lower. So those income levels are $75,000 for single people, $150,000 for married people. So you have two different income levels: You have income levels to qualify for the higher child tax credit of $3,000 or $3,600, and you have the income levels to qualify for the $2,000 child tax credit.

David Muhlbaum: If we’re going to try to shorthand those, essentially you can make more money and get the old one. To get the bigger new one, the income limits are lower.

Joy Taylor: Yes. To get the bigger new one, the income limits are $75,000 for single people and $150,000 for married people. By the way, that’s adjusted gross income figures, not taxable income figures. One thing though that I should just clarify when we go back to the advanced payments is, people who only qualify for the $2,000 child tax credit — so people with higher incomes, I mean, wealthy people; I’m talking about, up to $400,000 if you’re married — you still will get advanced monthly payments.

David Muhlbaum: Whoa! I didn’t even realize that one.

Joy Taylor: You’ll still get a monthly payment of up to $167 a month. So the monthly payment does not apply only for-

Sandy Block: Oh interesting.

Joy Taylor: The people on the lower end of the income scale. The monthly payments, the advanced payments are for anyone who qualifies for the child tax credit.

Sandy Block: Alright. Lots of people get a check.

Joy Taylor: Yeah. I don’t think many people know that-

Sandy Block: No. I think that’s really interesting.

Joy Taylor: I don’t think that’s been widely publicized, because this has generally been publicized and been talked about by lawmakers as an anti-poverty.

Sandy Block: Right. Right.

Joy Taylor: It’s an anti-child-poverty measure. So you’re wondering, well, why would someone, why would a family who makes $400,000 get $167 a month per child as payments.

Sandy Block: Right. Which is kind of the same discussion that went on over the stimulus checks. But along those lines, we should note that this is, right, a one-year program. So in 2022, the tax credit won’t go away, but it would go back to the old values and phaseouts. Is that right?

Joy Taylor: That is right now. So yes, the program is only for 2021. So in 2022, the income levels and ..the higher income levels and the $2,000 child credit will come back. All the advanced payments and the higher child tax credit would go away. However, lawmakers want to make this permanent. As I said, this is a, I’d mentioned before, it’s an anti-child-poverty program. So lawmakers, especially Democratic lawmakers, want to make the program permanent. President Biden had proposed for it to go through 2025. He wants to make it permanent too. That’s just solely, 2025 is just because of a federal budget issue. But Democratic lawmakers want this to be a permanent, essentially permanent stimulus payments.

David Muhlbaum: Do we have any sense of what the cost of this program is? Essentially by the government passing up revenue by doing this program, the expanded child tax credit?

Joy Taylor: Yeah. The cost of the expanded child tax credit is estimated to be about $107 billion for essentially the 2021-2022 year.

David Muhlbaum: Bingo. Okay. That’s pretty precise. So in essence, Joy, on one hand, we could look at this from a policy perspective as: The child tax credit is a subsidy for having kids. Now, it’s a more generous subsidy for having kids. There will probably be people who are opposed to government spending on the face of it, they may be opposed to government spending for anything. But I’m just curious, kids are popular, but, is there a constituency that pushes back against this?

Joy Taylor: Well, I don’t know, when you say pushes back against this. Some might say fiscal hawks and more conservatives might push back against these government programs or a higher child tax credit. However, when you look at history, in 2017, then-President Trump and Republicans passed a tax reform law. That tax reform law actually doubled the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000. So, subsidizing children, it’s not a partisan idea.

David Muhlbaum: No. That makes sense. That makes sense. But yes, there could still be… I just sort of imagined in my mind, there are people going, “but wait a minute, I pay taxes, too.” But I see your point. Children are bipartisanly popular. Again, Sandy, we’ve talked in the past about, well, how do other countries do it? Definitely, if you look at the tax regimes of countries like the UK and many others, there are specific carve-outs like this, where there is favorable tax treatment for having children. Sandy, you had a question about how this is actually going to work.

Sandy Block: Yeah. Just last week, the IRS Taxpayer Advocate put out a report, a really devastating report about IRS service. How many tax returns have not been processed. How only about five people in the United States actually got through calling? I’m exaggerating, but hardly anybody who called the IRS talked to a person. So I guess this is a program, once again, that we’re looking to the IRS to manage. Are they going to be able to pull this off? They already had to do stimulus checks, unemployment benefits adjustments. I mean, we’re really asking a lot of an agency that by every indication is underfunded and understaffed. Is that going to be problem, do you think?

Joy Taylor: So there are definite concerns. I mean, IRS has been underfunded for years. They keep losing personnel. They keep having to deal with changes in the tax laws. So, I can understand those concerns, and there very well could be issues in the future. However, I actually was pleasantly surprised by how well IRS handled stimulus payments. That was put on IRS very quickly. IRS did not know that was coming, and that was put on them quickly. Yes. That was a one-time payment, which actually ended up being three times. But the IRS overall, with hiccups here and there, overall did a good job with the stimulus payments. I think because of that, Congress thought that IRS could handle the job of deal of handling, paying out child payments.

Now, it is going to be difficult. IRS had to create all sorts of systems, all sorts of new tools on their website … they’re going out and doing press. They’re trying to advertise this credit to everyone. I mean, not just to people with money and people who might listen to this podcast. But also to people in public housing who would qualify for the credit. So IRS has a lot on its shoulders, but I don’t know. At the beginning of this, I had thought that IRS would not be able to handle it, now I’m becoming a bit more optimistic. So far they’ve been meeting the timeframes.

David Muhlbaum: Well, that’s good news. The individual though, has some control here too. You mentioned the systems that the IRS has been setting up to make the system, to make the payouts work. The individual who’s eligible can also check in to make things go smoothly. Can you talk a little bit about what those are and how people should do that?

Joy Taylor: Sure. So there are a few things. First off, I guess the first main issue, the first main question is, do you want these child payments? Do you want these monthly payments? Or would you rather take the full credit when you file your tax return next year? As I said upfront, the monthly payments are advances of the child tax credit that you will take on your 2021 return that you’re going to file.

David Muhlbaum: As you also mentioned, they may be going to people who, well, it doesn’t make that big a difference for them.

Joy Taylor: Right. Right. So some people might want to, instead of receiving monthly payments, maybe they would like a large refund when they file their return next year. So IRS has, well, IRS pursuant to the law because the law requires that IRS allow people to opt out of monthly payments. So these people will still qualify for the child tax credit, but they don’t have to receive monthly payments if they do not want to.

Joy Taylor: If you want to opt out, IRS has created a tool, it’s called the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. So you go onto that tool online to essentially opt out. You generally have to… If you don’t want the payments, you generally have to opt out at least two weeks prior to the next scheduled payment. So it’s too late to opt out for the July 15th payment. If you want to opt out for August and the next five payments, then you have to do that I think by early August.

Sandy Block: Joy, can you also use this portal to update information? Maybe you’ve got a child the IRS doesn’t know about?

Joy Taylor: Yes. Although that feature is not yet available, it will be on that portal. You can update the portal to provide if there’s a change in your income level, if there’s a change in the number of children, the age of your children. Because IRS is generally, if you think about this, IRS is generally going to look at your 2020 returns and 2020 information to figure out the amount, if you qualify for advance payments, and the amount. So if your circumstances are changing in 2021, or you know they’re going to, then you are going to want to go on to the Tax Credit Update Portal on IRS’s website and make those changes.

Sandy Block: I’m thinking, yeah-

David Muhlbaum: If you have a newborn for 2021 right?

Sandy Block: That’s what I’m thinking. If you had triplets this year, you’re going to want to go to that portal.

Joy Taylor: Well, you want… Yes, that’s true, but remember, you’ll want to go to that portal if you want the payments in advance for those triplets.

Sandy Block: I think if I had triplets I’d want that money.

Joy Taylor: Yeah. So you’ll still qualify for the credits, right? Do you want that money now? Do you want the money each month? Or would you rather receive, if you’re eligible, I don’t know, my math is awful. But whatever $3,600 times three is, like $10,000, is it $10,800? All at once.

David Muhlbaum: Well, diapers.

Sandy Block: That’s what I was going to say, David. That’s a lot of diapers. I think I’d want the money now. The other issue, because this came up with the stimulus checks is: Will people be able to use that portal to update their bank accounts? So I assume most folks are going to get this direct deposit.

Joy Taylor: Yes, and that feature is already up.

Sandy Block: Oh, great. Okay.

Joy Taylor: So yeah. So yeah, IRS is generally going to send, if they have your bank account information, they’ll directly deposit the monthly payments. Otherwise, they’ll send a check. If you don’t think IRS has your information, you can go in and update it.

David Muhlbaum: Got it. Now, we talked about the idea of not receiving the monthly payments because well, you’d rather have the money later or you don’t need it right away, that sort of thing. There are good reasons to do that. But it makes me think a little bit of the flip situation, which is when someone not only really needs the money, but that child tax credit could end up being an income to them. What I’m driving at here is the fact that, my understanding is that not only was the prior child tax credit, what’s called fully refundable, but the new one is as well. Which means that even if your federal income tax liability is zero, you still get money. Did I get that right?

Joy Taylor: Okay. Well, partly.

David Muhlbaum: Or sort of?

Joy Taylor: Sort of. Sort of. The prior child tax credit was not fully refundable.

David Muhlbaum: Oh, okay.

Joy Taylor: It was only refundable up to $1,400 per child, and only for very low-income people. You had to have at least $2,500 of earned income, meaning you had to have been working, et cetera. All of those limitations are now gone. So now for 2021, the child tax credit is fully refundable, meaning, even if you have no tax liability, you can get the money. You don’t, by the way, families do not have to have earned income. So for non-working families, maybe families looking for a job, families on various government subsidies, et cetera. If they don’t have any income at all, they’re still eligible for the child tax credit payments.

Sandy Block: I guess that’s why this is being promoted by supporters as an anti-poverty program, because people who really need the money are going to get it.

Joy Taylor: Well, exactly, I mean, just think if you have a very low-income family with say, three young children under the age of six. I’m just giving an example. I mean, this family will get $900 a month from July through December, and then the remaining credit. The remaining credit they could take on their tax return, and get refunded for the other half of the portion. Because remember these advanced payments are only for half of the higher child tax credit.

David Muhlbaum: Yes. That’s a very good point to make, because we do have, as I said at the start, a lot of dollar values floating around. Yeah. You get the money upfront and you get the money at the back. Seems pretty good if you’re going to take it. One other fine slice on the question of it being not only fully refundable, but essentially money for people who really need it. There’s some question here, whether you could get over-credited in your advanced payments, and then not be on the hook for adjusting. Can you see what I’m stumbling about, trying to get at here?

Joy Taylor: Yeah. So, yeah. So there are instances where IRS is going to probably pay, I don’t know maybe as much this year, because they’re only paying half of the credit. But maybe they’re paying it to people who don’t qualify for the credit at all, or to qualify maybe for much less. There are going to be instances where IRS is going to be paying too much of the child tax credit.. Essentially the payments that you receive are going to be an excess of the child credit that you’re actually entitled to when you file your return next year.

David Muhlbaum: But it would get balanced out then, but you’re never going to have to give money back. You just don’t get as much on the second half.

Joy Taylor: Well, you might have to give money back. I mean, it all just depends, when you do the whole balancing out, let’s say, there might be instances maybe where the advanced payments exceed the total child tax credit that you are entitled to. Some people will have to pay, depending on your income, will have to pay the excess back. This is unlike the stimulus check or essentially the stimulus check, if you got it and then your income is way too high-

Sandy Block: It was all yours. Yeah.

Joy Taylor: It was all yours. So with the child tax credit, it doesn’t quite work that way, but there is a safe harbor though. The safe harbor essentially is, if you’re single with income of less than $40,000 or married with income of less than $60,000, you don’t have to pay anything back, even if you’re not entitled to what you received.

David Muhlbaum: Bingo. Okay.

Joy Taylor: If your income is for single people above $80,000, $120,000 for married people, you’ll have to pay anything you received in proper, you’ll have to pay it back. Anything excess you’ll have to pay back. For people in the middle, they’ll have to pay a portion of it back.

David Muhlbaum: Got it. So yet again, there’s another income threshold and I’m going to go, it’s such a good thing that you put together that FAQ, because when we get boxed into a corner, we can go look at that.

Joy Taylor: Yeah. Sorry about those numbers.

David Muhlbaum: No problem.

Joy Taylor: But sometimes they are important.

David Muhlbaum: Well, thank you so much, Joy, for joining us today, and walking us through our partial knowledge and improving it. I hope you’ve improved other people’s knowledge as well. As I said before, check out those links. They’re really good. Thank you so much, Joy.

Joy Taylor: Thank you.

David Muhlbaum: That will just about do it for this episode of Your Money’s Worth. If you like what you heard, please sign up for more at Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your content. When you do, please give us a rating and review. If you’ve already subscribed, thanks, please go back and add a rating or review if you haven’t already. To see the links we’ve mentioned in our show, along with other great Kiplinger content on the topics we’ve discussed. Go to The episodes, transcripts, and links are all in there by date. If you’re still here because you want to give us a piece of your mind, you can stay connected with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or by emailing us directly at Thanks for listening.


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16 Tips to Save Money on Back-to-School Supplies & Shopping List

Back-to-school time has become its own shopping season, falling just behind back-to-college and Christmas in terms of family expenditures, according to the National Retail Federation. In 2020, the NRF reported record back-to-school spending, with parents spending an average of $789.49 per child, up from the previous record of $696.70.

And that’s just for elementary through high school. If you have college students in your family, the NRF estimates you’ll spend about $1,059.20 on supplies. (But you can access your own list of college back-to-school saving tactics.)

That’s almost as much as an average mortgage payment, and each year, costs continue to outpace inflation. Multiply this amount by two or three (or five) children, and it’s easy to see why many parents start sweating in mid-July, when the barrage of back-to-school fliers and ads start appearing.

But these back-to-school saving tips can take some of the stress out of the season.

How to Save on Back-to-School Supplies

If you’re stressed out about this upcoming drain on your bank account, take a deep breath. There are plenty of ways to avoid spending $1,000 per child at the start of the new school year. If you start early and plan ahead, you can put your kids back in the classroom for a fraction of this amount.

Keep in mind that back-to-school sales start a bit earlier each year. Staples now puts out its back-to-school section in late June, with many products already on sale to entice parents to buy.

You can save by purchasing one or two things at a time throughout the summer. Spreading your purchases out can also prevent a significant hit to your monthly budget.

1. Do a Supply Sweep

You probably already have plenty of last year’s school supplies you can reuse this year. Closets, desk drawers, and basement bins could hold hidden treasures that can save you money.

Start by rounding up all of the office and school supplies you already own. Put them in a central location, such as a plastic bin or the dining room table, so you can make a list of what you have and a shopping list of what you need.

Keep this list in your purse or car to avoid forgetting it when you shop for school supplies. You can also take a picture of your current supplies to refresh your memory when you’re shopping.

Next, go through your kids’ closets and start sorting. Donate or toss clothing kids have outgrown and timeworn clothing. Once you complete this supply sweep, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you need to buy. Ideally, the sweep will prevent you from buying something you already have on hand.

2. Plan a Supply Swap

Coordinate with your friends and neighbors and host a school and office supply swap before you head out shopping.

For instance, you might have reams of loose-leaf paper you bought on sale, but you’ll never use it all. Meanwhile, your friend might have several packs of pencils or a pencil case they’d be willing to trade for some of that paper.

Talk to friends and family members with school-aged children and see if they have extra supplies they’d be interested in trading.

3. Shop at Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

Garage sales can be a treasure trove of deals for back-to-school supplies. You can find backpacks, gently used shoes, clothing, and even school supplies there for a song.

Start hitting up garage sales for everything you need. It takes time, but you can score some incredible bargains by doing so, and it’s an economical way to save money on back-to-school clothes. You can also ask friends and family members to keep an eye out for you when they shop at garage sales.

There are fantastic bargains at thrift stores too. Clothing is very affordable there, and many stores run sales specifically for parents shopping for back-to-school items. But start early. Other shoppers will have picked over the selection by the first day of school.

Your best bet is to start your kids clothes shopping in the middle to end of July when there are plenty of clothes to choose from. Of course, if you let them wear them immediately, the novelty will have worn off by the first day of school. Put these clothes away until school starts so they’ll feel brand-new to your kids.

4. Check Consignment Shops

Consignment shops are excellent places to find gently used clothing because they’ve already vetted everything they offer. So unlike at the thrift store, you don’t have to paw through blouses from 1975 to find designer or name-brand clothing on a shoestring budget.

If your area has several consignment shops, find out if they’re planning a late-summer sale. Many consignment shops organize a seasonal sale, especially during the back-to-school shopping season. Several shops might even host a mega-sale in one location, pooling all their resources together.

You can find consignment shops in your area by Googling “kids consignment stores near me.”

5. Check the Dollar Store

You can get some incredible bargains on school supplies at the dollar store, where you can find basic supplies like notebooks and pencils as well as classroom supplies like facial tissue and sanitizer, all at bargain prices.

Start shopping in the summer months because you never know what products stores will order or how long they’ll stay in stock. Just note that there are some things you should never buy at the dollar store, such as batteries and tape.

6. Shop Through Rakuten

Online cash-back shopping venue Rakuten acts like a shopping gateway. The website allows you to shop online or through the app at over 2,500 major stores and brands like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Gap, Barnes & Noble, Dell, Kohl’s, DSW, and Macy’s, all while giving you cash back on your purchases.

How much you earn typically varies from 1% to 6% of your total purchase price. However, many retailers offer short-term rebates of 10% or more and exclusive sales for Rakuten shoppers.

Rakuten says its 12 million users have earned over $1 billion in cash back using the mobile coupon app, which they can then use to buy back-to-school supplies.

See our Rakuten review for more information.

7. Install the Capital One Shopping Browser Extension

Capital One Shopping is a useful browser extension to have when you’re shopping online. For example, each time you’re browsing on Amazon, Capital One Shopping searches hundreds of other retailers to see if there’s a better price available.

They also automatically apply any available coupon codes at checkout to help you save money. Wikibuy has a database of thousands of retailers, so this extension can likely help you find a better deal somewhere.

Read our Capital One Shopping review for details.

8. Shop on a Sales Tax Holiday

Many states have sales tax holidays when shoppers can buy merchandise without paying sales tax. On these days, you can pick up clothing, computers, and school supplies tax-free.

Find the date (or dates) of your state’s sales tax holiday and determine what products are eligible online. Most states have a sales tax holiday during the first week of August, although some have tax holidays in July or toward the end of August.

9. Follow Stores on Twitter & Facebook

Many companies send their loyal followers coupon links and advance notice of sales. If you plan to bargain-hunt this year, monitor your favorite stores’ Twitter and Facebook feeds to find deals.

You can follow these popular stores on Twitter, for example:

10. Compare Prices

Most parents have to buy some sort of electronics for their kids for school. You can save on these by keeping an eye on Amazon’s ever-changing prices.

The website CamelCamelCamel tracks the price range history for every product sold on Amazon, including historical highs and lows. You can sign up for price change alerts for specific products and get a notification every time their prices change.

There are also plenty of apps to help you save money by comparing prices across different retailers. One is ShopSavvy, which is available for iOS and Android devices.

To use ShopSavvy, simply scan the bar code of the product you’re interested in, and the app tells you if a lower price is available at another store or website. For the app to work, you also need to download a bar code scanner, which you can get for both iOS and Android devices.

Last, don’t forget to look to your grocery store or neighborhood drugstore for bargains on school supplies. Check local circulars starting in midsummer. You might be surprised to find that some products are actually cheaper when they’re on sale at these stores than at big-box stores.

Additionally, many stores have reward or loyalty programs that enable you to earn points or other loyalty currency when purchasing goods there.

11. Focus on Saving on Big-Ticket Merchandise

When you’re back-to-school shopping, it’s easy to get paranoid about the cost of glue at Target compared to Walmart. We’ve all been there. But while it’s vital to watch prices on small items, you only have so much time and energy.

You’re better off using this limited time and energy to save money on bigger-ticket products, especially electronics like computers and tablets. Saving $300 on your high schooler’s new laptop means more to your budget than saving $5 on your middle schooler’s lunch box or 25 cents on a bottle of glitter glue.

Focus on saving money on your most significant expenses first, and let the glue take care of itself.

12. Make Your Kids Work for Their Supplies

What do you do if you’ve set spending limits for specialty or high-end goods, and your kids still clamor for expensive back-to-school gear? Make them go to work.

Assign them chores or send them out into the neighborhood to earn the money they need. My parents did this to me, and I lived through the experience. It also made me examine in a very real way how badly I wanted to buy some “must-have” gear.

Most of the time, when I had to spend my own money on something — money I had to use my own hours to earn — I discovered I didn’t really want it as badly as I thought I did.

13. Save on Uniforms

School uniforms used to be the hallmark of attending an elite private school. These days, many charter schools require students to wear uniforms, and The New Yorker reports that one-fifth of all public schools now require a uniform.

And these uniforms can be costly, with prices ranging from $150 to $250 or more for a mix-and-match wardrobe. However, there are plenty of ways to save money on school uniforms.

One strategy is to see if your school has a uniform exchange. During the year, some schools ask parents to donate any uniform pieces their children have outgrown. They then offer these to parents on a tight budget, often for free or for a small donation.

Another way to save is to check local thrift stores. For example, if your child’s uniform includes basic navy or khaki pants, you can usually find them in high quantities at a thrift store or consignment shop.

Last, check retailers like Gap and Old Navy. Both companies sell school uniforms and often run sales during the middle to end of summer. You might also find better deals if you shop in the early summer when most parents aren’t yet thinking about buying uniforms for the upcoming school season.

14. Hold Off on New Clothing

Every child wants new clothes when they head back to school. And while retailers do put clothing on sale for back to school, Kristin Cook, managing editor of price-tracking site Ben’s Bargains, told Consumer Reports before school starts isn’t the best time to buy a new wardrobe for your kids. Prices typically go down in September after the big clothes-buying rush is over.

A better strategy is to buy one new outfit for your kids to wear on the first day and then do most of your shopping when prices drop further in September or October.

Another way to save is to scour thrift stores and consignment shops. If you live near a larger city or are willing to travel, you can often find high-quality clothing at dirt-cheap prices there.

15. Save on School Sports and Activities

You have a daughter who wants to play softball and soccer, another daughter who wants to join the school band, and a son who wants to play hockey and baseball. You’re looking at a potential investment of $10,000 or more in fees, instruments, and equipment for this year alone.

But don’t start hyperventilating just yet. There are plenty of ways to save money on extracurricular activities for your kids.

First, think about limiting your children to one after-school activity apiece. By limiting their choices, you allow them to focus on what they’re most interested in. That also forces them to make a choice, and when they take ownership of that choice, they’ll likely feel more dedicated to what they’re doing and really put their heart into it.

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good cites a 2014 paper published by the American Psychological Association and a 1999 study published in the Review of General Psychology among the “mountain of research” proving teens who have the freedom to make their own decisions tend to be more self-driven and have greater self-discipline.

Sticking to one activity will also help you avoid having an overscheduled child and give them more time for academics, family time, and friends.

If you’re looking to save money on sports equipment, one strategy is to buy used. You can find used gear on SidelineSwap, where you can also sell your own equipment once your child has outgrown what they’re currently using. Locally, you can usually find some bargains at Play It Again Sports.

If you’re looking to save money on music lessons or band participation, your best bet is buying or renting a used instrument. You can search on Music Go Round for used instruments listed on the site and instruments listed locally in your area. You can also look on Craigslist and eBay.

16. Just Say No

Going back-to-school shopping with your kids can be a fun bonding experience. It can also add hundreds of dollars to your shopping bill if you cave to their requests for designer jeans and a new backpack.

To save money, tell your kids before you leave the house that you’re sticking to the school list and won’t consider any extras while you’re out. Of course, I have two kids of my own, so I know saying no isn’t always easy.

A better idea might be to go school shopping on your own. Consider buying your kids just what they might need on their very first day, and while they’re in school, you can hit the stores to knock out the rest of the list by yourself. Not only is it less stressful, but you’ll also likely save more money.

Final Word

Few parents want to think about shopping for the coming school year, especially amid high summer. But back-to-school shopping can creep up on you quickly, so it pays to start shopping early.

That way, you can take advantage of every deal and coupon that comes your way. And stocking supplies slowly can help ease the impact on your monthly budget.


11 Furniture Donation Pickup Methods

Furniture donations are a large source of income for many nonprofit organizations. With this in mind, donating furniture is a great way to get rid of clutter while giving back to the community.

Are you downsizing, moving or doing a major decor change in your home but don’t know what to do with your old furniture? Well, you’re in luck because many local nonprofit organizations make moving easy by offering free furniture donation pick up.

Donating furniture to your favorite charities is a chance to get rid of extra furniture and household items for free while giving back to your community. Here is how to get started in the process.

Where to donate furniture

When looking for furniture donation pickup, there can be so many options it’s hard to know where to start. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered with our detailed list summarizing nonprofit organizations, who your donation will help, items they accept and how to schedule your pickup.

The best part is that every organization in our guide is completely free of charge for their furniture removal services and your donations go to a great cause.

Steps for furniture donation pick up

1. Salvation Army

When people start thinking about donating furniture, The Salvation Army is usually one of the first places to come to mind. The Salvation Army is an international organization that operates in over 7,000 U.S. towns and cities and assists 23 million Americans annually.

Their services help provide disaster aid, support the LGBTQ+ community, fight food insecurity, combat addiction, assist those living in poverty and more. With the number of people Salvation Army helps each year, you can feel confident that you are doing good by donating to this organization.

  • Who your donation helps: Your items are either brought directly to those in need or sold at one of their Salvation Army stores. The proceeds from their stores are used to fund their Adult Rehabilitation Centers that provide housing, food, counseling, community and employment for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol dependency.
  • Items they accept: The Salvation Army will accept furniture, vehicles, clothing, household items, electronics, mattresses, books, exercise equipment and more.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: You can schedule an appointment for furniture pickup at The Salvation Army website or call 1-800-SA-TRUCK. Salvation Army pick-up hours can vary depending on your location, but they are typically 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They make the transition even easier by allowing you to leave items outside your home for them to pick up without you even needing to be home.

2. Goodwill

Goodwill is an organization that supports communities through job training and employment services. They also provide support services, language training, education assistance, access to transportation and child care to help people in their communities achieve success.

In 2020, Goodwill served nearly 22 million individuals worldwide and provided career support to 126,000 people. Items brought to one of Goodwill’s stores are sold at a discounted price and the money raised goes to their various programs and initiatives.

  • Who your donation helps: Donation funds go to their job training or community-based programs. Some of their community-based programs include classes for people with disabilities, senior resources and helping convicts reclaim their lives after prison.
  • Items they accept: Goodwill accepts furniture, toys, electronics, clothing, media items, electronics, vehicles, exercise equipment, dishware and tools. Something to note is that Goodwill will accept boats, cars, campers and RVs even if they aren’t in working condition.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: Goodwill stores provide a donation center to give easy drop-off access for donations you’re able to bring in yourself. Most stores also offer a free pick-up service for larger furniture items, making it perfect for those who are downsizing. You can schedule your free Goodwill pickup online on their website locator, but keep in mind that store hours will vary based on their location.

3. Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit that provides safe and affordable housing to families in need. Their initiative also assists older adults to improve their homes, puts efforts towards neighborhood revitalization projects, provides shelter during natural disasters and teaches classes focused on financial education. This organization has been in operation since 1976 and works in all 50 U.S. states as well as 70 countries.

  • Who your donation helps: Habitat for Humanity sells donated furniture, building supplies and appliances at their resale store called ReStores. Proceeds from sales go to home restoring and building projects for families in need of affordable housing.
  • Items they accept: Habitat for Humanity will accept furniture, building materials, appliances, vehicles and farm equipment.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: To schedule a free furniture donation pick up with Habitat for Humanity, visit their website and enter your ZIP code to see which stores are near you. Next, you can contact your closest store directly to schedule your appointment.

Moving boxes in a new apartment

4. Green Drop

GreenDrop is a program on the East Coast that raises funds for popular charities by picking up used furniture, clothes and appliances to sell at thrift stores. Their proceeds go back to charities that help those in need. Some of the charities they support include the American Red Cross, Military Order of the Purple Heart and the National Federation of the Blind.

  • Who your donation helps: In 2018, GreenDrop raised $3.1 million for the charitable organizations listed above.
  • Items they accept: GreenDrop accepts various items, including furniture under 50 pounds, clothing, household items, electronics, tools and toys.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: Start by packing up all of your belongings in plastic boxes or bins. Next, decide if you want to make an in-person donation or if you can schedule a furniture pick-up online. After they receive a donation, they’ll provide you with a tax receipt.

5. The Arc

The Arc is the largest organization devoted to helping individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. It provides a wide variety of services, supports and advocacy for people with disabilities and their families. The organization has over 700 chapters and one of their key sources of fundraising comes from their thrift stores, which they stock with donated goods.

  • Who your donation helps: Their services vary based on each chapter and the unique needs of their community. Once your donation sells, it goes towards public policy advocacy, vocational programs, residential assistance, education services, financial planning and recreational activities for people with disabilities.
  • Items they accept: The Arc accepts furniture, clothing, electronics, toys, vehicles, books, decorations, kitchen items and more, depending on the chapter.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: You can also schedule via phone by calling The Arc at 1-800-283-2721. Another option is to head to their website to find your local chapter and schedule your pick-up.

Happy couple moving a couch into a new apartment after a furniture donation pick up


AMVETS is an organization that represents the interests of 20 million veterans across the United States. This group helps veterans obtain their entitled benefits. They also work to improve the quality of life for veterans, their families and the communities where they live through leadership, advocacy and services.

  • Who your donation helps: AMVETS supports U.S. veterans, those who have been honorably discharged and active duty servicemen and women. They will sell your furniture in one of their thrift stores to raise money for their cause.
  • Items they accept: AMVETS accepts small furniture, clothing, toys, bedding, games, bikes, electronics, lamps, curtains, exercise equipment and kitchenware. AMVET requires donations to be 5-years old or less but is also open to accepting other items that are not on their list.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: Send an email through the AMVET site or call to schedule a furniture donation pick-up between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. It’s important to check with this organization ahead of time to see if their services are available near you. AMVETS has branches across the United States, but only has free furniture pick up available in certain states.

7. Donation Town

This site is perfect for anyone feeling overwhelmed trying to find charities that provide furniture pickup in their community. Donation Town works with local charities all over the country to help put individuals in touch with nonprofits that will provide this service for free. Simply enter your ZIP code and they’ll give you a list of charities to choose from.

  • Who your donation helps: Your donation will help the charity of your choice. They currently have over 400 charities of all sizes in their directory and are adding more all the time.
  • Items they accept: Items they accept depend on each charity’s guidelines.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: Visit Donation Town’s website to plan your pick-up with your selected charity.

8. Furniture Banks

If you donate your items to Furniture Banks, then you’ll be playing an important part in helping vulnerable families get back on their feet. The furniture donation pick up organization encourages people to donate gently used furniture and transfer the items to those struggling financially to furnish their own homes. Furniture Banks operates in 36 states, so check their website to see if they are in your area.

  • Who your donation helps: The families served by this organization include the previously homeless, unemployed, victims of crime, battered women and children in retreat, immigrants, individuals with disabilities and victims of natural disasters.
  • Items they accept: Furniture Banks accepts good condition furniture of all sizes. They also provide a towing service to pick up cars and recreational vehicles.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: To schedule a pick-up with this organization simply schedule an appointment on the Furniture Banks website.

Two moving men bringing boxes to a moving truck for a furniture donation pick up

9. Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)

The Vietnam Veterans of America are working to change negative beliefs towards Vietnam veterans and provides individual assistance in a variety of ways. This includes creating outreach programs for veterans experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration and more. The VVA furniture removal program operates through a program called Pickup Please.

  • Who your donation helps: The Vietnam Veterans of America promote and support the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans and work to change public perception of Vietnam veterans.
  • Items they accept: The Pickup Please program accepts small furniture items, sports equipment, toys, kitchenware, electronics and lightly used household goods. Pick Up Please says that they will pick up “almost anything” in good condition, but the piece of furniture must be light enough for one person to carry.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: VVA operates in most states and they make it super easy to schedule a donation pickup online. You can also get to VVA by way of their Pick Up Please site.

10. Out of the Closet thrift stores

The Out of the Closet thrift stores chain is owned and operated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). This organization provides medical, preventive and educational resources for patients. AHF is the nation’s largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. The proceeds from Out of the Closet thrift stores directly benefit the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

  • Who your donation helps: Donations and financial contributions to this organization fund AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s HIV/AIDS programs, free HIV testing and housing programs.
  • Items they accept: Out of the Closet Thrift Stores accept furniture, kitchenware, electronics, musical instruments, tools, books, vehicles, artwork and home decor.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: You can schedule your pickup by filling out your address and items in a form on their website. Something to note is that you must have at least two furniture items for them to complete a free pick-up. You can also deliver any pieces of furniture to their local stores.

11. is an organization that works with independent non-profit thrift stores in their communities. They’re focused on making large item donations simple by getting your furniture request to a local charity in minutes. Although they are not a charity themselves, they put you in touch with smaller charitable chapters that support the area you live in.

  • Who your donation helps: Your donation will support the charitable cause of the thrift store you are put in contact with.
  • Items they accept: accepts large furniture, large appliances, vehicles, tools, recyclable materials, outdoor recreation items and artwork.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: To schedule a pick-up, visit to make a furniture removal request and fill out a form describing the items you want to donate. Next, they’ll put you in contact with the closest thrift store, and if they’re interested in your furniture, they will schedule a furniture removal pickup.

moving boxes in empty room

Tips for furniture donation pick up

Donating your furniture is a great way to get rid of furniture you don’t use anymore while also helping your community. Follow these tips for a seamless furniture pickup experience.

  • Schedule your donation pick-up in advance: Many charities’ free donation pickup spots fill up quickly, so it’s important not to wait until the last minute to make an appointment. Schedule as far in advance as possible to ensure you get the date and time that works for you.
  • Research different organizations: Instead of just picking the first charity on the list, make sure to do some research to make sure their values and methods align with your own. All of the charities listed do great things for their communities, but each has its own way of making an impact.
  • Prepare your furniture: Each charity will have individual guidelines for how they want your furniture packaged and prepared for pickup. Leave furniture uncovered to be inspected but make sure it is cleaned and houseware is boxed correctly.
  • Write off your furniture donation: Did you know you can write off your furniture donation on your taxes? Simply ask the charity picking up your furniture for a tax receipt or paperwork to file and you’ll be saving money this upcoming tax season.
  • Coordinate with neighbors: While many nonprofits allow you to simply leave furniture outside your home for them to retrieve, others might require you to be there. If this is the case, then it’s best to coordinate with a neighbor or friend to stop by when they’re scheduled to arrive.

If you follow these tips, you should have an easy transition and donation pickup day. Also, make sure to always check to see if the organization of your choice has any additional requirements.

Declutter with furniture donation pick up services

Finding a new apartment has never been easier with’s finder tool. Start your move off on the right foot by using a free furniture removal service to declutter your place and take care of any worries prior to moving into your new home.


Everything You Need to Know About Remodeling Recessed Lighting

For homeowners looking for relatively small projects to better enjoy and increase the value of their homes, remodeling with recessed lighting is a good move. That’s because upgrading your current lighting to recessed can lighting has the potential to create a more functional—possibly more energy-efficient—lighting scheme that could make your home feel more welcoming to buyers when the time comes to sell.

What Is a Recessed Light?

Recessed lighting is a lighting fixture that is set into a ceiling, virtually flush with the ceiling rather than hanging down from it. They’re often referred to as “can lights” or “downlights.”

Installation requirements for and the recessed lighting fixtures themselves are different for a remodel than new construction, depending on access to the area above the ceiling.

Generally speaking, it’s more common to have access to that space while a house is being constructed than for a house that’s already built. But for remodeling projects that do have that access, recessed lights for either new construction or remodels should work.

There are two main parts to a recessed light—housing and trim—with multiple options for each. The two parts can be purchased together in a kit or they can be purchased separately.

Housing: The housing is the portion set into the ceiling and, depending on the type of fixture, can be visible or fairly hidden, and plain or decorative. It’s the part that is actually mounted to the ceiling and houses the bulb socket.

Trim: The trim is the most visible part of a recessed lighting fixture. Some types of trim are merely a ring covering up the edge of the housing, allowing more of the inner housing to be visible. Other types of the trim cover more of the housing, placing the emphasis on the level of illumination or where the light is directed.

Homeowners who want to change the look of existing recessed lighting can usually change the trim without needing to replace the housing. This is called retrofitting.

Recommended: Renovation vs. Remodel: What’s the Difference?

What To Consider When Deciding To Add Recessed Lighting

There are a host of factors to consider when planning to add recessed lighting to an existing home, from what function the lighting will perform to the style of light that will work with the architecture of the home, as well as project cost and more.


Will the light be to generally light up the room? Or will it be to draw focus to a piece of art?

To add general lighting to a room—a living room, for instance—ambient downlights will provide even lighting throughout the room. The number and placement of lights will depend on the size and shape of the room.

If the goal is to have better lighting when performing certain tasks, such as in a kitchen, spotlights placed in areas above where those tasks are done will serve this purpose well.

A good example of this is bright lighting placed over the kitchen sink area so those dirty dishes can come out sparkling clean, or over a counter section where most of the food preparation is done.

Some people might have artwork or architectural detail to accent. For those purposes, recessed lighting that can be pointed in the desired direction would be optimal.


There are four main bulb categories: incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent (CFL), an LED, all in a variety of wattages. Recessed lighting kits may also come with integrated lighting is soft, bright, or daylight color temperatures. Custom installations are available with lighting that can be adjusted with smart technology. It’s best to check the package information for the correct type of lightbulb and maximum wattage for the fixture.

Incandescent bulbs, the long-time classic, provide general lighting with a warm glow. Halogen bulbs have a similar color temperature to incandescents. The main difference between the two is the gas inside of each: Incandescents are filled with a gas such as argon or nitrogen, while halogens are filled with … a halogen gas. Halogen bulbs are more energy-efficient than incandescents, using 20% to 30% less energy.

Four Ways to Upgrade Your Home


The cost to install recessed lighting in an existing home is dependent on several factors. How many lights will be installed? What type of recessed lighting will be installed? Will there be labor costs if the job will be done by a professional? How much drywall repair and repainting will be needed after the installation is complete?

On average, recessed lighting costs about $360 per fixture when installation is being done by a professional. A typical kitchen, for instance, might require six fixtures, for a total cost of $2,160. This cost can vary, of course, based on the number and type of fixtures, trim, and bulbs chosen.

Recessed lighting is a common feature in kitchen and bath remodels, both of which have a high return on investment. While the lighting itself might not be the ultimate selling point for someone thinking of purchasing a home, updating the lighting when undertaking a remodeling project just might add to that ROI.

Recommended: The Top Home Improvements to Increase Your Home’s Value

The Takeaway

Adding recessed lighting to your home is one way to increase the cozy factor while maintaining the home’s value for a relatively small investment. Understanding the scope of the job will make it easier to estimate how much it might cost and how best to pay for it based on your particular financial situation.

Looking into rebate programs or federal and state financial assistance programs might help with the costs associated with adding recessed lighting to a home. Another option may be a personal loan to help pay for the project costs.

SoFi unsecured personal loans have no fees and low rates, with funding in as little as three days. Checking your rate takes just two minutes via an easy online process.

Learn more about personal loans from SoFi.

Photo credit: iStock/Yulia Romashko

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