4 Best Coupon Matchup Sites for Groceries – Our Real-World Test

Every time I read a blog about extreme couponing, I’m in awe at the author’s grocery shopping skills. By stacking (combining) coupons with sales, these super-shoppers save over 50% on every product they buy. But when I try to copy their strategies, I just can’t find that many deals — even after hours of cross-checking coupon inserts against my local supermarkets’ sale flyers.

But there are couponing sites that promise to make it easier to save money with stacking deals. Their staff members do the work of matching sales with coupons so you don’t have to. But can these sites really find the kinds of deals you can’t unearth on your own?

To find out, I did a head-to-head test to see which coupon sites could find the best savings on a basket of groceries at local supermarkets. Comparison points included features, accuracy, and ease of use to discover which coupon matchup site is the best of the bunch.

Pro Tip: Before you head to the grocery store, download the Fetch Rewards app. With Fetch Rewards, you can scan your grocery receipts and earn points you can redeem for gift cards to your favorite stores. For more information, see our Fetch Rewards review.

Best Coupon Matchup Sites Test

To be included in the test, sites had to be able to do all of the following:

  • Find Stacking Deals. Each of these sites does one particular thing: match grocery coupons with sales. There are no other sites related to couponing, including coupon-clipping services, price-comparison sites, and printable coupon sites like Coupons.com.
  • Search Multiple Stores. Coupon matchup sites are the most valuable when they can find the best deals across all the supermarkets in a given area. So sites that focus on one particular store, such as I Heart Publix, didn’t make the cut.
  • Include Stores in My Area. I wanted to be able to check out the deals I found personally, comparing them to the store flyers and, if possible, to the prices in the store itself. Since I live in the northeast, I had to rule out the popular Southern Savers, which specifically looks for deals in the southern United States.
  • Are Still in Business. Surprisingly, one of the best-known coupon matchup sites, The Grocery Game, shut down in 2016. However, posts on social media complaining about this site’s disappearance led to the discovery of a couple of other sites that do the same job.

After some fairly extensive searching, four sites met all the criteria. To conduct the test, I visited each site and searched for stacking deals on five items I regularly buy: breakfast cereal, orange juice, canned soup, my favorite conditioner, and oxygen bleach. Note that coupons for fresh foods, such as produce or eggs, are rare.

I checked each site’s deals against my piles of supermarket sale flyers and coupon inserts to ensure they were legitimate. Then I rated each site on a 5-point scale for three factors:

  • How easy it was to search
  • How accurate its deals were
  • How much savings they offered

Finally, I averaged these scores to come up with a total score. So, which coupon matchup site came out on top?

1. CouponMom.com

There’s a lot going on at CouponMom.com. This free site has an extensive database of printable coupons from various sources and multiple tools to search for stacking deals. You can look for grocery, drugstore, state-specific, store-specific, and product-specific deals.

Ease of Use

The landing page for CouponMom.com is pretty cluttered, with moving ads, pointers to specific deals, and search boxes. Amid all this chaos, it’s hard to figure out where to go first. Since I was looking for five particular products, I started with the box labeled “Search Deals,” where you can search for a product by name.

I typed in the first item on my list, cereal, and got a list of dozens of cereal deals at different stores nationwide. But when I started clicking to see details, I found that most of these were cash-back deals from Ibotta. There was no clear way to weed these out and see only deals that required nothing but the store loyalty card and a coupon.

So instead, I went to “grocery deals by state,” selected “New Jersey,” and clicked the deal pages for specific stores in my area. I had to sign in to an account to view those, but setting one up was free and took only a few seconds.

The links for Aldi and Stop & Shop did nothing but display my local stores’ sale flyers. But the page for ShopRite was much better. It presented a list of products with columns for the sale price, how many I’d have to buy, available coupons and rebates, final price, and percentage saved.

The column showing the available manufacturer coupons used a somewhat confusing shorthand. The site provided a key for some of the abbreviations, such as “S” for SmartSource and “RP” for Red Plum, but it didn’t explain others, such as “SV.” On the plus side, CouponMom.com provided direct links to all the printable online coupons it found, which was handy.

I was then able to sort the list using a keyword box at the top. I entered each of the products from my shopping list in turn to see available deals. That part was easy, but it didn’t make up for the inconvenience of only being able to view actual deals for one store.

Ease-of-Use Score: 2 out of 5

Accuracy

When I checked the sale prices CouponMom.com listed against the store circulars, they were mostly correct. But one of the four wasn’t in the flyer. The only way to check its accuracy would be to make a trip to the store, an extra step coupon matchup sites are supposed to help you avoid.

As for the accuracy of the coupons themselves, there was only one to check. It was right in the SmartSource flyer where CouponMom.com said it would be, but getting a single coupon right isn’t much of a test. So this site loses one point on accuracy for giving me so little to work with.

Accuracy Score: 4 out of 5

Value

CouponMom.com could only find deals on one of my five test products (cereal) and only at one store. Moreover, one of the four deals it found wasn’t a stacking deal, just a sale price I could have found on my own by leafing through the store flyer. Two of the others were Ibotta deals, leaving only one that was useful.

That deal was $3.89 each for two family-size (16.9- to 19.1-ounce) boxes of Kellogg’s Special K cereal. Combined with a printable coupon for $1 off two, that yields a purchase price of $3.36. That works out to a unit price between $0.18 and $0.20 per ounce, much more than I typically pay by shopping sales and buying store brands.

To me, that doesn’t look much like extreme couponing. At best, it’s mild to moderate couponing.

Value Score: 1 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.3 out of 5


2. GrocerySmarts.com

Like CouponMom.com, GrocerySmarts.com has two primary features: printable coupons and searchable deals. For some reason, it sorts its coupons into four groups, with different brands in each group. Fortunately, the site helps by providing a list of the latest coupons from the past 10 days or so and telling you where to click to find each one.

Ease of Use

Searching for deals at GrocerySmarts.com was pretty simple. First, I clicked on the drop-down menu at the top of the page and asked to see deals in New Jersey. The site then displayed a second drop-down menu with a list of stores to choose from.

Unfortunately, this list didn’t include any of the supermarkets where I usually shop. The only stores on the list were CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. Also, I had to view deals from each of these stores separately rather than looking at them all on one page. That cost the site 1 point on its ease-of-use rating.

On each store’s page, I used the search feature on my browser to look for the merchandise on my list. But I ran into a snag. It lists some cereals, such as Cheerios, by brand name only and doesn’t include the word “cereal.” I had to scan the whole list to ensure I was seeing all the cereal deals.

GrocerySmarts.com presents its deals for each store in one long list. There’s one column for the product, one for the sale price, one for the applicable coupon (if any), and one for the final price. Instead of showing the savings percentage, GrocerySmarts.com simply rates each deal as 3 stars, 4 stars, extreme, or free.

The list also tells you where to find the coupons you need for a given deal. If there’s a printable coupon, the site includes a link to it. It also shows which goods qualify for Ibotta deals and provides links to those.

If the coupon is in a newspaper insert, the site identifies the insert with an abbreviation similar to the ones used on CouponMom.com and the date. If there’s more than one available coupon for the same product, the site lists it multiple times.

To use the site to create a shopping list for a given store, click the Start button at the top of the page. Click to highlight the specific deals you want, then click on Shrink to hide all the lines you didn’t select. You can click the star at the top to quickly highlight all extreme and free deals. There’s also a field at the bottom to jot notes on your shopping list before printing it.

Ease-of-Use Score: 4 out of 5

Accuracy

Like CouponMom.com, GrocerySmarts.com couldn’t find deals on anything but cereal, and most of them were Ibotta rebates. The only deal that I could use was at CVS. It relied on a SmartSource coupon for $1.25 off three boxes of Life, Cap’n Crunch, or Quaker Oatmeal Squares. This coupon was correctly labeled and identified.

But the site’s description of the sale wasn’t quite accurate. It said the only brand on sale at CVS was Cap’n Crunch at $1.99 a box. But when I checked the CVS sale flyer, I found it applied to Life and Quaker Oatmeal Squares as well.

If I’d simply relied on GrocerySmarts.com for my info, I might have rejected this deal altogether since Cap’n Crunch isn’t a cereal we like.

So even though the sale price, coupon, and math were all accurate, this site loses a point for its inaccurate description. And it loses a second point for giving me so little to go on in the first place.

Accuracy Score: 3 out of 5

Value

I docked GrocerySmarts.com 3 points for value because it could only find deals on one of the five products on my list. Also, because it searches so few stores, the deals it did find weren’t at the stores where I usually shop.

The final cereal price it found was $1.57 per box for three 12.5- to 14-ounce boxes. That works out to between $0.11 and $0.13 per ounce. It’s a better price than CouponMom.com’s but no better than the usual price for the store brand. That cost the site one more point on value, resulting in a weak final score.

Value Score: 1 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.7 out of 5


3. The Krazy Coupon Lady

When you visit The Krazy Coupon Lady (KCL), you see updates on the latest hot deals at all kinds of stores. In addition to supermarkets and drugstores, this site covers department stores, restaurants, specialty stores, and even online deals at Amazon.

KCL provides lots of details about these featured deals, including photos and a couple of paragraphs of text. From the main page, you can also link to coupons and deals sorted by brand or store. Under “Couponing Resources” at the bottom, there are general guides to couponing and guides for specific stores.

Ease of Use

The primary way to search for deals on KCL is by store. You select a specific store from the main page, then click on the weekly coupon deals box (the first available box on the page under the app banner) to see a list of the latest deals from that store. You can then use your browser’s page search feature (control or command plus F) to look for individual products you want.

But weekly deals aren’t available for all stores. For instance, when I clicked on Stop & Shop, the last update was over two months old. The page for Trader Joe’s simply said, “There are currently no active deals.” (Since then, both these stores have disappeared from the site entirely.) And the page for Rite Aid showed one recent deal but no weekly list. I docked the site one point for this.

The weekly deals list includes details about each offer. It shows the sale price and provides links to printable coupons, downloadable store coupons, and Ibotta deals. A few of its deals also include manufacturer coupons from SmartSource, which are marked with the abbreviation “SS.” I couldn’t find any deals using coupons from Red Plum.

The site includes check boxes next to each listed item. You can click these boxes to add a product to your shopping list, but it’s not immediately obvious where that list is stored. I eventually found out you have to click your profile picture in the top right corner to access it.

But there’s a notification on the site saying this feature will soon be available only in the KCL app. That takes a lot of the functionality out of the website, costing it one more point.

Ease-of-Use Score: 3 out of 5

Accuracy

After checking KCL’s pages for all my local stores, I couldn’t find a single deal on any of the products on my grocery list. So to test the site’s accuracy, I simply searched for the “SS” abbreviation and checked the coupons it listed against my SmartSource insert.

Some of the coupons KCL identified were real. It correctly located manufacturer coupons for Eggland’s Best eggs in the May 2 insert and Nivea lotion in the May 16 insert. But it also cited two other coupons in the May 16 insert that I couldn’t find.

In short, KCL got only two out of four manufacturer coupons right, for an accuracy rate of just 50%. But when I checked some of its links to digital store coupons on the ShopRite site, they were all accurate. That bumped its score up from 2.5 points to 3.

Accuracy Score: 3 out of 5

Value

This one was an easy call. KCL didn’t find me a single deal I could use — not even those other sites identified. That makes it a dead loss as far as value is concerned, so it earned no points.

Value Score: 0 out of 5

Overall Score: 2 out of 5


4. Living Rich With Coupons

Like KCL, Living Rich With Coupons (LRWC) displays a long list of recent deals on its main page. It includes offers from a wide variety of stores, including supermarkets, department stores, and online retailers. There are links at the top of the page for categories including coupons, online deals, and stores.

Ease of Use

This site allows you to search for deals in several ways. If you click the Filter by State drop-down on the landing page and select the name of your state, LRWC filters its long list of deals to include only those available in your area. But this option is only available for nine states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

Alternatively, you can also click on Stores in the main navigation and select a store to see a list of that store’s weekly sale prices, including coupons you can stack with them. The site has deals for national big-box stores Target and Walmart, warehouse stores Costco and BJ’s, dollar stores, drugstores, and regional grocery chains like ShopRite and Kroger.

To find deals on a specific product, such as cereal, you can click on the site’s Grocery Price Comparison Tool and enter the product name in the search box. The site pulls up a list of all the stores that have deals on that item, and you click on the names of the stores you want to search.

LRWC then presents you with a list of all the stacking deals on that product sorted by the stores you selected. For every sale, it includes a lengthy list of all possible coupons that could stack with it. The site provides direct links to printable online coupons. For coupons inserts, it lists the flyer, the date, and the coupon’s expiration date, a handy feature most coupon sites don’t have.

But I noticed one odd quirk in LRWC’s list. It didn’t provide the actual sale prices for every store in its list. For instance, it said CVS had a BOGO (buy-one, get-one-free) deal on raisin bran, but it didn’t say what the regular price was.

Even when it did list the sale price, LRWC didn’t always crunch the numbers to tell you what the purchase price was after stacking the sale with a coupon. These problems cost the site 1 point for ease of use.

When you click an item in the Grocery Price Comparison Tool, the site adds it to your saved shopping list, shown on the right side of the screen. Clicking the print or email icon pulls the list up in a separate window. For each deal on the list, LRWC shows the store, the product, the sale price, how many you must buy to get that price, and all possible coupons to pair with the sale.

You can edit the list before printing or emailing it to yourself. You can remove items you don’t want to see, such as coupons you don’t intend to use, or change the quantity of a product you want to buy. You can also manually add goods you didn’t find deals on, with or without custom notes.

Ease-of-Use Score: 4 out of 5

Accuracy

LRWC found deals for all five of the products on my shopping list. Its best cereal deal was from Stop & Shop: Kellogg’s cereals for $1.50 per box, which could stack with any of nine different coupons.

However, there was a problem with the deal. According to the Stop & Shop sale flyer, the price was only good for three days, Friday through Sunday. By the time I ran my test, it had already expired. LRWC neglected to mention that detail, costing it one point for accuracy.

LWRC also listed sales on Kellogg’s cereal at several other stores. But for some reason, it didn’t match them with the same list of coupons it had found for Stop & Shop, even though they would clearly work. This oversight cost it one more point.

In a few cases, LWRC found deals I couldn’t verify. Some were allegedly “unadvertised” sales, so I had no way of checking them without going to the store. I didn’t add or take off points for these.

However, other deals were clearly wrong. For instance, LWRC claimed ShopRite was selling Campbell’s Slow Kettle Soups for $1.99, but that price was not in the sale flyer. That could have been the regular price, but LWRC also paired it with a digital store coupon I couldn’t find on the store site. That cost it another point.

All the other sale prices LRWC found seemed to be accurate. But while checking them, I noticed there were other deals it missed. For instance, it said I could buy Florida’s Natural orange juice for $2.99 at ShopRite, then add a coupon for $0.98 off two to bring the price down to $2.50. But it didn’t notice the same store had larger cartons of Minute Maid OJ for just $1.88.

Also, in some cases, LRWC’s math was wrong. For instance, it said a sale of $1.88 per box on Quaker cereals paired with a coupon for $1.25 off three boxes would yield a purchase price “as low as $1.55 each.” In fact, the purchase price with this coupon is $1.46 per box. I knocked off one more point for this.

As for the coupons, all the printable ones I checked seemed to work. The one coupon that came from SmartSource was also accurate. A few were from a flyer labeled only as “Save,” an abbreviation I couldn’t identify, so I don’t know whether these coupons were accurate or not.

Accuracy Score: 1 out of 5

Value

Of all the sites I tested, LRWC was the only one to find deals for all the items on my list. Unfortunately, not all the deals it found were legit, and it missed some that were.

For instance, if LRWC had paired the $1.88-per-box sale on cereal at Walgreens with the $1-off-two coupon it found at Stop & Shop, it could have given me a purchase price of $1.38 per box. Since the sale covered boxes up to 13.7 ounces, that would have come to a great price of around $0.10 per ounce. But LRWC missed that deal, so it gets no credit for it.

The prices it actually found were:

  • Cereal: $1.46 per 11.5- to 14.5-ounce box ($0.10 to $0.13 per ounce)
  • Orange Juice: $2.50 per 52-ounce carton ($0.05 per ounce); missed a better deal of $1.88 for 59 ounces ($0.03 per ounce)
  • Oxygen Bleach: $4.99 for a 48-ounce container ($0.10 per ounce)

Out of the five sites I tested, LWRC found me the best price on cereal. Its price for oxygen bleach is also pretty good. However, its OJ deal is lackluster, and it missed a better one I could have found just by checking the sale flyer.

Value Score: 3 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.7 out of 5


Final Word

Of the four sites tested, GrocerySmarts.com and Living Rich With Coupons tied for the best overall score. Both were easy to use, but GrocerySmarts.com was more accurate, while LWRC found better deals overall.

But neither of these sites was the perfect coupon-stacking resource I was hoping to find. In most cases, the stacking deals they uncovered were no better than the prices I usually get on my own without coupons.

Of course, what works for me isn’t necessarily what will work for you. If your local stores have better sales than mine or if you regularly buy more products you can find coupons for, these coupon sites could save you some significant money. Just double-check all the deals you find to make sure they’re legit.

Speaking for myself, I think I’ll stick to other methods for saving money on groceries. Between my grocery price book, store loyalty cards, and buying store brands (especially at discount stores like Aldi), I think I can find prices good enough to give the extreme couponers a run for their money.

Source: moneycrashers.com

10 Ways to Save Money on School Uniforms for Kids

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 public schools required students to wear uniforms as of the 2017-18 school year. These can be anything from identical outfits marked with the school’s name or logo to a basic color scheme, such as plain white shirts and tan pants.

According to 2011 research from the University of Nevada, Reno College of Education, a school uniform policy can have many benefits for students. It can make it easier to get ready for school, boost self-esteem, reduce bullying, and improve classroom discipline. But it has one big downside for parents: the cost. According to CostHelper, a school wardrobe of four or five uniforms can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000.

One reason uniforms often cost more than regular clothes is that parents have less choice about where to buy them. If you can only get your kids’ school wardrobes from the official school store, you must pay whatever that store charges. However, you can get around this problem with the right shopping strategies. The first tip to try: shopping secondhand.

Ways to Save With Secondhand School Uniforms

Clothes are one thing it nearly always pays to buy secondhand if you can. With school uniforms, that’s doubly true.

Since young children grow so fast, their outgrown uniforms can still have lots of life left in them. Naturally, these previously worn uniforms don’t look brand-new, but neither do most school clothes after a few weeks of wear. Secondhand school uniforms cost much less than new ones, and in some cases, they’re free.

1. Try Uniform Swaps

If you have two children attending the same school, the younger kid can wear the older one’s hand-me-downs. But if you have only one child or your kids go to different schools, you can end up with clothes in good condition and no one to hand them down to.

A uniform swap is a way to expand your hand-me-down family. By pooling resources with other parents, you can pass on your child’s outgrown uniforms to younger students at your school and receive uniforms from older students in turn.

Some schools hold official uniform exchanges. For example, at St. Catharine School in Ohio, you can trade in gently used school uniforms for larger sizes or pick up other people’s trade-ins at significantly reduced prices. Other schools, like St. Stephen’s Academy in Oregon, give parents points for their trade-ins, which they can use for purchases or donate.

If your child’s school doesn’t have an official uniform exchange, hold a clothing swap party of your own. Invite other parents over, lay out all your outgrown uniform items, and see who can use them.

If you don’t have the space to meet and exchange clothes in person, start a social media group where parents can post photos and descriptions of their kids’ outgrown clothes. When you find someone who has the size your child needs or needs the size you have to give, you can contact each other to arrange a pickup.

2. Shop at Thrift Stores

If you live in or near a large city with a large student population, there’s a good chance you can find outgrown school uniforms at local thrift stores. Check the stores closest to your child’s school to maximize your chances of finding them.

Even in smaller cities and towns, thrift stores are an excellent place to look for basic pieces that are often part of a school uniform. Dress shirts, solid-color polo shirts, and chino pants are likely to show up on their racks. You can’t count on finding the pieces you need in your child’s size, but if you do, they’ll be significantly cheaper than new clothes.

To find thrift stores in your area, do an Internet search on “thrift stores” or “thrift shops” with your town’s name or zip code. Also, check the websites of the largest store chains — such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village — to find their nearest locations.

3. Find Sellers Online

If you can’t find suitable secondhand clothes for your child’s uniform at local stores, try looking online. Start consulting your local Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace groups in early July, and look for new listings every other day or so. That gives you roughly two months to find all the pieces you need to build a complete school wardrobe for your child. Just be sure to contact sellers quickly when you find something you need so someone doesn’t beat you to it.

Another reliable source for secondhand uniforms online is eBay. You can create saved searches for each specific garment your child needs, such as “navy shorts size 8,” and receive daily emails of all new listings for your saved search. You can pick up pieces one at a time or — if you’re lucky — find a lot of uniform clothing all in the same size.


Ways to Save on New School Uniforms

The biggest downside of secondhand shopping is that you can’t be sure of finding what you need. If the start of the school year is approaching and you still don’t have a complete school wardrobe for your child, don’t panic. There are ways to buy new uniform-appropriate clothes and still keep costs down.

4. Buy the Minimum

For starters, don’t buy more of any component than you really need. Your child may need a clean shirt for school every day, but kids can usually get away with wearing the same skirt, pants, or sweater several days in a row. Jackets and ties can go even longer between cleanings.

How many pieces your child needs depends on how often you intend to do laundry. Mothers discussing their kids’ school wardrobes on Mumsnet generally say they include:

  • Five to 10 shirts
  • Two to five sweaters
  • Two to five skirts or pairs of pants or shorts

On top of that, you can add one or two school blazers and one or two dresses or jumpers if your uniform includes these pieces. And your child also needs at least one pair of school shoes and enough socks and underwear to last the week.

If you shop smart, you can put together this minimalist kids’ wardrobe for less than the $240 average parents reported spending on back-to-school clothes in a 2019 National Retail Federation survey. CostHelper says it’s possible to find pants and skirts for as little as $5 each, tops for as little as $3, and shoes starting at $15. That’s less than $100 for the whole wardrobe.

5. Visit Cheaper Stores

If your school’s uniform consists of basics like solid-color tops and pants, there’s no need to buy them at the official school store. Many major retail chains sell uniform-appropriate clothes for kids at quite reasonable prices. In fact, several retailers offer lines of kids’ clothes designed explicitly for this purpose, such as:

6. Shop Online

If stores in your area don’t carry the school uniform pieces you need at prices you like, try shopping online. Some online retailers specialize in school uniforms, and others have sections devoted to them. Good places to shop online include:

  • Amazon. The e-tail giant has an entire section called The School Uniform Shop. It provides links to uniform-appropriate garments from many popular brands, including Nautica, Izod, and Dockers. Alternatively, you can search for “school uniforms” to find apparel for girls and boys. Check out these Amazon savings tips for more ways to save.
  • French Toast. Online retailer French Toast deals in school uniforms for all ages, which you can search by school or gender. The site also offers two- and three-packs of identical shirts or pants for a discounted price per piece.
  • Lands’ End. The school uniform shop at Lands’ End offers sturdy clothing in all sizes, from toddler to adult. Clothes are covered by the brand’s unconditional lifetime guarantee. There’s even a selection of adaptive garments for kids with disabilities. This apparel combines easy-to-use magnetic closures with decorative buttons for a uniform look.
  • Lee Uniforms. For teens and young adults, the Lee Uniforms store on Amazon offers school- and work-friendly pieces. The selection is limited, but the prices are excellent.
  • SchoolUniforms.com. As its name implies, SchoolUniforms.com specializes in uniform basics, from blazers to plaid pleated skirts. Garments come in a range of sizes to fit children ages 3 and up, including plus sizes.

When shopping for uniforms online, you can save still more by using a mobile coupon app like Rakuten or Ibotta. If you prefer to shop from a computer, install a money-saving browser extension like Capital One Shopping to help you find great prices and available coupon codes.

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

7. Wait for Sales

If your school has an official uniform store, call that store and see when it plans to offer discounts or promotions. In many cases, uniforms go on sale in October, after most parents have already bought their kids’ clothes for the year. You can save money on school uniforms by buying just enough pieces to get through September and waiting until October to stock up.

If the school uniform is a generic outfit available from many stores, keep an eye out for sales at all the stores in your area. Consider signing up for emails from your favorite local stores to let you know when uniform clothing goes on sale. Sometimes, these emails also provide coupons, which can boost your savings still more.

Timing your purchases can help at department stores too. Clothes often go on sale at the end of the season — for example, summer clothes in September or winter coats in March. If you plan ahead, you can save by buying school uniforms for next year during these end-of-season sales.

If you’re unsure when and where school uniforms are most likely to go on sale in your area, create a Google Alert for the term “school uniform sale” with your location or zip code. Whenever a new sale pops up, you’ll receive an email about it. You can also use the term “school uniform clearance” to learn about end-of-season clearance sales.

8. Check Out Clearance

Even when a department store isn’t having a sale, there’s usually a clearance rack you can check for marked-down clothing. Since school uniforms tend to be plain clothes without a lot of eye appeal, there are often at least a few pieces that don’t sell and end up on the clearance rack.

For example, the frugal-living bloggers at Life Your Way and Joyfully Thriving both report finding uniform pieces for less than $5 on the clearance racks at stores like Gap and Macy’s.

9. Buy Bigger Sizes

If your child is still growing, there’s a good chance the uniforms you buy now won’t fit by the end of the year. However, you can make them last as long as possible by sizing up.

Choosing clothes with an extra inch to spare in the legs and sleeves gives your kid room to grow into them. Some uniform pants and skirts come with adjustable waistbands, so they’ll accommodate your child’s growth in width as well as height.

And if you find a great price on a particular piece your child needs, you can buy next year’s sizes now. Assuming they plan to attend the same school for the foreseeable future, you know they’ll need the same uniform next year, so buying multiple sizes at once lets you get them all at the best possible price.

10. Buy to Last

If your child has stopped growing but still has a few more years of school to go, you can save money by choosing quality clothing that will last. These well-made pieces may cost more upfront than cheaper brands, but they pay off in the long run. A $50 blazer that wears out after one year costs $50 per year, but a $100 blazer that lasts for four years costs only $25 per year.

For example, clothes from Lands’ End come with a lifetime guarantee. If they don’t last your child until graduation (or they outgrow them), you can return them for a full refund. Clothing from Dickies, available at Walmart, is also guaranteed for its “expected life,” though they don’t define the term. Clothes from Target’s Cat & Jack line come with a one-year guarantee.

Another way to make school uniforms last as long as possible is to choose the darkest colors allowed. On light-colored clothes, minor spots or stains show up more vividly, making them unfit for school wear. Darker-colored clothing, such as maroon, navy, or forest green, hides these minor flaws.


Final Word

Saving on school uniforms doesn’t end when you’ve made your purchases for the year. If your kid’s uniforms become unwearable due to rips, stains, or lost buttons, you’ll have to replace them in a hurry — possibly at full price. To avoid this problem, handle school uniforms with care to make them last as long as possible.

Always follow the washing instructions and line dry or dry flat when possible to avoid wear and tear from the dryer. Treat stains promptly, repair rips, and replace buttons.

If your sewing skills are up to it, you can even get another year or two of life out of garments by letting down the cuffs or adjusting the waistband to fit your child’s larger size. Following all these steps reduces waste, so you can also pat yourself on the back for being green.

One final tip: Label all your kids’ school clothing with their names. When all the students in a school wear the same outfit, it’s easy for them to grab someone else’s sweater or jacket by mistake. Sewing in a name tag or writing on the care tag with a permanent marker increases the chances misplaced clothes will find their way home again.

Source: moneycrashers.com

8 Ways to Save Money on a Bathroom Remodel or Renovation

Remodeling a bathroom is one of the costliest home improvement projects. According to HomeAdvisor, the average bathroom remodel costs around $10,911 as of April 2020. A high-end remodel for a large or master bathroom could run you $25,000 or more.

But if those numbers are too much for your budget, that doesn’t mean you have to live with your dingy, dated bathroom forever. There are ways to refresh a bathroom for considerably less. According to This Old House, homeowners have redone their bathrooms for $6,000, $4,000, $2,000, and even less than $1,000.

I also know from personal experience it’s possible to renovate a bathroom on a budget. In 2011, my husband and I redid our guest bath for less than $900, including a new sink, toilet, vanity, faucets, light fixtures, floor tiles, paint, and accessories. With a bit of ingenuity and effort, other homeowners can do the same.

Ways to Save on a Bathroom Remodel

Our budget bath remodel and those featured on sites like This Old House and Apartment Therapy all have one thing in common: The homeowners looked for ways to save money anywhere they could. We didn’t necessarily use the same techniques, but we all relied on numerous money-saving strategies to get the job done for less.

The tips that helped us and other homeowners save money on our bathroom renovations fall into several major categories.

1. Plan Ahead

During any remodeling project, one of the costliest things you can do is change your plans halfway through. At best, it delays the project while you return materials and buy new ones. At worst, it requires you to pay contractors to redo work they’ve already done.

Sometimes, in-progress changes are unavoidable, such as when you cut into a wall and discover a leak. But in most cases, you can avoid them by thinking things through carefully before anyone picks up a tool. It’s much cheaper to know in advance you don’t want the toilet to be the first thing guests see when they open the door than figure it out once you’ve already installed it.

That’s why the first step in any bathroom remodel is planning. Before you buy anything or hire anyone, think about what you want from your new bathroom. What is it about the room that doesn’t work for you now, and how can you fix it? List everything you want your remodeled bath to have, and then sort that list into must-haves and nice-to-haves.

Take your time figuring out your wants and needs. If you can’t figure out the best way to accomplish all your goals, you can hire a bathroom designer for a consultation. According to Hunker, this service typically costs $200 to $400, and it can help you avoid mistakes that cost money to fix later.

In addition to thinking about the layout, spend time comparing options for visual elements like tile, plumbing fixtures, and light fixtures. That way, when you’re finally ready to get started, you know exactly where to shop to find what you want at the best price. Buying in a hurry often means paying extra or settling for something that isn’t ideal.

2. Keep the Footprint Unchanged

One of the best ways to save on a bathroom remodel is not to remodel at all. People often use the terms bathroom remodeling and bathroom renovation interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.

A remodeling job involves making significant changes to the room’s footprint, or its size, shape, and structure. It can include making changes to any or all of these:

  • The room’s foundation
  • Walls, especially load-bearing walls
  • Plumbing lines
  • Locations of plumbing fixtures, such as the sink and toilet
  • Electrical wiring

Renovation means freshening up the bathroom’s look — tile, wall color, flooring, lighting — while leaving its basic layout unchanged.

Changing the footprint adds time and labor costs to the project. It also usually involves getting building permits, which are a significant expense. The cheapest bathroom redos are usually renovations rather than full remodels.

There are lots of ways to change the look of a bathroom without changing the footprint. You can change the fixtures, walls, flooring, lighting, and accessories without moving anything. You can even make a small bathroom feel larger by adding a lighter paint color, a clear glass shower door, or a skylight to let in more natural light.

If you absolutely have to add square footage to your bathroom or change the arrangement of fixtures, keep the changes to a minimum. That way, you limit the number of labor hours you need from expensive contractors like plumbers.

3. Do the Work Yourself

According to HomeAdvisor, roughly half the cost of bathroom remodeling is labor costs. Homeowners spend an average of $65 per hour paying contractors, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians, drywallers, and floor tilers. Thus, the more of your bathroom remodel you can DIY instead of hiring a contractor, the more you can save.

But DIY is only a money-saver if you have the necessary skills. Some jobs, like moving plumbing lines, are best left to the pros. If you try to do them yourself with no training beyond a five-minute YouTube video, you could cause a flood. The damage that does will cost a lot more than hiring a plumber in the first place.

However, most homeowners can handle at least some of the jobs in a bathroom renovation. Depending on your skill level, you could tackle jobs like:

  • Demolition (pulling out old wallboard, flooring, and cabinetry)
  • Painting
  • Tiling
  • Replacing faucets and showerheads
  • Adding accessories like towel racks
  • Installing bathroom lights
  • Installing new plumbing fixtures

Homeowners with a little DIY experience can take on more ambitious DIY projects. For instance, when we couldn’t find a stock vanity cabinet we liked, my husband built one from plywood and beadboard.

A Texas homeowner profiled by This Old House made almost all the materials for his powder room renovation. He poured his own concrete countertops, built new doors and drawer fronts for the vanity, and even welded a new frame for the mirror. Another couple in Missouri built their own cabinetry, made custom light fixtures, and enameled an old bathtub.

4. Reuse Existing Pieces

Doing the work yourself is the primary way to save on labor costs. But when it comes to materials, there are lots of different ways to save. One of the most effective is to refurbish the pieces you already have rather than buying new ones.

With a little work, you can change the look of nearly any piece in a bathroom, such as:

  • Bathtubs. One homeowner was able to salvage an old, rust-stained tub by having it cleaned professionally. You can also fix surface damage to porcelain, cast iron, and fiberglass tubs by refinishing them. A DIY tub refinishing kit costs around $80.
  • Shower Enclosures. A tiled shower enclosure can look like new if you clean both tile and grout thoroughly. The grout may also need some patching in worn areas. To give it a fresher look, you can stain white grout a darker color. If you have acrylic or fiberglass shower walls, you can patch dented or cracked spots. A repair kit costs under $20.
  • Sinks. You can dramatically change the look of a sink by replacing the faucet. If the porcelain is cracked, you can repair it with either a porcelain repair kit or a two-part surface repair epoxy. Both cost less than $15.
  • Toilets. Rather than paying $100 or more for a new toilet, give yours a new look by replacing the toilet seat and lid for $30 or less. To add a touch of elegance, opt for a wooden toilet seat or soft-close model that doesn’t slam shut.
  • Cabinetry. You can save hundreds of dollars on cabinets by painting or refinishing the pieces you already have. If the doors are too damaged, replace them while keeping the cabinet boxes. According to HomeAdvisor, that typically costs $30 to $100 per door, not counting labor.
  • Floors. Like shower enclosures, you can refurbish tile floors by cleaning them thoroughly and replacing or staining the grout. If you have wood floors, you can have them professionally refinished for $3 to $8 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor.
  • Walls. The cheapest way to change the look of your walls is to repaint them in a different color. If you have tile walls you don’t like, you can install new wood panels or beadboard wainscotting over the tile. At around $20 per beadboard panel, that’s cheaper than tearing it out and replacing it, and it lets you switch back to tile later if you want.

5. Use Paint Creatively

Just changing the paint color in your bathroom can make a surprisingly significant difference to its overall look. But you can do a lot more with paint than just roll it over a wall. Creative homeowners have used it for:

  • Textured Effects. You can give a wall a textured look by using two different colors. Start by giving the whole wall a base coat in one color. Then use a textured tool, such as a sponge, rag, or comb, to apply the second coat. We used a sponging-off technique in our bathroom to create a look similar to stucco.
  • Faux Wallpaper. Paint can give you the look of wallpaper with less money and effort. For instance, you can make your bathroom look larger by painting it with broad, horizontal stripes. Or use a stencil to create a pattern on the wall.
  • Faux Tile. You can also use paint and stencils on a wood or concrete floor to create the look of tile for less. Just use sturdy porch paint and three coats of polyurethane to stand up to the humid environment.
  • Real Tile. According to Sherman Williams, it’s even possible to paint over real tile. Clean the bathroom wall tile thoroughly, scuff it with sandpaper, and apply a water-based acrylic primer. Top it with a durable latex or urethane paint, and you have “new” tile without the hassle and expense of replacing the old tile.
  • Refinishing Fixtures. You can use enamel paint to salvage an old bathtub or spray paint and lacquer to change the finish of a sink faucet.

6. Use Cheaper Materials

There are limits to what you can do with paint. But there are many other ways to substitute cheaper materials for pricier ones and get the look you want for less. To stretch your dollars when renovating a bathroom, splurge on just one or two high-impact items, such as countertops or a clawfoot tub, and choose cheaper alternatives for everything else.

There are cost-effective alternatives for nearly every part of a bathroom remodel.

Walls

Tile costs a lot more than paint or paneling. To keep your costs down, limit your use of tile on the walls as much as possible. Use it only in areas that get wet regularly, such as the tub or shower enclosure.

For the rest of your walls, painted drywall is the cheapest alternative. However, wood panels can create a more interesting look at a lower price than tile.

Flooring

Bathroom flooring options fall into three price ranges. The cheapest options are laminate and vinyl, which can cost $1 or less per square foot. Wood and ceramic tile are midrange alternatives, and stone tile is the priciest flooring of all.

If you crave the look of stone, it’s often possible to get it with a cheaper ceramic. One inexpensive bathroom remodel covered by This Old House includes slate-look ceramic tiles that cost only $85 for the whole room.

Tub and Shower Enclosures

If you can’t refurbish your existing shower walls, the cheapest way to replace them is with large panels of fiberglass or acrylic. These cost as little as $100 each and are quick to install.

However, if you prefer the look of a tiled wall, go for porcelain or ceramic tile rather than pricier glass or stone. You can also save time and money by choosing larger tiles. These require less grouting, so you save on labor costs.

If you’ve fallen in love with a fancy designer tile, search for a cheaper look-alike. Alternatively, use the fancy tile as an accent, filling in most of the wall with a more affordable tile. Not only will you save money, but the expensive tile will stand out more.

As for the front of the tub or shower enclosure, a shower curtain is cheaper than a glass door and easier to install. It’s also easy to clean — just take it down and toss it in the washer. And you can easily swap it out any time you want to change the look of the bathroom.

Tub and Shower Hardware

If you need to replace your bath or shower handles, spout, and showerhead, it’s probably cheapest to buy them as a set. These sets, called trim kits, can cost as little as $100 to $200 each.

However, if the handles are still in good shape, it could be cheaper to keep them and replace the showerhead only. A good showerhead contributes a lot more to a satisfying shower than nice-looking handles. Many top-rated showerheads cost less than $50.

Countertops

A stone countertop for your vanity is cheaper than stone counters for your kitchen since it’s a lot smaller. But other options are much less expensive.

According to HGTV, the most affordable countertop choices are laminate and ceramic or glass tiles. Engineered stone and solid-surface countertops cost more, but they’re still cheaper than granite or marble.

If you really love the look of stone, there are several ways to get it for less:

  • Use Tiles. Tile your countertop using marble floor tiles instead of a slab. The DIY’ing Missouri couple used this method, paying just $9 per square foot for their marble tiles. With white grout, the joins are hardly visible.
  • Use Remnants. Ask local suppliers if they have any stone left over from a bigger job. These remnants are often cheaper than a whole slab, and you don’t need much to make a vanity top. If you’re using a contractor, you can ask them about remnants as well.
  • Try Prefab. If your vanity is a standard size and shape, you can save money by choosing a prefabricated slab. It’s cheaper than having a piece cut to size. But it limits your options for color and edge details.
  • Choose a More Affordable Grade. Natural stone slabs come in different grades. A slab with more imperfections costs less, and if the flaws are in the center — where the hole for the sink will go — they won’t even show.
  • Keep the Edges Simple. Stone and prefabricated countertop materials are cheapest with a plain beveled or bull-nose edge. You can save by choosing these edge finishes over a fancy ogee or waterfall edge.

Cabinetry

The cheapest type of storage for the bathroom is open shelving. You can create wall-mounted shelves with nothing but a plank of wood and some wall brackets. These can go on any empty wall, including behind the toilet, to use all the space in the room.

If you want to keep your bath supplies behind closed doors, stock cabinets are cheaper than custom cabinetry. You can also compromise between the two by choosing semi-custom, ready-to-assemble cabinets. This product lets you configure size and features to fit your space. But the more options you add, the more it costs.

As for cabinet materials, laminate or thermofoil cabinets are cheap and easy to clean. However, they can warp over time, so they may not save you money in the long run. You can save on wood cabinets by choosing pine, maple, oak, or alder over pricier mahogany, cherry, or walnut. If you prefer darker wood, you can buy cheaper pieces and stain them.

The style of the cabinets also matters. You save the most by choosing flat doors rather than doors with raised panels and drawers rather than pullout cabinets. Shop around to find brands of both cabinets and hardware that give you the look you want at the lowest price.

One inexpensive and trendy option for a vanity cabinet is to repurpose an old dresser. You can find dressers through secondhand sources like garage sales and Craigslist for much less than you’d pay for a store-bought vanity cabinet.

Toilets

Considering they all do the same job, there’s a surprising range in the price of toilets. As a rule, round toilets are cheaper than those with an elongated bowl, and two-piece toilets cost less than one-piece ones. Two-piece toilets take up more room and are a little harder to install, but they’re easier and cheaper to repair if they break.

One type of toilet to avoid is a wall-hung model with the tank recessed into the wall. This design saves space, but it’s harder to install and repair, costing you money.

It’s also worth considering water-saving toilets. These don’t cost significantly more upfront, and they save you money on your water bill over their lifetime.

7. Shop Secondhand

Another way to save on materials for your bathroom renovation is to buy them secondhand. The Missouri couple who created a luxury master bathroom on a $6,000 budget got nearly everything used, including a salvaged clawfoot tub, discarded cabinet doors from a kitchen and bath showroom, a scavenged marble scrap for a countertop, and a yard sale mirror.

Shopping secondhand isn’t as easy as going into a store and putting things in a cart. It pays to start early to ensure you have plenty of time to find what you want. While you’re still in the planning phase of your remodel, start checking secondhand sites for items that match your wish list.

Places to find secondhand materials include

  • Reuse Centers. If you have a reuse center in your area, you can find everything you need for your bathroom remodeling project there, from tile to light fixtures. When we redid our bathroom, we hit the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and found Italian ceramic tile for under $3 per square foot and a cultured marble sink and vanity top for $30.
  • eBay. You can find nearly anything on eBay, including bath supplies. The Texas homeowner who redid a powder room for $705 bought a sink, faucet, and light fixtures from online auctions for $390 total. Just remember to factor in shipping costs when buying online, especially since bath items can be heavy.
  • Craigslist. Check the for-sale section of your local Craigslist site for bath bargains. A quick search of the listings on my local group turned up plumbing fixtures, countertops, cabinetry, light fixtures, and even a ventilation fan.
  • Nextdoor. Nextdoor is a social media group designed to help neighbors connect. Members can buy and sell unwanted goods through the Finds section. Listings for bath pieces aren’t that common, but it’s worth a look.
  • Freecycle. Through the Freecycle Network, members give away unwanted items to people in their area at no cost. Check your local group for free stuff you could use as part of your bathroom remodel.
  • Flea Markets. Check out flea markets for antique pieces for your bath remodel, such as a clawfoot tub or an old-fashioned light fixture. Just don’t buy anything you can’t haul home since there’s no delivery service.
  • Antique Stores. Antique stores are another excellent source of vintage furniture and materials. But they’re likely to charge higher prices than other resellers.
  • Yard Sales. Shopping at garage sales is a hit-or-miss proposition. You can’t always find what you want, but when you do, the prices are terrific. The Missouri couple with the $6,000 master bath renovation made several affordable finds at yard sales, including a $35 etched glass mirror and a marble slab for just $1.
  • Your Own Home. Don’t hesitate to reuse materials left over from other projects in your bathroom renovation. Several homeowners profiled by This Old House reused leftover materials, including paint and beadboard.

8. Look for Bargains

If you can’t get all the materials for your bathroom secondhand, you can save by finding them on sale. For instance, one couple from New York found a cast-iron bathtub on sale for $350. Most new cast-iron tubs cost $1,000 or more.

The holiday season is an excellent time to find remodeling materials on sale. According to CabinetNow, the best seasonal sales on cabinetry occur on Black Friday and in the weeks before Christmas.

However, shopping sales isn’t the only way to find deals on new materials. One of the best ways to find bargains is to shop around. Comparison-shopping websites and tools can help you find the best prices when shopping online. Other money-saving browser extensions can help you find coupon codes to cut costs still more.

Also, don’t overlook discount sites like Overstock.com. This site offers everything you need for a bathroom renovation, from tubs to tile, at prices well below retail.

If you find reasonable prices for several products in one store, but its prices on other things you need are higher, find out if the store offers a price-match guarantee. If it does, you could get the best prices on everything you need at once without having to visit multiple stores.

Finally, if you buy a lot of materials from one place, ask about volume discounts. Home centers like Home Depot offer discounts on bulk sales. It’s primarily for professional contractors, but it can’t hurt to ask.


Final Word

A bathroom remodel doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. There’s no doubt that some upgrades, like a fully tiled walk-in shower or expanding the square footage of your master bath, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. But with good planning and a little creativity, you can make your bathroom into a luxurious retreat on a much smaller budget.

Moreover, updating or adding a bathroom to your home is a home improvement project that adds value. According to the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report from industry publication Remodeling magazine, homeowners who remodel their bathrooms recover an average of 55% to 60% of the money when selling the home. And if you can manage to add the same resale value on a smaller budget, you can boost that percentage even more.

Do you have other rooms to redo? Check out our articles on budget kitchen remodels and basement remodels.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Stock Market Today: Stocks Buck Surprise Jump in Jobless Claims

The major stock indexes improved for a third consecutive session, logging mild (but pleasantly surprising) gains Thursday in the face of a disappointing jump in weekly unemployment filings.

The Labor Department reported that first-time claims for jobless benefits jumped to 419,000 for the week ended July 17 – an increase of 51,000 filings and far more than economists’ forecast for 350,000.

However, Anu Gaggar, senior global investment analyst for Commonwealth Financial Network, says the news isn’t as bad as the headline figure suggests.

“We need to filter the noise in the data points and not lose sight of the big picture, which is that the trend line continues to head lower,” she says. “There has been some distortion in data and in consensus expectations around automakers’ annual retooling shutdowns that will work its way through the system in the upcoming weeks.”

Although investors initially reacted with early selling, stocks gradually recovered over the course of the day. The Nasdaq Composite (+0.4% to 14,684), S&P 500 (+0.2% to 4,367) and Dow (up marginally to 34,823) all logged modest gains, helped by the likes of mega-caps Apple (AAPL, +1.0%) and Microsoft (MSFT, +1.7%).

The industrial average also benefited from a boost in shares of chemical giant Dow Inc. (DOW, +1.3%), which reported Street-beating earnings and sales.

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Small caps weren’t so fortunate. The Russell 2000, which had outperformed the major indexes the past two sessions, dropped 1.6% to 2,199.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • Amid the onslaught of earnings reports hitting the Street, Netgear (NTGR) was a notable loser in the wake of its results, sinking 9.5%. In its second quarter, the computer networking company generated adjusted earnings of 66 cents per share, well below what analysts were expecting. Revenue of $308.8 million also fell short of the consensus estimate. In addition, NTGR lowered its current-quarter revenue and operating margin forecasts.
  • On the flipside, foam clog maker Crocs (CROX) surged 10.0% in the wake of its second-quarter earnings results. CROX reported better-than-expected adjusted earnings of $2.23 per share on record revenue of $640.8 million. The company also raised its full-year revenue guidance, now expecting annual sales growth of 60% to 65%.
  • U.S. crude oil futures rose for a third straight day, climbing 2.3% to settle at $71.91 per barrel.
  • Gold futures edged up 0.1% to $1,805.40 an ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) dipped slid 1.2% to 17.69.
  • Bitcoin rallied for a second straight day, improving 2.2% to $32,394.24. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)
stock chart for 072221stock chart for 072221

It Will Pay to Be Picky

Although Thursday’s disappointing unemployment claims are by no means a reason to panic, they do add to the argument that stocks might be rallying on increasingly wobbly ground.

“There are over 9.2 million job openings, the highest on record by a long shot, yet many are hesitant to get back in the labor force,” says Cliff Hodge, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Wealth. “One data point isn’t a trend, and a one-off can probably be chalked up to delta variant concerns. If jobs data doesn’t inflect soon, the markets and the Fed will be put on notice.”

If data undermining the case for continued economic recovery keeps stacking up, investors might want to be a touch more discerning about their stock picks than they would be during a true go-go period for markets.

Folks focused on generating income should prioritize companies with the financial mettle to easily pay (and generously raise) their dividends.

And as for those who prefer growth, don’t stick your neck out too far. These 11 growth-at-a-reasonable-price (GARP) stocks provide both attractive growth prospects and reasonable risk profiles that will cushion any downside in a broader market selloff.

Another potential source of protection and upside potential are these 11 “safe” stocks – a collection of equities highlighted by investment research firm Value Line for both their fundamental strength and their bright forward-looking prospects. Read on as we run down this group of stable stocks expected to deliver sizable gains over the next year-plus.

Source: kiplinger.com

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. Coupons.com

Coupons.com 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:

Coupons.com 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 Coupons.com app for Android or iOS is also worth using.

If you were a fan of SavingStar, Coupons.com acquired them in 2020. As such, through Coupons.com’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, Coupons.com doesn’t have a minimum redemption requirement. You get paid through PayPal, and between paper and online coupons and cash-back rewards, Coupons.com 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 Coupons.com 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.

Source: moneycrashers.com

5 Strategies for Paying Off Car Loan Early

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

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

The True Cost of a Car Loan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car Loan Calculator: An Example

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

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

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

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

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

How Car Loan Interest Rates Work

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

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

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

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

Will Paying Off Your Car Loan Early Hurt Your Credit Score

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

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

5 Strategies for Paying Off Your Car Loan Early

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

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

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

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

1. Make One Large Extra Payment Every Year

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

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

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

2. Make a Half Payment Every Two Weeks

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

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

3. Round Up

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

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

4. Resist the Urge to Skip a Payment

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

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

5. Refinance, but Exercise Caution

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

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

When You Shouldn’t Pay Off Your Car Loan Early

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

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

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

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

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

25 Best Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

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

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

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

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

1 of 25

Kirkland Signature Organic Animal Crackers

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

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

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

2 of 25

Kirkland Signature Bacon

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

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

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

3 of 25

Kirkland Signature Batteries

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

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Cashews

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

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Cheese Wheel

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Chicken Stock

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Coffee Pods

Opened and unopened coffee podsOpened and unopened coffee pods

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Diced Tomatoes

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pods

Two dishwasher podsTwo dishwasher pods

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Organic Brown Eggs

Brown eggs in an egg cartonBrown eggs in an egg carton

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Energy Shots

A man drinks an energy shotA man drinks an energy shot

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Food Wrap

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Gasoline

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

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Golf Gear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Honey

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

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

 

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Kirkland Signature Italian Sparkling Water

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Laundry Detergent

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

So … it does all come out in the wash.

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Olive Oil

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

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

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chicken

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Toilet Paper

A package of Kirkland toilet paperA package of Kirkland toilet paper

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Organic Tortilla Chips

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

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Vitamin Water

Bottles of vitamin waterBottles of vitamin water

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Vodka

A drink being make with vodkaA drink being make with vodka

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

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

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Kirkland Signature Wine

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

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

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

Source: kiplinger.com

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

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

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

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

How to Listen to Music for Free Online

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

1. Streaming Music Online

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

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

Internet Radio

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

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

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

There are multiple internet radio stations to choose from.

Pandora

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

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

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

LiveXLive

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

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

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

Last.Fm

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

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

Jango

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

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

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

Subscription Services

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

Amazon Music

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

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

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

Spotify

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

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

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

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

YouTube Music

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

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

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

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

Deezer

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

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

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

Free Trials

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

Apple Music

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

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

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

Tidal

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

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

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

SoundCloud Go

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

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

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

Free Streaming on Demand

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

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

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


2. Free Music Downloads

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

Amazon

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

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

SoundCloud

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

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

SoundClick

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

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

Free Music Archive

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

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

Jamendo

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

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

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

NoiseTrade

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

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

ReverbNation

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

DatPiff

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

Audiomack

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

CCTrax

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

Musopen

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

Live Music Archive

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

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


3. Broadcast Radio

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

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

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

TuneIn

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

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

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

iHeartRadio

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

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

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


Final Word

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

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

Source: moneycrashers.com

Recessions: 10 Facts You Must Know

It’s official. The Pandemic Recession that began in February 2020 ended in April of last year, according to the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which is the arbiter of these things.

Although it was the shortest downturn in U.S. history, the economy is still recovering from the nearly 21 million jobs that were lost during the slump.

And it continues to haunt us in other ways. After all, a recession is the scariest creature in the average investor’s closet of anxieties. There’s little wonder why. People fear recessions because they can mean lower home prices, lower stock prices – and, of course, unemloyment.

Any number of things can cause, or exacerbate, a recession: an exogenous shock, such as the COVID-19 crisis or the Arab oil embargo of 1973; soaring interest rates; or ill-conceived legislation, such as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.

Recessions are parts of the warp and woof of a dynamic economy, albeit unpleasant ones. And if you’re prepared for the next recession, there will be plenty of opportunities when that downturn ends. Thus, the more you know about recessions, the better. Here are 10 must-know facts about recessions.

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Why Are They Called ‘Recessions’?

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Because calling them “depressions” is too scary. No, really.

After the Great Depression – a term once considered milder than “panic” or “crisis” – the term “depression” for an economic downturn seemed particularly terrifying. Economists began to use the term “recession” instead.

Currently, “depression” is used to mean an extremely sharp and intractable recession, but there is no formal definition of the term in economics. The Pandemic Recession included levels of unemployment not seen since before WWII. And the 2007-09 recession certainly had uncomfortable similarities to the Great Depression, in that it involved a financial crisis, extremely high unemployment, and falling prices for goods and services. Economists now call it the Great Recession.

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What Constitutes an Official Recession?

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Someone has to be the official arbiter of recessions and recoveries, and the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is that someone.

Although two quarters of consecutive GDP contraction is the standard shorthand for a recession, the NBER actually uses many indicators to determine the start and end of a recession.

In fact, GDP is not the committee’s favorite indicator: It prefers indicators of domestic production and employment instead. Other signs of recession include declines in real (inflation-adjusted) manufacturing and wholesale-retail trade sales and industrial production. Prolonged declines in production, employment, real income and other indicators also contribute to the NBER’s recession call.

In the case of the Pandemic Recession, NBER says: “The committee has determined that a trough in monthly economic activity occurred in the US economy in April 2020. The previous peak in economic activity occurred in February 2020. The recession lasted two months, which makes it the shortest US recession on record.”

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How Long Do Recessions Typically Last?

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The average length of recessions going all the way back to 1857 is less than 17.5 months. Recessions actually have been shorter and less severe since the days of the Buchanan administration. The long-term average includes the 1873 recession – a kidney stone of a downturn that lasted 65 months. It also includes the Great Depression, which lasted 43 months.

If we look at the period since World War II, recessions have become less harsh, lasting an average of 11.1 months. In part, that’s because bank failures no longer mean that you lose your life savings, thanks to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and because the Federal Reserve has gotten (somewhat) better at managing the country’s money supply.

The longest post-WWII recession was the Great Recession, which began December 2007 and ended in June 2009, a total of 18 months. Conversely, the two-month Pandemic Recession helped nudge the average length of recession down a notch. 

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How Often Do Recessions Happen?

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Again, since 1857, a recession has occurred, on average, about every three-and-a-quarter years. It used to be the government felt that letting recessions burn themselves out was the best solution for everyone concerned.

Since World War II, we’ve gone an average of 58.4 months between recessions, or nearly five years. The last economic expansion, starting at the end of the Great Recession, lasted 128 months. By that measure, we were overdue for an economic retraction when the Pandemic Recession hit.

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When Was the Harshest Recession?

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The recession of 1873 was actually known as the Great Depression until the 1929 recession rolled in.

The recession started with a financial panic in 1873 with the failure of Jay Cooke & Company, a major bank. The event caused a chain reaction of bank failures across the country and the collapse of a bubble in railroad stocks. The New York Stock Exchange shut down for 10 days in response. The recession lasted until 1877.

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What’s the Worst Effect of a Recession?

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An old economist joke is that a recession is when someone else loses their job, and a depression is when you lose your job. (Very few economists have transitioned to stand-up comedy.)

Your job is your main source of income, and that’s why it’s important to have a few months’ salary in cash as an emergency fund – especially since jobs are increasingly hard to come by in a recession.

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When Is the Best Time to Buy Stocks in a Recession?

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Historically, the best time to buy stocks is when the NBER announces the start of a recession. It takes the bureau at least six months to determine if a recession has started; occasionally, it takes longer. The average post-WWII recession lasts 11.1 months. Often, by the time the bureau has figured out the start of the recession, it’s close to the end. Many times, investors anticipate the beginning of a recovery long before the NBER does, and stocks begin to rise around the time of the actual economic turnaround.

For instance, the Great Recession was officially announced on Dec. 1, 2008 – a full year after it had started. The recession ended in June 2009; the bear market ended three months earlier, on March 6, 2009. The ensuing bull market lasted more than a decade.

In the most recent case, the NBER called the end of the Pandemic Recession on July 19, 2021, or 15 months after it ended. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 gained 50% from April 30, 2020 to July 14, 2021.

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What’s the Best Thing to Do With Your Money During a Recession?

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Pay off your credit card debt. Here’s why: Paying off a credit card that charges 18% interest is the rough equivalent of getting an 18% return on your investment, and you’re not going to get that from most other investments during a recession.

That said, bond prices typically rise in value during a recession – provided the recession isn’t sparked by rising interest rates.

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What Is the Best Early Warning Sign of a Recession?

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More than the stock market, consumer confidence or the index of leading economic indicators, an inverted yield curve has been a solid predictor of economic downturns.

An inverted yield curve is when short-term government securities, such as the three-month Treasury bill, yield more than the 10-year Treasury bond. This indicates that bond traders expect weaker growth in the future. The U.S. curve has inverted before each recession in the past 50 years, with just one false signal.

This indicator worked for the Pandemic Recession too. The yield curve inverted multiple times in 2019 and early 2020. On March 3, the three-month T-bill yielded 1.13%, and the 10-year T-note yielded 1.1%. (To make matters a bit more complicated, some economists prefer using the two-year T-note yield instead of the three-month T-bill.) The index of leading economic indicators is a composite of 10 indicators – including the stock market and consumer confidence – and is useful for those who want a broader view of the economic picture.

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Does the Federal Reserve Cause Recessions?

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Officially, the Fed never wants to start a recession, because part of its dual mandate is to keep the economy strong. Unfortunately, the other part of the Fed’s dual mandate is to keep inflation low. The main cure for soaring inflation is higher interest rates, which slows the economy. In 1981, the Fed hiked interest rates so high that three-month T-bills yielded more than 15%. Those rates put the brakes on the economy and ended inflation – at the price of a short but sharp recession.

Source: kiplinger.com

Know When to Sell Stocks and When to Hold On

Your stock is up by 20 percent, maybe even 50 or 100 percent. Should you take the money and run? What about if your stock is down? Should you ride it out and hope for the best, or is it time to take a loss and avoid it getting even worse?

All these questions are running through your mind, and rightly so. You’re in the stock game to make money so making good decisions about when to sell stocks is important. In this story, we’ll run through three reasons to sell and three reasons to ride it out longer.

First Off, Sell Reluctantly

Some investment writers and TV pundits say you should sell at any hint of trouble. They may use a chart pattern, a declining rate of growth or maybe one disappointing quarter as a reason to get out.

Good ideas are hard to find, so stick with them until there’s powerful reasons to sell. Just because a stock is down doesn’t mean it’s out. A panicked move might leave you worse off than simply waiting out a short term problem, like a computer chip shortage or a blocked shipping route because of, let’s say, a global pandemic.

Conversely, a stock jumping over the moon doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to put in that sell order. A stock can continue to go up well past your original target price. Stocks don’t have a maximum. They have (theoretically) unlimited upside potential.

You put in the time to research a company and maybe even read through its financial statements. Perhaps you’ve used the company’s products and think they’re the bee’s knees.  You took the plunge and bought at what you hope will be the right price. Save yourself from more investment decisions than necessary by being very slow to sell.

Still a little unclear on what all the information on the stock quote means? Learning how to read a stock quote will put you in a better position to know if you should buy, sell or hold. 

Stock sales may also trigger tax consequences. Consult with a tax advisor before you sell shares, at least until you are familiar with capital gains tax rules.

3 Good Reasons to Sell

Here are three signals that you should consider selling your shares.

1. You Need the Money

You put aside money for a reason, whether it’s to build a rainy day fund, save toward retirement or maybe that mansion with a view. If your investment portfolio did its job and you have enough money to achieve the original goal you set, sell.

Here’s why: There’s always a risk the market can back off. That could delay or even prevent you from realizing all those hard-won gains.

2. Something About the Stock Changed

If Apple decided to sell apples instead of selling a gazillion iPhones every year, that would be a good reason to sell. You didn’t intend to buy a food stock when you originally bought Apple. It’s possible the company could have an army of employees with untapped gifts for farming, but that’s much less likely than their proven success with whiz bang phones and computers.

The same is true of major mergers and acquisitions. Once a company makes a major acquisition or merges with another company, you own a different stock than before.

Most mergers and acquisitions don’t work out as well as promised, even more so if the newly purchased company is in a different business.

When a profitable company starts losing money, it’s concerning but not automatically a reason to sell. Automotive and other companies that sell big ticket items will see their profits go up and down along with the economy.

If coffee growers have bad harvests, Starbucks’ profits might decline. Those are temporary issues. Don’t be too quick to sell a good stock going through a rough patch. If the company is having trouble selling its products, look for the reasons why that’s the case before deciding to sell.

3. The Stock Didn’t Follow Expectations

If you bought stock thinking the company was going to introduce a hot new product and that product turns out to be a dud, sell. If the company commits a fraud, sell.

Dividend cuts are bad news for income investors. If you bought a company’s stock because it can pay dividends and it’s forced to cut them or even stop paying any at all, it’s broken faith with you. It’s time to enter that sell order.

It’s tough to admit we’re wrong. It’s even worse when we sell and the stock’s price recovers or even goes higher. That will happen. But all you need to do is be more right than wrong. Don’t reevaluate stocks that failed expectations. Sell and move on.

3 Not-So-Good Reasons to Sell

Here are the three reasons you might want to tell your inner trader to hush up, and hold on to that stock.

1. It Feels Good to Take a Stock Market Profit

This goes back to good ideas being hard to find. As much as we love booking a profit and seeing some extra cash, then what will you do next? Spending the profit means you’ll have less money to invest. Your next investment might not turn out as well. If your stock reaches your target price, that’s great! Perhaps it can go up even more.

2. You Have a Hunch

Experienced investors are disciplined and do everything in their power to avoid being swayed by emotion. Human nature makes investing tricky. We hate losing money. We can also get jumpy when we feel as if we’re missing out.

A hunch is usually an impulse, and it’s rare to see a hunch trader make money for an extended time. Work on using rational judgment.

3. Online (or Somewhere Else) Buzz

There are some smart people offering great advice for free on bulletin boards and Reddit, but they are far outnumbered by people who only know how to sound smart. It’s often impossible to tell the difference until the money is lost. How often do you see anyone say “I don’t know” on the internet?

Internet groups are susceptible to what psychologists call “feedback loops.” That’s when enough people share a belief that others join the bandwagon. Their reasoning goes along the lines of, “If that many people believe (something), it must be true.” Then when facts prove otherwise, it becomes a race to the exits and the stock is kicked to the curb.

Consistent Investors are Winning Investors

The list shared here is only a start. Over time, every investor learns their own investment philosophy. Some investors look to buy shares of companies that are priced below what they may be worth. Others focus on companies that are growing rapidly. Those two groups will have different ideas when to sell a stock.

As you continue to invest in the stock market, you’ll develop your own buy and sell signals. One way to make consistent gains is systematic investing, something that people do when they contribute to a retirement account such as a 401(k).

Once you do, it’s important to stay consistent. Markets go through periods (sometimes years) when even the best value stocks will underperform. Other times growth stocks will be in the doghouse.

If you keep changing your strategy, you could find yourself continually on the wrong side. Professionals accept that sometimes the market is with you and other times it’s not. If you’re patient and know how to reduce risks when you can, the odds will be on your side.

Contributor Sam Levine holds Chartered Financial Analyst® and Chartered Market Technician® designations and has written on finance topics since 2003. He is an adjunct professor of finance at Wayne State University in Michigan.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com