Tag: evergreen

8 Free Sleep Apps for a Blissful Night’s Rest

Whether it’s fear of getting sick, worry for a loved one’s health, job anxiety, the stress of juggling parenting and career in a pandemic, or all of the above, sky-high stress seems to be the new normal.

While free sleep apps won’t solve your big-picture problems, they could help you fall asleep faster, so you can tackle life’s stressors feeling refreshed. Here are the best ones we’ve found.

1. White Noise

White noise free sleep apps are must-haves for travel, when you need a consistent noise to block out the sounds of other hotel guests, city noises, etc. The ‘lite’ version does the trick with free sleep sounds and nature sounds. For $4.99, you get 50 sounds plus the ability to create your own track that includes binaural beats, aka different frequencies that cue your brain to relax.

Find White Noise in the Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon.

2. Relax and Sleep Well Hypnosis

Hypnosis usually costs several hundred dollars, but you’ll pay $0 for this hypnotherapy sleep app with four recordings of meditation and hypnosis. Additional hypnosis tracks are available as app purchases for $2.99 apiece. This one made Healthline’s 2019 list of the best sleep apps, so if you’re skeptical of hypnosis, their stamp of approval may persuade you to download hypnotherapy sleep apps.

Find Relax and Sleep Well Hypnosis in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

3. Headspace

Headspace’s guided meditation app is the perfect way to wind down for bed: Andy’s soothing British accent will lull you into a state of total relaxation where it seems like nothing could ever go wrong. While it’s $60 a year, Headspace often makes the best sleep apps lists. Students can pay $9.99 for annual access, and Netflix subscribers can watch the Headspace series for no extra cost. Each episode focuses on one style of meditation, so by the time you finish the season you’ll have a whole arsenal of relaxation techniques to try before bed.

Sign up for a free trial of Headspace or watch on Netflix.

Are you turning more to apps for wellness? Try these cheap or free meditation apps.

4. Deep Sleep With AJ

Deep Sleep With AJ is a cheaper alternative to Headspace, with a one-time cost of $2.99 and similarly dreamy Scottish accent. Developed by a mindfulness expert and therapist, the sleep app includes mindfulness and inspirational talks, bedtime relaxation techniques to help you wake up feeling refreshed, meditations for anxiety and panic attacks and more. You can cue up meditations to repeat a set number of times, so it ideally plays through until you’ve caught those Zs.

Find Deep Sleep With AJ on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

5. Relax Melodies

Combining relaxing sounds, free sleep stories and guided meditation for sleep, lucid dreaming, or relief from medical conditions like tinnitus (ringing in the ears that often gets worse before bed), free sleep app Relax Melodies has thousands of fans. It comes with 52 sounds including white noise, nature sounds, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response, or that warm tingle associated with sounds like whispers) and binaural beats. Premium sounds are available as app purchases for $4.99.

Find Relax Melodies on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

6. Nothing Much Happens

Think of free podcast Nothing Much Happens as adult sleep stories designed to help you relax into a peaceful slumber. As the title suggests, the stories are fairly low-stakes. Podcast host Kathryn is a meditation and yoga teacher, so think of this as an extended savasana where it’s actually awesome if you end up snoring after five minutes.

Find Nothing Much Happens on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

7. Endel

Perfect for the multitasker, Endel offers “personalized soundscapes” for relaxation, better sleep and better focus. The app pulls data from your environment (like weather, location or time of day), then moderates sounds to match your mood: focus music for daytime work and chill sounds to help you sleep. The app comes with a 7-day free trial, after which point you’ll need to buy a subscription ($5.99 per month or $49.99 per year, at present) or use the free, browser-based version.

Find Endel in the Apple App Store, Google Play, or on Twitch.

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8. Rise: Sleep & Energy Tracker

For those wanting a scientific approach to a good night’s sleep, the Rise sleep tracker app is worth checking out. It’s free to download with membership upgrades as app purchases beginning at $6.99 per month. Unlike sleep-tracking apps which just gauge your sleep cycle, Rise looks at “sleep debt”– aka how much sleep you should get but don’t. The sleep app works backward from your sleep debt numbers, drawing from sleep data and health information to help you improve sleep quality and quantity. Rise fans include pro sports teams and Fortune 500 leaders who find the price worth it to sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.

Find Rise in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Most people experience sleep problems for a range of underlying causes, thus it can be helpful to have multiple free sleep apps on your phone. Armed with nature sounds, bedtime stories, guided meditation, science-backed sleep habits and hypnosis for life’s most pressing worries, you can stop counting sheep and cue up what’s mostly likely to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Lindsey Danis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

Buying a house is a big decision, but it can feel especially overwhelming to place an offer on a home less than 24 hours after seeing it for the first time. Plus you’re under pressure to outbid several other buyers — or risk losing the house.

While these circumstances might sound extraordinary, they’re not. With housing inventory nationwide at an all time-low — down 22% from last year according to the National Association of Realtors — it’s no wonder buyers are competing for the same few houses.

I was in this exact position last fall. Here are seven key takeaways from my experience buying in a seller’s market.

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

In order to be competitive in a hot seller’s market, you will need to line up your financing in advance.

Besides all the usual suspects, like saving up for a down payment and improving your credit score, you’ll also want to get a pre-approval letter from your bank. It states that a bank would approve you for a mortgage of a certain amount, and acts as a guarantee to the seller that you can actually afford to buy their house.

This is where it helps to know your budget up front.

“It’s important to understand that the strength of financing is a key consideration a seller takes into account when selecting an offer,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel.

No seller wants to risk accepting an offer that might fall through. Aand since pre-approval letters can take some time to get, have one ready before you find your dream house.

Be Friendly With Neighbors

This might sound crazy, but making a good impression on your new neighbors can actually make a difference when it comes time for a seller to review offers.

Since you’ll likely be visiting the home at least once before making an offer, be prepared to talk to any neighbors you might run into. In close-knit neighborhoods, or ones where people share resources (like an HOA), sellers might care a bit more about the type of person they sell the house to.

If you happen to meet a neighbor when visiting the home, introduce yourself and make a good impression. You never know how much their opinion of you might factor into any final decisions.

Submit an Offer Quickly

After you’ve seen a house, and decided you love it, be prepared to submit an offer quickly— as in, ASAP.

Work with your real estate agent to determine how many other offers the seller already has (or expects to get) and then be prepared to draft something up that day. In our case, we toured our home for the very first time at 11 a.m. on a Monday — it came on the market the evening before — and made an offer by 4 p.m. that same day.

If that sounds fast, it is. But by the time we submitted our offer, the seller already had three others. This is where it helps to have a great real estate agent on your side.

“Having a realtor who can get your offer submitted quickly is crucial,” said Erik Wright, owner of New Horizon Home Buyers. “You want to get your offer in front of the seller first, and make it strong. Purchase price is the obvious factor and in a competitive market, houses often go for over asking price. However, a strong offer has several factors and it depends on what’s most important to the seller.”

Work with your real estate agent to find out what matters most to the seller — is it money, closing quickly, something else entirely? Then make sure your offer addresses their needs.

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

Another way to win over your seller (and prevail in any bidding wars) is by keeping your contingencies to a minimum.

Contingencies are the contractual stipulations buyers and sellers must meet before the deal can close. Unsurprisingly, sellers don’t like to have too many of them to deal with. Contingencies can include such things as requesting a seller to make certain repairs, getting a home inspection, or even the fact that you’ll need to sell your old house before being able to buy the new one.

“In a really aggressive seller’s market, a home buyer who has to sell a current property should do so before placing an offer on another home,” said Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “Don’t always assume that the seller will take the highest price. Other conveniences can play a factor in gaining the seller’s attention, especially things like faster closing times and less restrictions.”

While my partner and I didn’t make the highest offer on our house, we did have the fewest contingencies — mainly, we didn’t ask too much of our seller in the way of repairs, or have another house to sell in order to afford the new one.

All that said, there are certain contingencies you should never forgo, and a home inspection is one of them. Getting your home inspected is hugely important, since inspectors will often find things even the sellers weren’t aware of. No matter how much you love a house, don’t be afraid of exercising your right to an inspection.

According to buyer protection laws in most states, sellers are required to report any findings in home inspections to subsequent buyers. In other words, if an inspector finds something wrong with the house, the seller will have to deal with it one way or another— either with you, or the next buyer should you choose to drop out of the deal.

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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

When trying to woo your seller in a competitive market, it helps to make a generous earnest money deposit. An earnest money deposit is a good-faith deposit requested by the seller when you enter into a contract to buy the house and typically run anywhere from 1% to 3% of the sale price of the home.

When deciding how much of an earnest money deposit to include in your offer, keep in mind that whatever amount you give comes off the price of the home (and is returned to you if the deal falls through). In other words, there’s no reason to be cheap. If you can, go slightly above the seller’s requested deposit amount. Even if it’s just a little more than what they’re asking, that gesture of good faith might just be what gets you the house.

A row of houses on a cul de sac in a suburban neighborhood.

Offer Above Asking Price

Wait. Why would anyone make an offer that’s above asking price? Because the competition did it first, and in a hot seller’s market, offering above asking price is often what it takes to even be considered.

Upping your offer may not break the bank as much as you’re fearing. “With interest rates so low these days, offering more than what the seller is asking may not make a drastic difference in your overall monthly payments,” real estate agent Pavel Khaykin of Pavel Buys Houses said.

Let’s say the listing price on your dream home is $320,000 and you’re able to put down a 6% down payment. That leaves you with a mortgage of roughly $301,000. For a 30-year fixed mortgage at an interest rate of 3%, that translates into $1,269 monthly payments. Now let’s say you decide to bid a little higher on the home and offer $10,000 over asking price. This would only bump up your monthly payment (assuming you qualify for that low interest rate) by $42.

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

In a hot seller’s market, you’ve got to be ready to move fast. Often this is more of a change in mindset than anything else. When my partner and I first started looking at homes, we considered ourselves casual buyers — that is, until our dream home came on the market late one Sunday night. From there, things moved quickly. We saw the home, made an offer, were under contract by morning, and spent the next month and a half going through the process of closing on the house.

If you’re serious about finding your dream home in the next few months, the best thing you can do is know what you want from the outset, and get your ducks in a row to make a compelling offer when you find it. Maybe this means making a list of your must-haves in a house, and working to improve your credit score. It might also mean reaching out to a real estate agent before you need one, and getting that pre-approval letter in place.

Although inventory is low, new houses come on the market all the time.

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Buy a Used Car, Step By Step

You’ll have to purchase the report if you’re buying from a private seller, so wait until you’re seriously interested in a particular vehicle. If you’re buying from a dealership, the salesperson should provide a copy of the vehicle history report for free.
The older a car is, the cheaper it’ll be — but the more it’s likely to have issues requiring repair. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to what they’re willing to handle. A general rule of thumb is that a car is driven about 12,000 miles per year. A higher average could mean the car has more wear and tear.
“Some general things you can do on your own without being super knowledgeable about cars is [to] turn off the radio [and] listen for any strange noises,” Montoya said. “See if the steering wheel stays straight when you drive down the road. Does it pull to one side? Look at the tires to see how old they are.”

Why Buying a Used Car Is a Smart Money Move

“In the first year of ownership, depreciation can continue, and that same car could be worth up to 20% less than its original sale price,” he said.
Knowing the ins and outs of how to buy a used car will make the whole process less stressful and, most importantly, save you money.
Sharifi said to watch out for discrepancies with the odometer reading and if there’s a branded title, which indicates that the car has been significantly compromised in some way.
Be wary of independent car lots that boast they can make you a deal regardless of your credit or circumstance.
Sometimes just looking at a car will give you some idea of its history. Rust, worn out pedals and a side panel painted in a different color are red flags.
Montoya said used car buyers must strike a balance between the age of the car, the amount of miles and what price they’re willing to pay.
When you’re buying from a private party, you may be able to get more accurate information about how they’ve driven and maintained the vehicle and what particular issues it might have, said Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.

The Best Time to Buy a Used Car

RobertCorse/Getty Images

“The end of the month (or the end of a quarter) can also be a good time to strike a deal, since dealerships may need to hit monthly or quarterly sales goals,” he said.
“You want to make sure there’s enough room for you,” Montoya said. “Take a look at the cargo area. Take a look at how easy it is to see out of the vehicle. Test out the entertainment system.”
Always, always, always take a car for a spin before buying it. If you can bring a mechanic with you, even better.
So that covers the why. Now let’s get into how to buy a used car.
You can also compare similar vehicles on the market to get an estimate of a car’s value, but keep in mind, no two used vehicles will be the same due to how they were driven and maintained. Use all this information when you sit down to negotiate — and don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t think you’re getting a fair price.
New cars are sleek, shiny, full of impressive tech and smell amazing — mmm, new car smell. But they also come with price tags that can take your breath away — and not in a good way.
Knowing when and where to buy a used car is just half the battle. Figuring out how to vet a used car can be tough, especially if you have little to no car knowledge.
“Typically they’ll try to get you in with a low price, but you may not be getting the best quality car,” he said. “The other thing is that if you get your financing through those types of dealers, they typically charge you a much higher interest rate.”
Montoya said plans sold by auto manufacturers or reputable dealerships are better options than those sold by third-party companies. Make sure you understand exactly what your plan covers.

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Where to Shop for a Used Car — and Where to Avoid

For any dealer you visit, do some due diligence and check customer reviews online. If you know others who’ve recently purchased a car, ask for recommendations.
Of course, when you need a car might not align with a particular sale or time of month. Shopping for a vehicle before you’re in critical need of one will allow you time to search for the best deal rather than having to settle for something quick.
Outside of dealerships, look for cars online at trusted sites like Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Carfax or Edmunds — or buy from a private seller.
If you’re in the market for a set of wheels that’s more affordable, steer your sights over to the used car lot to save a little money. Or even a lot of money.

Pro Tip
If cost is your primary concern, a private seller is likely to offer a lower price. A dealer folds overhead, repairs and marketing into its price.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price of a new car in November 2020 was more than ,000. Yowser.
Unlike new car releases, used cars come on the market throughout the year. It all depends on when their previous owners end their leases, put them up for sale or decide to trade in their vehicles.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
When you’re budgeting for a car purchase, make sure you’re factoring in all the associated costs, like sales tax, insurance and getting the car registered.
DeLorenzo recommends pre-qualifying for a loan at a bank or credit union before visiting a dealership. You can compare the offer with the dealer’s financing terms for better negotiating leverage.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

GreenPimp/Getty Images

However, there are certain times when you’re more likely to score a better deal.
If you’ve ever heard someone refer to a car as a depreciating asset, it’s true. The longer you have a car, the less it’s worth. The first year of owning a new vehicle is when depreciation really packs a punch.

1. Find a Vehicle That Fits Your Needs

Think of the big sales that fall around holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
But don’t just assume a car’s history. Getting the car’s history report, such as through Carfax, is a crucial step when buying a used car.

2. Determine How ‘Used’ You’re Willing to Go

It’s best to avoid shopping for a car on the weekend when there’s an influx of customers and sales staff is spread thin, Sharifi said. You’ll get more attention from the sales team by visiting on off hours, specifically on weekdays.
The end of a model year — around September or October — is another good time to shop, DeLorenzo noted, as salespeople are looking to make deals to clear out their used vehicle stock to make room for new inventory.
“[Dealerships] will have more used vehicle inventory as a result of those types of promotions,” he said.

Pro Tip
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

3. Make Sure The Price is Right

Don’t just look at the tires’ tread. Each tire should include a four-digit number marking the month and year it was manufactured. Tires older than six years can be dried out and need replacing.
Just because you’re buying a car at a lower price point doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with a clunker that was manufactured decades ago. Cars that are just two or three years old often hit dealership lots when their previous owners reach the end of their lease.
DeLorenzo recommends shopping at franchised car dealerships that have certified pre-owned cars — used vehicles that have been thoroughly inspected and typically come with some type of warranty coverage. Non-certified cars aren’t bad — and they’ll typically cost less — but they’re more likely to have higher mileage and more maintenance needs.

4. Check the History of the Car

“Severe accidents and instances where a car has been declared a total loss should signal the buyer to use caution,” he said. “That said, a small fender bender shouldn’t always mean that a buyer should walk away from a great deal.”
For any used car purchase, but especially if you’re buying from a private seller, have your mechanic inspect the vehicle before committing to buy.
Those vehicles often have low mileage and are in great condition, having had only one previous owner. Sometimes they even still retain a hint of that new car smell.
Before you accept a sales price, research the value of the car to make sure you’re not overpaying. Carfax, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds all have price appraisal tools online.
Jim Sharifi, formerly a content editor at Carfax, said research shows a new vehicle can lose as much as 10% of its value within the first month.

5. Go for a Test Drive

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Former staff writer Carson Kohler contributed to this post.
Where you shop for a used car matters so you can avoid purchasing a lemon.

Pro Tip
However, you also need to be OK with buying the vehicle as-is and securing your own financing. And be sure the owner has clear title to the car — in other words, don’t let anyone sell you a car they don’t legitimately own.

Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor for Kelley Blue Book, said when dealerships host big sales events for new models that can also benefit used car shoppers.
When you buy a used car, the original owner has already taken that initial hit on depreciation and the price you pay accounts for that, so you don’t have to shell out as much cash.
It’s easy to focus on the numbers — age of the car, mileage and cost — but you also want to make sure you’re buying a car that’ll fit your needs for however long you expect to have it. If you have a growing family, you might want to rethink that two-door coupe or compact vehicle.
These tips will give you some guidance to make a good choice.
Buying an extended warranty or service plan can give you peace of mind that certain repairs or maintenance jobs will be covered.

These Are the Best Cheap Moisturizers to Relieve Your Dry Skin

If you’re like us, you have a drawer filled with lotions and creams that are doing nothing for your dry hands and feet. It’s one of life’s mysteries.

But as much as we want some relief, we’re not interested in spending a ton on products that may or may not be worth the money.

We spoke to dermatologists to better understand what heals dry, cracked skin and identify the best cheap moisturizers. (Spoiler: You can find many of them in drugstores.)

Moisturizer, Lotion, Cream: Know the Difference

These actually aren’t interchangeable terms, regardless of how people use them. A moisturizer is a mixture of water and oil-soluble components that tackle the outermost layer of your skin. Typically, petroleum jelly, mineral oil and waxes are used in moisturizers. Lotions are more watery and have many ingredients. The higher the water content, the easier it is for bacteria to get in, thus the greater the need for preservatives such as parabens, salicylic acid and benzyl alcohol. For that reason, lotion should be used on parts of the body that aren’t very sensitive. (Never use it on your face.) Cream is simply a thick moisturizer designed for very flaky areas, such as elbows and heels.

Tips and Habits to Live By

Follow these good practices for keeping your skin moisturized.

Apply at the Correct Time

The lotion, cream or moisturizer you choose isn’t going to do any good if it’s applied onto dry feet, says James Beckman, a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Therapon Skin Health. Beckman suggests applying after showering but before drying to allow an even spread while your skin is still damp.

Also make sure to apply moisturizer at least 20 minutes before going outside to allow maximum penetration, he says.

Avoid Vegetable Oils

Steer clear of moisturizers that contain mineral or vegetable oils, Beckman says.

“These only coat the skin surface, and easily disappear as soon as the skin is washed,” he says.

Expensive Doesn’t Mean Better

“I always say to my patients that the difference between an inexpensive and expensive moisturizer/ lotion/cream is not necessarily the ingredients included, but the branding and the marketing behind the product,” says Vikram Rajkomar, a dermatologist with Pall Mall Medical.

The key is to buy a formulation which agrees with your skin, as everyone reacts differently to each cream.

Look for These Ingredients

Susan Bard, a New York-based board-certified dermatologist, suggests looking for humectant-based moisturizers containing ingredients that pull water into the skin, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin, without leaving behind a greasy residue.

“Thick, emollient moisturizers tend to contain occlusive ingredients such as dimethicone, beeswax, lanolin, ect. That helps prevent moisture loss from the skin,” Bard says. “They can feel sticky and also clog pores leading to folliculitis and miliaria on certain parts of the body.”

But humectants aren’t all you need, says Fayne Frey, a dermatologist and founder of FryFace. Moisturizers that are formulated with humectants and occlusives are preferable, Frey says. Effective occlusives include petrolatum, mineral oil and silicone-based derivatives like simethicone. Effective humectants include glycerin, hyaluronic acid and propylene glycol, she says.

 O’Keeffe’s Working Hands is photographed in a studio against a pink background.

Best Cheap Moisturizers: Our Experts’ Favorites

You can find many of these at drugstores.

Beckman’s must-have moisturizers for winter use are Theraderm Extreme Dry Skin Therapy ($16.95 at Theraderm.net) and Theraderm Body Restoration Creme ($16.95 at Theraderm.net). “They’re designed to restore function as well as feel, replenishing deficient skin oils with natural lanolin, a true skin oil, from Sheep’s wool,” Beckman says.

Bard has similar favorites. For dry hands, she likes Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand cream ($3.99 at Target), O’Keeffe’s Working Hands ($6.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond) and Aveeno Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm ($16.56 at VitaCost). 

Petroleum jelly — aka Vaseline — is the gold standard occlusive, preventing 98 percent of water loss from the skin into the environment, Frey says. Many users find it to be too greasy. “But it works,” she says.

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Relieve Dry Skin with These Habits

According to a report from Harvard Medical School that was updated in 2019, there are some free ways to deal with dry, winter skin. First, turn down your thermostat, as hot air tends to be drier than cool. Then, pop on your humidifier.

And while you may think that you’re helping your skin by taking the hottest shower possible, you should actually be taking a warm shower. Hot water removes the fatty substances in your skin that retain water. When you’re in the shower or bath, close the door, as this will get the humidity factor really going, but limit the time in the shower to 5 or 10 minutes. Blot your skin with a towel instead of rubbing it dry, and apply moisturizer immediately following the shower.

Wear loose clothing — binding clothing may rub and dry out your skin — and bundle up to protect from the cold, windy air outside. While we hate this advice, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, you really should stay away from the fireplace, as this can dry your skin.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

6 Cheap Super Bowl Snacks to Serve With the Big Game

However you decide to watch the game, you can still enjoy some classic Super Bowl snacks.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Prep time: 15 minutes

6 Cheap Super Bowl Snacks to Enjoy With the Big Game

1. Chex Party Mix

Cook time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Melt the butter in a large pan and stir in Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic salt and onion powder. Add everything else and toss thoroughly until well-coated. Bake for one hour, stirring the batch every 15 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 48 cocktail-sized smoked linked sausages

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

5. Crockpot Beer Cheese Dip

Prep time: 15 minutes
Combine the beer, Tabasco sauce and processed cheese spread in a slow cooker. Add more Tabasco sauce if you prefer a spicier treat. Cover and cook on high for 40 minutes. Once the cheese has melted, stir it to make it smooth. Keep it in the slow cooker on low and serve with the dippers.
Everyone knows that Super Bowl time is snack time.

  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 pound processed cheese spread loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • You’ll also need food to dip into it; The Spruce Eats suggests not only tortilla chips and hard and soft pretzels but also apples, crackers, bread cubes and assorted vegetables.

Cook time: 5 minutes

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6. Restaurant-Style Buffalo Chicken Wings

It really is possible to enjoy restaurant-style buffalo chicken wings at home. This recipe from AllRecipes takes more time than others on the list, but that’s only because you need to chill the chicken before cooking it.
Go with the classic childhood favorite: buttery dough enveloping tasty mini-sausages. Pillsbury has a great recipe for pigs in a blanket. 
Mix flour, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl. Put the chicken wings in a nonporous glass dish or bowl and then sprinkle the flour mixture on top, evenly coating the wings. Cover the dish and refrigerate it for 60-90 minutes.

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 chicken wings
  • oil for deep frying
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup hot sauce
  • 1 dash ground black pepper
  • 1 dash garlic powder

Enjoy the diner classic at home with The Spruce Eats recipe for baked mozzarella sticks.
This snack from The Spruce Eats just may be the most indulgent one on this list. Have it with pretzels or tortilla chips — or even try something fancier like apples and vegetables.
Prep time: 15 minutes
But this year, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, you may be staying home to watch the game rather than heading to a big bash or going to a bar or restaurant and plunking down big bucks.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unroll all the dough and pull into 16 triangles. Cut each triangle into three narrow triangles. Roll a sausage link up in each triangle of dough. Place them on unlined baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown, rotating halfway through. Serve warm.
Prep time: 60-90 minutes (includes time to chill ingredients before cooking)

Dear Penny: Will Social Security Be Broke by the Time I Retire?

Dear Penny,

I’m a 34-year-old man who just started saving for retirement last year after getting married. My husband is 39 and has been saving for some time. My question is about Social Security. Should someone in our age group expect to receive it at all? I’m always hearing about how Social Security is going broke. 

We’re both somewhat behind on where we should be on retirement. If we can’t rely on getting Social Security checks when we’re older, how much more should we be saving? We don’t want to live on rice and beans in retirement, but we also want to have enough money to enjoy life now.

-R.

Dear R.,

Of all the things that keep me up at night, Social Security’s solvency isn’t one of them. At 37, I’m just a tad older than you. I expect to get benefits someday, and you and your husband should, too.

There’s a kernel of truth to the stories you hear about Social Security running dry. It’s starting to pay out more than it takes in, thanks mostly to people living longer and having fewer children who eventually pay in. Widespread job losses due to the pandemic probably accelerated things a bit.

But we’re still funding Social Security with our payroll taxes. It’s just that if Social Security’s reserves were completely depleted, our payroll taxes would only fund about 79% of obligations through 2090. That’s in the event that Congress takes zero action to shore up more money, which is highly unlikely given that Social Security is the most sacred of all social programs.

My bigger worry for young-ish workers like us is that our benefits won’t go very far. Even for our parents and grandparents who currently receive benefits, Social Security by itself makes for a meager retirement. The average retiree benefit in January 2021 is just $1,543 per month, or $18,516 annually. Social Security estimates that current benefits cover about 40% of an average worker’s pre-retirement income.

Those benefits buy less and less every year. Health care costs, which eat up a huge chunk of retirees’ budgets, rise way faster than Social Security benefits.

The 2021 cost-of-living adjustment was just 1.3%. Ask any retiree whether that’s adequate to cover their rising living costs. The younger you are, the less of your income you should expect your benefits to replace.

So while I think you should expect to receive Social Security someday, I don’t think it should factor into how much you save today. Knowing nothing about your budget or spending, I’ll give you the standard recommendation: Aim to save 15% of your pre-tax income for retirement. If you get an employer 401(k) match, make sure you contribute to enough to get your company’s full contribution. Once you’ve done that, make sure you have at least three months’ worth of emergency savings before you invest more for retirement. That protects your retirement funds so you don’t have to tap them when times are tough.

If you can comfortably save more, great. If 15% isn’t doable right now, figure out what’s manageable and work your way up. For example, you could commit to putting half of your next raise toward your retirement account.

Unfortunately, there’s no level of savings that guarantees you won’t have a rice and beans retirement. The younger you are, the more guesswork goes into retirement planning.

My life plans, at least as told to my Roth IRA brokerage, are as follows: work until age 67, delay Social Security until 70, die at 92. If everything goes as planned, I’ll die with millions. But really all of the above is just wishful thinking on my part. The picture changes drastically if I’m forced to retire early, take Social Security sooner and stretch my savings over more years than I expected. Or if a prolonged bear market hits right as I’m starting to withdraw my retirement money.

All that certainly supports the argument that you should save as much as you can muster as early as possible. But too often in personal finance, we only focus on the retirement years, assuming that they’re guaranteed. The truth is, life can be snatched from us at any moment. So I also want you to have enough room to spend so that you can enjoy life now.

That doesn’t mean you get free rein to spend. But if you focus on what really matters to you, I think you can strike that balance.

You’re 34. You don’t have to figure out your entire retirement plan right now. Focus on making saving a regular habit, and you can figure out the specific pieces as retirement gets closer.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Earn Extra Money by Joining Online Focus Groups

A couple years ago, I was invited to participate in a focus group. I visited in-person along with about 15 other people. For two hours, we vented all of our feelings about the ways a particular health insurance company interacts with its customer base.

At the end, we each walked out with $125. The health insurance company wanted consumer feedback on their products and customer service, and it compensated us for providing our insights.

Focus groups can be a lucrative side hustle when you break down per-hour pay. You get to be a part of a company’s market research efforts, magnifying your opinion above those of other potential consumers.

These days, you don’t have to participate in paid focus groups in person. During the pandemic and beyond, you can use online focus group platforms to earn anywhere from $20 to as much as $600 per hour.

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Online Focus Groups: a Viable Side Hustle

Focus groups can pay extremely well for the amount of time you actually “work.” They can provide surges of side hustle income all at once.

However, they’re not likely to sustain you in lieu of traditional income. Earnings can be extremely inconsistent. First of all, you won’t qualify for every survey, as each focus group has a specific demographic it’s targeting.

Often, though not always, the highest-paying surveys also have the most exclusive demographic requirements. The company may be looking to work with construction foremen who work with specific brands of equipment, for example, or with mobile app developers who use a specific type of programming.

In addition, some consumer research companies will only allow you to participate in one focus group every six months.

Just because work is sporadic doesn’t make this a bad side hustle. When the money does come in, you’re getting paid so much per hour that it’s worth setting aside 30 to 90 minutes of your time.

What You Do in a Paid Focus Group

Most focus groups require between 30 minutes and 90 minutes of work. When you’re doing a focus group remotely, you may be asked to fill out a multiple choice survey. Most of the time, though, you’ll complete a phone or Zoom interview with a live person.

Topics for focus groups are unlimited: You could find yourself answering questions about your favorite margarita recipe, how you’re coping with pandemic parenting or a survey related to your profession.

Some focus groups may require you to dedicate some time outside the interview itself. For example, you might have to give a specific product a test run or keep a journal of your experiences. This extra time is often accounted for in the compensation.

Where to Find Online Focus Group Jobs

All of the following focus group companies currently have online opportunities. In the past, many national opportunities could be completed remotely. But during the pandemic, even most of the city-specific assignments are virtual, too.

These market research companies pay well for your time and consistently update listings for more opportunities. We surveyed current listings for hourly pay and estimated average hourly pay given the jobs currently available.

Respondent

An overwhelming percentage of the focus group opportunities listed on Respondent are remote. The majority of the listings are not city-specific, allowing you to qualify regardless of where you live.

Current job listings range between $20 and $400 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $120 per hour.

WatchLAB

WatchLAB doesn’t have as many opportunities listed, but it does regularly update its inventory on its Facebook page.

Jobs are often city specific, though there is a wide variety of cities with opportunities available. Even city-specific assignments have been primarily remote through the pandemic.

Pay for WatchLAB focus groups ranges from $60 to $150 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $100 per hour.

Focusscope

Focusscope is another smaller consumer research company. It updates its users regularly about new opportunities on its Facebook page, and most studies are now completed remotely.

Focusscope pays $75 to $250 per focus group, with an average payout of $100.

FindFocusGroups.com

FindFocusGroups.com isn’t a consumer research company in and of itself. Instead, it’s a job listing board. It aggregates current opportunities available across the country, and allows consumer research companies to submit listings.

You can search these focus group listings by state. For example, the pay range for current listings in Pennsylvania is $65 to $160 per hour. The average focus group pays around $100 per hour.

User Interviews

If you’re looking for online or over-the-phone focus group opportunities, User Interviews’ listings are plentiful. However, compared to the other companies on this list, more of these focus group opportunities are in-person. Use filters while you search to ensure you’re only being shown the remote opportunities.

A portion of the listings on User Interviews are medical studies rather than focus groups.

Participating in medical trials can be another lucrative way to hustle together some extra cash.

Listings on User Interviews pay between $25 and $600 per hour — though very few studies get close to the $600 mark. The average focus group pays $60 per hour.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Here’s How to Turn Food Pantry Staples into Delicious Meals

One of her favorite cheap meals to make is black bean soup, using a can of black beans along with onion, garlic and green pepper.
“I’ll bulk up taco meat with onions and green peppers and tomatoes, so it’s a little bit of meat and a lot of vegetables,” Wesley said, as an example. “Or I’ll bulk it up with beans, so it’s a little bit of meat and a lot of beans.”
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Think food pantries only give out non-perishable canned foods? Think again. Many also distribute a good share of perishable ingredients like eggs, dairy products, bread, fresh produce and more.

How to Turn Cheap Pantry Staples Into Delicious Meals

Getting groceries from a food pantry and reducing food spending can be great on the wallet, but you may also need to adjust to cooking and preparing meals differently. We spoke to registered dietitian and nutritionist Wendy Wesley for advice on how to make nutritious, tasty meals using ingredients from food pantries.
Add beans and veggies to stretch meat dishes.
Spices, in particular, can be pretty pricey, so look for less expensive brands.
Wesley saves money by buying Badia brand spices. You can also try your store’s generic option or shop at an ethnic grocery store.
Those extra ingredients also add fiber — something every American needs more of, she said.
Whether you’ve got a family to feed or you’re just trying to make food last longer for yourself, making your ingredients stretch means more bang for your buck.

Tomatoes, canned black beans, black bean soup and a portrait of the cook are photographed in this quad of images to illustrate cheap meals to make.

Economic concerns have caused countless others to become more conscious of their spending — resorting to cheap staples rather than more expensive options at the grocery store.

Pro Tip
“We don’t need very expensive ingredients to have delightful and tasty meals at home,” she said.

“I keep an arsenal of canned beans in my pantry at all times,” she said.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
According to Feeding America, about four out of every 10 people who visited a food bank from March through June of last year were first-time visitors. As the winter holidays approached, more than 80% of food pantries were serving more people than the year prior.

Pro Tip
“You get rice and beans from a food pantry and then you doctor that up with your onion, your green pepper and your garlic and you use chili powder, garlic powder [and] onion powder,” Wesley said.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

How to Stretch Your Ingredients and Your Dollars

When it comes to keeping your kitchen stocked with those supplementary meal-enhancing ingredients, Wesley recommends picking up a few items here and there when you grocery shop.
Adding a grain — like rice, quinoa or barley — to a meal can also help make a dish stretch. Wesley likes cooking a bunch of one grain over the weekend so she has it ready to add to meals throughout the week.
Preparing servings in advance can also save you time on busy weekdays — and saving time can be so valuable. No more grabbing fast food on those days when you have no energy to cook. The food is already ready.
The key to making satisfying dishes from cheap ingredients is to incorporate kitchen staples like onion, garlic, peppers, spices, dried herbs, butter and eggs.
Pandemic-related layoffs and income loss have driven many people to community food pantries for the first time in their lives.
“There is something magical about black beans,” Wesley said. “For maybe a dollar or two in ingredients, you have this meal that is very hearty, very filling, full of fiber and is going to stay with you for a long time.”

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

“If you went to the store and tried to buy it all in one day or one shopping trip it would be quite expensive,” she said.
Canned goods should not be overlooked when it comes to creating great meals, Wesley said.
Another of her inexpensive meal ideas: Crack some eggs you pick up from your neighborhood food bank into a pan with onions, peppers and maybe tomatoes and mushrooms. You can make a big scramble for less than a dollar.