These 3 Surprising Tips Can Help You Invest in Real Estate — For Under $500

The job title “real estate tycoon” has weaseled its way into popular conversation in the last couple of years… no need to delve into why.

It makes you wonder about buying property to rent out or sell for profit. Judging by how much we all pay for rent and how little our landlords seem to do, it looks like a pretty sweet gig, right?

(That’s a joke, my dear landlord. Please don’t change my locks.)

This kind of investment comes with one little, er, major obstacle, though: You need a lot of money to get started. Houses or land can costs thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of dollars.

Unless you get creative.

Here are three unusual ways we’ve discovered to get started in real estate investing when you only have a few hundred bucks to spare.

1. Invest in Real Estate Around the Country for Just $500

Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? We found a company that helps you do just that.

Oh, and you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars, either. You can get started with a minimum investment of just $500. A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).

(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)

You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee — but the latter is being waived through Dec. 31.

Interested? Get started with Fundrise here.

2. Buy Land on eBay for $100

Ebay has long been a place for people to sell their weird and outlandish goods, so we’re not surprised to see users selling land for mere pennies.

Most of these thrifty plots probably aren’t worth much — now. But if you choose wisely and hang onto it long enough, a new mall or Walmart might move into town one day and need that little vacant strip.

Set your budget and search on eBay for something like “vacant residential lot” or “vacant commercial lot” to find your next investment.

Don’t forget to factor in additional costs, like title-transfer fees and annual property taxes when you’re thinking about how much this land could be worth over time.

3. Try Virtual Real Estate Investing for Free

Have you heard of the online world, Second Life? It’s a virtual world (not a game, the company asserts) that lets you have a virtual family, own a virtual home, buy virtual goods and even get a virtual job.

It became massively popular at the turn of the century, and — even if you haven’t heard about it in a while — it’s still a thing.

The world runs on Linden Dollars, which you can earn through virtual jobs or by selling your virtual possessions and creations. Or you can buy them directly with your real money.

You can also purchase virtual real estate to sell or rent out.

Ailin Graef (known by her SL avatar Anshe Chung) became the virtual world’s first millionaire flipping real estate. She’d invest real money — which goes a lot further in the virtual world than the real one — and earn real money in return when other users bought or rented her properties.

The world is free to join, and you start with a free starter pack of clothing and useful items. If you want to earn money through a virtual business, you’ll need to build up your Linden Dollars and start investing.

It’d be tough, but if you work hard in the virtual world, you could even build your riches without spending any real money upfront!

The publicly filed offering circulars of the issuers sponsored by Rise Companies Corp., not all of which may be currently qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission, may be found at www.fundrise.com/oc.

Dana Sitar (dana@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.

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.

28 Pictures That Are So Dumb That They’re Actually Funny

Embrace the dumb.

Fine art:

Fine art:

Twitter: @Alex_jonsie

The origin of a superhero:

The origin of a superhero:

reddit.com

How to land that job:

Instagram: @random

How batteries get their name:

How batteries get their name:

reddit.com

Cute baby names:

Cute baby names:

knowyourmeme.com

The final battle:

The final battle:

Instagram: @wickleweedproductions

Fun facts:

Fun facts:

officialunitedstates.tumblr.com

SHEEEEEE:

SHEEEEEE:

Twitter: @780613

FROOT:

FROOT:

knowyourmeme.com

The origin of leggings:

The origin of leggings:

sxfjan.tumblr.com

The ultimate showdown:

The ultimate showdown:

Twitter: @finah

Nemo cosplay:

Nemo cosplay:

iwastesomuchtime.com

Heart murmurs:

Heart murmurs:

me.me

Money matters:

Money matters:

lennepkade.tumblr.com

Murderers… all of them:

Murderers... all of them:

acoolguy.tumblr.com

Backroom deals:

Backroom deals:

reddit.com

WOOP WOOP:

WOOP WOOP:

theasgardiandetective.tumblr.com

The world’s best lawyer:

The world's best lawyer:

Instagram: @baptain_brunch

Science at work:

Science at work:

reddit.com

The even more ultimate showdown:

The even more ultimate showdown:

en.dopl3r.com

Delicious popcorn:

Delicious popcorn:

leftforbed.tumblr.com

Spunow:

Spunow:

imgur.com

Kummin’ and goin’:

Kummin' and goin':

Twitter: @fendingfondue

The perfect crime:

Instagram: @ladbible

Craig’s bullshit:

Craig's bullshit:

Twitter: @14thSquadLt

Devious felines:

Devious felines:

reddit.com

And the world’s greatest play:

And the world's greatest play:

butthorn.tumblr.com

5 Cheap Trader Joe’s Snacks Any Kid Will Adore (and So Will Busy Parents)

Erin O’Neill is the people and culture manager at The Penny Hoarder. It’s a full-time gig that means she takes care of the employees here as our HR go-to woman. First and foremost though, she’s a wife and a mother, which means this lady is busy.

Since she and her husband both work full time, there’s not much time to prepare dinner during the day. So once her family walks through the door, she and her husband are faced with the challenges of juggling dinner prep and concocting a snack for their two daughters, 6-year-old Emerson and 10-year-old Lily.

And according to O’Neill, there’s nothing worse than hungry children –– except ones who are hungry and picky. And like any kids, hers can be both!

Thankfully, though, O’Neill has her go-to before-dinner snacks that are low maintenance, delicious and come from one of her favorite cost-effective grocery stores: Trader Joe’s.  

Check out five of her favorite ways to tame her kids’ appetites without breaking a sweat –– or her budget.

Keep in mind: Prices may vary by store!

1. Apples With Caramel Sauce

A sliced apple is dipped into a caramel sauce.

A sliced apple is dipped into a caramel sauce. A 2-pound bag costs $2.99 and the caramel sauce costs $3 at Trader Joe’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

O’Neill says the organic apples at Trader Joe’s are the perfect size, and a 2-pound bag costs $2.99 — much less than the ones at her regional grocer, Publix.

She loves to pair slices of apples with a scoop of a little something extra: “I don’t know if you’ve ever had [Trader Joe’s’] caramel sauce,” she says. “But it’s amazing.”

The caramel sauce runs about $3. I’m not a parent, but I’m pretty sure from a kid’s perspective, this is more of a treat than a snack. But hey, when it comes to taming pre-dinner hunger, who says it can’t be fun?

2. Pretzel Dip

A child holds a bowl of seasoned sour cream with pretzels.

Pretzels dipped into a bowl of seasoned sour cream is an inexpensive, kid-friendly treat you can get at Trader Joe’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

You’ve likely heard of Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend. If you haven’t, you’re about to –– and for less than $2, it’ll change your life.

Need a quick alternative to chips and dip? O’Neill dumps this killer seasoning into a bowl of sour cream and serves it with pumpernickel pretzel sticks, which are only $1.69.

O’Neill calls this one the “perfect insta-dip,” and her kids love it.

Does the idea of feeding your kids pumpernickel pretzels sound like an impossible feat? Try serving it with sliced veggies, like cucumbers or baby carrots.

Delicious and (somewhat) healthy!

3. Veggie Birds Nests

Try these $3 Trader Joe's vegetable bird's nests for a cheap, kid-friendly snack.

Try these $3 Trader Joe’s vegetable bird’s nests for a cheap, kid-friendly snack. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

For whatever reason, O’Neill’s daughters will turn their noses up at a homemade recipe, but they will wolf down the same exact one if it comes out of box.

What exactly is a bird nest, you ask? Shredded veggies piled together to form a crispy, perfectly seasoned bundle of joy.

She loves grabbing Trader Joe’s version from the frozen section. After you pop them in the oven, they come out perfectly crispy and delicious, she says.

“If I tried to make that, everyone would laugh at me,” says O’Neill. “They would literally hold their noses and not eat it.”

The best part? Her daughters scarf them down. Oh, and a box of these only costs $3.

4. Cereal

A bowl of Trader Joe's Gorilla Munch cereal only costs $2.99.

A bowl of Trader Joe’s Gorilla Munch cereal only costs $2.99. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

O’Neill loves using Trader Joe’s cereal as a quick snack that even her girls can put together. It has a long shelf life, and you get more than just a few servings out of it, making this arguably the easiest snack on our list.

She also says that TJ’s is the only place she and her husband will buy cereal for their family since it’s free of genetically modified organisms. One of their favorites? Gorilla Munch –– and it costs $2.99.

Is there anything easier to make in the kitchen than a bowl of cereal? Seriously, even I can make that –– and I’m the person who still burns toast at twentysomething years old.

Cereal: It’s quick, easy and it won’t kill your children while they’re making or eating it.

5. Wildcard! Hit Up the Sample Section

Lily O'Neil, 10, and Emerson O'Neil, 6, try to throw pieces of Trader Joe's Gorilla Munch cereal into each other's mouths

Lily O’Neill, 10, and Emerson O’Neill, 6, try to throw pieces of Trader Joe’s Gorilla Munch cereal into each other’s mouths. The snack costs $2.99. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

One of the best tricks O’Neill keeps up her sleeve is letting her daughters try items in the sample section.

This not only gives them a quick bite of food while they pick out that night’s ingredients for dinner, but if the girls like what they try, she purchases the full-size version for tomorrow’s snack.

During one trip to the Joe, her daughter Lily tried a Gorgonzola flatbread and fell in love. O’Neill did, too –– it cost less than $4 for her to buy it for the next night and was as effortless as preheating the oven and throwing it in.

OK, maybe I lied when I said cereal was the easiest snack on this list.

Kelly Anne Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

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.

13 Ways To Avoid Being *That* Coworker Who Gets Everyone Sick This Year

Fun fact: A single sneeze can fill an entire room with germs.

Every single winter, I spend at least one day side-eyeing *that* person who comes into work sniffling, sneezing, and spraying their germs everywhere.

Every single winter, I spend at least one day side-eyeing *that* person who comes into work sniffling, sneezing, and spraying their germs everywhere.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you don't want to become patient zero for your office's cold or flu outbreak, so I asked Daniel Eiras, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at NYU Langone Health, to share some tips on how to keep it 💯 this winter.

FOX

First things first: Learn how to wash your hands the right way, and do it often.

First things first: Learn how to wash your hands the right way, and do it often.

When it comes to washing your hands, it is NOT the thought that counts. “Hand washing, to me, is one of the most fundamental ways to break the cycle of transmission of infection,” Eiras says. “It's both the easiest and simplest intervention you can do, and one that is infrequently done correctly.”

Here's how to do it right: For starters, the water should be warm or hot (although cold water will do in a pinch). You also can't just dangle your palms under the faucet — you have to really rub your hands together and make a lil' friction to get rid of all of the nastiness off. “Make sure you properly clean areas that play hard-to-get, like the spaces in between your fingers and the backs of your hands,” Eiras says. In total, you should be washing your hands for 15-20 seconds, which is probably 10 seconds longer than you (read: me) usually do.

Eiras says his hospital has posters like this one posted in all of the bathrooms.

Genius

If you’re still not grossed out or convinced, remember this:

Instagram: @life

Anyway, FYI, washing your hands is basically worthless if you don’t dry them after.

Anyway, FYI, washing your hands is basically worthless if you don't dry them after.

Bacteria and viruses looooooove wet surfaces, Eiras says, so they get really amped when you decide to ditch the hand dryer or paper towel and go riiiight for that germ-infested bathroom door handle. We all do it, we're all trash, I get it. But seriously, it's so much better to just dry your hands completely after you wash them — and no, wiping them on your pants does not count — and you'll be helping everyone, including you, stay a little healthier.

imgur.com

Beware the nastiness of surfaces in common areas.

Beware the nastiness of surfaces in common areas.

Things like doorknobs and light switches are what Eiras calls “high-touch surfaces,” aka the communal objects that everyone comes in contact with frequently that are often ground zero for transmitting infections. So if you wipe away a little smear of snot from your nose, rub the gooeyness on your pants, and then, five minutes later, get up and pour coffee from the office coffeemaker, you're definitely sharing the wealth. So if you're feeling not-so Raven at work, be sure to either avoid touching these surfaces, or clean your hands thoroughly before coming in contact with them.

And if you're not sick, you should still wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after using high-touch surfaces. You don't have to wash your hands every time, Eiras says, because that's drying AF and bordering on obsessive, but be mindful of what you're touching. Make Clorox wipes your friend, keep some hand sanitizer nearby, and sick-shame anyone who comes into work feeling like shit. (JK, don't do that last one.)

Disney

That means you have to wash your hands after you blow your nose, people!!!!!

That means you have to wash your hands after you blow your nose, people!!!!!

I know you're thinking, I blow my nose into a tissue. Doesn't the tissue negate the need for hand-washing? I know this because that's what I thought until I talked to Eiras. But, surprise! Tissues are not the snot-proof shields we want them to be, and lots of germs sneak through them.

BBC

Load up on hand sanitizer. Bathe in it, as far as I’m concerned.

Load up on hand sanitizer. Bathe in it, as far as I'm concerned.

Eiras is a big fan of hand sanitizer, largely because it makes it so much easier to clean your hands every time they come in contact with something gnarly. “Alcohol-based sanitizers are as effective as hand-washing,” he says. “People in general do it better than washing hands, because you rub until it’s no longer wet or sticky, which is a lot better than leaving bathroom with wet hands.”

FOX

But know that hand sanitizer won’t protect you from everything.

But know that hand sanitizer won't protect you from everything.

According to Eiras, given the choice, soap and water is always preferable to hand sanitizer because even the best sanitizers (ones that are 62–70% ethyl alcohol) don't catch everything. “If there's a norovirus outbreak at work, you have to use soap and water,” Eiras says. “Sanitizer misses a lot of gastrointestinal infections, so you have to be careful about those.” Tl;dr: if you don't want to do any Excorcist-style puking, ditch the hand sanitizer and wash your hands with soap and water.

CBS

If you need to sneeze but don’t have a tissue handy, your elbow will do just fine.

If you need to sneeze but don't have a tissue handy, your elbow will do just fine.

Literally anything is better than not covering your nose and mouth during a sneeze, tbh. Sneezing into your elbow seems kinda nasty, but it's actually a pretty good idea because “you’re generally not touching things with your elbow like you would with your hands, so the risk of infecting other people is low,” Eiras says.

NBC

If you’re coughing and/or sneezing and have the option to stay home*…stay the fuck home.

If you're coughing and/or sneezing and have the option to stay home*...stay the fuck home.

Yes, you can be sick without coughing and sneezing, but *sounds sirens* coughing at sneezing at work is like handing your coworkers A ONE-WAY TICKET TO SICKVILLE. “Those are most troublesome for spreading a virus,” Eiras says. “They expel potentially infectious droplets into the environment that can travel several feet in a matter of seconds. In fact, you could probably fill an entire room with the droplets from one sneeze.” And what happens to those droplets? They survive 'n thrive. Any droplets that land on, say, a table, a computer keyboard, or a mouse can contain viruses that live on for DAYS. DAYS!!! I've owned houseplants that haven't lived that long. Seriously, if your work has a decent PTO/sick leave policy, remind yourself that there is no Medal of Honor for coming into work as a human incubus of disease. So please, if you've got a nasty cough or a lot of phlegmy sneezes, ensconce yourself in the sanctity of your own germ palace.

*More than 37 million Americans do not have paid sick leave and can't stay home. This is a political issue that's mostly being fought at the state level, and it's something we should all care about!!!

PBS

And if you can’t stay home from work, isolate yourself as much as you possibly can.

And if you can't stay home from work, isolate yourself as much as you possibly can.

According to Eiras, a cold can last for 1-2 weeks, and a flu for potentially longer. Even the most lenient bosses might not be down with you sitting at home surrounded by tissues for that long, so if/when you have to come into work when you're sick, stay away from others. Holing up in an unused office, finding a desk that's far from other people, or looking for a small conference room you can set up your stuff in can go a long way in protecting others from your hazardous breath. And when you do have to leave your self-imposed quarantine, Eiras says you need to “make sure to wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer whenever you’ve touched anything, including your face.” (Also, please give the space you were in a good cleaning with a Clorox wipe!!!)

Disney

Don’t expect a face mask to magically shield everyone from your germies.

Don't expect a face mask to magically shield everyone from your germies.

As far as face masks go, Eiras says their effectiveness is questionable, but that could be because most people don't end up keeping them on all day. “It’s not clear that if you have a cold that you’re not going to spread it just by putting a mask on,” he says, but added that when employees in his hospital come in to work after being sick, they're asked to wear a mask. So, make of that what you will.

ABC

Don’t just gulp down a bunch of medication willy-nilly.

Don't just gulp down a bunch of medication willy-nilly.

“You can do some things for yourself that can potentially limit the severity of your illness and the amount of time you are infectious,” Eiras says. “There's no treatment for a cold, but if you have the flu, you can get tested for it at urgent care or your doctor and take an antiviral that can help, especially if you take it early.”

For strep throat and certain forms of walking pneumonia, take antibiotics as prescribed.

imgflip.com

And if you have a cold, stay hydrated.

And if you have a cold, stay hydrated.

Eiras says the best thing you can do for a cold is get enough sleep and rest and drink a lot of fluids. Like, drink more fluids than you ever have. Drink so many fluids that you start to hate the word “fluid.” Basically, if your pee is glass-clear, then you're probably doing it right.

Nickelodeon

And one last thing: Please, I beg of you, get a damn flu shot if you haven’t already.

And one last thing: Please, I beg of you, get a damn flu shot if you haven't already.

Even if you say, “Whatever, woman, you don't run my life!!!!” to everything else in this post, please don't disregard getting a flu shot.

“Outside of all of these other preventative measures like washing your hands, it’s the best way to prevent infections,” Eiras says. Not only do you definitely not want to get the flu, but you don't want to run the risk of getting other people sick, too. Some people — babies, pregnant people, elderly folks, people with other serious health conditions, and people with allergies to the vaccine —are incredibly vulnerable to the flu, and if you don't get vaccinated and then get sick, you're in grave danger of spreading it. Put simply, the more people who get vaccinated in a community (or office), the less the flu can spread.

“There's very, very little downside to getting the shot,” Eiras adds. “Even if you happen to get the the flu after the shot, the vaccine can decrease the severity very significantly. I can’t stress it enough. It saves lives, it decreases infections, and makes people healthier. Everyone above the age of six months should get it and get it right now.”

PS: You can't even use the “but I don't even know where to get one near me” excuse, because the CDC has a super easy flu shot finder tool. You're welcome!

NBC

Be careful this winter, y’all.

Be careful this winter, y'all.

memegenerator.net

This is Why Internet Prices Keep Rising — And How to Cut Your Bill Down

If you haven’t had the pleasure of signing up for internet service lately, let me tell you about it.

I recently moved (out of my parents’ home). And although I’ve paid my fair share of utility bills in the past, I was shocked when I found out how much internet and a simple cable package would cost.

It would be about $140 per month, the nice representative told me.

*Insert my audible gasp and an “Are you serious?” here.*

I asked about just internet. I’d been talking about joining the horde of other households that have cut the cord anyways. After all, I have Netflix and Amazon Prime, and I’ve been wanting to sign up for Hulu. Those streaming services total about $27 per month.

“Just internet?” the nice representative repeats, likely rolling her eyes, because she’s already heard this question 100 times today. That’ll be  $69.99 a month.

Still? I breathed into the phone.

Why is Internet So Dang Expensive?

I need internet like I need electricity and water. I work from home once a week, and even if I’m going to cut the cord and opt for streaming services, well, I still need internet. I could opt to spend all my free time reading, but what about “The Real Housewives”?

I asked folks around the office, my friends, my family: Has internet always been this expensive? Because I don’t remember ever paying that much. Or maybe it’s because I always split the bill with roomies.

No one seemed super shocked. But I received one sign of validation when Consumerist recently reported that, yes, internet prices are increasing.

The Consumerist article cited a Morgan Stanley survey, which found that cable companies have increased internet prices by an average of 12% this past year.

For some concrete context, internet-only customers now pay an average of $66 per month for the service, whereas those who have a broadband and cable package pay $49 per month for internet.

What’s up, guys?

Well, like I’d considered, more and more of us are cutting the cord, which is leaving cable providers with no choice but to hike prices to make up for lost revenue.

And prices will keep on keepin’ on, analysts predict.

“Despite the double-digit cost increases, analysts believe the new prices might not be enough,” Consumerist writes. “Instead, companies would need to set their broadband-only prices to $80/month in order to offset the lost revenue from cord-cutters.”

What’s one to do?

How to Lower Your Internet Bill

Honestly, I felt defeated when I heard the innocent representative give me those price points.

I decided to go with the whole bundle — internet and cable and, yes, even a landline, because apparently not getting one increases your bill by about $30.

Now I’m going to pay an initial bill of $162 (install fees, of course) and subsequent bills of $140.

But there are a few options that’ll help you cut down (or attempt to) your monthly bill.

1. Straight Up, Ask For a Discount

Anyone who knows me knows I’m perhaps the most passive person ever, so the thought of this intimidates me a little.
But it’s worth a shot.
Plus, Penny Hoarder contributor Chris Ronzio outlined five easy steps to get the job done. And, no, none of them include yelling at — or crying to — your provider.

2. Get a Chatbot to Haggle For You

Ah, this sounds less stressful. Also, at this point, I’ve spent half my life on hold with my internet provider, and I’m so over it.

That’s why I’m going to follow my fellow Penny Hoarder’s lead and try using Trim. It’s a little bot that lives in Facebook Messenger or your text messages, and it’ll negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.

It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other providers.

You can sign up simply with Facebook. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work.

If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.

Also, if you have any outages, Trim believes you deserve a credit, and it’ll handle that for you.
Trim takes 25% of the savings tab.
This past weekend, I submitted my first bill. Trim is haggling with Spectrum at the moment. But I wanted evidence it works, so like all things I want proven, I turned to Twitter to see what people were saying. Here’s what I found:

 

 

 

I’m kind of pumped see what Trim can do for me!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. While waiting for her first internet bill, she’s started using Trim to patrol her Amazon purchases. When an item’s price drops, she receives the difference!

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.

Do You Have Any Holiday Traditions With Your Chosen Family?

Your chosen family is the group of people who you choose to play a significant role in your life.

There are many different reasons why you might not be with your immediate family during the holiday season. But hey, that’s why you have a chosen family.

There are many different reasons why you might not be with your immediate family during the holiday season. But hey, that's why you have a chosen family.

AKA the people you choose to call family. These are the special friends you surround yourself with because, well, they're fuckin' awesome and they're there for you through it all — no matter what.

NBC / Via theodysseyonline.com

There’s a lot you can do with your chosen family, but the holidays are a ~special~ time to do things together.

There's a lot you can do with your chosen family, but the holidays are a ~special~ time to do things together.

Maybe you have a favorite tradition that you think is completely and totally unique to you and your fam. Maybe your traditions are super weird or out of the ordinary. Or maybe you just made one up for a joke, and y'all ran with it — and now carrying it out is like an homage to that hilarious moment. Whatever the case is, we'd love to hear about your traditions.

CBS / Via giphy.com

For example, maybe you and your chosen family choose to dress up in costume for your potluck dinner.

For example, maybe you and your chosen family choose to dress up in costume for your potluck dinner.

Maybe it's just your typical Santa Claus and elf costumes, or something more.

NBC / Via giphy.com

Or maybe you all defy winter conventions and eat and drink tropical/summertime foods.

Or maybe you all defy winter conventions and eat and drink tropical/summertime foods.

Tbh, it's never a bad time to grill a ton of food and drink margaritas and mojitos.

FOX / Via giphy.com

Maybe your chosen fam has a Christmas movie marathon, where you all pile onto a giant couch to watch and be close to one another.

Maybe your chosen fam has a Christmas movie marathon, where you all pile onto a giant couch to watch and be close to one another.

Home Alone 2, A Christmas Story, Elf, Love Actually, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and The Polar Express, just to name A FEW.

Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer / Via fanpop.com

Or maybe, since your chosen fam is composed of mixed religious identities, you actually celebrate Christmahannukwanzadan.

Or maybe, since your chosen fam is composed of mixed religious identities, you actually celebrate Christmahannukwanzadan.

A holiday anyone can get on board with. Maybe y'all even bring decorations associated with each holiday, so that there's just a hodgepodge of festive stuff hanging around.

@videoblogcelebr / Via Twitter: @videoblogcelebr

Maybe your chosen fam has its annual scavenger hunt, where the winner gets to choose who gets which gifts.

Maybe your chosen fam has its annual scavenger hunt, where the winner gets to choose who gets which gifts.

Don't worry, though; all the gifts are actually quite awesome.

NBC / Via giphy.com

Feel free to be as detailed as possible. For example, who makes up your chosen family? What is the tradition and how'd it get started? When do you take part in these festivities? And of course, why do you love it so damn much?!

How to Get Your Money Under Control When You’re Absolutely Terrible With It

I have a confession you don’t often hear from a personal-finance writer: I’m terrible with money.

Or, at least, I was.

I’ve gotten a lot better since knowing a thing or two about money literally became my job, but I used to be terrible all around — making money, saving money, knowing what in the world I was spending money on or where my next paycheck was coming from.

Now I know I could have been doing a lot of simple little things over the years to keep my finances in better shape — even when I was dead broke.

If you’ve been having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad time with money, too, here are a few things I’ve discovered that could help you get your spending, earning and debt under control.

Bonus: None of these will take a lot of time or effort. I know exactly how little you want to think about money if you can help it.

1. Figure out Where You Owe Money

One of the worst effects of not paying attention to your finances is burying yourself under a giant mountain of debt.

From student loans to credit cards to pre-Obamacare medical costs, I covered my ears and eyes and let debt slowly grow around me.

Thanks to caller ID, I stopped answering the phone — if I don’t hear the debt collectors, are they really there?

All this la-la-la-ing of my debt situation was a huge problem when I finally wanted to fix it. I had no idea who held my debts. Now that I was ready to send a check, I had no idea where to send it.

Credit Sesame was a lifesaver.

The app gives you a free credit report card — including a credit score — and provides you with recommendations and financial education resources.

The bad news: I found out my credit score was a meager 528. Yikes.

The good news: Credit Sesame showed me a quick view of my total debt, plus all the factors contributing to my low score: credit usage, credit age, inquiries, account mix and payment history. And it listed the creditors and collection agencies that wanted my money.

Plus, Credit Sesame offered concrete steps, based on my situation, to help me work on my credit score.

You can sign up and download the app here.

2. Start Paying Someone — Anyone — Back

OK, the hard part. You have to start actually paying off those debts. But when the list is long, you might not know where to begin.

Keep one thing in mind: When it comes to paying off debt, the most important thing is that you begin. Anywhere.

When you sit on unpaid debt, it likely accrues interest and fees. The longer you wait to repay, the more you’ll pay in the long run.

To decide which debtor to make your first check out to, consider these two popular schools of thought:

  • The debt snowball method, which Dave Ramsey pioneered, suggests you pay off one credit card (or loan) at a time, starting with the lowest balance. Checking it off your list will satisfy your need for instant gratification.
  • The debt avalanche method, a response from personal finance experts, suggests you pay the debt with the highest interest first, regardless of balance. That’ll help you avoid accruing tons of interest and save you money in the long run.

The snowball method is sort of made for folks like you and me.

We don’t get too excited about making the most perfect financial decisions, but achieving a few simple goals is enough to motivate us to keep working.

3. Figure Out Where All Your Money Is Going

To keep tabs on my spending habits, I use Trim, a Facebook messenger or text bot that helps you hold yourself accountable. It’s like a personal financial assistant that lives in your phone.

It lets me see where my money is going (or being wasted) by showing me recent transactions anytime I ask. It’ll also show me how much I’ve spent on Amazon recently, so I can see whether my impulsive ebook purchases are getting out of control.

The best part about Trim by far is it’ll help you negotiate bills with companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers. And it helps you cancel recurring expenses you no longer need (like magazines, gym fees, etc.).

Because it’s a bot and doesn’t have a ton of important stuff to do all day like you do, Trim will keep negotiating until it succeeds at saving you money. It’s free to use and just keeps 25% of whatever it saves you.

To get this little bot in your life, sign up with Facebook or your email address.

4. Create a Super-Simple Budget (No Spreadsheet Required)

By this point, you won’t be surprised to learn I hate budgeting.

My tastes and plans change quickly, so I can never predict exactly how much I’ll spend on, say, groceries, clothes or gas in a month. In March, I might be super into kale salads, but by June I’ll probably be back to my mostly-macaroni-and-cheese diet.

But one of our writers discovered a budget I can get behind. It’s from an unexpected source: a 2006 book by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi.

The budget follows the 50/20/30 rule:

  • 50% of your monthly income is the max for essentials: housing, food, utilities and minimum credit card payments.
  • 20% goes toward financial goals: retirement and other investments, debt repayment, and saving for emergencies and that yacht you’ve had your eye on.
  • 30% goes to personal spending — i.e. having a life. Dining out, drinks with the gals, vacations and Netflix should cost no more than a third of your budget.

The simple spending caps make it easy for me to keep my spending in some sort of order without obsessing over spreadsheets and pie charts. (Ooo! I should grab a pie on my next grocery run…)

5. Start Investing Just a Teeny Bit of Money

Investing might seem intimidating, but why not try out the micro version?

Stash makes it easy to start investing — and snag a $5 sign-up bonus. You don’t have to have an MBA or even make it all the way through “The Big Short” to understand how to invest with this app.

You just link your bank account, and Stash does the rest by pulling a set amount and investing it in the stock market based on your interests.

To get the $5 bonus:

  1. Download the Stash app.
  2. Link your bank account, and decide how much you want to automatically invest each week.
  3. It probably won’t save you enough to retire on, but it’s a great way to become familiar with investing.

6. Turn All Your Confusing Debts Into One Simpler Debt

One big obstacle to repaying debt on time? So many monthly payments to manage.

Consolidating your debt could simplify the whole process and substantially lower your monthly payments.

A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in the same boat, it might be worth seeing if you can consolidate and refinance your debt.

A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan for your situation.

The site searches lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in three steps. Its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed interest rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

7. Tackle Your Student Loan Debt (Yeah, We Have to Address This)

Student loan debt is a unique beast.

It entangles you in this strange affair with your alma mater, the government, some private company you’re barely aware of, banks and sometimes debt collectors. Not a fun party.

To make things a little simpler, one of my first steps after college was to update my federal loan repayment plan (because a financial-aid advisor kept calling me, and this is what she advised when I finally answered).

I couldn’t afford the standard monthly payments, so I applied for a direct-consolidation loan, which combined my multiple loans into one with an average weighted interest rate and longer repayment period.

Then I applied for an income-driven repayment plan to cap my monthly payments based on my income.

If you have private loans or don’t like the repayment terms you get with a direct-consolidation loan, consider student loan refinancing. It works a lot like direct-consolidation loans, except you do it through a private lender instead of the federal government.

Through a marketplace like Credible, you can refinance federal and private student loans.

Credible connects you with a lender to replace your multiple loans with a single loan, potentially with a lower interest rate and/or lower monthly payment, which could help you save money now and long-term.

It might seem like a small difference, but a lower interest rate can mean a lot of savings over time. It’s helping grad Ashley Williams save more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan!


Enter your info at Credible to find out what your new interest rate could be.

8. Remember That 401(k) You Started That One Time

Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track. Just don’t neglect it.

Yeah, I know. That’s exactly what you’d prefer to do, because it’s boring and complicated.

But you need to make sure your account is doing what you need it to. I know tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.

There’s a robo-advisor for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

A few of us Penny Hoarders use the service. It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.

After that, the tool is $10 a month to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and its advisors can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.

9. Sell All the Stuff You Never Needed in the First Place

Lucky for me, throughout my 20s, when I was the worst at managing money, I didn’t have much of it.

That means I didn’t do much impulse shopping or binging — because I just didn’t have the cash. Make no mistake: If I’d had a stable income, my closets would be stuffed with tiny hand-crafted pillows from indie arts fairs.

If you’re blessed with disposable income and lack of impulse control, you’ve probably got a few regrettable decisions stashed in your closets, garage and dresser drawers.

Decluttr will buy all your old CDs, DVDs and Blurays, as well as video games, game consoles, smartphones and tablets. Scan your items with your phone and Decluttr emails you a shipping label. Throw it in a box, send it off and your money shows up in your account in a few days. (Plus enter code FREE5 for an extra $5 at checkout.)

You can sell virtually anything else on letgo. This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and list your item in less than 30 seconds. It removes the hassle of selling things online, and it’s 100% free to use.

10. Earn Back Money From Your Impulse Buys

Can’t hold off on that purchase for a big sale? Do the next best thing: Buy it now and get a refund next time the price drops.

Your secret weapon here is an app called Earny. It scans your emails for receipts, looking for online purchases from participating retailers like Amazon and Target. Then it tracks the competitor prices for items you purchased and gets you money back when it finds a better price there — or even where you bought them.

Earny takes advantage of retailers’ price-match policies to negotiate a refund on your behalf. So you don’t have to do anything — just wait for a notification that you’ve earned cash back.

You’ll get a refund via your original payment method, store credit or a check in the mail. Earny keeps a 25% “success fee,” but only when it saves you money.

11. Open a Bank Account That Understands You

What’s your bank account done for you lately? If you’re not working with a lot of funds, you might not think much about it. Who cares about an APY if you never have any money in there?

But you should care about other factors, including:

  • Minimum required balance
  • Minimum required monthly deposit
  • Monthly fees
  • ATM fees
  • Overdraft policy

Considering these factors when you choose your bank account could save you a lot of money.

For example, “Overdraft protection” sounds like a helpful feature, but it can actually be dangerous. You might be embarrassed when the cashier rejects your card in the grocery check-out line. But at least you won’t spend beyond your means and incur ridiculous fees.

If you never thought of it that way, don’t worry. Neither had I. Here are some more surprising tips to help you choose a bank account when you’re broke.

Dana Sitar (dana@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.

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.

14 Times Britney Spears Perfectly Summed Up Having A Cold

“Cause to lose all my senses, that is just so typically me.”

When everyone around you is dropping like flies, and you haven’t caught it yet but you know it’s only a matter of time.

When everyone around you is dropping like flies, and you haven't caught it yet but you know it's only a matter of time.

Sony

When you accidentally drink from the same glass as someone who’s ill.

When you accidentally drink from the same glass as someone who's ill.

Sony

When you realise your mistake.

When you realise your mistake.

Sony

When you get that first scratch of a sore throat and feel the germ invading your body.

When you get that first scratch of a sore throat and feel the germ invading your body.

Sony

When your mum says, “You look tired sweetheart, are you coming down with something?”

When your mum says, "You look tired sweetheart, are you coming down with something?"

Sony

When your nose is blocked, your hearing’s gone all weird, and your eyes are watering from all the sneezing.

When your nose is blocked, your hearing's gone all weird, and your eyes are watering from all the sneezing.

Sony

When you’re propped up on like four pillows at night, with tissues stuffed in your nostrils.

When you're propped up on like four pillows at night, with tissues stuffed in your nostrils.

Sony

When it’s 4am, and you’re boiling hot then freezing cold, and keep drifting in and out of horrible hallucination dreams, and you’ve never felt more sorry for yourself in your whole life.

When it's 4am, and you're boiling hot then freezing cold, and keep drifting in and out of horrible hallucination dreams, and you've never felt more sorry for yourself in your whole life.

Sony

When you realise you always took breathing through your nose for granted, and you miss it so fucking badly.

When you realise you always took breathing through your nose for granted, and you miss it so fucking badly.

Sony

When you drag yourself to Boots and ask for the strongest shit they’ve got.

When you drag yourself to Boots and ask for the strongest shit they've got.

Sony

When you’re dosed up on so much Night Nurse you’re basically tripping.

When you're dosed up on so much Night Nurse you're basically tripping.

Sony

When you’re bedridden because you feel so rough.

When you're bedridden because you feel so rough.

Sony

When you miss your friends, your social life, and leaving the house, and you’re so done with being ill.

When you miss your friends, your social life, and leaving the house, and you're so done with being ill.

Sony

When you wake up one morning and realise you’re finally on the mend.

When you wake up one morning and realise you're finally on the mend.

Your voice is still croaky, and you can only taste about 25% of food, but you feel cosy instead of delirious.

Sony

18 Times Students Deserved An A+ Just For Being Hilarious

“i failed a student for their midterm grade, and they just sent me an email that just says ‘bruh.’”

When things learned in the classroom were useful in real life.

When things learned in the classroom were useful in real life.

Twitter: @squidslippers

When this student made their point, but did it respectfully.

And when this student helped a fellow student out.

And when this student helped a fellow student out.

Twitter: @leagalicious

When this slightly terrifying life hack was made.

And when this one did what literally all of us would do.

When a prank that shouldn’t have worked, did in fact work.

When a prank that shouldn't have worked, did in fact work.

imgur.com