These 4 Online Jobs Will Let You Work From Home. Here’s How to Apply

Well, you’re here right now, so I’m operating under the impression that one of the following assumptions must be true:

A. You’re casually looking for a work-from-home job.

B. You’re desperately searching for a work-from-home job.

C. You’re reading this because you’re trying to distract yourself from cubicle life, and, therefore, you’re a person who should be interested in landing a work-from-home job.

D. Your finger slipped while you were scrolling your phone, and you accidentally clicked into this article.

If A through C sounds like you, you’re going to want to stick around.

And if you identify most strongly with option D, you should know that working from home is a pretty sweet deal and that I have some really awesome work-from-home job options to show you today — and maybe, just maybe, your finger slipped serendipitously and your life is about to change for the better.

But what do I know?

Well, this much at least: Working from home is pretty awesome. You roll out of bed at the last possible second and grab some coffee you didn’t have to wait in a forever-long line for. Then you just open up your laptop — and that’s it! No frustrating commute, awkward elevator small talk or gray cubicle walls involved.

Have I convinced you yet? Good, because I’m about to share four awesome work-from-home job opportunities that you’ll definitely* want to apply for today.

*If you decide these work-from-home jobs aren’t the right fit for you and your lifestyle, don’t worry. If you go ahead and like our Jobs page on Facebook, you’ll be the first to know about new and awesome job opportunities. We post them there whenever we find them!

4 Work-From-Home Online Jobs You Can Apply for Now

If you’re A through C, here’s the info you’ve been waiting for. If you’re D, here’s the info you didn’t know you wanted until 60 seconds ago.

1. Customer Experience Associate at ClassPass

ClassPass provides customers with a fitness studio membership that allows them to try out a variety of fitness classes in their community.

The company is currently looking for weekend and evening customer experience associates to work from home.

You’ll respond to customer inquiries via email and live chat, identify and report site and app issues and optimize the overall customer experience — all while maintaining a high satisfaction rating.

The right fit for this job will be positive, helpful, a quick learner and able to adapt to a variety of situations. You should also have excellent written and verbal communication skills with a keen eye for grammar.

There are two shift options to choose from, and the company asks that you note which shift you’d prefer in the application form when you fill it out. The evening shift requires availability from Monday to Friday, 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. EST, while the weekend shift stretches from Saturday to Wednesday, 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. EST.

This position pays $40,000 per year and comes with some really great benefits including medical coverage, flexible vacation time, a 401(k) and a complimentary ClassPass membership.

To apply for this job, go here.

2. Customer Experience Advisor at Warby Parker

Warby Parker is an online-based eyeglass retailer.

The company is currently looking for a part-time customer experience advisor to assist customers and deliver an “above-and-beyond shopping experience.”

You’ll be tasked with assisting customers via email, processing sales, maintaining customer relationships, routing inquiries into the proper channels and helping customers with styling advice and general order completion.

A good fit for this position will be a creative problem solver, an expert communicator, detail-oriented and extremely organized.

You must be available to work at least 20 hours per week (including some weekends), and should be based in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. You’ll be required to spend a three-week (Monday through Thursday) training period in the Nashville office.

We’ve reached out to the company to ask about pay for this position and will update this post when we hear back.

Benefits and perks include a retirement savings plan with company match, an annual eye exam and free eyewear (plus discounts for friends and family).

To apply for this job, go here.

3. Customer Service Rep and Scheduler at Museum Hack

Museum Hack provides “unconventional” tours in the world’s greatest museums.

The company is currently looking for part-time customer service reps to work from home. For the right fit, the part-time independent contractor position has the potential to become a full-time contractor position.

You’ll be tasked with responding to client questions via phone and email, handling difficult customer situations, sending invoices, managing event calendars, scheduling tours, booking travel and tour opportunities and, occasionally, writing web content.

You should have prior experience working both remotely and in customer service, nearly perfect English communication skills, the ability to do high quality, detail-oriented work and strong technical know-how.

You should be available to work 15 to 20 hours per week, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST. You may also occasionally be asked to work on weekends before 11 a.m. EST.

Pay for this position is $12-15 per hour, depending on experience.

To apply for this job, go here.

4. Care Agent at Ibotta

If you don’t know what Ibotta is, you probably should.

The company is currently looking for a part-time care agent to work from home in Colorado.

You’ll be tasked with analyzing and responding to customer emails, working through fraud reports, moderating receipts, searching out issues with the app and general problem solving wherever the customer experience is at stake.

You should have prior customer service experience (prior remote work experience is a plus!), a genuine, pleasant demeanor, a can-do attitude with a serious attention to detail, excellent interpersonal skills and strong written and verbal communication abilities. A four-year degree is preferred but not required.

You must, however, have a firm grasp on technology and a working knowledge of both Android and Apple products.

You must be available to work up to four seven-hour shifts per week, including some nights and weekends.

This position pays $12 per hour.

To apply for this job, go here.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

Secret Hopper Won’t Make You Rich, but it’s a Great Way to Drink Free Beer

There’s no denying it — I’m a beer geek.

One of my favorite things to do on a weekend — or anytime, really — is to head to a local brewery and try its newest offerings. There’s nothing better than seeing a nice beer sampler lined up in front of me. The variety of colors, aromas and flavors is a blast to experience for the first time.

But then comes the check. Exploring the awesome world of hoppy pale ales and malty stouts and porters can get expensive.

At least that used to be the case. Now, I’ve found a way to visit local breweries, try their wares and help them make their businesses better — and get free beer!

How to Get Free Beer as a Mystery Shopper

An photo of the inside of Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa, Fla.

Photo courtesy of Coppertail Brewing Co.

There’s a relatively new company out there called Secret Hopper that invites beer lovers to secret shop at breweries. When I found out about this thanks to a loyal Penny Hoarder reader, I signed up immediately.

Within a few days, I had an email from Secret Hopper co-owner Andrew Coplon saying he thought there would be some opportunities coming up in my area. A couple weeks later, I had my first assignment.

My task was to head to Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa, Florida, and order a flight of four beers, followed by a pint of my favorite brew. OK, no problem here. The brewery had several new offerings on the board, including a couple Belgian pale ales, which I thoroughly enjoy.

How did I rate the beers? I didn’t. Secret Hopper isn’t about rating the beers themselves, but the experience at the brewery.

Were you greeted when you came in? Did they offer a sampler? Did the bartender engage you in conversation? There is a rather extensive questionnaire you fill out after visiting the brewery. It helps to review it beforehand so you know what to look for while you’re there.

In my case, Coppertail was slammed when I arrived, so while staffers did not do everything on the list, who could blame them? No one wants to see a bartender having a long conversation with a customer while eight more are waiting to order a beer.

How to Become a Secret Hopper

Freshly poured beer sits on a table at Rapp Brewing Company in Seminole, Fla.

Are you a fan of craft beer? Secret Hopper can help you try new beer for free by giving you the task of trying out a brewery and then rating them on your brewery experience. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Signing up to be a Secret Hopper is easy. Just go to the web page and fill out the simple form. It will ask you about your age, gender and general beer knowledge.

“We select our secret hoppers according to demographics,” said Coplon. “We are looking for people who want to do more than just get free beer. We are looking for people who can tell a true story about their experience. Age, gender and level of beer drinker is also a factor.”

If your information is a match for what Secret Hopper needs in your area, the company will reach out to let you know you’re on the list.

Then, when it’s lined up some breweries that need a secret shopper visit, you’ll receive an email with dates and times. Choose which ones work best for you. Once I picked my date, Coplon told me I’d be headed to Coppertail.

The breweries in Tampa Bay are pretty spread out, so I was happy to get one that is close to home.

Once my visit was done, I filled out the questionnaire and emailed a photo of my receipt. My bill was about $16 for the sampler plus a pint and a tip. I was paid $20 via PayPal within a day or two.

For Coplon, it’s a dream job. “Both my wife and I had a lot of interaction in customer service. It’s about more than the dinner on your plate. It’s about creating an overall experience. What can we do to make a little extra money and also have a good time with something we love?”

The company isn’t in every part of the country just yet, but it continues to grow and will need more Secret Hoppers in the future.

Admittedly, being a mystery shopper at breweries isn’t the dream side hustle I’d hoped it would be. But, that was never Coplon’s intention.

“It’s not a career or even a part-time job. If you’re going to go out already, we’re happy to pay for it,” he said. “We are looking for people who want to do more than just get free beer. We are looking for people who can tell a true story about their experience.”

In short, if you like to head out to your local breweries, have a couple beers and maybe help them create a better customer experience, you may dig being a Secret Hopper.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He’s been spotted at local breweries a time or two, sometimes in lederhosen. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

Spice Up The Party (for Cheap) With These 3 Homemade Salsa Recipes

Snacking is one of my favorite activities — you can do it while you’re reading, watching TV, in bed with the dogs or even while writing an article for The Penny Hoarder, like I am now (home-popped popcorn, light salt).

One of my favorite snacks when I’m in a crunchy mood is chips and lots of dip. But given that I toe the line between dad bod and straight-up beer gut, I’m trying to watch what I eat. That’s why I turn to tortilla chips and salsa when I’m feeling snacky (that is, every day).

Pain old jarred salsa from Kroger can get a little boring and is never as good as the fresh stuff, but a pound of fresh Whole Foods Market salsa pico de gallo is nearly $10 where I live in Nashville.

Heck, go to Chipotle and ask for guac and they say, (everybody chime in), “Guac is extra; is that OK?” But you want that guac so desperately that of course it’s OK to spend an extra two bucks for a spoonful of that green guacamole goodness.

Instead of paying those high store and restaurant prices to get our fix, my partner Nick and I have decided to keep things healthy by making our salsas at home. Not only is it cheaper, but it also allows us to try out a variety of flavors and gives us some bonding time in the kitchen. (Let’s be honest, though: he does the cooking, and I just sneak spoonfuls of half-made salsa when he turns around.)

Here are three of our favorite super-easy, super-healthy and super-affordable homemade tortilla chip dips.

The amount of servings, of course, depends on how well your eyes and stomach are communicating. Produce costs may vary; I’ve estimated using current produce prices at a Kroger in Nashville.

Pico de Gallo

pico de gallo ingredients

Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

The beauty of this recipe is that it is so simple I could make it without Nick’s supervision (though I don’t). Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients

2 cups red onion, diced: $1

4 to 6 medium-sized tomatoes, diced: $2

½ cup cilantro, chopped: 15 cents

3 cloves of garlic, minced: 10 cents

1 large jalapeño, seeded and diced: 10 cents

2 tablespoons of lime juice: 10 cents

Total Cost: $3.45

Directions

Prepare all ingredients on a cutting board. Combine in a large mixing bowl and stir until everything is mixed evenly. Eat with no shame, right there at the counter.

Variations

This recipe is so easy to customize to your liking over time. Depending on your preferences, you can add more jalapeño (or even throw in a habanero) or do away with them completely, if you’re averse to spicy flavors. You can cut out the garlic, go with a yellow onion instead of a red one, and you can use different types of tomatoes to alter the flavor.

Mango Guacamole

Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

Adding mango or a similar fruit to guac gives this staple dip a unique twist, but if you want to keep it traditional, use two tomatoes on the vine in place of the mango.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients

3 to 4 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced: $4

1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced: $1

¼ cup red onion, diced: 25 cents

¼ cup cilantro, chopped: 7 cents

2 cloves of garlic, minced: 7 cents

1 large jalapeño, seeded and diced: 10 cents

2 tablespoons of lime juice: 10 cents

Salt and pepper to taste

Total Cost: $5.59

Directions

Prepare all ingredients on a cutting board. Mash the avocados with a fork in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle lime juice over the avocados while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Add all ingredients to the bowl with the avocados. Stir until everything is mixed evenly. Consume as much as you can before Nick tells you it’s for your guests, who are arriving soon.

Variations

Nick and I have played with the cilantro/garlic-to-mango ratio of this recipe to adjust the sweetness; add or subtract to your liking. We’ve also swapped mango for pineapple for a different flavor and have resorted to frozen mango when fresh wasn’t available. I also would love to sneak a habanero into this recipe when Nick isn’t looking, but I haven’t been successful yet.

Corn Salsa

Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

Easily my favorite of the three, the roasted red peppers give this dip more of a kick — and when eaten fresh, warm the dip up compared to the other room-temperature options.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Ingredients

One 15.25-ounce can of sweet corn: 60 cents

1 red pepper: $1

1 large jalapeño, seeded and diced: 10 cents

¾ cups cilantro: 20 cents

½ cup red onion: 50 cents

1 tablespoon lime juice: 5 cents

Splash of olive oil

Salt, pepper and chipotle seasoning to taste

Total Cost: $2.45

Directions

Dice red pepper on a cutting board, then mix with a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper and chipotle seasoning in a bowl. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven to broil. Prepare all other ingredients on a cutting board.

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Add the red pepper when broiled to your liking (we usually broil for about 10 minutes). Stir until everything is mixed evenly. Inhale copious amounts over the sink.
Variations

We prefer to roast our red peppers for this dish, but raw red peppers give the salsa its own unique flavor. You can also use corn straight from the cob for a fresher taste.

One final tip to save even more money and make these dishes healthier/tastier: Consider growing a few of the essentials, such as peppers and tomatoes, in your own garden. Nick and I just moved to Nashville and hope to garden next year. But much like the cooking, I suspect Nick will do most of the work, and I’ll just be playing in the dirt when his back is turned.

Happy eating!

Timothy Moore is a writer and editor in Nashville who loves to eat. In fact, he’s been doing it since the day he was born. His favorite foods are burgers, peanut butter, mashed potatoes, ice cream, sour cream and jalapeños — but never all together.

Nicholas Kreider is an interior design and décor small-business owner who sometimes swaps his paintbrush for a spatula. Despite having celiac disease, Nick has a recipe for everything, but he can usually be found making something with Tim’s favorite foods.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

Turns Out 23% of Americans Have Been Carrying Credit Card Debt for 5 Years

As odd as this might sound, credit cards can be among the most frightening tools in a Penny Hoarder’s life.

I once ranked my fear of these flimsy pieces of plastic right up there with roaches and heights.

Yeah, that’s ridiculous, you say. But I’ve read a few too many surveys and studies that expose the dangers of credit cards to your personal finances.

Including this recent one from CreditCards.com that polled 2,005 Americans.

It revealed that a hefty number of us carry an outstanding credit card balance. These outstanding balances lead to a never-ending “credit-card-debt treadmill,” the site describes. (Think: The crazy 15% to 20% interest rates that come with not paying off a card.)

Here are some numbers that served up a jolt of reality:

  • Approximately 28% of Americans admitted they don’t pay their credit card bill in full each month.
  • Of those, 43% reported they hadn’t fully paid down their credit card in more than two years.
  • Nearly 23% folks have been carrying credit card debt for five or more years. In context, that’s nearly 29 million Americans.

When asked why they carry a balance, 32% of the respondents said they simply needed to cover day-to-day expenses; this was the No. 1 reason.

Other reasons included retail purchases, such as clothing or electronics (16%), medical bills (12%), home repairs (10%), vacation expenses (10%) and car repairs (7%).

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

This process will differ for everyone, but there are a few basic steps you can take to getting on track.

1. Take a Deep Breath and See What You Owe

This, perhaps, will be your most difficult step — but it needs to be done.

Take stock of your debt. One of the easiest ways to do this is to pull a free credit report, which will outline all of your accounts, including those credit cards with outstanding balances.

For this, I use Credit Sesame. It’s easy and free, and I can check in at any time to take my financial pulse. Plus, it gives me tailored advice on how to clean up my credit report and, in turn, boost my credit score.

2. Draw Up a Budget

If you don’t already have a monthly budget, now’s the time to sketch one out. (Here’s a seven-step guide.)

Within that budget, factor in some type of payment plan and how much you want to start paying off each month. No matter how slow and steady the plan is, stick to it.

3. Quit Credit Cards

Yes, there are perks to these suckers (like travel points), but if you’re struggling to manage your money or pay off debt, now isn’t the time to be tempted.

Plus, according to last year’s TD Bank “Merry Money Survey” on holiday spending, consumers end up spending less if they pay with cash.

4. Consider Credit Card Debt Consolidation or Refinancing

This might not be the best fit for everyone, but consolidating or refinancing your debt can knock down those insane interest rates and help with your monthly payments.

You’ll want to do some research first.

Start by perusing Credible’s personal loan options. It’s basically a marketplace of consolidating and refinancing options. You don’t have to commit to anything, and it makes comparing interest rates easy.

If you want more tips to pay off credit card debt, this was just the abbreviated version. We’ve got a full guide to the process here.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After writing this, she’s considering burning her one credit card.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

Delta’s Free Messaging Guarantees us More Updates on Legroom, Crying Babies

Have you ever purchased that overpriced but oh so convenient in-flight Wi-Fi? You know, the kind that costs anywhere from $16 to $28 per day?

Sure you have. It’s 2017, so the thought of an hour or two without communication makes you break into a cold sweat as the plane’s walls close in on you. The fact that you can’t text your BFF about how bored you are on your flight drives you insane.

Well, Delta is here to restore your sanity. Starting Oct. 1, Delta customers will have access to free in-flight messaging through iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Yes, free!

No More Wasting Money on In-Flight Wi-Fi

There’s a special kind of shameful purchasing that comes with flying. I’m not talking about buying overpriced junk from the crusty Skymall magazine in your seatback pocket — although a few bloody marys at 10,000 feet may make those strange garden gnomes look enticing.  

So, when airlines offer to charge you big for spotty — if not terrible — Wi-Fi, you whip out your American Express like it ain’t no thang and pay the hefty price to have some sort of connection to life on the ground.

That hefty price tag is why Delta’s new offer is changing the game.

To get your free messaging, download the apps prior to takeoff. Connect to the Gogo Inflight network once in-flight Wi-Fi is enabled, then navigate to airborne.gogoinflight.com and select the free messaging option from the dashboard. The free in-flight messaging works on virtually any Wi-Fi-enabled device, according to Delta’s website.

No, you can’t Snapchat about your lack of legroom, but you can stay connected to friends and family during your journey without draining your travel budget.

We’ll take it!

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, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

Love Searching the Web? This Company Will Pay You $12/Hr to Do It

It’s been more than a decade since we had our own personal search engine butler. (R.I.P., Jeeves.)

Google. Bing. Yahoo. Online searches just seem more impersonal nowadays.

Here’s your chance to cast judgment on the remaining cold, heartless, non-anthropomorphic search engines we rely on every day.

And the best part is you can make more than $12 an hour doing it while working from the comfort of your home.

Leapforce, a company based in Pleasanton, California, is hiring what it calls “at-home independent agents” to do search-engine evaluation on a contract basis. Indeed and Glassdoor list hourly pay for these types of gigs as ranging from $12 to $15.

You would be testing out search engines, as well as evaluating videos, mapping software and automation. (You might be assisting our new robot overlords!)

Here’s How to Snag One of These Leapforce Jobs

Leapforce has set a pretty high and specific bar to land one of these work-from-home jobs. It’s looking for educated, internet-savvy applicants with this specific set of qualifications:

  • Use of an iPhone 4s or higher, Android 4.1 or higher or a Windows phone version 8.1 or higher
  • College degree or equivalent experience — post-graduate degrees are a plus
  • High-speed internet connection
  • Excellent English writing and comprehension skills
  • Web research and analytical skills
  • Broad range of interests
  • Familiarity with U.S. pop culture

Click here and select U.S. jobs in English from the dropdown menu to apply. Applicants will be expected to pass an exam.

Of course, if you don’t have a college degree, tons of other opportunities to work from home are out there.

And be sure to follow The Penny Hoarder Jobs page on Facebook for a plethora of job prospects.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

This Study Says These are the Top 5 Side Gigs for Making the Most Money

We love good side gigs here at The Penny Hoarder, but are y’all actually trying to make some substantial pocket change?

Last month, Bankrate published a study that revealed those with side gigs are making, on average, an extra $9,948 a year.

Dang.

But what platforms are side-gig workers using to rake in this money?

Earnest, which offers personalized loans, combed its data of tens of thousands of loan applicants and found the most profitable arenas.

Ranked by the average monthly income, here are the top five:

1. Airbnb

Earnest found that the average monthly income for Airbnb hosts was $924, making it the most profitable side gig on the list.

This makes sense, as we wrote about a host who makes $1,380 a month just by renting out a backyard tent.

You don’t have to be that creative, though. Folks list spare bedrooms, vacation homes, garage apartments and even campers to bring in the bucks.

Use the platform’s calculator to see how much you could make each week.

2. TaskRabbit

Ever heard of it?

TaskRabbit is an online marketplace that matches freelancers to local demand. For example, if you need a logo made for your website, find a designer on TaskRabbit. Or if you need your lawn mowed, search TaskRabbit.

According to Earnest’s data, TaskRabbit members make, on average, $380 a month.

If you want to learn more about TaskRabbit, check out advice from these contractors, who make up to $2,000 a week.

3. Lyft

Ever wonder how much you could make driving for a ride-sharing service? Lyft and Uber come in back-to-back on this list.

The average Lyft driver pockets $377 a month, according to Earnest’s findings.

However, this is just the average. Your wages will depend on where you live and how often you drive. Earlier this year, we interviewed a guy who makes $750 per week as a Lyft driver.

If you’re curious about how much you could make, Lyft has a calculator to see how much you could make.

4. Uber

Uber comes in closely behind its competitor. Earnest states that the average Uber driver makes $364 a month.

Last year, we hunted down six Uber drivers from across the U.S. Some worked part time while others worked full time and earned upwards of $450 a week.

Want to see how much you could make? You can sign up now.

5. DoorDash

DoorDash is an on-demand food delivery service that’s located in more than 300 cities.

According to Earnest, the average “Dasher” makes $229 a month.

If you’re interested in being tempted by delicious food each day, check out more details on its site.

The side gigs that rounded out the top nine also included Postmates, Etsy, Fiverr and Getaround. If you want to see more details and breakdowns, Earnest has it all.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Do you make bank in the sharing economy? She’d be curious to hear your story!

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

Harvey and Irma’s Used Car Lot: How to Avoid the Flood-Damaged Car Scam

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were catastrophic for parts of the southern United States. In some places, Harvey released more than 50 inches of rain, and, overall, the hurricane dumped an estimated total of 30 trillion gallons of water throughout the U.S. Irma was similarly devastating, dropping nearly 16 inches of rain in Florida, with gusts reaching 142 miles per hour.

As the tens of thousands of affected people begin to rebuild their lives, the automotive market is in a state of disarray. According to Edmunds’ Jessica Caldwell, an estimated 366,000 new vehicles were destroyed on dealership lots in Texas, which is responsible for 9% of automotive retail sales in the U.S. This will likely put a dent in the profitability of the auto industry, which employs roughly 7.25 million Americans; for August, overall US auto sales decreased by 1.9%, largely due to Harvey.

Adding to this disarray, Cox Automotive estimates that 500,000 vehicles were damaged by flooding due to Harvey and another 200,000 to 400,000 were claimed by Irma, which will put just as many drivers in the market for replacement vehicles in the coming weeks. An increase in demand, as Economics 101 has taught us, will likely lead to increased used car prices for Harvey and Irma victims looking to make a fresh start.

The other unfortunate implication is that 700,000 to 900,000 flood-damaged vehicles could enter the used car market; some sellers will illegally try to pass these off as vehicles that have not been flood-damaged by obtaining new vehicle titles (called “title washing”).

While it is not clear how many cars were title-washed after Katrina and Sandy, a 2014 study from Carfax indicates that nearly 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. could be title-washed. It is telling, however, that the state with the highest number of potentially title-washed cars was New Jersey (77,096), just two years after the Garden State was devastated by Sandy.

That makes it crucial for used car shoppers — Harvey and Irma victims or otherwise — to be on high alert for signs of flood-damaged vehicles in the coming months. Below are tips to avoid purchasing a car that has been damaged by flood waters, particularly in the wake of Harvey and Irma.

How to Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Used Car

Buy from Reputable Dealers.

To avoid being swindled into purchasing a flood-damaged used car, your safest bet is to buy from a trusted dealership. These dealers have a reputation to uphold and will likely provide you with a detailed vehicle history report.

Get the Vehicle History Report

Edmunds recommends getting a Carfax vehicle history report if you suspect flood damage.

A vehicle history report will include tons of relevant information, like states in which the car has been registered. Edmunds also recommends a cheap ($7 or less) report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which will detail whether the car has been salvaged, among other key points.

You should also use the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NCIB) VINCheck to compare a used car’s VIN against a database of cars that have been totaled (including due to flood damage).

Trust Your Senses, but Also a Mechanic’s

When you are inspecting a potential used car, be on the lookout for the following:

  • Foul odors, particularly mold and mildew. These smells can signal that a car has been in standing water for a prolonged amount of time.
  • Discolored carpeting or rusted metal. Stains in carpeting or seat fabrics are also indicators of standing water. Rust on the body or the undercarriage is a sign of excessive water exposure, particularly in newer cars.
  • Inexplicable dirt build-up, like in the trunk or along the seat tracks. This is a sign that mud got into places where muddy feet typically do not travel.
  • Water build-up in headlights and taillights. Fogginess in the lighting can also be a sign of prolonged water exposure.
  • Mismatching parts, like seat materials compared to floor mats. A clever seller may replace a damaged floor mat, hoping you won’t notice that it isn’t a perfect match to the other mats or the seat fabric.

For added precaution, have a trusted mechanic give the vehicle a once-over before you sign on the dotted line. Avoid any seller who is uncomfortable with you taking the car to a mechanic.

If you do suspect a dealership or private seller of knowingly selling a flood-damaged vehicle, contact your local authorities or the NCIB immediately.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, many in our nation are in great need. Find out how you can help provide relief, even if money is tight. Just be aware of scammers — they exist outside the used car market too.

Timothy Moore has written for the automotive industry for five years. He works as an editor and writer in Nashville.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

How Meatless Mondays Can Cut Your Grocery Budget and Keep Your Family Healthy

You may have already heard that Meatless Monday is good for your health and the health of the planet. The global movement, which the Center for a Livable Future and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health created, challenges people to go meat-free each Monday to reduce their risk of disease, fight obesity and reduce their carbon footprint.

But participating in Meatless Mondays can do more than trim your waist and your impact on the environment; it can also help your wallet. After all, meat can be expensive, especially compared to fruits and vegetables. Going meat-free for one day a week can teach you some great tricks to keep your grocery budget low.

Here are 10 simple swaps you can make to get started today.

*Prices are averages for my local area and could vary by region.

1. Tofu to Replace Chicken Breast

Tofu is marinated in dill pickle juice before being fried to make tofu nuggets.

Marinate tofu in dill pickle juice before frying to make tofu nuggets. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Tofu is one of the most versatile meat substitutes. Made from condensed soy milk, it has a soft, mushy texture and not much natural taste, which means you can make it fit a ton of different recipes. Grill it, fry it, bake it, cover it in breading or top it with sauce or press it to make it denser and chewier. You can prepare tofu to mimic chicken, fish, pork and more so it fits a wide array of recipes. It’s low in calories, has zero cholesterol, and is packed with protein, iron and calcium.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Tofu costs just $1.82 per pound versus chicken at $3.29 per pound for boneless breast.

2. Tempeh instead of Mahimahi

Made from cooked, fermented soybeans, tempeh has a firmer, meatier texture than tofu and can be easier to digest than other protein substitutes like legumes. It’s a good source of fiber, protein, antioxidants, calcium and iron.

With a slightly sweet, nutty taste on its own, tempeh can be baked, grilled, stir-fried and more, and will absorb whatever flavors you cook it in. When you use it wisely, it can be comparable if not slightly cheaper than other meats per pound — and it’s healthier.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Tempeh costs $3.98 per pound, whereas mahimahi costs $14.99 per pound.

3. Texturized Vegetable Protein as Bacon

Also made from soy, TVP is sold in a variety of forms, from flakes to chunks to nuggets. It’s relatively cheap and high in protein, and it can mimic everything from stewed beef to bacon bits. Since it’s dehydrated, it’s also great at absorbing whatever spices and seasonings you cook it in. About 2 cups of dried TVP crumbles is equal to about a pound of bacon or ground beef.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Two cups of dry TVP costs just $1.09 per pound (Bob’s Red Mill TVP), while bacon rings in at $5.74 per pound.

4. Seitan for Pork Dishes

Seitan is made from wheat gluten, so gluten-sensitive folks should skip this option. It’s low in cholesterol, carbs and calories, and high in protein. With a savory taste and a nice meaty texture, it’s great in Asian dishes and as a pork alternative. It’s also easy to cook. Just please don’t pronounce it like the evil deity: It’s “say-TAN,” not “Satan.”

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Two cups of dry wheat gluten will run $1.53, but pork checks in at $2.63 per pound.

5. Lentils Instead of Ground Beef

A bowl of vegan shepherd's pie with lentils, tomatoes, carrots, onions, celery and topped with sweet potatoes is served for dinner.

Lentils are a great meat replacement for many dishes, including this lentil and sweet potato shepherd’s pie. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

High in fiber, protein and magnesium, lentils are hearty, easy to cook and are a great replacement for ground beef. They also come in a wide variety of colors, texture and flavors, and work well in both cold and hot recipes. For a filling, flexible and affordable meat alternative, they’re definitely worth keeping in your pantry.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Dry lentils cost just 24 cents per cup, while ground beef is $3.59 per pound.

6. Black Beans and Chickpeas for Chili

With so many varieties to choose from, we could do a whole list on beans and legumes themselves. High in protein and fiber, they work great in chili, salads, burgers and more. Check out black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto beans to start, then branch out into more exotic options like adzuki beans.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Dry black beans run $1.99 per pound and canned chickpeas are just 80 cents per pound. Ground beef, on the other hand, costs $3.59 per pound.

7. Walnuts for Your Burgers

Protein powerhouses, nuts can add meatiness to vegan or vegetarian burgers, loaves and more. They’re also great sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as heart-healthy fats that lower LDL (or bad) cholesterol. They can, however, be high in calories and fat, so be sure to intersperse nut-heavy recipes with those that are lower in calories and fat for a more balanced diet. Nuts can also be pricy, but these recipes actually only call for ¼  to ½ cup of nuts per serving.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Chopped walnuts cost $1.85 per cup, whereas ground beef is $3.59 per pound.

8. Eggplant as Meatballs

With a rich taste and texture, eggplant makes a yummy substitute for beef. Try it to make meatballs, burgers or pasta dishes like the classic eggplant parmesan. It’s loaded with fiber and antioxidants to help your heart and brain.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Eggplants cost $1.79 each, whereas a pound of ground beef will run $3.59.

9. Mushrooms Disguised as Steak

Mushrooms are a good meat substitute thanks to their earthy flavor and hearty texture. They’re nutrient rich, cheaper than processed meat alternatives and low in calories. Unfortunately, they’re not as strong a protein source as other substitutes on this list. Try them in pot pies, ground up as a salisbury steak or use a portobello as a hearty steak burger.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Two portobello mushroom caps, which cost $3.69, can replace one steak priced at $6.13 per pound.

10. Cauliflower as Taco Meat

Cauliflower may not be the best source of protein, but it makes a great dish to compliment the other swaps on this list. Mash it instead of potatoes, turn it into rice or use it as a pizza dough to boost the nutritional value of your meals and cut carbs. Or get adventurous and try it in place of meat in taco recipes, stir fries or meatballs.

Recipes to try:

Cost savings:

Cauliflower runs just $2.79 per head versus $3.95 per pound for ground beef.

Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

Make Your Kids Pay for These 7 Things: They’ll Thank You Later

The great allowance debate aside, we all want our kids to grow up to be financially smart and self-reliant. That means giving them the opportunity to practice handling and managing money. We all know it is better for them to make mistakes with $5, $20 or even $200 than to make major $50,000 mistakes as adults.

Whether your kids get a no-strings-attached, weekly allowance, are paid for chores or are given the opportunity to pick up small jobs at home and in your neighborhood, here are seven expenses they should be paying for themselves.

1. Checkout Line Gimmes

The checkout line is much less stressful when kids have their own money. You don’t have to feel like the mean parent who says no all day, but you also don’t have to indulge your child’s every last desire.

“Mom, can I have this 53rd pack of Pokemon cards or a bag of potato chips?”

“Sure! If you have enough money.”

2. Lost Lunchboxes, Backpacks, Etc.

Looking back, I’m surprised my mother didn’t tie all of my brother and my belongings to us each morning when we left for school. We were notorious for the sweater left in the gym locker room, a lunch box freezer pack accidentally thrown in the garbage or a mitten forgotten on the bus.

Sometimes we were able to recover our possessions, but others were lost for good. One way to get your kids to respect the cost of their stuff is to require them to replace it themselves.

If a lost item is too expensive, feel free to advance them the money if necessary — but expect them to pay you back through their allowance or side projects. And be sure to let them know that repaying debts comes before that new Lego video game.

3. Library Book Fines

Borrowing from the library is often a child’s first experience with loans and financial consequences. Teach them that if they are old enough to have their own library card, they are old enough to keep track of when their books are due.

A 15-cent late charge is better than a $25 late charge that can hurt their credit score as an adult. If they struggle with the concept, help them mark the due dates on the family calendar or let them put sticky notes with due dates on the book covers.

4. Toys and Video Games

Aside from holidays and birthdays, we can’t try to shell out for each and every thing our child sets their eyes on. Toys and video games are the perfect introduction to saving for most kids and a larger expense they can fund themselves.

Putting money in the bank for college or retirement is mystifying to an average 8-year-old, but stuffing $2 to $5 a week in their piggy bank for a robot dog may make perfect sense to them. Just be sure to maintain your veto rights over inappropriate or unsafe games.

5. Holiday and Birthday Gifts

If you’ve gone to a child’s birthday party lately, you have likely seen how out-of-control gift giving has become. Weddings are even worse. It is the suburban arms race.

Help your kids understand that a great gift is one that is thoughtful — and within the bounds of what they can afford. Let them plan out gifts for their siblings’ birthdays or for the holidays. Then, either help them set goals to save for those purchases or encourage them to make something by hand instead.

6. Cell Phone Plans

If your older kids have cell phones, make sure these regular expenses aren’t hidden from them. Bill from FamZoo makes sure his kids’ allowance is high enough to cover their part of the bill, as long as they budget for it, but there are other options too.

Let your child have a basic no-data-plan phone for emergencies — but if they want to surf the web and share photos on Instagram, they have to find a way to pay for themselves. This enforces the message that you may be willing to cover the “need” of reaching your kids at any time but that the other functions of a phone are still “wants”.

7. Entertainment and Outings

Family dinners and movie nights are outings that parents still pay for — that’s the joy of being a kid!

But the kids can pay themselves if they want to go bowling with their friends, take the optional school trip to Six Flags or meet for ice cream. This gives them the opportunity to weigh their options and learn that they can afford anything — but not everything.

Childhood is about freedom and fun, but it is also about learning. Make sure you’re giving your child a chance to learn how to budget and make smart spending decisions!

Chelsea Brennan is an investment professional, mother, and founder of the family finance site, Mama Fish Saves. Her passion is helping parents feel empowered about money so they can reach their goals and raise financially smart kids!

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.