Your Car Insurance Company is Probably Planning to Rip You Off — Unless You Do This

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Watch out for your wallet! Do you live in one of the five U.S. states where car insurance rates are going up this year?

According to industry reports, rates are going up this year in Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. For example, New York rates are expected to rise by 1.2%, and Indiana’s by 1.1%. Annoying, isn’t it? Here you are, probably driving less than ever, and they want to raise your car insurance premiums.

They’re ripping you off. The good news? There’s something you can easily do about it.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices and make sure you’re not getting ripped off. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Are you driving less than 50 miles a day? Do you have zero DUIs on your record? You could qualify for discounts.

Using Insure.com, people save an average of $540 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He lives in one of these five states, and he’s mad about this.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

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

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

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

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

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

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

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

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

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

Be Friendly With Neighbors

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

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

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

Submit an Offer Quickly

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

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

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

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

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

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

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

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

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

Offer Above Asking Price

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

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

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

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

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

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

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

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Make a Side Income Running a Vending Machine Business

While owning vending machines does not require any special skills, it is a business.
One of the first steps in starting a vending machine business is finding your niche and deciding what to sell. That takes a bit of research and knowing who your customer is.
To put yourself in the best position to be profitable means finding the right location.
As we continue to make our way through COVID-19, many people are still looking for ways to get items they need without physical contact with another person.

The Vending Machine Business During COVID-19

The startup costs are relatively low, sometimes around ,000. The work is flexible and often doesn’t require much day-to-day involvement. The risk is comparatively low and there is growth potential.
“Then you only work probably three days a month, basically on the whole gig,” said Ausmus. “Three four days a month can make somebody a good little extra income.”
Different types of machines have different capabilities. Some take only cash while others will process credit or debit cards. Some models have touch screens or voice capabilities.

  • Manufacturing areas
  • Offices
  • Retail spaces
  • Hotels/motels
  • Schools
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Universities/colleges
  • Correctional facilities
  • Military bases
  • Restaurants, bars and clubs

“If (your machine location has) a big break room and a lot of employees, you would have to be there once a day to fill your machines up because that’s how busy they are,” Ausmus said. Other machines like toys and candy don’t require as much restocking.
Think about where people need to wait. While waiting, they may get hungry or thirsty. Ausmus’ novelty machines need kids around.
Revenue for the vending machine industry was .2 billion in 2019, up 3% from the year before.
Many factors make owning a vending machine an attractive business venture.
Some machines have:
That data came from the Automatic Merchandiser’s Annual State of the Industry Survey — before the full impact of COVID-19 hit.
Owning and operating vending machines is big business, providing passive income without any specialized skills. It’s also called automatic merchandising.
“We’re in a tough, tough industry right now with COVID-19. A lot of stores don’t want the machines there, they don’t want the kids congregating, they don’t want people touching them,” said Scott Ausmus, director of manufacturing for National Entertainment Network, Inc. and president of the National Bulk Vendors Association.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Starting a Vending Machine Business

When looking for locations, be prepared to approach the owner or landlord with a business plan for the machine.
The more perishable the product and the busier the area, the more of your time the machine will take.
There are also machines for bulk vending like gumballs, stickers, toys, novelties and more. During COVID-19, machines popped up selling masks and hand sanitizer.
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.
There is the cost of the machine, the cost of inventory, personnel to keep it stocked, maintenance and more.
Cold beverages were the top-selling product category. A majority of vending machines involve food and beverage products including sodas, coffee, snacks and candy.
“You gotta buy the right product. If you buy the wrong product, it won’t move and you won’t make any money and you certainly don’t want to throw [product] away,” Ausmus said. “You’ve got to have the variety for people and find out which ones they want and that’s what you restock with, what sells.”

Location, Location, Location

At places like airports, vending machines often sell tech accessories and travel essentials like neck pillows, blankets and eye masks. Laundry rooms in residential buildings often have machines with detergent and fabric softener.
Basically, all you need to get started is some startup money to buy a machine, a good location and the right products.

“It’s really not a bad risk to put it in a location and find out that it’s not making enough money. … You can remove it and move it to the next one until you find that right location,” Ausmus said.
Automatic merchandising isn’t for everyone, but owning and operating a vending machine can be a good business. Being able to retrieve the money you make and restock your machines easily is the key.
With many offices, businesses and other public spaces closed or restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the vending industry is certainly taking a hit.
You will need inventory and someone to keep the machine stocked and maintained. This may require a van or truck.
Location can be about trial and error.
Then you will need an actual vending machine. There are several types, and prices vary depending on what is in the machine, whether it needs refrigeration or heating, and the interactivity.

  • Pay a percentage of sales or other fee for having your machine in their location.
  • Pay for the electricity the machine uses.
  • Ensure the security of the machine. There is money inside a machine as well as inventory. Theft and vandalism are always possible.
  • Research state and local laws and regulations.
  • Pay sales tax on the revenue the machine generates.

Key Purchase: Your Vending Machine

“One of the hardest things to do is to locate a location,” he said.
“Make sure that you have your phone number on the machine, and that the store location knows your phone number,” said Ausmus. “If somebody didn’t get what they wanted, make sure the store can give them a refund and you pay the refund back to that store. Then get out there as soon as you can to fix the machine so that you can continue to make money.”
Places with lots of foot traffic are good. Before COVID-19, that meant schools and universities, malls, office parks, etc.
Also be prepared to:

  • Remote monitoring software: This helps keep track of how the machine is working and notifies the operator if something is wrong.
  • Low stock alerts: Notify the operator when items needs replacing.
  • Vending management systems (VMS): Tracks sales and other data to help owners make better business decisions.

Running a Vending Machine Business

Vending machines serve that purpose — and make money for the machine’s owner.
Vending machine businesses are scalable, meaning it’s possible to start small and expand. You don’t have to wait for payments because customers pay when they purchase an item.
Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.
Perishables need to be stocked more often than other items. Learning some basic maintenance skills could keep you from having to hire someone if there is a problem with the machine.
Machines range from about ,500 for a used or refurbished machine to several thousands for a new, high-end machine with many technical features.
There were 2,175,756 vending machines in service in 2019 in a variety of locations including:
While the startup costs are low and the income is often passive, owning vending machines is not without risk. You must be able to understand your own financial situation and how much you can afford to invest.
He grew up in the vending business. The machines he sells and operates are the novelty kind, offering things like stuffed animals, toys and gumballs. Many are in restaurants and entertainment venues like bowling centers.
Buying directly from a manufacturer or supplier is one option, as is purchasing on a secondary market. Some companies also rent machines. Ausmus cautioned to make sure there are spare parts and support available for what you buy.
“There’s a higher profit in the gumball then there is anything else,” Ausmus said. “The cost of goods is low on the gumballs and everybody likes gum, so everybody still purchases a gumball and so that is a winner for a lot of people.”

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

Dear Penny,

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

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

-R.

Dear R.,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Earn Extra Money by Joining Online Focus Groups

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

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

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

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

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Online Focus Groups: a Viable Side Hustle

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

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

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

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

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

What You Do in a Paid Focus Group

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

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

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

Where to Find Online Focus Group Jobs

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

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

Respondent

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

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

WatchLAB

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

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

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

Focusscope

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

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

FindFocusGroups.com

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

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

User Interviews

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

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

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

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

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Work from Home While Schooling Your Kids

Parents all over the United States have had to make lofty and quick adjustments due to the pandemic erupting the daily routines many of us haven’t had to change in quite a while. Feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion, and sheer confusion have consumed many; leaving the evergreen thoughts about how to best accommodate our children while simultaneously completing remote work effectively. If you have been struggling with finding a balance or could use some extra pointers to smooth out this process; see the tips below and breathe a little easier knowing there’s additional help available. 

Wake up at least an hour earlier 

I know, this is probably the last thing you wanted to hear fresh out of the gate. However, take this into consideration – you can use this uninterrupted time to knock out some tasks, enjoy your cup of coffee or breakfast before the day truly begins. Rushing (especially in the mornings) tends to set a precedence for the day, causing your mind and body to believe that a pace of hurriedness is expected; generating feelings of burnout very easily. Crankiness, low engagement, and minimal productivity doesn’t serve you, your work, or your children well. Use this solo time to still your thoughts so you are able to be fully present for all things the day holds. While this may take some time to get used to initially, you’ll thank yourself when you have the energy to handle any and everything! 

Set and abide by a clear routine 

Comparing your child’s school schedule in conjunction with your personal work obligations very clearly can showcase what needs to get done and when. Reviewing this every evening beforehand or once a week with your children creates new, positive habits that become easier to follow over time. Not only does this mimic physical in-school setting, but it also generates responsibility and a sense of accomplishment for your little ones. If necessary, communicate with your manager if there are time periods you need to be more present to assist your children with any assignments. 

Designate ‘do not disturb’ time periods 

Depending on your work demands, there are conference calls and online meetings that may have to happen while the kids are completing their individual assignments or classroom time. To make sure everyone fulfills their tasks with minimal interruptions, create time periods that are dedicated to completing the more complex tasks that require a more intense level of focus. To avoid any hiccups, give some leeway before the blocked time to address any questions or concerns. While this doesn’t guarantee that nothing else arises, it establishes peace of mind so that your thoughts can be directed to the tasks that lie ahead.    

Plan out all meals for the week

If meal prepping wasn’t your thing before, it definitely should be now. Having lunch and/or dinner already prepared not only saves you time (which is a necessity) but also helps to normalize the growing grocery bill that seems never-ending. Planning not only avoids confusion and lengthy food conversations, but it also sets a routine the entire family can abide by. Easy food items such as tacos, burrito bowls, sandwiches, and an assortment of fruit provide a healthy balance – while avoiding ordering fast food or takeout multiple times a week.  

Establish a ‘lessons learned’ list 

Similar to an end of year job evaluation, you and your family can take a personal inventory of the things that have worked effectively – while taking note of the things that didn’t. At the end of every week have a very candid conversation with your children. Ask them what worked for their schooling and also self-assess the positives during your remote work. Remember to keep an open mind! Instead of automatically responding with frustration, consider how much of an adjustment this is for kids. They’re accustomed to a multitude of settings and environments, which develops their reasoning and comprehension skills. If they identify something was less than satisfactory, ask what can be done (within reason) to improve their new learning environment. These notes can take place on sticky notes, a large whiteboard, or a simple notepad. This doesn’t have to be a serious sit-down conversation; it can almost be presented as a game. Keeping track of these items will help you all make tweaks as necessary while finding a solid sweet spot.  

Give yourself (and your children) grace 

Life as we knew it switched in the blink of an eye. The busyness of going into the office, dropping the kids off at school, and shuffling them to extracurricular activities stopped more abruptly than any of us could have imagined. As we all know but don’t like to admit, every day isn’t a good day. There are many nuances that happen throughout the course of time that can derail our plans, leaving us to feel defeated. But before going off to the deep end, remember this – every day serves as a chance to start over. If the food wasn’t prepared ahead of time it’s okay. If the workday didn’t go as smoothly as expected, it’s quite alright. Take a deep breath and remember we are all doing the best we can with what we currently have. Learning to navigate new waters such as this is only achieved through trial and error.   

Celebrate the small wins 

Let’s face it – this is new for all of us! While online learning and remote work have been in place for more than a few months, we have to grant ourselves grace. So, if you haven’t already – give yourself and your children a pat on the back! Plan safe outings you and your family can enjoy such as picnics, movie nights, or any outdoor activities. Getting some fresh air for at least 30 minutes during the day can help boost productivity and the moods of you and your children! Each week may not be easy, but it is rewarding to know that the effort you’ve put forth as a parent is a positive contribution to your family.   

One question that we all need to ask ourselves is-will we ever gain this amount of time with our families again? Let’s embrace this moment with learning and lasting memories.  

The post How to Work from Home While Schooling Your Kids appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Sell Travel Photos and Turn Your Memories into Cash

One way to make money while you’re stuck between the four walls of your home: take a trip down memory lane.

If you travelled a lot prior to the pandemic, dig through your old photos. Pause when you find the ones that take your breath away.

You can sell those breathtaking photographs, bringing in a little side income even while your travel plans are grounded. Here’s how to sell travel photos.

Sell Your Travel Photos to a Stock Agency

When you sell your travel photos to a stock agency, you’ll upload a high-resolution version of your image to their website. Then, the agency connects those shopping for images with your work. For each photo sold, you’ll earn a royalty.

Because you’re often signing away some of the rights to your photography when you work with a stock agency, be careful to pick the right agency the first time. You usually won’t be able to list your images on more than one site.

There are many microstock agencies that pay pennies for each photo sold. Instead, check out these five sites that pay $100+ per photo.

Sell Your Photos to Travel Magazines

Before publishing moved predominantly online, selling photos to travel magazines was a lucrative venture. Today you likely won’t be able to build a career on travel magazine photography alone, but you can bring in some side hustle income.

Most photographers aren’t going to break into major magazines like National Geographic, especially on their first try. But a practical alternative is looking for local magazines based in the places you have traveled.

For example, if you took a trip to the Adirondacks and got some gorgeous shots, you could submit them to Adirondack Life. This magazine pays between $75 and $400 per image.

If you have compelling images from your sojourn in the Nevada desert, Nevada Magazine may be interested in them. Here, you’ll make $25-$250 per image.

 

Get Paid to Photograph Campsites

HipCamp is the Airbnb of campsites. And just like on Airbnb, the people who list their properties on HipCamp could use the help of a photographer. Visually appealing listings get booked more often.

HipCamp works with photographers — including amateurs — to facilitate this photography service. Here’s what photographers get for visiting a campsite and providing their services:

  • $75-$100 cash compensation per campsite.
  • Free stay on the property.
  • Ability to bring others along with you on your trip.

You have to submit 15-20 photos per campsite. Prior experience isn’t mandatory, but the end product must be high-quality, and your equipment has to be quality, too.

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Sell Prints or Novelty Items

Another way to make money off of your travel photography is by selling prints or novelty items with your photograph printed on them.

Smugmug, for example, allows you to sell your photography on coffee mugs, magnets, coasters, ceramic tiles and more. You can also sell photo prints, and you get to keep 85% of the profit.

If you want to keep even more of the profits, you can sell your photography on Etsy. Etsy pays you 96.5% of each sale minus $0.20. On Etsy, you’ll either have to make all novelty items yourself or enlist the help of a drop shipper who also offers printing services.

Pro Tip

Remember: You can boost your sales on all platforms by marketing your work on social media.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Here Are 9 Options for Finding Free or Cheap Audiobooks

Though I own hundreds of books, I rarely find time to sit down and crack one open. I do, however, make use of my time in the car to listen to audiobooks.

But how do you get the audiobooks you want without paying a lot of money? There are a number of audiobook services available, but the options can be overwhelming.  Finding the right audiobook service is a matter of finding the right one for how you like to read.

9 Services for Cheap Audiobooks

Here’s our rundown of some of the best services where you can grab a book for your ears.

1. Audible

Audible is a big name in audiobooks. As a part of Amazon, it’s heavily marketed and easily available, but it has its pros and cons.

Pros

  • Audible boasts one of the largest audiobook libraries out there with more than 600,000 titles and 100,000 podcasts, according to a company spokesperson. Whatever you like to read, you can probably find it on Audible.
  • You get to keep any titles you read even if you cancel your subscription.
  • Your membership also gets you access to a number of podcasts, as well as subscriptions to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
  • You also get daily deals and an extra 30% discount on additional book purchases.
  • You can download the books you choose and listen offline.
  • You can try Audible out with a no-cost, 30-day trial period.

Cons

  • Audible is a subscription service with five different subscription plans, the cheapest being $7.95 per month. At that lowest tier, though, you are unable to earn extra credits, and you won’t get discounts on premium selection titles or access to exclusive sales.
  • The other membership plans are pricy. They include monthly subscriptions of $14.95 for one credit per month or $22.95 for two credits per month. Annual plans are also available; they cost $149.50 for 12 credits per year or $$229.50 for 24 credits per year.
  • Unused credits expire after one year. They also expire when you cancel your membership.

2. Audiobooks.com

Audiobooks.com is another subscription service, much like Audible.

Pros

  • Very large selection with over 200,000 titles.
  • Access to over 88 million podcast episodes for free.
  • Your subscription includes one book per month.
  • You can buy extra credits as needed. One credit equals one book.
  • You get free extra VIP books each month with no additional charge. VIP titles are older, less popular books, but they aren’t all obscure. For example, one book currently on the list is Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”
  • With a  free 30-day trial you get one book free and can also select from the VIP collection.
  • You can stream books or download so you can listen offline.

Cons

  • It’s expensive at $14.95 per month.
  • VIP titles are limited and may not be of interest to you.

3. Scribd

A woman listens to something on her headphone while laying on a bean bag chair.

Scribd is a subscription service that allows you to access “unlimited” audiobooks and also offers features like ebooks, podcasts and even sheet music.

Pros

  • At $9.99 it’s cheaper than Audiobooks.com and you get to listen to as many books as you want.
  • There are a lot of extras like Kindle books, magazines and even sheet music available with your subscription.
  • It includes a 30-day free trial.

Cons

  • The term “unlimited” isn’t 100% accurate. Users in the iPhone app store complain that after two or three popular books, your ability to read new and popular titles  becomes very limited for the rest of the month.
  • You’re renting rather than buying the books, so you cannot keep them.
  • The platform is not loaded with extras like some of the other services.

4. Downpour

For $12.99, subscription service Downpour gives you one credit (good for any one book) per month. You can spend them as you go or save them up. Or you can simply rent or buy books without a subscription, but you’ll pay a little more for each title.

Pros

  • Less expensive than Audiobooks.com.
  • You own the books and can keep them even if you cancel.
  • You can download and listen offline.
  • You have the option to buy or rent books outside of the membership. Rentals are less expensive, but, if you buy the book, you’ll pay more than you would with a membership.

Cons

  • Smaller selection with just 80,000 titles (and counting).
  • No free trial.
  • Each credit expires after 12 months.
  • Books for purchase are pricy, though there is a tab for “Daily Deals” with sections for downloads under $15, $10 and even $5.

5. Chirp

Chirp is a sister site of Bookbub, an e-book site. When you sign up for the service, you get a daily email featuring special deals. Many of the deals are $3.99 or less for each book.

Pros

  • No subscription needed, so you only pay for what you buy.
  • You buy rather than rent the books, so they’re yours to keep.
  • You can purchase from a wide selection of books at regular price.
  • There is a “my wishlist” section where you can list out the books you want to listen to and get alerts if they go on sale.

Cons

  • The deals are random and not catered to your taste, so you may or may not see books on sale that you actually want to read.

6. Apple Books

A couple listen to an audiobook from one of their devices.

Apple Books is a store for iPhone and Mac users to purchase audiobooks. It’s not a subscription site, just a pay-for-what-you-want store.

Pros

  • New and popular books are available, as well as classics.
  • Apple editors curate general lists to help readers find new books.
  • You keep your audiobooks right on your phone.
  • You can download books and listen to them from your Apple Watch while you workout.
  • No pressure to download books to justify a monthly expense.

Cons

  • Limited to iPhone and Mac users.
  • Individual books can be expensive.

7. Google Play Books

Google Play Books is much like Apple Books, but for Android and PC users, and with a few more perks.

Pros

  • No subscription, just buy what you like.
  • Listen to previews before committing.
  • Good sales and prices overall.
  • Can be used on iPhones and Macs.
  • Large selection of audiobooks.

Cons

  • No freebies.

8. Librivox

The Librivox audiobooks website declares “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” So what does that mean? Basically, it’s a free library of audiobooks that are old enough to have outlasted their copyright. They are read by volunteers.

Pros

  • Completely free to use.
  • Lots of great classics like “Moby Dick,” “Frankenstein” and “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglas.”
  • Available in the Apple app store.

Cons

  • Limited selection (50,000) with no recent titles.
  • No extras, such as podcasts..
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9. Your Public Library System

Of course, you can go to your local library and check out audiobooks on CD, but that’s so 2005. These days most library systems are hooked up with apps like Overdrive or Hoopla so you can check out audiobooks digitally on your phone.

Pros

  • With a library card, it’s completely free.
  • Not limited to your local library but connected to a large network of libraries, so there are many titles available.
  • You can place holds on titles you want if they are not currently available.

Cons

  • You may not find every book you want.
  • Books are checked out just like non-digital copies, so they are limited and you may have to wait for certain books.
  • New and popular books frequently have a very long waiting list.
  • You do not keep the titles, just borrow.

Happy listening!

Tyler Omoth is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

6 Places to Get a Cheap or Free Flu Shot This Year

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
The good news: Flu activity in the U.S. is unusually low at this time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It attributes the drop to precautions taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, including a record high number of Americans receiving doses of the flu vaccine.
Some providers may have limited supplies of the flu vaccine remaining — check with your location before you go.

Under the Affordable Care Act, all marketplace insurance plans must cover the cost of the vaccine. However, check your plan for details, as some set limitations on where you can get the shot for free.

Where to Get a Free or Low-Cost Flu Shot

Depending on where you live, your local health center may offer free flu shots, regardless of your insurance status. Locate a center near you by clicking here.
Just by showing your insurance card, you can get a free flu shot at many places you’re already visiting, which makes this a convenient option for most people.
If you have health insurance, you’ll likely be able to get a free flu shot. But even if you don’t have insurance, you can still find affordable — and sometimes free — options.
If campus is open, there’s a good chance your college is still offering free flu shots to college students. Most times, all you’ll need is your student ID.

Pro Tip
Community-based health centers are available in areas with limited access to affordable health care services. They provide services regardless of a patients’ ability to pay and charge for services on a sliding scale.

While the shot may be free, the office visit may not be — check before you make an appointment or show up at a clinic.

1. Local Retailers, Grocery Stores and Pharmacies

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.

Pro Tip
But getting vaccinated doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s where to get a flu shot for cheap or free — plus where you could actually snag a little extra spending money by taking your shot.

If you don’t have insurance, you can typically get the shot for less than at the following businesses:

2. Your Doctor and Urgent Care Clinics

The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.
Having two potentially deadly viruses that share some of the same symptoms makes getting the flu vaccine important for both protecting yourself from the flu and reducing the strain on healthcare facilities responding to the coronavirus.

3. Your Workplace

If there was ever a time to get the flu shot, it’s probably amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Your College Campus

The annual flu vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu and reduce the severity if you do contract it.

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5. Community Health Centers

If you have health insurance, you can get a free flu shot at a variety of places, including your doctor and urgent care clinics.
If your office closed due to the pandemic, your employer might not be offering free flu shots this year. However, if you’re still showing up to work, it doesn’t hurt to ask your human resources department if your company would sponsor an on-site flu vaccination.

6. VA Health Centers

And if none of these places work for you, check with VaccineFinder.org for vaccination locations near you. Regardless of where you choose to , get your shot as soon as possible.
If you’re a veteran enrolled in the VA health care system, you can get a flu shot for free at a VA health care facility or an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location near you. Just present a valid, government-issued identification and this flyer.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.
Ready to protect yourself from the influenza virus? Here’s where to go for your shot.
Although September and October are the ideal times to get vaccinated, the CDC notes that you can get a vaccine so long as the flu virus is circulating — flu season doesn’t officially end until around April or May.

DoorDash vs. UberEats: Which App Is Right For Your Next Side Gig?

Glassdoor review: 3.9 out of 5.
To become a Dasher or Uber Eats driver, you have to meet a baseline of requirements. Some are vehicle related and some are age and experience related.
As of Fall 2019, the company switched to a payment model where Dashers earn a higher base pay per order in addition to keeping 100% of their tips. Previously, a customer’s tip would subsidize the Dasher’s base pay.

DoorDash vs Uber Eats: The Top Food Delivery Apps Duke It Out

The two apps handle pay a little differently, both in how you get paid and how you pay for customers’ orders when you pick them up. Neither company offers guaranteed wages (unless you live in California).
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.
To make automobile deliveries, the minimum age requirement is based on your local jurisdiction, plus at least one year of driving experience. Vehicles must be no more than 20 years old. Drivers must be properly insured and can use bikes and scooters in certain markets. The age requirements are higher for those who prefer two wheels — 18 for bicycles and 19 for scooters.

Round 1: App Reviews

A woman looks at what's offered on Uber Eats.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

DoorDash Driver (Dasher) Reviews

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.
Feedback from Dashers is overall mixed, but there’s a clear preference for the iOS version of the app. Trends in negative reviews across all platforms show that many drivers have trouble with glitches and crashes, especially Android users, and that the nature of the work takes a toll on their vehicles. Many negative reviews mention that DoorDash’s strict performance metrics are a hassle.
The decision goes to our judges. (That’s you.)
This one’s easy. Both services are available in most big cities in all 50 states.

Uber Driver Reviews

After passing the checks, you’ll need to select what type of “orientation” you want. The pandemic paused in-person orientations. Depending on your market you may need to request an “activation kit” instead. Receiving your activation kit may take an extra couple of weeks, according to driver reviews.
For better or worse, apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats have disrupted the food-delivery industry. Since their launch in 2013 and 2014 respectively, restaurants across the country have outsourced delivery services to independent drivers who use the apps to make extra cash.
To qualify as a Dasher you must be at least 18. Dashers need to have a valid driver’s license. There are no car requirements, but auto insurance is required. In some markets you can make deliveries on scooters, bicycles and motorcycles.
The activation kit includes a Dasher manual, a hot bag and a credit card, which is used to pay for orders. Once you receive and set up the card through the app, you can start accepting orders.
Promotional offers are popular with both DoorDash and Uber, but they’re temporary and vary by location. Aside from sign-up bonuses and referral codes, here are a couple perks that are here to stay.

Round 2: Job and Vehicle Requirements

A woman drives for Uber.

During the pandemic, these services have seen demand like never before. For customers, the apps make ordering food from just about any restaurant as easy as opening their smartphones. For drivers, it’s almost as easy to land a delivery job hawking food from local eateries.

DoorDash

Check out how this food delivery driver may ,000 in one month.

Uber Eats

A few perks unique to DoorDash include grocery delivery options, automatic insurance coverage and health care services.

Round 3: Sign-Up Process

Because the apps are so popular, they’ve amassed more than 4.1 million driver reviews. Both companies require their drivers to use different apps than customers, a huge perk when trying to get a sense of drivers’ perspective. Worker reviews from Glassdoor are also included.

DoorDash

Uber Eats drivers get a variety of discounts and may be eligible for Uber Pro perks.
All Uber drivers receive discounts for vehicle maintenance and phone service plans. Uber also partners with Stride Health to provide health plans and tax advice. Drivers automatically receive supplemental auto insurance, which covers up to million in damages. There’s a ,000 deductible before benefits pay out.
When picking up orders, you may be required to pay for the order using the company red card from your activation kit.

Uber Eats

While DoorDash doesn’t offer health insurance, the company does partner with Stride Health, which provides free health care advising and assistance to Dashers who need help finding affordable insurance plans.
App Store (iOS) review: 4.6 out of 5.
Google Play (Android) review: 3.8 out of 5.

Round 4: Pay and Tipping

App Store (iOS) review: 4.7 out of 5.
Google Play (Android) review: 3.3 out of 5.

DoorDash

Uber Pro perks have recently expanded to all of Uber’s markets across the U.S. Only top-rated drivers receive Pro perks like tuition and gas reimbursement, and the program is designed for Uber drivers primarily, not Uber Eats drivers.

Dashers report earning between and an hour depending on location, but those earnings aren’t guaranteed. Pay is based on how many orders you accept per hour and how much customers tip you. DoorDash pays weekly through direct deposit, or you can access your earnings early through Fast Pay, for .99.

You can sign up to become a Dasher on the driver app. You’ll have to consent to a background and motor vehicle check (and pass both). They could take as little as a few days, but err on the side of a week or two.
But before you download your next job, take some time to review the key differences between DoorDash and Uber Eats so that you can make the most of your delivery gig.

Uber Eats

The general premise of the two apps is almost identical: Customers place food orders at local restaurants. The apps alert drivers in the area with the order details. The first driver to accept the order picks up the food and drops it off to the customer. Simple enough, right?
If you’re a current rideshare driver for Uber, it’s easy to start delivering with Uber Eats. You simply opt in to Uber Eats orders through the driver app and start delivering without any additional screening.

Round 5: Available Locations

People walk alongside a lake and tall buildings.

Becoming a delivery driver for DoorDash and Uber Eats is simpler than landing a part-time job. You can complete the entire process from your smartphone or computer.
Glassdoor review: 3.7 out of 5.

Final Round: Additional Perks

If you drive for both Uber and Uber Eats, your food deliveries may apply to Uber Pro, but Uber-Eats-only drivers aren’t eligible.

DoorDash

Ding! Ding! It was an even match-up. Uber Eats and DoorDash were neck and neck throughout. No knockout punches. A good few jabs by DoorDash’s insurance coverage and grocery options and a couple of hooks by Uber’s overall ratings and ability to switch to ridesharing.
Dashers also get supplemental auto insurance and occupational accident insurance for accidents or injuries that fall outside your current auto insurance. The insurance plan covers up to million in medical costs, a weekly payment of 0 for disabilities and 0,000 to dependents for fatal accidents. Coverage is automatic. There are no deductibles or premiums.
And if it’s too close to call, you can always sign up for both to see which one suits you better.
Previously, DoorDash and Uber Eats ran driver support centers in major metro areas of most states. In 2020, many of these centers closed due to the coronavirus. Some still exist, but neither company offers a comprehensive, public list of remaining locations.

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Uber Eats

For drivers new to Uber, you can sign up on the website or through the driver app. Because of the stricter vehicle requirements, the application requires more detailed information on your ride. A background check is also required, which may take three to five business days to process.
More than 3 million drivers reviewed Uber. A caveat worth noting is that Uber has one driver app. That means it’s hard to get the opinions of only Uber Eats drivers because general Uber app reviews are mixed in. Overall, reviews are positive.
Depending on your location, you can expect to earn to an hour on average. Again, those wages aren’t guaranteed because your earnings are based on orders and tips. With Uber Eats, you pocket 100% of your customers’ tips. You get paid weekly via direct deposit, or you can pay a fee to access your earnings early through Instant Pay for 50 cents.
Several differences are worth noting, though. Some minor and some major. We took a deep dive into those differences, looking at pay, vehicle and job requirements, available locations, driver reviews and more to help you make an informed decision before you start delivering.

Final Decision in DoorDash vs Uber Eats

You won’t be involved in the payment process for food orders. Partner restaurants are reimbursed directly by Uber.
After the background check clears and your application is approved, you’re free to start taking orders. No orientation or additional equipment is needed.

There are a lot more delivery options out there. Here’s how the top 10 delivery apps stack up.

Workers reviewed DoorDash more than 760,000 times.
After you’re screened and accepted as a Dasher, you can choose to deliver food in any city where DoorDash operates, meaning there are no hard location requirements. The company also launched grocery delivery services in some Midwest and West Coast areas.
Trends in negative delivery reviews on Glassdoor indicate GPS issues and trouble contacting customer service. Several drivers mentioned problems with promotion and surge pay (bonus pay during in-demand times). Negative reviews regarding vehicle wear-and-tear are common.