Category Archives: financial

Shopkick Review: An easy way to earn gift cards! (Plus, get a $5 gift card when you sign up!)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Have you been interested in trying Shopkick but you’re just not quite sure how it works or what it’s all about? If you’re looking for honest Shopkick reviews, this is your go-to post on all things Shopkick!

And be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for a special Shopkick promo code that will give you a FREE $5 gift card upon sign-up!

{Looking for other ways to earn gift cards? Check out our list of The Best Legitimate Paid Online Surveys!}

Earn gift cards with the Shopkick app

What is Shopkick?

Shopkick is an app that you can download to your mobile device and use to earn gift cards.

And the best part of Shopkick? You don’t even have to buy anything to earn gift cards!!

All you have to do is walk into stores and scan products (if you want to) — and it can be done when you’re already out and about running errands and doing your shopping.

Is Shopkick Legitimate?

Yes, Shopkick is 100% legitimate. I’ve been using Shopkick for a couple of years now and love it!

And many readers have commented in the past with positive Shopkick reviews, too! (See a couple of those reviews here and here.)

If you’re looking for a legitimate way to earn some extra gift cards without much extra effort, Shopkick is a really great app to try.

Earn Kicks in Shopkick

How Does Shopkick Work?

To get started with Shopkick, you simply download the app, turn on Bluetooth, and look under the “Earn” tab to see what kind of kicks are available at stores near you!

If you look in the photo above, you can see the three different symbols that represent the three different ways to earn: walk-in, scanning, or kick bates.

Many stores will give you “kicks” just for walking in! {Hint: Sometimes you don’t even have to walk all the way in. You can just walk by the store and you’ll earn your walk-in kicks!}

You can also earn kicks for scanning product barcodes — no purchase necessary! There are other ways to earn, such as purchasing products that offer “kick bates,” but I don’t bother with linking up my debit card to the account.

So that you don’t waste a lot of extra time, I recommend that you only Shopkick at stores that you’re already planning on shopping at or that you’re nearby when you have a few extra minutes to spare.

Sign up with Shopkick to earn free gift cards!

How Do I Redeem Kicks on Shopkick for Gift Cards?

It’s super easy to redeem your kicks for rewards in the Shopkick app. Just select which reward you want to try to earn kicks towards, and the app will let you know when it’s time to cash in! It’s SO simple.

And there are some great rewards to choose from, including Amazon, Starbucks, TJMaxx, Target, Walmart, Old Navy, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, and more!

When you’ve earned enough kicks to redeem for a reward, here’s what to do:

  1. Go to the “kicks center” in your app by clicking on your number of kicks at the top center of your screen.
  2. Click on the image of the gift card you’ve chosen as your reward.
  3. Click on “redeem kicks” at the bottom of the screen.
  4. (Or you can choose to “change goal” if you’d like to keep earning towards a higher valued gift card.)

You can find all of your rewards under the “my rewards” tab in the kicks center! When you’re ready to use one, just have the cashier scan the barcode of the gift card right from your Shopkick app!

Download the Shopkick app to earn gift cards

How Much Can You Realistically Earn With Shopkick?

Here’s the cool thing! By simply walking into stores and scanning products, you can easily earn at least one $5 gift card per week!

Shopkick is one of the quickest and easiest ways to earn gift cards of just about any app I’ve tried.

And you could choose to spend your smaller gift cards on splurges as you receive them OR save them up throughout the year to stretch your Christmas budget! (If you earn $5 per week, you’ll have almost $250 to use for Christmas gifts when December rolls around!)

And honestly? You can definitely earn more than that, but I like to keep it simple and not waste extra time. I only use Shopkick when I’m already out and about, shopping in a particular store, or have some extra time to kill. I never go out of my way to get kicks!

Some Final Shopkick Tips

Here are just a few more tips to make you even more successful on your Shopkick adventures:

  • Walk-ins are often the most prevalent and highest in value on the weekends.
  • Pay special attention to the holiday weekends, because they often offer higher value bonus walk-in kicks on those weekends!
  • Consider getting a group of frugal-minded friends together for a fun, free afternoon of Shopkicking. It also gives you good exercise from walking around shopping centers!

Shopkick Bonus

Get a $5 Gift Card When You Sign Up!

If this Shopkick review made you curious to try it out, I have a special bonus opportunity for you!

Shopkick is currently offering MSM readers an exclusive FREE $5 gift card when you sign up!

If you’re ready to get started, here’s what to do:

  1. Go here to download the app.
  2. Register and use promo code MOM5 during the registration process.
  3. Scan a product in-store to earn scan kicks within 7 days of signing up.
  4. A bonus of 1250 kicks will be added to your account when you earn kicks within the first 7 days.
  5. The 1250 kicks can be traded in for a $5 gift card of your choice!

This is a super rare offer (and one that I’ve honestly never seen). Typical referral Shopkick bonuses are 250 kicks, so this is a really GREAT deal to get a FREE $5 gift card just for signing up and trying the app once!

Note: If you miss inserting your promo code during the initial registration process you can still add it by clicking on the gear icon and then adding the MSM5 code in the “add friend code” box.

Sign up here with Shopkick to get started.

What’s your experience with Shopkick? Leave your Shopkick reviews in the comments! I’d love to hear!

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Should I Get a Credit Card? Here’s How to Know if You’re Ready

Credit cards: Good or evil?

Whether you’ve shunned credit cards in the past for fear of diving into a debt oblivion or you can’t wait to score some sweet plastic freedom — and the accompanying perks — deciding to get your first credit card is a big decision.

Or at least, it should be, according to Todd Christensen, an Accredited Financial Counselor and education manager with  

“I always recommend people understand they need to be ready for credit before they just go out and apply,” he said. “I’m not a fan of credit for credit’s sake.”

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act Act of 2009 was supposed to help reduce the number of young people getting credit cards the second they hit the college bookstore by making it harder for consumers under the age of 21 from getting credit cards.

However, if you can prove your ability to pay — and that income can include scholarships and grants — it’s still possible to get a credit card at the age of 18. And there are plenty of cards that are marketed specifically to college students, who may or may not be ready for a card.

Of those college students with credit cards, 36% already have more than $1,000 in credit card debt, according to an EVERFI and AIG survey of more than 30,000 college students from across the country.

“For really young people who don’t have the discipline or haven’t built the discipline yet, it is better to have no credit than to have really bad credit,” Christensen said.

But for those trying to build credit, whether to buy a house or even rent an apartment, a credit card can be the first chance to establish a history. So how do you know if you’re ready for your first credit card?

Should I Get a Credit Card?

The most important question you need to answer is whether you even need a credit card.

Just because you hit a milestone age or event doesn’t mean it’s automatically time to apply, according to Christensen. In fact, the best reason to get a first card is as a means for reaching a bigger goal.

The average Annual Percentage Rate (the yearly fee you pay for borrowing money) is 16.91%, according to the latest Federal Reserve Consumer Credit Report.

“Credit tends to be overemphasized for young people whether it’s by their parents or by their peers,” he said. “A first credit card is really meant to be a way of starting down the road of building credit with an idea of making a major purchase on credit.”

If you’re not sure whether you’re ready to handle the power of plastic, here are four questions to determine if you’re ready for your first credit card.

1. Do You Have a Good Reason for Wanting a Credit Card?

Ask yourself why it is you want a credit card.

If it’s to establish a history for future employment or to raise your credit score, you’re proving your financial maturity, Christensen explained. If there isn’t a reason in the here and now, think further down the road.

“Don’t worry about building credit until you’re about two years away from making a major purchase,” he said. “And for me, that is buying a home.”

However, if your reasons include racking up credit card rewards or wanting the convenience to snag deals on items you can’t yet afford, you are setting yourself up for failure, according to Christensen, who speaks from experience.

“I was 21, 22 when I got my first credit card, and I was not ready,” he said. “I maxed it out — a $2,000 credit card — in 36 hours. I bought a professional grade keyboard and two studio monitors.

“I was in credit card debt for almost 10 years.”

2. Do You Have Proof You’re Ready to Handle Credit?

Instead of applying for the card with the hopes that you’ll be able to manage your money, reverse those steps, Christensen advised, who offered the following minimum criteria before you apply for your first card:

  1. Build a three-month emergency savings fund. “If you don’t have that savings fund before you get a credit card, you’re likely never going to have one,” Christensen said.

  2. Have a regular income for 12 months. Either a part-time or full-time job is acceptable, according to Christensen.

  3. Create a written budget. You can find ideas for creating a budget here.

  4. Use a debit card for 12 consecutive months without having a purchase denied. Although a debit card doesn’t help you establish a credit history, it’s a great way to gauge your self control when there’s a card in your wallet.

3. Have You Done Your Research?

How well do you understand credit cards? If your financial literacy is lacking, you could end up paying for it — with interest. (Sorry, just a little financial humor.)

Understanding the basics about how credit cards work is essential, including knowing the myths about credit.

“If you think that carrying a balance on a credit card is normal, you are not ready for a credit card,” Christensen said.

Beyond that, you should also investigate a card’s terms, conditions and fees before jumping at the first offer.

If you think that carrying a balance on a credit card is normal, you are not ready for a credit card. — Todd Christensen with

“If you don’t even know what the typical rate is on a credit card, you’re going to end up with a very high-interest rate credit card,” Christensen said. “Do some research and shop around.”

By comparing credit card features like interest rates, annual fees, credit limits, penalties and rewards, you can decide what is the best card for your needs at this point in your financial life.

4. Can You Get Approved for a Credit Card?

This might seem like the first question to ask when deciding if you should get a credit card, but addressing the prior three will help make this one easier to answer.

You’ll need to gather all your relevant financial information, including your annual income, employment information and your credit score, which you can track through credit-monitoring sites like Credit Sesame (check out our Credit Sesame review here).

Pro Tip

Apply online and you could be notified within a few minutes that you’ve been approved — or receive word that the lender needs more info. Upon approval, you’ll find out your credit limit and APR.

Even if you have credit mistakes in your past — or no credit history — you still have options, including applying for a secured credit card.

With some preparation and a little patience, a credit card can be the beginning of a beautiful credit history. Or something like that.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

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Capital One Platinum Credit Card Review

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

Learn more about this card and find out how you can apply here.

The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is a no-frills, no-annual-fee credit card designed for consumers who wish to build their credit. Although it’s not a secured credit card and thus doesn’t require an upfront deposit, it has a fairly high regular APR and comes with a low initial credit limit. However, when used responsibly, Capital One Platinum is a useful bridge to higher spending limits and more generous rewards credit cards.

Capital One Platinum is comparable to other unsecured credit cards for consumers with average credit, including Capital One’s own QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards. It also competes with a host of secured credit cards designed to build and improve credit, including the Capital One Secured MasterCard and the BankAmericard Secured Credit Card.

It’s important to note that this card is stripped-down and devoid of many of the perks that more generous credit cards offer as a matter of course, such as cash back or travel rewards and early spend bonuses. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a potentially game-changing card for people who need to improve their credit standing.

Key Features

Credit Line Increase

If you make your first 5 monthly payments on time, you’re automatically considered for a credit line increase. Further credit line increases are possible with continued timely payments.

Important Fees

This card has no annual fee, balance transfer fee, or foreign transaction fee. The cash advance fee is the greater of $10 or 3%, and the late payment fee ranges up to $39.

Capital One CreditWise

Thanks to Capital One’s CreditWise suite, you’re entitled to a free credit score with your paper or online statement each month. You can also access your score at any time in your online account dashboard. Additionally, CreditWise includes a host of credit-building tools and educational content.

Credit Required

The Platinum card is for consumers with fair credit and is actively marketed as a tool for building credit. Even if your credit history is checkered or spotty, you’re welcome to apply.


  1. No Deposit Required. The Capital One Platinum Card doesn’t require an upfront deposit to secure your account. That’s a big advantage relative to secured competitors, some of which require $200 (or greater) minimum deposits before you can use your card. Most also cap your spending at the deposited amount, forestalling the possibility of a credit line increase until you scrounge up more funds.
  2. No Annual Fee. This card has no annual fee. Many of its closest competitors, including the BankAmericard Secured Card ($39) and the Citi Secured Mastercard ($25), do carry annual fees.
  3. No Balance Transfer Fee or Foreign Transaction Fee. Capital One Platinum doesn’t charge balance transfer fees or foreign transaction fees – rare perks in the credit-building category. That’s great news for cardholders who wish to transfer balances from other cards or use their Platinum cards outside the U.S.
  4. No Penalty APR. This card doesn’t carry a penalty APR, which is an excellent benefit if you occasionally miss a payment. The OpenSky Secured Visa and Citi Secured Mastercard both carry penalty APRs.
  5. Opportunity for Credit Line Increase in 5 Months.
    If you make timely payments on this card, you’re eligible for a credit line increase in as little as 5 months. Many competing cards make you wait as long as 12 months to request an increase. If you’re planning to make a large, time-sensitive purchase, or simply want more month-to-month spending flexibility, a year is a long time to wait.
  6. Useful Credit-Monitoring and Credit-Building Tools. The free credit score other Capital One CreditWise tools are super-useful for cardholders committed to building – and understanding – their credit. Some competing cards, including the BankAmericard Secured Card, don’t come with free credit scores.


  1. No Rewards. Capital One Platinum doesn’t have a cash back or travel rewards program. If you want a card designed for building credit and earning rewards, consider Capital One’s QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Card ($39 annual fee) or the Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Card (no annual fee).
  2. High APR. Even by credit-building card standards, this card comes with a high regular APR. If you intend to carry a balance from month to month, consider lower-cost options such as Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards or DCU Visa Platinum Secured, both of which have lower regular APRs.
  3. Pre-approval Credit Check Required. The Capital One Platinum application requires a credit check. While substantial credit blemishes aren’t likely to disqualify you, you probably won’t be approved for this card with a recent bankruptcy, foreclosure, or pattern of delinquency on your record. Some competing cards, such as Merrick Bank’s Secured Visa ($36 annual fee) and OpenSky Secured Visa ($35 annual fee), don’t run your credit during the application process.

Final Word

Let’s address the elephant in the room: This credit card has a highly misleading name. Platinum is a precious metal that’s worth hundreds of dollars per ounce. Travel loyalty programs’ platinum tiers are often at or near the top of their frequent traveler hierarchies, conferring luxurious benefits worthy of true VIPs. The best-known “platinum” credit card is the legendary American Express Platinum, one of the credit card world’s original status symbols.

Needless to say, the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is a not an exclusive card. However, when used responsibly, it’s absolutely worth its weight in gold – or platinum. If this Platinum card is what ultimately teaches you the value of making timely payments and spending within your means, you might just find a “real” Platinum Card in your wallet one day.

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How Women Can Regain Lost Financial Ground

When it comes to personal finance and money management, women need to talk more.

To be more specific, Natalie Elisha Gold, author of Money Momma: The Women’s Wealth Bible for the Digital Age, says women are not getting educated about money and that often has a lot to do with the fact that it’s seen as a taboo subject.

“Women are not talking about money and they don’t know where to turn,” begins Gold. “Women don’t feel confident asking questions like, ‘I don’t understand the concept of compound interest,’ or ‘Why do I need to take advantage of the employer match in a 401(k),’ and our parents are not teaching us these things.”

Women, she adds, are not given as much education about money matters as men are, and we’re not being proactive about learning what we need to know. “We’re not Googling, ‘What do I need in my financial toolbox to make sure I’m okay?’” says Gold.

All of which is particularly relevant because 39% of millennial-age women admit to not paying their bills on time, according to a 2018 financial literacy survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Meanwhile, 35% of women over the age of 18 have no savings outside of retirement accounts and, among millennials, men are more likely (70%) than women (56%) to have at least some savings.

In other words, as Gold sees it, women have fallen behind when it comes to financial security.

“As Ruth Bader Ginsburg says, the gender line serves not to put women on a pedestal but in a cage. Let’s release ourselves from the cage once and for all,” Gold says. “It’s time for us to empower ourselves, and you cannot be in control until you have control of the money.”

A powerhouse in her own right, Gold survived a near-death drag-racing car accident at the age of 15, when she was struck as a pedestrian in her Queens, N.Y., neighborhood. When no one was found culpable for injuring her, Gold resolved to become a lawyer.

She went on to become an attorney at just 23 years old, and graduated from school debt-free, after which Gold founded a seven-figure law firm. All by the age of 26.

Based on all of this experience, Gold says there are several actions a woman can take to help regain ground financially, many of which she explains in her new book. During an interview with The SimpleDollar, Gold discussed some of these key steps in more detail.

Ensure to Insure

“While we’re young, most of us don’t think much about life insurance. After all, we’re young and healthy, so why worry? Sadly, that’s not the right mindset to have,” says Gold in Money Momma.

You must make insuring yourself a priority, Gold added during an interview. Why? Because you will never be this young again, and life insurance will never again be this inexpensive.

An important part of this tip, Gold explains, is ensuring that the right beneficiary is named in your policy, too. She suggest double- and triple-checking that whatever policy you ultimately obtain lists the proper recipient.

“We send so much money to wrong people,” she continues. “Do you know how much there is in in unclaimed funds in just New York? Billions.”

And finally, don’t be intimidated by selecting life insurance if you don’t understand how the various policy options work. Ask questions, speak up, and find out what’s right for you and your needs.

“Here’s the thing — any life insurance person needs to take the time to educate you and answer all of your questions,” adds Gold. “Ladies, we are the customer and the client, get your questions answered. Don’t be shy to ask, this is your financial future.”

Create a Life and Legacy plan

“A Money Momma… is a woman who plans for the future and defines her legacy,” states Gold in her book. “In order to do so, we must at a minimum have a number of very important documents filled out. This is not the end all, be all, of a life well lived. Just as the Ten Commandments are the bare minimum to live a good life, so too are the basic documents a bare minimum to plan an amazing life and legacy.”

What are those basic documents?

The way Gold sees it, everyone needs a last will and testament, power of attorney, and health care proxy (advanced directives), all of which she calls non-negotiable.
“Make sure you have that will in place,” she urges, even if it costs a bit of money to set it up. “How much money do we waste on stuff we don’t need like that one hundredth piece of jewelry or another pair of leggings?”

Increase Your Earnings

Women need to start making more money so they can save more, notes Gold, who coaches negotiation teams.

“I tell my students, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And for women, we have never been taught that. We don’t have a class called Negotiation 101,” says Gold. “Men ask for more. Women are generally nurturers, we want to love and be loved. But we need to go into salary negotiations with wit and research. Women are scared that if they ask for $5,000 more, they will lose out on the opportunity.”

Gold says you can ask for more by being “hard on the issues, but soft on the people.” And without missing a beat, Gold switches into a full-on example of what exactly that means, as if she’s in the midst of salary negotiations herself — but she does so in a tone of voice that’s practically purring, oozing as much welcoming warmth as you might hear talking to your best friend.

“I’ve looked around and done my research and it’s more like a $110,000 salary I should be expecting. I would love to work to with you, is there some way to bridge this gap together?” she says as an example.

Need more help beefing up your negotiation skills? Gold suggests checking out Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, a book that she says nearly every negotiation course uses as required reading.

Trust the Trust

Many people think trusts are reserved for the super wealthy, Gold notes in her book. But that notion is absolutely false.

“A trust is for anyone who cares about protecting their legacy. What are the benefits of a trust? There are many, but to name a few: probate avoidance, keeping your legacy private and not airing your dirty laundry to the whole world (which is what happens with a will), naming trustees to protect your children’s money, and protecting your wealth from long-term care costs and estate taxes (utilizing a special kind of trust in either scenario).”

Bottom line, according to Gold, if you care at all about your financial legacy, you can’t afford to not have a trust in place.

Enlist Three Key Players: CPA, Lawyer, Financial Advisor

Ideally, says Gold, every woman should have a team that includes a CPA, a lawyer, and a financial advisor.

“We all pay taxes, we all want to leave legacy of some sort, and everyone is working to make a few dollars to invest,” explains Gold.

Teaming up with a CPA in particular, she says, is particularly critical, because the right one can save you a lot of money on your taxes.

“A CPA is a must. It will cost you a couple hundred dollars, but it is well worth it,” Gold says.

Negotiate Everything

An approach to life I use myself as a single mother, Gold urges women to begin negotiating everything, from the amount you pay at your favorite blowout bar to the annual dues for memberships to your cable bill.

“If you go to a blowout bar and pay $45 a pop, plus a tip and you do that twice a month, the next time try saying, ‘I’ve been a client forever. Can I pay $85 every month? And you just saved a tremendous percentage,” Gold explains. “The pink tax is real. My husband gets one haircut and it is $10. At a minimum I pay $110.”

Negotiate with everything. Start thinking like a business owner, and if you have recurring expenses, begin actively looking for ways to cut costs.

Find People You Can Talk to About Money

Beyond the CPA, lawyer, and financial advisor, Gold suggests it’s also a good idea to identify people you can talk to when you have questions, whether that’s a peer or a mentor.

“Pick up a phone and talk to your peers or even someone who is a generation above you,” she stresses. “We have to go bigger. We need a movement. Me too? I say ‘We too.’ We have to come together and start educating each other. We have to do better for our girls and our women. Nine out of 10 of us are surviving our husbands and at 80 years old are learning to survive.”

Ultimately, as Gold notes in her book, women have fallen behind in our savings and ability to establish our own nest eggs.

“Why? Three main reasons: lack of education, not asking for more, and relinquishing our power to our spouses when it comes to the finances. So, want to know how to empower yourself? Learn about the money and watch how everything else falls into place.”

Mia Taylor is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. She has worked for some of the nation’s best-known news organizations, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

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How much I spent during two weeks of travel

I like to travel. Over the past decade, I’ve probably made an average of two international trips per year. But you know what? Never once in that time have I tried to track how much I spend while exploring the world. Sure, I log my numbers in Quicken (as I do for everything), but I’ve never analyzed the cost of an individual trip.

This month, I flew to Europe to hang out with my cousin Duane again. He and I enjoy traveling together. Because I was curious, I decided to be diligent about tracking my expenses for this trip.

Note, however, that I didn’t try to do anything different. I didn’t adjust my normal behavior simply because I knew I’d be reporting to GRS readers. I did what I always do. I spent in ways that felt normal to me.

I don’t need a fancy hotel, for instance. Neither does Duane. We’re happy with cheap, simple lodging. And because most of the time we don’t book rooms in advance, we don’t hunt for the best deal. When we decide to stop for the night, we look for a place to stay. When we find something reasonable ($50 per person per night is our target) and available, we book it. We don’t continue to search. We’d rather use our time to explore our surroundings.

On the other hand, we’re both willing to splurge on food from time to time. Our rooms aren’t important to us, but what we eat is.

Similarly, we’ll pay to see special sites, but mostly we’re happy visiting free museums and/or walking around a city. We don’t pay much for tours, etc.

So, how much did I spend for two weeks in Europe? Let’s find out!

Chateau Chenonceau

Chateau Chenonceau in France’s Loire Valley

Booking Flights

This trip was sort of spontaneous. Remember, Duane has throat cancer. We expected our trip in December to be the last adventure we had together. But his health has held steady — and his doctor is making hopeful statements that he might be around for Christmas! — so we decided to make another trip.

Generally, I try to book flights several months in advance. I feel like I find cheaper options that way. This time, though, I didn’t book my flight until April 19th, less than a month before our trip.

Also, I’m fussy about flights. It’s not that I need to sit in business class — I’m perfectly happy in coach — but I don’t like layovers. I’m willing to pay extra for a direct flight.

Unfortunately, when I searched for flights from Portland to Paris, I couldn’t find any direct flights. I could, however, find a non-stop to London. I like London. It’s a pleasant city. “What if,” I thought, “I flew to London a few days early and used that time to get some work done? Then I could take the Chunnel train across to Paris to meet Duane when he arrives.”

So, I booked a flight to London. It cost me $996.63 and each leg took roughly 10.5 hours.

(I don’t know how much Duane paid for his plane ticket. I think it was around $600, but he had to fly from Portland to Las Vegas to Los Angeles to Paris and it took him almost 24 hours. Yuck. I’m happy to pay a premium to avoid crap like that.)

I made a small mistake when booking my ticket. In the past, I’ve always traveled economy. That’s what I thought I was doing this time. Nope. Apparently, there’s a new(-ish) airfare class called “basic economy”. This is a massive “screw you” from the airlines to their customers. It’s a little bit cheaper, but you’re not allowed to make any changes to your ticket once you’ve booked. No option to upgrade. Plus, you board dead last. And you can’t choose your seat. And if you check a bag — as I did for my return flight — it costs a ton.


I flew into London with no real plan for the first few days. Brandon (the Mad Fientist) had invited me to visit him and his wife in Edinburgh, Scotland, but I felt like I oughtn’t do it. I felt like I should stay in London and work.

When I landed, though, I changed my mind. “Is it still okay if I come up to see you?” I asked. “Sure!” Brandon said. So, I hopped on Trainline (an awesome app that Duane and I used to buy train tickets during our December trip) and booked a ticket from London to Edinburgh. Cost: $101.92.

While waiting for my train at Kings Cross station (and watching the tourist throngs at Platform 9-1/2), I withdrew £200 for spending money, which is about $252.31. I used this cash to buy things like coffee and snacks and souvenirs. I brought home £141.15, which means I spent £58.85 (or about $74.24) cash while in the U.K.

I had a great time hanging out with Brandon and Jill. They showed me everyday life in Edinburgh, one of my favorite cities. They put me up in their spare room, took me to pubs, and we wandered together through the streets and the parks.

While there, I spent:

  • $45.76 at Brewdog for beer and snacks. (Did you know that low-alcohol beer — like 0.5% to 2.0% — is a thing in the U.K.? I wish it was a thing here in the U.S. I’d buy it.)
  • $17.74 at Whiski Bar for an hour of music and Scotch.
  • $9.91 at Cairngorm Coffee, where Brandon and I spent a morning working.
  • $33.78 at Mother India restaurant, where the three of us had a fine meal of “Indian tapas”.

In all, I spent a total of $283.35 during my three nights in Scotland.

Picnic in the Meadows

Picnic in the Meadows with the Mad Fientist and friends


When it came time to meet Duane in Paris, I was faced with a choice. Originally, I had intended to take the train from London to Paris. But when I looked at times and prices to get from Edinburgh to Gare du Nord, I didn’t like what I saw. The trip would take about 12.5 hours and the total cost would be over $350. Yikes!

“You should book a flight on EasyJet,” Brandon suggested. I’ve never used EasyJet, but I looked into it. For $199.45, I could fly from Edinburgh to Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) in Paris — in less than two hours. I booked a ticket. Then, using Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I booked one night at the Hotel ibis, which is attached to CDG terminal 3. My cost: 7718 Chase points.

In Paris, I paid €17.99 for a one-day train pass, which gave me unlimited access to all Metro and RER routes. (The metro lines are the subway and local trains. The RER routes are the commuter trains that run deeper into the suburbs, going places like Versailles and the airport.) I also withdrew €200 in cash (about $222.50) to use for incidental expenses, such as snacks and souvenirs.

While I waited for Duane’s flight to arrive, I visited Notre Dame to see what it looked like after the fire. (I was startled to note that when the wind was right, you could smell the ashes!) I bought an extra travel shirt. And I met my friend Amy for champagne and charcuterie. (Amy lives in Houston but happened to be in Paris for work.)

Amy and J.D.

Amy, J.D., and random amused French woman

At around 18:00, I returned to the airport to pick up our rental car. I was worried this might not go smoothly, but I was wrong. Estelle, the young woman at the Avis counter, was amazing. It didn’t take long for her to get met set up with a Peugot 208. Plus, she was kind enough to phone ahead to our hotel to let them know we’d be a little late. I booked the car with British Airways points. My cost: 16,600 Avios — a bargain!

As I was finishing at the rental car, Duane cleared immigration. Perfect timing! We hopped in our little car, braved Paris traffic and made our way to the garden spot of Giverny.

In Giverny, we checked into our B&B (booked with 8154 Chase points), then hurried to the only restaurant in town that was still open. Duane spent €51.00 on our dinner of duck breast and red wine.

During two nights in and around Paris, I spent $199.45, €17.99, 8154 Chase points, and 16,600 Avios (BA points). Duane spent €51.00.


The next morning, Duane and I started our driving tour of northwest France. I’d been worried that all French drivers would be like the ones in Paris. They weren’t. On the country roads, people were much more mellow. Thank goodness. (I drive like an old man. I hate speeding and tailgating.)

First, we toured Rouen, the town where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. We saw our first cathedral of the trip, visited the (free) Museum of Fine Arts, and browsed the weekly market.

Duane and I both enjoy markets. We’re happy to pass time looking at fruits and vegetables and meat and fish. For real. Plus, this gave us a chance to buy cheap food for the road. I picked up a paper sack filled with twenty baby chorizo sausages, for instance, and it cost only €5. (I think there were more than 20 sausages in the bag too. That thing lasted me almost the entire trip, and I was eating several sausages per day.)

In the afternoon, we drove to Honfleur with no plans about where to stay. The first hotel we visited was perfect: cheap and efficient. I paid €100.00 to book a room. Duane spent €54.00 on our dinner at a local pub.

On our second day, we meandered along the coast. We stopped to taste calvados (an apple brandy made in Normandy), nibbled goat cheese in Deauville, and stopped to visit the Grand Hotel in Cabourg, the site of Proust’s famous memory-inducing madeleine.

Meat and Cheese

Buying goat cheese and “bacon” in Deauville

In the late afternoon, we reached Bayeux. Our first hotel choice was booked, but the second had two cheap rooms available. We paid €49.00 each. For dinner, we chose an expensive restaurant (I can’t remember why) that cost Duane €94.00.

After dinner, we wandered around town. It was a magical evening in mid-spring. We happened to hit the city during its “festival of lights”, and when we stopped by the cathedral, an American choir was performing a concert. We stopped in to listen.

In the morning, we visited the Bayeux Tapestry, a 70-meter long work of art that’s nearly 1000 years old. In dozens of scenes, it depicts the Norman conquest of England. People think I’m joking when I say this, but I’m not: This tapestry is like a very early comic book. (And, in fact, the drawings used to plan tapestries like this are referred to as cartoons. No joke.) This visit cost me €19.00.

Bayeux Tapestry

Seriously, the Bayeux Tapestry is like a primitive comic book

While in Bayeux, we visited Omaha Beach and the nearby American Military Cemetery. After that, we drove backroads to reach Mont-Saint-Michel, one of the most famous tourist sites in all of France (and formerly one of the top three destinations for Christian pilgrims). This island used to be isolated from the mainland by ocean tides. Now there’s a causeway that leads to it, but even that sometimes floods over (as it did during our stay).

I used 14,538 Chase points to book a room on the island, and I’m glad we did. During the day, the place is packed. After 18:00, the crowd disperses and things become peaceful. It’s fun to wander the ramparts with nobody to disturb you.

Here, Duane paid €89.00 for dinner.

During our time in Normandy, I spent a total of €168.00 and 14,538 Chase points. Duane spent €286.00.

Mont Saint Michel

Mont-Saint-Michel at high tide


The next morning, after a quick tour of the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey, Duane and I packed up to drive to Brittany. (The island actually sits on the border between the two regions.)

As we entered Brittany, we got our first taste of fuel prices in France. To put 38 liters (about 10 gallons) in the Peugot 208, I paid €60.00. Holy cats! That’s nearly $7 per gallon, or about twice what we pay here in the States.

In the early afternoon, we stopped for a couple of hours in the walled city of Dinan, which is built on a hillside overlooking the river Rance.


Looking from the ramparts of Dinan to the valley below

By early evening, we’d reached Carnac on the Atlantic coast. Carnac is famous for its “standing stones”, a collection of 3000+ domens and menhirs in the region. I love sites like this (and Avebury and Stonehenge in England), so was pleased to visit. (If you’ve ever read any Asterix comics, you’re familiar with the stones of Carnac.)

The first hotel we visited had a cheap room available (€66.00), so we booked it. Our dinner next door was…an adventure.

Brittany, as you may know, is the source of the crepe. It’s also the source of the galette (a savory crepe). Crepes and galettes everywhere in this region. Because we like to try local food when we travel, Duane and I decided to eat galettes for our evening meal. “You should get the andouille,” the restaurant owner told us, smiling. So we did.

Well. It turns out that American andouille is not the same as French andouille. French andouille is simply sliced pig intestine that has (ostensibly) been cleaned very, very well.

“This tastes like ass,” Duane said as he ate his galette. He couldn’t finish. I did finish, but was a little mortified when I looked up the ingredients later. Our host seemed to take pity on us for being such good sports. When I ordered a glass of calvados after the meal, he gave me a huge pour.

I paid €46.00 for our dinner of pig-gut pancakes.

During our 24 hours in Brittany, I spent a total of €172.00. Duane spent nothing.

The Loire Valley

After a quick breakfast of coffee and crepes (€12.00 paid by Duane), we made our way to Angers, former capital of the Anjou region. (Angers is the source of both anjou pears and Cointreau liqueur.) Here, we visited our first chateau. Did you know that a chateau is a castle? I didn’t — not until this trip.

Anyhow, the Chateau d’Angers is home to the amazing Apocalypse Tapestry, a 600-year-old visual retelling of the apocalypse story from the Bible’s Book of Revelation. Like the Bayeux Tapestry, it reminds me of a massive comic book made from cloth. It cost us €12.00 each to see the chateau and its art. (Duane paid this.)

Apocalypse Tapestry in Angers

The Apocalypse Tapestry at Chateau d’Angers

In the evening, we experienced our big splurge of the trip. Based on a GRS reader recommendation, I had booked a night for us at the Royal Abbey of Our Lady of Fontevraud, a former monastery founded in 1101. Although many old buildings remain (and guests are free to explore them), the site is no longer an abbey. It’s a fancy upscale hotel and a Michelin-star restaurant.

Going in, I’d told Duane to ignore the costs for our night at Fontevraud. “I’m paying for the hotel and dinner, and it’s not part of our trip accounting. Don’t try to balance it out,” I said. “I’m making a deliberate decision to splurge.”

Our room at the abbey cost us €172.00. Our meal cost €239.00. As I mentioned earlier this week, the food was fine and I’m glad I experienced it. But I wouldn’t do it again.

In the morning, we traveled country roads to visit another chateau: Chenonceau. We each paid €19.00 to tour the grounds of this beautiful old estate.

In the afternoon, we moved to nearby Amboise, where Duane paid €73.00 to book a hotel. We hiked up the hillside, then tasted wine in a cave. We ate dinner at the tiny Restaurant L’Ilot, where the woman waiting tables chided us for not making a reservation — then was playfully grouchy the rest of the evening. This meal cost Duane €94.00 because he insisted we order a bottle of wine.

The next day, we stopped briefly in Blois to visit the church of St Nicolas. This place is barely mentioned in the guidebooks, but we loved it. During World War II, most of its stained-glass windows were destroyed. They’ve been replaced by modern windows with modern glass. The results are amazing. When light shines through them, color spreads throughout the church.

St Nicolas Church in Blois

The light show from the stained glass at St Nicolas Church

We next stopped in Chartres to visit its famous cathedral, which is especially known for its stained-glass windows. And while yes, there are many of them (176!) and they’re impressive, I liked the ones in Blois better.

During our time in the Loire Valley, I spent a total of €430.00, most of it for my splurge at the abbey. Duane spent €281.00. (He filled the car with gas at one point.)

Wrapping Things Up

After touring the Chartres cathedral, we didn’t know what to do. We found ourselves on the southwest side of Paris, but wanting to reach the northeast corner by the following evening. We couldn’t make up our minds, so I simply drove east.

Eventually, we reached Fontainebleau, which we decided might be fun to visit. But the town was packed and we were tired. Instead, we drove on until we found a budget hotel (aptly named Budget Hotel), where Duane paid €86.00 for a room. For dinner, we each paid cash at a French fast-food chain.

The next morning, we returned our rental car. I was sad to say good-bye to the Peugot 208, which had served us well. Before we turned it in, Duane paid €32.00 to top off the fuel tank.

For logistics purposes, I’d used 11,182 Chase points to book us separate rooms at the ibis Hotel once again. (It’s handy having this place next to the airport train station.) We each paid €17.99 for one-day train tickets, then we rode into Paris.

With several hours to kill, we decided to walk the city. But we didn’t walk the downtown tourist core. We’ve both done that before. Instead, we chose the Coulée verte René-Dumont, an elevated greenway akin to New York’s Highline. From there, we made our way along the canal. This 5k stroll made for great people-watching.

Here, we said our good-byes. Duane wandered off to spend time on his own. I met up with my pal Matt Kepnes (a.k.a. Nomadic Matt) for a couple of beers.

In the morning, I took an early flight back to London (booked with 4500 Avios and $27.50), then boarded my Delta flight back to Portland.

On this final day, I spent a total of $47.48, 4500 Avios, and 11,182 Chase points. (At some point, I withdrew another €200.00 in spending money. I returned home with €102.66, which means I spent €97.34 of that — or about $108.41.) Duane spent €86.00 and $19.98.

The Bottom Line

After all of that, how much did I spend on this trip? Let’s crunch the numbers. For two weeks (three nights in Scotland and ten in France), I spent:

  • $996.63 for my flights from and to the U.S.
  • $573.65
  • €637.98 (about $710.63)
  • 19,336 Chase points
  • 21,100 Avios (British Airways points)

Converting all of my expenses to dollars, my total cost was $2277.91 plus rewards points. That’s an average of $175.22 per night. (I spent $1284.28 plus points if you ignore the flight, for an average of $98.79 per night.)

If I hadn’t splurged €411.00 for the abbey experience (and instead paid €100 for dinner and lodging that night), my costs would have been €311.00 less.

During our nine nights together in France, Duane spent a total of €670.99 (about $747.40) plus whatever his flights cost him (about $600, I think). That’s $83.04 per night ($149.71 with his flights). Together, not counting flights, we spent the equivalent of $2031.68 and points for this vacation.

Because I’ve never tracked my trip spending before, I have no frame of reference for our costs. I feel like we did a good job of using money wisely — spending only on things that brought us value — but who knows? I’m sure plenty of people would spend much less on a trip like this. That would probably require advance planning, though, and half the fun for us is making this up as we go.

Here’s the thing, though. How much have I been spending simply to live here at home? About $5000 per month, right? (And I’m aiming to get that down to $4000 per month.) When you compare the cost of travel to the cost of simply maintaining my lifestyle here in the U.S., it’s shockingly affordable. Cheaper than living in Portland, even.

That’s food for thought.

One final note: In Edinburgh, Brandon showed me how to use Apple Pay. Believe it or not, I’d never done this before. Now, though, I’m hooked. Even back here in Portland, I’m using my phone to pay for things, not my actual credit card. I think this is awesome. Duane is less convinced. But that’s a subject for a future blog post…

Author: J.D. Roth

In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he’s managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.

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How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month

Photo by sirtravelalot /

Baby boomers across the nation are earning hundreds of extra dollars a month working for one gig-economy platform. And so can you.

Wonolo — which describes itself as an on-demand staffing marketplace that “connects businesses which have temporary staffing needs (Requestors) with workers who can meet those needs (Wonoloers)” — says the average boomer who uses the site makes $573.55 a month supplementing existing income.

That beats Generation X ($501.02), millennials ($454.35) and Generation Z ($342.48).

A.J. Brustein, cofounder and chief operating officer of Wonolo, explains in a blog post:

“Baby Boomers — folks currently aged 55-73 — have quietly become the winners of the gig game. Some might be retired and picking up gigs for fun or a little extra cash, and others are still working other jobs in their spare time and choose flexible gig work to supplement their income.”

Nearly one-third of boomers on Wonolo work more than three gigs a week. And companies love the work boomers are doing.

Brustein says businesses give boomers the highest rating as workers — an average 4.86 stars out of 5. That ties them with Generation X workers, and puts them ahead of millennials (4.82 stars).

The types of jobs most likely to be filled by boomer Wonoloers include:

  • Fulfillment/warehousing
  • General labor
  • Administrative gigs

How you can earn more, too

Joining Wonolo is just one way to earn more cash if you are a boomer — or anyone else.

There are numerous other platforms through which you can find gig work, such as FlexJobs, Fiverr and Thumbtack. Some will likely suit you better than others, as there are more ways than ever to bring in extra money.

For example, you can get paid to:

We also round up a slew of additional ways to stash more cash — from renting out a room to raking in money via peer-to-peer lending — in “12 Ways Retirees Can Make Money Without Un-Retiring.”

Finally, check out ways to earn money without leaving home sweet home in:

What is your favorite way to earn more cash on the side? Share your tips in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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Surf’s Up, Wheels Up: Your Guide to Airlines’ Surfboard Fees

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Catching a wave after your flight? If you’re planning to bring your own surfboard to your destination, you could face some hefty checked bag fees that usually can’t be avoided, even with an airline-branded credit card that offers free checked baggage.

Let’s cut to the chase: The best airlines for surfers are American Airlines and Alaska Airlines because they consider surfboards a normal piece of checked luggage. That means you won’t have to pay oversized baggage fees, as long as your board bag isn’t too heavy. Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines also have cheap rates when you fly between certain destinations. It’s also more cost effective to buddy up and bundle two surfboards together in one case, so you can fly two surfboards for the price of one on the airlines that allow the practice.

» Learn more: 6 ways to save baggage fees

Here are surfboard policies by airline:

  • American Airlines: As of May 21, 2019, travelers will only pay standard checked bag fees for their surfboards that are less than 50 pounds. That’s $30 if the surfboard is your only checked item. If you’re flying with fellow wave riders and can cram two surfboards into one bag, you’ll only pay one checked bag fee to transport both boards.
  • Alaska Airlines: It may be called Alaska Airlines, but this carrier has flights to Hawaii and other West Coast destinations that are known for their great waves. You can take a surfboard or paddleboard case with up to two boards inside for the same price as a normal piece of checked luggage. Alaska charges $30 for the first checked item, which makes flying Alaska one of the most budget-friendly ways to travel with your surfboard. If you have the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, your free checked bag perk will waive the fee to check your surfboard. The maximum dimensions for the surfboards vary by aircraft, so check on its website before you go.
  • Delta Air Lines: You’ll have to shell out at least $150 to fly with your surfboards on Delta. Other fees may apply as well if your bag is over 70 pounds, and boards are limited to 115 inches in length. If you’re flying between Honolulu and Maui, Delta only charges a $20 fee.
  • Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines charges different rates for surfboards based on where you’re flying. Heading over to a neighboring Hawaiian island? You’ll pay $35 to check your surfboard. Going to or from elsewhere in North America with your surfboard will cost you $100, while other international destinations will cost you $150. There is an exception that makes it free to check your surfboard if you’re flying to Australia and New Zealand and the board counts as one of your two pieces of checked luggage. Regardless, your bag cannot be over 50 pounds, or it will not be accepted.
  • JetBlue: JetBlue allows you to check one surfboard for $100 each way. It cannot weigh more than 100 lbs. Surfboards are not accepted when flying to/from Bermuda, Haiti, Peru, Port of Spain, Santo Domingo and Santiago.
  • Southwest Airlines: Surfboards can fly for $75 each way on Southwest.
  • Spirit Airlines: Spirit Airlines charges $100 to check surfboards, but you can save money by putting two surfboards in one bag. Overweight and oversize charges do not apply to surfboards with Spirit.
  • United Airlines: Travelers with United will pay the normal checked baggage fee of $30 for the first checked item when flying to California, and this fee can be waived by having a United credit card and using it to book your flight. When you’re flying to and from destinations outside of California, surfboards are usually charged as oversized baggage that is $150 or $200 depending on the size.

If you’re planning to fly with your surfboard, it always makes sense to double-check baggage fees before you buy your ticket. It might be worth spending a little extra on airfare to book with an airline that doesn’t charge or charges lower fees for your board.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
5 new ways to maximize your travel booking on Google
NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards
This new website will help you find a cheap flight

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Natural Calm Magnesium Gummies, 240 count for just $25.49 shipped! {This deal just got even BETTER!!}

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Looking for a deal on the Natural Calm Gummies that I take every day? Check out this great deal — and it just got even BETTER!

You guys — this deal just got even BETTER because of a new Memorial Day coupon code they just released! Read below for all the details!!

Vitamin Shoppe is running a buy one, get one 50% off sale on select supplements right now! This sale includes my favorite Natural Calm Magnesium Gummies that I take every day!

PLUS, you can use coupon code 15OFFMDW to get an extra 15% off right now!

Many of you have asked me to share if I ever find a deal on these, so I was excited when a follower messaged me on Instagram about this!

Here’s the deal you can grab on them:

Buy 2 Natural Calm Magnesium Gummies, 120 count – $19.99 each
Buy One, Get One 50% Off Sale
Use coupon code 15OFFMDW at checkout to get an extra 15% off
Shipping is FREE
Pay $25.49 shipped after sale!

I’ve taken a variety of different magnesium supplements over the years, but these are my very favorite! And this is a really good price (I typically pay $20 per 120-count on Amazon!).

Not only do they taste yummy, but when I take them I can tell a significant difference in my sleep and in my overall feelings of being a little more calm and relaxed.

I take the highest dose (4 gummies) at night. If you’ve never taken magnesium before, I’d recommend starting out with the smallest dose, seeing how that works for you, and then gradually working up to a higher dose.

Sale is valid through tomorrow, May 26, 2019.

Go here to grab this deal on Natural Calm Gummies.

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This Guide Will Help You Find the Cheapest Gym Membership

Despite years of adding “lose some weight” to my list of New Year’s resolutions, I have yet to join a gym.

Not to make excuses (well, let’s be real — everyone who wants to avoid the gym is making excuses), but I’m incredibly indecisive when it comes to spending money on myself.

Except when it comes to food.

But getting in shape requires making a decision and a commitment to putting in the work. And it takes an investment — in time and often in money.

With so many options out there, how do you pick the best gym membership for you?

Our Guide to Finding the Cheapest Gym Membership

Let me start by saying choosing a gym is a very personal decision.

Size might be a significant factor. Location might be also important to you — maybe if you pass the gym along your normal commute, you won’t be going out of your way.

Well, to help make your decision a bit easier, we compiled information from six national workout chains so you can compare availability, costs and features.

Some gyms provide free trials, so be sure to take advantage of those offers before signing up for a membership.

Writer’s note: Individual membership costs are published as listed online as of May 17, 2019, and they are subject to change. Rates may vary based on location and current promotions.

1. Youfit Health Clubs

Where: Youfit Health Clubs has more than 100 locations in 15 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

How Much: The base membership fee is $10 a month. The premium tier (known as “Lime Card” access) costs $21.99 a month. When you sign up for the base membership, you’ll also pay for first and last month dues. Initiation fees vary depending on the membership package.

What’s Included: Depending on location, these clubs include top-of-the-line equipment, free weights, group fitness sessions, express circuits, personal trainers, tanning beds and childcare. Premium members can also bring a free guest with them for every visit and can visit any YouFit location.

Try It: Get a free guest pass for one-time use.

2. Planet Fitness

Where: Planet Fitness has over 1,800 locations in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Canada and the Dominican Republic.

How Much: Monthly dues are $10 for just one location or $19.99 to use any location. Annual fees are $39.99 and the start-up fee is $1. The $10 membership has no commitment.

What’s Included: These gyms include cardio and weight-training equipment, plus fitness training programs for all members. Some locations include massage chairs and tanning services. Many locations are open 24 hours a day.

Try It: Find the location nearest you.

3. Crunch Fitness

Where: Crunch Fitness has more than 300 locations for its regular gyms and 30 locations for its Signature gyms (which include more classes, upgraded amenities and more). Its gyms are located in 30 states, as well as Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and four Canadian provinces.

How Much: A base membership is $9.95 a month, a Peak membership is $21.95 a month and a Peak Results membership is $24.95 a month. Enrollment fees vary from $10 to $49.99 depending on your membership level. The annual fee is $78, prorated at $6.50 a month.

What’s Included: Depending on what type of membership you choose, you can take advantage of multiple perks at this gym, including a training orientation with a fitness expert, group fitness classes, online video workouts, tanning and Hydromassage. The Peak and Peak Results memberships can be used at multiple locations.

Try It: Try a free one-day trial.

4. LA Fitness

Where: LA Fitness has more than 675 locations in 27 states, Washington D.C. and Canada.

How Much: Monthly fees start at $24.99 for single-club access or $29.99 for multiple clubs within the same state. Initiation fees are $89.

What’s Included: Gyms include state-of-the-art equipment and cardio areas, group fitness classes, indoor heated pools, whirlpool spas and saunas. Some have kids’ clubs, juice bars and basketball and racquetball courts.

Try It: Find your local club to request a guest pass online.

5. 24 Hour Fitness

Where: 24 Hour Fitness has over 400 locations in 13 states — California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Hawaii, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey.

How Much: Monthly fees start at $29.99, but can vary based on location and membership level. Members pay a one-time initiation fee, which starts at $29.99, and there’s also a $49.99 annual fee.

What’s Included: Gyms include studio and cycle classes. Most facilities also have an indoor lap pool and a Whirlpool. Members can take advantage of personal and group training. Get access to digital workouts you can complete at home without stepping foot in an actual gym. Parents of children ages 6 months to 11 years can drop their kids off for supervised fun time at nearly every location.

Try It: Use this three-day free pass.

6. Anytime Fitness

Where: Anytime Fitness has more than 4,000 locations in all 50 states and 36 countries across six continents. (That’ll likely soon change, as the chain recently announced plans to expand to Antarctica.)

How Much: Membership starts at $29.99 per month, but prices vary depending on location and current promotions. According to Anytime Fitness’s spokesperson, the average membership is $40 a month. Members also pay one-time initiation and key activation fees, which vary depending on the franchise.

What’s Included: Members have access to cardio machines, weights and strength training equipment, as well as classes and wellness programs. Some locations offer tanning and personal training. They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Try It: You can get a free seven-day pass.

Other Alternatives to Popular Chain Gyms

If none of these chain gyms suit your fancy, you could always join your local YMCA or set up a home gym to get your workouts in.

You could also incorporate fitness into your daily routine by trying one of these nine inexpensive gym alternatives. Running is one of the options on that list; this post on tips and tricks for finding discounted running shoes can help ease your stride.

Or you could lace up those shoes and march right into the gym!

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She sympathizes with the struggle of getting in shape. 

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How to Get Help with Paying Rent

According to a 2018 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, 38% of all American renter households put more than three-tenths of pretax income toward rent in 2015, qualifying as “rent burdened” — up from 19% in 2001.

Some 17% of renter households put more than one-half of pretax income toward rent in 2015, qualifying as “severely rent burdened.”

Households led by African-Americans and seniors of all races were more likely to be rent burdened and severely rent burdened than households led by whites and non-seniors — though a 2018 RentCafe study reported by USA Today found that millennials spent more on rent than older generations.

The bottom line: Millions of Americans struggle to make rent every month.

Perhaps you’re struggling too. Whether your financial straits arise from a layoff that you expect to last just a few weeks or a serious health setback that could persist for much longer, here’s where you can turn for help.

17 Ways to Get Help With Paying Rent

Use these strategies and resources to make rent during periods of financial hardship. Most are not mutually exclusive; for best results, pursue several simultaneously.

1. Try to Negotiate With Your Landlord

Your first resort during temporary financial hardship is to negotiate a modified payment plan with your landlord.

Although your lease requires you to pay the full balance of rent accrued during the contract’s term — $12,000 in total rent on a one-year lease at $1,000 per month, for instance — your landlord may be willing to receive the balance over a longer period or even forgive a portion altogether.

Your landlord isn’t obligated to work with you, of course. They’re more likely to budge if you make the stakes crystal clear: Presently, you’re unable to make full, timely rent payments, and you will need to break your lease and move out unless your circumstances change. Your ask should be clear as well — for example, “I can pay, in full, the six months’ rent remaining on my lease over the next 12 months” is preferable to a sob story that ends with “So I can’t make rent this month.”

The goal here is to reach a binding lease modification agreement without involving lawyers or courts. Ideally, this agreement should result in a written contract that supersedes your lease’s payment clause without invalidating the entire document.

2. Trade Labor or Services for Reduced Rent

Even if your landlord is open to modifying your lease’s payment terms, they’d be within their rights to ask for something in return.

Often, that “something” is physical labor. No matter the property’s size, condition, and amenities, your landlord can likely find ways to put you to work. That might mean cleaning and shoveling the sidewalks or driveways, mowing the lawn, tending the garden, cleaning the common areas, or performing minor repairs or odd jobs, such as painting or finishing, that don’t demand specialized skills.

The more involved the work, the better the terms are likely to be. A friend of mine earned a substantial rent discount by serving as her 20-unit apartment building’s resident cleaning person. The job required several hours of labor per week and knocked perhaps $300 off her already fairly modest monthly rent. An old neighbor of ours earned a comparatively meager discount — $50 per month — to mow our brownstone’s small lawn and remove snow from its sidewalks.

You can also ask for a labor discount right away. “You can lay off your part-time groundskeeper” is a great way to begin negotiations.

3. Take on a Roommate

When it comes to paying rent, two bank accounts are better than one. Dollar for dollar, adding a roommate to your lease is the best way to make rent when money is tight. If you need help finding roommates, check out

Taking on a roommate is sometimes easier said than done, however. For starters, to create a legally binding relationship between your roommate and your landlord, you’ll need to add them to your current lease or a new lease that you both sign. Any problems that arise in the course of the inevitable pre-lease credit and background checks could jeopardize the arrangement. That’s also the case for romantic partners, by the way; your lease probably has guest restrictions that compel love interests to join the lease before making the leap from perennial overnight guests to official live-in partners.

Other issues may complicate or preclude the addition of a roommate. Your landlord may balk at allowing you to add a new tenant in the first place. Depending on the rules in your jurisdiction, your lease may obligate all tenants to the full rent balance, leaving you on the hook if your roommate decides to skip town. You may not want to share a cramped studio or one-bedroom with someone you don’t know — or allow close living quarters to jeopardize an existing friendship. The list goes on.

If you do choose to take on a roommate, plan ahead for potential roommate-related problems. Then, talk to your landlord and make clear to them that this may be the only way for you to make rent. Finally, after your landlord approves your roommate, draw up a roommate contract — or cohabitation agreement if your romantic partner is moving in — that formalizes your boundaries, rights, and obligations.

4. Take on a Side Hustle

A part-time job or contract-based side gig doesn’t have to monopolize your free time. Working 10 hours per week at $12 per hour puts an extra $120 in your pocket each week before taxes. That’s $520 per month, give or take.

Gig economy side hustles are trickier. Some, such as driving for ride-sharing apps like Lyft, pass substantial overhead costs on to workers. Crunch the numbers before signing up, and look for worker-friendly opportunities. In many Lyft markets, for instance, the app offers new drivers sign-up bonuses worth several hundred dollars.

Are you ready to start making more money? Here are four of our favorite side hustles:

  • Instacart Shopper – Instacart is another great way to make money with your car. Instacart users order their groceries through the app, and Instacart Shoppers take care of the delivery. You’ll get paid weekly, and you can choose when you want to work.
  • DoorDash Driver – Yet another great way to make money on the side is delivering takeout with DoorDash. Don’t have a car? Not a problem. “Dashers” can also deliver using a scooter, bike, or even on foot.
  • Survey Taker – A great way to make a little extra money without leaving your home is to take online surveys through companies like Survey Junkie or InboxDollars. While you’re not going to get rich, you will make a little extra cash that can help with your rent payments.
  • Handy Professional – Do you enjoy completing projects around the house? It could be basic handyman services like putting together furniture or painting a room, or it could be larger tasks like replacing a kitchen sink or an electrical outlet. allows you to monetize your skills. Depending on the task, you could earn up to $45 per hour.

5. Start a Crowdfunding Campaign

A personal crowdfunding campaign is not a license to print money. If your campaign is compelling enough to earn the generosity of total strangers, however, it could dramatically ease your housing woes.

Launch your campaign on a reputable crowdfunding platform, such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Set a realistic funding target, likely not to exceed the total rent due on your current lease term, bearing in mind that you may not receive anything if you don’t reach your goal. Make a concise, persuasive case, explaining why you’re facing hardship, its stakes — housing insecurity, for starters — and how you’re planning to overcome it.

Don’t start a crowdfunding campaign without first considering its potential tax consequences. Crowdfunding’s relative novelty complicates tax planning; while there’s some support for the argument that crowdfunding donations qualify as non-taxable gifts, the Journal of Accountancy holds that the matter is best described as “It’s complicated.” Your best bet is to present your plan to a certified tax advisor before your campaign launches.

6. Take Out a Personal Loan

Check your credit score, then check rates and terms with reputable personal loan providers like SoFi. Loan terms vary by lender policy and depend on your credit score, assets, and income, but unsecured personal loan limits often range up to $35,000 or $40,000 for well-qualified borrowers — more than you’re likely to need to make rent in the near term.

Bear in mind that a personal loan is only a temporary solution to housing woes. Moreover, any loan adds a new monthly obligation to your budget, typically for three to five years from origination. If existing debt is a significant contributor to your present financial distress, use your loan to address that root cause — for instance, by paying down high-interest credit card balances on which you’re currently paying the bare minimum, rather than putting your loan’s proceeds in the checking account from which you make rent payments.

7. Borrow Money From Friends & Family

Many a struggling renter has turned to financially secure friends and family members for assistance. Before you make the ask, though, consider:

  • How the Obligation Might Affect Your Relationship. You don’t want an unpaid personal debt to derail a relationship that’s endured for years or decades, perhaps through far worse.
  • Expectations for Repayment. If you’re concerned about your ability to repay in the near term, make this clear before accepting a private loan. If the other party is amenable, ask for a grant instead or agree to a longer repayment timeframe.
  • How Much You Really Need. Don’t borrow or accept more than you need to make ends meet until your financial situation improves or you’re able to find long-term housing assistance.

While it might feel awkward to draw up a legally binding contract before a summer barbecue or Thanksgiving dinner, putting all this in writing is the surest way to protect your mutual interests — and your long-term relationship.

8. Apply for Charitable Grants

Secular nonprofits and faith organizations alike offer emergency and longer-term housing assistance grants to needy individuals and families.

If you’re not sure where to turn, use to find private or public housing grants in your area. To make a direct appeal for small-dollar donations, use Modest Needs.

No matter where you live, you can almost certainly find local housing support resources without going through a national organization. In Minneapolis, where I live, Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness provides temporary housing support, including cash assistance, to families and individuals in acute need.

Specific faith organizations may offer assistance as well. In major cities, most large congregations have the resources to provide small but meaningful grants or temporary shelter to people struggling to make ends meet. Generally, these grants are reserved for renters at risk of imminent eviction and those already experiencing acute housing insecurity.

9. Cut Your Expenses

If you’re not yet in such dire straits, you may still have time to get your budget under control and avoid underpaying or missing rent altogether. Once you look for them, you’ll find opportunities to cut everyday expenses everywhere, such as:

  • Dining out less, even when meals are relatively affordable, such as a Subway sandwich for lunch
  • Drinking less alcohol or even quitting drinking entirely
  • Wasting less food at home through better meal planning
  • Spending less on groceries by purchasing generics and taking advantage of coupons and sales

More drastic changes, such as getting rid of your car, could prove more consequential, but even small cuts add up. If you want to take saving a step further you can sign up for Trim. They will scan your bank and credit accounts and look for expenses that you can eliminate. They will also negotiate things like your cable and internet bills.

10. Enroll in a Credit Counseling Program

If your credit or income isn’t sufficient to qualify you for a personal loan to pay down existing debt, find a nonprofit credit counseling organization that offers low-cost debt management plans. For a nominal monthly fee of $100 or less in most cases, your credit counseling partner acts as an intermediary between you and your creditors as you work to pay off your debts by a predetermined date, usually two to five years in the future.

Your debt management plan won’t include your housing payments, but it may alleviate some financial strain by reducing your monthly credit card and loan payments, making it easier to cover rent. Once you become — and stay — debt-free, you’ll likely find it easier to make rent as well.

11. Talk to Lenders About Hardship Programs

If the root cause of your inability to make rent is overwhelming credit card or student loan debt, talk to your lenders about hardship programs and temporary forbearance.

Although the details vary by lender, most creditors are willing to work with borrowers facing temporary hardship. Hardship programs work like credit counseling organizations’ debt management plans, except they’re specific to a single lender and don’t involve a middleman. Typical plans offer lower interest rates, longer repayment terms, fixed repayments, fee waivers and reductions, or all of the above.

Enrolling in a hardship program could temporarily hurt your credit score, and the fact of your enrollment will likely be visible to anyone who pulls your credit report. But the long-term benefits of paying down high-interest or budget-busting debt will almost certainly outweigh the near-term impact.

12. Look for One-Time Opportunities to Raise Money

If you expect your hardship to be temporary — you were unexpectedly laid off, for instance, but your job search is progressing well — then a one-time boost may be all you need to keep current on your rent.

One-time opportunities to raise cash abound. Now might be a good time to look for unclaimed money lying around in a state treasury or class action settlement fund, to downsize and offload unnecessary possessions at a garage sale or on eBay, or to look into more personal — and potentially consequential — options such as selling sperm or eggs.

14. Hire a Pro Bono Tenants’ Rights Attorney

Use the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s state-specific Tenant Rights resources page to find tenants’ rights attorneys licensed to practice in your state. If you believe that your landlord is violating the terms of your lease, local housing ordinances (such as rent control), or state or federal renter protections (such as anti-discrimination laws), your tenants’ rights attorney can advocate on your behalf.

To be clear, a tenants’ rights attorney won’t pay your rent on your behalf. Nor can they tailor the law to fit your situation; if your landlord is on the up and up, your legal recourse may be limited. You may want a tenants’ rights attorney on call, however, if and when your financial straits compel you to terminate your lease prematurely.

15. Apply for Rural Rental Housing Assistance

If you live in a qualifying rural area — generally, communities outside Metropolitan Statistical Areas defined by the U.S. Census Bureau — and spend more than 30% of your household’s adjusted monthly income on rent, you may qualify for income-based rural rental housing assistance. For more information about this program, its requirements, and its application process, visit

Even if you don’t qualify for federal housing assistance, you may find more affordable rural rentals through the USDA’s rural housing assistance portal.

16. Apply for Short-Term Housing Assistance

Many county and state agencies offer short-term housing assistance for individuals and families experiencing temporary hardship, as do some bigger cities. In Oregon, for instance, Home Forward administers short-term housing assistance on behalf of Multnomah County and its two largest cities, Portland and Gresham. Start by calling your local 2-1-1 hotline, if one exists, or visit your city, county, or state housing authority’s website.

Generally, short-term voucher or subsidy programs provide no more than three consecutive months of support, during which renters expecting longer periods of hardship may apply for long-term housing assistance.

17. Apply for Long-Term Housing Assistance

Long-term housing assistance comes in multiple forms. Two are worth mentioning in particular.

Many localities operate public housing communities, not all of which resemble the sterile, segregated “towers in the park” stereotype. Here in Minneapolis, for instance, the city operates hundreds of “scattered-site” single-family homes and duplexes tucked away in leafy residential neighborhoods.

HUD’s Section 8 low-income housing assistance is another lifeline for thousands of low-income families, though the program has many practical drawbacks: an arduous application process, the possibility of long waiting lists for qualifying housing, and housing discrimination (in many jurisdictions, landlords may legally refuse to rent to Section 8 tenants).

18. Break Your Lease

Breaking an apartment lease is not a decision to make lightly. Unless you’re in an actively unsafe situation — your domestic partner is abusive or your housing is functionally uninhabitable, for instance — you should break your lease only as a last resort after exhausting all other reasonable options to make rent.

That said, if the alternative is ending up on the street, you may feel that you have no choice but to break your lease. Before you do, line up your next place to live, most likely by finding privately owned subsidized housing into which you can seamlessly transition or lining up a friend or family member willing to host you. If you expect your hardship to last, you’ll want to begin the process of applying for longer-term housing assistance too.

Final Word

As a renter, you’re obligated to learn about federal, state, and local housing regulations. You also have the power to exercise the rights provided by those obligations. Landlords, for their part, must abide by the letter of the law; ignorance is rarely a defense.

Even if the financial hardship that’s compelled you to seek rent assistance has nothing to do with your landlord, a clear understanding of your legal rights — and a willingness to act on them — could mitigate the financial and legal ramifications of a broken lease, should it come to that.

Have you used any of these resources to make rent? Are you considering any?

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