Morning Deals: Thursday, August 22

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Your Guide to the American Airlines Award Chart

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.

When it’s time to cash in your AAdvantage miles for an award flight, you’ll want to understand how to make your rewards go farther. Here’s everything you need to know to get the most out of all those hard-earned miles.

Award types

Before we dig into the details of American Airlines’ various award charts; one important caveat: The trend in U.S. airlines over the past few years has been to eliminate award charts entirely, so there’s no guaranteeing how long the charts you see below will remain good for.

That said, at present American Airlines offers several categories of award travel depending on how flexible you are and what perks you want with your flight (like free cancellation). Here are details on the types of awards you’ll find:

MileSAAver awards

Availability for this award type may be limited because these awards are the cheapest. You can book a flight within the contiguous U.S. and Canada for as little as 7,500 miles each way for flights under 500 miles. MileSAAver Off Peak awards also offer relatively low-mileage flights if you’re traveling during low season to other regions including Europe, the Caribbean and even Asia.

Note that there are blackout dates for these budget redemption options, and the cheapest ones can be hard to find. MileSAAver awards are great for anyone with flexible travel plans who is willing to travel on whatever day they can find the cheapest award flights.

AAnytime awards

Starting at 20,000 miles each way, AAnytime Awards let you redeem miles with no blackout dates. The specific number of miles required for any given flight will vary based on date and destination, but at this level you’re more likely to find an available award seat on the flight you want if you must travel on a certain day or time.

However, since the award price depends on where you’re going and when, many flights within this bracket will require more than 20,000 miles. There are also two pricing levels to AAnytime Awards, with Level 1 being cheaper. This level is also based on your dates and destination; a flight search will show which award level you’ve selected.

Economy Web Special awards

Occasionally, you may be able to find even cheaper award flights with Economy Web Special rates. These awards aren’t as common as the others, but if you spot one, celebrate.

However, take note that these award tickets don’t allow changes, and fees may apply if you want to cancel your flight or reinstate your miles.

Things to know about the American Airlines award chart

First and foremost, know that when booking award travel on American Airlines, award prices are shown in one-way segments. There will also be taxes and fees imposed when you book award travel; these start at $5.60 for each one-way flight.

If you prefer to fly business or first class, expect to pay a fair bit extra if the flight you book in the U.S. or Canada happens to be on an aircraft with lie-flat seats. The business/first award price for those trips will be 7,500 more miles for MileSAAver awards, and an extra 20,000 miles for AAnytime awards. We suggest checking what aircraft you’ll fly on before you book.

You can also use miles to upgrade your seat by one service class using a combination of miles and cash. Upgrade costs range from 5,000 miles plus $75 to 25,000 miles and $550, depending on where you’re flying and what class of ticket you’re upgrading from. Note that upgrading from a full-fare ticket doesn’t cost any cash, only miles. Check the chart below for a full breakdown.

You can also use miles to book travel with American’s Oneworld and other airline partners. These include:

Earn points with American Airlines cards

American Airlines offer four credit cards to help you earn miles faster. Here are their annual fees and sign-up bonuses:

Note that the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® comes with membership to American’s Admirals Club lounges.

For business owners, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® offers a suite of additional benefits businesses may find useful, including travel concierge assistance, additional miles for certain business purchases and a companion certificate after you spend $30,000 on the card in a year.

All these cards except the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card also offer a free checked bag on domestic itineraries with American Airlines, making them beneficial to loyal frequent flyers.

» Learn more: Find the best airline credit card for you

The bottom line

Although award charts can change or disappear at any time, American Airlines’ chart as it currently stands does have its strengths, especially when it comes to flexible travel that allows you to find a MileSAAver award. More rigid travel plans mean you’ll likely have to cash in more miles, but if you can nab an Economy Web Special or MileSAAver award, you can book with confidence knowing your miles are being well-used.

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:
Find the best travel credit card for you
Snag these hotel loyalty perks, even if you’re disloyal
Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies

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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + Menu Plan

August 18, 2019 | Crystal Paine

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Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.).

For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here.

Because of our traveling the last 4 weeks, I haven’t posted our grocery budget + menu plan posts. It feels good to be back to it now that school has started and we’re back into the swing of a more normal routine.

Speaking of school starting, here’s a real-life photo from the first day: Kathrynne headed out to a 4-day back to school camp (her school starts with an all-school 4-day camp!), Silas all ready for his first day in his uniform, and Kaitlynn sporting a thermometer because she had a low grade fever and had to stay home.

I couldn’t believe this HUGE cart full of egg noodles marked down to $0.69 each at Kroger this week!

But I didn’t buy them because Kroger has Private Selection on pasta for $0.50 when you buy 5 participating items.

Kroger Shopping Trip #1:

  • Kroger breakfast links — free with coupons from Kroger mailer
  • 2 canisters of breadcrumbs — on closeout for $0.47 each
  • Kroger peanut butter — free with coupons from Kroger mailer
  • A&W Cream Soda — free with coupon mailed to me
  • Quest bar — free with Freebie Friday coupon
  • 1 can Kroger green beans — marked down to $0.29
  • 2 cans of hominy — marked down to $0.29 each
  • Turkey Hill Tea — marked down to $0.39
  • Kroger broth — marked down to $0.69
  • 3 boxes of Kroger toaster pastries — marked down to $0.59 each
  • 1 bag of peppers — marked down to $0.99
  • 1 cantaloupe — marked down to $0.99
  • 1 bag of onions/avocados — marked down to $0.99
  • 1 can Simple Truth green beans — marked down to $0.49
  • 1 package of egg roll wraps — marked down to $0.49
  • 2 bags of Blue Corn chips — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items
  • 1 package of Oscar Mayer hot dogs — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items
  • 2 bags of Goldfish — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items
  • 4 packages of Private Selection pasta — $0.50 each when you buy 5 participating items
  • 1 box of oatmeal — used $0.40/1 Kroger digital coupon = $1.09 after coupon
  • Total with tax: $18.95

Kaitlynn and I flew to Portland, Maine for me to speak at the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference. One of the best parts of speaking at food blogging conferences? The BEST gift sacks full of yummy food and snacks from sponsors!

Kroger Shopping Trip #2

  • Kroger whole wheat flour — marked down to $1.69
  • Brown rice — marked down to $1.19
  • 3 packages of Eckrich sausage — $1.69 each when you buy 5 participating items
  • 5 packages of cheese — $0.99 each with Friday-Saturday deal
  • 2 boxes of Cheerios — $1.49 when you buy 5 participating items — used $1/2 Kroger digital coupon = $0.99 each
  • Bag of grapefruit/lime juice — $0.99
  • Tub of lettuce — marked down to $1.79
  • 1 dozen cage-free eggs — $2.50
  • 1 back to school brownie bites — marked down to $2.49
  • Total with tax: $25.09

Sprouts Shopping Trip

  • Bartlett Pears — $0.95
  • 3 18-oz. cartons of blueberries — $1.98 each
  • Peaches — $1.09
  • Water — $1.98
  • Total with tax: $10.64

BigLots Shopping Trip

  • 2 bags of chips — $0.25 each
  • 2 double packs of English Muffins — $1.40 each
  • 4 packages of Keebler cookies — $0.25 each
  • 4 to-go cups — $0.25 each
  • 4 bags of peanuts — $0.25 each
  • Total with tax: $7.26

$70 Grocery Budget + Menu Plan

I couldn’t believe the great deals we found at BigLots! It reminded me of the Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery last week!

What We Ate This Past Week

Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand.

This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate.

Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here.



  • Ham Sandwiches, Granola Bars, Yogurt, Capri Sun, Salad, Leftovers, Fruit,


  • Cookies, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Go-Gurts


  • Sunday — Chicken Noodle Soup, Oyster Crackers
  • Monday — Fend for Yourself
  • Tuesday — Chick-fil-A
  • Wednesday — Smoked Ribs
  • Thursday — Chicken Noodle Soup, Bran Muffins
  • Friday — Chicken Rice Casserole, Cantaloupe, Roasted Broccoli
  • Saturday — Leftovers

Total spent on groceries: $61.94

Cashback earned this week: 308 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

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35 Stores That Offer Free Shipping, No Minimum Order Required

We’ve all been there: You finally find an item you’ve been looking for online, and it’s on sale for $5!

You add it to your cart, go to check out — and realize you have to pay $8 for shipping. It’s not such a good deal anymore.

Here’s another common scenario: You add everything you need to your cart, and the total comes to $25. The site offers free shipping — but only on orders over $50.

Shipping costs often double or even triple the price you pay for small orders — eliminating the savings of shopping online. But if you know where to look, you can get thousands of items shipped for free.

35 Stores With Free Shipping

These companies offer free shipping with no minimum purchase. Some of them ship worldwide for free, while others only ship free within the continental U.S. Some also offer free shipping to your local store.

1. Target

If you have a Target REDcard, you’re in for a treat!

In addition to saving 5% off your order, you qualify for free U.S. shipping. Alaska and Hawaii are included, and Target also ships to APO/FPO addresses.

2. Timberland

Known for its boots and outdoors wear, Timberland offers free standard U.S. shipping on every order.

3. The North Face

The North Face sells outdoor apparel and equipment for men, women and kids. Standard shipping is free on all orders in the U.S.

4. Nordstrom

Nordstrom is known for its high-end products, but it offers free U.S. shipping to soften the blow — including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

If that’s not enough, it also offers free returns!

5. Neiman Marcus

Much like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus is top-of-the-line. But there’s no shipping costs added to their premium offerings, and you’ll have your goods in 3 to 5 business days.

6. Kate Spade

Everyone’s favorite purse label — which also sells clothing, shoes and jewelry, by the way — offers free shipping and free returns in all 50 states, via USPS.

7. Lily Pulitzer

You know this brand for its brightly colored tropical and paisley prints. But did you know Lily Pulitzer offers free economy shipping on all orders in the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico?

8. Tiffany & Co.

The most storied jewelry store ever offers free shipping and free returns on every precious order.

Getty Images

9. Reformation

This sustainable women’s clothing maker uses the tagline “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2.” Bonus: It offers free shipping and free returns on all orders.

10. Bonobos

This men’s clothing and accessories shop distinguishes itself with free shipping and free returns in the U.S.

11. Cents of Style

Cents of Style is an affordable women’s retailer selling clothes, shoes and accessories. Double down on the deals with free shipping all the time.

12. Ray-Ban

What’s cooler than a pair of slick shades? Free U.S. shipping from Ray-Ban!

Alaska and Hawaii are included, and orders usually arrive within two to three days. If you want to send an item back, you can return it for free.

13. Fossil

You probably know Fossil for its watches. But it also has full lines of men’s and women’s clothing, plus bags and jewelry. All of it ships for free in the U.S. and territories, with delivery in 7 to 10 business days.

14. Keds

Enjoy free shipping and free returns on all your sneaker orders.

15. Zappos

From shoes to handbags, Zappos has a wonderful selection of clothing and accessories, and everything ships free. This includes Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories. The site also offers free returns for one year.

Zappos uses USPS Priority Mail to make sure your order gets to your doorstep in four to five days.

16. MAC Cosmetics

Makeup, skincare products, kits, makeup tools, fragrances — all MAC products ship for free with standard shipping, which arrives in 2 to 5 business days.

17. Dermstore

Dermstore, which sells skincare products, makeup and hair care products, offers free standard shipping on all orders — including to Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

18. Apple

If the iPad or Mac you’re eyeing is in stock on Apple’s online store, it most likely ships for free. (Excluded are such items as customized Macs and engraved products.) For iPhones you can even get free next-day shipping.

19. Microsoft

Microsoft will give you free standard shipping on all orders to the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Getty Images

20. Dell

If you’re in the market for a new laptop, you can get free U.S. shipping to any of the 48 contiguous states. Your order will arrive within three to five days, and you won’t spend a penny extra.

Dell also offers a price match guarantee to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

21. Samsung

Samsung offers free shipping on all order in the contiguous United States, including on big TVs. Mobile devices and accessories default to free expedited shipping.

22. AT&T

AT&T offers free express shipping on all orders, which normally costs $14.95. Accessory-only orders get free priority shipping, and AT&T will even pay for the return shipping if you choose to send an item back.

23. Otter Box

Otter Box makes mobile phone cases, yes. But they also sell outdoor gear including coolers, dry bags and tumblers. All U.S. orders ship free.

24. Crate & Barrel

Longing for a new addition to your kitchen? Crate & Barrel boasts a wide range of products that all ship free.

As long as you’re in the contiguous U.S., you can snag this deal. Make sure your cart only contains eligible items, or else you’ll have to fork over the shipping cost.

Getty Images

25. Sweetwater

If you’re a musician who regularly buys gear, consider buying from Sweetwater. The highly reputable site offers free U.S. shipping on thousands of items.

While APO and FPO addresses qualify, Alaska and Hawaii don’t. Most of the company’s orders ship the same day, so you’ll get your new equipment at lightning speed.

26. Amoeba Music

Need another reason to buy that record you’ve been eyeballing? Free U.S. shipping from Amoeba should do the trick. It offers cost-free USPS media mail shipping for all music and movie formats.

While orders can take 5 to 21 days to arrive, the wait is worth it.

27. Molton Brown

Molton Brown’s wide selection of cruelty-free bath and body products is even cooler because of the free U.S shipping. If you’re in the contiguous states, you’ll receive your order within three to seven days.

Bonus: You’ll get a free 1-ounce sample with every order and a complimentary gift box if you’re buying for someone else.

28. AbeBooks

AbeBooks has a humongous selection of books at unbelievably low prices, and thousands of them qualify for free shipping.

The best part? You can search for books that will ship for free specifically to your corner of the world. The site allows you to search for free shipping to the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, and they even have a worldwide option.

8 Retailers That Offer Free Shipping if You Pick Up in Store

These retailers don’t offer free shipping directly to your home without a minimum purchase. But they do let you order online and ship — for free — to one of their stores. Then you pick up your order there.

29. Walmart

You can order thousands of different items from Walmart’s website and pick them up for free in a store — many of them same day.

30. Verizon

Free two-day shipping from Verizon requires a $49 minimum purchase. But you can pick up your devices in store for free.

31. Staples

Staples has a great in-store selection, but its online selection is even better. If you see something you like, you can have it shipped to your local store at no shipping cost. However, oversized items like furniture may not qualify.

32. Ace Hardware

Ace offers a wonderful ship-to-store option for tons of items. Your order will arrive at your local store in one to seven days, and you’ll receive an email confirmation when it’s ready.

Ace will even ship to Alaska and Hawaii, though it will take a little longer. Your local store will hold your orders for five days, so there’s no rush to pick them up.

33. Home Depot

More than a million items at Home Depot are available for free in-store pickup, many within a couple hours.

34. Lowe’s

Like its big competitor, Lowe’s also offers free in-store pickup on its many home improvement items.

35. Guitar Center

If you have a Guitar Center store nearby, you can buy online and have your order shipped there for free. It also offers free in-store returns with immediate credit. Certain orders like clearance items and oversized products don’t apply.

Ian Chandler is a freelance writer based in Ohio. Senior editor Molly Moorhead contributed to this report.

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15 Steps to Take If You Were Affected by the Capital One Data Breach

On July 29, 2019, Capital One joined the long and growing list of Fortune 500 companies affected by data breaches. It has plenty of company, including retail giants such as Target and The Home Depot, blue-chip insurers such as Anthem, and global hospitality families such as Marriott. Financial institutions aren’t immune, either. Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting bureaus, had some 143 million personal records compromised in a massive 2017 breach.

According to CNN, the Capital One breach affected more than 105 million North American consumers who applied for Capital One credit products between 2005 and early 2019.

The alleged perpetrator, a Seattle-area software engineer, broke into Capital One’s systems through a misconfigured firewall. She accessed a trove of consumer data, including contact details, credit scores, spending limits, account balances, social insurance information, and bank account numbers. She then allegedly posted this information on GitHub and bragged about the exploit on social media and Slack, making little effort to conceal her identity. A concerned GitHub user notified Capital One, which notified the FBI, and the suspect was arrested within days.

The alleged perpetrator’s carelessness no doubt sped up public disclosure of the breach. Many data breaches go unnoticed for months or years, and perpetrators beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement authorities may evade justice indefinitely.

No matter the circumstances, if you’re a potential victim of a corporate data breach, you should act swiftly. Stolen personal information may be used in identity theft, which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, particularly for the elderly, minor children, and adults with limited control over their personal data and finances.

If your data is part of a corporate breach, you may not necessarily be a victim of identity theft. But it does significantly increases your chances, especially if you don’t take decisive action soon after learning of the breach.

What to Do When You’re Part of a Data Breach (Or Suspect You Are)

If you have reason to believe your data was involved in a corporate data breach, such as Capital One’s, here’s what you can do to mitigate the risk.

1. Determine Whether You’re Actually Affected

Sometimes, the affected organization sets up a dedicated website or hotline for members of the public to check their status. After disclosing its 2017 breach, Equifax did both. You can still use its website to check your exposure.

Other times, the affected organization notifies victims directly. According to CNBC, Capital One pledged to notify victims through multiple channels, likely to include emails and secure internal account messages.

You can also use the breach’s publicly known timeline and geography to determine your exposure. For instance, the Capital One breach included data from pretty much everyone who applied for credit between 2005 and early 2019. You probably know off the top of your head whether that means you.

2. Determine the Extent of the Compromise

This may be trickier than determining your exposure. For instance, data stolen in the Capital One breach appears to fall into three main buckets:

  • Data typically included on credit card applications, such as names, dates of birth, home addresses, and self-reported income
  • Social insurance data — Social Security numbers from U.S. customers and Social Insurance numbers from Canadian customers.
  • Credit card data, including payment history, credit limits, credit scores, and account balances, but apparently not credit card numbers themselves

The alleged perpetrator accessed credit card application data from virtually all consumers affected by the breach. She accessed social insurance information from a smaller number of victims — about 1 million, mostly Canadian — and was only able to obtain fragmented transaction data from 23 days in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

In other words, if you applied for a Capital One credit product between 2005 and early 2019, you can assume that your application data was compromised. But unless you had an active Capital One credit card from 2016 to 2018, your transaction data is probably safe.

To know for sure, reach out to the affected organization through approved channels, such as Equifax’s breach lookup website. Although you can always call the organization’s regular customer service hotline or use its online chat function, so can anyone else. And in the wake of a major breach, even large organizations’ support teams are likely to be overwhelmed with inquiries.

Alternatively, wait for the affected organization to contact you directly as you work through the rest of this list. Don’t interpret ongoing silence to mean you’re in the clear; the organization may take some time to determine precisely who’s affected and how.

3. Pay Attention to Official Communications From the Compromised Organization

If the compromised organization pledges to notify customers affected by the breach, find out precisely how and when they’ll do so. Since it’s less vulnerable to compromise than email and less prone to abuse than phone calls, snail mail remains a popular means of breach notification. Financial institutions may also use secure internal account messages to notify customers.

Don’t trust intermediaries unless the compromised company says it’s OK to do so. Don’t speak to anyone who tries to contact you outside of an approved means of disclosure. If the organization promises to notify victims by snail mail, and someone calls you claiming to represent them, assume it’s a scam and hang up.

If and when you do receive official communications from the affected organization, pay close attention to them and act on any instructions you receive. For instance, after a breach that compromises payment card data, financial institutions commonly reissue cards with new numbers. Watch for yours in the mail and activate it promptly.

Official instructions from the compromised organization may overlap with some or all of the action items on this list — all the more reason to take them seriously.

4. Change Passwords for Any Affected Account

Change the password for any digital account you know or suspect to be compromised in the breach. If you use the same compromised password on other accounts not affected by the breach, change the passwords on those as well. Moving forward, avoid reusing passwords, use a secure password storage manager like 1password, and take the opportunity to review these tips to protect your personal information online.

5. Set Activity Alerts

If you know or suspect that the breach compromised your financial information, such as payment card or bank account numbers, set activity alerts on those accounts to monitor for unauthorized use. At a minimum, these alerts should cover attempted withdrawals and point-of-sale transactions, as well as attempts to access your accounts online.

Bear in mind that hackers don’t have to break into your bank’s mainframe to obtain your payment card information. Over 100 million Target shoppers lost payment card information in the retailer’s 2013 data breach, for instance — a breach that didn’t directly affect any financial institutions.

6. Request New Payment Card Numbers

Financial services companies generally distribute fresh payment cards when their customers are affected by breaches. But if your card data is involved in a third-party breach, such as the Target incident, you may need to be proactive.

Call the number on the back of the card and tell the rep you believe your account was compromised. You may need to explain the scenario and answer some boilerplate questions, like, “Was the card ever out of your possession?” Be truthful, but don’t overexplain. Your bank or card issuer doesn’t want to be on the hook for unauthorized transactions, so it’s likely to cancel and reissue your card with limited pushback. In most cases, you’ll need to wait to use the new number until the physical card arrives in the mail.

7. Enroll in a Free Credit Monitoring or Identity Theft Protection Service

It’s standard practice for organizations affected by data breaches to offer customers free limited-time enrollment in credit monitoring or identity theft protection services. Enrollment periods typically last at least one year, with no obligation to re-enroll at subscription prices. Some last longer; Equifax offered customers affected by its 2017 breach up to 10 years of free credit monitoring.

Since enrollment in these services is free and you’re not obligated to pay when the free period ends, there’s little downside to taking an organization up on its offer. It’s the least they can do.

8. Place Fraud Alerts

Place a fraud alert with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. By law, a credit reporting bureau must contact the other two when it receives a fraud alert request, so you technically only need to place an alert with one bureau to secure protection for all three. If you don’t trust the process, however, you’re free to contact each bureau individually.

As long as your fraud alert remains in effect, prospective creditors must verify your identity before opening new credit lines in your name. When someone pulls your credit or tries to open a new credit line on your behalf, you’ll automatically receive an alert. That makes it far more difficult for identity thieves to exploit your good credit and rack up debt without your knowledge.

Fraud alerts are free to institute and maintain. They last for one year, and you can renew them at the end of each term.

9. Claim Your Free Credit Reports

This is something you should do anyway, regardless of whether you’re involved in a data breach. By law, you’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. You can get yours at Consider pulling one report per quarter to monitor your credit throughout the year, rather than pulling all three reports at once.

Scan your report for sudden or unexplained credit score declines and other evidence of possible identity theft, such as the appearance of a new credit line you didn’t open.

10. Consider Signing Up for Ongoing Monitoring or Protection

After taking full advantage of any free membership or trial offered by the compromised organization, weigh the pros and cons of paying for ongoing credit monitoring or identity theft protection.

If you simply want to keep tabs on your credit score, a free credit monitoring service such as Credit Sesame may be all you need. For more robust, comprehensive identity theft protection, consider a paid service such as IdentityGuard, which comes with features free services don’t offer, such as detailed risk management reports, tools for safer Web browsing, and dark web scanning.

11. Consider Using a Dark Web Scanning Service

There’s a good chance your information is somewhere on the dark web. The question is, what’s being done with it?

While a dark web scan isn’t comprehensive, it may reveal whether any of your personal data has fallen into the wrong hands or is in danger of doing so. You don’t have to pay for this knowledge; Experian offers a free one-time dark web scan, for instance. Some experts question the value of a dark web scan, but it’s almost certainly better than nothing, especially when you don’t have to pay for it.

12. Promptly Report Suspicious Account Activity

Remember: It’s not the data breach itself you have to worry about; it’s what happens next. Very often, that’s a series of concerted efforts to steal your identity. For instance, cybercriminals who’ve gotten their hands on customers’ email addresses might impersonate the compromised organization in sophisticated phishing emails asking for account numbers or login credentials. Or they may send you malicious links that infect your computer with malware.

Report any and all attempts to further compromise your data or finances to the affected organization. Companies sometimes set up dedicated abuse-reporting channels after major breaches. Capital One immediately created the email address [email protected]

By the same token, if you discover any suspicious activity through a credit monitoring service, in your credit report, from a credit bureau fraud alert, or by reviewing your credit card statement, immediately report it to your bank or credit card issuer. If the suspicious activity involves a credit card, the issuer should promptly cancel and reissue the card.

Banks and credit unions generally have zero-liability fraud policies that reverse or refund unauthorized debit transactions. But you may be on the hook for a portion of the charges — up to $500 — if you wait longer than two business days to notify your bank. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a more detailed description of your rights under the law.

To be clear, you don’t have to wait for news of a data breach to report suspicious activity on your accounts. Unauthorized account charges, sketchy communications from people who may or may not be associated with your financial institution, and other possible instances of fraudulent activity always warrant reporting. But you should be especially vigilant in the wake of a disclosed data breach.

13. Freeze Your Credit Report

If you have no plans to apply for credit soon, consider freezing your credit at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Like fraud alerts, credit freezes are free to apply and lift. However, bureaus don’t have to notify one another when you place a freeze, so you’ll need to contact each one directly.

While your credit is frozen, creditors can’t pull your credit report. That means you can’t open new credit card accounts, apply for a mortgage, or take out a personal loan — and neither can identity thieves.

The Federal Trade Commission has more information on how credit freezes work and how they differ from credit locks, which may carry monthly fees.

14. Watch for Signs That Your Identity Has Been Stolen

The risk of identity theft dramatically increases in the wake of a data breach. According to IdentityGuard, almost one in five notified data breach victims later suffer identity theft.

Learn to spot possible signs of identity theft, such as:

  • Bills for services you never requested
  • Being turned down or charged more for health insurance due to conditions you don’t have
  • Insurance claims rejected due to recent claims you didn’t make
  • No longer receiving important bills
  • Unexpected change-of-address notifications from creditors or payees
  • Unexpected bank account withdrawals or credit card charges
  • Notification from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name for the most recent tax year
  • Two-factor authentication alerts (such as numeric codes sent by SMS) that you didn’t request
  • Credit applications rejected due to poor credit

If you spot any of these signs, here’s what to do if you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft.

15. Claim Your Share of Any Breach Settlement

The terms of Equifax’s breach settlement required the bureau to provide up to 10 years of free credit monitoring or $125 cash to customers with existing credit monitoring coverage. That may not be enough to make anyone rich, but it’s a nice gesture nonetheless.

If a data breach leads to a class-action lawsuit, you may be entitled to damages as part of that class. Eligible class members often, but not always, receive official mailed notification of their eligibility. Those who join the lawsuit are bound by the terms of the eventual settlement, while those who opt out are free to pursue other legal remedies. If you think you may be in a class for which you haven’t received official notification, check a no-cost third-party resource such as Consumer Action.

Final Word

In a news cycle accelerated by social media and push notifications, keeping up with current events is an overwhelming task. But some of the breaking stories crossing your virtual desk today could affect your personal finances or well-being tomorrow.

It’s worth a few minutes of your time to pay attention to reports of a major data breach. If you’ve had any association with the compromised organization, however tenuous, it’s highly likely you’re affected.

If that’s the case, take action to mitigate the damage. Mounting an effective response to a corporate data breach is mostly a matter of diligence and vigilance, and it’s well worth the time to ensure your information is protected.

Have you ever been involved in a data breach? How did you respond?

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Books with Impact: Atomic Habits

The “Books with Impact” series takes a deeper look at specific books that have had a profound impact on my financial, professional, and personal growth by extracting specific points of advice from those books and looking at how I’ve applied them in my life with successful results. The previous entry in this series covered The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s that if you want to succeed at any life improvement goal, you have to alter your normal daily routine such that every single day naturally produces some progress toward your goal.

I was really able to observe this through my own personal experience with personal finance. I spent a lot of time during the early years of The Simple Dollar trying to reduce my burn rate and also automating as much of my savings plan as possible. The end result is that I go through what feels like a normal day right now and I simply move closer to my big goal of financial independence.

Over the years, I’ve tried to understand what made us succeed at our big personal finance goals while having a mixed bag of results at other personal goals in our lives. The two biggest runaway successes in my life (aside from my marriage and my children) were the personal finance changes we made and the construction of a successful business. Knowing that it was the daily routine that was at the heart of those successes, why did things work so well for those goals and flop with other goals? What was the difference?

The book Triggers, which was an earlier entry in the Books with Impact series, provided some insights. That book is all about correcting behaviors, and behaviors are simply made up of the things we do that are triggered by our internal and external environments. The book focuses on finding ways to alter one’s internal and external environments so that better behaviors naturally occur, and the system it provides is extremely powerful at doing so, particularly when it comes to altering specific things you notice that you’d like to do differently.

The system in Triggers is really powerful for passive and reactive changes you want to make to yourself – things that are very automatic and internal – but it’s not as good at stimulating proactive change – when you want to actually make doing something normal. For example, Triggers works well if you want to, say, eat X instead of Y or eat less period, but it doesn’t work as well if you’re trying to add a new habit to your life.

That’s where Atomic Habits by James Clear comes in, and I think it’s a great complement to Triggers.

The key idea behind Atomic Habits is that big goals are good for some inspiration and a bit of motivation and perhaps for setting some general direction, but goals alone won’t make you change. Rather, Clear’s book focuses on systems – very simple daily actions that constitute a step in the right direction toward your big goal – and elevating those systems and daily steps to being the main focus for change.

Let’s dig in.

The Fundamentals: Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

Many people, when they think about change, they think about having to make some radical shift in their life to accomplish a huge goal. “I want to lose 100 pounds this year, so I’m going to have to live off of carrots and move into the gym.” That’s not sustainable. Very, very few people are going to be able to do that.

Clear argues on behalf of a systematic approach. Big goals are fine as a tool for figuring out your direction going forward, but what he’s interested in is defining the direction in which you want things to change and then coming up with a system that involves daily action that nudges you in that direction, and then focusing entirely on the system.

So, rather than having that stark “I want to lose 100 pounds this year” goal and planning around that, Clear advocates coming up with a system of very simple daily action that takes you toward that goal. For example, you might focus on something like a daily calorie counting goal or simply maintaining a one-meal-a-day or an intermittent fasting routine.

The point is that you have to have a daily system in place that takes you a step closer each day to your goal, and it has to be a system you can stick to. If you have that system, all you have to do is focus on that system and the goal becomes inevitable.

Clear offers a ton of examples of this in various fields. They all boil down to the same thing: a 1% improvement in your daily routine adds up over time and tends to have a multiplicative effect for many goals. You want to lose weight and feel more energetic? Do a very small amount of exercise daily and tweak your dietary routine just a bit. You will gradually start losing weight and as that starts to happen, you’ll find yourself naturally becoming more active because you weigh less and you’re more fit. This results in more daily calories burnt and if you’re sticking to your tweaked routine, your movement toward a healthier body will accelerate.

A similar phenomenon is true for things like knowledge acquisition. If you spend, say, 30 extra minutes studying each day, you won’t see much of a change at first, but over time, the extra studying you did earlier will enable you to dig further and further into the subject, allowing you to build knowledge and connections and skills at a continuously accelerating rate.

Often, progress like this has a “tipping point,” in that you won’t notice much progress for a while and then suddenly the visible changes come in a flood. I love Clear’s ice cube analogy here, which he discusses on page 20 of the hardcover version of the book. Imagine that you’re watching an ice cube and each day, your system turns up the temperature by one degree. You start at -10 F, and then the next day you go up to -9 F, and there’s no change. -8, -7, -6, no change in the ice cube. Day after day after day, no change. But then, one day, you reach 32 F and suddenly the cube starts to melt – radical change, and you can see all of that effort paying off. That’s why it’s a good idea to trust your system for a long while. Do the homework and planning to make sure your system is good and then give it plenty of time and trust so that you don’t give up before your ice cube melts.

So, how do you make an effective system? How do you come up with very basic daily habits that can be made into a routine that you’ll stick with and will guide you meaningfully toward your goal? That’s most of what the rest of the book is about.

This is the point in the book where the material overlaps the most with Triggers. They both identify a structure in which our normal behaviors become a cycle, each book offering up a few variations. In the case of Atomic Habits, Clear breaks habits down into a four part cycle: cue, craving, response, and reward. The end result of this is that we eventually associate the reward (and, to an extent, the response) with the cue.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re checking your email and this makes you a bit anxious and stressed (cue). You start to crave something that will alleviate your stress and the thing you find that’s convenient is chewing your nails (response). This takes the edge off your feelings of anxiety (reward), and thus you start to associate checking your email with chewing your nails.

A good system identifies and disrupts some of those associations in your life. For example, if you respond to certain cues by eating, a good system will disrupt those relationships.

Clear identifies four “laws,” one for each of the elements in that cycle (cue, craving, response, reward). Together, strategies that address all of these elements will make for a great system that will bring about the changes you want in your life.

The 1st Law: Make It Obvious

The first piece of the puzzle is to address cues, and the place to start with that is to figure out the things in our life that serve as cues. Clear recommends making a giant list of all of our daily habits as a first step in identifying what kinds of cues actually drive us. You’ll find that there are lots of cues that exist in our life, some of which we can control and some of which we can’t.

This is where I feel like Triggers and Atomic Habits diverge. Triggers focuses much more on dealing with habits with cues we don’t control, whereas Atomic Habits deals with habits where we can control the cues.

The basic recipe that Clear proposes is that if we want to establish a new habit, it should follow a recipe:

I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

I will meditate at 7 AM for one minute in my kitchen.

I will study Spanish for 20 minutes at 6 PM in my bedroom.

I will preheat the oven for dinner the moment I walk in the door from work in my kitchen.

I will wash my car on the first Friday of every month on my way home from work at the car wash on Main Street.

You get the idea. A very specific behavior, at a very specific time, and a very specific location.

A system is essentially a handful of these habits that are all pushing you in the same overall direction. Often, these habits can be stacked – you do a handful of these habits at the same time in the same location so that they effectively become one habit.

I will preheat the oven and then meditate for one minute when I walk in the door from work each day in my kitchen.

I will wash my car and air up my tires on the first Friday of every month on my way home from work at the car wash on Main Street.

This sets the stage for things like morning routines, where you do a certain routine of specific actions upon waking up, or an evening routine or a before-bed routine.

Another element of making cues obvious is to make your environment conducive to remembering them. If you need an item to perform a habit, put that item in the right place so that you find it there. It’s the same reason you keep your toothbrush by the sink in the bathroom. Do the same thing for every habit that you have – put the stuff you need right where you’re going to do it so that there’s minimal pushback against doing it. Set it out where you can see it.

Eventually, the habit gets associated with a lot of elements in the environment, and when that happens, it becomes more and more and more natural and ingrained in your life.

Similarly, if you want to reduce a bad habit, remove the cues for it from your environment. Throw away the junk food and the cigarettes. Cut up your credit card. Find a different commute. Remove the cues at all costs.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive

The problem with many new habits is that they’re unpleasant. We don’t necessarily want to do things in this new and different way, for any number of reasons. Maybe we don’t want to exercise. Maybe we don’t want to cook meals at home. Maybe we don’t want to put aside time for prayer.

The way around this is to tie that difficult new habit to something we want to do via habit stacking.

For example, let’s say we have a habit we want to establish like “At 7 AM each morning, I will exercise for 20 minutes in the living room.” You don’t really want to exercise, so that’s going to be hard to establish.

So, instead, establish this second habit. “After I exercise for 20 minutes, I’ll have a cup of coffee and sit down with my phone to read the news for 15 minutes.”

That second part sounds really pleasant. If you tack it on to the first habit by linking them together, you utilize the craving you have for the enjoyable part by using it as a carrot to get through the challenging part.

You can also make a new habit feel more attractive by making it feel more normal. We find ourselves taking most of our behavioral cues from three different groups: the close (those we spend a lot of time with), the many (the mass of humanity), and the powerful (those in a strong and/or influential position). Putting effort into tuning each of these groups in your life can make your new systems seem much more natural and supported.

Spend more time with friends who do similar things to your new system. Look for media coverage of people doing things like what you’re trying to do. Look for role models who are doing similar things as well. If you surround yourself with those elements, your new habits and systems feel more natural.

If you want to eliminate a bad habit, apply the inverse of all of this to it. Make it unattractive. Focus on the negatives of the habit and the positives of not doing it. Penalize yourself whenever you do it by associating a penalty of some kind. Look for negative role models associated with that habit – people who ended up in a bad place because of the habit.

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy

The more difficult and intrusive a new habit is, the harder it is going to be to add it to your life. A habit of one minute of meditation is easier to add to your life than an hour of meditation. A habit of one pushup is easier to add to your life than a habit of an hour of exercise.

Clear suggests utilizing this understanding and paring every single habit down to a two minute action. You absolutely should make your daily habit something like “meditate for two minutes” or “read one page” instead of “meditate for an hour” or “read fifty pages.” Why? You’re much more likely to actually do it each day if the habit is less intrusive and burdensome.

The nice part about such habits is that you usually feel inclined to do more of them if there is time. You don’t have to read more than one page, but if you have nothing going on in the next half an hour, why not read ten pages? You don’t have to do more than one push-up, but if you’re down there, why not do a set of ten and then maybe another set of ten? You don’t have to meditate for more than a minute, but you’ve got time, so you set that timer for fifteen minutes.

The point is not to do a very tiny trivial task, but to simply master the art of showing up. If you meditate for one minute a day, meditation is now a daily part of your life and you can choose to meditate for longer if you wish.

Another suggestion that Clear offers is to write down your tiny habit (“Atomic Habit,” perhaps?) and then write down a few bigger versions of it. For example, your super-easy daily habit might be to do one push-up, but what about doing ten? A set of fifteen, a set of ten, then a set of five? A set of 70% of your max, then 60%, then 50%, then 40%, then 30%? The habit is all about doing the easiest version, but you have some options to choose from once you “show up.”

If you want to take it even further, automate that habit if possible. This is a great way to approach a lot of personal finance goals, as you can easily automate savings plans and extra loan payments with online banking. You can set your phone to go to silent from 8 AM to noon and then from 12:30 PM to 5 PM. You can set up a water purifying filter right on or under your faucet so that having good drinking water is practically automatic. In terms of killing negative habits, you can install a website blocker that keeps you from visiting social media.

The 4th Law: Make It Satisfying

Clear argues here that if you want to get a habit to stick, it needs to feel immediately satisfying. If it doesn’t feel good, then you’re probably not going to stick with it for very long, because discipline only lasts so long. The first three laws are all about getting you to do the habit for the first few times; this is about sticking with it over the long haul.

Clear’s big universal suggestion for all habits is to track them. Keep track of the fact that you executed your habit each day and perhaps a number associated with the effort. Try to start building a chain of Xs or of non-zero numbers and you’ll eventually start feeling great satisfaction from that chain and want to keep adding to it. Doing something two days in a row feels good; doing something 100 days in a row feels amazing.

This kind of tracking becomes an addendum to your habit. “After I do my push-up(s), I’ll record how many I did in my spreadsheet.” “After I read, I’ll record my current page count on Goodreads.” “After I put away my dishes, I’ll record what I ate.”

What if you break that chain? Start a new chain as quickly as possible. One misstep isn’t a problem; two missteps is the beginning of a new negative habit.

Eventually, continuing the chain becomes incredibly satisfying, and it can be enough of a lure to keep you doing the habit even when you don’t want to. We all have days where we don’t want to exercise, but pushing through and keeping that chain alive is really rewarding.

The reverse is true when trying to undo a bad habit – you want to make it unsatisfying. A good way to do this is with an accountability partner, where you have to tell that person if you screwed up, or perhaps with a promise to announce your screw-ups on social media. That sounds like misery, so it’s a strong nudge to stay on a good path.

Advanced Tactics: How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great

The last, rather short section of the book is essentially a number of short essays on building habits that really don’t fit into the above sections.

For example, Clear goes into a discussion about finding habits that are going to be incredibly transformative for you. One thing he suggests doing is finding things that you enjoy doing that others view as work and using habits to build your skill in that area. Also, look for things that make you lose track of time and things that come naturally to you. Habits centered around those often end up leading to fantastic results, as you become very good at something that other people struggle with. It can be a skill that you can easily make money from.

Another suggestion Clear offers is to find that happy middle point between something being so simple that you’re bored with it and so difficult that you fail at it. You want it to be challenging, but not so difficult you have no chance at it. Don’t lift 5 pounds, but don’t lift 1,000 pounds. Find the spot in the middle that works well for you.

If you’re struggling with being bored in your habit, find some way to add variability to it. For example, I find that rather than having a set fitness plan, I get a lot of value out of doing a random set of exercises each day. My fitness “habit” is just doing the Darebee daily exercises, then doing a random set of taekwondo practices from an app I set up on my phone. That way, it doesn’t feel the same every day. I also switch up my stretching routine regularly; if it begins to feel dull, I find a new one to do, ideally one that’s fairly challenging but not impossible. The goal is to stretch every morning, not to do that specific routine every morning.

Clear also points to the value of developing a handful of synergistic habits, things that actually nudge each other to better results than you would have achieved with a single habit on its own. For example, I stretch, do a bodyweight exercise routine, and do some taekwondo practice every day, and those actually aid each other and make each one easier and more effective. The same is true for habits like saving money for the future and being frugal with your spending – they aid each other and the more you put into frugality, the more you can save.

Final Thoughts

I found that the advice in this book works best for goals and habits that you can approach with very clear and specific daily activities, like a daily exercise routine or writing in a journal each day or meditating each day or doing a load of laundry each day or simply getting out of bed and showering each day. If you have a big goal that can be approached with systematic daily small habits like these, Clear’s advice is tremendous.

However, it doesn’t really hit home as well when you’re trying to change more nebulous things about yourself, like your proclivity to eat out of boredom at random moments throughout the day or your shyness around other people. If the thing you want to improve about yourself is best described with a “to be” verb, this system doesn’t work quite as well. I think that Triggers is a much better system for this.

Over the last few months, I’ve been using both systems in my life. I have a bunch of “atomic habits” I’m tracking in a notebook, along with a bunch of “daily questions” (from Triggers). I will likely show off my system in a future article once I give it a few more months to really refine it.

I think if you’re struggling to make changes in your life, both books are well worth reading and both systems are worth applying in your life, but some elements will click better with some people than others.

Good luck!

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What college kids really need for school ~ Get Rich Slowly

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletThose ubiquitous checklists of “dorm room essentials” for college freshmen are filled with items that will be ditched by the end of first semester.

Some parents “go to the store and grab a list like they did when their kids were in elementary and high school and just go straight down the list,” says Lisa Heffernan, mother of three sons and a college-shopping veteran. Or they buy things they only wish their students will use (looking at you, cleaning products).

You can safely skip about 70% of things on those lists, estimates Asha Dornfest, the author of Parent Hacks and mother of a rising college sophomore who’s home for the summer.

What college kids need

What not to buy or bring

Freshmen really need just two things, says Heffernan, co-founder of the blog Grown and Flown: a good mattress topper and a laptop.

Here are seven items you can skip:

  • Printer. Don’t waste desk space or, worse, store it under the bed; printers are plentiful on campus.
  • TV. Students may watch on laptops or on TVs in common areas or in someone else’s room. Bonus: Your teen gets out and meets others.
  • Speakers. Small spaces don’t require powerful speakers; earphones may be a good idea and respectful of roommates.
  • Car. Some colleges bar freshmen from having cars on campus or limit their parking. You also may save on insurance by keeping the car at home.
  • Luggage. If you bring it, you must store it. Heffernan suggests collapsible blue Ikea storage bags with zippers.
  • Toiletries to last until May. Bulk buying may save money, but you need storage space.
  • Duplicates of anything provided by the college, such as a lamp, wastebasket, desk chair or dresser.

Items left behind when students pack for the summer are telling. Luke Jones, director of housing and residence life at Boise State University, sees unopened food — a lot of ramen and candy — and stuffed animals and mirrors.

Jones says many students regret bringing high school T-shirts and memorabilia and some of their clothes (dorm closets typically are tiny).

What can you buy, then?

Before you shop, find out what the college forbids (candles, space heaters, electric blankets and halogen lights are common). Have your student check with assigned roommates about appliances (who’s bringing a fridge or microwave?) and color scheme if they want to set one. Know the dimensions of the room and the size of the bed. And most of all, know your budget. Not everything has to be brand new.

Ten things — besides the all-important mattress topper and laptop — that many students consider dorm room essentials include:

  • One or two fitted sheets in the correct bed size, plus pillowcases. Heffernan says most students don’t use top sheets.
  • Comforter or duvet with washable cover.
  • Towels in a distinctive pattern or light enough for labeling with laundry marker, plus shower sandals.
  • Power cord with surge protector and USB ports.
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Easy-to-use storage. If it’s a lot of work to get something out, your student won’t, Heffernan says.
  • Cleaning wipes. Students might not touch products that require multiple steps, but they might use wipes, according to Heffernan.
  • Reading pillow with back support for studying in bed.
  • Area rug. Floors are often hard and cold.
  • Comfort items. Dornfest says it could be a blanket or a picture of the dog — something from home that will make the space a bit more personal.

Afraid you’ll forget something important? You might, Heffernan says. But chances are, you or your student can order it online and get it delivered. Consider doing this with some items simply to avoid the hassle of bringing them yourself, and remember that “dorm necessities” often go on sale once school starts.

Do a reality check

If you or your student still want to replicate the rooms you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, think about how the room will actually be used.

Once your son or daughter moves in, the room will never look like that again. Opt for sturdy items and be realistic. Will throw pillows make the place look more homey and inviting, or will they be tossed on the floor until parents’ weekend?

Dornfest, a co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, offers a compelling reason not to make things too comfortable. “A freshman needs to be encouraged to get out of the dorm room,” she says. “Anything that pulls you into campus life can be good.”

She’s not advocating a monk-like environment, but rather one that encourages breaking out of routines. College should be a time to try new things and meet people from different backgrounds. Dornfest advises making the bed as comfortable as possible and keeping a few reminders of home. The ideal dorm room is more launch pad than cocoon.

More from Nerdwallet

The article 7 Things College Freshmen Don’t Need — and 10 They Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Author: Bev O’Shea

Bev O’Shea is a credit expert at NerdWallet. She has written about consumer credit and credit scores for six years, and has worked in the personal finance field for 12. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, USA Today and MSN Money, and on the Associated Press wire. Her credit score was briefly a perfect 850, and she won’t co-sign, even for her children.

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How to Turn Your Love of Cooking Into Extra Cash

You know you are a great cook because people never turn down a dinner invitation and constantly press you to “go pro.” Or, maybe you’re a cooking professional who wants to make some extra money.

Websites such as match people who love to cook with people who want to taste their wares.

Cooking from home for profit is part of the emerging food-sharing economy. People who do this offer everything from simple bread and soup with locals to exquisite five-course dinners.

Here are some recommendations on how to serve up your new entree.

1. Learn what is legal

People looking at books.
create jobs 51 /

State and local rules and ordinances vary widely when applied to home-based businesses. In some localities, such food enterprises are verboten. In others, the health department may require food-service certification.

So, tread carefully. It is probably best to seek out the advice of an attorney and to conduct your business as a legal entity.

2. Determine if there is a market for your type of food

Chef looking at food.
Volodymyr Goinyk /

You could be the greatest meal-planner and cook in your neighborhood, but if there is no market for your specialties, you don’t have a business.

You also need to realize that the amount you charge for a meal can make or break your enterprise. Spend time researching comparable products and determining your costs before setting prices.

Remember that these costs can change. The prices of items such as flour, butter and eggs are constantly shifting.

3. Make your at-home culinary events a social experience

Happy women having dinner outside.
Jack Frog /

Guests will come to your table expecting a social experience. They’ll get to meet other guests who share their passion for food, and maybe even learn some cooking tips from the chef. (That’s you!)

This works particularly well when you have out-of-towners in your home. You might even get travelers from abroad who are not familiar with the local cuisine.

So go with your passion and make some money on the side by cooking. If you have more suggestions, please offer them below or on our Facebook page.

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Green Dot Launches 3% Cash Back and Savings Account

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.

If you want to earn a high rate of interest and cash back on your spending — and are also OK with waiting up to a year to access it — Green Dot has a new product that may pique your interest.

Green Dot’s new offering, the Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account, gives customers a 3% savings rate on a high-yield savings account, plus a high return on their spending: Unlimited Cash Back debit card holders get an unlimited 3% cash-back bonus on all online and in-app purchases. The bonus is then sent to a separate bonus account, where it remains inaccessible until the account anniversary, when the cardholder can finally access it.

The cash-back bonus account is “like a forced savings account that uses the bank’s money to build up a potentially sizable balance,” the company said in a news release.

A couple of caveats to note: You’ll have to pay a $7.95 monthly fee for the Unlimited Cash Back card unless you’ve made $1,000 in purchases the previous month, excluding mobile bill payments, ATM withdrawals, ACH transactions and other charges. The high-yield savings account’s funds are accessible at any time, though the interest earned may be accessed only on the account anniversary. And the 3% savings account APY applies only up to a balance of $10,000.

Green Dot made its name with prepaid debit cards, an alternative to traditional debit cards that allows people to reload funds. Green Dot prepaid debit cards have attracted their share of customer ire, with higher-than-average consumer complaints, according to a 2018 NerdWallet investigation.

That being said, Green Dot’s accounts are FDIC-insured, and customers have access to a free ATM network and are able to make free cash deposits at national Green Dot retailers, like Walmart. The account has no minimum deposit requirement, and no overdraft or penalty fees.

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How I Stopped Yelling at My Kids

Want to stop yelling at your kids? In this post, I share what has helped me to stop yelling at my kids and practical ways to love more and yell less.

How I Stopped Yelling at My Kids

How I Stopped Yelling at My Kids

I thought I was a patient person… then I had kids.

I said I’d never yell at my kids… and then I had kids.

I pictured myself as a sweet, loving, always-cheerful mom… then I had kids.

Motherhood has stretched me and humbled me. It’s brought out the best in me and the worst in me.

About five years ago, I found myself snapping at my kids more and more frequently, which only served to frustrate me. The more I snapped at my kids, the more frustrated I was at myself. And the more frustrated I was at myself, the more I’d snap at my kids.

It was a vicious cycle and I felt trapped.

One night, I was up late thinking of the kind of mom I’d been and feeling so ashamed of my behavior and the example I was setting before my kids. I started praying and asking God to help me to love my children, to help me have patience with them, and to stop getting so angry with them.

My 4-Week Commitment

As I was praying, an idea birthed in my head. I decided to make a commitment to my husband for the next 4 weeks.

I woke Jesse up to tell him my commitment (I have such a gracious husband — poor guy!). It was this: every time I was tempted to lash out at a child I would, instead, find a very practical way to love that child.

It was a BIG commitment, but he agreed that he thought I could do it and said he was willing to hold me accountable. I went to bed resolving that, by God’s grace, I was going to change the tone in our home.

It Was SO Hard

The first day was very, very hard. One child in particular was pushing all of my buttons and seeming to make a game of trying to see how much they could annoy me.

Well, the first few hours on that first day of my 4-week commitment, this child tried all their usual tactics. I didn’t get frustrated. I didn’t yell. I didn’t even raise my voice.

Oh, it was very hard. But I’m a stubborn person and I was determined to stick with my commitment to my husband.

Instead, of lashing out, I asked this child to come snuggle next to me. I poured love, love, and more love.

The Change Was Amazing!

Within a few hours, this child’s attitude had drastically changed. They were calm, happy, and asking what they could do to help me. I could not believe it!

And this only continued for the next few days. Until finally, I felt like I almost had a completely different child living in my home. It was amazing!

I decided my 4-week experiment was a smashing success. And I decided to extend it for another 40 years. Or something like that. 🙂

Five Years Later

I wrote most of the above five years ago and I wanted to give an update for those who may have read my original post on this. I can safely say that this one change in me has changed the tone in our whole home.

My children are more helpful and respectful. I am so much happier. Jesse is happier because we’re happier. And our home is much, much calmer.

All because I’m choosing to love instead of lash out.

Lean in and Love

Now, let me be honest: I haven’t always done it perfectly and I occasionally revert back to my old ways of getting frustrated.

But when I start to feel the frustration and anger rising, I remember my mantra, “Lean in and love.”

When I want to lash out, lean in and love.

When I want to express my frustration, lean in and love.

When that child is getting on my every last nerve, lean in and love.

Practical Ways to Love More Instead of Lashing Out

1. Invite your child to sit with you.

I’ve noticed that when my children are frustrated and acting out, it’s often because they are craving attention and affection.

Inviting a child to come sit next to me when they are getting on my every last nerve can be so hard for me to do. In fact, I usually want them to be as far away from me as possible. But distance is only going to make matters worse.

Lovingly and gently asking my child to come sit next to me and be with me helps to calm both of us. It helps me to communicate love for the child (even if I don’t feel all that loving at the time) and it causes the child to feel special and cared for.

Moms, we get so busy with life. The list is never ending. But the truth is: Our kids don't need our productivity. They need our presence.

2. Stop, look, and listen.

Moms, we can get so busy with life. We have places to go, things to do, messes to clean up, meals to fix… the list is never ending.

Our kids don’t need our productivity. They need our presence.

If a child is misbehaving, don’t shush them just so you can get back to what you were doing. Stop, look into their eyes, and gently ask them, “Is everything okay?” Or, “What’s wrong?” Really mean it. And then really listen to their answer.

Taking time to do this — even in the middle of a very busy day — has made a world of difference in our home.

9 Ways to Yell Less & Love More

3. Pray With Your Child

When Silas is struggling, I’ll often ask him if I can pray for him. He always says yes and then calms down while I pray with him asking God to help him be calm, obey, love his sisters, or whatever it is that he’s struggling with.

Usually, by the end of my prayer, he’s calmed down and in a much better mood. I think, for him, my willingness to take time to pray with him helps him to feel loved. It also communicates to him that we need God’s help in our everyday life — especially when we’re struggling.

Diana from My Humble Kitchen once shared me with that when she’s struggling to respond with kindness and gentleness to her children, she’ll ask them to gather around and pray for her. She said that it’s basically impossible to respond in anger after your children have gathered around you and prayed for you! I definitely plan to try this soon!

99 Practical Ways to Yell Less & Love More

4. Go Outside & Take a Walk Together

If you feel like things are about to explode inside the walls of your house, call everyone together and tell them you’re taking a walk in 5 minutes. (Or, make it a family bike ride if you have older children.)

Exercise and fresh air can do wonders when things are uptight! Plus, a fresh change of scenery can provide a better setting for talking through issues in a calmer manner.

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses along the way, breathe in the fresh air, soak up the sunshine, and notice the beauty around you. This will boost your spirits for the tasks that lay ahead of you the rest of the day!

9 Ways to Yell Less & Love More

5. Share Three Things You’re Thankful For

As I often say, “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” But sometimes we can get bogged down by all the problems, stresses, and struggles that we forget to count our blessings.

In those moments when you want to yell and be frustrated with your kids, challenge yourself to stop, breathe, and call your children together and each share three things you’re thankful for. This might seem really difficult at first if everyone is at odds with everyone else, but force yourself to do this and it will most likely change the tone in your home.

Plus, it might help you step back and gain some perspective: in light of all you have to be grateful for, the small things that someone is doing to irritate you won’t seem so upsetting.

9 Practical Ways to Yell Less & Love More

 6) Do Something Fun

If you have young children, this can be especially helpful to do on a hard day. When things feel like they are falling apart, set aside your to-do list and plans for the afternoon or evening and have a tea party, a family game night, a family movie night, or go do something fun as a family.

Sit down, smile, and just enjoy your children. Take time to laugh together, read a story (or tell stories!), and maybe also talk to them about how they are feeling about life, things they are struggling with, or even some encouragement for them in some areas they need to improve in.

9 Practical Ways to Yell Less & Love More

7) Put Yourself In Your Child’s Shoes

It’s so easy for us to forget that our kids are often carrying heavy burdens, too. Sometimes, we can be so focused on our world and what we’re carrying that we lose sight of what they might be sad about or stressed about or upset about.

The other day, one of our kids was getting really irritated at everyone. I realized that something was bothering them so I asked them to go have a few minutes of quiet. I reassured them that they were not in trouble but that I thought something was upsetting them and I wanted to give them time to think about what they might be feeling upset about.

I told them I would come back in five minutes and they could tell me what they were feeling. When I did, they poured out all sorts of frustrations to me while I just listened.

This simple exercise seemed to make a world of difference AND allowed me to really have a better understanding of what this child was feeling and carrying.

9 Practical Ways to Yell Less & Love More

8) Play With Your Children

When was the last time you played with your kids?

I mean, really got down on the floor and engaged in their world or did something that your older kids think is fun? While I don’t think we need to entertain our kids 24/7, I think it’s important to regularly take time to spend time with our kids by doing things with them that they love to do.

If you’re having a bad day, here’s an antidote: Think of what your children love to do (playing outside, playing Legos, playing games, playing dress-up, hanging out, watching a movie, playing sports, playing video games,  etc.) and tell them you want to hang out with them for 30 minutes or an hour (or however much time you have).

Then just have fun together and give it your all for those 30 minutes. I bet you end up having as much fun as they will… and you’ll probably forget all about the bad day you were having!

Moms: Take a Time Out

9) Take Mommy Time Out

Moms: Taking time to replenish your supply is not selfish; it’s actually enabling you to be a better wife and mom. If you’re just pouring and pouring and pouring into your family and never taking time to replenish your supply, you’re going to feel burned out, exhausted… and this will often cause you to feel more irritable and frustrated.

What energizes you? What refills your tank? Carve out time in your schedule to make this a priority each week. Get a babysitter, trade baby-sitting with a friend, have dad watch the kids on the weekend or one evening a week… whatever it takes to make Mommy Time happen.

Making time for YOU — to breathe, to refuel, to feel energized again — will make you a calmer, happier mom. And a calmer, happier mom is one who is going yell less and love more.

What practical ideas would you add to my list to help you to yell less and love more? I’d love to hear!

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