Why Your Checking Account Should Contain as Little Money as Possible
By: Natasha Etzel |
– First published on Oct. 4, 2023
A bank account is an excellent place to keep your money so it’s organized and readily available when needed. Many people keep their cash in a checking account. But, while you want to stash enough money in your checking account to cover your bills and everyday expenses, you want to avoid keeping all of your cash there. I’ll explain why here, and suggest a better place to stash your extra savings.Don’t miss out on interestThe average checking account doesn’t accrue interest. That means you won’t get rewarded for keeping money in your bank account. Instead of keeping all your cash in your checking account, you should only keep enough to cover your monthly expenses. You may want to keep a bit more than just enough to cover your bills. That way, you’ll be covered if you have an unexpected charge or a more costly bill than anticipated. How much extra should you have? It depends. For some people, a couple hundred extra dollars may be ideal. But for others, it may be a good idea to include a few hundred or up to an extra $1,000 in their checking accounts for extra wiggle room.But don’t keep every last dollar you have in your checking account. If you do, you’ll miss out on interest. Instead, move your extra savings into a bank account that accrues interest. With an interest-earning bank account, you’ll get rewarded as your cash sits in the bank. You could earn money with a savings accountMany people keep extra cash in a savings account. Review the bank’s annual percentage yield (APY) when considering a new savings account. This rate is the amount of money or interest you’ll earn over a year. The higher the APY, the more money you can make. You can take advantage of an attractive interest rate by opening a high-yield savings account. At the time of writing, the bank accounts on our best high-yield savings accounts list offer APYs ranging from 4.30% to 5.26%. If you have a significant amount of extra cash and keep it in an account like this, you can earn money without doing extra work. $5,000 in savings accumulates this much interest To determine how much interest you can earn by moving your extra cash to a savings account, multiply your initial deposit by the APY your bank account offers. This will show you how much interest you can earn by keeping your money in the bank for a year. Let’s imagine you have $5,000 extra sitting in your checking account right now. If you instead move that money to a high-yield savings account with an APY of 5% and you keep it in the bank for an entire year (and your APY doesn’t change; note that banks can raise or lower APYs at any time), you’ll earn $250. That’s much better than making $0 by keeping your savings in a checking account that doesn’t accrue interest. Now you can see why it pays to avoid keeping all your money in a checking account. You can earn extra money from interest by keeping your spare cash in a savings account that offers interest. For additional tips like this, check out our free personal finance resources.
3 Reasons I Don’t Like Aldi as Much as I Used To
By: Maurie Backman |
– First published on Sept. 13, 2023
At some point in 2022, I discovered Aldi and began shopping there weekly. I found that I was able to save money on my grocery bill by purchasing certain produce items there. And since I happen to have an Aldi adjacent to my local Costco, it wasn’t particularly out of my way.But over the past few months, I’ve become less enamored with Aldi. Here’s why.1. The selection is just too limitedAldi — at least near me — is a minimally stocked grocery store. The shelves aren’t loaded the way they are at my nearby ShopRite and Stop & Shop.To be fair, this was the case when I first started shopping there. But because there’s just not a lot of selection, I’m generally limited to only buying a few items when I pop into Aldi.Not so long ago, I was running into Aldi for some fruit, which I usually buy there, and I needed to grab shredded cheddar cheese. Normally, I get that at Costco, but I didn’t want to run next door to Costco and wait in a line for cheese alone. Unfortunately, though, Aldi didn’t have the cheese I needed, so I had to make an extra stop anyway.2. The inventory is too inconsistentNot only is there a limited selection of food items I can buy at Aldi, but sometimes, I can’t even find the five or six things I’m looking for. Aldi was once my go-to source for avocados, since it’s an expensive purchase and Aldi tends to sell them for less than Costco (at least in my area). But the last few times I stopped at Aldi, avocados weren’t in stock.And that’s happened to me with other things, too. Over the past several months, I’ve struggled to find everything from cucumbers to strawberries at Aldi as well.3. What the store saves me on groceries, I lose via lost working hoursShopping at Aldi still has the potential to save me a little money on groceries. At a time when supermarket prices are up 3.6% on an annual basis, that helps.The problem, however, is that even though Aldi is right near Costco in my neighborhood, thereby allowing me to combine those trips, it still takes time to visit an extra supermarket. I have to find parking, wait in a checkout line, and spend time searching the shelves.While it’s nice to save $2 here and $3 there, the reality is that a stop at Aldi might cost me 20 or more minutes of work — especially when I don’t manage to find the things I need. And losing out on that work time often means forgoing more than $2 or $3 of income. So from a time perspective, it’s just not worth it.Shopping at Aldi could make sense for a lot of people. If you’re someone with flexibility in your schedule and grocery list, and you’re not so picky about the brands you bring home, then it could pay to spend the time visiting Aldi, even if you don’t always manage to find all the things you need. But I’ve reached the point where shopping at Aldi makes less and less sense for me, so I’ll most likely stop going there unless it’s a one-off basis.
7 Little-Known Gift Cards You Should Always Buy at Costco
By: Steven Porrello |
– First published on Sept. 29, 2023
Costco gift cards are one of the warehouse’s best deals. Costco often will add 10% to 30% of value when you buy its gift cards in a bundle. It would be one thing if the gift cards were for places you’d never shop, like Bed, Bath, and Beyond (R.I.P.). But Costco gift cards are surprisingly varied and include many restaurants and retailers you’re probably already spending money with.So if you, like me, pinch pennies for your finances, here are seven gift cards you should always buy at Costco.1. Jiffy LubeCostco will add 25% of value when you buy a set of two $50 Jiffy Lube eGift cards for $74.99. While Jiffy Lube doesn’t offer the cheapest oil change on the market (Walmart will likely take the gold for that), its technicians do go through rigorous training via the Jiffy Lube University to ensure no accidental damage is done to your vehicle. If quality trumps price for your vehicle, this deal will save you $25 off your next oil change (limit of five per membership).2. Alaska AirlinesPacific Northwesterners will appreciate this deal — Costco will give you a $500 eCertificate to Alaska Airlines for $449.99. That comes to 10% off your next Alaska Airlines flight (limit of four per membership).3. Southwest AirlinesIf that was the first time you’d heard of Alaska Airlines, here’s a gift card package with a more familiar airline: Southwest. Costco will add 10% of value when you buy $500 of Southwest Airlines gift cards for only $449.99.4. Cinemark TheatresIn a great deal for moviegoers, you can buy a $50 Cinemark Theatres eGift card for only $39.99 at Costco. That’s an extra 20% of value that you can use for movie tickets, food, drinks, or merchandise (limit of 10 per membership).5. Miller PaintPainting your house ain’t cheap. Interior paint jobs will cost about $2 to $6 per square foot, according to the home improvement site HomeAdvisor, while exterior paint jobs can cost about $1.50 to $4 per square foot. To ease those costs, Costco will sell you $100 of Miller Paint gift cards for $69.99 — a whopping 30% of extra value.6. SpafinderIf you thought the cost of painting your house was bad, imagine how your back will feel after hours of painting walls. To ease that pain, Costco has an irresistible gift card deal: two $50 eGift cards for $79.99 to be used at thousands of spas and salons across the country. You can also use them at participating yoga and fitness studios (limit of 10 per membership).7. Synergy RestaurantsOne of the more interesting gift card packages I’ve come across, this extremely lucrative deal — two $50 eGift cards for a sticker price of $69.99 — will help you foot the bill at hundreds of local restaurants in numerous cities across Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. This is perhaps one of the best deals I’ve seen and can be perfect for locals in those states and travelers who are visiting them.Most members don’t realize how many gift cards Costco actually sells. In fact, these seven packages only scratch the surface. Next time you’re at your local Costco warehouse, be on the lookout for gift card packages, which are often found at the ends of aisles. You might find a deal you can’t get anywhere else.
5 Amazing Costco Buys for Less Than $10
Costco is a favorite among bargain hunters. But because it’s a place where you typically buy in bulk, it’s often not great when you only want to spend a few bucks. Believe it or not, though, there are some deals at Costco for $10 or less. Here are five amazing Costco finds that will set you back no more than $10.1. Rotisserie chickenNot surprisingly, the $4.99 rotisserie chicken tops this list. Costco debuted its famed bird for $4.99 way back in 1994. It briefly raised the price by $1 during the Great Recession in 2008, then knocked it back down to $4.99 one year later. Had Costco raised its prices to keep up with inflation since 1994, that chicken would cost $10.48 today.Costco’s rotisserie chicken will always be a fan favorite for those looking for an effortless dinner. Just be aware: Costco keeps the prices low because its rotisserie chicken is what’s called a loss leader. The warehouse giant is willing to lose money selling them because it knows it can get customers into stores, where they’ll probably buy more than just a chicken.2. Hot dog and soda comboCostco has raised the prices of many of its food court items in recent years, but the price of one perennial favorite shows no signs of budging: the hot dog and soda combo, which has cost $1.50 since it debuted in 1985. Adjusted for inflation, the hot dog and soda combo should cost $4.28. Last year, during a quarterly earnings call, Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti said the warehouse giant could keep the $1.50 price point “forever.”3. Kirkland Signature Creamy Almond ButterYou can use almond butter as a salad dressing ingredient, slather it on toast, put it in baked goods, or just eat it straight from the jar. If you’re the type who likes to devour almond butter by the spoonful, you don’t want to pass up a 27-ounce jar of Kirkland Signature Creamy Almond Butter, available for just $7.99. That works out to less than $0.30 per ounce. By comparison, a 16-ounce jar of Trader Joe’s Creamy Almond Butter Salted costs $6.99.4. Olde Thompson Kosher Sea Salt, 5 lbsSea salt has plenty of uses that go beyond cooking. You can use it for cleaning, as an exfoliant for your skin, and sprinkle it around your garden to keep unwanted bugs away. For just $5.99, you can score a 5-pound jar of Olde Thompson Kosher Sea Salt and keep it handy for all your household and kitchen needs.5. Bisquick Pancake & Baking Mix, 96 OuncesBisquick is another one of those things that’s handy to keep in your pantry. You can use it to whip up a quick batch of pancakes or waffles for breakfast or keep it on hand for a variety of baked good recipes. A 96-ounce box of Bisquick is available at Costco for $8.89. It’s normally priced at $10.99, but there’s a $2.10 manufacturer’s discount that’s good through Oct. 8, 2023.What are the best deals at Costco?Since Costco tends to sell large quantities, you’ll typically find that a lot of the best deals cost well above $10. Regardless of the exact price, it usually makes sense to buy products at Costco that have a long shelf life. For example, even if you find great deals on fresh produce and milk, you probably don’t want to load up on these items unless you’re feeding a large crowd, as they’ll go bad quickly.Also, make sure you look beyond the grocery department for savings. For example, getting your prescriptions from Costco Pharmacy or using Costco to fill up your gas tank could also save you money.If you want to maximize the benefits of your membership, try shopping with a Visa credit card that offers rewards. (Costco only accepts Visa credit cards.) That way you can earn travel rewards or cash back when you load up on groceries and other necessities.
5 Ways to Turn $100 Into Passive Income
By: Chris Neiger |
– First published on Oct. 1, 2023
Creating passive income is one of the best ways to build wealth and protect your personal finances from an emergency, like losing a job or having your salary cut. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, about 20% of Americans have some level of passive income, with the average amount earned from passive income being $4,200 annually.Passive income strategies aren’t get-rich-quick schemes, and many initially require a significant time investment. The good news is that many can be started with $100 or less. Here are a few inexpensive ways you can start generating passive income.1. Buy stocksSome people think that owning stocks is only for rich people. It’s not. In fact, 61% of Americans own stocks, according to Gallup. And while you won’t get rich investing $100, you do have the potential to easily make money.You can open an online brokerage account for free and typically buy stocks for either little or no fees these days. The hard part is figuring out what company you think will do well over the long term so that you get the largest return.Let’s look at one popular company that many people own stock in: Apple. Let’s say you invested $100 annually over the past 10 years to buy Apple’s stock and reinvested any dividends you received to buy more shares. Thanks to Apple’s phenomenal growth over the past decade, your stock would be worth $4,848 — a 385% return on your investment.Of course, picking stocks can be difficult. If you want to potentially earn passive income in the market without picking specific stocks, you may want to buy shares of an exchange-traded fund (ETF). These funds follow market indices and can be purchased for as little as $1, thanks to online platforms that allow you to purchase fractional shares.2. Rent out an extra roomThis one is super easy and might cost you $0 if you already have the extra space. The latest Census Bureau data shows that 27.6% of Americans live alone. This means that many Americans may have a spare room in their home that could be transformed into a passive income stream.While it’s not for everyone, renting out a room in your home could be one of the easiest ways to generate passive income because you’re already in the space — either renting or as a homeowner — so all you need to do is find a roommate and collect their rent payments.This could be a very lucrative way to boost your income, considering that rent prices have skyrocketed over the past few years.3. Rent out your carWith 13% of full-time Americans working from home right now and 28% on hybrid schedules, many cars are sitting unused throughout the work week. With some planning and effort, your vehicle could quickly begin generating income through car-sharing websites like Turo.You can list your vehicle on the site for free and pay Turo a fee when you’ve rented out the vehicle. Turo says the average annual income for one car on its site is $10,516. Of course, some work is required to keep the vehicle clean and coordinate pick-up and drop-off. Still, renting out your vehicle could be a low-cost way to earn semi-passive income.4. Create an online courseMany people have accumulated many skills through jobs and even hobbies. You likely know how to get certain things done that someone else would find very useful — and pay for.There are many online platforms — including Udemy, Skillshare, and Thinkific — where you can create your own professional course and then sell it to an established online audience.You’ll need to do a fair amount of work upfront creating your course — including planning the sessions, recording videos, and making other content — but once you have it up and running, you can earn passive income from your hard work.Some course-creating platforms charge a monthly fee, while others may take a percentage of each sale you make. But while this option isn’t free, it’s certainly inexpensive.5. Start a dropshipping businessThere are many different businesses that fall under the dropshipping category, including selling T-shirts online or print-on-demand content like notebooks and journals.The startup cost for dropshipping businesses is low because you don’t buy any inventory and don’t have to rent an office or retail space. Instead, you’ll spend money setting up a website and potentially selling ads to market your products. You can even become a seller on Amazon and sell products without investing in your own online shop.You’ll have to invest significant time on the front end to build your business. Still, once you’ve found a niche and have established the relevant products, dropshipping allows you to spend minimal time keeping up the business while still making online sales.Keep these things in mindWhile all of these ideas will cost you little money and have the potential to generate passive income, you’ll still need to invest time and mental energy in setting them up. For example, you may need to do a lot of research before setting up a dropshipping business or launching an online course.Like anything worthwhile, be patient and take small steps to get started. You likely won’t be an overnight success, but making any progress toward generating passive income will move you further toward your personal financial goals.