15 Overlooked Ways Retirees Can Stretch Their Savings


Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

One scary part of retirement is knowing you could have 30 more years in front of you but only a limited amount of cash available to pay for them. How do you make sure your retirement account doesn’t run dry before you say your final goodbye?

Well, there are no guarantees, but following are numerous smart strategies you can use to stretch your money — however little or much you have — over the decades to come.

10 Everyday Items You Should Deep Clean Immediately

Woman with remote

Woman with remote
AshTproductions / Shutterstock.com

Sure, you regularly clean toilets and kitchen counters — but there is filth, bacteria and even more distasteful things lurking in everyday items you touch daily.

You should clean these, but chances are you don’t. It’s time to turn that bad habit around.

Following are 10 things that deserve a deep cleaning — right now.

7 Marvelous Freebies You Can Grab in May

Woman having fun

Woman having fun
Gutesa / Shutterstock.com

May is here — we’re almost halfway through the year! But there are still eight months of fabulous freebies remaining in 2019.

From no-cost comic books to complimentary ice cream cones, we’ve rounded up some exciting May deals to engage your mind and whet your appetite.

7 Easy Ways to Save Money at Barnes & Noble


ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

In an age of digital media, bookstores might appear to be headed for the same fate as the dodo. But millions of us still love to browse for actual books as well as e-books.

If you’re a book lover, Barnes & Noble probably holds a special place in your heart. And the nation’s largest retail bookseller offers several ways to trim the expense of your favorite books and other merchandise.

Following are seven ways to cut the cost of purchases at Barnes & Noble.

9 Money Moves You Need to Make in Your 30s

Congratulations, 30-somethings: After spending your 20s getting acclimated to adulthood, you finally have your sea legs.

Perhaps you are married with kids. You may have a house. With any luck, you make more money than ever.

Regardless of the particulars of your current life, here are some money moves everyone in their 30s should make during this decade:

1. Revisit your retirement savings

African American man in a suit studying a document

African American man in a suit studying a document
WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock.com

By this point, you should have a retirement fund, such as a 401(k) or an IRA. If you don’t, getting one set up should be a priority.

If you already have such an account, look at where your money is invested. Over time, a retirement account can fall out of balance. Maybe you’re taking on too much risk — or too little.

Review our article on “7 Tips for Stress-Free 401(k) Investing.” If you’ve changed jobs at any point, you should also look at doing something with your orphaned 401(k).

2. Increase your emergency fund

Piggy bank with stacks of coins.

Piggy bank with stacks of coins.
Looker_Studio / Shutterstock.com

In theory, creating an emergency fund is another money move you should have made earlier in life. If you don’t have one, putting money aside for a rainy day is another big priority.

If you already have such a fund, it might be time to add to it. Your emergency fund should have enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. Add up all your current monthly expenses and see if your fund falls short on covering them.

3. Rebalance the budget

Rock cairn stacked by waterfall.

Rock cairn stacked by waterfall.
Netfalls Remy Musser / Shutterstock.com

Revisit your budget at least once a year or every time you have a major life change. If it’s been a while since you crunched the numbers, sit down and do a thorough review.

Does your budget support your current life goals? If not, revise it.

4. Track your spending for a month

Shopping list on cellphone

Shopping list on cellphone
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Track your spending for an entire month. Keep tabs on every penny. That sounds like a lot of work, but if you use your debit card or a credit card for virtually everything, it’s not so bad.

We tend to idealize where our money goes. (“Oh, I never eat out!”) But once you start tracking, there’s no denying that you hit the drive-thru once a week or go on a spending spree at the mall once a month.

Compare your actual spending with your budgeted amounts. Depending on where the numbers land, you’re going to either need to rework the budget or rethink your spending.

5. Pay off your debt


WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock.com

Of course, we all wish we had never gone into debt in the first place. But there’s no use in rehashing past mistakes: Now is the time to take action and correct them.

Cut up the credit cards, and then go read about how to tackle big debts fast.

6. Perfect the fine art of haggling

Man and woman discuss across a desk

Man and woman discuss across a desk
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

In your 30s, you’ll likely make some major purchases. You may also have more discretionary income to buy the things you want.

Stretch your dollars by learning to bargain like a pro. There’s no reason to pay full price when a little negotiating can help you save money on purchases big and small.

7. Consider starting a college fund

Piggybank with mortarboard on a pile of bills.

Piggybank with mortarboard on a pile of bills.
zimmytws / Shutterstock.com

For those of you who have become parents, your 30s are a good time to set up a college fund for your kids. Don’t wait until they hit high school to make a plan for their higher education.

Options range from 529 plans to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts and prepaid tuition plans.

How I Converted a $5 Cable Fee into a Trip to Europe

Can a little $5 fee mutate into a $600 monster? Yes, it happened to me — and it could be happening to you.

Some of us need our 220 channels of entertainment bliss, and that’s OK. But if you want to get away from the TV noise, have a little more time or, like me, want some extra cash, then take a good look at your cable bill.

When I studied my bill, I realized that the basic cable subscription that Comcast sold me for $5 a month was costing me $25 a month — $607 over the course of a two-year contract.

Although I’m going to talk about Comcast’s Xfinity service, you can take the same steps I did regardless of what pay-TV service you use.

How my $5 cable fee ballooned to $600

I’m not a big fan of cable programming, but I need high-speed internet for work. When Xfinity offered to add basic cable to my two-year internet contract for $5 a month, though, I didn’t refuse.

What’s $5, a coffee? A cheap hamburger? You might as well add it, right? Well, that $5 ended up costing me hundreds of dollars.

Technically, the addition of basic cable cost $120 over two years. But by subscribing to cable, I was roped into also paying $12.50 a month in broadcast TV and regional sports fees and an extra $7.81 a month in taxes and surcharges.

So subscribing to basic cable for $5 ended up increasing my bill by a total of $25.31 every month. And over the course of two years, a subscription that I thought would have cost $120 ballooned to $607.44 after adding the extra charges.

What happened when I quit cable

In July 2018, the two-year sign-up special ended and the internet /TV bundle that previously costed $94 increased to $110, increasing the extra taxes and surcharges with it. My statement totaled roughly $141. So one year’s worth of this bundle would have cost $1,692.

Here’s the kicker: Xfinity was offering my same internet speed at a lower price to new customers. That’s right — they jacked my bill up while charging new customers less money for the same service.

So after talking with an Xfinity representative, I cut my package down strictly to internet with the new lower price. That brought the total on my statement to about $80. That’s an estimated savings of $732 over one year.

The bottom line

If you’re trying to find some extra cash, look at your cable bill like I did. With the money I saved, my wife and I went to Greece instead of watching it on the Travel Channel.

If you’re not ready to give up TV entirely, check out “Streaming Versus Cable: the Confusing Costs of Cutting the Cord.” It will help you determine whether you could save some money by switching to a streaming TV service.

Adrian Freeman contributed to this post.

10 Money Moves You Need to Make in Your 20s

If you are fresh out of high school or college, you have an amazing opportunity.

People in their 20s can build a solid financial foundation that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps you plan to live lean and save a pile of cash. Or, if you’ve gotten off to a bad start and made a few money mistakes, take heart: You’ve got plenty of time to reverse those errors and get back on your feet.

To make the most of your fresh start in life, here are 10 money moves you need to put into action:

1. Start a retirement account


Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

I know, retirement isn’t even a blip on your radar screen. But it will never be easier to start saving than right now.

By putting money in an account in your 20s, you maximize the near-magical phenomenon of compound interest. As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson says, it’s far better to start saving small amounts early than to be forced to save a lot late.

Your employer may offer you a 401(k), which is the easiest way to save. The money comes right out of your paycheck, so you’ll never miss it. Plus, many employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage.

If a 401(k) isn’t available through your job, start an IRA instead.

2. Discover your risk tolerance

woman with cape

woman with cape
El Nariz / Shutterstock.com

Once you open an account, you’ll have to decide how to invest your money. Most investors need to strike a balance — you don’t want to take too much risk, but it’s also a mistake to take too little.

Being young, you probably don’t have a lot of money — or a ton of investing experience. So, to get started, check out Stacy’s tips in “2-Minute Money Manager: How Do You Start Investing With Little Money?

3. Write down your goals


jajam_e / Shutterstock.com

You don’t have to map out your entire life. Heck, you don’t even have to stick with any plans you create. You’re free to change them at any time.

However, having an idea of where you want to go in life will make it easier to make smart financial decisions. Then, you won’t end up at 40, eyeing your friend’s summer home and feeling sorry for yourself that you can’t buy one, too.

4. Consider paying cash for most things


gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com

Personally, I think being able to pay cash for nearly everything is life-changing. Those of you who have been up to your eyeballs in debt — and had the embarrassing experience of your credit card being declined — know what I’m talking about.

Tell yourself you’ll be the type of person who always pays cash. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever take out a loan, and it doesn’t mean you won’t ever get a rewards credit card that you pay off each month. It does mean you might think a little longer and harder about going into debt, and only do so if there are no other options.

5. Create a budget that supports your goals


pogonici / Shutterstock.com

I won’t spend too much time on this money move because we already have an excellent article: Resolutions 2019: Budget Your Way to Financial Goals.”

The key is to ensure your budget supports your goals. If you hope to be married or buy a house in five years, you’ll want to have extra savings built into your budget for those things.

6. Create an emergency fund


Daniel Wiedemann / Shutterstock.com

Your budget also needs to include a line-item for emergency savings. This money should be separate from your retirement fund, so don’t think your 401(k) or IRA counts.

And emergency fund is your insurance against unexpected expenses. You should have enough money in your fund to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. For more, check out “9 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund When Money’s Tight.”

7. Pay off your debt


Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock.com

In a perfect world, you’d start your adult life with zero debt. But reality is probably different for you. There are student loans to pay, and you may have been suckered into opening a credit card or financing a car somewhere along the way.

Don’t use the excuse that past mistakes give you license to make future mistakes. They also don’t mean you have to resign yourself to living a life burdened by debt.

Start today to pay off what you owe. For more tips, check out “How to Pay Off $10,000 in Debt Without Breaking a Sweat.”

The 25 Most Ridiculous Business Names Out There

Shocked businessman

Shocked businessman
Billion Photos / Shutterstock.com

It’s amazing how many bad ideas actually turn into business brands.

These are the company or product names that make you wonder: What were they thinking? Were they clueless? Did the marketing director not have access to an internet search engine, or at least a dictionary?

Just for the fun of it, we pulled together this roster of the worst company names — maybe someone’s late-night ideas that don’t really hold up to the light of day.

Our criteria for this completely subjective list include:

  • Incredibly poor taste
  • Groan-worthy or nausea-inducing puns
  • URL fails

And now, in no particular order — but starting with a name that tops the category of “incredibly poor taste”…

The 10 Worst Home Renovations for Your Money


Andy Dean Photography / Shutterstock.com

Whether remodeling will be a wise investment depends largely on what you renovate and to what extent.

Smaller projects pay back better, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report. For example, replacing your front door at a cost of about $1,800 can yield an average return of 74.9% when you sell the home. Major makeovers recoup considerably less.

The report looks at national average costs for 22 projects, including how well they recoup value at resale. Some are “upscale” jobs; others are “midrange” in cost. None totally recover their cost.

Money is just one way to measure an outcome, of course. Many upgrades pay off in satisfaction and enjoyment.

Here, from bad to worst, are projects that are particularly poor choices for payback, based on Remodeling Magazine’s report.

8 Ways to Cut Your Summer Cooling Costs

Heating and cooling a home are among the largest energy expenses most Americans face, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

Right now, you might be enjoying low utility bills, especially if you live in a climate with perfect spring weather. But the “I can’t believe it’s this hot!” summer days are coming. Soon, you’ll run the air conditioning around the clock just to stay comfortable.

That could cost you a lot of money if your system isn’t ready. These simple steps can prepare your AC for the warmer summer months.

1. Change the filters

Air conditioner filter

Air conditioner filter
photopixel / Shutterstock.com

This is probably the easiest form of air-conditioning maintenance, but many people don’t do it often enough. The filters should be replaced every month or two to keep your AC running smoothly, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

You can order new filters through Amazon, Walmart or other retailers.

2. Clean the condensation lines

Man doing yoga in flooded living room

Man doing yoga in flooded living room
Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock.com

The pipe that carries condensation away from your air conditioner can get clogged. If the pipe becomes clogged, it could back up into the air conditioner — or into your house — and you’ll have a messy problem and a big repair bill.

To combat this, locate where the pipe drains out and make sure it’s draining properly.

3. Install a programmable thermostat

Man adjusting thermostate

Man adjusting thermostate
Lopolo / Shutterstock.com

If you don’t already have one, you can gain significant energy savings by installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to reduce the use of air conditioning or heat at times when you don’t need it, like when you’re away for work. Fortunately, these thermostats are pretty easy to install yourself and require only a couple of tools.

Consider an array of programmable thermostat options at The Home Depot.

4. Clean the coils on the outside unit

Racoon on air conditioner

Racoon on air conditioner
Elliotte Rusty Harold / Shutterstock.com

During the winter, your AC’s outside unit has been collecting dust, mud and other debris, especially if you don’t use a cover. All of that gunk clogs up the unit, causing your AC to run sluggishly.

For lightly soiled units, disconnect the power and spray down the outside of the unit with a garden hose. For heavily soiled units, buy a commercial air-conditioner cleaner from a hardware store.

5. Clean the fins

Dirty air conditioner

Dirty air conditioner
luis2499 / Shutterstock.com

Cleaning the fins on an outside unit will help your AC run better. To clean the fins, use a soft brush such as a toothbrush or small car cleaning brush. Gently run the brush across each fin, being careful not to bend the thin metal.

If you do find that these thin metal fins are damaged, there are a variety of tools you can use to straighten them out, such as these at Amazon.

6. Check the concrete slab

Air conditioning unit outside.

Air conditioning unit outside.
vincent noel / Shutterstock.com

After your outside unit is clean, use a level to make sure the concrete slab is level. If it’s not, the unit will have to work harder to keep your house cool.

If the slab isn’t level, pry it up with a board and add gravel underneath in small amounts until it is. Remove the board when you’re done.

7. Remove debris around the outside unit

Air conditioner with ivy growing on it.

Air conditioner with ivy growing on it.
PranFoto / Shutterstock.com

Plants, leaves, high grass and debris located close to your outside unit can reduce your AC’s performance. Before you start running your AC, cut the grass, clean out any debris and consider removing plants that block the unit.

During the summer, check the unit for debris at least once a month.

8. Check the ductwork for leaks

Ventilation duct work.

Ventilation duct work.
Pamela Au / Shutterstock.com

According to the University of Florida, sealing leaky ducts can generate significant savings on heating and cooling:

“Leaky ducts make your HVAC work much harder — ducts leaking just 20% of the conditioned air passing through them cause your system to work 50% harder.”

Look for disconnected joints, separated pieces and small holes in your ductwork. If you find leaks, seal them with tape carrying an Underwriters Laboratories logo. Fabric and rubber-backed tapes break down quicker.

What measures do you take to stay cool and save energy in the summer? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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