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02/16/18 Debt , Personal Finance # ,

Starbucks Credit Card Isn’t Worth 20 Free Drinks

Starbucks Credit Card Isn’t Worth 20 Free Drinks

I enjoy Starbucks as much as anyone else. While I don’t post photos of my drinks or visit it daily for my caffeine fix, I’m OK with paying $3 to $5 for a chocolate mocha or some other treat from time to time. The Starbucks credit card, however, isn’t something I’m going to buy.

And “buying” is what you’re doing when you sign up for a new credit card that charges for the privilege of using it and collecting its rewards. The $49 annual fee for the new Starbucks credit card is real money that will come out of your pocket — all so you can get 20 free drinks as a reward.

I only have a few credit cards in my wallet. Adding another one that offers minimal rewards for something I don’t use too often seems like a way to spend more money at Starbucks, along with increasing my caloric intake and possibly hurting my credit score.

For someone who visits Starbucks often and buys big-ticket items, the Starbucks credit card may be worthwhile. But that’s a big “may be” because they’re still getting only $100 worth of free drinks, though possibly more if they use it in every way possible to earn the most points. Continue reading

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02/12/18 Sharing Economy , Travel # , ,

Why We Paid for Our Summer Vacation in January

Why We Paid for Our Summer Vacation in January

Summer vacation is rarely cheap. Flights, hotels and other costs are higher for the simple reason that it’s high season and more people are traveling in the summer.

My family can’t get around that because our daughter is still in school, and summer is the longest stretch of time off she has.

To deal with the high travel costs of summer, we’re again doing something we started doing a year ago — paying for our summer vacation six months ahead of time. I’m all for spontaneity and picking a vacation spot at the last minute if I can find a deal, but our choice is decided six months early because of a huge savings that makes planning so early imperative: free housing.

As I wrote last year, we saved $4,000 by doing a home exchange in Europe through HomeExchange, a website that allows members to swap homes. It was a wonderful trip and the home exchange allowed us to save money on what can add up to the most expensive part of a trip after airfare. Continue reading

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12/27/17 Insurance #

Save Money on Insurance this 2018 by Changing Your Family’s Diet

Save Money on Insurance this 2018 by Changing Your Family’s Diet

In the average budget of annual expenditures in the US, Business Insider revealed that food accounts for 12.5 percent or $7,023. The largest spending, which is at $3,008 falls on the dining out category, followed by $726 on miscellaneous food which includes premade meals, snacks, condiments, and vitamin supplements. While the numbers do not indicate if Americans eat out more than they cook at home, it gives a clear picture of how they can make changes and improve their spending on food. Compared to the budget for housing and transportation, food is where Americans can make immediate changes.

On the bright side, a Pew Research Center survey showed 54 percent of Americans agreeing that people pay more attention to eating healthy foods. This is corroborated by the many diet trends emerging today. Veganism and vegetarianism in particular are becoming increasingly popular not just because of their impact on health, but for their environmental-friendly approach.

The health benefits of these diets include weight loss, improved kidney function, and lower sugar levels, among others. Veganism may also be beneficial to children because it lowers the risk of diabetes, aside from providing necessary nutrients. Dr. Neal Barnard explained that weight problems are common in children, and that the problem will only get worse as they reach adulthood. Current findings indicate that one in three kids will develop diabetes at some point in their life.

Continue reading

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12/12/17 Personal Finance , Saving #

The Best $10 I’ve Spent: Movie Pass

The Best $10 I’ve Spent: Movie Pass

My reporting instincts and wariness of questionable deals kicked in last summer when I heard about a movie pass that let you see a movie a day for only $10 a month.

In theory, you could see 30 movies in 30 days for 33 cents per movie. Just seeing one movie per week cost only $2.50 per movie. It has to be too good to be true, I thought, and I watched the mania over Movie Pass spread for a few months to see how it played out.

There must be a catch, and I was waiting for it. Would the company take customers’ money and not give that what it promised? Would their personal information be hacked from the site’s servers and sold to ID thieves? And, of course, could customers really see up to one movie per day for only $10?

The servers at Movie Pass were overwhelmed by the initial response of customers, and there were some reports that customer service wasn’t great and that the pass wasn’t working well.

After waiting a few months for the kinks to be worked out, I bought a Movie Pass in November, and so far it has worked great and is the best $10 I’ve ever spent. There have been a few problems, but nothing major, and I saw five movies in November: Thor, Murder on the Orient Express, Coco, The Justice League, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

December is about half over and this month I’ve seen Lady Bird, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. Saturday I’m going to see the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, with a Movie Pass ticket I bought earlier. I’m taking the last two weeks of December off and should see at least three more movies with the pass, especially with some top movies set to come out Dec. 22.

I don’t expect every month to be as full of top-notch movies, but just going to two movies a month makes the pass worthwhile. Here’s how it works, and what I learned about it during almost two months of usage: Continue reading

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10/02/17 Insurance #

8 Places to Find Free, Unclaimed Money

8 Places to Find Free, Unclaimed Money

Finding a dime on the sidewalk or a $10 bill stuffed in an old coat pocket can add a smile to your day. They’re both found money, possibly unclaimed money. While the dime won’t buy you much, it could be a sign of good luck.

But there are other ways to come upon good luck.

Unclaimed assets may be sitting somewhere in your name, waiting for you to find and claim them. With some simple online searches, you can look for unclaimed money in seconds and possibly find a windfall.

Unclaimed money can also come from a family member who has died. They may have a life insurance policy, retirement benefit and other policies you may not know about that are legally yours as an heir.

Here are some resources to finding missing, unclaimed money:

Where to start looking for unclaimed money

Two websites offer free, multi-state searches for unclaimed property:

  • National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or NAUPA.
  • Missing Money, a service endorsed by NAUPA.

Both are simple to use. You only enter your first and last name, and state where you live, and a free governmental search for missing money in your name is done in seconds.

Missing Money is a database of governmental unclaimed property records. They include bank accounts, safe deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, unwashed checks and wages, insurance policies, CDs, utility deposits and escrow accounts.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has a free database to search for bank accounts or safe deposit boxes in your name or the name of a loved one who has died. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.