Carson Kohler - The Penny Hoarder

My first experience camping in a tent involved my rear end meeting a pile of ants.

On a hot July morning in South Carolina, I woke up covered in sweat. I escaped the tent for fresh air. That’s when it happened. As I crouched down, fumbling with something or other, I fell back. Ants! After jumping around, shaking out my clothes and sending squeals through the quiet campground, I settled down.

I only got bitten a few times but decided to cut the trip short. I needed a shower, air conditioning, some anti-itch cream and my queen-size mattress.

I later tried the whole tent thing again and learned to enjoy it. I’ve managed to avoid anthills, and I have a more comfortable sleeping bag.

But I’m still missing one thing when I go camping: good campfire food.

Now, when I venture into the wilderness with my boyfriend, we cook hot dogs over the campfire and roast marshmallows. That’s not an inventive menu at all, and that campfire diet starts hurting my digestive system after a few days.

Without getting too Food Network, I’ve compiled some affordable, simple campfire recipes for our next adventure. And they don’t require any fancy grills or cast-iron pots.

All we’ll need are some basic kitchen and camping staples.

Note: I priced the ingredients for these camping recipes at my local Publix in May 2017, so do note these prices will vary by your preferred store, location and the time of year.

1. Fireside Pizza Log

Where we camp, we usually can’t call up our favorite pizza chain for delivery. However, this pizza log looks almost as easy as that.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 can pizza dough: $2.59
  • 1 can pizza sauce: $1.39
  • 1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese: $4
  • 1 pack pepperoni (or your favorite toppings): $3

Total: $10.98

I bet if we grabbed another can of pizza dough, we could get another pizza from the leftover ingredients. Each pizza will serve 4, putting our price per serving at $2.75.

Preparation takes place before the trip. Roll the dough into a rectangle, cover it in sauce, and top it off with cheese and your favorite toppings.

Then, roll the pizza up, carefully tucking all the edges in. Coat the foil with cooking spray before wrapping it around the pizza roll. Freeze the roll. When you head out for your trip, transfer the pizza roll into a cooler, and let it thaw before cooking.

Leaving it in the foil, place the pizza log directly in your fire pit. Cook each side for about 15 minutes.

2. Easy Bacon and Egg Breakfast

Breakfast is a camping staple, so one weekend my boyfriend and I ambitiously packed bacon and eggs. We borrowed my dad’s portable grill, and grabbed some pots and pans. This was fine, but it required some setup and cleaning.

Here are two hacks we’re going to try next time. All we need are bacon, eggs and skewers.

Here’s the intricate (just kidding) ingredient list:

  • 1 pack bacon: $4.50
  • 6 eggs: $1.50

Total: $6 (with leftovers)

For the bacon, lace it onto your skewer -- the same skewer you’d use to roast marshmallows. (Or a stick, if you’re really roughin’ it.) Rest the skewer over your campfire and rotate it about every 5 minutes.

In about 30 minutes, you’ll have some extra-crispy and smoky bacon. Here’s what it should look like.

Pair it with scrambled eggs, which require some cooking spray or butter, a fork, a cookie sheet (optional) and a muffin tin.

Coat each muffin tin well with the spray oil or butter. Crack each egg into the muffin tin, and beat them with a fork. Add whatever your heart desires to the egg mix -- mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes… more bacon.

You can also prep the eggs ahead of time by beating them in a bowl, adding veggies or other mix-ins and freezing the whole mixture in an airtight container before putting it in your cooler. If you do it this way, make sure to cook the thawed egg mixture all the way through when it’s time for breakfast.

For an even more portable version, use cupcake liners inside each muffin well -- that way, you can skip the cooking spray.

Set the muffin tin over hot coals (not directly on the fire). If the bottoms seem to cook faster than the tops, cover the muffin tin with a cookie sheet or tin foil. Cook until done.

For a better visual of this camping recipe, visit Camping for Foodies.

3. S’more Banana Boats

I know I said no s’mores, but this rendition is inventive enough to include — and a little healthier (kind of).

Here’s what you’ll need per boat:

  • 1 banana: about 30 cents
  • 1 bag mini marshmallows: $1.50
  • 1 bag chocolate chips: $2.69

Total: $4.49

I’m not going to divvy out the marshmallows and chocolate chips because you can pile those on. In total, though, each boat is likely less than 75 cents to make.

Grab your banana and cut it in half lengthwise. Place it on heavy-duty aluminum foil (or just double up the regular stuff).

Stuff that baby with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips before wrapping the foil around it.

To cook, place it over hot coals until the marshmallows and chocolate melt. Feel free to dig in on your primitive aluminum pan, as long as it’s not too hot.

4. Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

Nothing warms my insides more than a hot ham and cheese sandwich, and these sweet nuggets will be easy to tote along on our next camping trip.

Here’s what you need to serve up to six:

  • 1 pound deli-sliced ham: $5
  • 12 Hawaiian rolls: $3.99
  • 12 slices Swiss cheese: $3.29
  • ½ cup butter, melted: $2.50
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard: 8 cents
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion: 68 cents
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar: 4 cents

Total: $15.58

Roll out 6 pieces of foil, and place 2 rolls on each. Evenly divide the ham and cheese among the rolls.

Make the go-to ham and cheese condiment by mixing the melted butter, Dijon mustard, dried onion and brown sugar into a bowl. Pour the combination over the tops of the sandwiches.

Fold the foil to cover the sandwiches. You’ll have 6 little packets containing 2 small sandwiches each. Place each packet on top of warm campfire coals to cook. You’ll want to turn them frequently until the cheese is melted and the rolls are toasty. It should take 10-15 minutes.

Find the recipe and mouthwatering photos at Taste and Tell Blog.

5. Piggies Roasted in a Blanket

Again, this is very close to those hot dogs my boyfriend and I always crisp up over the campfire, but the twist on this classic makes me excited to try it. Plus, it’s almost as simple as sticking a hot dog on a stick.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 pack hot dogs: $1.75
  • 1 can crescent rolls: $2.59
  • Favorite condiments: varies

Total: $4.34 plus price of condiments

If you look at the pictures, you’ll figure this one out, but clarity's sake, I’ll lay out the instructions for you. Slide your hot dog onto the skewer. Unroll your crescent rolls, and wrap 1 precut triangle around each hot dog. Wrap the hot dog loosely in foil, and roast it over the fire just like you would a normal hot dog. Repeat the process for each hot dog.

They should take 15-20 minutes to cook.

Shoutout to Ashley at Frugal Coupon Living for this genius combo.

6. Cinnamon Roll-Up Sticks

Cinnamon rolls on a stick? Yes, please.

At first, I thought this campfire recipe would just call for a canned cinnamon rolls wrapped around a stick, which I bet would work. This recipe is a little more involved but still pretty easy -- even for me.

Here are the ingredients you need:

  • 1 package crescent rolls: $2.59
  • ¼ cup sugar: 9 cents
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon: 39 cents
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar: 8 cents

Total: $3.15

Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Open the crescent rolls, wrap each one around a skewer, and coat them in the cinnamon-sugar mix. Cook it over the campfire for about 5 minutes. You’ll want to keep rotating it.

If you want to top these off with glaze, just mix ¼ cup powdered sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of water. If that’s too much for you, you can buy some.

Thanks to Almost Supermom for this gem. We think you are Supermom with this recipe.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Paisley Easton watches her footing as she makes her way along the rocky shoreline of a natural spring.

Her blonde hair falls in waves over the white robe that wraps her petite body. As she closes in on the water, she slips off her flip flops, and her manager pops open an umbrella.

That’s one of the first rules of being a mermaid: Never let anyone see you transform.

Soon, Easton emerges, now a mermaid clad in a pink-scaled tail and a pearlescent bikini top.

Her manager sweeps Easton up in her arms and places her on the algae-spotted rocks of a miniature waterfall that spills fresh water.

Easton takes direction from the photographer. Toes pointed so the pink tail fans out. Back positioned just right. Smile, but not too much. Blonde beach waves pulled to the front for full mermaid effect.

Easton is a mermaid trainee. Today, after her promotional photoshoot is over, she’ll swim her fifth and sixth shows at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, a Florida roadside attraction that features natural springs, boat tours and its famous mermaids.

The Evolution of the Weeki Wachee Mermaids

[caption id="attachment_56933" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids Whitney Roberts drinks a Coke underwater, a vintage performance trick, during the Fish Tails show. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

In 1946, WWII Navy veteran Newton Perry surveyed spots that would become home to his new business idea.

On the side of U.S. 19 -- then a two-lane dirt road, now a traffic-packed six-lane highway -- Perry stumbled across a natural spring. It was full of refrigerators, abandoned cars, trash… everything except clean water.

And, according to the state park, more alligators and black bears roamed the area than humans.

But Perry saw potential for a roadside attraction.

First, he cleared the spring. Then he channeled his experience as a Navy “frogman” trainer, when he taught men to swim underwater during WWII, and tinkered with a new underwater breathing apparatus. It was a long hose fueled by an air compressor, and it could supply air to humans while underwater -- no bulky scuba tank required. This way people -- or mermaids -- could hang out underwater.

Perry then built an 18-seat underwater theater into the limestone. (It would likely violate today’s environmental protection standards.)

In 1947, the destination opened for business.

Mermaids attracted passersby much like teens lure customers into a car wash today -- by standing on the side of the road and waving. (The bikinis probably didn’t hurt either.) Then, they’d dive into the spring and perform their synchronized routine as they effortlessly gulped breaths of air from Perry’s self-regulated hose.

Weeki Wachee soon became one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S., according to the state park. Remember, this was 24 years before the opening of Disney World in Orlando.

Sitting Down With Some of the Real-Life Mermaids

[caption id="attachment_56936" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids Victoria Vernon helps her friend Kelley Madden get ready by plucking her eyebrows before they perform. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

After Easton’s morning photoshoot, she walks back to the “mermaid villa” where her cohorts trickle in and begin preparing for their 11 a.m. show, the first of four that day.

The lights around the makeup mirrors illuminate their faces as they lean toward them. Bags and binders of makeup -- primer, waterproof mascara and lipstick -- line the tables.

Some of the women pair up to pluck eyebrows while others layer on their makeup and chat with each other.

Kristy Madden, 23, sits towards the end of the table. She’s been a mermaid for four and a half years now. She’s pulled her thick blonde curls halfway back as she applies foundation.

[caption id="attachment_56943" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids Amy Lynn puts on dramatic makeup for her role as the sea witch in The Little Mermaid show. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Madden grew up visiting Weeki Wachee with her family, “but I never saw [the mermaids] as real people,” she says, laughing at the irony.

Next to her is Cheyenne Bragg, who’s 21 and has been a mermaid for more than two years. Her bright blue eyes pop against her tanned skin.

Before becoming a mermaid, Bragg was a lifeguard at Buccaneer Bay, the roped-off swimming area adjacent to the mermaids’ underwater stage. Bragg always observed the mermaids from her perch, but, for the longest time, she never considered becoming one.

Both Madden and Bragg are nursing students at Pasco-Hernando State College. For them, being a mermaid is the perfect job because it offers a flexible schedule. They use their income -- mermaids’ pay starts around $10 an hour -- to pay off bills, like car payments and student loans.

Being a Pro Mermaid Isn’t Just a Day at the Beach

[caption id="attachment_56937" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids Mermaids perform a Ferris wheel during a performance at Weeki Wachee Springs. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Fully transforming into a mermaid can take up to a year.

First, aspiring mermaids show up to open tryouts, which occur about once a year, or as needed. To qualify, the women (or men, if they’re princes) must be at least 18 years old and be able to swim 400 yards in under 15 minutes, which proves to be a challenge. It took Bragg two tries to pass the test.

After qualifying, there’s training. An important part of that is becoming scuba certified so the mermaids know how to use the air hoses and understand safety protocols.

The mermaids also have to learn how to use buoyancy to their advantages. A deep breath in allows them to float up. Let it out, and they’ll sink down.

But training is just the start -- mermaids must master the underwater routines. Madden and Bragg agree the Ferris wheel is the most difficult move. For this move, the women drop their hoses, grab each other's tails and create something like a Ferris wheel as they swim in a loop.

“It’s only about 20 or 25 seconds,” Madden explains. “But you know you’re going to be the one who messes it all up.”

Even though it’s a short amount of time, the mermaids exert a ton of energy. Bragg struggled to hold her breath for so long at first. “At one point someone asked if I smoke cigarettes,” Bragg says with a laugh.

And because this is a natural spring, there’s a current, which can move up to 5 mph. The mermaids have to exert additional energy to stay in place.

Also consider the water temperature: a brisk 74 degrees year round. Some mermaids emerge from the water shaking uncontrollably after a show. They’re whisked away into the “hot room” so their body temperatures can stabilize.

But even through the difficult physical work, each mermaid said they love their job, especially the sisterhood bonds they’ve formed.

On land, they travel together and make appearances across the country (including on stage at a Jimmy Buffet concert). In the water, they spend hours practicing and performing. They have to have each other’s backs in case anything goes wrong.

Under the Sea… or Spring

[caption id="attachment_56951" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids Kelley Madden, left, and Brittany Fussell get ready to dive into "the tube” that leads the mermaids into the open spring.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

After finishing up their makeup, the mermaids walk across the visitor-filled walkway to the “hot room.”

It’s warm in here -- we estimated it’s about 85 degrees -- which helps the tails dry more quickly (because what would be more miserable than shimmying on a wet tail?) and helps normalize the mermaids’ body temperatures after each 30-minute show.

Paired with a sequined bikini top, most of the women choose to wear a plain bikini bottom. Some choose to wear tights underneath; they say that helps with the whole mermaid-tail friction issue.

Once ready, the women file down a narrow spiral staircase. This leads to the “tube room,” which features a giant pothole -- or “the tube” -- that leads the mermaids into the open spring.

The more experienced “full-fledged mermaids” perch on the side of the tube, slide on their snorkeling fins, then inch on their tails.

That’s what Victoria Cox does. “All right,” she says. “See you in a second, Paisley!” She shakes her head, likely bracing for the impact of the cold water and hoists herself off the side.

In she goes.

Cox swims straight down a 16-foot tunnel that’s about six feet wide, then she turns and continues into another tunnel, this one four times as long as the first.

[caption id="attachment_56955" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids Kelley Madden greets the crowd at the beginning of The Little Mermaid show. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Once in the open natural spring, she finds the airlock, a small underwater chamber where she can stand in waist-deep water out of view from the audience until the show begins. She’ll return here during certain points of the show, too.

Back on the other side, Easton prepares to hop in next. Before positioning herself at the edge of the tube, she grabs a piece of white bread from the nearby shelves. She molds it in her hands before stuffing it in her bikini top. The bread will be handy during the show, when she’s summoning the fish.

Because Easton is a less experienced mermaid, she ties her tail around her waist and hoists herself down the narrow ladder that leads into the tube then pushes herself off into the water. In she goes to join Cox in the airlock, which is where she pulls on her tail.

She’ll do this until she becomes more comfortable enough to jump right in.

These Mermaids Wear Many Tails

[caption id="attachment_56962" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids Visitors pack the amphitheater for The Little Mermaid performance. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Just on the other side of the hot room is the air-conditioned 450-seat amphitheater (an upgrade from Perry’s time).

It’s packed. Kids scramble around the benches and chatter as they wait for the mermaids to appear. Then, a voice comes over the loudspeaker and welcomes the guests to Weeki Wachee’s historic mermaid show.

The voice belongs to Victoria Vernon, another mermaid. She’s tucked away in the control booth and is the director of this morning’s show.

Vernon isn’t the only mermaid to take on multiple jobs throughout the day.

Typically, six to eight mermaids swim in a show. But Weeki Wachee has a roster of 25.

Those who are working but not swimming will act as greeters, ushers, launderers, seamstresses, cleaners, lifeguards and, in Vernon’s case today, show directors.

[caption id="attachment_56965" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids Mermaids also man the control room where they direct the shows. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Vernon sits in what looks like the cockpit of a submarine. She has a clear view of the underwater stage and the mermaids. She cues the music for each routine, which the mermaids can hear underwater, and even talks to them.

“The audience is loving it,” she says at one point when she hears kids go ballistic on the other side of the door.

In the water, the mermaids carry on. This morning’s show is the tale of “The Little Mermaid,” who is played by Stayce McConnell. She’s been a mermaid at Weeki Wachee for about 15 years, but today, as the Little Mermaid, she’s celebrating her 15th birthday.

Her mermaid friends dance around and celebrate with Chester the Turtle and the fish, lured in with Easton’s bread. They do two Ferris wheels and blow kisses to the audience.

Throughout the entirety of the 30-minute show, the mermaids smile and keep their eyes wide open. They use the music from the underwater speakers to lip-sync.

After the show, a curtain closes. The audience exits.

When the last member saunters out, the curtains go back up. It’s time to clean.

Vernon flips on some tunes by country duo Florida Georgia Line. The women strip off their tails and start scrubbing the underwater stage, which is full of fish poop and algae. They use a brush to shine up the fixated shells and clean the amphitheater’s windows.

When the job is done, they each swim up into the tube room. The acting lifeguard announces over walkie-talkie when each one emerges: Victoria is out, Paisley is out, Cheyenne is good.

[caption id="attachment_56973" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mermaids The mermaids keep their belongings in personalized lockers in their dressing area at Weeki Wachee Springs. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Once each mermaid is accounted for, the safety gate latches over the tube… until the second show of the day -- and the third and the fourth.

Later that night, after they’ve hung up their tails to dry, the group will gather at the nearby Chili’s Grill & Bar to send off Whitney Roberts.

Roberts has been a mermaid for four years now. She’s recently graduated from the University of South Florida, and now she’s shedding her tail and starting her life on land, as a leasing consultant in New Orleans.

But she’ll always be one of the lucky few who got to be a real-life mermaid.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She grew up admiring the mythical Weeki Wachee mermaids, even though she never wanted to be one herself.

Admittedly, I never read -- or watched -- anything “Harry Potter” until six months ago.


You’re right; I’m about 15 years behind the times, but I’m enjoying the books just the same.

But if I had hopped on the bandwagon back in the day, I definitely wouldn’t have picked up on the layered lessons tucked into the words of each chapter -- especially when it comes to personal finance.

Wait, what? Harry Potter and personal finance?

At first, the two might sound as contrary as a Basilisk and a Flobberworm. But as I flipped through the pages, my old English-major instincts kicked in: Of course Harry Potter can teach us about money.

I started taking notes. Sure, some of these might be a stretch, but in a world of crunching numbers and tricky acronyms, Harry Potter can make personal finance pretty fun.

So let me share with you the money lessons I’ve learned so far.

Writer’s note: This post contains spoilers that’ll make you very, very sad to read if you haven’t finished the series.

1. Find Your Own Magical Bank

Gringotts Wizarding Bank is a pretty neat bank.

If you remember in the first book, Harry Potter hops on a tiny, goblin-driven cart and is escorted to his vault, where his parents have safely tucked away a hearty amount of wizarding money.

Now, we can’t all take a rollercoaster ride to find our stashes of inherited money, but there’s another bank I like that’s almost as cool.

It’s Aspiration’s Summit Checking Account. It’s just as safe as Gringotts, if not more so. (We know what you tried to do, Quirinus Quirrell.)

I opened an account because it’s all online, there are zero ATM fees (even when you’re exchanging Muggle money), and it offers 1% interest, which is 100% more than my other checking account offered.

There aren’t any other fees, either; the company follows a pay-what-you-want model

So, no, Aspiration isn’t Gringotts, but it is a safe place to stash away any amount of money you might have -- from a hefty inheritance to your next rent payment.

2. Protect Your Identity (and Money)

Hey, remember that one time Dumbledore hired yet another Defense of the Dark Arts teacher who didn’t work out?

The time I’m talking about is when Alastor Moody came in to teach -- but actually (spoiler!) it was Barty Crouch, Jr. who used the Polyjuice Potion to steal Moody’s identity.

Fortunately, Muggles don’t have access to the Polyjuice Potion, but there are Nigerian Princes and other big-time scammers out there, so you’ll want to be sure to protect your identity and hard-earned funds.

Major tips include protecting yourself while shopping online, setting secure passwords and using free monitoring devices like True Identity.

By signing up for True Identity, you’ll get free and unlimited identity protection as well as free credit monitoring. That way if anything does go awry -- Polyjuice Potion or not -- you’ll be alerted and able to take immediate action.

3. Sell Off Your Heavy Spellbooks

Were you like Hermione, with a loaded class schedule?

Unfortunately, you probably didn’t have the time-turner. But you probably did have the same ridiculous amount of heavy books.

If you never sold them back after the semester, you can probably let go of them now. After all, if you’re anything like Hermione you just memorized that ish.

We use a service called Bookscouter. You just type in your book’s ISBN, and Bookscouter lists the vendors that’ll give you the most money back.

Hopefully you can pocket more than the $1.23 your campus bookstore offered.

4. Always, Always Claim Cash Back on Your Butterbeer

My mouth waters each time Harry gulps down Butterbeer. I haven’t even tried the real stuff at Universal yet, but I know it’s gotta taste better than that cheap domestic stuff I buy.

But the Penny Hoarder in me is OK with that because I can really drive prices down on that cheap domestic stuff, which makes enjoying a cold beer at the end of a long week worth it.

In addition to existing store sales and coupons, try using a rebate app like Ibotta. Scroll through the tons of rebates before you go shopping. Right now, Ibotta is offering $5 back on Shock Top, $2 back on gin and $2 back on certain wines (at my local Publix).

If you prefer something more like chocolate frogs, Ibotta has rebates on tons of ice cream choices, too (including Halo, which is basically a low-calorie magical ice cream).

After you select what you’re buying, take a photo of your receipt, scan the items’ barcodes and get cash back.

Signing up is free, and when you claim your first rebate, you’ll pocket a $10 bonus.

5. Break Out Your Muggle Phone, and Start Investing

Wizards communicate long distances with the help of owls, but Arthur Weasley, who’s forever interested in the Muggle world, knows how to use Muggle phones. Basically, he knows not to shout into it.

Coincidentally (for the point I’m making here), he also doesn’t have a whole lot of money.

Nowadays, he could have taken $5 and started investing on that Muggle phone with an app like Stash. With $5 (which you’ll earn back when you make your first investment), you can start investing for the future (without making any high-risk moves; see No. 6 below).

If you want more information, Penny Hoarder contributor Jamie Cattanach reviewed the app.

6. Don’t Bet on the Goblet of Fire Winner

In the “Goblet of Fire,” Ludovic Bagman, aka Ludo, pops in. 

Heading up the Division of Magical Games and Sports, he gets a little too invested in the Quidditch World Cup… so invested that he starts gambling…

If you’re going to take a bet, why not bet on yourself? And your health? We’ve written about HealthyWage in the past, an online program that allows you to bet how much weight you can lose.

For example, we chatted with Healthy Wage user Teresa Suarez, who lost 68 pounds in six months. Even more, she banked $2,415.28.

So if you’re down with taking a risk with your money, at least be smart -- and healthy -- about it.

7. If It’s Already Too Late, Get Your Debt Organized

We’ve already established Ludo owes money from his lost bets, so goblins (basically our form of debt collectors) start chasing him. (Yeah, folks, Leprechaun gold doesn’t count.) That’s when he goes on the run and eventually loses his job at the Ministry.

If you have debts, don’t wait until it ruins your life. The best thing to do is to face it head on. Pour yourself a glass of Butterbeer, and check your credit score.

I use Credit Sesame. It’s free, and so straightforward. It breaks down my score, what’s hindering it and where I owe money.

So just face the goblins head on, and check out your credit score.

8. Don’t Get Scammed With Leprechaun Gold

Speaking of… Ludo scams many people with the disappearing Leprechaun gold. It looks just like Galleons, but disappears after a few hours.

Ron learns this the hard way when he grabs a handful of the coins at the Quidditch World Cup and pays Harry Potter back for his Omnioculars.

The coins disappear, and Ron gets embarrassed, though Harry insists it’s OK.

The lesson here: If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true. We constantly stumble across scams, so it’s best to educate yourself and protect your assets.

Some common ones include work-from-home jobs scams, mystery shopping scams, phishing scams and phone scams.

9. Do Take Advantage of Renting Out Your Tent (or Space)

I have to say: I’ve dreamed of owning a tent that looks like that in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

Yes, it looks normal on the outside, but it’s full of ornate furniture and even several rooms. If only camping were like that…

Anyway, the lesson here is: See if there’s a big event coming to your town.

Real estate close to big festivals, concerts and sporting events is prime. Then, put your home, spare room, garage apartment or even a tent up on Airbnb.

You can make bank. For example, this guy makes $1,380 a month renting out a backyard tent on Airbnb.

10. Buy (or Sell) Second-Hand Like the Weasleys

The Weasleys, a family of eight, don’t have a ton of money, but they’re resourceful and know how to save.

For example, Ron wears his brothers’ hand-me-downs, and Ginny shops at Second-Hand Robes for her first year. Thrifting is a great way to save some money.

You can even make money by selling your old clothing. Before you go to a resale store and get 50 cents for those designer jeans, there are tons of apps out there to help you, including Letgo.

It takes less than 3 minutes to create an account and post an item -- which you price yourself. You’ll market to locals, too, so you don’t have to worry about shipping costs and logistics.

You might even find a Gryffindor robe on there… we did.

11. Start a Business Doing What You Love (Even If It’s Pranks)

Throughout the series, we see Fred and George Weasley pranking anyone and everyone. They discuss starting a business, which we finally see come to life in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

If you’re not a jokester, you can still start a business doing what you love, though start-up costs and loans can be a pain if you don’t have a wealthy friend like Harry Potter.

Also, it’s exhausting and time-consuming, especially if you have a family.

But there are ways to strike up online, work-from-home businesses with minimal start-up fees. You can take an online course in a specific trade, like bookkeeping, proofreading or transcribing. Each program offers a free introductory course, so you can see if this is up your (Diagon) alley.

These three people followed through, and they’re seeing great work-from-home success.

12. Take the Wheel of the Knight Bus (and Your Income)

Embrace your inner Ernie Prang, and if you don’t know who that is, don’t worry. Even one of our biggest in-office Harry Potter fanatics forgot the brief mention of ol‘ Ern in the second book.

He’s the Knight Bus driver -- the one that picks Harry Potter up on Privet Drive and sweeps him off to the Leaky Cauldron. We don’t know much about Mr. Prang, but we do admire his honest work.

Really, it’s the Wizarding-version of driving for a ride-sharing service, like Uber or Lyft. So if you want to act like Prang -- but without Stan Shunpike the stickler dictating your schedule -- then you can sign up to earn extra money!

13. Opt to DIY -- But Make Sure It’s Worth It

Mrs. Weasley makes all the kids’ Christmas presents (oh, those colorful sweaters) because she’s on a tight budget. If you’re already thinking about Christmas, we’ve got the DIY side of it covered.

However, when it comes to DIY, you’ll need to make sure it’s actually more cost-effective -- unlike these Pinterest fails.

14. Remember: “Time is Galleons, Little Brother”

In the Wizarding World, you have to pass a test to Apparate. When Fred and George pass, they start using it in insignificant (or so it seemed) ways, such as walking down the stairs.

When Ron asks Fred why he even does that he says, “Time is Galleons, little brother.”

He’s right. Even in the Muggle world, time is money. Except when it comes to passive income

15. Money Doesn’t Make You a Good Person

Just look at Draco Malfoy’s family…

Oh, and did you notice we made it through this entire article without mentioning He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Doing that can’t be good for your finances.

Your Turn: What house do you belong in?

Disclosure: When you pick on one of our affiliate links, it's like magic, and a few Galleons get deposited into our accounts so we can keep bringing you ways to make and save money. Seriously, it's not Leprechaun gold.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

In 1947, my now 90-year-old Mimi graduated from Columbia College in South Carolina.

She remembers paying about $400 a semester in tuition.

I gasped when she told me. My tuition was something like $15,000 a semester, which is apparently pretty average -- if not below.

So when I came across a GoBankingRates article comparing current prices with historical ones… “click.”

The site examined the current prices of some common purchases and compared them to 100 years ago (in 1917, in case you lost track).

Here are the study’s findings -- as well as ways to save money on these items.

1. Homes

[caption id="attachment_56404" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Historical prices Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Buying versus renting is a common debate, but the rising price tags of homes nowadays is terrifying. Here’s some perspective.

The price in 1917: You could buy a house for about $5,000 (or $103,777 with today’s money).

The price today: Last year, the average house sold for $372,500.

How to save: If you buy a home these days, you’re likely going to take out a mortgage. That’s expensive, but there are ways to save. Penny Hoarder Steven Gillman wrote about 10 ways you can save money on your mortgage.

There’s also this couple, who saved $18,000 when they bought their first home.

2. Cars

[caption id="attachment_55650" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Historical prices Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Fun fact: In 1917, the U.S. was in the middle of World War I, and the price of many wartime products increased, according to GoBankingRates. Cars, though? Those prices decreased.

The price in 1917: Folks could buy a Ford automobile starting at $325 -- or $6,745 today.

The price today: The average cost of a (new) car today is $34,000.

How to save: The good news is we have more resources at our fingertips, including websites to help us buy cars. Carvana, for example, claims to save buyers an average of $1,889 (versus someone stopping by the dealership).

Additionally, Penny Hoarder Lisa Rowan recently bought a new car and has some tips for getting the best deal. If you’re more of a used-car person, we have a beginner’s guide for that, too.

3. College Tuition

[caption id="attachment_56402" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Historical prices College students from the University of Tampa attend their commencement ceremony at Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla., on May 6, 2017. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Like I mentioned before, my 90-year-old Mimi graduated from Columbia College in South Carolina in the ’40s, and remembers her tuition being something like $600 per semester.

Mine was about half the cost of a new car.

The price in 1917: The price for a year of private school, including room and board, textbooks and all that good stuff, was about $600. That’s about $12,453 today.

The price today: That same thing now costs more than $45,000 per year.

How to save: Before you go, carefully consider your decision. Look into all your financial aid options, and apply for scholarships.

If you’ve already graduated and are drowning in student loan debt, you still have options.

Consider refinancing your student loans with a site like Credible. That’s what John DePrato did, and he cut his payments down from $850 to $400 a month.

4. Apples and 5. Wheat Bread

[caption id="attachment_56403" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Historical prices Child picking apples on a farm in autumn. Little girl playing in apple tree orchard. Kids pick fruit in a basket. Toddler eating fruits at fall harvest. Outdoor fun for children. Healthy nutrition.[/caption]

Why these two staple groceries? I couldn’t tell you. (GoBankingRates didn’t explain it either.)

The price(s) in 1917: Apples cost about 2 cents per pound (or 15 cents in today’s money). Everything was cooler than sliced bread because it didn’t exist in 1917, but you could get a whole, unsliced wheat loaf for 10 cents (or $2.08 in today’s money).

The price(s) today: Apples run $1.43 per pound, and sliced wheat bread is $2.31.

How to save: There are tons of ways to save on groceries these days. In fact, this list of tips could save you $200 a month.

But because these listed items are typically fresh, it’s harder to find coupons for them. That’s when you can use the cash-back app Ibotta.

You just scan your receipt, and it’ll give you money back on your purchases. Just the other day, I earned money back on bananas!

Disclosure: Here’s a toast to the affiliate links in this post. May we all be just a little richer today.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

I had this conversation with my mom the other day:

“I could never be a stay-at-home mom,” I said. “I’d lose my mind.”

“You do realize you don’t just sit around the house all day, right?” my mom responded.

Yeah, I realize that, especially because my mom was a stay-at-home mom the entirety of my childhood. I meant it more as “I don’t know if I could handle all that stuff you do.”

As early as I can remember, my mom woke up before us, ironed our clothes, packed our lunches, tended to our pets, dropped us off at school, stocked the fridge, cleaned the house, paid the bills, did the yard work, picked us up from school, fed us snacks, helped us with homework, made dinner, fed us dinner, did the dishes, dealt with any breakdowns, put us to bed -- and did whatever else my young, naive self was unaware of.


You get the point. Moms are busy. Moms are admirable. Moms have arguably one of the toughest jobs.

So if Mom were to earn a salary, how much would it be?

Considering the work involved, it seems like a stay-at-home mom salary should be pretty high.

Credit Sesame, an online platform that provides consumers with free credit scores and tools to improve those scores, surveyed 1,000 people to get to the bottom of this hot-button question.

How Much Should Mom Get Paid? Here’s What 1,000 People Said

The Credit Sesame survey started with a simple question: If being a mom were a full-time job, what would the pay be like?

Here’s what folks said:

  • 38% said $0 to $49,000
  • 27% said $50,000 to $99,999
  • 20% said $100,000 to $149,999
  • 9% said $150 to $599,999
  • 6% said $600,000 plus

On average, respondents said moms’ salaries should be $70,811.83.

Before gasping in offense (like I did), compare that number to the average household income, which was $58,673 as of April 2017.

The results get more interesting when broken down by demographics.

For example, women were more likely to think moms should get paid more than men. On average, men said moms should get paid $60,163 per year, whereas women said moms should get paid $81,410. That’s a difference of more than $20,000.

Looking at the results by age, those who were 35 to 44 said moms should be paid the most -- an average $78,968. The younger ones, like the 18- to 24-year-olds, answered with lower amounts, at an average $60,480.

They just don’t understand.

And by region? Apparently Southerners feel the most generous toward Mom. They thought, on average, mom should be paid $76,406. The West Coast didn’t agree, reporting moms should be paid an average $62,849.

Because We Can’t Afford to Pay Mom a Salary… Here’s How to Celebrate Mother’s Day on a Budget

Credit Sesame has a great point. Just think about what you’d pay for someone to drive you around, cook your meals and clean your house.

Unfortunately many of us children don’t have enough money to pay mom a salary, but we can show her our appreciation on Mother’s Day. (Which, I mean, we should do every day, but that’s another story.)

Here are some ideas that won’t cost you $70,000:

  • Buy her flowers. It’s a simple gesture, perhaps overdone, but a fresh pop of brightness in her space will make her smile all week. Plus, it won’t break your bank -- and you can even save with these deals.
  • Treat her to a mimosa. If you download cash-back app Ibotta and take mom out for some bubbly, take a picture of your receipt and it’ll deposit up to $5 back into your account. You’ll get $10 for submitting your first receipt, too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! We think you’re worth a zillion bucks!

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. We’re letting you know because it’s what our moms would do. After all, they’re our guiding lights.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her mom is her mentor, her therapist, her best friend and her roommate. And she’s OK with that.

I ran out of pets.

For my passwords. I ran out of pet names. I always relied on my childhood dog’s name.

Back in the day, passwords were simple. One word. No caps. No numbers. No punctuation.

But at some point, rover turned into RoVeR29402@?!.

Then I forget that mess and have to reset it to something totally different -- something I haven’t used in like three years.

So I do. Then I forget it and reset again. It’s a vicious cycle.

And I’m not alone.

Nearly 40% of Internet Users are Considered “Password Challenged”

Pew Research Center recently released a report that found 39% of adults struggle to keep track of their passwords. Pew considers us “password challenged.”

At the same time, of those who can’t keep track of passwords, 41% are worried about their online security. And for a good reason: Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults have been entangled in some sort of data theft or fraud, all according to Pew.

“Passwords are critical because they are still the primary method of authentication used by many people to access a variety of online accounts,” says Steve Weisman, a professor at Bentley University and author of the fraud and identity theft blog Scamicide.

These online accounts store information about your bank accounts, credit card numbers -- even social security numbers. If hackers get their dirty cyber hands on this info, you’re liable for unauthorized charges and even vulnerable to identity theft.

4 Strategies to Creating -- and Remembering -- Strong Passwords

“Password” or “123456” is not a strong password, in case you were wondering.

Hackers use programs that can guess millions of passwords,” Weisman says. “If you use any word as a password, it is easy for a knowledgeable hacker to guess it using these software programs.”

Therefore, generate something strong -- and save it. (Yeah, I’m totally preaching to the choir right now.)

1. Start with a strong foundation.

Today, many accounts don’t let you create passwords that are deemed weak.

A strong password, Weisman explains, has both capital and lowercase letters, as well as symbols. And they’re not just one singular word.

2. Don’t overthink it.

So you shouldn’t rely on one word. Now what?

Weisman says to start by writing a sentence. He uses the example, “I don’t like passwords.” You can create a strong, memorable password with that sentence.

Here are some suggestions from Weisman:

IDon’tLikePasswords. This phrase has both capital and lowercase letters. There are also two symbols -- an apostrophe and a period.

IDon’tLikePasswords!!! is even stronger, he says, with the three exclamation points.

And, wow, I can remember that. So rather than rover, perhaps consider MyDog’sNameIsRover!!!

3. Create a different password for each of your accounts.

Although it might be easier to remember one password for your million online accounts, you really need to use a different one for each.

“If your password security is compromised at one place that you go online, all of your accounts would be threatened if you use the same password,” Weisman says.

However, you don’t need 1 million pets to make this happen. Weisman offers a simpler solution.

“Adapt that base password for each of your online accounts so, for instance, your Amazon password could be, IDon’tLikePasswords!!!Ama,” he says.

Then, for Netflix, use something like IDon’tLikePasswords!!!Net.


4. Consider how you’re saving your passwords.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Weisman’s motto is, “Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”

You can’t even trust services that store your passwords. He says they can be helpful, sure, but he still has concerns about them being hacked.

And don’t save them to your browser. If your phone or computer is hacked, the hacker has easy access to all of that info.

Weisman says it’s not a bad idea to just write down your passwords and store them in a secure, safe place -- like a safe. They’ll be available to you at any time, but also available to your loved ones if you, frankly, fall ill or die.

Writer’s note: Please don’t use the passwords I’ve used as an example. I think you know that, but I really can’t afford to be liable for anything that happens to you or your online accounts.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. When she finally adopts a cat, she plans to give it a password-worthy name.

Like many people, I spend too much money on food and drink.

I’m looking at my recent credit card purchases right now -- and I’m cringing…

  • $3.53 for coffee this morning
  • $9.80 at Panera yesterday
  • $34.16 for beers this past Saturday (that’s for two people)
  • $29 for brews this past Thursday (I need to explain this one. I was at a concert. I ordered two beers, which were for my parents. It cost $29. Ridiculous.)

I need to stop here before I embarrass myself too much.

But… you knew there was a “but” coming… Swagbucks just released a new app called Swagbucks Local that rewards when you dine out with its partnered vendors.

Not Familiar with Swagbucks? Let Me Explain

Most simply, Swagbucks is a rewards site.

You earn Swagbucks (SBs, which act as points) for doing various tasks, such as shopping, searching the internet, taking surveys or watching videos.

Once you collect a certain amount of SBs, you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, Starbucks and Walmart.

For example, right now, if you earn 500 SBs, you can snag a $5 Amazon card.

So… What’s Swagbucks Local?

Swagbucks Local is just another way to stock up on SBs. But instead of taking surveys or watching videos, you don’t really have to do anything but download the app and connect your credit or debit card.

That’s because you earn points when you dine at local restaurants, buy coffee from your go-to cafe or hit up your favorite dive bar.

There’s no need to ask your barista, “Hey, do you do the Swagbucks thing?” All you have to do is search the map on the app to see which establishments are participating in your area.

Don’t want to put that much planning into it? That’s fine, too.

Swagbucks Local automatically registers when you’ve swiped your card at a participating eatery and will reward you in SBs.

Here’s How to Download Swagbucks Local and Start Earning SBs

This is easy. That’s coming from me, someone who has little patience for new apps and downloads.

Here’s how I set up Swagbucks Local:

  1. Download the app in the iTunes store or on Google Play for Android users. It’s free.
  2. If you have an existing Swagbucks account, go ahead and sign in. If not, create an account.
  3. Link your debit and/or credit cards. I simply linked my credit card because that’s what I use exclusively, but you can link as many cards as you want -- as long as they’re Visa or American Express.
  4. Peruse the map. Right now, Swagbucks Local is live in more than 2,000 areas (and continues to grow). You’ll see which local spots offer SBs with purchases.

Or, you can skip this step. Once you have your credit or debit card(s) connected, Swagbucks registers if you make a purchase at an affiliated vendor. You don’t have to do a thing; it’ll automatically reward you.

The number of SBs you earn per dollar will depend on the location. In my area, many eateries and coffee shops are offering 7 SB per dollar. So that $3.53 coffee I bought this morning? 25 SBs.

When you sign up and link a card right now, you’ll also automatically bank 100 SBs.

So I’m already a quarter of the way to a $5 gift card. And I feel a little less guilty splurging on coffee this morning. I mean, it was a lavender vanilla latte… No way I can make that thing at home!

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Swagbucks has always intimidated her for some reason, but Swagbucks Local is way easy.

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that always approaches too quickly.

It never fails; I’m always scrambling on Saturday…

What the heck can I get Mom that’ll show her how much I love her?

My answer is always nothing -- mostly because she’s impossible to shop for.

But also because nothing will show her how much I love her; it’s that much. ;)

A solid backup plan is to buy her flowers.

Cliché? Perhaps. Thoughtful and beautiful? Sure.

However, they’re always more expensive than I’m expecting.

So here it is: Seven ways to save money on Mother’s Day flowers.

1. Use Ibotta to Earn Cash Back

If you don’t already use Ibotta while grocery shopping, where ya been? The app is an easy way to earn cash back on your purchases. (I’ll spare you the details right now, but you can read more about it here.)

The best deals for Mom:

  • If you’re just hitting up your local grocer, take advantage of the $4 rebate when you buy anything Not Your Mom’s brand (that’s alcohol) and any brand of flowers. If Mom doesn’t drink, you can just keep it for yourself. But hurry; the offer expires May 10. See if your local store is participating.
  • There’s another deal. If Mom doesn’t live locally, you can order her flowers from Bloom That and earn 10% cash back on your purchase when you shop through Ibotta. Plus, go ahead and sign up for Bloom That and get another $5 off. (There are more than flowers, too. Take a look at this rosé-inspired box.)

2. Earn 30% Cash Back via Ebates

Ebates houses more than 10,000 coupons for more than 2,000 stores and offers up to 40% off any given purchase.

It acts as a portal, so all you have to do is go to the site, find a deal and shop through the “Shop Now” button.

You can cash-out on cash-back opportunities or simply find coupons.

The best deals for Mom:

  • When you shop through Florists or ProFlowers, for example, you can earn 30% cash back. Just search for the deal on Ebates, click “Shop Now,” sign up, then earn money back. That could be $16.50 back on the Springtime Selection option at
  • If you prefer to use a coupon, try shopping through Ebates at Send Flowers. You can take up to 50% off sitewide and earn 20% cash back. No coupon code is required, and the offer is good until May 14.

Search through the options yourself. Just visit Ebates and search “flowers.”

3. Find Mother's Day Flowers Coupons With Retale

Remember how the Sunday newspaper contained a Holy Grail of coupons?

Well, not many people subscribe to their local paper anymore. (Sad.) But Retale keeps weekly ads in its system online.

Search ads by your area to find the best discounts.

The best deal for Mom:

  • Walmart is advertising $14.87 premium mixed bouquets based on your location.

4. Earn Points for Gift Cards Through MyPoints

When you shop through MyPoints, you earn points, which you can cash out for gift cards.

Right now, if you stack up 1,590 points, for example, you can get $10 for Amazon, Home Depot or a number of other retailers. (See all the reward opportunities here.)

The best deal for Mom:

5. Stop Deleting Your Receipts

Did you know you can order Mom flowers through Amazon? I didn’t either, but I order everything else in the world on there, so why not?

(It even has unicorn-inspired blooms.)

If you opt for Amazon, be sure to utilize Paribus. You’ll go about shopping normally, but Paribus will monitor your purchases. If the item’s price decreases after you click submit, you’ll receive the price difference.

And if your order doesn’t show up on time, Paribus can help you automatically get full or partial refunds of shipping costs, or even store credit for the inconvenience.

It offers this deal at other retailers, but I don’t think you can order flowers from Home Depot, Zappos or Nordstrom. But then again, you can order rocks, so I wouldn’t be shocked.

The best deal for Mom:

The deal is going to depend on whatever Amazon’s up to that day, so it’s worth giving Paribus a try.

6. Take Advantage of That AAA Discount.

Got AAA? I do, but I don’t take advantage of its discounts nearly as often as I should, but it has a pretty solid discount on flowers.

The best deal for Mom:

  • Save up to 25% off on Mother’s Day flowers and gifts at 1-800-Flowers. You’ll need to use the promo code AAAFD4. The offer is good until May 14. You’ll find all the details here.

Want to know some other unexpected AAA discounts we found? Check ‘em out here.

7. Get Cash Back Through Bank of America

If you have a BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card, this deal is for you (except if you have an AAA card, use that instead). Bank of America offers cash back from certain retailers when you claim the offer and use your card to make the purchase.

The best deal for Mom:

  • You can get 10% back (up to $20) on your 1-800-Flowers order. The offer expires May 22, which is after Mother’s Day, so you’re fine.

Other tips: Don’t wait until the last minute. Shipping will get the best of your bank account.

And if for some reason your mom doesn’t receive her flowers on Sunday -- when you very clearly said they needed to be to her by then -- contact the company you ordered through.

Chances are, you’ll be able to get some type of credit or discount good towards your next purchase.

Disclosure: Here’s a toast to the affiliate links in this post. May we all be just a little richer today.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

On a breezy Friday afternoon, two groups of women gather in a parking lot outside an inconspicuous warehouse in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.

The first group to arrive includes three moms, who say it’s their afternoon off. The dads are playing golf, so they hired a sitter to wrangle the kids. Now, it’s time to let loose.

The second group is a bachelorette party of eight. They embrace the BYOB concept and come prepared with bag wine and tumblers complete with straws.

They’re all about portability, which is ideal for their much-anticipated, three-hour tour with PedalPub St. Petersburg. It’s a pub crawl, but rather than crawling, they’re pedaling. Together. On a giant bike. And they’re armed with alcohol.

[caption id="attachment_54727" align="alignnone" width="1200"]pedal pub Carrie Davis pulls out a bike while getting ready for a PedalPub tour around the Grand Central Art District of St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Carrie Davis, 32, perches on the back of the mobile pub as the guests arrive. She’s been a full-time pedal pub pilot for more than a year. It’s her job to bartend and steer the cart. She doesn’t have to pedal, though. She just has to make sure everyone is having a good time -- and that they don’t crash the double-wide bike.

Davis has tended bar around the world -- from New Zealand to Ireland -- but she landed back in her native state of Florida last year.

About two weeks after moving to town, her roommate mentioned a gig that had opened with PedalPub St. Petersburg. “You’d be perfect,” Davis remembers her roommate saying.

A Boozy Day in The Life of a Pedal Pub Pilot

[caption id="attachment_54729" align="alignnone" width="1200"]pedal pub The PedalPub tour arrives at 3 Daughters Brewing during a tour of the Grand Central Art District in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Before taking off, Davis has the two groups of women sign waivers, which say something like “I’ll take the risk of not wearing a helmet” -- unless they want to, of course.

She then loads the guests’ coolers onto the bike before assuming her position at the steering wheel up front, like the captain of a ship.

The 11 women hoist themselves on board.

Davis reviews the safety measures, which include rules like “don’t get off the bike with a drink in your hand” (because of open container laws), “don’t hand a drink off to a stranger on the street,” “don’t throw any obscene hand gestures”…

Also, try not to fall off the seat.

The ladies laugh, but Davis assures them she’s seen it all.

She starts the music before assuming her pilot position and ringing the bell.

Ding, ding!

[caption id="attachment_54730" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Kimberly Trocha waves to people as she takes part in a PedalPub tour in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

That means pedal, Davis informs the group.

The cart creeps out of the warehouse’s parking lot and down the street towards Central Avenue. The ladies comment on that pedaling is much harder than they’d expected.

“Good thing I didn’t work out today,” someone says.

People on the sidewalk wave, and commuters honk. The ladies quickly concoct a drinking rule: Each time you hear a honk, drink.

Davis likes to mess with the guests. Sometimes she pretends she’s not paying attention or tells them the cart doesn’t have brakes -- which she does today, as the cart pulls up to the first red light. “I like playing with their sense of humor,” she says.

Ding, ding!

[caption id="attachment_54731" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Carrie Davis cleans off the countertops during her afternoon PedalPub tour at Urban Comfort in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The light turns green, and she turns the wheel left as the cart gradually picks up the pace again.

At the first stop, 3 Daughters Brewing, the ladies dismount. “20 minutes!” Davis reminds them as they head off towards the brewery.

She uses the welcomed downtime to wipe the bartop, refill the cooler and hang out. Sometimes she plays games on her phone. Other times she throws what she calls a parking lot party, which happens when the guests don’t venture into the bar and opt to stay on the bike and drink in the parking lot.

Twenty minutes later, the women reappear, ready to hit the next two bars on their route.

Ding, ding!

[caption id="attachment_54746" align="alignnone" width="1200"]pedal pub From left, Lisa Sperle and Kate Hauschild play cornhole at Urban Comfort while on a PedalPub tour in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The second stop is Urban Comfort Restaurant and Brewery, and it’s full of yard games. After the group ventures to the bar, Davis again wipes the bike’s bar top after some messy spills (potholes in a pedal pub are serious problems) and grabs a cup of coffee from a nearby shop. She joins the group of bachelorettes, who are playing cornhole with beers in hand.

Ding, ding!

It seems as though Davis’s reminders to pedal become more frequent as the afternoon wears on.

Ding, ding!

[caption id="attachment_54851" align="alignnone" width="1200"]pedal pub Carrie Davis, center, gives a PedalPub tour to a group of women in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The final stop is The Dog Bar, another local favorite that offers brews, games and dogs. Davis maneuvers the cart, parking it against the curb, and saddles up to the bar where she chats with the bartender, whom she knows.

The group becomes more and more lively, and a short 20 minutes later, Davis finds herself coaxing one of the bachelorettes, who apparently didn’t want to leave the dogs, to get back to the pedal pub.

Which raises the question -- what happens when a pedal-pubber gets too drunk?

Davis has a simple solution: Put them in the middle of the cart and have them act as bartender. They’re protected by the bar, and they feel special.

Ding, ding!

[caption id="attachment_54734" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Brandy Kowalke enters the cab area during the PedalPub tour in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

It’s Friday, so Davis has another tour lined up before her shift ends around 11:30 p.m. Then, she’ll do it all again tomorrow, a Saturday, which is typically her longest day, running 1:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Working full time, she makes enough money to live off of -- base pay plus tips.

Plus she loves her job because each day proves different.

“I like making people laugh,” she says. “I like being outside. I like that I’m not in a cubicle somewhere. I’m surrounded by people who just want to have a good time.”

Your Turn: Would you make a good pedal pub pilot?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She once embarked on a ride with PedalPub St. Pete. At the end of the night, she stumbled off the bike with a big grin on her face -- and had a nasty hangover the next morning.

What’s more sweat-inducing than a job interview?

Maybe negotiating with a car salesperson and throwing down a chunk of money…

But you might be able to avoid the pressure of negotiating at a dealership nowadays.

That’s because online platforms that sell cars are becoming increasingly popular -- and could help save you tons of time and money.

The Perks of Using a Car-Buying Site

Making such a big purchase online seems a little frivolous, doesn’t it?

I’d actually never heard of this option until I interviewed Justin Cupler, our own assistant editor and former automotive mechanic/technical writer, for our used car guide.

That’s when he told me he doesn’t think used car lots -- which, he says, don’t offer good deals anyway -- will be around much longer.

That’s because websites like Carvana and Vroom, which specialize in buying and selling cars online, are popping up. And the cars you find on these sites tend to be better than those you’ll find on the lot.

“They take trade-ins from across the nation and can afford to be more selective,” Cupler told me. “That’s because they don’t have a dealer lot to keep full.”

Another perk of online used car shopping? You aren’t charged extra fees for the dealer’s commission or any overhead expenses.

Oh, and the car is delivered to your front door.

The only downside is you won’t be able to test drive it. However, most of these sites have a return policy. For example, Carvana has a seven-day money-back guarantee policy.

3 Websites Where You Could Buy Your Next Car

If you’re interested in checking out some of these sites, here are three -- all of which offer home deliveries and accept returns.

1. CarSense

[caption id="attachment_55837" align="alignnone" width="1200"] CarSense/Facebook[/caption]

CarSense has five car lots in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but you don’t have to be in one of those states to shop there.

The company’s inventory of 2,240 cars is all listed online. You can be as specific or as general as you’d like when you search.

You can even search by your budget. Calculate what you can afford by entering the monthly payment, down payment, finance APR and desired contract length into the search tool. Then type in that estimated budget and find your matches.

Once you find what you want, take a look at the free vehicle history report, the photos and all the details. You can also see how much you’re saving compared to the Kelley Blue Book price.

If you like what you see, you can get free delivery if you live within 50 miles of the vehicle's location. If not, you’ll have to pay (prices vary by vacation). Either way, you’ll get a five-day return policy.

2. Carvana

[caption id="attachment_55838" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Carvana/Facebook[/caption]

Carvana has about 7,600 cars in stock right now, and according to its price breakdown, buyers can save an average of $1,889 using the site instead of shopping at a dealership.

You can search for exactly what you want, or peruse the available options.

Once you find one to your liking, take a “tour.” I chose a Volkswagen Tiguan. When I clicked on two blue dots, the car’s specs pop up. The little yellow triangle means something is wrong with it. In this case, it’s just a few scratches on the hood. (Search for a car, and you’ll see what I mean!)

You’ll see photos of the interior, exterior and under the hood.

If you like the car, you can build your deal. Select your annual income and enter your VantageScore to see your personalized financing terms. You can also use a third party to finance if you don’t like what you see.

You’ll review and sign all your contracts online. You can take your time combing through the fine print or speed through.

According to Carvana, the fastest time someone’s purchased a car through its site is 11 minutes. (I’d probably issue a speeding ticket for that buyer…)

If you don’t like the car once you’ve got it, though, you have seven days to return it.

3. Vroom

[caption id="attachment_55840" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Vroom/Facebook[/caption]

Vroom claims to save buyers an average of $2,545.

What’s also neat about Vroom is that it has more than 100 acres of “car heaven, home to the industry’s leading reconditioning technology” with its main site in Texas.

Vroom has scouts who scour the country to find the best pre-owned cars. Once the scouts find a car, the reconditioning team takes over and makes the car as new as possible.

Then it’s your turn to find the car you want. Vroom has more than 3,000 vehicles stocked. You can browse or get right to it and search by make and model.

You’ll find all the details you need. The free vehicle history report shows an accident check (if there have been any accidents, that’s where you’ll see them), state title issues and an odometer check.

There’s also a nifty estimated payment calculator you can play with. Choose your credit status, your preferred term length and how much you’d like to put down.

If for some reason the vehicle is delivered and you hate it, you have a week to return it. Plus, there’s a 90-day warranty in case anything is iffy.

You can also trade your old car in here, too!

Your Turn: Have you ever purchased a car online? What platform did you use, and what was your experience like?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Haley Gonzalez is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder. She helped search for legitimate car-buying sites!

My one-year "workiversary" is approaching in June, and I’ve saved more money than I’ve ever seen in my 24 years of life.

But I really don’t know what to do with this money I’m tucking away. I’ve teetered around with different options -- investing it, saving it… burying it?

Like every other New Year’s resolution I set for myself, I still haven’t made a move -- and it’s April. That money is just sitting idly (and temptingly) in my checking account.

I’ve heard a thing or two about high-yield savings accounts, which seem easy enough, so I take a deep breath and start poking around on the internet.

Let Me Tell You About My (Bad) Experience With Savings Accounts…

Before this full-time job, I was a student who earned an irregular income from freelancing, pet-sitting and tutoring.

At one point in graduate school, I’d somehow squirreled away a little bit of money, and I wanted to put it in a savings account.

I took the easiest route: I got on the phone with my bank, the one I kept my checking account with, and set up a savings account.

I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I just took the nice customer service agent’s advice.

I ended up with an account that required a minimum balance, which was right at what I had saved… which meant I couldn’t take any money out if I needed to.

After the first few months, I also realized I was only actually making a few cents with the 0.01% APY.

And so it went…

Each month, as my checking account balance dropped, I longingly looked at my savings. I didn’t want to pay any extra fees just for going below that required balance, so I ultimately had to shut the account down.

I just wasn’t ready yet, I suppose. But now I am.

I Found a Great Contender -- with an Unsuspected Finance Company

I don’t want to go back to that 0.01% interest rate. I want to see my money actually work for me, so I start researching high-yield savings accounts.

I find some big names, including Goldman Sachs Bank USA.

Confession time: I’ve had this ridiculous idea that Goldman Sachs Bank USA is this brand that I, a starving writer, would never come in contact with. For me, it conjures images of gold bars and people who shop at high-end retailers, like Saks (Sachs?) Fifth Avenue.

That’s not me.

However, after combing through the fine print, I -- and any “normal” person -- could totally open a Goldman Sachs Bank USA savings account.

goldman sachs savings account

Here’s why:

  • It’s an online savings account, so I’m not limited by location. (Also, in my mind, Goldman Sachs Bank USA's buildings have fancy marble floors, which just don’t jive with my yoga pants.)
  • There’s no minimum deposit to open an account. Whew. There is a maximum amount of 250,000, but that’s a little out of my range right now.
  • There are no transaction fees.

So far, it all seems pretty promising.

How Much More I Can Make With a Goldman Sachs Bank USA Savings Account

The whole 1.05% APY seems stellar, especially seeing as the national average hovers around 0.06% -- and my previous account was at a whopping 0.01%.

But I’m not very good with translating numbers in a big picture kind of way, so I use Goldman Sachs Bank USA's online savings calculator, which, by the way, isn’t 100% guaranteed, but it’ll give you an idea of what to expect.

Say I want to start out with a $500 deposit and want to set my recurring deposits to $100 bi-weekly (which is when I get a paycheck). If I want to do this for the next five years, I could hypothetically put away $13,770 earning $370 in total interest.

That’s nearly $296 more than the national savings average.

goldman sachs savings account

Want to Check Out This Savings Account For Yourself?

If you’re in a similar situation to me -- or are simply unhappy with how much you’re getting back from your regular ol‘ savings account, your best bet is to start researching.

And start sooner than later. Yeah, I’m preaching to the choir right now, but the faster you get your money in one of these high-yield interest accounts, the faster the whole compounded interest thing will work in your favor.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. By checking out this featured content, you help us bring you more ways to save!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Do you have trouble toting your kids across town -- from dance to soccer to karate to T-ball?

Little ones keep full schedules these days. You’re forced to keep up, which might require you to take time off work or hire a babysitter -- which is expensive and not totally necessary for a 12-year-old.

Or say no, no you can’t be active and make new friends. But that sucks.

And unfortunately it’s illegal to hail your child an Uber or Lyft to take them to the soccer field. (You’ve got to be 18 for that, and it probably wouldn’t be the safest option anyway.)

A Common Parenting Frustration Inspires a Thriving Startup

In 2013, the after-school logistical nightmare was the center of conversation at a kid’s birthday party, where a group of Los Angeles-based working moms huddled together and discussed their options.

“For me, it was feeling guilty because I had to tell [my son] no because I couldn’t get him to karate at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday,” one of the moms, Joanna McFarland, explained. “Then, as [my kids] got older, we didn’t need and didn’t want to spend the money on full-time help.”

The other moms concurred -- it was too much.

“We should all pitch in and buy a van and hire moms to drive our kids around,” McFarland joked.

But wait -- that wasn’t a terrible idea.

McFarland’s long-time friend, Janelle McGlothlin, saw the spark of a brilliant idea. She, too, struggled to get her three kids from Point A to Point B… to Point C. So the duo started meeting weekly to map out a solution.

The solution evolved -- and so did their team. Carolyn Yashari Becher had been working on a similar idea before meeting McFarland and McGlothlin, so the mom of three joined the venture.

Altogether, the three moms have eight kids who participate in everything from karate to gymnastics to tennis. They understand the struggle -- and the need for safety.

They also each have more than 15 years of experience in their respective fields, from product management to branding to law.

In late 2014, the trio put their heads together to really plan and execute their idea. In March 2015, their new product hit the internet: HopSkipDrive.

HopSkipDrive Aims to Help Busy Parents with Active Kids

[caption id="attachment_53694" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo Illustration: A person shows how the HopSkipDrive app works. It is a ride service for kids. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

HopSkipDrive is an online ride service platform that helps parents schedule rides for their kids ages 6 and older. Right now, it’s available in Los Angeles, Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area (but there are plans to expand!).

Let’s say you, a working parent, have two kids. Your daughter goes to tennis practice right after school. You’d schedule a CareDriver to pick her up in the carline and drop her off at the country club.

Then your other daughter does ballet. She goes to an after-school program for an hour before attending practice. You’d schedule another CareDriver to come sign her out of after-care and deliver her safely to the dance studio.

You’d log in online or through the app to schedule the rides (by 7 p.m. the night before). You also have the ability to make these rides recurring, so you don’t even have to think about it for the rest of the week -- or school year.

At the specified time, a CareDriver shows up at the school (or your home, the soccer fields, wherever) and delivers them from point A to point B.

OK, but you ask: Is this actually safe?

What’s Involved With Becoming a CareDriver?

You have to remember three moms created the service -- and each of them use it in their everyday lives.

To select potential CareDrivers, HopSkipDrive has a 15-point driver certification process to fully vet individuals.

You must be at least 23 or older, have more than five years of childcare experience, pass a criminal record check, pass a vehicle inspection and ace an in-person interview with the HopSkipDrive team.

The safety measures continue.

Once a ride is requested, the parent receives a photo of their assigned CareDriver, which the parent will then show to their kid. There’s also a personal code word that CareDrivers must use to confirm with the kids at pickup.

Then, you -- as well as the folks at HopSkipDrive -- can monitor the drive in real time through the app.

Each CareDriver must also wear an orange vest and have the appropriate stickers on their car (which are provided).

Parents can add specialized directions for the CareDrivers. For example, McFarland requests that each of her CareDrivers go into her sons’ school and sign them out of aftercare.

“CareDrivers are caregivers first and drivers second,” McFarland says. “They’re caregivers on wheels.”

How Much It Costs to Have Someone Drive Your Kid Around

Pricing varies by location, but in Los Angeles/Orange County, it’s a $16 minimum fare for a “single family,” which can include multiple passengers for each family (like siblings).

However, there’s a carpool option, where you can work with other parents in the area to schedule group rides. For example, if your son plays soccer with four of his classmates, you can coordinate with the other parents and get them a ride for $7 a family (minimum).

If you want more specific pricing, you can use the price estimate tool to type in specific addresses.

It’s also important to note that, in many instances, parents are able to use pre-tax dollars to purchase rides, which means they don’t have to pay tax on the service.

A Family-Centered Mission

“Our mission is to make family lives better,” McFarland says. “We’ve seen that on both sides of the platform.”

She cites a few examples -- one mom finally had the time to start her own company, while another got a promotion at work. A third mom wrote to let the team know that her daughter made her prestigious traveling dance team because she never missed practice.

McFarland and company are proud of the platform they’ve created and hope to see it soon expand to other areas -- though she’s going to keep the details a secret for now.

If you’re interested in knowing if HopSkipDrive is coming to your town, you can sign up for email updates. If you already live in Los Angeles, Orange County or the Bay Area, read more about the service online.

Your Turn: What do you think of HopSkipDrive? Would you use it?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She hopes this ride services expands into her area before she starts popping out offspring.