ScoreCard Research Carson Kohler - The Penny Hoarder

We love good side gigs here at The Penny Hoarder, but are y’all actually trying to make some substantial pocket change?

Last month, Bankrate published a study that revealed those with side gigs are making, on average, an extra $9,948 a year.

Dang.

But what platforms are side-gig workers using to rake in this money?

Earnest, which offers personalized loans, combed its data of tens of thousands of loan applicants and found the most profitable arenas.

Ranked by the average monthly income, here are the top five:

1. Airbnb

Earnest found that the average monthly income for Airbnb hosts was $924, making it the most profitable side gig on the list.

This makes sense, as we wrote about a host who makes $1,380 a month just by renting out a backyard tent.

You don’t have to be that creative, though. Folks list spare bedrooms, vacation homes, garage apartments and even campers to bring in the bucks.

Use the platform’s calculator to see how much you could make each week.

2. TaskRabbit

Ever heard of it?

TaskRabbit is an online marketplace that matches freelancers to local demand. For example, if you need a logo made for your website, find a designer on TaskRabbit. Or if you need your lawn mowed, search TaskRabbit.

According to Earnest’s data, TaskRabbit members make, on average, $380 a month.

If you want to learn more about TaskRabbit, check out advice from these contractors, who make up to $2,000 a week.

3. Lyft

Ever wonder how much you could make driving for a ride-sharing service? Lyft and Uber come in back-to-back on this list.

The average Lyft driver pockets $377 a month, according to Earnest’s findings.

However, this is just the average. Your wages will depend on where you live and how often you drive. Earlier this year, we interviewed a guy who makes $750 per week as a Lyft driver.

If you’re curious about how much you could make, Lyft has a calculator to see how much you could make.

4. Uber

Uber comes in closely behind its competitor. Earnest states that the average Uber driver makes $364 a month.

Last year, we hunted down six Uber drivers from across the U.S. Some worked part time while others worked full time and earned upwards of $450 a week.

Want to see how much you could make? You can sign up now.

5. DoorDash

DoorDash is an on-demand food delivery service that’s located in more than 300 cities.

According to Earnest, the average “Dasher” makes $229 a month.

If you’re interested in being tempted by delicious food each day, check out more details on its site.

The side gigs that rounded out the top nine also included Postmates, Etsy, Fiverr and Getaround. If you want to see more details and breakdowns, Earnest has it all.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Do you make bank in the sharing economy? She’d be curious to hear your story!

Back in October 2014, Kim McDermott put her husband Tom in charge of the house while she took a quick trip to Orlando, Florida.

“I’m like, dude, you can handle this. No kids; just fur babies,” she recalls telling him.

(What happens next isn’t his fault. It’s a total fluke.)

A few days into her trip, during a day at Disney World, McDermott received a phone call from her husband. He asked if they own a shop vacuum. Of course, McDermott inquired, Why the heck do you need a shop vacuum?

“There’s just a little bit of water in the house,” she remembers her husband explaining.

Well, it was more than a little. When her husband returned home from a 12-hour work shift, he found their four-bedroom, ranch-style house in Victorville, California, seeped in water.

Here’s what they figured out happened: The couple had recently adopted Sitka, a kitten. Sitka had a toy that became his pride and joy: a small ball, the size you’d golf with, adorned with a fuzzy tail. Because he couldn’t fit the ball in his mouth, he carried it around by the tail.

Well, while stalking around one day, Sitka accidentally dropped the toy in the master bathroom sink. The ball lodged into the drain, and he couldn’t get it out. While fumbling around, he somehow turned the sink turned on.

And so the water ran all day — into the bedroom, creeping into the home office and making its way out into the front living room.

Until Tom came home.

A few days later, Kim returned, and a clean-up company packed 20 year’s worth of the McDermott's belongings away, and they moved into a hotel before settling into a friend’s home.

Additionally, Kim had to quit her out-of-town job to focus on fixing their house. (Plus, she’d been telling herself she’d give up the demanding gig soon, so now she counts the incident as a blessing.)

In January 2015, about three months later, the couple was finally able to move back into their home.

Although thankful for home insurance, the McDermotts were out $2,000 of income each month from Kim giving up her job — and they still faced a mound of existing debt.

OhmConnect Review: How the McDermotts Make Money

[caption id="attachment_72972" align="alignnone" width="1200"]couple posing for picture at disney land Kim McDermott, right, and her husband, Tom. Photo courtesy of Kim McDermott[/caption]

For about a year, the McDermotts idled along, trying to find ways to pay what they owed, but it proved difficult. On a single income, the couple was living paycheck to paycheck.

Until one day in April 2016. That’s when Kim stumbled across something on Facebook called OhmConnect. It claimed to pay its users for reducing their energy usage.

“I don’t like to look stupid,” she says, so she did her research.

Through a friend who uses the platform, she learned that OhmConnect actually will pay you to reduce your energy. It partners with energy companies in California, Texas and Toronto* to get customers to reduce their energy usage during peak hours (when dirty power plants threaten to come on as backups). These hours are deemed #OhmHours.

OhmConnect users get notified of #OhmHours, which typically occur in the evenings when folks are getting home from work and the sun is setting. During that hour, the goal is to reduce energy by holding off on laundry, unplugging the Keurig or even flipping off the lights and taking a walk.

Users then get rewarded in points; 1,000 points equates to $10. They can also make money referring others to sign up.

Kim decided to sign up. At the time, the referral rules were $20 for the new user — and $20 for the friend who referred. Easy.

“Who doesn’t need 20 bucks?” she asks.

She didn’t cash out that first month, but continued to play with the platform. However, the next month she focused on referring more friends and reducing her energy.

Between the referrals and the #OhmHours, Kim made $86.78.

“That was great because I had a trip coming up in June, but then my husband’s car battery died,” she says. So they used the $87 to pay for a new one.

Fast forward to this year, and Kim started to see her earnings ramp up.

Now, most of her profit comes from referrals. She shares her OhmConnect link on her personal Facebook, as well as in various groups. She also uses tokens she earns on the platform to purchase “referral madness cards,” to amplify the points.

Additionally, she continues to participate in those #OhmHours. In July, her earnings solely based on #OhmHours — no referrals — equated to $125, which easily covered her electric bill. Calculating in her 61 new referrals, she earned $2,594 that month.

More recently, in August, Kim capped off the month with more than $2,833 in earnings.

To date, she’s banked nearly $6,000 through OhmConnect.

*OhmConnect can currently only tap into a few utility companies to monitor energy consumption. These include California PG&E, SDG&E and SCE customers; as well as Toronto Hydro customers.

The McDermotts Move Forward — While Doing Good

Kim assures the world that referring others isn’t selfish; she’s exposing them to a platform they’d otherwise have not known about, she’s helping others (and California) save energy, and she’s getting others in on the profit as well.

Here’s an example: A while back, Kim saw a local woman post to Facebook asking for a few groceries; she promised to pay them back as soon as she got her paycheck.

Kim grabbed what she she could out of her pantry and delivered it. The woman was so thankful and assured Kim she’d see the $20 come payday. Kim told her not to worry, to just sign up with OhmConnect instead.

“It took her a little bit, but she did it,” Kim says. “We both got that $20.”

Now, Kim watches the woman move up in the leaderboard each month with the amount of earnings she’s pocketing.

“I feel good she is able to offset some of her needs with the program,” Kim says.

OhmConnect has also allowed Kim to donate to causes close to her heart — like to animal charities and to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

And about all that debt she incurred from Mr. Sitka? Between Tom working overtime and Kim’s OhmConnect earnings, the couple has made a large dent.

This past July, Kim paid off a $2,660.31 Home Depot bill six months earlier than she’d expected.

“It’s so nice to check in on [the Home Depot account] once or twice a month, and it says you owe $0,” she said. “It’s been years since I’ve had a $0 balance on my Home Depot card. It’s so hard with interest.”

Plus, the couple has managed to save a little here and there to take some time off when they can. They just returned from a short trip to Disneyland. (Nope, not the same one she was at when she received that call from her husband back in 2014…)

Perhaps what makes Kim the happiest, though, is that her husband is proud of her OhmConnect hustle. A few weeks ago, Kim describes while tearing up, her husband woke up at 1:45 a.m. for his shift at work.

He left a note for her:

Dear Mama,

Just wanted to say I love you and how proud I am of you. Great job.

Love always…

[caption id="attachment_72971" align="alignnone" width="1200"]handwritten note Photo courtesy of Kim McDermott[/caption]

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She wants to hear from California residents: How much money have you made using OhmConnect?

It’s no big hush-hush secret that millennials are up to their ears in student loan debt.

Yet another survey highlights the burden.

A survey from the National Association of Realtors in conjunction with American Student Assistance found that millennial respondents (those born between 1980 and 1998) had accrued a median debt of $41,200. In context, the median income of all respondents was $38,800.

This is nothing very new. But what the survey did reveal was how student loan debt is affecting other big decisions…

For Millennials, Student Loan Debt Impacts These 5 Big Decisions

Earlier this year, Anna Sale, the host of the podcast “Death, Sex & Money,” put together a two-part project highlighting student loan debt.

At one point, a woman explains how she feels guilty making any sort of purchase because of her debt — even when it comes to something as simple as a dish rack. It was $80.

So how else is student loan debt impacting millennials’ decisions?

The National Association of Realtors and the American Student Assistance programs asked, and here’s what folks said:

  1. 76% of respondents said it’s impacted their decision to purchase a home.
  1. 72% of respondents said it’s impacted their decision to take a vacation.
  1. 65% of respondents said it’s impacted their decision to buy a car.
  1. 64% of respondents said it’s impacted their decision to continue their education.
  1. 58% of respondents said it’s impacted their decision to take on roommates versus renting solo.

Only 5% said their student loan debt has had no impact on their decisions.

How to Move On From Mounds of Student Loan Debt

We’ve written about a ton of people who are just trying to move on from their student loans.

Including Jammie Proctor and John DePrato.

Proctor was 36, had more than $50,000 in student debt and desperately wanted to pay off a house and start investing.

DePrato was $65,000 in debt — with a bachelor’s and MBA. He wanted to build a house with his wife, but the process proved nearly impossible with a monthly $850 payment.

Both decided to refinance their loans through a platform called Credible. It was an easy process, and rather than only getting one option, Credible aggregated a bunch, so they could each pick a more personalized plan that best suited their needs. Some have compared Credible to a Kayak or Zillow — but for student loans.

By refinancing, Proctor saved an estimated $6,000 to $7,000. He’ll be debt-free in seven years.

DePrato cut his monthly payments down from $850 to $400, so he could continue to build his dream home.

Really, they had nothing to lose. They just typed some basic information into Credible, and bam: so many refinancing options.

You’ve got more options, too. Try using some of these strategies.

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

Because I live in Florida, snow doesn’t signal the approach of the holidays.

Rather, it’s the frequency of UPS trucks I see roaming my neighborhood. Those brown trucks could be Santa’s sleigh as far as I’m concerned. The “beep-beep” I hear each time the truck backs up is basically a Christmas carol.

Yeah, yeah. I’m totally feeding into the consumerism mentality that we need to get away from during the holidays, but there is a bright side to this.

UPS is on a seasonal holiday hiring binge.

The package delivery giant is working to fill nearly 95,000 seasonal positions worldwide from November to January.

Currently, over 2,000 seasonal positions are available on its job page.

If this isn’t the type of job you’re looking for, be sure to check out our Jobs page on Facebook. We post new opportunities there all the time.

What Type of Seasonal Jobs Does UPS Need Me to Do?

The jobs vary.

But a popular one is the driver helper. Basically you’ll ride along with drivers and help out with some heavy lifting.

And you won’t just be delivering packages; you’re also “delivering merriment and cheer throughout the holiday season,” according to the job listing.

Even better, the job is flexible: “It’s perfect for college students who return home (or remain on campus) during winter break. It’s a great opportunity for a stay-at-home parent looking for serious cash as the holiday season approaches.

Other positions include drivers, mechanics, package handlers and mechanics.

What Happens When the Season is Over?

You can go back to your life.

Or you could -- and maybe should -- consider a full-time job with UPS.

“Over the last three years, 35 percent of the people UPS hired for seasonal package handler jobs were later hired in a permanent position when the holidays were over,” UPS’s press release states.

With that, you’d get solid pay and benefits. These include a competitive salary; medical, dental and vision insurance; a discounted stock purchase plan; a 401(k); and tuition assistance.

How Can I Get In on the UPS Hiring Spree?

Head on over to UPS’s job page and search “seasonal.” You can narrow your search by looking in your city.

If there isn’t a job open near you yet, sign up for a job alert. You can enter your area of interest and location, and you’ll get a job delivered to your inbox.

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

I’ll tell you this right now: Halloween is not my holiday of choice.

I usually spend the weeks leading up to Oct. 31 being a grump and refusing to dress up. Then, a few days before, I start feeling left out and just want to go to the party, so I have to piece something together.

It always ends up being expensive.

And I feel like a fool in a scrappy costume while everyone else is dressed as a clever pun with Pinterest-worthy makeup.

Not this year, my friends.

Although Halloween is on a Tuesday, I will be prepared — and I refuse to spend too much money.

A co-worker (who is a lot more makeup-savvy than I am — thanks, Kelsey Buxton) recently let me in on a secret: Buying “real” Halloween makeup at a cosmetic store like Ulta is actually a lot smarter than going to Party City for the “cheap” costume stuff.

No way, I thought. But, lo and behold, it really is a smarter decision. Here’s why.

1. “Real” Makeup Is Cheaper

This is where I was hung up. I know how much the little bit of makeup I wear costs, so the idea of buying legit makeup over the costume stuff didn’t seem like it’d be cheaper.

However, as it turns out, many of the costume basics are a lot cheaper if you get them from somewhere like Ulta.

I compared a few items and their prices:

Fake eyelashes:

  • Sultry False Eyelashes: $4.99 at Party City
  • Ardell Glamour Multipack (of four sets): $11.99 at Ulta, totaling about $3 per set

Lipstick:

  • Gold Glitter Lipstick: $2.99 at Party City
  • J.Cat Beauty Pout-Holic Lipstick: $2.50 at Ulta (Online only. The price depends on the color… so many colors.)

Eyeliner:

  • Black Shimmer Eye Liner: $3.99 at Party City
  • Essence Kajal Eye Pencil: $1.49 at Ulta (also available in white)

Self-adhesive face jewels:

  • Adult Sea Siren Mermaid Makeup Kit: $9.99 at Party City
  • Lottie London Mermaid Self-Adhesive Jewels: $5.49 at Ulta (online-only)

Setting powder:

  • Colorless Setting Powder: $3.99 at Party City
  • E.L.F. Prime & Stay Finishing Powder: $2 at Ulta (online-only)

You get the point, right? You can find cheaper Halloween makeup alternatives at Ulta — both in store and online.

Plus, you can apply some hefty savings to your order if you know what you’re doing.

For example, you can get free gift cards to Ulta through Swagbucks (which will also give you $5 just for signing up).

Once you’re in, buy an Ulta gift card and shop Ulta through the platform. You’ll earn two Swagbucks (SBs) per $1 you spend. You can exchange SBs for gift cards.

For context, 2,500 SBs equate to a $25 PayPal gift card, good for all your online shopping pleasures.

Bonus: Here are seven other ways you can save money at Ulta.

2. “Real” Makeup Is Better Quality

One year in middle school, I decided to be a clown for Halloween… Lord knows why.

I hate clowns, and my face was covered in paint, which caused my already acne-prone skin to freak out. I think there’s one photo of the incident floating around somewhere…

When I dressed as a scarecrow a few years back, my face was not happy with the swirls of red paint on my cheeks. Also, the red paint refused to come off — even with makeup remover, so going to class on Monday was an adventure.

One of the perks of using “real” makeup is the quality. The likelihood of your skin having an adverse reaction to the product is probably lower. Plus, the real stuff is usually built to stay on all day, so it’ll be less likely to slime off during your rowdy night.

3. “Real” Makeup Stores Better (and You Can Use It Again)

I held onto that red paint palette I purchased for my scarecrow costume, because it felt like such a waste to use the tiniest bit and toss it.

Moving out a few months later, I stumbled across it. It was totally dried out.

When you purchase legitimate makeup, it’ll store better — and longer. Actually, depending on the product, it’ll probably be fine until next year.

There’s also more of a chance you’ll use eyeliner than black face paint on any other regular day.

4. “Real” Makeup Has More Options

At Party City you’ll probably find limited options for Halloween makeup. You’ll see the white face paint, the palette of clown colors and maybe two colors of lipstick.

The nice thing about opting for makeup from a place like Ulta is you have so many options. You’re also not locked into buying the five-pack of eyeshadows, for example. You can probably find a singular one you actually need (and will use again).

Plus, did you see all those lipstick options? Black? Green? Purple? Neon yellow?!

The best part is you don’t risk running into someone who used the same pre-packaged kit as you. You’ll be unique. And, really, that’s all that matters on Halloween — because it’s awkward to run into someone dressed the same darn way.

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

It was March 6, and I was close to giving up.

I was in the midst of my final semester of graduate school. I was interning more than 30 hours a week at a Denver magazine while completing my final deep-dive project, which turned into 250 pages of research.

My project’s May 1 deadline seemed unobtainable.

In my weekly update to my professors, which was two days late (totally out of character for me), I wrote:

“I'm sorry this is late this week. I definitely need to learn to say no. The past two weeks have been busy and exhausting, and I haven't been able to work on my project as much as I anticipated.”

I ended the email asking for a deadline extension for my first draft, something that could have derailed my projected May graduation and cost me hundreds of dollars for yet another semester of tuition.

A few days later, I received an email from one of my professors, Berkley Hudson. His sweet Southern demeanor always calmed me, even through a computer’s screen.

He wrote: “It is remarkable to watch you grow, mature, think, find ways to get things done. To the issue of saying No, so you can say Yes to what truly matters: I like Greg McKeown’s approach.”

He linked to a McKeown post titled “If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will.”

I remember tearing up in relief, then reading and rereading the piece.

It opens with an anecdote about Mahatma Gandhi, who practiced saying no. “A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble,” he once said. He used this idea to prioritize two hours a day with his grandson.

McKeown failed to apply this to his life when one of his daughters was born. He committed to a client meeting when his wife and hours-old baby girl were still in the hospital.

And nothing even came of the meeting.

The Importance of Saying No in the Workplace

I ended up finishing graduate school on time, and I started feeling more fulfilled as I took some control back and started to prioritize my life.

That is, until I found myself making the same mistake at my new full-time job.

I’d forgotten, once again, how to say no. I admitted to my editor at The Penny Hoarder, Caitlin Constantine, that I was taking on too many tasks.

I had become the “yes man,” who was always willing to step in and help, but doing that was starting to take away from my obligations as a writer.

[caption id="attachment_72354" align="alignnone" width="1200"]A portrait of Keisha Blair, who is co-founder of Aspire-Canada, an online platform for young professionals. Courtesy of Keisha Blair[/caption]

Keisha Blair, co-founder of Aspire-Canada, an online platform for young professionals, sums it up perfectly in an email to me: “Taking on too many projects at work could actually put you in more jeopardy and put your integrity and reputation on the line. When things go wrong because you're bogged down with way too many projects, you will be blamed for not ‘project managing’ well enough.”

Alison Brehme, founder of Virtual Corporate Wellness, agrees. Saying yes too often leaves you feeling “frazzled, overwhelmed and stressed.” She says she sees it most often in career-driven individuals — the ones who want to be known as the go-to person on the job.

[caption id="attachment_72371" align="alignnone" width="1200"]A portrait of Alison Brehme, who is the founder of Virtual Corporate Wellness. Courtesy of Alison Brehme[/caption]

That was me. Frazzled, overwhelmed and stressed, wanting to be that go-to “yes” person.

Here’s How to Know When You Should “Just Say No”

Here’s my weakness: I don’t stop to think. If someone approaches me with a new project or story idea, I immediately nod and say, “That sounds great!”

I don’t take a moment to think, “Well, I have this, this and this, too… Is this really the best use of my time?”

I’m also one of those people who would rather just do something myself so it’s done the way I want it to be done. (OK, that sounds bad, but Type-A folks know what I’m talking about. I think it stems from all those lousy group projects we had to do back in school.)

Upon hearing feedback from a number of professionals, the general consensus is to take a pause…

…then ask yourself these questions:

1. Is This Unethical, Illegal or Against My Values?

This perhaps goes without saying, but if a superior or co-worker asks you to do something you don’t feel comfortable with, say no.

2. What Are My Priorities Right Now?

Judy Peebles, a career and business coach, suggests keeping a list of priorities and current projects at your desk. When someone approaches you with a new task, you can refer back to that list to see how — and if — it could be added to the mix.

3. Does This Fit With My Job Description?

Remember: You were hired to perform certain duties and tasks, and if you are getting pulled away from those, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your responsibilities with a manager.

[caption id="attachment_72369" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Jennifer Davis is the founder and leadership coach at Jennifer Davis Coaching. Courtesy of Jennifer Davis[/caption]

Jennifer Davis, founder and leadership coach at Jennifer Davis Coaching, says this is inevitable; unforeseen things come up and extra hands are required. However, if the trend continues, then it might be time to speak up.

“Oftentimes, others will ask you to do something if they or their team are not as competent as you,” she says. “The more you continue to do their work for them, the longer it will take for them to learn to do the job well.”

4. Will This Help My Career in the Long Run?

You probably don’t need to ask yourself this for a small task that’s delegated to you, but think about it when a bigger, more time-consuming project appears.

This was suggested by Loren Margolis, a master career coach over at The Muse.

For example, you might’ve seen me appear on a few Facebook Live broadcasts awhile back. That was out of my realm — and why I prefer to be a writer, hidden behind a screen. I could have asked myself if these broadcasts were worth my time, if it would help me accomplish my one-, two- or five-year plan.

Probably not, because none of that involves being on camera.

How to Say No Without Everyone Hating You Forever

OK. Step 1 to saying no: Know that no one is going to hate you. And if they do, then there’s an issue on that side that we don’t have time to dive into right now…

Step 2: Say no in the right way.

Easier said than done, but here are four strategies to help you say no — so no one hates you forever and ever.

1. Ask If You Can Have Some Time to Think About It

[caption id="attachment_72338" align="alignnone" width="1200"]A portrait of Valerie Streif, who is a senior advisor at The Mentat. Courtesy of Valerie Streif[/caption]

Even if your gut already says no, just “consider” the request.

That doesn’t mean you need to think about it so much that the no becomes a yes. It just means that a pause to consider makes you seem more considerate and empathetic, according to Valerie Streif, a senior advisor at The Mentat.

“...you contemplate instead of just react,” she says in an email. “It will prevent people from being deterred from approaching you.”

2. Smile — and Say No Face-to-Face

Delivery is key when it comes to saying no.

Streif encourages folks to have these conversations face-to-face.

“This gives you the opportunity to offer an alternative solution and prevents any emotions or words from being misinterpreted, which happens all too frequently overwritten email message,” she says.

3. Show Them That List of Priorities

Remember that list Peebles recommended employees keep?

Break that out when someone approaches you with a new task. If you’ve hit capacity and just can’t take on something else, remind them of the tasks they’ve already delegated to you. Sometimes managers simply forget.

If it’s a really important task, you could ask where it’d fit into your list. Should you prioritize it over another project?

4. Thank Them

[caption id="attachment_72343" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Michele Mavi is the director of recruiting at Atrium Staffing. When you need to say no at work she says one important thing is to show appreciation. Portrait of Michele Mavi/Courtesy of Jose Element[/caption]

Michele Mavi, the director of recruiting at Atrium Staffing, offers the perfect finishing touch: Show appreciation.

Thank that person for thinking of you and for bringing it to your table. But if your table is too crowded, Mavi suggests saying something like:

"Thanks so much for offering this project to me. It's definitely something I'd love to do, but I have real concerns about being able to get it in by the deadline while still turning in a quality product…”

Above all else, remember that saying no — and saying no tactfully — shows maturity. It shows you know yourself, you know your time and you know what’s best for your company. If your cohort respects you, there should be no real issue.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Although she still has a hard time turning people down, she makes an effort to think before she says yes. Because just saying no can save her a lot of extra stress.

Early retirement is the dream, right?

It’d go something like this: “You, co-workers, thought you had to deal with me for another seven years. Psyyyyych!” Then you’d speed out of the parking lot in your RV with Fluffy riding shotgun, off to a new adventure.

OK, so you might handle the situation a bit more gracefully than that, but you get the point: Retiring early could be pretty awesome.

However, shaving off even one or two years from your retirement age might seem impossible at times. But don’t fret: We’ve got a few simple steps you can take at the end of each month to reach your early retirement goal sooner.

1. Assess Your Existing Debts

You’ll need to jumpstart your finances by taking care of the debt you’re already sitting on.

Unfortunately, many of us are getting hit with insane interest rates, which make the repayment process feel fruitless. (For example, this year’s average credit card interest rates hit an all-time high of nearly 16%, according to a recent survey.)

If you want to figure out a better solution, consider consolidating or refinancing your debt to slash those rates.

A solid resource is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial. It’ll allow you to shop around for different rates and even help match you to the personal loan that best benefits you. Rates start at 4.99%, and repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

Getting on the road to paying off those debts at a faster rate could bring retirement a little closer to reality.

2. Don’t Put Off Your Student Loan Debt, Either

Just as you can refinance your personal debt, you can refinance your stagnant student loan debt, too.

For this, consider Credible’s student loan refinancing program. Here you can compare various options from its lending partners, so you’ll be confident you’re getting the best rates.

Here’s an example: We wrote about John DePrato, who was floundering in $65,000 of student debt. Each month, he funneled $850 toward the payments. He decided to do something about it, and refinanced through Credible. Now, he pays $400 a month.

Not bad, huh? The process isn’t super difficult either.

3. Check in on Your 401(k)

Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.

Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and translating the information — or lack thereof — oftentimes proves difficult.

There’s a robo-advisor for that. It’s called Blooom, and it’s an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that’ll optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

A few of us Penny Hoarders use the service. It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.

Set your retirement age a little earlier, to your end goal, and Blooom can help you get there by investing more aggressively. (That’s what I did.)

4. Stash Away Some Savings Automatically

Unfortunately, you won’t retire early by spending your whole paycheck the second you get it, unless you’ve got something magical up your sleeve.

The best way to start saving is to allot money into a separate account each time you get your paycheck. You can automate this, too, so you don’t even have to see what you’re missing.

If you’re not ready to dive into the world of IRAs or high-yield savings accounts just yet, start smaller.

You can use a micro-investing app like Stash to pull as little as $5 out of your account at the end of each month. Any little bit is better than none. Stash invests the money for you.

It’s a low-risk way to start building a little nest egg, and once you feel comfortable with that, you can start looking at other options.

(Hey, Stash also gives you $5 after your first deposit, so that’s cool, too!)

5. Take a Good Look at Your Monthly Bills

You might think those monthly utility bills aren’t going anywhere; you’re just stuck with them.

Wrong.

You’d be surprised by the ways you can cut back without doing much of anything.

Start with Trim, your own little virtual personal assistant. Trim will negotiate your cable and internet bills for you — so you don’t have to sit on hold for hours.

It’ll also call out any subscriptions you might not know you have and cancel them for you, if you no longer need the product or service. (i.e. Yikes, I’ve been paying for a magazine subscription that gets delivered to my old apartment.)

It’ll also help you save in other areas, like on groceries and restaurant tabs. Really, it’s a handy — and free — tool you should always keep in your pocket. (Keep your phone in your pocket. Trim lives in that.)

6. Keep Tabs on Your Credit Reports

Your credit reports are basically the Holy Grail of your finances — and your life.

Financially, they can influence many of your big life decisions, like buying a house or a car. These decisions can become a whole lot more difficult if your credit reports have an error.

This is easy to prevent, though, especially if you just check in on your credit reports (you’ve got three major ones) every so often.

One option is to use a free app like CreditWise® from Capital One®.There, you’ll get a free TransUnion® credit report, which you can review for signs of error, theft or fraud. It’ll even give you personalized suggestions to help you improve your credit score.

7. Review Your Budget

Once you’ve taken care of these monthly tasks, sit down and start outlining a budget for (early) retirement.

Nope, this won’t be perfect, and it’ll likely always be changing, but you can start simply with a retirement calculator.

Set your goal retirement age, and figure out how you’re going to get there. If you want to retire early, take that into account.

Now, keep tabs on this budget each month. It won’t be an easy process, but it’s a necessary one — and one you can fine tune as you go.

(Of course, you’ll want to budget for that RV — and Fluffy’s expenses, too.)

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s got big plans for retirement… which is 40 years away. Let’s just say she likes to plan ahead.

Advertiser Disclosure:  Capital One compensates us when you enroll in CreditWise using the links we provided above.

This is a story about my brother.

He told me I could share it — as long as I don’t make him out to be an “idiot.”

Let me introduce you to him first. His name is Jake. He’s 22, and he recently graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in civil engineering. He’s the smart, talented, logical child in our family. (My parents will try to deny this, but it’s true.)

He also nearly fell victim to a work-from-home job scam.

The incident opened my eyes. The Penny Hoarder often writes about work-from-home scams, but I’ve always thought the most susceptible to falling victim were those who are “...at a vulnerable point in their life,” as Katherine Hutt, the national spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau, told me last year.

She’d mentioned those who are fresh out of work, in debt, in need of a second job to pay bills or are caring for a family as particularly vulnerable.

All of this is still true. But my brother showed me that everyone — even a near-4.0 GPA engineering grad who has a full-time, well-paying job — can get roped into these.

Without embarrassing my brother, I wanted to use the email he received as an example of how you can spot work-from-home job scams yourself.

[caption id="attachment_71795" align="alignnone" width="1200"]WFH Scam Opening Email Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Some Valuable Lessons From This Real Work-From-Home Scam

My brother is arguably the biggest Penny Hoarder in our family, so when he received an email for a work-from-home, part-time opportunity, he immediately perked up. In fact, he gave me a call to tell me about the opportunity — how he could bank an extra $500 a week just by working a few hours.

As soon as he spit out that number — $500 a week — red flags waved across my face. However, he assured me it was from Core Technology Business Solutions (or Core BTS), a nationally known company even I’d heard of.

I made him forward me the email, which I then sent along to Steve Weisman, a professor at Bentley University and the author of the fraud and identity theft blog Scamicide.

Together, we compiled a list of red flags.

Before I dive in, it’s worth noting that the chance of getting a legitimate work-from-home job delivered directly to your inbox is so, so slim. That’s like a unicorn diving down from the sky and handing you coffee. It’s just too good to be true.

Here are some lessons you can take from this email and apply to your next job search:

[caption id="attachment_71800" align="alignnone" width="1200"]WFH Scam Suspicious Email Account Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

1. The email comes from Sharon Morgan, the HR manager/controller. However, her email address reads “sharonmorgan775@gmail.com,” and it’s addressed to “undisclosed-recipients.”

“First of all, companies are not sending out job offers to great numbers of people who haven’t even asked them for a job,” Weisman says. “And when you look at it, the email is coming from a Gmail account that has nothing to do with Core BTS.”

I take some time to put my “cyber-stalking” skills to use. When I Google Sharon Morgan along with Core BTS, she’s nowhere to be found, which seems odd for an HR manager.

2. The logo looks — and is — legitimate. So I start perusing Core Business Technology Solutions’ website. Score. It has a careers page. But, surprise -- this job isn’t listed. And none of the other opportunities are work-from-home ones.

[caption id="attachment_71803" align="alignnone" width="1200"]WFH Scam Addressed Vaguely Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

3. The email is addressed to a vague “UTEXAS Student.” Additionally, “Sharon” says the company received Jake’s name and email through his school’s directory. Perhaps this is possible, but schools don’t just let anyone into their student directories. I ask Jake about this, and he said you’d need a University of Texas Electronic Identity (or UT EID) to gain access to these lists.

4. It says the job is part of an “empowerment program” for students. A quick Google search returns no record of a “Core BTS Empowerment Program.”

5. The email launches into (a few) details about the position. There aren’t a ton of typos or grammatical errors along the way. “This person is writing fairly well,” Weisman says. A common sign of a scam are those spelling errors and obvious grammatical mistakes. Not too many here.

However, Weisman points out that the language is embellished, an effort to make it seem more legitimate than it is. Take, for example, the unnecessary, “payable in accordance with the Company’s standard Check” when the sentence would be clear and sufficient without.

6. The position has a vague title of “Online Supplier Data Assistant.” In all my years of searching for jobs, I’ve never seen that one. And, as assumed, that title doesn’t appear in a Google search.

Along with the title, the position’s details also seem intentionally vague and open-ended. The description of job duties are as follows:

“You are required to provide a well detailed report and analysis of supplied materials invoice from our un-educated Production Suppliers in an MS Word/Excel Document which will be sent to your mail address. You just need a few hours of your time to do this weekly and you will also be fully oriented by your Supervisor.”

OK. My big question is — and Weisman had a good chuckle over this, too — why are you employing “un-educated” suppliers?

[caption id="attachment_71805" align="alignnone" width="1200"]WFH Scam High Pay Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

7. The “payment compensation” (unnecessarily repetitive, by the way) section says salary starts at $500 per week. This seems awfully generous for a position that only needs “a few hours of your time.” For an added too-good-to-be-true factor, the next section talks bonuses.

[caption id="attachment_71807" align="alignnone" width="1200"]WFH Scam Personal Information Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

8. Sold? Now the company wants all your information, including your name, address, birthday, gender (why?!) and cell phone number. Then you’ll hear from your supervisor.

Weisman warns about the importance of not handing out your date of birth or cell phone number to just anyone. “Your mobile number can be used for all kinds of frauds,” he says. “Giving your date of birth and cell phone number puts you in jeopardy of identity theft.”

Basically, these two pieces of information can be used for dual-factor authentication — like when a scammer wants to hack into your cloud or even your phone. “They can actually call the service provider and talk them into changing the number or SIM, and they can get control of the phone,” Weisman says.

The email is signed Sharon Morgan, and it links back to the legitimate Core BTS website — a nice little persuasive cherry on top.

About halfway through dissecting the email, my brother tells me he’s already called Core BTS. The email hadn’t left a contact number, so he called the number on the legitimate site — the one that we’d checked out earlier.

The representative confirmed the position was not being offered.

The Moral of the Story? Be Skeptical and Do Some Digging

There are so many awful ways these scams can pan out.

It could be that the “representative” asks for your bank information to wire money over — that can lead to them wiring money out of it.

Or they might need a Social Security number to fill out the W-2 — that can lead to identity theft.

Perhaps they need an address to send you something to repackage and send out — this would make you a mule, Weisman says, which is illegal and could lead to criminal charges.

Your best bet is to be skeptical. Use common sense and watch out for those red flags.

[caption id="attachment_71811" align="alignnone" width="1200"]WFH Scam Closing Email Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She gets way too excited when she gets to write about scams.

If you live in Colorado, you’re lucky for many reasons.

First, you live in a beautiful state.

Second, you’re surrounded by some very nice folks.

Third, you’ve got plenty of ways to make extra money right in your backyard.

We found 11 ways to make money in Colorado. (These don’t include marijuana-related gigs because that’s a whole other green monster.)

1. Rent Your Unused Stuff to Your Neighbors

[caption id="attachment_71856" align="alignnone" width="1200"]father and son setting up a tent together laflor/Getty Images[/caption]

Nope. You don’t need to go knocking door-to-door to see if your neighbors want to rent out your mountain bike for the weekend.

Denver-based app, Fluid Market, makes it easy to monetize all the “stuff” you don’t use all the time. (In fact, some people refer to it as the “Airbnb of Stuff.”)

Vehicles are the most popular rentals. Think: Folks come to town and want to drive up to FoCo for the day, taking the long way home through Estes Park. (sigh... memories).

Pickup trucks are also a hot commodity for landscaping projects, big moves or IKEA treks.

You can also rent out gear like tents, paddleboards and kayaks, as well as tools like a pressure washer or ladder.

Fluid Market’s million dollar insurance policy protects your items from damage, theft or loss, so no worries there.

Lenders can easily bank thousands of dollars a month, according to the app’s representatives - top users are even making over $20,000 a month while still working their day job

Got something someone else would want to borrow? Peruse the app, and post your goods for free.

2. Satisfy the People’s Munchies

Or cater to the people’s determination not to leave their couch. (That was me this past weekend.)

You can capitalize on laziness by delivering folks food through UberEATS.

If you’re in Denver, you might deliver from hot spots like The Delectable Egg, Black Eye Coffee or Brider. Or maybe someone just wants something from McDonald’s. You might pick up that order, too.

Then, you’ll deliver it.

The nice part about this side gig is you can work on your own schedule. You can deliver via vehicle or get some exercise by breaking out your bike.

Right now, UberEATS is available in Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs.

Bonus: If you don’t live in those cities — and don’t mind people — see if plain ol‘ Uber is available in your area.

3. Share Your Space — and Your State

[caption id="attachment_71857" align="alignnone" width="1200"]modern loft in denver colorado Photo courtesy of Airbnb[/caption]

Whether it’s ski season or hiking season, outsiders flock to your state. If you’ve got extra space, capitalize on it.

List your spare bedroom, or garage apartment to vacationers through Airbnb. According to a recent data pull, nearly half of Airbnb hosts make more than $500 a month.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds -- even thousands -- of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.

And there's no reason you can't be creative. We even found a guy that earns $1,380/month renting out a backyard tent on Airbnb!

Taking a few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make your space available during high-demand times in your area. Think: concerts, conventions and sporting events in your area.
  • Be a good host, and make sure your place is stocked with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels.
  • Be personable. A lot of travelers turn to Airbnb for the personal touch they won’t find at commercial properties.

Here’s the link to sign up as an Airbnb host.

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

4. Strike Up a Work-From-Home Business

There are tons of perks that come with working from home, including hanging out with your dog, wearing pajamas (or only a nice-looking top if you have a video call) and having a more flexible schedule. (Quick run at lunch? Why not?)

You can check out a ton of work-from-home jobs on our Facebook jobs page — or you can start your own business.

Take notes from Daniel Honan, who took online courses through Learn to be a Bookkeeper and then started his own bookkeeping business. He works about 40-hour weeks, but likes that he can spend more time with his wife, and makes about $50,000 a year.

You can check out the Learn to be a Bookkeeper course for free.

5. Hang Out at Your Favorite Brewery

[caption id="attachment_71858" align="alignnone" width="1200"]four beers sitting on table Julia Nastogadka/Unsplash[/caption]

Have you ever tried mystery shopping? Basically, it’s your job to go out to a grocery store, gas station, restaurant or, in this case, a bar and provide anonymous feedback. (Our founder, Kyle Taylor, used to make bank by mystery shopping.)

Now, you can get paid to mystery shop — or drink — at breweries in your area through Secret Hopper. (Clever, right?)

The company is looking for detail-oriented beer-drinkers to hop around to different breweries and objectively rate and review their experiences.

All you have to do is sign up with your information, then it’ll contact you when you’re needed.

6. Place a Bet on Your Health

The American College of Sports Medicine ranked the fittest metropolitan areas in America, and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood came in seventh place.

Not bad, right? (I’m looking at you, you insane hikers, climbers, skiers and mountain-bikers.)

If you haven’t joined the movement (get it?) and need some motivation, try signing up for HealthyWage. Basically, you place a bet on how much weight you can lose and, if you meet your goal, you get paid.

For example, Angie Richards bet she could lose 40 pounds in six months. She ended up losing 52 pounds and won $1,200.

Colorado makes for the perfect backyard gym, so take advantage of it!

7. Walk Some Friendly Pooches

[caption id="attachment_71861" align="alignnone" width="1200"]two dogs looking up at camera Jay Wennington/Unsplash[/caption]

Disclaimer: This is how my boyfriend used to pocket extra money when he lived in Denver.

He signed up for Rover, an app that makes it easy to advertise your dog-walking services. He charged $10 per visit, which was on the low end, and had about three furry customers per day.

You can also take note from this stay-at-home mom, who earned an extra $6,000 a year through Rover.

There are other apps you can try, too, like DogVacay, which also caters to feline friends if that’s more your style.

8. Sell Your Unwanted Gear — or Anything, For that Matter

Did your kids outgrow those ski pants? Or did you finally invest in new camping gear?

You can sell almost anything on a platform like letgo. It’s free to post the items you want to sell and connect with locals who are looking to buy.

It’s the perfect way to declutter — and make some extra money.

9. Earn Money Back After Each King Soopers Trip

[caption id="attachment_71864" align="alignnone" width="1200"]woman using smartphone while carrying bag of groceries in the street lechatnoir/Getty Images[/caption]

Or Trader Joe’s. Or Whole Foods. Or, chances are, whatever grocery store you shop at, Ibotta will have you covered.

This certainly isn’t a side gig, but you can earn some good money back using Ibotta, a Denver-based app that offers cash back for anything from groceries to Amazon orders to hotel stays.

All you have to do is download the free app, choose your favorite retailers, then add cash-back opportunities. (Not to brag or anything, but in about four months, I’ve earned $70 back.)

If you download the app now, you’ll earn a $10 bonus after your first rebate.

10. Monetize Your Instagram Account

If you’re into Instagram, photography or even fashion, Colorado serves as the perfect backdrop to a successful Instagram account.

You have several options in making money from Instagram. A successful social media influencer, Shelcy Joseph, wrote about how she makes $1,600 a month on the side.

11. Self-Publish a Book and Make Money Over Time

[caption id="attachment_71867" align="alignnone" width="1200"]kindle, coffee mug, and notepad sitting on table Aliis Sinisalu/Unsplash[/caption]

Got a hobby? Consider yourself an expert of something?

Consider self-publishing an ebook on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform (KDP). That’s what Penny Hoarder Steve Gillian did when he lived in Colorado.

He decided to take a break from exploring the mountains and wrote an ebook about ultralight backpacking. He has a background in writing, and it only took him a few days to write.

He didn’t have to pay a thing to get it published, and he made as much as $350 some months. In all, he made about $2,000.

If you think you could do something like this, read Gillian’s guide to self-publishing.

Hope these strategies help!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s waiting for The Penny Hoarder to open a Colorado-based office so she can go back. But she’s not holding her breath. ;)

You’ve got the necessities: food, water and shelter.

Now answer: What luxuries can you not live without?

We’re all Penny Hoarders here, but we certainly indulge.

Thermosoft International Corporation, a floor-heating service (ironic?), polled 1,000 Americans to find out what they can’t live without.

Necessity vs. luxury: You decide, but the study says we aren’t willing to give them up, so we found some Penny Hoarder tips on how to save on each.

1. The Internet

[caption id="attachment_66314" align="alignnone" width="1200"] cofotoisme/Getty Images[/caption]

You could argue the internet is an essential, but this poll deems it a luxury. The average cost for internet is $600 a year, or $50 per month.

Penny Hoarder tip: Try relying on your smartphone. A few years ago, a Pew Research Center report found that one in five Americans use their smartphone to access the internet. Inspired, one writer tried it.

This will depend on your situation — and your cell phone provider — but think about it. You probably use the internet all day at work, so go ahead and download TV shows and movies to your device there, then take a breather from it.

If you can’t live without the internet at home, simply try asking for a discount. Or, a free app called Trim will actually negotiate your internet bill down for you.

2. Smartphones

[caption id="attachment_66293" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Cropped shot of a group of friends using their phones together outdoors PeopleImages/Getty Images[/caption]

We’re not surprised here.

The average poll respondent spends $1,060 on a smartphone a year. And, of course, millennials prefer this luxury, though everyone seems pretty glued to their screens these days.

Penny Hoarder tip: If you’re splurging on a new phone this year, consider selling your old one afterward on a site like Decluttr, which gives you some of the highest prices back. (We compared a bunch of reselling sites.)

Cell phone service can be just as expensive, too. We recently wrote about a low-cost provider called Twigby. Plans start at $9 a month. This guy, for example, pays $24 a month -- and he has a smartphone.

3. Pets

[caption id="attachment_66294" align="alignnone" width="1200"]cat holding dollar bill Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Yikes. Pets are expensive but so worth it.

The average cost of pets (dogs and cats), according to respondents, is $1,170 a year.

Penny Hoarder tip: Some of the largest pet expenses are vet bills. It shouldn’t be a shock if owners rack up at least one $2,000 to $4,000 bill for an emergency in their pet’s lifetime.

That’s where pet insurance proves handy. For a monthly fee, you can avoid sinking into debt over an emergency bill, which is nice.

We compared a few pet insurance companies and found that two of our favorites were PetsBest and PetPlan. Both offer free estimates so you can see how much it’ll cost to insure Fido.

4. Clothes Dryer

[caption id="attachment_66295" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Close Up Of Man Choosing Cycle Program On Washing Machine monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images[/caption]

Also related:

  • No. 8 Dishwasher
  • No. 10 Microwave

Missing out on appliances is a reality for many — and a pain in the butt. And saving on these proves difficult.

Penny Hoarder tip: Shop around for used appliances. Last year, Penny Hoarder Kimberly Marney was able to buy three top-of-the-line appliances for $700.

She shared her tips on how you can get the best prices for these non negotiables, too.

5. A Nice Mattress

[caption id="attachment_66296" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Bedroom in Warm Colors with Creative Atmosphere holub3dmax/Getty Images[/caption]

Sleep is important, right? So it’s no surprise this next one made the list...

  • No. 9 A Large Mattress

You spend half your day sleeping, so we understand. Plus, there’s no feeling more satisfying than sleeping diagonally across the bed. However, mattresses are pricy.

Penny Hoarder tip: You’ll find the best deals on President’s Day, according to our “Best Time to Buy” guide.

You can also consider shopping around in stores, but then purchasing online so you can reap even more deals.

Consider purchasing from an Earny-affiliated retailer like Amazon, Macy’s, Overstock, Sears or Walmart. Earny is an automated personal assistant that’ll score you cash back when an item’s price drops.

For example, if you purchase a mattress from Amazon (my co-worker recommended this one), and the price drops from $289 to $249, you’ll get $40 back. (Except Earny takes 25% commission.)

All you have to do is connect your email address.

6. Domestic Travel

[caption id="attachment_66309" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Susan Shain explores Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Fla. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The average price tag on domestic travel for these respondents was $581. That’s for one vacation per year. If you want to take more? Well, that’s a big expense.

Penny Hoarder tip: There are several easy ways to save money on travel.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • If you love survey sites and traveling, try eMiles. You’ll get rewarded in points good for hotels and flights on major airlines like American, United and Southwest. The site claims to save consumers $20 to $30 in an hour’s time. (Psstt… Sign up here and get bonus points.)
  • If you prefer earning cash back, book your flights and/or hotel stays through Ibotta, a cash-back app. Right now, you can get 4% back on Hotel.com or Booking.com reservations or $5 back through CheapOair, among other deals.
  • If you prefer to go about your business, use a cash-back credit card! (That’s how I pay for all my flights.) These reward credit cards offer sign-up bonuses — and come with no annual fees.

7. Beauty Products and Skincare

[caption id="attachment_66304" align="alignnone" width="1200"]woman choosing makeup at store Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Consumers who answered this survey reported they spend almost as much on beauty and skincare as they do on travel at $480 a year.

It’s not hard to rack up your bill if you want decent products.

Penny Hoarder tip: Shop somewhere like Sephora or Ulta where you can apply a ton of money-saving hacks to your next purchase.

Here are nine money-saving strategies for Sephora shoppers.

Then check out these eight ways to save at Ulta.

Other luxuries that folks don’t want to give up include eating out, buying organic produce and subscribing to Amazon Prime.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Luxuries she couldn’t give up include her cat, gym membership and manicures.

You only get one body, so you might as well take care of it.

Plus, it feels good to feel good, right?

But it doesn’t feel so good when you spend $50 on anti-wrinkle cream or treat yourself to a new pair of glasses… $400 later.

And they say organic food is good for the body — but it’s not so good for the bank account.

In the spirit of taking care of our one body, here are some ways to take care of yourself -- and save money in the process.

1. Pamper Your Prickly Legs (or Face)

[caption id="attachment_71327" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]man shaving in front of bathroom mirror gilaxia/Getty Images[/caption]

Having freshly shaved legs is perhaps one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. That or kissing a freshly shaved, not scratchy face.

This portion of grooming is annoyingly expensive, though.

If you want to save some money, try a subscription box like Dollar Shave Club. When you first sign up, you can pick a two-, four- or six-blade razor and get it for $1. Then, each month (or however often you want), you’ll get a full case of cartridges for $3.

There’s no fee, and you can cancel whenever you’re fully stocked.

2. Feed Your Body the Good Stuff

[caption id="attachment_71328" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Pumpkin salad on table yulkapopkova/Getty Images[/caption]

Buying all-things organic will likely leave you with a hefty receipt after your latest grocery haul.

However, if there are some products you just have to have organic, consider ordering them online from a marketplace like Thrive.

Thrive Market offers up to 50% off on organic products. The service costs $59.99/year, but the average Thrive customer, according to its site, saves nearly $200 a year. If you don’t make your $60 back in savings, Thrive will give it to you.

Here are a few examples of savings:

  • Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter (16 oz.) — $11.25, regularly $19.88
  • Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil (15 oz.) — $8.45, regularly $14.92
  • Nature’s Path Organic Crunchy Granola Bars (5-count) — $3.46, regularly $7.39

In addition to the built-in savings, you can also snag 20% off at checkout on your first three orders.

Pro tip: Shop Thrive through Ibotta and get an additional 15% off.

3. Fill Your Prescriptions Without the Hassle

[caption id="attachment_71326" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Varieties of multicolored pills inside plastic container FotografiaBasica/Getty Images[/caption]

A good way to take care of yourself is taking your prescribed medicine, but sometimes it’s a pain in the rear to remember to pick it up.

But nowadays everything lives on the internet, including your pharmacist.

You can use an online service like Phil, which will manage your prescriptions. It’ll even contact your doctors, insurance companies, and all those folks who lord over your medicines, to make sure you get what you need when you need it — straight to your front stoop.

The service is free, and Phil guarantees you’ll pay exactly what you pay at your current pharmacy.

You don’t need any extra permissions — just your prescriptions.

4. Smile, Here’s How to Save Money on Invisible Braces

[caption id="attachment_71324" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Top and bottom of transparent dental orthodontics Gema Ibarra/Getty Images[/caption]

Did you have braces back in the day, lose your retainers a time or two and are now stuck with a few crooked teeth?

(I’m not saying I’m familiar with that situation…)

If you’re an adult and prefer not to have a set of metal brackets and wires spanning your pearly whites, you might have considered an alternative to braces, like Invisalign. But then maybe you discovered the cost and gave up on ever having straight teeth. (Again, not speaking from experience or anything…)

The good news for you is that more and more companies are coming out with affordable ways to straighten your teeth with invisible aligners. Take, for example, Candid Co.

You don’t have to fork over thousands of dollars, nor do you have to go to an orthodontist for routine check-ups.

You can purchase a starter kit for $95.

You’ll use it to take your own impressions and ship them back. Candid Co. then creates a personalized treatment plan. The treatment costs 65% less than other places, according to Candid Co., and you’ll get a free set of retainers to wear afterward.

And hopefully, now that you’re an adult, you won’t lose ’em.

5. Ditch the Too-Loose, Crooked Glasses

[caption id="attachment_71325" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]glasses on bed Keilidh Ewan/Unsplash[/caption]

Wearing crooked glasses with out-of-date prescriptions can really mess with your head. Plus, you want to look kind of trendy, right?

If you opt to buy new frames and lenses at your eye doctor’s office, you’ll spend hundreds of dollars — easily.

Avoid that fiasco by ordering your next pair of glasses online from a site like GlassesUSA.

There, you can find designer frames for less than $100. Lenses are usually the most expensive part of the purchase, but they’re a lot less, too. For example, a pair of Ray-Bans, lenses included, cost about $200.

You ask: How will I know if they look good on me? GlassesUSA offers a “virtual mirror,” where you can upload a photo of your head and see how the frames look. If you commit to a pair but end up unsatisfied, you can return them for free and get all your money back.

Right now, you can get 30% off your entire order.

6. Save on Over-the-Counter Essentials

[caption id="attachment_71329" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Always feminine products on shelf at Target Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Without leaving your house

Need some Tums? Tampons? Tylenol?

Boxed is an online marketplace that allows you to buy in bulk — and save big. Plus, the items get delivered right to your stoop.

Here are some examples of savings available in its health department right now:

  • A 250-count bottle of Tums goes for $11.99 for an 8% savings.
  • Get a box of Tampax Pearl Tampons (a big box — 96 tampons) for $14.55. That saves you 62%.
  • For a 325-count bottle of Tylenol, it’s $18.99 — 65% off versus in store.

You can also snag toothbrushes, supplements, contact solution and even a Waterpik Waterflosser.

Go big or go home. Or go big and stay home.

7. Get Your Workout On

[caption id="attachment_71338" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]women running in sports clothes on treadmills in modern gym Halfpoint/Getty Images[/caption]

Honestly, the best part of the gym is leaving it — after a workout, of course, because you’ll feel refreshed and recharged.

But getting to the gym can be tough. (Trust me, I understand.) Then forking over a monthly membership fee can be even more tough.

In order to make a smart choice, you’ll want to shop around. No worries; you don’t have to stop by every gym in your area. We compared a bunch of different fitness chains to figure out which one would be best for you — and your wallet.

8. Treat Yo‘ Self Every Now and Then

[caption id="attachment_71339" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]book and glass of wine on table Aliis Sinisalu/Unsplash[/caption]

Sometimes it’s nice to just light a candle, pour a glass of wine, flip on Netflix and swipe on a face mask or exfoliate your legs.

Supplies can get expensive, though, and having someone else do it… well, that’s a whole other beast. But here are 15 spa treatments you can do at home — plus 10 must-have products you need to fully unwind.

Sit back, take a deep breath and take care of yourself.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s been really into herself lately… as in, she’s trying to take better care of herself.

How many recurring charges have you got rolling around on your bank statement?

It could be more than you think, according to a new poll from CreditCards.com.

The site polled 1,002 U.S. adults and found 35% had unknowingly enrolled in an account that automatically pulled payments. Think: a TV streaming service, a magazine subscription or a gym membership.

You might be thinking, “But that’s illegal.”

You’re right. Companies can’t trick people into paying for services or products they don’t want, thanks to federal laws. However, many skirt this rule by offering “negative option” offers, the report says.

A negative option offer requires consumers to go back into their account and cancel a subscription or service to avoid recurring charges.

Which brings up another point: 42% of respondents described the process of turning off these recurring charges as difficult.

Here’s an Easy Way to Cancel Unwanted Subscriptions

Get a personal finance advocate, no human required.

Download a free app like Clarity Money.

Connect all your existing bank accounts, credit cards, you name it. (It’s safe.) Then, it’ll track where your money’s been funneling away.

It’ll break down your expenses by category, so you can see if you’ve been spending too much at restaurants, for example.

Perhaps the best part, though, is Clarity will call out your recurring subscriptions — and even cancel them for you. Got an old Match account? Still paying for your subscription to that magazine you never read anymore? What about the dusty gym membership?

All these show up, and you can see how much you’ve been spending each year. If you’re not a fan, click “cancel,” and it’ll do the rest for you.

If you want to see which subscriptions you have lingering, go ahead and download Clarity Money for free.

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