Dana Sitar - The Penny Hoarder

By now, you probably know the gist of driving with ride-sharing services: You use an app to connect with people who need rides. You drive them somewhere in your own car, and they pay automatically through the app.

The two biggest players in the space — Uber and Lyft — continue an intense rivalry, despite neither riders nor drivers really knowing why they choose one or the other.

If you’re thinking about earning extra money from ridesharing, you might be choosing blindly.

Could you lose money with the wrong choice?

To help you figure out what’s best for you, here’s a comparison between the basics for drivers with Lyft and Uber.

Lyft Vs. Uber: What Both Apps Offer Drivers

[caption id="attachment_57010" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]lyft vs. uber James and Nancy Rottger of Buffalo, NY take an Uber ride with Edwin Patrick Young on Friday Nov. 18, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

How each app works for drivers is fundamentally the same: You log in when you want to work, wait for a notification that means someone’s hailed a ride, then pick them up and drop them off at their destination.

You earn money based on how many rides you take, and you automatically get paid each week through direct deposit. Same for each.

The driver requirements for Lyft and driver requirements for Uber are nearly identical.

Vehicle requirements vary based on state or local regulations. They’re similar for both services, with a couple notable differences.

If you don’t have a car that meets the requirements, each company offers rental options or discounts to buy in certain cities.

Uber’s Vehicle Solutions lets you rent a vehicle by the week, apply for a flexible lease with unlimited mileage and payments deducted from your Uber earnings or buy a new vehicle at a discount.

With Lyft’s Express Drive rental option, you can rent a car with a flexible lease and no long-term commitment.

How Much Can You Earn With Lyft vs. Uber?

Like any other sharing economy gig or freelance work, you’re a contractor with either company.

So, your earnings are largely based on how much you want to work and how you manage your time.

These six Uber partner drivers from around the country earn up to $450 a week driving part-time.

This guy earns $750 a week driving 45 to 50 hours a week with Lyft in Philadelphia.

Driver earnings for the apps are similar: Riders pay a base rate plus extra cost per minute and per mile.

As a driver, you earn based on how many rides you take, and how far you drive for each. You’ll get an earnings boost when you drive during high-demand times — like rush hour or during a local special event — called “surge pricing” with Uber and “peak hours” with Lyft.

Lyft drivers keep 75% of these ride costs. Uber partners keep 80%. (These percentages are lower for both in New York City, due to additional fees.)

What Lyft Offers That Uber Doesn’t

[caption id="attachment_57012" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]lyft vs. uber Lyft driver Paul Pruce drives a shift in in Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Jessica Kourkounis[/caption]

While you keep a slightly smaller percentage of fares with Lyft, you get one major bonus: Tips.

The Lyft app has a built-in way for riders to tip the driver, and you get to keep 100% of your tips. That could mean a major boost to your paycheck on a particularly good day.

Not only does the Uber app not include this feature, but Uber driver partners are also asked not to encourage tips from those generous riders who still carry cash (say, with a tip jar next to the water bottles and mints).

Uber’s tipping policy might change soon in New York City, but Lyft is currently the best bet for drivers who want to benefit from tips.

Lyft also offers Amp, a nifty device that makes it easier for drivers to connect with riders at busy spots — and for drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing to stay on top of new rides.

What Uber Offers That Lyft Doesn’t

[caption id="attachment_57014" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]lyft vs. uber Uber driver Edwin Patrick Young checks his app to respond to another request during a nighttime shift in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

For years, Uber has had one huge advantage over Lyft: It’s in more places.

Many people outside of coastal cities may only recently have heard of the company because it’s coverage has been far less than Uber’s.

While Lyft is expanding in a big way this year, it still suffers from a relatively small market share.

Uber might be a better option for you simply because Lyft isn’t an option. It might also be better in your city because more riders know about it — which means more business for you.

Delivery With Uber

Uber’s latest expansion into package and food delivery give it a boost over Lyft for some drivers, too.

If it’s available in your city, UberEATS gives you a way to earn money when you don’t have (or don’t want) passengers. It also has less strict requirements: You only have to be 19 years old, and your car only needs two doors.

In select cities (currently: New York, San Francisco and Chicago), you can also be a courier with UberRUSH. Deliver on your bike or scooter if you don’t have a car!

Lyft vs. Uber… So, Who Wins?

The bottom line is there’s probably no clear winner. It’s a bit of a Mac versus PC debate. You have to pick what works right for your lifestyle and finances.

Because each company offers some clear advantages, many drivers work with both in cities where both are available.

This strategy lets you maximize the riders you can connect with and earn money with less downtime. The companies don’t love competing for drivers, though, so keep an eye out for restrictions or policies that limit how easily you can switch between apps while you’re working.

Ready to get started?

Here’s the link to sign up with Uber.

Here’s the link to sign up with Lyft.

Which will you choose?

Disclosure: Clink! Clink! Clink! That’s the sound of pennies hitting our piggy bank, thanks to the affiliate links in this post. It’s a better savings plan than stopping traffic to pick up loose change -- and safer, too!

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

Are you recently single… or, ‘hem, planning to be?

If you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a breakup might mean more than cutting emotional ties. You could be facing the task of untangling a complicated mess of finances from the life you thought you’d live together.

And you might be doing it through tears, champagne, ice cream, a dark and empty apartment, or lots (and lots) of kisses from your pooch — we get it.

To simplify the process so you can get back to discovering the fabulous new single you, here’s a step-by-step guide for how to survive a breakup financially.

1. Open a New Bank Account

You’ve probably already guessed the most basic post-breakup money move: Separate your finances.

The easiest first step is to separate your bank accounts.

Hopefully you agreed on a fair way to split the balance before the relationship went south — if not, negotiate as fairly as possible now. Then remove each other from any joint accounts, and go your separate ways.

If this puts you in the market for a new bank account, consider going online for the greatest flexibility — so you can explore the possibilities of your new life without restrictions.

Aspiration’s free Summit checking account reimburses ATM fees from anywhere in the world, so take that vacation you’ve been putting off!

It also pays up to 100 times more interest than an average checking account, so you can start making your money work harder for you.

2. Cut Other Financial Ties

Splitting your money may seem obvious, but it’s not always simple.

In addition to separating bank accounts, you may also share a lease or mortgage, a car loan or credit card debt.

Regardless of how amicable the breakup is — and kudos if it was! — a clean break is probably your best bet. You may trust each other to stay on top of financial obligations, but who knows how their goals or financial situation might change in the future?

The most common way to remove someone from a loan you share (or remove yourself) is to refinance. This effectively pays off your loan or credit card debt and replaces it with a single loan from a new lender — which could have a lower interest rate!

To refinance smaller loans or shared credit card debt, apply for a personal loan through Credible. It’s basically an online marketplace that offers consumers personalized loan offers. Think of it like Zillow -- but for personal loans.

This will effectively shift the debt into one of your names — so you may consider each refinancing a portion of your shared debt, so you leave with a fair split.

If you own a home together, follow these tips to refinance your mortgage.

3. Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

Aside from the emotional boulder you’re constantly lugging around, one of the toughest parts about rebuilding after a breakup is having no idea where to begin without the other person.

Your finances are no exception.

Especially if your ex took the lead on managing the money, you may not know what financial state you’re in.

To create a rebuilding plan, you have to first know what you’re dealing with.

Do you have credit card debt? Is your name attached to any unpaid loans? Are you behind on medical or utility bills you didn’t know about?

Your credit report will give you this information.

You can get a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus.

If you want to keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. This website breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you might address it.

Once you know what’s in your credit history, Credit Sesame shares personalized resources and recommendations so you can figure out how to fix it.

4. Find Resolution on Lingering Debts

Your credit report will show you if you’re tied to any unknown debts.

It’ll also show you specifically which creditors you’re dealing with. If refinancing isn’t a good option for you, contact your creditors to determine exactly what needs to be done — and what, in the end, is your responsibility.

Once you clear your credit history, the last thing you want is for it to be ruined again by someone — like a vindictive ex — building new debt in your name.

A free service like TrueIdentity helps you avoid this situation by keeping a watchful eye your finances. It sends alerts by email, phone or text if someone tries to apply for credit in your name.

If you suspect you’re at risk for identity theft, you can place a fraud alert with one of the major credit bureaus. It will contact the others, so you don’t have to set up an alert with all three.

5. Create a New Budget

Once all your financial ties are cut, you have to figure out what your financial situation is going to look like without your partner.

You want to do more than just pay off debts and get by. You want to figure out how to thrive in your new life — right?

If you’ve never managed a budget on your own before, read our tips to get started:

6. Rebuild Your Credit

Even if you have damaged credit, you’re not doomed.

In addition to paying off debts and clearing your payment history, a secured credit card can help you rebuild a strong credit rating by establishing credit usage.

A secured card is similar to a debit card — you put down a cash deposit and can use that amount in credit.

Unlike a debit card, secured cards report your payment, balance and other relevant behavior to credit bureaus. So it’s a way to establish a credit history if yours is shot or nonexistent.

7. If You Need to, Find a New Job and Housing

If you’re able to live with friends or family to cut expenses and save for a while, go for it. There’s no shame in it — just don’t make these common mistakes.

If you’re ready to find your own place (or not ready, but need to, anyway), here are some tips for getting the best deal out of your next rental.

Replacing the household items you don’t “win” in the breakup doesn’t have to cost you a king’s ransom, either. Stock up at Goodwill, garage sales and through online classifieds.

Have some of your ex’s stuff you want to get rid of? Dump ‘em on an app like Letgo. You can sell pretty much anything on it and it only takes about 30 seconds to make a listing.

Want to turn your new lease on life into a career change, as well? Try some of these creative job-hunting tactics to find your next dream job.

8. Prepare for Financial Success

Now it’s time to think about the future.

What does a thriving, successful life look like for you? Is there a business you want to double down on, a career you’ve been waiting to start or education you need to finish?

If you’re relying on financial support from loved ones, these 13 steps could help you cut the cord.

Focus on your financial independence to start being proactive about your own success. And before you dive into the next relationship, remember you don’t have to mix finances to say I love you.

When you’re ready for the “define the money” talk in your next relationship, think about keeping separate bank accounts. It’ll afford you financial independence and keep you from staying in a relationship a little too long because you can’t afford to live alone.

But, really, we’re sure the next one will work out for you.

Disclosure: You wouldn’t believe how much coffee The Penny Hoarder team goes through. This post contains affiliate links so we can keep the grinds stocked.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

Mental health issues will affect one in four people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Currently 450 million people worldwide are battling mental illness.

In 2001, WHO recommended, “Public education and awareness campaigns on mental health should be launched in all countries… to reduce barriers to treatment and care.”

Nonprofit organization Mental Health America is way ahead of the curve -- it’s been promoting the observance of Mental Health Month in May since 1949.

How to Afford Care and Treatment for Mental Health Issues

When you have poor or no health insurance, you might prioritize other issues over mental health care. This could mean ignoring undiagnosed issues or skipping treatment you know you need.

Even if you don’t suffer from mental health issues, you might neglect your need for support through a major life event when you see the cost of therapy.

As with any physical ailment, not seeking mental health care could be detrimental to your health in the long term.

Instead of foregoing care or winding up in debt over medical bills, try these options to find affordable or free counseling and other mental health care services.

1. Get Affordable Health Care

If you don’t have employer-sponsored insurance coverage and can’t afford private insurance on your own, you could be subject to a fee under the Affordable Healthcare Act.

For assistance, apply at Healthcare.gov. You could receive help covering the cost of insurance, or you may qualify for free health insurance through your state’s Medicaid program.

If you don’t want state-sponsored health care, you can also try a health care ministry like Medi-Share to cut costs. You’ll have to be an active member of a Christian community to join, and the program is best for those in generally good physical health.

When insurance fails you, here are some more options to get the care you need.

2. Find a Training Clinic

Like other areas of health and medicine, practitioners need to practice working with the public before they become clinical or counseling psychologists.

That’s good news for any of us who want to save money on therapy.

Training clinics are usually located near or as part of universities. You’ll attend sessions with a graduate student supervised by a licensed psychologist. These clinics typically charge on a sliding scale (which could be as low as $0, if that’s where your scale slides…)

To find one near you, you can browse the Association of Psychology Training Clinics for member clinics. Or just search “[your city] psychology training clinic.”

3. Visit a Community Mental Health Center

“Community mental health centers provide free or low-cost therapy options and services covered by Medicaid insurance,” says Julie Hanks, LCSW, at Psych Central.

Find a center through the Department of Human Services at your state’s government website.

You can also find services through private non-profit organizations. YMCA offers low-cost/sliding scale behavior health and family services for kids and adults.

4. Attend a Support Group

While you miss out on the personalized care and complete anonymity of private sessions, support groups can be the perfect solution for free or low-cost therapy.

Organizations like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) host free community support groups in person or online.

If you want to work with a particular therapist but can’t afford private sessions -- because you lost insurance coverage, for example -- ask if they offer group sessions. These should come at a lower rate you could potentially afford out of pocket.

5. Negotiate and Ask for Discounts

You might not realize it, but your medical bills are totally negotiable. By a lot.

Don’t be afraid to lowball here -- this isn’t a business deal, so you don’t have to worry about making a bad impression.

When you receive a bill for services, contact the hospital to simply let them know you can’t afford it. They may be willing to cut the cost by more than half if you can pay a chunk upfront.

If you don’t have the cash handy, ask for a payment plan. Get on it before the bill goes to collections, and ask for a monthly payment you can handle to avoid a hit to your credit for late payments.

6. See a Doctor Online

You may be skeptical, but telehealth (or telemedicine) is legitimate and could save you a ton of money on health care.

Through an app like Teladoc, you can meet with a healthcare professional (for physical or mental health issues) for a fraction of the cost of a trip to the clinic.

Telemedicine doctors can diagnose, recommend treatment and even prescribe medication if necessary.

You can even get your therapy via text message -- any time you want -- through Talkspace! Get unlimited text therapy for $128 per month.

Or go the group therapy route with NAMI AIR, a free app that connects you with a community of people living with mental health conditions and their caregivers.

7. Lean on Your Spiritual Community and Leaders

If you’re involved with an organized religious group, you could find the help you need within that community.

Does your organization host free support groups or retreats where you can connect with others in your situation? Maybe your preacher or other leaders in the community offer free individual or couples counseling.

If you’re worried about opening up about your struggles within a small community, remember: Everyone coming to group therapy is looking for help, just like you are.

8. Use Services at Your School or College

College or university students (and faculty) likely have access to health care services through their schools. Your tuition and fees subsidize them, so you might as well take advantage!

Children enrolled in a K-12 school may have access to sessions with a school counselor as well. Lean on these options when your family can’t afford private mental health services.

9. Consult the Internet

Going online to self-diagnose your ailments can be troublesome.

But if you already know what you’re dealing with, consulting a relevant association’s website could help when you have questions and lack access to a doctor.

For example, if you suffer from anxiety, you can find reliable resources at these websites:

Some people also find online forums like Reddit or Facebook groups useful for connecting with other people who understand your situation.

Just be careful to take advice from random individuals with a grain of salt, and never rely on them for a diagnosis.

If you prefer to speak with someone directly, you can call the NAMI Helpline to get answers about symptoms, treatments and resources. The Helpline itself doesn’t offer counseling, but it can help you connect with programs in your area.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

Online shopping is pretty much the best.

You get to avoid all those #FirstWorldProblems you hate to deal with at the physical store.

Putting on pants.

Interacting with other humans.


That guy at the exit who asks to see your receipt, and you’re like, “What, you don’t think I can afford this TV just because I spend my Wednesday at a Walmart in sweatpants?!”

Plus, it’s usually cheaper to shop online.

But there is that one big drawback that makes procrastinators like me chew my nails to a nub as I wait by the mailbox every day.

Can You Get a Shipping Refund If Your Package Doesn’t Show?

You mean well, but sometimes you forget that wedding, baby shower or birthday is coming up until it’s three days away. So you order the perfect gift online and fork over a week’s salary for expedited shipping.

But here you are, ready to leave for the party (dressed spectacularly, we might add) — and the package hasn’t arrived.

So you swing by the only store en route, pick up a backup gift, stuff it into a decorated bag and sign the card at a stoplight.

But what about the cost? Is there an Amazon shipping refund? Or one from Walmart? Anywhere?

You could call the retailer and negotiate a refund. But that involves a whole new set of #FirstWorldProblems, like waiting on hold and talking on the phone.

With a new delivery monitoring system from Paribus, you could get a refund with no extra work.

We’ve talked about Paribus before. It’s the tool that scans your online shopping receipts and monitors major retailers for price drops. If the price goes down on something you bought, Paribus gets the retailer to pay you the difference.

Its new delivery monitoring service has a similar mission: Save you time and effort getting refunds you deserve. Here’s how it works:

  1. It checks your email for receipts to find guaranteed delivery dates.
  2. It tracks the package using UPS or the retailer’s shipping tracking.
  3. If the delivery is later than guaranteed, Paribus automatically files a claim with the retailer to get you compensation.

Here’s the link to download the app and sign up.

How Much Money Can You Get Back?

Paribus works with dozens of retailers — including Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and more — so your refund will depend on the store’s shipping policy.

With Amazon, for example, a late delivery means you’re eligible for “a refund of any shipping fees associated with the order in question. Prime members (who get free two-day shipping) may also be eligible for an extension of their membership.”

Paribus has negotiated everything from full or partial cost-of-shipping refunds and store credit to one-month extensions of memberships in rush-shipping programs like Amazon Prime.

While the app makes money from its price-match service (It keeps 25% of your refund.), you can use the delivery monitoring service totally free. That means all that shipping cost goes back in your pocket.

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

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

Sure, going to the dentist is scary.

Who wants sharp metal objects jammed inside their mouth? Or those suction things -- yikes! It’s no wonder a lot of us avoid the annual appointment, despite common recommendations to regularly visit the dentist.

What’s worse, though? The cost of going to the dentist.

About one in four kids under the age of 10 have untreated cavities or tooth decay.

And 34% of low-income adults over 65 are missing teeth -- that’s compared with 13% of the older adults living above the poverty line.

What are Your Options?

A routine exam and cleaning costs around $150 without insurance. Multiply that by the recommended two visits per year and that’s about $300 per year for each person in your household.

That can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.

When the kids need braces, you’re looking at $3,000-7,000 for metal braces and up for more discreet options like Invisalign.

Your health plan or Medicaid may cover part of the cost of braces for children under 18. If you pay out-of-pocket, the cost could be tax deductible.

But when none of these options are available, what’s your plan? You may not be able to cover thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, but you still want the best dental care possible for your kids and yourself.

Dentists and orthodontists know this. They also know their services are often not covered well by insurance and are cost-prohibitive for many families. They’ve come together in a lot of ways to provide care to those in need.

Subsidized Care for Children

Though you’ll see some care for adults, most subsidized or free dental care exists to help children from low-income families.

These services help cover major costs like braces, or smaller ones like the semi-annual check-up your kids need to maintain healthy teeth.

Smiles Change Lives

Smiles Change Lives offers braces to kids between ages 10-18. You’ll be responsible for a non-refundable $30 application fee and an out-of-pocket $650 for the braces.

Financial qualifications for SCL may be tough for some families. A family of four, for example, must have a household income of less than $48,500 (the number varies for areas of the country with higher costs of living).

In addition to the household income and age requirements, you’ll need a family dentist to complete a referral form that confirms good oral hygiene, no unfilled cavities and no more than four remaining baby teeth.

This must be based on a dental exam no more than 30 days prior to the application date.

Of course, this means before qualifying for subsidized orthodontic services, you’ll either need to be able to afford a dental exam or have insurance coverage for one. If you can’t afford this either, keep reading.

We’ve found services to assist with that, too.

Donated Orthodontic Services

The American Association of Orthodontists provides a list of Donated Orthodontic Services. It’s limited to select states, but these provide care to children who don’t have insurance coverage or don’t qualify for assistance.

They serve residents in nine U.S. states:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

Smile for a Lifetime

The Smile for a Lifetime Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization that provides orthodontic treatment for underserved patients. The foundation is comprised of local chapters, each headed by a Board of Directors that selects individuals who qualify for assistance.

The requirements and application process vary by provider. To apply, search for providers in your area. Find the Smile for a Lifetime logo on the provider’s website to view their application requirements and process.

Here are examples of two providers in my area in Florida -- you can see the differences in their processes:

Give Kids a Smile

Started in St Louis in 2002, Give Kids a Smile was adopted by the American Dental Association and now is a national program. The organization brings volunteers and dental professionals together to provide care and education to underserved children.

A variety of projects at schools and clinics around the country provide services including cleanings, exams, fluoride treatments, sealants, oral surgery and x-rays.

National GKAS Day is the first Friday in February each year. To find participating programs in your state, contact your local dental society.

Advantage Smiles for Kids

Advantage Smiles for Kids (ASK) aims to improve the quality of life for low-income, at-risk children in Oregon and Idaho.

The organization serves children ages 10-16 with a “high aesthetic need for braces” -- kids who are being teased or bullied because of the way their teeth look.

This program is referral-only and there’s no online application. Read the full eligibility requirements: If you think your child qualifies, give them a call.

To encourage those receiving assistance to “pay it forward”, ASK requires that the child receiving orthodontic care volunteer in their community each month. The parent/guardian pays $25 per month toward the cost of braces.

Children’s Dental Health Association of San Diego

As its name suggests, these services are only available in San Diego. But they’re worth a look if you’re in the area.

The Children’s Dental Health Association funds a local Children’s Dental Health Center. Their School-Based Program also visits local low-income schools to provide exams, screenings and sealants to children on-site.

Subsidized Dental and Orthodontic Care for Adults

Many low-income parents simply opt out of dental care for themselves. Instead, they put their energy and dollars into finding assistance or paying out-of-pocket for their children’s care.

But your teeth need care, too!

Dental and orthodontic assistance for adults can be hard to come by, but it exists. Check for programs in your state, and see if either of these are a fit:

Dental Lifeline Network: Donated Dental Services

The Dental Lifeline Network’s national Donated Dental Services serves low-income people who have a disability, are elderly or are medically fragile (a dental condition is preventing them from receiving medical care).

The donated services cover oral care, dentures, bridges, crowns and other tooth repair. Qualification requirements and availability of services vary by state. Check to ensure you qualify and that the organization is accepting applications in your state and county.

Discount Plans from DentalPlans.com

If free services aren’t available in your area, or you don’t qualify for subsidized care, a discount dental plan could save you a lot of money.

For dental care without insurance, look at DentalPlans.com. The site doesn’t provide free services or insurance coverage; instead it allows you to receive discounted dental care.

For an annual membership fee starting at $79.95, you’ll get a 10 to 60% discount on most dental services. You’ll pay out-of-pocket for the services, but much less than without the plan.

Programs by State

If you haven’t found what you need here, your state might offer additional programs. Check this list from the AAO to find out what’s available in your state.

Dental Schools

When your only option is to pay out-of-pocket, you can visit nearby dental schools for discounted services.

After years of training, students act as apprentices under the supervision of professional dentists and orthodontists to perform dental procedures, just like a private practice.

Find an accredited dental school near you.

Get the Dental Care You Need

With shifting health care coverage and many of us leaning toward self-employment, affordable dental and orthodontic care is increasingly difficult to come by.

Don’t let that stop you!

Check out the available resources your area to see what is available and get the care you need for your family.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a Staff Writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, and she hasn’t seen a dentist in nine years because of a lack of insurance coverage.

Weddings are expensive. Some people might even say they’re an unwise waste of money… not me, of course. I’m all for celebrating love and commitment.

It’s just, you know, some people see a wedding invitation as an invoice for the cost of getting gussied up, buying a gift, traveling somewhere and giving up a weekend that would otherwise be spent on a side hustle (i.e. catching up on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”)

For those people who are worried about dropping thousands of dollars to attend friends’ and family members’ weddings this year, here are some simple ways to cut your costs and still enjoy the love and commitment.

1. Skip the Non-Wedding Stuff

Costs really add up when you start to throw in a bachelor or bachelorette party, a wedding shower (another gift?!), pre-wedding dinner (When did those open to the public?) and morning-after brunch (Yeah, the newlyweds really wanted to hop out of bed for brekky with Aunt Ida.).

If you’re strapped for cash, politely decline invitations to these peripheral events. Make your priority enjoying the wedding, and the couple will, ideally, understand.

2. Traveling to a Wedding

The nerve of your closest friends to fall in love all over the country (or world)! Now your support for their union involves vacation days, airfare and hotel rooms. That was so not in the pact you made when you were 6.

If the wedding involves a lengthy trek, use these tips to save money flying or take a frugal road trip.

You can also save a bundle just by splitting expenses with fellow wedding guests. Go halfsies on a hotel room and/or rental car to save hundreds.

3. Save Money in Style

No one wants to be the guy who decided to “casual Friday” the wedding reception. You’ll ruin all the photos. #weddingselfies4lyfe

You can be frugal and still look fabulous.

Try renting a designer dress for a fraction of the price to buy. Or start a coalition with other frequent wedding-goers to swap outfits.

If you want to splurge for a killer garment, try selling it after the wedding.

If you get regular haircuts, manicures or pedicures, schedule them strategically to align with weddings. Or, do your own. You can nail a French tip with just a rubber band!

If you’re stuck with just one reliable outfit for the season, switch up your style with different jewelry and hair styles to avoid looking like you were Photoshopped from one wedding photo to the next.

4. Bring Gifts From the Heart (Not the Store)

It’s 2017. Chances are the happy couple has been living together for months or years, and they’re set for china, toasters and “hers and hers” bath towels.

Instead, put your heart into a gift that honors their relationship and helps them remember their special day for years to come.

Check out these 10 simple homemade gift ideas for inspiration.

5. Always a Bridesmaid?

It’s quite an honor to stand beside your best friends as they tie the knot. It’s also quite a strain on your wallet.

Here’s how one serial bridesmaid saves more than $500 on her friends’ special days -- did you know you could rent bridesmaid dresses?

6. Join the Racket

Want the freedom to spend what you want at the party? Earn extra money while everyone else gets married!

Take advantage of the season’s spendthrifts by raking in cash through photography, artwork, hair and makeup, music and more.

Oh, and Don’t Do This

BTW, skip crowdfunding your wedding trip -- if you’re attending tons of weddings, the people in your inner circle are probably doing the same.

I’m not saying I think it’s incredibly annoying when friends post on Facebook asking for money to attend a voluntary party for an outdated tradition by people they hardly like… but, you know, some people might.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

Raise your hand if you love moving.


Thought so.

It’s a sweaty, back-achey, lost-boxy and something’s-definitely-gonna-breaky day. Sure, your new home is on the other end of it, but for now? You’re dreaming of teleportation.

And you’re going to pay an arm and a leg for all this headache. (Hopefully not literally, but we can’t be sure. You’ll be surprised what you’re willing to do to get a sofa up six flights of stairs.)

Let’s take the sting out of it.

Here are four tips for moving-day savings from one writer who saved nearly $500 on her last move.

1. Negotiate Your Lease Date

Major life changes don’t adhere to a strict first-of-the-month schedule. You may be ready to move in on the 7th or the 17th. Why pay for a week or more of rent when you’re not living there?

Ask your new landlord to prorate the rent. In a high-demand area, you might not get your choice move-in date, but you could shave off a few days and save a few (hundred) bucks.

2. Sell Your Stuff

Furniture. Sweaters that are so last season. Books, the most impossibly dense things you don’t know why you own.

The big stuff increases your moving expenses. It’s one more thing you pay a mover to lug or one more square foot of space you need in the U-Haul.

List anything you’re willing to part with on Craigslist, Facebook or one of these apps:

  • letgo lets you snap a photo of just about any item you want to sell and list it in less than 30 seconds.
  • Decluttr buys your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, plus hardware like cell phones, tablets, game consoles and iPods.
  • Bookscouter helps you sell old textbooks. Search with the book’s ISBN to find the best price among more than 25 of the best-paying and most reputable buyback companies.

You can always replace your stuff — for free! —when you land at the new digs. But you’ll probably realize you didn’t need it that badly, anyway.

3. Talk to Your Current Landlord

Prepping your apartment for a move out is a minefield.

Does your landlord remember that chip in the front window was there before you? Will they charge you for not spackling nail holes in the wall? Can you leave behind the shelves you installed in the closet?

Don’t leave it to chance. Ask your landlord. Send them an email so you have a record of their response to avoid any takebacks.

4. NEVER Pay for Boxes

Despite the bazillions of cardboard boxes tossed in the trash on the reg from neighbors or shipments at the grocery store down the block, movers shell out cash for new boxes.

Instead, scavenge your building’s recycling bin. Or just ask your neighbors, if you don’t mind the human interaction.

Or, my favorite: Find out when nearby grocery and retail stores receive shipments and stop by later in the day to scoop up empty boxes.

If you’re an extrovert, chat up someone moving into your building and reuse their empty boxes. You know they’re good for moving.

Whatever you do, don’t pay for boxes!

One last thing…

Heading Across the Country?

Consider shipping everything — including yourself — instead of driving. Here’s why it’s the cheapest way to move across the country.

Disclosure: Our friends stopped inviting us over because we were always digging for loose change between their couch cushions. We use affiliate links instead so we still get invited to a few parties.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

Military spouses often face two major obstacles to building a career and earning a steady income:

  • You’re raising a family.

It’s no surprise unemployment among military spouses is historically two to three times higher than the national average.

So how can you take control of your career and earn steady income while supporting your family’s lifestyle?

We talked to Tara Glenn, who previously served and met her husband in the Navy, and Caitlin Deigel, a hair stylist and also a Navy wife. Both have found creative ways to make money around their family’s obligations.

Here are their best job tips for military spouses:

1. Use Your Connections

To accommodate her pregnancy and care for her youngest child, Glenn started selling baked goods.

The business was inexpensive to start, she could do it on her own schedule and she could tap into her network for sales.

In addition to selling at the local farmers market, she reached out to parents at her kids’ school, to military neighbors and through Facebook. She earns about $500 to $600 in a good month after costs.

2. Be Adaptable

“The key to success and efficiency -- whether it’s in the business world, military life or civilian life -- is adaptability,” Deigel explained. She adjusts her focus depending on her business and home needs so she can give her best to both.

Glenn added, “Keep an open mind when it comes to employment.” Aside from her military service, she’s worked as a school photographer, gas station attendant and cashier over the years.

Your career path may not be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work towards success.

3. Start With Your Passion

Deigel’s marriage has moved her from one end of the country to another.

To incorporate her experience as a hair stylist, her business management degree and her passion for volunteering she used to do at a homeless shelter, Deigel developed Social Worth, an online platform to provide free haircuts to the homeless.

“It is a happy coincidence that the business I want to run pairs well with military life,” Deigel told us.

Deigel can set her own schedule and priorities, so she’s available for extra responsibilities at home depending on her husband’s assignments.

4. Do Location-Independent Work

What’s great about Deigel’s business is she can take it wherever she goes.

“As long as I succeed in the (area) where we are living now, I can move the business and grow it in a new area when we have to move again,” she says.

Whether you want to own your own business or work for someone else, consider jobs that aren’t tied to a physical location.

Where to Find Jobs for Military Spouses

Freelance writing, graphic design or web design are great places to start if you’re creatively inclined.

You might also want to check out R. Riveter, a company created specifically to employ military spouses, wherever you are.

For more ideas, here are 15 super flexible jobs that are perfect for military spouses.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

Public school teachers have some tough choices to make when it comes to saving for retirement.

One easy decision? You should be saving. Now.

But choosing a retirement savings plan isn’t as easy as it is in the private sector, where most employees get exactly one option from their employers.

Here’s a quick overview to help you pick the right 403(b) plan for you.

What is a 403(b) Account?

If the name looks like a twisted cousin of the 401(k), that’s because the plan sort of is.

A 403(b) is a tax-deferred retirement account employers offer in public schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and nonprofits. It’s also available to some ministers.

It’s similar to its better-known cousin in the for-profit sector, but more complicated and often more costly for the employee.

“Tax-deferred” means your contributions are tax-deductible, just like in a traditional 401(k) or individual retirement account. (Reminder: Here’s how a tax deduction affects your wallet.)

You can contribute up to $18,000 a year to your 403(b). That limit goes up by $3,000 a year if you’ve been with an organization for 15 years. If you’re over 50, you can add another $6,000 a year to your maximum contributions.

Like in other retirement plans, the money you contribute to a 403(b) gets invested, so it grows over time. That’s why you should start saving ASAP — so it has time to balloon before you retire.

Save for a few exceptions, you can’t withdraw money from your 403(b) retirement account until you’re 59 ½. Tap into it before that, and you’ll pay big in taxes and fees.

As with a 401(k), your employer might match your contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary.

Here’s Where it Gets Complicated

Unlike a 401(k), where your employer usually works with a single provider to manage the plan, employees can often choose from several 403(b) providers.

That sounds good, right? Always nice to have options.

No, not really. It’s not so great to have dozens or hundreds of choices when you don’t understand a single one of them.

Imagine if Gordon Ramsay asked you to choose from 100 risottos.

Did you even know there were 100 different kinds of risotto? Wait — do you know what’s in a risotto? Can’t he just make you the best one and be done with it?

Before choosing a 403(b) plan, you must do your research. Take advantage of your HR department (Side note: Do ministers have those?), and vet plans like you would a 401(k). Here are some questions to ask:

  • Who provides the plan? (Insurance companies tend to charge the highest fees.)
  • Where is the money invested? (Professionally managed mutual funds come with higher fees.)
  • Who can answer your questions? Find out who’s available to give you information about the plan, even after you sign up, so you’re not stabbing at risottos in the dark.

Most importantly, make sure you understand the fees you’ll pay and the commission structure for the person trying to sell you the plan.

If you can, consult with an independent financial expert — someone whose pay doesn’t depend on which plan you select.

403(b) vs. IRA

One more question to throw a wrench into this whole operation: Would you be better off with an IRA?

Typically, no. Your contribution limit for a 403(b) is way higher, and your employer match is free money you’ll never see with an IRA. But the individual plan might be a good alternative to a bad 403(b) — or a complement to a good one.

You’re already doing your research, anyway. Here’s what you need to know about IRAs.

Your Turn: Do you have a 403(b) retirement savings plan?

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

“I. Declare. Bankruptcyyyyyy!”

As Michael Scott learned in “The Office,” getting rid of debt isn’t as simple as that declaration. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Many people think of filing bankruptcy as an easy way out. These people have never filed bankruptcy.

There are 2 Types of Bankruptcy for Individuals

Chapter 7 is the most common. It’s for individuals who can prove they don’t have the means to pay off debts. After you file, a trustee could sell some of your assets to repay your creditors, but you’re otherwise discharged from responsibility for your debts.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for people with reliable income who are able to repay a portion of debt. In this case, a trustee sets up a payment plan so you can repay your debt over three to five years.

(You may have also heard of Chapter 11 — that’s usually for businesses.)

Why File Bankruptcy?

Wait, you might have to repay your debt, even after filing for bankruptcy? Then what’s the point?

The point is to get that “fresh start” you hear people talking about.

Bankruptcy should be a last resort for getting rid of debt, but for some people it’s better than having their wages garnished or their homes foreclosed.

It gives you a chance to get your debt under control and get creditors and collectors off your back (and out of your bank account).

So You’ve Decided You’re Filing Bankruptcy…

The process is pretty involved. For a deeper dive into the details, check out this post. Here’s a quick overview.

First of all, expect to pay $335 in administrative and filing fees. You can apply to have Chapter 7 fees waived or set up a payment plan for Chapter 13 fees if you can’t afford them upfront. To be eligible for a waiver, your household income should be less than 150% of the poverty line, and you have to be unable to pay the fee in installments.

Once you file bankruptcy, creditors and collectors have to stop trying to collect the money you owe them while the case is open.

That’s called an “automatic stay.”

If a company continues to try to collect during the stay, it’s violating a court order. Let it know in writing, and the collections will likely stop. If it doesn’t, notify the bankruptcy court, which can punish the company for violating a court order.

You’ll spend most of the process working with a trustee, who administers the case.

The trustee helps you file paperwork and oversee your estate (anything you own) during the case. They’re an impartial player who can challenge creditors’ claims or yours, based on conversations with both.

Ultimately, a bankruptcy judge decides whether to discharge your debts. They could deny you for a few reasons, but if you were able to show your inability to repay debts, you should be granted a discharge.

If they grant in your favor, you’re released from personal responsibility for your debts, and creditors can’t take any more action to collect them.

Bankruptcy (Almost) Never Discharges These Debts

Debtors typically use bankruptcy to discharge credit card or medical debt. Many types of debt can’t be discharged this way, including:

  • Auto loans
  • Mortgages
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Most tax debts

Will Bankruptcy Ruin Your Credit Score?

Bankruptcy will most likely be a black mark on your credit history — one that lasts up to 10 years.

But if you’re in over your head with debt, your credit is probably already pretty marred. Some experts say bankruptcy won’t hurt it significantly more than a poor payment history.

Just make sure filing bankruptcy is really your best option — because the aftermath is not fun.

Here’s one woman’s story on what it feels like to declare bankruptcy and how she recovered her credit afterward.

Your Turn: Have you or anyone you know ever filed bankruptcy?

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

This weekend is the annual celebration of the heroes who nurtured and empowered you throughout your childhood.

Are you prepared?

It’s time to come together to thank these inspiring characters who ushered you into adolescence and eventual adulthood.

No, not your mom -- Mother’s Day isn’t until next weekend, Sunday May 14.

I’m talking about comic book heroes.

Get Ready for Free Comic Book Day

This Saturday, May 6, comic book shops around the U.S. and beyond will give out more than 6 million free comic books to celebrate the 16th annual Free Comic Book Day.

Special FCBD editions of 50 comic books will be free on Saturday.

Check with your local comic book store, or locate one here, to find events in your area. Free titles will be available to anyone who asks on a first-come, first-served basis.

Events run the gamut from celebrity appearances and book signings to family fun and games -- costumes welcome!

Some of this year’s most anticipated free titles include:

  • “Buffy: The High School Years” (Dark Horse Comics)

  • “Doctor Who” (Titan Comics)

  • “I Hate Image” (Image Comics Buy-Sell)

  • “Secret Empire #1” (Marvel Comics)

  • “Star Trek: Mirror Broken” (IDW Publishing)

  • “Wonder Woman #1 Special Edition” (DC Buy Sell)

Many stores will give away swag, movie posters and other freebies, too. You might want to get there early!

Not Just for the Comic Book Guy

Free Comic Book Day is more than just a second Christmas for comic book fans.

It exists to support local comic book shops, as well as help new readers find awesome comics and graphic novels.

If you like “The Simpsons,” “Doctor Who,” “SpongeBob” or other non-superhero stories, you’ll be delighted to find there’s a little something for everyone.

The celebration is a fun way to introduce your kids to the comic book community -- or discover it yourself.

You might just find a new hobby the whole family can enjoy together.

Your Turn: What will you pick up this Free Comic Book Day?

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

Does it feel like summer yet? This deal might help give you that summer feeling, no matter where you live.

Häagen-Dazs is celebrating its annual Free Cone Day on Tuesday, May 9.

Take the whole family to your local Häagen-Dazs shop for a free kiddie-size ice cream in a cup, sugar cone or cake cone.

If you’re lucky, maybe your server will let you get my favorite order: a sugar cone, upside-down in a cup. Because who wants to wade through all that ice cream to get to the crunchy cone?

You’ll get one scoop per guest, and you must be in line between 4 and 8 p.m.

Celebrate Free Cone Day… For the Bees???

During this year’s Free Cone Day, Häagen-Dazs wants to bring attention to honeybees.

What do bees have to do with ice cream?

Many of the chain’s fruit flavors — and even some classics like vanilla and rocky road — depend on bee pollination. The vanishing bee population could make it more difficult to grow the crops your favorite ice cream varieties need.

The Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees initiative donates money to bee conservation research and education. Last year, it installed a permanent honeybee habitat at the farm that supplies  almonds to Häagen-Dazs.

So while the company wants you to “create some buzz” on Free Cone Day, all you have to do is eat ice cream and appreciate honeybees. It’ll foot the bill toward saving threatened pollinators.

Not a Fan of Free Ice Cream?

We’re not convinced you exist, but just in case…

Want to skip the line? Pay for your ice cream!

Any guests who want to purchase items can bypass the line of people waiting for free scoops. So don’t be dismayed if you’re more worried about getting your Wednesday afternoon sundae in a timely fashion than saving a couple of bucks.

As for the rest of you, we’ll see you in line!

Your Turn: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not). Lisa Rowan updated this post.