Junior Writer

April showers bring… May produce! (Isn’t that how the saying goes?)

After some slim pickings earlier in the year (April and March were OK, but February was pretty weak), May is here with a full arsenal of flavorful fresh produce.

And the best part? When you shop in season and in your area (like at your local farmers market!), you’ll find fresh produce for way less than you would normally pay at the supermarket.

But since May is one of my favorite months to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, I won’t keep you here long.

Without further ado, here are six fruits and veggies that are in peak season in your neck of the woods this month!

1. Michigan: Morels

[caption id="attachment_57453" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mayhaw Gaussian_Blur/Getty Images[/caption]

While many states in the northern U.S. boast a morel bounty each year, Michigan is serious about its conical mushrooms. Like, the kind of serious that means Michigan has a morel sightings map, but it’s decidedly sparse compared to the surrounding states because nobody in Michigan wants to give up their secret morel spots.

This is because morels are tricky: You have to forage for them, one at a time, from the woods. And they never seem to grow in the same place twice. In fact, some people say morels “only grow where the hunter finds them.” Still, during peak morel season, you can find these unique mushrooms in farmers markets for a decent price as far south as Georgia. And if you can forage them yourself, they’re free. Go here for tips, tricks and safety information.

Many describe morels as having a meaty texture and a nutty, woodsy flavor that is distinct without being weird. Even people who don’t like regular mushrooms (of the cremini or portobello varieties, for example), tend to love morels.

The only difference between cooking the fresh and dried ‘shrooms is that you’ll have to take the extra step of reconstituting the dried ones in water beforehand — a process that takes all of three minutes.

The best way to prepare these earthy little delicacies?  Well, it seems unanimous that sauteing them with butter, onions and herbs wins every time.

2. Maine: Fiddlehead Ferns

[caption id="attachment_57454" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mayhaw MmeEmil[/caption]

From the Midwest, we’re headed up to New England, where Maine produces a fleeting crop of fiddlehead ferns, specifically of the ostrich fern variety. These tender little shoots are another foraged delicacy -- although you can find them at farmers markets throughout the Northeast during peak season.

Fiddleheads come by their name honestly: They look like the curved, decorative ends of stringed instruments. Some say these tiny, coiled veggies have a flavor profile somewhere between asparagus and broccoli but with a hint of nuttiness, making them a great addition to a fresh, earthy spring meal.

When you’re ready to prepare your fiddleheads, be sure to steam or boil them for 12 to 15 minutes before adding them to any dish, as improperly cooked fiddleheads can be harmful. You can find more information on preparing fiddleheads here.

Once you precook them, you can use them any way your heart desires -- just treat them like asparagus. They’re delicious roasted, sauteed or steamed, and add a wonderful crunch to any pasta dish.

Here’s a super-simple recipe for roasted fiddleheads with lemon and capers, but it’s just like cooking asparagus — there’s no wrong way to prepare this delicious veggie.

3. Georgia: Vidalia Onions

[caption id="attachment_57455" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mayhaw margom3720/Getty Images[/caption]

OK, so onions don’t really seem like seasonal ingredients. But Vidalia onions -- the sweet, not-as-pungent kind grown in the mild winters and specific soil conditions the city of Vidalia, Georgia, is known for -- are at their best between the end of April and the middle of June. Also these guys don’t make you cry, so that’s a win in my book.

Because Vidalia onions are so sweet, they’re at their most delicious when left alone. Instead of cooking them up like you would regular onions, take this opportunity to add them to fresh dishes like this sweet (and simple) guacamole or a creamy, vinegary cucumber salad.

4. Hawaii: Pineapples

[caption id="attachment_57452" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mayhaw linyuwei/Getty Images[/caption]

I’m guessing you’re not reading this from your hammock on a beach in Hawaii. (And if you are, can I join?) But pineapples are in season in Hawaii, which means that these juicy fruits will be at their lowest price point in grocery stores across the U.S. over the next few months.

When you pick a pineapple at the store or farmers market, look for bright and fresh green leaves and a firm (but not hard) shell. The shell’s color doesn’t matter -- as long as it’s not bruised or overly soft, a good pineapple’s shell can range from pale green to deep yellow. Pineapples are always picked at their peak -- and they don’t ripen after they’re harvested -- so be sure to eat it within a few days.

While my favorite way to enjoy this tropical fruit is to spend an afternoon snacking on a heaping bowl of juicy pineapple chunks, sometimes it’s fun to mix it up by grilling this sweet summertime treat.

And putting it on a Hawaiian burger like this one? Game over. And then topping it with some of those sweet Vidalia onions? You’re golden. Golden, I tell you!

5. California: Cherries

[caption id="attachment_57449" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]mayhaws mediaphotos/Getty Images[/caption]

Like so many of the other fruits and vegetables on this month’s list, cherries are a momentary happiness. California cherry trees are the last of the commercially grown tree fruits to bloom, but farmers harvest them first -- and the window for perfect, ripe cherries is short.

When choosing cherries, look for bright green stems and firm, plump fruits. Avoid cherries with wrinkling around the stem, and don’t discount ones with brown flecks in the skin -- this is actually just an accumulation of sugar, which means sweeter fruits, so it’s a good thing!

Store your cherries in the fridge, preferably in a plastic bag, or freeze them to enjoy later.

As for how to prepare them, the possibilities are virtually endless. Should you make a classic pie? A cherry-glazed pork chop? Cherry almond chocolate chunk cookies? All of the above?

The answer is yes.

6. Louisiana: Mayhaws

[caption id="attachment_57450" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Mayhaw Leslie Seaton under Creative Commons[/caption]

May is mayhaw season (get it?) in Louisiana! Mayhaws are the fruit of the thorny hawthorn tree. While you can find them in Georgia, Texas, Arkansas and Florida, Louisiana is one of the best growing environments for mayhaws because the trees flourish in swampy river bottoms and warm, muggy conditions.

Some say mayhaws resemble cranberries in appearance and crabapples in taste -- they have the same fresh profile as an apple but are more acidically tart than sweet. For this reason, mayhaws are a popular base for jellies and jams, where they’ll be mixed with sugar to level out their sour taste.

And while you can’t go wrong with jelly born of wild mayhaws, try incorporating them into the glaze on this cake for a sweet springtime treat that will make you crave these tiny red fruits year-round.

Sweet Summertime

With farmers markets in full swing heading into the summer months, you should have no trouble finding fresh, delicious produce in peak season — and at low, low prices!

Now go forth and enjoy the beautiful warm weather before it gets so unbearably hot that we all hide inside until the first hint of fall.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After spending the day writing about so many delicious sounding fruits and veggies, she’s ready for lunch.

Sometimes, leaving your pet in the morning when it’s time to go to work feels like the hardest thing you’ll do all day.

There’s just something about that wet, snuffly nose or that needy *meow* that makes you want to call in sick, climb back into bed and cuddle your wonderful furry best-friend while you binge a season of “LA Ink” and seriously entertain the idea of getting your cat’s face tattooed on your bicep. (No, you’re weird.)

But somebody has to put the kibble on the table.

5 Pet Care Jobs That are Purr-fect for Animal Lovers

So, what if I told you that the sting of leaving your pet each morning could be lessened considerably? What if I told you that there are jobs that let you hang out with animals all day long?

Well, there are.

1. Cat Cuddler

This job is exactly what it sounds like. Just Cats, a veterinary clinic and cattery in Dublin, Ireland, is looking for a full-time cat cuddler to soothe nervous cat patients in the clinic.

The ideal candidate, according to the listing, will have “gentle hands, capable of petting and stroking cats for long periods of time,” and should be soft-spoken and “capable of cat whispering.”

Just Cats mentions that applicants have a distinct advantage if they’re able to understand different types of purrs.

If this sounds similar to your own very specific skill set, you can find more information and apply to become a professional cat cuddler (with cattitude) here.

2. Semi-Pro Dog Walker

With Wag! you can make all of your dog-walking dreams come true. (Because who doesn’t want to get paid to hang with pups all day?!)

The company is always looking for new walkers to sign up through the Wag! app, and the process is pretty quick and easy. After you apply, you’ll go through a vetting (hah) process that aims to ensure you’re serious about the dog walking life.

According to the Wag! website, dog walkers can make up to $25 per hour hanging out with man’s best friend -- so this one seems like an easy decision.

3. Cat Cafe Hosts

Cat cafes are popping up across the country, and while they’re super trendy and 100% Instagrammable, the primary goal of these feline-friendly coffee shops is encouraging cat adoptions.

Typical positions at a cat cafe include cat room hosts and wranglers, along with baristas and cafe attendants.

While these cat cafes are in California, Minnesota and Washington D.C., there’s probably already a cat cafe in your city -- so be sure to check around for any job openings near you!

(And if you’re thinking about opening your own cat cafe, here are some things to consider first.)

4. Pet Massage Therapist

Some sad news: when pets get old or injured, their bodies hurt just like humans’ do.

Some happy news: you can become certified as a pet massage therapist and help alleviate the pain (that apparently doesn’t have the decency to stay away from the purest creatures on this Earth).

As a pet massage therapist, you can make as much as $50 per hour -- so a full-time pet masseuse would be set to make a pretty penny.

Find out everything you need to know about getting certified, finding clients and starting your own pet massage business here.

Take note: the regulations regarding pet massage therapy are a little hazy, so you’ll want to check out the specific rules in your state before you get started.

5. Put Your Pup to Work

If you need a little extra help bringing home the Beggin’ Strips, have your dog pitch in.

Here are five ways your dog can help earn a little income on the side -- because even Fido has to earn his keep.

But Why Stop There?

There are a tons of ways to make money while hanging with our furry friends -- including becoming a doggie chauffeur or a pet photographer (both very real things).

For more ideas, check out this list of 10 ways to earn while spending time with other people’s dogs!

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Shout out to Oliver, the perfect kitten who helps her keep her eye on the (salmon flavored) prize.

As it turns out, the Monday gods heard my pleas for a semi-pleasant transition back after a weekend spent deep in a wine-induced Netflix documentary binge and sent forth what might be my new favorite combination of words: free money + documentary film.

Did you just get goosebumps? I just got goosebumps. (Just kidding. Kind of.)

Here’s the deal: Two documentary filmmakers are currently searching for volunteers who will accept free money for two years and then be filmed while they figure out how to spend it literally however they want.

Yes, friends, you heard me right. You can indeed volunteer to be handed free money for two entire years. The only stipulation is you have to let someone film you making all of your financial decisions (the good, the bad and the downright ugly) for the entirety of that time frame.

(Side note: Isn’t it funny how two years of free money seems so hype until the moment you consider that a camera crew -- and eventually the entire nation -- will be watching you blow a week’s worth of cash on a single rogue Target trip?)

Exploring Universal Basic Income

The documentary, currently featuring the working title “Bootstraps: A Basic Income Film,” will explore the concept of a universal basic income, or UBI.

For those of you wondering, a UBI is defined by the Basic Income Earth Network as “a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.”

The concept is that everyone in a society, regardless of prior means, education level, career, family size, relationship status -- anything at all -- is given a weekly stipend that covers basic living expenses, paid out in such a way that they are not limited in its spending.


The brains behind the operation, Deia Schlosberg and Conrad Shaw, are looking for a diverse group of people from across the country to film. The pair is passionate about the idea of a UBI, and they argue a film will speak to the hearts of the American people in a way that no academic research or paper possibly could

Schlosberg and Shaw are aiming to have the film finished by the time the 2020 election rolls around, as they hope it will be a good opportunity to sway the American people with a humanized approach that provides solid logistical evidence that a UBI is beneficial to society as a whole.

The documentary will focus on how the volunteers use their weekly income, and how their lives are changed by having their baseline living expenses covered.

By removing the regular financial stressors from each person’s life, the filmmakers hope to answer a pretty big question: “If you had the freedom to be independent of and unbeholden to any other person or employer for a source of life-sustaining income -- the freedom from fear of homelessness and hunger -- what would you dare to pursue?”

So far, the team behind the film has crowd-funded $50,000 to kickstart the project -- enough to cover two people with a UBI of $250 per week for two years. They hope to eventually broaden the experiment to include 20 participants.

If you’re interested in volunteering to be featured in the documentary (or if you just want more info on the crazy world of UBIs), go to the film’s website here. To apply, select the “contact” tab at the top of the page and follow the instructions located there.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s already planning her documentary-viewing weekend for the year 2020.

The death of the dinner party is one of the greatest tragedies of our generation. (Just kidding. Everything is terrible.)

The reality is it’s just too expensive (and stressful) to cook a full meal for 12 people. And you can pretty much forget about all of your friends being able to spring for an extra dinner out at the same time — which gets even pricier if they have kids and need to hire sitters.

But friendship and food are as integral to the human condition as saving enough money to, ya’ know, pay your bills and stuff. So what if I told you there was a way to have your cake (for free!) and eat it, too?

Well, in an effort to bring back the dinner party without all the stress and $$$ involved in a Betty Draper-style affair, I present for your consideration: the dinner potluck.

In Defense of the Potluck Dinner Party

If the word “potluck” conjures up visions of sweet old ladies sampling 15 variations of the same tuna casserole, it’s time to redefine the group dining experience.

Here, you’ll find tips for organizing the perfect potluck so you can stop stressing and spending -- and just enjoy the meal.

1. Create a Guest List

This should be your first consideration. Are you inviting your book club? The parents from your kid’s play date group? People from your Thursday night cornhole league? A weird amalgamation of every friend group you’ve ever been a part of?

Whoever they are, the people you invite are going to set the tone for your evening, and it’s easier to make some decisions, like a theme and location, based on the guest list.

Also, don’t forget that brunch can be a potluck. Instead of going out on the weekend and dropping $50 on mimosas, invite your brunch-y friends over and ask them to bring a shareable breakfast-y dish!

2. Pick a Theme

[caption id="attachment_55030" align="alignnone" width="1200"] The Penny Hoarder hosted a pot luck on March 30, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

A potluck without a theme is like a 3-year-old’s storytelling: plotless and mildly frustrating.

To avoid the weird plate combination of seven-layer taco dip, salmon mousse tartlets and ambrosia salad (why?!), pick a theme for the night that your guests can work within. Something broad like Italian or Thai will bring about one cohesive meal, but if you’re feeling a little adventurous, make the theme as specific as “tomatoes” or “street food.” This will force people to get pretty creative!

You could also make it a game, such as having everyone bring their own variation of mac and cheese, or assign each dish a number and anonymously vote on the best at the end of the night. Winner gets a prize! (Or gets to take all the cheesy leftovers home.)

3. Send Out a Sign-up Sheet

Use a site like Signup Genius or Perfect Potluck to make it simple to coordinate dishes. The host fills in details like location, dish suggestions, and any food allergies or dietary restrictions the group should be aware of, and the guests sign up for whatever they want to bring.

Make sure to include cups, plates, napkins and plasticware on the sign-up sheet! Unless you want to shell out for paper products or spend the next four days of your life washing dishes, let guests sign up to bring these items as well.

Note: If you’re a micromanager, the potluck party format may not be for you. The fun of potlucks is seeing the variety and creativity your guests bring to the table — literally. Make sure you have all the categories covered: appetizers, sides, main dishes, desserts and drinks. Then, let your guests do the rest. Don’t worry about creating a specific menu.

4. Make Some Rules

[caption id="attachment_55025" align="alignnone" width="1200"] The Penny Hoarder hosted a pot luck in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Alright, so a few rules can’t hurt.

Ask your guests to bring their own serving spoons (and serving dishes if you’re trying to get a little fancy), along with a food storage container from home. That way, they can take advantage of any leftovers without you having to hunt down your entire Tupperware collection later on.

Request that no one brings anything they need to cook on-site. You should limit oven use to “warming.” There’s no bigger bummer than setting out a freshly cooked dish after everyone is already stuffed!

Also, remind your guests that a potluck dish doesn’t need to feed the whole party. A four-person serving goes pretty far when each guest is sampling a little bit of everything.

5. Focus on the Setup, Not the Food

Since the guests will cover the majority of the food, you can spend your time focusing on your home. Tidy up, set up extra tables and chairs, and prep the kitchen for the food — but don’t go wild deep cleaning.

The point of a potluck is a casual gathering of friends, not a formal, crazy-making dinner party!

Hook up a power strip so guests can plug in slow cookers if needed, create a pour-your-own drink station (low-maintenance party = low-maintenance drinks), set out trivets and extra spoons (people will forget, trust me), and provide a stack of notecards and pens for people to label their dishes with when they arrive.

6. Have a Good Time

[caption id="attachment_55032" align="alignnone" width="1200"] The Penny Hoarder hosted a potluck in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

And then chill out — because you’re not cooking eight different dishes — and wait for your guests to arrive! Make yourself readily available in the kitchen for last-minute setup and “hey, do you have an extra…” questions, but don’t spend your whole evening in there.

All you need to worry about is chatting with your guests and enjoying your budget-friendly, low-maintenance, stress-free dinner party.

Besides, it’s easy to relax when you know that cleanup consists of a trash bag and a quick kitchen wipe down -- and, oh yeah, that final awkward attempt at getting the lingerer to pack up their dish and get out so you can get back to your latest Netflix binge.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s dreaming of a potluck dinner made up of only brownies.

Google might be your new go-to job-hunting site.

That’s right: the minds behind the scarily accurate and infamously algorithmic search engine that helps you locate a “sugar-free high-fat banana muffin recipe” (or any other piece of conceivable information in this universe) with ease will now help you find your next job.

The company is rolling out a new tool, called Google for Jobs, that will allow you to search jobs across the internet in one move -- just by typing a query into the search bar.

Simplifying the Process

An important feature of Google for Jobs, and one that is decidedly absent from many other job search sites, is its ability to pull job openings in the retail and service industries (along with other non-office positions) -- something that job hunters had to seek out singularly before now.

While announcing the tool at the company’s developer conference on Wednesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the goal is “to better connect employers and job seekers,” which the company plans to do by making a broader range of job openings more readily visible.

The folks at Google believe there is a code to be cracked when it comes to matching job seekers to available positions, and they’re determined to find the formula that will make the job hunt less complex.

Redefining the Job Hunt

But even with (or, really, because of) its broader scope, the revolutionary job search engine will still return refined and fairly pinpointed results.

Google for Jobs will allow you to narrow your search with a series of filters. Job seekers can start with a general search term, such as “retail jobs,” before sorting by full-time or part-time, category, title or the date the job was posted.

Google will also be adding an option to narrow your search by commute time. (Because honestly, who among us enjoys sitting in rush-hour traffic?)

Pinchai emphasized that Google for Jobs is not aiming to clobber the job-hunting software market but to enhance it. The company actually partnered with several of the sites you’re probably already using, including Glassdoor and LinkedIn, in an attempt to create a brand-new job-hunting experience.

Google for Jobs will be launching over the next several weeks, and we’ll be back to update you with new information that may help you with your own job search.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Graduation season means graduation gifts -- and while we’re rooting for those high school seniors who are heading out into the real(ish) world, we’re also rooting for our wallets and their ability to get us through the month.

Money is a classic (and always appreciated) graduation gift, but if you know more than a few high schoolers who are graduating this spring, you’ll end up dropping some big bucks as you send them all out into the big wide world.

You could bust your budget by slapping serious cash into every cheesy “ConGRADulations!” card you had out, or you could try to be a bit more original.

10 Inexpensive High School Graduation Gift Ideas

Whether you aim to inspire, offer practical help or just provide a small comfort from home, these 10 inexpensive graduation gifts are great for when you want to give something more personalized to a college-bound teen.

1. Books

[caption id="attachment_56618" align="alignnone" width="1200"] patpitchaya/Getty Images[/caption]

Stay away from the cliche (admit it: you know exactly which Dr. Seuss installment I’m talking about).

Instead, gift a book that means something to you -- one with important themes or life lessons that will serve your grad well as they head into the next phase of life.

Bonus points if you highlight your favorite sections or write notes in the margins for them to discover.

2. “Open When…” Letters and Gifts

[caption id="attachment_56619" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Melpomenem/Getty Images[/caption]

Create a series of letters or small gifts for your grad to “open when…” they’re sad, stressed, excited, lonely -- and everything in between. Anything goes here, but ideas include:

  • Fill a tiny box with confetti and label it “open when you want to celebrate!”
  • Write an encouraging note and label it “open when you think you bombed that final”
  • Put a few dollars in an envelope and label it “open when you need pizza NOW”
  • Write out a list of songs to jam to and label it “open when you need to dance it out”
  • Fill a notebook with inside jokes and funny sayings and label it “open when you need a laugh”

It’s almost as good as being there in person to help them through some big life events.

3. T-Shirt Quilt

[caption id="attachment_56620" align="alignnone" width="1200"] lowe99/Getty Images[/caption]

If you’re close enough to the graduate that you have access to their high school club or sports T-shirts (and are handy with a needle and thread), try creating a T-shirt quilt that will provide them with fun memories every time they look at it.

4. A Handy Kit

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Try one of these options for a handy kit you can throw together in case of a dorm “emergency.”

  • Laundry Kit: Load up a laundry bag with detergent packs, dryer sheets, wrinkle-release spray and some quarters for the machines
  • De-Stress Kit: Fill with cozy socks, a mug and tea, a stress ball, an encouraging note and a funny movie
  • Dorm Survival Kit: Earplugs, a sleep mask, a gift card for a local pizza place -- anything that will make dorm-life a little easier

5. Gas Station Gift Cards for Visiting Home

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Include a note about how much you’ll miss them, and you’ve suddenly turned gas money into a sweet and thoughtful gift.

6. Hometown-Themed Decor

[caption id="attachment_56623" align="alignnone" width="1200"] BabyCakeLane/Etsy[/caption]

Give your grad something that reminds them of home, like this cute sharpied mug or a wall hanging (check out number three here!) in the shape of their home state.

7. A Potted Plant

[caption id="attachment_56624" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

A hardy plant makes a great gift for a grad: give them something to nurture while brightening up their new space -- a win-win!

8. Budgeting Tools

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Unless they were one of the lucky few who actually received some financial guidance in high school, your graduate will need a crash course in making (and sticking to) a budget.

Give them the tools they need to be in charge of their finances -- they’ll thank you later.

9. “I Need ______” Postcards

[caption id="attachment_56625" align="alignnone" width="1200"] luvbeachgirl/Zazzle[/caption]

Design your own version of these postcards and gift a stack of pre-stamped and addressed cards for them to mail when they’re craving a taste of home. (If they’re not all that into cookies, you can fill in the blank with whatever they crave.)

After your grad gets to their dorm (and feels a little homesick), they can pop one in the mail and wait for treats to arrive.

10. Signed Photo Book

[caption id="attachment_56626" align="alignnone" width="1200"] shutterfly.com[/caption]

Sites like Groupon and Shutterfly often have coupon codes for discounted custom photo books.

Put together a book filled with photos of the graduate with their friends and family members and then ask everyone to write notes, stories and jokes inside for the grad to read when they need a fun pick-me-up.

And if you still think your favorite soon-to-be college student needs a little help in the financial department, check out our best money tips for college students for info on everything from paying tuition to making a little extra on the side (because pizza budget).

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She wishes someone had given her a book on budgeting when she left for college.

On the fateful (to a select group of college students) night of May 6, Nicki Minaj proved once again that she is the queen we suspected her to be.

While holding a contest on Twitter that would end with one lucky fan being flown to Las Vegas to join her at the Billboard Music Awards, Minaj suddenly switched gears and started paying peoples’ college tuition and loans.

And now, after making payments on at least eight students’ balances and documenting it on her Instagram (and promising to go on another payment spree later this year), Minaj has announced plans to launch an official charity for student loans and tuition payments soon.

This makes me so happy. [A few from the other day] I'll do another impromptu payment spree in a month or 2 but pls know that I'm launching my official charity for Student Loans/Tuition Payments VERY SOON! You'll be able to officially sign up! I'll keep you posted! 🎀

A post shared by Nicki Minaj (@nickiminaj) on

In the same Instagram post, she noted fans will be able to officially sign up and promised to keep them in the loop on the program’s progress.

Other than that, Minaj provided no real details on when -- or how -- the financial aid will roll out.

But as soon as we hear some more details, we’ll let you know.

In the meantime, check out this post to learn everything you need to know about your student loans, from FAFSA to repayment, or this one, where you’ll find a list of 100 college scholarships to apply for this year.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Before we celebrate moms on their much-deserved holiday this weekend, let’s take a minute to talk about some of the other (often overlooked) MVPs of the child-raising world: the babysitters.

The babysitters step in to care for the kids when the parents are at work, away from home or just in need of a blessed night out without a 2-year-old throwing a breadstick at a waiter’s head. (Hey, it happens.)

May 13 is National Babysitter’s Day, and so, to mark the occasion, we’re getting down to the nitty gritty of it all with the question that has plagued moms and dads everywhere from the minute they entered parenthood: How much are you supposed to pay the babysitter?

After asking a variety of sources, I’m afraid I have to report there’s no one answer to this question -- but that doesn’t mean there aren’t guidelines you can follow to determine an hourly rate that works for both you and the babysitter.

Good Babysitters are Worth the Money

I have to point out that while a date night sitter seems expensive when you focus on the fact that you might have to pay a high schooler more than minimum wage *gasp* -- it’s really not all that crazy. (Although some people beg to differ.)

Not only are you asking a person to provide a service catered specifically to your family, you are entrusting your kids’ livelihoods to this person. And I tend to think that’s worth more than the $5 per hour I’ve been offered (and turned down without a second thought) before.

So how do you figure out a fair and competitive hourly wage that will not only work for your budget, but will foster a good relationship with your sitter?

Identify a Jumping-Off Point

First, find out the average hourly rate for babysitters in your area. This doesn’t necessarily have to be your final figure, but it gives you a good jumping off point and ensures that you won’t low-ball (or maybe even overpay) your babysitter.

While the national average hourly rate in 2016 for a babysitter was $15.71, rates can vary greatly from state to state -- and even city to city.

Care.com has a calculator you can use to find the average hourly rate where you live by plugging in your zip code.

[caption id="attachment_56373" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Babysitter Jacquelyn Pica, center, and sisters Chance Rabin, 10, left, and Verity Rabin, 11, play some cords at Play Performing Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

5 Factors to Consider

Once you have an idea of the expected hourly rate in your area, consider these other factors that may influence how much a babysitter should be paid:

1. Number of Children

A lot of babysitters negotiate their hourly rate based on the number of children they’ll be taking care of.

Carrie Pinson Harville, a member of The Penny Hoarder Community Group on Facebook, notes her daughters charge a base rate of $10 per hour for two children and an additional $2 per hour for each child after that.

Either way, know that the more children you leave in the sitter’s care, the more you should be willing to pay.

2. Experience

More experienced babysitters often charge more for their services -- just like in any profession. And these days, it’s not uncommon to find a babysitter with serious childcare credentials.

Stephen McDermott, an IT Director here at The Penny Hoarder, told me that he has even hired a post-grad student finishing her MBA and a teacher to babysit his son.

TPH Executive Editor Alexis Grant went a different route by hiring a teen, but she emphasized the high school junior had a lot of babysitting experience, saying that she is “definitely willing to pay more for someone with experience.”

Whether it’s a few years of practical experience or an advanced degree, make sure to weigh your needs against their skill level when deciding on a fair hourly wage.

3. Location and Transportation

You’re not obligated to pay your sitter’s cost of transportation to and from your home -- that comes with the territory of having a job.

However, if they’re going to be chauffeuring your kids around town in their own car, you should be prepared to offer a transportation or gas stipend. The IRS standard mileage reimbursement is set at 53.5 cents per mile for 2017 (although you and your sitter can work out a system you both agree on.)

On the other hand, if you have to pick up and drop off the sitter at their home (as is the case with a lot of younger teens), feel free to pay a little less than you would pay, say, a highly sought-after, experienced sitter who you have to entice to drive an hour round-trip every time.

4. Responsibilities

If your sitter is expected to pick up the kids from soccer practice, help them with their homework, make dinner and clean up afterward and then do a bedtime routine, you should be ready to pay more for that type of service.

Erin O’Neill, our People and Culture Manager, pays her babysitter just over the local hourly average and says, “good babysitters are hard to come by … so it's worth every penny. She engages with the kids -- that's important.”

If your sitter shows up after the kids are in bed and watches a movie until you get back, it’s OK to offer a little less.

Just be sure to discuss these expectations during the interview process -- if you’re hoping the sitter will run a load of towels or vacuum the living room while you’re out, let them know that you’re willing to pay more if they’re willing to help out with general housework.

5. Schedule

If you only need your babysitter for four hours, once a week, in the middle of the afternoon, you don’t necessarily need to pay as much as if you’re trying to lock in someone who is willing to watch your kids on weekend evenings or important holidays, like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

Justin Cupler, one of our editors (and a dad), notes rates “can go up if we need the sitter for an unusually long time or late at night.”

It’s also a good idea to offer a little bonus on holidays or when you accidentally keep the sitter late, like that time you promised to be home by 10 p.m. but a flat tire kept you out until midnight.

The bottom line is you have to pay more for convenience -- and prime babysitting time.

Tally it Up

Once you have a number in mind that you believe is fair and competitive, talk to the potential sitter -- and don’t shy away from a little negotiation.

The key here is communication: make sure that you are expressing your points clearly and that you fully understand the sitter’s needs. There’s nothing more uncomfortable (for either of you) than having to discuss payment at the end of the night.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. As a babysitter, she endured her fair share of uncomfortable money situations -- and she’s here to (try to) help.

If you’re looking for a job, you might want to take your resume over to your nearest Costco.

Why? Well, the popular warehouse giant was just named America’s Best Employer of 2017 (plus, it’s one of those companies that seems to be constantly hiring).

Better Than Google?!

Forbes, in conjunction with Statista, asked 30,000 employees from large companies across the U.S. this important question: On a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to recommend your employer to a friend or family member?

They also asked employees to evaluate their companies based on pay, workplace condition and environment and culture.

Of the 500 companies that made the list, Costco came in first, with a score of 9.58 out of 10.

In 2016, Costco ranked third on the list, with Marathon Petroleum claiming the number one spot and Google nabbing number two. This year, Google again comes in at a close second, while REI makes its first-ever appearance on the list at third place with a score of 9.53.

And yeah, this does indeed mean that Costco is now considered a better company to work for than the infamous-for-employee-happiness (and for replacing stairs with slides) Google.

How Costco Was Named the Best Company to Work For

So what is it that makes Costco such an awesome place to work?

In short: everything.

Costco is known for providing even its part-time employees with some pretty great benefits, including health coverage, dependent care assistance programs and 401(k) plans.

The company also offers a starting pay of $13 per hour, with cashiers earning an average of $14.44 per hour, according to Glassdoor.

Costco’s President and CEO, Craig Jelinek, has been vocal in the past about raising the federal minimum wage, saying that “it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty.”

(The strategy seems to be working -- or at least so says Costco’s number one ranking this year.)

And because the company tends to “hire from within,” it’s not unheard of for a long-term employee to end up earning a six-figure salary.

If you’re interested in working for the Best Employer of 2017, you can check out all of Costco’s career opportunities here, or find a location near you and search current openings.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Recently, I’ve fallen in love with the a certain all-natural, handmade, ethically-sourced bath bomb distributor.

(I know, I’m late to the party.)

But then I discovered their lip scrubs. Game over: I was hooked.

I mean, what’s not to love? These products work well, smell incredible and are easy on the conscience since they’re Earth- and animal-friendly.

But you know what they’re not very friendly to? My wallet.

Yep. Those natural, handmade products often come with a pretty hefty price tag -- which is exactly what my budgeting app reminded me as I left the store with a bag full of pampering soaps, lotions and scrubs that would last me, at best, a few days.

“You’ve exceeded your monthly limit for ‘just for fun’ spending,” it warned -- forcing me to drive home with that horrible, guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

So in the interest of not giving myself a buyer’s-remorse-induced ulcer -- and of keeping my budget on track -- I decided a little DIY session was in order.

After doing some research (and cross-checking my pantry for the necessary ingredients), I mixed up my own DIY lip scrub at home. And then, because it was so easy, I made a few more -- switching up the ingredients and flavors each time because ya’ girl likes options.

After a bit of experimentation, I finally landed on a recipe that I love (and can change up to suit my mood) -- and it costs literally pennies to make.

The Only DIY Lip Scrub Recipe You Really Need

[caption id="attachment_56013" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]diy lip scrub Penny Hoarder writer Grace Schweizer tries out one of her DIY lip scrubs.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

For any lip scrub, you need two basic ingredients: an exfoliating agent and a moisturizing medium.

Your exfoliating agent can be pretty much anything you find in your pantry that is granulated and coarse: sugar, salt, ground coffee -- even something like cornmeal would work here!

As for the oil, it’s up to you which one you like best, although olive oil, coconut oil and jojoba oil are the most popular options. (I stick to the first two, because jojoba oil doesn’t come cheap and also shouldn’t be ingested -- and with a sugary-sweet lip scrub, anything can happen.)

So how do you make lip scrub at home?

For the most basic version, you’ll need:

  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Mix them together until it reaches a goopy-but-not-runny consistency -- and that’s it! Seriously, so easy (and no trip to the store involved).

Put Your Own Twist on This Homemade Lip Scrub

[caption id="attachment_56015" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]diy lip scrub Penny Hoarder writer Grace Schweizer made 4 DIY lip scrubs that feature cinnamon, cocoa powder, coffee and strawberries.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Now, while this recipe is perfect on its own (and so simple), I started to miss the funky flavors and colors in the lip scrubs I used to buy from the store -- so I mixed up a few more batches, and man, I’m really excited about these.

For each flavor combination, I mixed equal parts dry and wet ingredients to keep the texture goopy. You don’t want it to be too dry, because it won’t stick, or too wet, because it won’t exfoliate very well.

For a chocolate fix, mix up brown sugar, coconut oil and a little bit of cocoa powder.

For a lip scrub that will wake you up in the morning, try ground coffee, granulated sugar and coconut oil.

I also mixed up a cinnamon lip scrub (which acts as a natural lip plumper) with a little bit of cinnamon, brown sugar and coconut oil. If you don’t like cinnamon, you can use cayenne pepper instead.

And if you want to make a lip scrub without coconut oil, try making one with honey, granulated sugar and a little squeeze of lemon juice. (I also tried adding a pureed strawberry to this one for a strawberry lemonade flavor, and it was so good.)

DIY Lip Scrub Container Options

[caption id="attachment_56016" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]diy lip scrub Penny Hoarder writer Grace Schweizer scoops a lip scrub into a plastic travel container.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Once you’ve mixed up your lip scrub, you’ll need somewhere to store it.

I happened to have a couple of those tiny jam jars sitting around, so I used those, but you could also use an old makeup product tin (just be sure to clean and sanitize it), baby food jars, empty spice jars or just one of those sauce-sized food storage containers.

All of the lip scrubs on this list can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks (except maybe the strawberry one -- I’d use it sooner than later since strawberries don’t stay fresh very long).

When you’re ready to use your DIY lip scrub to exfoliate your lips, simply scoop a little out of the container with your fingertips, massage onto your lips using circular, scrubbing motions, and then wipe (or, ya know, lick) it off.

Follow it up with your favorite lip balm to lock in the softness and the moisturizing power of the oil.

Just make sure you’re not over-exfoliating! Stick to once or twice a week -- any more and you’ll create a vicious cycle of overcorrection and dry, chapped lips (which sort of defeats the purpose).

Your Turn: What’s the best lip scrub flavor combo you can come up? Share your ideas in the comments!

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

The Class of 2017 is over-expectant and underskilled.

At least, that’s what a recent survey conducted by iCIMS Inc., a recruiting-software company, suggests.

The results of the survey, collected from a pool of 401 recruiters and 401 college seniors, show that while new job seekers’ expectations are higher than ever before, the education, training and skills required to land an entry-level position in an increasingly competitive job market are lacking -- and employers are noticing.

Aim High (But Be Realistic)

College seniors are seriously over-expecting when it comes to their starting salaries, according to the survey.

More than half of the students surveyed said they expect to earn more than $50,000 at their first post-college job (with 12% saying they expected to earn upwards of $75,000).

But the average salary recruiters are willing to pay an entry-level employee tops out at $45,361 -- a far cry from the average of $53,000 new recruits expect to earn.

The study also revealed that while 61% of recruiters say they are most interested in hiring (and paying higher salaries to) candidates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, a pretty slim (by comparison) 23% of college seniors surveyed will be graduating with a degree in any of the STEM fields.

But that may not be a make-it-or-break-it factor as far as securing a job goes. While 87% of recruiters agreed that a four-year college degree would make an entry-level job seeker instantly competitive, when it comes to your major, recruiters are a bit more flexible.

A sizeable 82% of recruiters surveyed said that they frequently hire entry-level candidates whose college majors do not directly reflect the open position.

Trudy Steinfeld, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs & Executive Director of the Wasserman Center for Career Development at New York University, notes employers “are looking for trainable candidates. If you have 60% of the skills they need, they can teach you the rest.”

What will hurt your job prospects? Not having a degree at all. Eighty-one percent of recruiters surveyed said they frequently screen out candidates who hold no degree whatsoever.

Learn How to Interview

But if a degree will get you through a round of resume-grazing, what are employers looking for during the interview and hiring process?

While more than 90% of college seniors responded they were “confident” in their interviewing skills, recruiters stressed that entry-level job seekers have a ways to go on interview preparedness.

Here are the ways employers said potential candidates need to improve:

  • 62% said candidates should become more familiar with the company and industry
  • 60% said they should focus on asking questions relevant to the position
  • 59% said they need to improve body language, such as posture or facial expressions
  • 57% encouraged job seekers to speak clearly about past experiences
  • 55% cited dressing appropriately
  • 53% said candidates should avoid negative language throughout the interview process

While the job hunt process has changed drastically over the last few decades, recruiters all agreed on one thing: Sending a thank you note after your interview can make you stand head and shoulders above the competition.

In fact, a whopping 74% of potential employees don’t even bother to follow up with a note after a job interview -- and that’s a big mistake.

Whether it’s an email (for a more casual office environment), a promptly delivered, hand-written note or a direct connection through LinkedIn or another employee, be sure to follow up with the hiring manager who interviewed you. It leaves a lasting impression and may be the final decision maker between you and an equally qualified candidate.

Brush Up On Your Skills

So as you’re getting ready for your next big interview, here are some things to focus on:

Brush up on this list of 20 common job interview questions -- rehearsing straightforward, well thought-out answers to the questions on this list will give you the extra boost you need when your mind is blanking during the interview.

Then, make sure you’ve mastered these eight simple (but high impact) skills that will make your resume shine.

Finally, avoid making any of these major mistakes during your interview (like answering a text message -- yikes!). They’re instant dealbreakers.

But if you’ve done your homework, spruced up your resume and practiced, practiced, practiced, then it’s time to take a deep breath, let your personality shine through and convince those hiring managers that you’re the right choice.

And if you need something to dispel the nerves, here are five interview horror stories that will make you feel so much better about your own job hunt.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Imagine, if you will: You’re in bed, eight hours into a deep Netflix binge, when suddenly -- you realize you’re hungry. Like, really hungry.

So you pull out your phone, find the best late-night UberEats locale and order a spread fit for a stoned college kid: onion rings, loaded nachos, Buffalo chicken bites, a double order of mozzarella sticks and, to top it all off, a heaping bucket of shame.

Twenty minutes later, the delivery driver shows up at your door. You grab the bag, shout “food’s here!” to an empty house (you’re not fooling anyone -- we know it’s all for you) and start to close the door.

But the driver’s not budging. He stands frozen, a look of awkward expectancy on his face. Is he waiting on something? Why is he holding out his hand? What’s going on?

A tip. A tip is what’s going on. Our friend the delivery driver is waiting for you to hand him a little extra cash for his trouble.

Tipping is Cool, Kids

In case you consider tipping optional these days, it’s really not. Tipped workers bring home just over $10 an hour on average, and in many states, the hourly minimum wage for tipped workers is as low as $2.13. That means that your server or bartender could rely on tips for 75% or more of their income. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford the service.

But in a day and age when practically every company seems to include a tip option on your bill or have it conveniently built into an online interface, it’s easy to forget, or simply not realize, when a tip is actually appropriate.

I’m here to tell you that tipping is still appropriate and appreciated in all the same old situations,  and thanks to some innovative conveniences (think: grocery and food delivery services), a few new ones.

So to quell the tipping confusion (and as a refresher for those of us who are still tipping like it’s 1995), here’s a handy guide that will answer the four Ws of tipping: who, when, where and why.

To determine proper tipping, I scoured online message boards geared toward people in the service industry and checked (and triple-checked) my numbers with my Penny Hoarding co-workers, who have collectively worked just about every job in the industry.

The Ultimate Guide to Tipping

Here are some numbers to keep in mind next time you’re out and about.

Food Service

Servers at sit-down restaurants: 20% for average service; more if the service is exceptional or you linger awhile, especially if it’s over something like a $2 bottomless mug of coffee; and no less than 10% for bad service. If it was truly horrible service, feel free to speak to the manager about your experience.

Bartenders: $1 per drink ($2 if it’s a complicated cocktail) or 15-20% of your bar tab.

Food delivery drivers: 15-20%, but never less than $2, even on a cheap tab.

Takeout: It’s never required, but order takers always appreciate $1-2.

Counter service tip jars: Not required, but if you want to foster a relationship with your favorite barista, a couple dollars never hurts.

Buffets: 10% for whoever clears the table.


Valet: $3-5

Bellhop/curbside airport service: $2-3 per bag

Room service: If the hotel doesn’t include gratuity on your bill, you should tip 20%.

Housekeeping: $1-5 per day of your stay.

Taxi and Uber drivers: 20% of the fare.

AirBnb: Not necessary. A thank-you note and good review go a long way, though!

Beauty and Personal Care:

Hairdresser: 15-25% depending on how complicated or lengthy your service is.

Manicurist: 15-20%

Waxer: 20%

Spa services: 15-20%

Body piercer: $5

Tattoo artist: 20%


Grocery delivery service: 20% of the total bill; more if the weather is bad, or it’s a large load.

Laundry/dry-cleaning delivery: 15%

Dog groomer: 15-20%

Furniture/Large package delivery: $5-10 per person.

Movers: $20 per mover -- more if the drive was long.

Tow truck driver: $5-10

Being Bad at Math is No Excuse

Pro tip (hah!): If you, like me, are really, really (I mean really) bad at math, you can download a tip calculator like this one. Just plug in a couple numbers, and it’ll tell you exactly how much to leave.

Another tip (hah! again) that has changed my life is this: When you get the bill at a restaurant, move the decimal point one place to the left, and then double the new number.

So if the bill comes out to $15.50, you would move the decimal point so that your new number reads 1.550. Then, you double the new number, getting $3.10. Voila, a 20% tip.

Remember, while we love a good deal (and a good coupon!) here at The Penny Hoarder, you should always tip on the pre-discounted amount. If you use a coupon for a salon visit, your tip should be a percentage of the regularly priced service.

Your Turn: How do your tipping habits compare to our guide?

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’ll never admit to having a double order of mozzarella sticks delivered -- but if she did, she’d also want you to know she didn’t forget the tip.