ScoreCard Research Jacquelyn Pica - The Penny Hoarder

Certain things in life just belong together: peanut butter and jelly, coffee and cream, bread and butter, and Sarah and Andrew Roehm.

After being together for over six years, this is obvious to anyone who knows them. I’ve been friends with them for a few years and was excited to finally attend their wedding.

The ceremony was gorgeous: it was at a nature preserve in Florida, complete with large oak trees swaying in the breeze, cows grazing and mooing in a nearby pasture, a charming farmhouse and large picnic-style wooden tables adorned with handmade woodland decorations.

Attending a wedding you genuinely enjoy is one thing, but once I found out how little they paid, I was shocked.

They accomplished their dream wedding with a total of 130 people in attendance -  for less than $7,000.

And no, they didn’t sacrifice the booze.

Check out the breakdown of their costs, and how they saved thousands on their dream wedding.  

They Crafted a Vision

[caption id="attachment_59807" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

The couple says taking the time to hone in and agree on a wedding day theme is the first step to lowering expenses. It keeps you from buying unnecessary items that probably won’t even be used.

“We like a lot of different things, and that’s where people can spend too much money because they don’t have a conclusive theme,” says Sarah.

They decided on an outdoor wedding with a rustic, woodland feel that was representative of their personalities.

A month after they became engaged, they started purchasing things for the wedding.

“We knew being 30 plus [years old], the majority of the cost was going to be on us,” Andrew says. “After our monthly expenses, we planned to invest X amount of our paychecks into wedding stuff.”

There wasn’t any specific budget -- their method was to spend what they could afford at the time. After each paycheck, they’d spend a percentage of their income on wedding items relevant to their theme, depending on what they could afford that month.

Staying focused on their theme helped the couple narrow down their choices, even on simple purchases like table decor. Before buying anything, they would always ask, “Is this representative of us, and does it fit our theme?”

Andrew credits this focus as their main decision-maker: the item either did or didn’t fit their theme. If it didn’t fit, they wouldn’t buy it. “No, Andrew, having a roulette table doesn’t fit our theme,” Sarah said at one point.

They Purchased Wedding Party Gifts Online

[caption id="attachment_59810" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

You don’t need to go all out on gifts for the bridal party. Plus, smaller gifts with some thought behind them can go a lot further than one large, expensive thing that might not feel as personal.

For her bridal party gifts, Sarah used Etsy to find customizable pieces at an affordable price: she purchased hand-stitched robes for $17 each. She also made necklaces with supplies she bought from Michael’s.

Instead of buying a large gift for each of his groomsmen, Andrew purchased small, personalized gifts from Amazon and Etsy. For example: a nice tie (on sale, of course), graphic socks “relevant to each guy’s interests,” monogrammed handkerchiefs and Alexander Hamilton’s “Guide to Life.”

Alternative Wedding Bands

[caption id="attachment_59836" align="alignnone" width="800"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

As for wedding bands, both Sarah and Andrew wanted something unique: for Sarah it was opals. Andrew wanted some type of natural material with a weathered look.

They didn’t have a specific budget, but they knew alternative wedding rings would be more cost effective, as well as add a personal touch.   

They only spent a total of $500 on wedding bands. Sarah’s ring is an antique Victorian-era opal from a local shop in downtown St. Petersburg for $200. Andrew’s titanium band cost around $300 and was purchased online from Stag Head Design.

Andrew stresses the importance of finding alternatives to the traditional metals and diamonds, saying, “For both rings combined, it was a fraction of the cost of a diamond wedding band.”  

Make an Affordable Venue Work for You

[caption id="attachment_59816" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

The venue they chose was a ranch in Dade City, Florida, that cost $2,400. It was slightly off the beaten path but gorgeous nonetheless. Both the ceremony and reception were held at the ranch, which is completely outdoors.

Although this wasn’t their first choice, every other venue they came across was up to 10 times more expensive -- the next cheapest venue they looked into was $18,000.

At first, Sarah and Andrew thought this venue might have been “too country” for the type of wedding they wanted. But instead of paying more for a different spot, they accepted the challenge and made the venue fit their vision.

Their choice made sense “because they come with so much: wedding planners, seats, set up, etc. This one was so inexpensive because the woman who owned the ranch didn’t do anything for us,” Sarah says.

Since they didn’t provide any kind of setup, Sarah and Andrew’s friends and family came early to place everything.

What was included with the venue? Seating, tables and chairs for the reception and linens.

They Focused on the Most Important Pieces

[caption id="attachment_59817" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

In order to avoid unnecessary costs, Sarah and Andrew considered what was most important to them and cut anything that didn’t make that list, like wedding favors. Anything they decided to spend money on, they did so frugally.

This doesn’t mean the wedding lacked entertainment -- they had music, drinks, a fire pit with blankets, a hot chocolate bar and giant lawn-sized board games.

(Note: a fire pit and hot chocolate bar may seem out of place at an outdoor wedding in Florida, but it ended up being 44 degrees that January night.)

The flowers were purchased wholesale and all the decorations and bouquets were handmade, which led to a huge price drop. Sarah’s friends arranged the flowers and table decor based loosely off Pinterest photos.

Altogether, Sarah’s flowers were $350.

Sarah said she and her friends went to thrift stores at least once a week to find candlesticks, tablecloths and anything else they needed a lot of.

[caption id="attachment_59827" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

Sarah used Pinterest as inspiration, but not as an end-all-be-all guide. “It’s important, even with pins, to make it feel like you and not artificial,” she says.  

You could easily go crazy trying to make everything look like the photos on Pinterest, so try not to get caught up in that. Remember: nothing ever looks exactly like the photos.

They Reused Their Wedding Decor as Home Decor

Photos courtesy of Sarah Roehm and Marcoz and Miranda

My personal favorite tip the newlyweds have to offer? Invest in decor you’ll use to decorate your house.

They didn’t mind spending money on items that would double as home decor “because it will make home feel like home after the fact.”

They’ve stuck to this -- their new home is adorned with wedding decor and it’s uniquely them. If you’ve chosen a wedding theme that’s representative of your personal style, it should be easy to use to decorate your home.

Alternative Catering and Booze from Sam’s Club

Without a full kitchen at the venue, it would’ve been difficult to have a full-blown catering service even if they wanted to pay for it. Instead, they hired a burger food truck to come to the ranch.

The food truck was only $15 per person -- compared to the 2016 average catering price of $71 per person.  

“It was a neat touch that was obviously us,” Andrew says of their “catering.”

Having an open bar wasn’t important to them, but they didn’t want to completely sacrifice the alcohol.

They wanted champagne and wine so people could toast, as well as a few beer options. Instead of having an open bar, they featured two signature drinks: the groom’s choice of Moscow mules and the bride’s choice of cotton candy champagne cocktails.

They purchased all of the alcohol from Sam’s Club for around $500, and the venue included a bartender in its price. For comparison, the average price for an open bar service ranges from about $1,800 to $3,000 according to Value Penguin’s 2017 Survey.

They Asked for Help

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

Sarah says an important thing to remember when planning your wedding is not being afraid to ask for help. “If any of my friends had asked me to help out with things during their wedding, I wouldn’t have minded doing it,” she says.

Andrew credits the willingness of their talented friends to help out as the biggest thing that helped them cut costs.

Here are a few ways their friends pitched in:

  • As musicians themselves, Sarah and Andrew have a multitude of talented friends. They recruited six friends to play a few of the couple’s favorite songs during the ceremony.
  • One of the groomsmen built the archway they married under (pictured above). He cut down trees from his own backyard to make it.
  • The morning of their wedding, Sarah and Andrew’s friends arrived early to help set up decor and entertainment.
  • Instead of a wedding DJ, their friend from church emceed. (Well, he was in charge of the iPhone that housed all the music.) Armed with two playlists -- dinner and dancing -- Sarah and Andrew took weeks to hand pick every song. All they needed was an iPhone and a sound system, which they also borrowed from church.

They Were Honest About Their Budget

Almost every wedding photographer Sarah found quoted her $3,000, which was way over their budget. Finally, she found photographers willing to work with her after being honest and mentioning she couldn’t afford the advertised prices.

With a budget of $1,400, Sarah got two photographers for the entire wedding day plus an engagement shoot.

While this method worked for Sarah, we recommend setting a budget for photography ahead of time and asking prospective photographers what they can offer for your budget.

Just remember photographers need to make a living, too. While your budget is important, make sure it’s still realistic. Don’t expect a full professional photography package for a few hundred bucks and free drinks.

For videographers, Sarah recommends looking for film students at local colleges who would be willing to record your wedding for their portfolio. After posting they were in need of a wedding videographer on Facebook, they ended up with a local film student who only charged them $125.

Buy -- Don’t Rent

[caption id="attachment_59829" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

There seems to be a great debate between buying versus renting wedding clothes.

However, Andrew’s position holds strong: buy it. It’s cheaper than renting, and you’re spending money on something you’ll actually own and can wear again instead of paying to wear it for one night.

But remember, patience is key. He waited for the perfect sale to get the most for his money.  

Andrew knows Men’s Warehouse holds quarterly sales. Everything the groom and groomsmen wore was 50% off. What was going to be $300 per person ended up being $150, plus an extra 10% off for buying all five at once.

Sarah’s bridesmaids purchased their dresses from a variety of different places. Some got their dresses on sale from David’s Bridal, one bought her dress from eBay for $80 and another purchased an outfit from H&M.

The bridesmaids each got something of their own, and they didn’t even need to buy the same color dress.

A Major Splurge: The Dress

[caption id="attachment_59833" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Marcoz and Miranda[/caption]

Sarah’s dress was a sizable portion of their budget. She spent around $1,100 on both her dress and jacket.

If they really needed to, they could have cut wedding dress costs by shopping used or waiting for a good sample sale.

But when you find the right wedding dress, you just know. Sarah found her dress on an unplanned excursion to visit her mom in Tennessee. They went on a spontaneous dress browsing trip, and ended up leaving with one.

Luckily, Sarah was able to save on shoes because she didn’t wear any. Bonus for having a woodland themed wedding? No uncomfortable (and expensive) heels.

“Man Hours Versus Dollars”

Careful planning and patience allowed Sarah and Andrew to have their dream wedding at a price they could actually afford.

“We literally had our hands in every single choice and nothing felt out of place,” says Andrew of the wedding decor. Instead of hiring a wedding planner, Sarah and Andrew did everything themselves. Andrew describes this situation as a toss up between “man hours versus dollars” -- he obviously chose to put in the “man hours”.

“The thing that really saved our budget was how much we were willing to do. You can spend a lot of money on a wedding if you want to be catered to and not get your own hands dirty.”

Although planning played a huge role in making their wedding a reality, Andrew says it's important to keep a good perspective about the day.

"The only thing that needs to go exactly as planned is that we're still married to each other at the end of the day."

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder.

Ah, lazy Sundays. For some, this well-cherished day of the week is exciting for a reason besides relaxation — one that involves scissors and careful planning: weekly coupon inserts.

If you’re a Penny Hoarder, you might be into couponing, even if you’re not extreme. Everyone knows how awesome coupons can be for reducing your grocery bill, but you can only get so many of them. Is it possible to get more?

I’ve seen coupons listed on eBay, and there are websites that actually sell coupons. This got me thinking: Can you really buy and sell coupons?

Is it OK to Buy Coupons?

Short answer: no.

I spoke with Bud Miller, executive director of the Coupon Information Corp. (CIC), a nonprofit association that fights coupon misredemption and fraud. “Consumers should never pay money for coupons. Period,” he said.


All coupons have a non-transferability clause stating they are “void if transferred, bought, sold, traded, exchanged for cash, other coupons, or certificates,” says The Balance. You don’t have to take The Balance’s word for it — just look at any coupon and read the fine print.

I grabbed a Publix coupon insert last time I went grocery shopping, and the coupon terms stated, “Reproduction or transfer of this coupon constitutes fraud.”  

The CIC’s website states, “both coupon buyers and sellers open the door to potential litigation when they buy or sell coupons because they are in violation of the ‘non transferability’ clause.”

Being in violation of this clause means the coupon is void. Redeeming a voided coupon is considered redemption fraud, which is punishable by law.

“There is no universal coupon law,” said Miller. “Fortunately, the justice system’s laws are comprehensive enough that there doesn’t need to be one.”

Although there aren’t any laws specific to coupons, redeeming voided or altered coupons falls under fraud and misrepresentation.

Miller says once a customer redeems a voided coupon, it becomes a civil issue between the manufacturer, the seller of the coupon and the consumer who purchased the coupon.

Although it’s unlikely the issuing company would find out you are using a purchased coupon or pursue legal action against you, you still shouldn’t redeem a coupon that’s supposed to be void.

The rules are in place for good reason — to protect consumers, manufacturers and grocery stores.

Do You Really Know Where That Coupon Came From?

When you purchase coupons online, there’s no way to ensure they aren’t stolen or counterfeit.

In 2015, authorities arrested four South Carolina residents and charged them with second-degree burglary and larceny for allegedly stealing garbage bags full of coupons from a local newspaper distribution center to sell them online to unsuspecting super-couponers.

In 2012, a woman from Arizona was arrested for “the largest counterfeit-coupon enterprise in U.S. history,” according to local officials. She spent two years in prison and was ordered to pay $5 million in restitution. Miller worked with law enforcement on this case, in which authorities seized $40 million worth of counterfeit coupons. Phoenix police also seized more than $1.1 million in assets.

Redeeming a stolen or counterfeit coupon also constitutes fraud.

The retailer, ultimately, is the victim because it loses out on the money from the product.

“Theft is theft whether it’s a coupon or a car or anything else of value,” Miller said. “If a person knowingly purchases fake or counterfeit coupons, they can be charged as well.”

Consumers should also be cautious about whom they provide their information to, Miller warns. When you purchase coupons, you’re providing your name, address and financial information. Supplying this info could make you vulnerable to criminal activity, such as identity theft or credit card fraud.

Is it OK to Sell Coupons?

Some coupon-selling sites claim to have found a loophole to these rules by saying they’re charging money for the “service” of clipping and mailing coupons rather than selling coupons themselves. This way, you technically aren’t buying a coupon, and they aren’t selling it, so the coupon should still be valid.


Miller said the workaround originated on eBay, “and it caught on, making people think it was a magic phrase.” These disclaimers are invalid, he said, and don’t carry any weight.

EBay still allows users to sell and purchase coupons, but it states in its guidelines for selling coupons that “retailers might refuse to accept coupons that have been obtained in a way that violates the terms of the coupon.”

What About Extreme Couponers?

Shows like TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” set a high — and frankly unachievable — bar for the crazy discounts you can get just by using coupons.

For example, say there’s a coupon for $1 off of a $4.99 six-pack of iced tea. But instead of purchasing the six-pack the coupon is intended for, you use a known “glitch” to redeem the $1-off coupon on a 99-cent bottle of iced tea and essentially get the item for free.

Turns out, a few of the show’s contestants allegedly redeemed counterfeit coupons they purchased online. They also used another newer black-hat couponing tactic called bar code glitching, which occurs when consumers exploit errors or weaknesses in coupon bar codes to redeem coupons on items the manufacturer didn’t intend them for.

(Bar code glitching is now better known as “glittering,” an alternative name given since retailers caught on to the glitching groups.)

As you can see, the types of discounts you see on “Extreme Couponing” aren’t based in reality, they’ve been fraudulent at times, and thet should be taken with a grain of salt. I mean, aren’t we past thinking reality TV is actual reality?

The Bottom Line: Don’t Buy Coupons Online

Buying and selling coupons violates the manufacturer’s terms and can constitute fraud. Not only does the sale or transfer void the coupon, but you also don’t know if the coupons are even legitimate.

Miller says buying coupons hurts everyone. Manufacturers have to add more security to to catch coupon fraud, and retailers have to spend more time looking over every single coupon.

Because fraudulent coupons cost companies money, they can also result in the loss of jobs on the manufacturer’s end and less generous coupon offers, which affects consumers.

Companies also invest lots of money in market research that involves test distributions coupons to specific areas. If people sell these coupons, the test will fail, causing the company to either pay to redo the test or scrap distribution of the coupons altogether.

This doesn’t mean you can’t find legitimate coupons online: One of our favorite sites is You could also grab coupons from your local grocery store, directly from the brands or from any of these 99 places to find coupons. And all of these resources are free, as coupons should be.

Stay safe out there Penny Hoarders, and happy couponing!

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder.   

We’re all about ways to make extra money here at The Penny Hoarder. And one of the simplest ways is using paid survey sites.

You’re not going to make a fortune. But if you’re just sitting around watching TV anyway, why not make a few bucks?

Whenever we find out about a new survey site, we take if for a test drive before recommending it to our readers. Here’s what happened when we tried Valued Opinions...

The Penny Hoarder’s Valued Opinions Review

Valued Opinions is one of the easiest and highest paying survey sites I’ve ever used -- all of the surveys I took paid at least $1.50.

The surveys also stay true to the website’s name and goals -- it really does pay you for your opinions. I took surveys on tons of different topics, from my views on certain cultural trends to which video game consoles I’m interested in and why.

It also offered product testing as a way to earn extra money through its website.

Signing up is easy, and the layout of the website is inviting and simple to navigate. You fill out your personal info and the site determines which surveys you’re qualified to take.

When you first make your account, you’ll fill out different profiles about yourself, about topics like transportation, education, consumer habits, and others. The site uses this info to send you surveys you’ll almost always be qualified to take.

The image below is a what your dashboard looks like. Whenever there are available surveys, they’ll be listed in the “My Surveys” section.

I’ve already taken a few today, so my list is empty. I get around 2-4 emails every day with available survey options.

Once you finish a survey, the site usually prompts you to take a few more. I didn’t end up qualifying for all of them, but I was able to take quite a few.

Although you can’t redeem your survey money for actual cash, you can redeem it for a Visa gift card, or purchase gift cards for major retailers such as Macy’s, Nike and Amazon in $20 increments.

The site charges a $2 fee, which is why the $20 gift cards cost you $22. Luckily, the surveys pay well, so it won’t take long to earn that extra $2.

The lowest amount you can redeem is $10, but it’s for retailers like, which I don’t personally use, so I’m holding out for an Amazon card. I haven’t redeemed any awards yet, but the website states it emails you the gift card code within 24 hours.

Here’s a list of all the surveys I’ve taken within the last week. As I said before, these are some of the higher paying surveys I’ve seen out of the sites I’ve used.

None of them are under $1.50. The lowest one I saw, but ended up disqualifying for, was $1. They’re quick surveys, too -- most only took 15-20 minutes.

In a little over a week, I’ve earned $11.50.

At this pace, it’ll only take me another week to earn the $22 I need to cash out my rewards for the Amazon gift card I want.

With its high paying surveys, interesting topics and short survey times, Valued Opinions is definitely worth checking out if you want to make a few extra bucks on your spare time.

Jacquelyn Pica is an Editorial Intern at The Penny Hoarder.

Dads are incredible — they’re always there to fix things, whether it’s a broken pipe or a broken heart.

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 18. Have you made plans yet? If you haven’t, don’t worry! We have deals for you.

Already have plans? Take advantage of these freebies anyway -- free beer and ice cream never hurt anyone.

8 Penny Hoarder-Approved Father’s Day 2017 Freebies

Get free stuff for Dad by taking him to any of these eight places for Father’s Day 2017. Here’s what he could score.

1. Free Bag of Coffee at First Watch

If you bring your dad to First Watch for a meal Sunday, June 18, he’ll get a free small bag of premium coffee.

2. Free Meal at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

Dads get a free meal at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s on Sunday, June 18, with the purchase of another meal of equal or greater value. Doesn’t every dad deserve curly fries?

3. Free Firehouse Sub

Firehouse Subs is offering a coupon for a free medium sub with the purchase of an additional sub, side and drink.

4. Free Hooters Wings

Make your dad feel special this Father’s Day by taking him to Hooters, where you’ll get 10 free wings with the purchase of 10 wings and a beverage.

5. Free Pie at Shoney’s

Shoney’s has a special Father’s Day menu, and dads get a free slice of pie Sunday, June 18 -- contact your local restaurant for details on the free pie and flavor. The restaurant is also expanding its buffet on Sunday to include garlic shrimp, fried chicken, peach cobbler and more.

6. Free Meal at Spaghetti Warehouse

Dads eat free at Spaghetti Warehouse on Sunday, June 18! Dads can opt for the 15-layer lasagna or any of their original recipe spaghetti entrées.

7. Free Beer at World of Beer

World of Beer is offering dads a free select draught or $5 off this Sunday. Also, if you buy a Blue Moon, you get to keep the glass. Cheers!

8. Free Combo Meal at PDQ

On Sunday, June 18, dads get a free combo meal at PDQ with the purchase of any meal, including kids meals, all day long.

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder. She may or may not have already made plans for Father’s Day.

For millions of children, summertime isn’t a carefree vacation.

Children who receive free meals at school during the academic year often struggle to find similar support during the summer.

To curb this problem, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers the Summer Food Service Program to make sure low-income children still have access to nutritious meals over summer.

How big of an impact does the summer food program make? The USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals to children this summer at designated food sites in each state.

How to Access the USDA Summer Food Service Program

[caption id="attachment_58171" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Brittanee Harris serves bagged lunches to children at Northside Boys and Girls Club. "I think it's very important," said Harris. "It helps parents because they may not have the means to provide a lunch." Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

To find out if you meet the income requirements for free meals, check this chart here.

Free food sites range from schools to independently sponsored locations. Certain states have their own site maps and requirements, and the USDA provides a national location-finder map.

For information on sites near you, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8 HAMBRE for a Spanish-speaking operator. You can also text “FOOD” to 877-877 or “HAMBRE” to 877-877 for a reply in Spanish.

Read below to learn about how to find free meal sites in your state and application details, if necessary.

1. Alabama

Break for a Plate in Alabama provides two free meals each day to kids and teens up to 18 years old. To participate, use the location finder to search for programs in your area.   

2. Alaska

Find SFSP sites in Alaska by using the USDA map.

3. Arizona

The Arizona Department of Education’s website says that sites also provide low-cost meals for adults in addition to free meals for children. Use the location finder for spots in your area.

4. Arkansas

Arkansas requires parents to contact their child’s school to apply for the SFSP. Eligibility depends on income and household size. Use the USDA map for sites in your area.

5. California

Use the USDA map locate a food site near you.

6. Colorado

Call Colorado’s Hunger Free Hotline at 855-855-4626, or use the USDA map.

7. Connecticut

End Hunger Connecticut lists summer meal sites, as well as operating dates and times. The site currently says to check back mid-June for open locations.

8. Delaware

Use the USDA map to find SFSP locations in Delaware.

9. Florida

[caption id="attachment_58174" align="alignnone" width="1200"] A child eats a free sandwich at Northside Boys and Girls Club. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Florida’s Summer BreakSpot Program doesn’t require an application -- all you have to do is show up during mealtimes. Some sites also offer enrichment activities for children at a low cost, which you can find out about if you call the site ahead of time. Find local sites here.  

10. Georgia

To find local sites in Georgia, call 855-550-SFSP, text “FOODGA” to 877-877, or visit the national site finder.

11. Hawaii

Visit the summer food site map on to find the 2016 locations. The 2017 sites aren’t listed yet, but you can call Aloha United Way at 211 to find a local site. The income level limits are a bit higher for Hawaii than for other states.

12. Idaho

Use the national site finder to find locations in Idaho and contact them to apply for the SFSP. You could also call the Idaho Department of Education at 208-332-6821

13. Illinois

To apply for SFSP in Illinois, contact the state’s nutrition program office at 217-782-2491. Details are available here.

14. Indiana

Find local food sites in Indiana with this interactive map. You can even search by meal type or day of the week meals are offered.  

15. Iowa

Iowa’s website provides an alphabetical list of its food sites, or you could use the USDA locator.

16. Kansas

The Kansas Department of Education site provides a list of SFSP locations by city.

17. Kentucky

To find a summer meal service site in Kentucky, refer to the interactive USDA map.

18. Louisiana

Use the interactive USDA map to locate a food site near you.

19. Maine

For summer meal sites in Maine, refer to the interactive USDA map.

20. Maryland

Use the Maryland summer meals site search map to find a location near you. The map includes hours and days of operation, plus directions to each site.

21. Massachusetts says that to apply for SFSP in Massachusetts, contact a school near you. School contact information can be found here.   

22. Michigan

In Michigan, the SFSP is also known as “Meet Up and Eat Up.” Use the USDA map to find a location near you. This calendar lists additional events at food sites, such as ice-cream socials and family cookouts.

23. Minnesota

Minnesota Public Schools, which administers the state’s SFSP program, released a free app, Summer Eats Minnesota, to help kids find meal sites. The state has more than 80 sites, and kids under 18 don’t need to sign up in advance to take advantage of the program. The app even shows daily menus.

24. Mississippi

To apply for the SFSP, contact the Office of Child Nutrition at 601-354-7015. Once you’ve applied, use the USDA map to locate a food site near you.

25. Missouri

The Missouri Department of Health provides a map of summer food sites. It also has a mobile- friendly version of the map. Contact your local site to apply for the SFSP.  

26. Montana

To find free summer meals in Montana, use the interactive USDA map, or call the Montana Food Bank Network at 800-809-4752.

27. Nebraska

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

28. Nevada

Find out where kids can get up to two meals each day by checking the Nevada Department of Agriculture site list for northern or southern Nevada.

29. New Hampshire

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

30. New Jersey

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has a list of meal sites on the right side of this page.

31. New Mexico

No registration or application is required for kids to receive meals in New Mexico. Use the New Mexico Summer Food Service Program interactive map to find a site near you.

32. New York

New York City public school students can apply for summer meal service. Beyond the five boroughs, use the interactive USDA map.

33. North Carolina

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals. Families in central and eastern North Carolina can download a list of sites serving those areas.

34. North Dakota

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction maintains a list of sites offering summer meals.

35. Ohio

Check the Ohio Department of Education’s interactive map to find locations and serving times near you. No sign-up is required. The state also offers an app to assist in site location.

36. Oklahoma

Use the Food for Thought Summer Food Program interactive map to find feeding sites across Oklahoma.

37. Oregon

Select your city from the list to view a map of summer food sites in Oregon.

38. Pennsylvania

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

39. Rhode Island

Use the USDA map to find summer food sites in Rhode Island.

40. South Carolina

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

41. South Dakota

Families in South Dakota can review a list of summer meal sites, or use the USDA map to find a location.

42. Tennessee

Use the USDA map to find summer food sites in Tennessee.

43. Texas

The Texas Department of Agriculture offers an interactive map to locate summer food sites and contact information.

44. Utah

Use the nationwide map to find summer food sites. You can also view flyers for various school districts sponsoring summer food programs detailing meal times and locations.

45. Vermont

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

46. Virginia

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

47. Washington

Use the USDA location finder to determine your nearest site.

48. West Virginia

The West Virginia Department of Education provides a list of every site statewide, contact information for each site, days the site is open and mealtimes.

49. Wisconsin

Check Wisconsin’s Open Food Sites Map to find a location near you.

50. Wyoming

Use the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

51. Washington, D.C.

Use the USDA map to find summer meal sites in Washington, D.C.

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder. Lisa Rowan also contributed to this report.

Lauren Duvall wanted to go to college in a large metropolitan city somewhere outside the U.S.

But instead of heading to Paris or Barcelona, she chose Montreal.

“Canada flies so under the radar,” said Duvall.

The Florida native was drawn to Montreal’s predominantly francophone community; it seemed like the perfect place to hone her high school French skills.

Duvall attended McGill University, sometimes referred to as “the Harvard of Canada.” Tuition cost her about US$15,000 per year -- a fraction of the cost of the Ivy League schools she was also considering -- though she said her biggest moving expense was the cost of upgrading her wardrobe to fit Montreal’s freezing winters.

Her freshman-year dorm room cost around $900 per month. After her first year, she moved into an apartment that cost $600 per month.  

“The financial benefits were just an added bonus,” Duvall said as she described the “world-class education” that gave her a bachelor’s degree in international development with a double minor in political science and French translation.

And she’s not the only one discovering those benefits.

Should Americans Consider Going to College in Canada?

In December 2016, The Toronto Star reported a 70% increase of American applicants at the University of Toronto since the previous year. Other Canadian colleges also reported increases of 20% or more.

It seems that American high school seniors are interested in heading north of the border. But is going to college in Canada a smart financial decision?

Here’s what it would really cost to attend university in Canada -- and how those costs compare to those here in the U.S.

What You Need Before You Go

Before you can attend college in Canada, you’ll need to take care of some paperwork -- and that comes with its own costs.

Note: At the time of publication, one U.S. dollar equals CA$1.33, meaning American dollars go about a third further up north.

U.S Passport

If you don’t already have a U.S. passport, you’ll need one. A new passport costs $135, and a renewal costs $110.

Study Permit

Also known as a student visa, a study permit will run you CA$150 (US$111).

To be approved for a study permit, you have to show evidence you’re able to pay tuition as well as living expenses. You’ll need to prove you have at least CA$10,000 to cover your living expenses for a 12-month period. (If you’ll be in Quebec, it’s CA$11,000.)

This evidence can include your recent bank statements, student loan approval, your parents’ bank account if they’re paying for your college, proof you’ve already paid tuition, etc.    

Health Insurance

As an international student in Canada, your university will require you to have health insurance. Your options vary depending on where you’ll attend school.

Some provinces, like British Columbia and Manitoba, offer health insurance to international students. You’ll generally want to apply as soon as you arrive, and costs vary based on province and your age.

However, these plans may not cover long-term prescription medication (like birth control), prescription glasses or dental care, so you may still want to consider adding private insurance.

If the province where you’ll attend college doesn’t offer coverage to international students, you’ll need to purchase a private health insurance, typically through your school.

At the universities I mention below, private health care for international students can cost anywhere from CA$292 (US$217) to CA$993 (US$741) per year.

The Costs of Going to College in Canada

First, let’s consider what it costs to go to college right here in the United States.

At an in-state public college, you’d pay an average of $24,610 for the 2016-2017 academic year, according to College Data. The in-state cost of attendance for an undergrad at the University of South Florida (USF), the college I attend, is $23,494 per year.

For comparison, attending Harvard for the 2016-2017 school year would cost you $66,900. If you’re not covered on your family’s health insurance plan, add another $2,630 -- that’s more than triple the cost of the most expensive private health insurance I found at Canadian universities.  

With those numbers in mind, let’s see how a few Canadian universities stack up to the cost of college in the US.

McGill University

McGill University

McGill is located in Montreal and ranks #30 on the QS world university list, which ranks global higher education. Here’s what it costs international students:

  • Tuition: Depending on your field of study, tuition ranges from CA$15,942 to CA$40,802 (US$11,896 to US$30,678).
  • Books and fees: Fees range from CA$1,668 to $2,968 (US$1,254 to US$2,231). Books and supplies cost about CA$1,000 (US$751) per year.
  • Application fee: CA$109 (US$81).
  • Health insurance: This is mandatory, and it costs CA$993 (US$746).
  • Meal plan: The mandatory meal plan costs CA$5,475 (US$4,116) if you live on campus.
  • On-campus housing: Residence costs range from CA$6,633 to CA$12,947 (US$4,987 to US$9,734).

For more comprehensive pricing depending on your degree path, use the undergraduate fee calculator on McGill’s financial aid website.

Total: US$23,831 to US$48,337 per year if you live on campus

University of Toronto

University of Toronto

Ranked #32 on the QS world university list, the University of Toronto has three campuses in different areas of the city and its suburbs. I priced residence and meal plan costs at the Scarborough campus.

  • Books and fees: You’ll pay an estimated CA$1,695 (US$1,274) in fees, and about CA$1,500 (US$1,127) for books.
  • Application fee: CA$241 (US$181)
  • Meal plan: U of T’s meal plans are optional, and range from CA$2,820-$3,720 (US$2,120-$2,796).
  • On-campus residence: Housing fees range from CA$5,540 to $9,343 (US$4,165-$7,024).

Total: US$30,973 to US$48,215 per year if you live on campus

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

Located in Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba is known for offering more than 100 degree options, and for producing more Rhodes Scholars than any other Western Canadian university.

  • Tuition: Depending on your degree path, tuition costs could range from CA$13,400 to CA$24,400 (US$10,075 to US$18,345). If you happen to be from Minnesota, you’ll get to pay domestic tuition, so it’ll only cost you CA$4,100 to CA$10,500 (US$3,082 to US$7,894) a year.
  • Books and fees: Depending on your program, they’ll run you between CA$700 and CA$4,800 (US$526-$3,609) per year.
  • Application fee: CA$120 (US$90)
  • Health insurance: CA$292 (US$219)
  • On-campus room and board: You’ll have many options to choose from, depending how many meals you want to eat in your residence. Prices range from CA$6,132 to CA$12,361 (US$4,610 to US$9,293).

Total: US$15,520 to $31,556 per year if you live on campus, unless you’re from Minnesota

What If You Want to Live Off Campus?

If the dorm life isn’t for you, you might want to consider living off campus, with or without roommates. You’ll also have to factor in transportation costs to your school.

You’d want to budget somewhere between CA$10,000 and CA$15,000 (US$7,518 to US$11,278) to cover accommodation and food costs, according to McGill estimates rent to cost between CA$500 and CA$1,300 per month (US$375 to US$977) in Montreal.

As of February 2017, Numbeo reports the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a Canadian city is around US$850, whereas in the U.S. it’s about $1,200. Outside of the city, Canadian rent is a little under US$700 compared to $900 in the States.  

Of course, these prices all depend on which cities and towns you compare. Feel free to do your own comparison between where you live and a destination in Canada -- it’s interesting to see how the numbers differ, and it’s an important factor in your decision.

Can You Work on a Student Visa?

If you’re worried about earning money during college, fret no more -- your study permit allows you to work without applying for any other visa.

You just have to attend college full time, have a valid study permit, and apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) -- Canada’s version of your SSN.

Once you have your SIN, you’re permitted to work both on and off campus. You can only work up to 20 hours per week off campus during normal school hours, but during school breaks, you can go full time. You can also work as a co-op student or intern without any additional paperwork.

After studying in Canada, you might be interested in continuing to work there after college. Thanks to Canada’s post-grad work permit program, international students can stay in the country and work for up to three years. As long as you studied for at least eight months, you’re eligible to apply for this permit.

What About Financial Aid?  

Even though attending college in Canada can be cheaper than paying in-state tuition at some American schools, you might still need financial aid.


First, check the school’s website to see if it offers special scholarships for international students.

For example, the University of Winnipeg provides various scholarships for international students.

You can also apply to options on this list of 100 scholarships to help you pay for college. But first, confirm you could use the award at a Canadian school so you don’t waste time applying to scholarships that won’t help you.

Student Loans

Most of the Canadian schools I looked into accept U.S. federal student loans, but you’ll want to confirm which types you can use at your chosen schools. McGill University accepts both Direct Loans and Parent PLUS Loans. The University of Toronto accepts Direct Loans and PLUS Direct Loans.

To apply for student loans, just fill out the FAFSA like you would if you were planning to attend college in the U.S.

If you’re not sure what type of loan works best for you, refer to our ultimate student loan guide.  

Is It Cheaper to Go to College in Canada?

As much as I wish I could give you a definitive answer on this, I can’t. It depends on so many factors -- where you live now, what degree path you choose, which university you’d want to attend and what U.S. universities you’re already considering.

U.S. News reports Canadian universities give students “a good bang for their buck” -- but you’ll have to do the math to see whether it could be a good option for you.

Your Turn: Have you ever thought of going to college in Canada? Do you know anyone who has?

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder. She enjoys the warm sunny ocean view from her university in St. Petersburg, Florida.

She raised you, gave you guidance and helped you deal throughout your rebellious teen years. No, not Oprah… I am talking about your mom.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and it’s time to start planning mom’s special day.

For those of you frantically asking Google or Siri “When is Mother’s Day?” I’ll save you the headache: It’s Sunday, May 14.

But it wouldn’t be a Mother’s Day here at The Penny Hoarder without a list of places offering great deals so you can celebrate mom without going broke.

11 Penny Hoarder-Approved Mother’s Day Deals

1. Free Chili Dog and Fries at Wienerschnitzel

[caption id="attachment_56138" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Wienerschnitzel/Facebook[/caption]

Moms eat free at Wienerschnitzel on Sunday, May 14. This deal includes one free chili dog, small fries and a small soda. Sorry, cheese is extra, and you cannot get a strawberry lemonade or shake as your drink.

There are 358 of these hot dog shops in the U.S., with locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Washington.

2. Free Entree at Hooters

[caption id="attachment_56131" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Hooters/Facebook[/caption]

Celebrate Mother’s Day at participating Hooters locations nationwide Sunday, May 14, and mom will get a free entree from a special Mother’s Day menu with any drink purchase.

The special menu features 10-piece boneless and traditional wings, grilled or Buffalo chicken sandwiches and salads, and Hooters burgers.

Items may vary by location. Some locations will also give mothers a coupon for their next visit that can be redeemed May 15-June 9.

3. $5 Off at Boston Market

[caption id="attachment_56130" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Boston Market/Facebook[/caption]

Treat your mom to some rotisserie chicken and mac and cheese with $5 off any family meal purchase for four or more people at Boston Market on Sunday, May 14. Family meals include an entree, four pieces of cornbread and choice of four sides.

Also, any guest who dines at Boston Market on Mother’s Day will receive a coupon for a free cookie. Unfortunately, you can’t just jump back in line to get your free sweet -- this coupon is only valid May 15-31.

4. 2-Course Dinner at Macaroni Grill for $14.99

[caption id="attachment_56132" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Romano's Macaroni Grill/Facebook[/caption]

On Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May, 14, Macaroni Grill is offering a two-course meal for $19.99 per person. Each meal includes an entree and dessert.

Macaroni Grill is also offering 25% off e-gift cards May 8-14. Simply order an e-gift card, and use promo code MOM17 to get the discount.

Wait! You can save even more by stacking these deals.

Buy your e-gift card now, and use it on your Mother’s Day dinner at Macaroni Grill -- you’ll essentially get the two-course meals for $14.99 each.

You’re welcome.

5. 3-Course Brunch at Mimi’s for $18.99

[caption id="attachment_56139" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Mimi's Cafe/Facebook[/caption]

Enjoy an appetizer, entree and dessert for just $18.99 at Mimi’s on Wednesday, May 10 (Mother’s Day in Mexico) and Sunday, May 14. There are six entrees to choose from, including slow-roasted turkey, a mushroom Brie burger and shrimp brochette skewers.

Mothers also receive a free take-home gift and a coupon for a free entree on their next visit.

6. Outback Mother’s Day Menu from $18.99

[caption id="attachment_56134" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Outback Steakhouse/Facebook[/caption]

Outback will have a Mother’s Day menu available May 12-14. Prices start at $18.99, but they could vary by location.

The deal comes with an entree, two sides and a slice of chocolate, raspberry or salted-caramel cheesecake. Entree choices include filet mignon, Parmesan-herb crusted salmon, bone-in ribeye and slow-roasted prime rib.

7. Free Slice of Pie at Shoney’s With Meal Purchase

[caption id="attachment_56136" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Shoney's Restaurant/Facebook[/caption]

Shoney’s is hosting its annual Mother’s Day buffet featuring coconut shrimp and Southern-style vegetables for only $12.99 (prices may vary by location).

Shoney’s is also giving moms a free slice of strawberry pie with the purchase of the buffet meal or an entree.

8. Free Spaghetti and Meatballs from Spaghetti Warehouse

[caption id="attachment_56137" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Spaghetti Warehouse/Facebook[/caption]

With the purchase of any Mother’s Day meal Sunday, May 14, Spaghetti Warehouse will give you a free spaghetti and meatballs meal to take home to mom.

If you live in Houston, Texas, or Columbus, Ohio, you’re out of luck -- these locations are excluded from the deal.

9. Free Combo Meal at PDQ

[caption id="attachment_56135" align="alignnone" width="1200"] PDQ/Facebook[/caption]

On Sunday, May 14, moms receive a free combo meal with the purchase of any kids meal at PDQ. You can find your nearest PDQ restaurant here.

10. $25 Gift Card From Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

[caption id="attachment_56140" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Ruth's Chris Steak House/Facebook[/caption]

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is running a tasty deal for all the steak-loving moms out there. Just take mom out to Ruth’s Chris on May 13 or 14, place an order that includes at least one entree, and she’ll get a $25 dining card for her next visit.

There are a few stipulations on this deal. Dining cards are valid for dinner (after 4 p.m.) only and are not valid on takeout. You also cannot use these cards on $9 Sizzle, Swizzle & Swirl happy hour food. Finally, the dining card is valid from May 15 through June 2.

11. Moms Eat Free at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

[caption id="attachment_56142" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Beef 'O' Brady's/Facebook[/caption]

On Mother’s Day, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is feeding mom for free. All you have to do is buy a meal, and Beef's will comp mom’s meal of equal or lesser value. There is one caveat, though: The deal is only good for up to $10. So if mom gets a $15 meal, you’ll be on the hook for the remaining $5.

Jacquelyn Pica, editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder, and Justin Cupler, assistant editor, teamed up to create this post.

Graduation is exciting, but it also means you probably only have six months until your first student loan payment is due.

We don’t want you to have to struggle through becoming an adult and loan payment stress at the same time, so we’ve compiled a list of our best advice for recent college grads.


It’s nearly impossible to graduate college without some form of debt trailing behind you. Here are our best posts on paying off student loans, and what to do if you start to fall behind.

Give Every Dollar a Job

Emily Wynn paid off $11,000 in student loans working a $15/hour job using one simple method: budgeting.

Her biggest tip? Give every dollar a job. Make sure every last cent of your income has a purpose, and know what that purpose is.

Build every expense into your budget, keep watch of your spending and be realistic. Budgeting doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the latest movie -- you just have to account for it in your budget.

Don’t Ignore Student Loans

You probably don’t have all the money to pay off your loans right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit idly by: here’s five things you could be doing right now to help repay student loans.

First of all, figure out what you owe. If you’re struggling to keep up with loan payments, you could look into lowering your interest rate by refinancing through a company like Credible.  

You could also begin the quest for a perfect side gig to help earn some extra cash to put towards loans.

After being stuck in the confines of school for the last four years, you may not want to get a job right away. Luckily, there’s a way to travel abroad for free: Join the Peace Corps! They give you a monthly living stipend, health and dental benefits, student loan deferment and a cash payment of $8,000 once you finish your service.

Know Your Loans -- and How to Pay Them

If you don’t know the difference between subsidized or unsubsidized loans or just need some general advice on loan repayment, refer to this guide.

Our guide covers applying for and paying off student loans, as well as the different types of student debt. It also breaks down options for federal loan forgiveness, refinancing and repayment.

Don’t Fall Behind: Look Into Refinancing

If you’ve been out of college for a few years and are struggling to keep up with student loan payments, refinancing is a good option to look into. Credible is an independent student loan marketplace that matches borrowers with the best refinancing lender.

Refinancing student loans lowers your interest rate or monthly payments -- the average Credible user reports savings of $18,668 over the life of their loans.

Find Side Hustles

This college grad crushed her massive student debt -- $68,000 -- by taking every side gig she possibly could and cutting expenses down to the bare minimum.

Finding jobs on Craigslist, pet-sitting and even freelance writing are a few solid ways to earn extra cash.


No more dorms! No more cafeteria food! But… now you have to find your own apartment and furniture. Here’s how to make do when you’re a recent grad.

Move to an Affordable City

You don’t have to move to a major city to make a decent salary.

This 2016 Nerdwallet study found the best places for new grads to live based on job options, cost of rent and typical earnings.

What’s the best place for new grads to live? Arlington, Virginia. A few of the other top 10 cities include Madison, Wisconsin; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Don’t Be Afraid to Move Back in with Your Parents

If you’re stressed out about having to find your own place, affording rent or wanting to get a head start on your student loans, you might want to consider moving back in with your parents.

I promise, this isn’t a step backwards -- It might actually help you make more money.

A 2017 study found that college grads who move back in with their parents and stay for less than two years earn about $6,000 more than grads who stay home longer. Just make sure to avoid these common mistakes if you end up moving back home.

Become Financially Independent

If you took the tip above to heart, it doesn’t mean you have to constantly ask your parents for money. You still need to get a job, build your credit and start budgeting (sorry, no, but you can’t accept an allowance from your parents).

To work towards financial independence while living at home, you can start with buying your own groceries, saving for future rent payments and even paying for your own Netflix or Hulu account.

Furnish Your Apartment Without the Hefty Price Tag

We both know you should be focusing all your cash on student loan payments, but you probably still want to feel like a (somewhat) well-off adult.

Adult must-haves include a decent mattress (head for the discount section), a sturdy bookshelf (there are tons on Craigslist) and a set of dishes (thrifting, anyone?).  

Once you’ve put a dent in your loans, maybe you can consider purchasing nicer furniture. For now, though, quick cheap finds will furnish your new apartment just fine.

Don’t Fall Short on Rent Money

College students are known for being broke even if they don’t have rent to pay. Finally being an adult is exciting, but it’s not easy making rent money.

Let’s be real -- you’re not ever going to open your Comp I textbook again, no matter how much you think that chapter on proper citations will help. We have the internet for that now.

If you still have a ton of college textbooks laying around, sell them on Bookscouter. Just type in the ISBN and Bookscouter searches tons of websites to find you the best buy back price.

Utilize Your .edu Email Address

Not only does a .edu email address make you look professional, but it can also score you awesome deals. Save on anything from music streaming services to software or a 50% off Amazon Prime membership.


A decent job is the main reason most students attend college in the first place, so you’re going to want to find a good one.

Download the LinkedIn Students App

The LinkedIn Students app is geared towards new college grads. It serves as your “Personal job exploration guide” by providing you with job recommendations, showing where your school’s alumni are employed and offering career advice.

Basically, it helps you find a job that’s right for you. It’s a bit more personalized than the regular LinkedIn website.

Find a Job Career

2017 is a great year to finish college -- this article lists 10 companies hiring thousands of entry level positions the year. A few recognizable companies include Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz, Bank of America and even the FBI.  

Don’t be afraid to seek post-college advice -- we’re all just trying to figure out life.

And if you’re still in college, check out our post on how to make and save money as a college student.

Your Turn: When do you graduate college? Would you try any of these methods?

Disclosure: This one time, Kyle came into the office with $6 worth of Taco Bell that he planned to eat over the course of three meals. By clicking the affiliate links in this post, you help us help Kyle seriously ease up on the Taco Bell.

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder. She’s almost a college grad and still (shamelessly) lives at home.

“My parents were very trusting and believed everything these criminals told them -- to the amount of $24,000.”

Scams are on the rise against senior citizens -- including Sarah Matthews’ parents.

Matthews, TPH editor Matt Wiley's mother, helps care for her aging parents and keep an eye on their finances. She noticed checks for thousands of dollars consistently being withdrawn from their bank account and got suspicious.

She discovered her parents were paying large amounts of money for tree trimming and home repair services to random men who periodically showed up at their front door. These men ultimately performed few -- if any -- of these services.

Matthews had her father speak with a police officer, who encouraged him to call if these “tree trimmers” returned.

A few weeks later, a concerned neighbor called her after noticing a suspicious truck outside of the home. Matthews called the cops, who arrested the man on the spot.

The man posted bond for the charges involving Matthews’ parents, but he and his accomplice didn’t stop scamming the elderly.

Both are currently incarcerated -- convicted on charges relating to other similar incidents.  

Matthews’ parents are still recovering from the damage done by the scammers.

Sadly, what happened to them isn’t uncommon.

“Seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse,” a 2015 True Link research study found. This figure is 12 times higher than what was previously reported by Metlife's Elder Financial Abuse Study in 2011.

[caption id="attachment_51445" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Original: True Link Financial[/caption]

Scams start small and easily go unnoticed, but can quickly add up.

“A senior who lost as little as $20 in a year to exploitation could be expected to lose $2,000 a year to other types of fraud,” according to True Link.

To keep your elderly loved ones safe, read on to find out the top ways seniors are scammed, how to avoid those scams -- and what to do if they fall victim to one.

6 Senior Scams You Need to Know About

Home Instead Senior Care, along with the National Association of Triads, released their Senior Fraud Protection Kit in 2012.

The kit includes a list of six of the most popular scams that target the elderly.

1. Telemarketing

This type of scam can include phone calls, snail mail and emails. Scammers will send out official-looking emails or letters, then stage a follow-up call to victims, asking for updated information, such as a password or account numbers.

With that information in hand, scammers will either charge seniors’ bank accounts or attempt to assume their identities.

Senior citizens could also receive phone calls from people trying to use deceptive tactics to sell them product. A “salesperson” will use complex wording and hidden fees to charge seniors an extra $20 or so.

Sadly, this isn’t illegal.

2. Fake Charities

Retirees will get a call from someone saying they represent a charity, asking for a donation.

However, the scammer isn’t actually raising money for any charity and ends up just pocketing it.

3. Sweepstakes

Seniors will get an official-looking check in the mail. An accompanying letter may tell them they won a contest, but asks them to send back a few hundred -- or thousand -- dollars for processing.

The check could even look like an IRS tax refund.

They’ll ask the victim to send back a portion of the money and let them keep the rest.

The scam happens two weeks later, when the check bounces and the senior becomes liable for all of the money.

4. Identity Theft

All a criminal needs to steal an identity is a call asking for the last four digits of a senior’s Social Security number.

The scammer can then can match that information up to the rest of what they know about their victims, like their name, address and phone number.

Scammers can use the stolen identity to open new credit cards or loans and rack up debt -- and the senior will end up footing the bill.

Scammers could also charge current credit cards, usually for small amounts that go unnoticed by the account holder.

5. Health Care Fraud

Scammers will figure out what medical issues a senior has and promise to send relevant medication or supplies if the seniors provide insurance information. The scammers will then use that info to assume the victim’s identity.

This is a special type of fraud known as medical identity theft. Patients can end up getting billed for prescriptions or services they didn’t use, making the senior liable for medical debts incurred by the scammer.

The FTC suggests always checking the details of each bill seniors receive and making sure the provider and date of service match up to the care they actually received.

6. Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation takes many forms, including telemarketing or “home repair” scams.

As mentioned earlier, scammers sometimes show up at seniors’ homes, offering to provide services and then overcharging them -- whether the work was done or not.

Scammers also get seniors to sign up for long-term securities or stocks, anticipating the victims either won’t look at or “understand the fine print,” according to the Senior Fraud Protection Kit.

Seniors can get conned into buying securities or stocks that won’t mature for another 20 years. If the senior needs the money before the securities mature, they’ll pay penalty fees that end up in the scammers’ pockets.

6 Steps to Keep Seniors Safe from Scammers

If you’re looking for ways to keep your loved ones safe, these tips will help make them less vulnerable to scams and fraud.

1. Add Phone Numbers to the Do Not Call Registry

Register the senior’s phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry.

Sales calls should stop within 31 days of a number being registered, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

“A person who receives just one telemarketing phone call per day is likely to experience three times as much financial loss as someone who receives no or only occasional telemarketing calls,” according to True Link’s study. Make sure you register those phone numbers!

If they still receive sales calls while on the registry, hang up and submit a complaint to the FTC.

One thing to remember about this registry is it only stops sales calls. It doesn’t put limits on charitable, political or survey calls.

2. Keep Information Private

“The best rule of thumb is to never provide information in a phone call that you did not initiate,” the Senior Fraud Protection Kit states.

Make sure the senior knows to never give personal information or money over the phone. They also shouldn't “send any information through the mail to anyone who you don’t know, no matter what they’ve offered or promised.”

This includes sending checks or a “deposit” to companies in order to claim a prize or accept an offer to work from home.

3. Check the Better Business Bureau

Before the senior acts on any offers, payments, donations or investments, check the BBB’s website for information on the company.

Be especially cautious of letters and calls that look like they’re from the Social Security Administration or the IRS. Tax fraud is the number one scam despite efforts to stop them, according to the BBB.   

4. Keep Their Mail Safe

If a senior pays their bills via mail, don’t leave it sitting in the mailbox.

Take the payment to the post office or a freestanding postal service mailbox instead of leaving it laying around where it could potentially be stolen.

Opt for online bill statements -- it’s safer and more convenient than mailing in payments every month.

If a senior continues to receive mail that’s clearly from scammers, take it to the post office and it’ll be sent to the U.S. Postal Inspector. You could also file a mail fraud complaint online.

5. Remain Cautious and Ask Questions

Ask any calling salesperson for their name, business address, phone number and business license number. Verify this information before conducting any business with them, as scammers will often provide fake names and license numbers.

Don’t blindly trust people -- scammers can get outrageous, even claiming they’re a “law enforcement official trying to solve a crime that involves you, and they ask for personal information,” The Home Instead Fraud Checklist states.  

Make sure seniors won’t agree to anything they don’t fully understand.

Never respond to sweepstakes, prize or lottery letters and phone calls. These are all scams to get personal information.

6. Stay Safe Online

Only make purchases from websites known to be safe and legitimate. If the safety of the site is questionable, do some research to make sure it isn’t a scam.

Educate seniors on what spam emails look like -- and be sure they don’t respond to them. Personal information should never be given out via email, especially account or credit card numbers.

What Happens If Your Loved One is Scammed?

What happens if they end up getting scammed and losing money? How do you report fraud against seniors?

The first thing to do is file a police report. You’ll need a copy of the report when the fraud is reported to credit companies.

Close any accounts affected by the scam. Call the banks, explain what happened and file a fraud report if any transactions were charged to the account.

File a complaint with the FTC. It helps with fraud investigations by collecting complaints and sharing them with local police forces, credit companies and other government agencies.

If the scam involved credit card charges, report the fraud to the three major credit bureaus. Contacting all three may seem like a hassle, but it’s the only way to know the fraudulent activity will be quickly reflected on the account.

Report any identity theft to the FTC’s Identity Theft website -- this includes new accounts being opened in the senior’s name, charges to current accounts or even false medical services. The FTC offers comprehensive steps to take depending on how the victim was affected.

A Final Piece of Advice: Be Aware

The Baby Boomer generation was “raised to be polite and trusting,” the FBI says in its fraud against seniors section.

“Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone,” it continues.

Above all, awareness is key.

Make sure seniors are aware of the abundance of scams out there, and educate them on ways to protect themselves and their finances.

Your Turn: Do you know any senior citizens who have gotten scammed? How did you handle it?

Jacquelyn Pica is an Editorial Intern at The Penny Hoarder.

What’s an easier way to make money than survey sites?

Nothing, really. You literally answer questions and give your opinion about any and everything.

But how do you know which sites are legit and worth your time? We’re here to help.

We checked out i-Say from Ipsos, one of the most popular survey sites on the web, to see what it’s really like -- and how much money we could make.

The Penny Hoarder’s i-Say Review

Signing up for i-Say is easy, and it seems like they really want to get to know you.

Between introductory multiple choice questions, there are a few opportunities for you to type your own answers. The major focus of this site is making sure your voice is heard, which makes sense considering its name.

The site allows you to say what you think as a consumer about certain products and wants to know why you buy what you buy.

What I really like about this site is it’s not only easy to navigate, but it’s also reassuring. I know it’s just a survey site, but it seems like it wants to make it as painless as possible.

The site knows you hate answering the same questions multiple times, but lets you know upfront that it happens. It’s just the site’s way of making sure you give consistent, quality answers and still qualify for the survey’s demographics.

Once I made my account and signed in, I already had five surveys waiting for me.

If you don’t end up qualifying for a survey, you get to play a guessing game called “Poll Predictor.” In this game, i-Say users were polled on a question, and you have to guess what percentage said yes. The closer you are to the actual answer, the more chances you get to enter into drawings for a prize.

This quick game makes being disqualified for a survey a little less frustrating.

For example, my question was “What percentage of women said they have danced the Macarena?” I know, it’s a bit silly. But it was a nice change of pace between clicking from survey to survey.  

Each survey awards you points that can be redeemed for gift cards. Or, you can cash out with PayPal. The lowest amount of points you can redeem is 500, which is $5. So, one point equals one cent --- 100 points equals $1.

Another plus? The site has a solid rewards selection, from eGiftCards to Starbucks, Target, and Amazon, as well as Visa prepaid cards or just cold, hard (PayPal) cash.

I’ve only had my account for a few days, so I haven’t accumulated enough points to cash out yet. Some people had negative things to say about how long it takes to receive your rewards once you cash out, so I looked into it.

The site states it takes 3-4 weeks for PayPal funds to be delivered, and 4-8 weeks for Visa cards or any other card sent by mail.

I’ve been a part of other survey sites that take a few weeks -- or even months --  to get your rewards, but I knew ahead of time and didn’t count on them to arrive quickly. This doesn’t chalk up to a negative in my book, and it only counts for a select few of their reward options, so it’s easily avoidable.

If you don’t want to wait a few weeks for your money, opt for the one of the eGiftCards -- they’re instantly sent to your email.

If you don’t want your email inbox blown up by surveys, you could opt for text notifications.

Usually survey sites will send me a ton of annoying emails about available surveys, and reminders to take them if I haven’t yet. Luckily, i-Say is not one of these notorious inbox clutterers.

The site also doesn’t send you as many surveys as typical survey sites. The FAQ page states you’ll receive an average of eight survey invitations per month. This may not seem like a lot, but it should be enough to get you to the $5 minimum needed to cash out.

You can see the list of surveys you’ve taken, and even the ones you were disqualified for.

As you can see, I haven’t taken a ton of surveys yet. My first two completed surveys earned me zero points because they were intro surveys asking about my shopping habits, household, and other demographic traits.

The surveys I took were interesting and interactive, mostly about certain products I buy.

Is I-Say Legit?

To me, i-Say stands out among others because it’s “dedicated to giving you a voice” and taking “your feedback straight to those who have the power to influence change.”

What more could a consumer want?

This site is all about voicing your opinions and rewarding you for your perspective. This survey panel is a good fit for anyone who wants their views to be heard and enjoys instigating change.

And for those who want to make some easy money...

Your Turn: What’s your favorite survey site? Have you ever used i-Say?

Jacquelyn Pica is an Editorial Intern at The Penny Hoarder.

Few things compare to the deliciously sweet taste of a perfectly ripe pear. And for around $2 per pound, what’s not to love?

But what happens when they’re past that point of ripeness? You know -- when they start to form brown spots, and become mushy and unappealing.

Don’t throw away those mushy pieces of fruit! Here are 11 recipes that are perfect if you’re wondering what to do with overripe pears.

1. Freeze for Smoothies

Do you love to make smoothies? Yes? OK, good, because overripe fruit is perfect for freezing and using in smoothies. Cut off any parts of the pear that have gone bad, cut up the rest of the fruit, seal it in a zip-close bag, and put it in the freezer.

2. Pear Jam

If your pears are just slightly overripe, you can cook them into a pear jam. You need a lot of pears for this recipe -- about 3 pounds — but the only other two ingredients are lemon juice and sugar.

Store the finished product in Mason jars, and spread it on toast, desserts or yogurt, or even cook it with some meat. There are so many ways to use jam it’s not even funny.  

3. Pear Crumble  

Pear crumble is not only delicious, but it’s also easy to make -- besides pears, the rest of the ingredients are things you should already have around the house. For this recipe, the mushier the pears, the better.

4. Mash Into a Pancake Topping suggests mashing your browning pears and using them as a pancake topping or folding them into your batter. Fruit is always a delicious complement to breakfast foods.

You could also use the mashed pear on top of ice cream. Sundaes, anyone?

5. Blend Them Into a Salad Dressing

Blend them with some olive oil, vinegar and seasoning for a salad dressing that’s a little on the sweet side. Perhaps try out this delicious pear vinaigrette. Hint: The sweetness pairs well with salty toppings.

6. Bake Into Fruit Leather  

This is pretty much a homemade Fruit Roll-Up.

Slow-bake your fruit into a pear and cinnamon fruit leather. Although it does take a while in the oven (six to seven hours), it looks pretty worth it. Check out the finished product, as well as the raving reviews about how yummy it turns out.  

[caption id="attachment_49071" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]What to do with overripe pears Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

7. Pear Ice Pops  

Who doesn’t love ice pops? There’s no baking required for this recipe -- these spiced ginger pear frozen pops only require a blender and some ice pop molds. You could get also creative with this and add in whatever fruits or flavors you want.

Do you like fruit and wine? Make some adult frozen pops with Riesling and overripe pears. These sound amazing for a summer party or even just an afternoon treat.

8. Vanilla Spiced Pear Butter  

This Vanilla Spiced Pear Butter goes perfectly on toast, muffins, oatmeal and ice cream. This recipe uses 7 pounds of pears and yields 4 pints of butter, but you could halve or quarter the recipe.

If you’re feeling ambitious and decide to make the full recipe, you can freeze the rest and have pear butter year-round.

9. Pear Muffins and Bread

If you love to bake, use your overripe pears for pear and cinnamon muffins -- this one’s fun to make with kids. Much like mushy brown bananas make for delicious banana bread, mushy pears are great for pear bread.

10. Pear Bourbon Cocktail

I’m not one for baking, so I’m not sure I could conquer the above pear muffins and bread, but this cocktail? It looks too delicious to not give it a try.

Using the past-its-prime pear, smash and strain your way to this pear bourbon smash cocktail.

11. Apple Pear Sauce

Instead of applesauce, try some homemade pear sauce. All you need besides pears is sugar, lemon juice and (optional) cinnamon spice. You could make a large batch and freeze some to use as easy healthy snacks.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite thing to make with overripe fruit?

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder. She has a bad habit of forgetting about the fruit she buys and only re-discovering it once it gets mushy.

When I started driving in 2012, gas cost almost $4 per gallon. At the time, public transportation was practically non-existent in Florida, which left me no choice -- my family and I had to buy gas.

But by changing our grocery shopping habits, we haven’t paid full price for gas in years -- and sometimes we even get it for free. (OK, we still have to pay taxes on it, but where we live, that’s only about 2 cents per gallon).

Our secret? The Winn-Dixie fuelperks! program, which gives you a 5-cent-per-gallon discount on gas for every $50 you spend on groceries.

This was the only fuel rewards program I knew of, but I thought there must be other grocery stores that offered similar discounts -- and I was right.

No matter where you live, here’s how to save money on gas by buying groceries.

Grocery Stores With Fuel Rewards Programs

To find out, I took to the internet and asked our Facebook community group. Here’s what I found out, organized by region.


These national chains offer fuel rewards programs. Is there one near you?

1. Safeway

Safeway grocery stores offer fuel discounts through Sunoco -- for every $100 you spend on groceries, you get 10 cents off per gallon.

You can stack as many rewards as you’d like in a single purchase, though you can only redeem them on 20 gallons of fuel at a time. Simply register with the Sunoco app to keep track of your rewards and enter your phone number at the gas pump.

2. Kroger

In Kroger’s fuel rewards program, you earn 1 point for every dollar you spend in the store.

Once you’ve earned 100 fuel points (after spending $100 on groceries), you’ll get 10 cents off per gallon on up to 35 gallons.

You can redeem your Kroger fuel points by scanning your Plus Card at Kroger gas stations or Shell stations -- though at Shell, you can only redeem 10 cents off per gallon.

You’re better off using the discount at Kroger gas stations so you can stack your discounts. The maximum amount of points redeemable at Kroger Fuel Centers is 1,000 -- or $1 off per gallon.

While you’ll usually earn double points (two points per $1 spent) on gift cards, a few users of our Facebook Community group mentioned that Kroger offers four times the points on gift card purchases during the holidays. Make a note on your calendar for next year!

Another bonus: Earn 50 fuel points for every non-federally funded prescription you fill at Kroger (federally funded prescriptions help you earn 1 point for every $1 you spend).

3. Stop & Shop

Stop & Shop gives you 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend.

You can stack deals for up to $1.50 off per gallon. Scan your Stop and Shop card at Shell or Stop & Shop gas stations to redeem your savings. These points have a shorter expiration date than most -- 30 days -- so plan your trips carefully!

4. Albertsons

At Albertsons, you receive one point for every dollar you spend. Once you reach 100 points, you’ve earned 10 cents off per gallon.

The program’s redemption rules vary depending on your location and the gas station you choose.

You can redeem up to 20 cents off per gallon at Texaco and Chevron stations. Or, you can redeem up to $1 per gallon off at Albertson’s gas stations, Safeway, Randalls, Vons or Tom Thumb.


These stores with gas rewards programs are located anywhere from Florida through the Carolinas.

5. Winn-Dixie  

Located in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, Winn-Dixie offers a fuelperks! program in partnership with Shell gas stations.

For every $50 you spend in the store, you get 5 cents off per gallon of gas. Bonus grocery items can give you up to an extra 50 cents off per gallon. And if you have a baby, consider joining Baby Club -- you’ll earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $25 you spend on baby products.

There’s no limit to how many fuelperks! you can earn, but you can only redeem perks for up to 20 gallons of fuel at a time.

I usually find the best deals on bottles of red wine, which offer anywhere from 5 to 25 cents off per gallon. Gift cards also offer double the points -- 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 you spend on gift cards.

6. Bi-Lo

Scattered throughout Georgia and the Carolinas, Bi-Lo’s fuelperks! program is nearly identical to Winn-Dixie’s -- spend $50, get 5 cents off per gallon.

There are also various bonus fuelperks! items located throughout the store for an extra 3- to 50-cent reward.

Gas discounts are redeemable at any Shell station on up to 20 gallons.  

7. Ingles

Serving six southeastern states, Ingles rewards you with one fuel point for every $1 you spend on groceries.

Once you hit 100 points, you’ve got yourself 5 cents off per gallon. At 200 points, you get 10 cents off, 300 points gets you 15 cents off, and so on.

There is no cap to how much you can earn. You can redeem your points on up to 20 gallons at Ingles gas stations.

8. Food City

In Tennessee and Georgia, Food City offers 15 cents off per gallon for every $150 you spend. Gift card purchases of $50 will net you double the points.

You can only use 15 cents off per gallon each day, but on Wednesdays you can cash in 30 cents off.

Rewards are redeemable via Food City’s ValuCard at Gas n’ Go fuel stations.

9. Harvey’s Supermarkets

Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are home to Harvey’s Supermarkets .

Harvey’s uses the Plenti rewards card for its fuel program, which makes it different than most grocery store fuel discounts.

Plenti is a rewards card that lets you collect and redeem points at multiple retailers, such as Harvey’s, Macy’s and Mobil. You earn two points for every dollar you spend on non-fuel purchases.

Once you have 200 points -- meaning you’ve spent $100 -- you’ll receive $2 off your total fuel purchase (not per gallon) at Exxon and Mobil locations. You can also collect more points before redeeming them, up to a $10 discount.


Northeasterners, do you take advantage of any of these fuel rewards programs?

10. Giant Eagle

Located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Maryland, Giant Eagle’s fuelperks! program offers 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 spent at Giant Eagle, Getgo, Market District or Giant Eagle Express.

You can use these rewards at Getgo stations on up to 20 gallons of gas with your Giant Eagle Advantage Card.

11. Price Chopper

Scattered throughout New England, New York and Pennsylvania, Price Chopper stores award you 10 cents off each gallon of gas for every $100 you spend in stores.

You can stack gas discounts and redeem them on up to 20 gallons of fuel at any participating Sunoco station with your Price Chopper AdvantEdge card.

12. Shaw’s

Spread throughout New England, Shaw’s offers 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend, plus double the points on gift card purchases.

Redeem your points for up to $1 off per gallon at Sunoco stations by registering for MyMixx and entering your phone number at the pump.

13. TOPS

Located in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Massachusetts, TOPS offers 1 point for every dollar you spend with its GasPoints program. Get 10 cents off per gallon by earning 100 points.

Redeeming coupons? You’ll get 10 points for each one you use, and bonus items throughout the store offer extra points.

Fuel discounts are good on up to 20 gallons at any TOPS gas station by scanning your TOPS BonusPlus card.

14. Market 32

Market 32 services New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It provides 10 cents off per  gallon for every $100 you spend on groceries.

Use your discount at participating Sunoco stations by scanning your Fuel AdvantEdge card.  


From Missouri through the Dakotas, buying groceries helps you save money on gas.

15. Shop N’ Save

Located in Missouri and Illinois, Shop N’ Save offers 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 you spend -- which is twice the amount many other stores offer.

Use your Shop N’ Save fuel discount at Sunoco stations by scanning your Perks Card.

16. Pay-Less Supermarket

Owned by Kroger, Pay-Less Supermarkets in Indiana offer one fuel point for every $1 spent.

100 points will get you 10 cents off per gallon, and you can stack ‘em for up to $1 off at Shell stations. Scan your Plus Shopper’s Card at the pump to receive your discount.

Codi, one of our Facebook community group members, said you can fill out the survey from your receipt once a week for 50 bonus fuel points -- not bad for an extra 5 cents off per gallon.

17. Hy-Vee

Hy-Vee offers fuel perks on select grocery items that vary weekly.

Unlike other stores, there isn’t a set reward per dollar amount spent -- either check the weekly ad or browse your local Hy-Vee to see which items offer fuel rewards.

Redeem points at Hy-Vee Gas, Casey’s, Shell or PDQ stations by swiping your Hy-Vee Fuel Saver + Perks card.

18. Cub Foods

Located in Minnesota and Illinois, Cub Foods offers fuel discounts at participating Holiday gas stations through its My Cub Rewards Card.

You’ll earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can earn up to $1.50 off per gallon -- which would require spending $1,500 -- on 20 gallons of gas.


The final frontier… of fuel rewards.

19. QFC

For every $100 you spend at QFC, you’ll receive 10 cents off per gallon.

Use your rewards at QFC fuel centers or participating Shell stations by swiping your Advantage Card.

How much can you redeem? Stack your 10-cent discounts for up to $1 off per gallon.  

20. Fred Meyer

Fred Meyer is located in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

It offers 1 point for every dollar spent, and 100 points earns you 10 cents off per gallon.

Purchase gift cards for double points and fill prescriptions for 50 bonus points. Redeem your points, which are good on up to 35 gallons of fuel, at Shell or Fred Meyer gas stations with your Rewards Card.

21. Fry’s Food

Located in Arizona, Fry’s Food offers 10 cents off for every $100 you spend.

Use your Fry’s Food fuel rewards at Circle K stations as well as Shell.

Fuel Rewards Tips

Now you know where you can score some gas rewards -- but how do you make the most of them?

Here are some tips to help you maximize your savings with grocery store fuel rewards programs.

Buy Gift Cards for Double Points

This is an easy way to rack up your fuel rewards, as stores such as Safeway, Fred Meyer and Winn-Dixie offer double points on gift card purchases.

You don’t need to actually give them as gifts -- purchase gift cards for restaurants or stores you already shop at. Better yet, buy gas gift cards and use them when you fuel up at a discounted price!

Keep an eye out during the holiday season, since some stores offer special gift card promotions with anywhere from two to four times the amount of fuel rewards.

Know Your Store’s Policy

That way, you can change your shopping strategy to maximize your savings. For example, at Winn Dixie, your grocery spending rolls over to the next time you shop.

Say you spend $65 on groceries. You’ll earn 5 cents off per gallon, since you spent $50. The other $15 you paid will apply to your next purchase -- so you only have to spend $35 to reach the $50 threshold for 5 cents off.

Check your grocery store’s policy to find out if it offers the same perk.

If your store doesn’t do this, make sure every purchase is over but as close to increments of $50 as possible (e.g. $50.62 or $101.27). That way, you’ll earn gas rewards for as much of your grocery spending as possible.

Look for Bonuses on Alcohol

I’m not sure about other stores, but Winn-Dixie offers crazy-awesome fuelperks! on alcohol.

I’ve found the best deals on red wine and liquor. The extra gas discount can be as high as 25 cents per gallon… for just a $10 bottle of red wine.

My dad loves red wine and, even though the bottles aren’t pricy, he never seems disappointed with them. (I’m not sure if he’s excited about the savings or just really likes wine.)

Beware of Expiration Dates

As awesome as fuel rewards are, they all expire eventually. Stop & Shop fuel rewards expire after only 30 days, but most other retailers’ points last 60 or 90 days.

Make sure to check the terms of your fuel rewards program and use your points before they expire.

Get All Your Discounted Fuel

One downside of gas rewards is you can only use the points once, even if your tank is smaller than the maximum number of gallons you can redeem.

Try to fill up when your tank is as close to empty as possible -- that way, you’ll get more gas and maximize your savings.

If your car doesn’t have a large tank (and if it’s allowed by your gas rewards program), bring an empty gas can to fill with the remaining gallons, so you don’t waste your fuel rewards.

Shop on the Weekend

Now you’ll have an actual excuse to wait until the weekend to hit the grocery store.

Some stores, such as Kroger, offer double fuel rewards on weekends. It might be busy -- but the savings might be worthwhile.

Your Turn: Do you collect fuel rewards? Did we miss any other programs?

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder. She never pays full price for gas thanks to her fuelperks!-savvy dad.