Jen Smith - The Penny Hoarder

New cars come with a certain prestige.

That new car smell, shiny exterior and the knowledge that no one has eaten their lunch in it is enough for some to justify the cost. While buying a used car might be cheaper in the long run, sometimes the peace of mind that comes with a new car wins out.

So when you’re weighing whether leasing a car vs. buying is the best deal, here are some things to consider.

Leasing vs. Buying a Car: What’s the Difference?

When you buy a car, you’re paying for the entire value of the car. Not including down payment, interest and fees, if you buy a $36,000 car and finance the entire amount over 36 months you’ll have a $1,000 monthly payment.

In a lease, you pay back only the depreciation of the vehicle. A $36,000 car will lose half its value in three years so without a down payment, interest and fees, you’ll pay $18,000 over 36 months equaling a $500 monthly payment.

At the end of the 36-month lease, you can opt to buy the car for the remaining balance or turn the car in and walk away. But 36 months after buying a car, you could own the car outright, have years of payments left or be upside down in it, depending on your loan terms.

Leasing a Car: The Pros

With a car lease, you can drive the latest model off the lot with little to no down payment. And you don’t have to worry one iota about the 10-20% it just dropped in value!

Monthly lease payments are usually lower than buying a car and besides routine maintenance costs, all maintenance is covered by the dealership. In a typical three-year lease, you’ll also be able to take full advantage of the manufacturer's bumper-to-bumper warranty.

At the end of the lease, you drop it off and walk away — or drive away. If you decide to buy the car at the end of your lease, any principal you paid will go toward your purchase of the car.

Leasing a Car: The Cons

One word: fees.

Acquisition fees range between $250 and $1,000, disposition and early termination fees range between $200 and $450, and wear and tear fees —which are at the discretion of the dealer -- that run you between $100 and $200. Mileage is usually capped at 12,000 to 15,000 per year. If you go over that, you’ll pay a fee of about 15 cents to 30 cents per mile.

Then there are the increased expenses. Interest rates, called rent charges, are higher for leased vehicles, as are insurance premiums. And you might also be required to put down a security deposit.

Whew.

The biggest con is that when your lease is up, you’ll have no car and no equity to put into a new one.

Buying a New Car: The Pros

The major pro to buying a new car is that it’s cheaper overall than leasing. The six-year cost of buying a new car is an average $5,059 less than to lease a car for two cycles of three years.

When you buy a new car, you can drive it as long as you want, and at the end of the loan term, you’ll have no more payments. That means you’ll pay less for insurance and have more money for other financial goals.

And while leased cars are usually base models, a car you own is fully customizable to your needs. When you decide you’re done with that car, you’ll get any equity in the sale to put toward your next purchase.

Buying a New Car: The Cons

Besides that roughly $2,500 your car will lose in value as soon as you drive your car off the lot, you could end up owing more than it’s worth if you take out a longer loan. If you need to sell while you’re upside down, you’ll either have to pay the difference out of pocket or roll the negative equity into your next car.

You’ll be responsible for all maintenance, and the manufacturer’s warranty will usually expire after three to four years or 50,000 miles. And while there’s no fee for excessive wear and tear, it will affect the resale value.

Another factor to note is that while interest rates appear low in ads, in reality, you usually pay more than the advertised rate because of your credit and the length of the loan.

Leasing vs. Buying a Car: Which One’s For You?

Leasing allows you to drive a new car every few years for an affordable price without worrying about lost equity or maintenance. So if you’re more interested in new technology and low monthly payments, a lease is the right move for you.

But if you’re a true Penny Hoarder, you’ll probably want to buy vs. leasing a car. Take out a loan of less than five years, and make your payments every month. You’ll end up with no car payments and save on interest in the long run.

And trust me when I say driving a car you’ve paid off feels so good.

Jen Smith is freelance writer and passionate used car purchaser. Visit her blog at SavingwithSpunk.com, or say hi on Twitter @savingwithspunk.

Some people work to pay their bills.

I work to afford my travel addiction.

Sometimes I’ll sit at my desk and daydream about sipping a Mai Tai by a sparkling pool, or coming back from a day at the beach to a bed I didn’t have to make.

My dreams look like the Four Seasons, but my budget is more Motel 6.

Ebates’ newest feature understands the plight of the broke post-grad who wants to make her travel dreams a reality.

The site already works with more than 2,000 retailers to offer shoppers up to 40% cash back on purchases, including travel related stuff like airfare, car rentals, and luggage.

But Ebates just upped its savings game with a new feature: Ebates Hotels.

How to Use Ebates Hotels to Get 7% Cash Back

The new vertical allows you to book your hotel directly through Ebates and earn up to 7% cash back on every stay.

That’s major moolah compared to other hotel cash-back deals.

Here’s how its competitors stack up:

  • Hotwire Hotels: 4%
  • Priceline Hotels: 4%
  • Travelocity Hotels: 4%
  • Booking.com: 2%
  • Expedia Hotels: 1.5%

Even the long list of individual hotel partnerships on Ebates normal site only range from 1%-4.5% cash back.

For example, let’s say you want to book a room at the Howard Johnson. If you book your stay through Ebates, you’ll normally only get 2.5% cash back.

However, you’ll get 7% back for booking the same hotel through Ebates Hotels (before taxes and fees, of course).

But how do Ebates’ rates compare to other travel sites?

I searched the Howard Johnson Enchanted Land hotel in Kissimmee, Florida (close to Disney), for the same random Saturday night on a few different sites.

  • Expedia: $48
  • Priceline: $48
  • Howard Johnson: $48

Ebates Hotels’ rate is actually $48 as well — but the price is shown along with the predicted cash back taken out of the total.

So you won’t see savings right at booking, but don’t be disappointed: You’ll get your cash back in a Big Fat Check when you cash it out.

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

Jen Smith is an editorial intern and the blogger behind Saving with Spunk. She writes about saving money and paying off student loans now so you can have more fun with your money later.

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I was totally clueless about what it would be like to buy a house.

I’d watched an obscene amount of HGTV, and everyone and their mom is a realtor. How hard could it be to find an affordable fixer-upper and make it Pinterest-worthy?

No “reality” show could’ve prepared me for this reality.

Nobody would want to watch our story unfold on a television show.

My husband and I aren’t an adorable couple on a farm or attractive Canadian twins. We hardly banter. But we do have plot twists, blank stares and lots of frozen pizza, so maybe it is worth giving us a show -- or at least a YouTube video.

How We Accidently Became House Hunters

Our names are Jen and Travis.

We’re a typical millennial couple: we got married in our late 20s and we’re waiting to have kids.

The weird thing about us is we spent our first year of marriage putting 60% of our total income toward paying off our student loans.

Otherwise we’re totally normal.

We were perfectly happy renters -- until our landlord called and said he was going to turn our apartment into an Airbnb.

We had 60 days to find a new place to live, and no money saved to do so.

The Search Begins

[caption id="attachment_56684" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Home buying process From left, Travis Smith and Jen Smith prepare to hang a photo in their new home in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

We did the responsible thing and started looking at rentals. That lasted one day.

Spoiler alert: Housing prices have increased a lot in the last two years.

We really wanted to be homeowners, but with no savings ready to be used for a down payment, we didn’t think buying was an option for us.

On the other hand, we’d become pretty good side hustlers and savers. So with nothing to lose, we called up a random realtor we found online and started our adventure.

The great thing about paying off your student loans is it brings your credit score up and your debt-to-income ratio way down. We were able to get pre-approved for our ideal loan amount within a few hours, even without a lot of money in the bank.

The Drama

We started looking at fixer-uppers, and I entertained dreams of quartz countertops and watching my husband do manual labor.

Unfortunately I’m not the only person who liked fixer-uppers. Investors who pay cash for houses snatch them up within hours of being on the market. Literally, hours.

So we looked at already-flipped homes. I spent my search repeatedly disappointed by ugly granite countertops, dozens of shades of taupe and inaccurate listing websites.

We found a house with acceptable laminate flooring and put in an offer for $5,000 under listing, because that’s how you play hardball.

I was so naive back then. We were immediately outbid by a full-price offer.

We put an offer in on another house later that week, and even though the listing agent gave a verbal acceptance of our offer to our agent over the phone, he’d actually already accepted another offer.

I was crushed and pretty much over the homebuying process. The competitive market, shady real estate agents and eating Cheerios for dinner were doing me in.

But I was in too deep. I was going to see this thing through if it killed me.

Love at First Sight

With a defeated spirit, I did what any adult does and threw more money at the problem. Our mortgage broker told us we could’ve been pre-approved for way more than we asked, but I didn’t want to be tempted by the number so I never asked for it.

But I did look at nicer houses to make myself feel better.

Travis got called into work, so I set out on my own with our agent. I found a tropical green bungalow on Zillow that had been listed 14 days prior. That usually means it’s already sold, but the open house wasn’t until the next day, and the pictures were just too perfect to pass up.

When we pulled up and walked inside, it was love at first sight. The cove ceilings, marble backsplash and quartz countertops made me forget every house that had ever hurt me.

Someone once told me that real estate is contrary to everything we’re taught about making big decisions. You’re supposed to take your time and research before making decisions, but in real estate, if you think too long, you’ve lost the deal.

I stopped thinking and offered all my money. Thankfully, my randomly selected real estate agent ended up being awesome and made me put my wallet away.

She wielded her magic to get the sellers to pay most of the closing costs, the fees in addition to our down payment and had contract details drawn up before we left the house.

Did I mention my husband hadn’t seen the house? He was less than thrilled, but when we went to the open house the next day to scare away potential buyers, he loved it. We met the flippers and made them our best friends so we could further ensure they would accept our offer.

The 28 days that followed were a blur of writing checks, filling out forms (online and on paper), packing, eating frozen pizzas and driving by the house to make sure the “For Sale” sign wasn’t still up.

Our Happy Home

[caption id="attachment_56681" align="alignnone" width="1200"]home buying process From left, Jen Smith and her husband, Travis Smith, kiss as they sit outside of their new home. Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

When we finally closed on the house and finished signing that last stack of papers, I felt like a huge weight had lifted.

Moving in was a joy, minus getting sick from the extra hours I’d been working to afford the closing costs.

We made our first mortgage payment last month and only 16% went to principal -- so much for not throwing away our money on rent! But we love it here, and no one’s going to turn it into an Airbnb except us.

Buying a house was nothing like what I thought it’d be. The market is completely different now from what I’d witnessed over the past 10 years. What had been a “buyer’s market” is ripe for sellers now.

There are a lot of things to consider when buying a house. If you decide it’s right for you, then I wish you as much success as we had!

Jen Smith is an editorial intern and the blogger behind Saving with Spunk. She writes about saving money and paying off your student loans now so you can do more fun stuff with your money in the future.

Editor's note: Some of these scholarships may no longer be available.

When I was in high school, I dreamed of being a student athlete.

They were popular, good-looking and had all the extracurriculars to make college admissions counselors swoon.

Now that my 10-year reunion has come and gone, I’ve come to terms with my lack of athletic finesse, but I’m still envious of those sports scholarships.

If you think only the best athletes in the country get scholarship offers, well, you’re right. Just 2% of high-school athletes receive athletic scholarships, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Even so, the average athletic scholarship is only around $10,000 per year. Factor in the cost of room and board, a meal plan and out-of-state tuition, and you might wish you’d played chess at community college instead.

13 Athletic Scholarships for College-Bound Students

Luckily, some organizations have identified the gap in athletic scholarships and are helping to bridge it.

So whether you’re an all-star prodigy or just like playing pick-up on the weekends, you might be eligible for a number of fitness and athletic-based scholarships.

1. Wear Action Scholarship

Are you obsessed with your step count? Then this scholarship is perfect for you.

Wear Action is a website dedicated to education on wearable technology. It offers a $500 scholarship each year to any high-school or college student with the best 700+ word essay on the impact fitness gadgets have on our lives.

You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and be a U.S. citizen to apply.

The annual deadline is in February.

2. NSCA Foundation Scholarship

If you’re pursuing a career in strength and conditioning, such as physical therapy, coaching, or personal training, the National Strength and Conditioning Association Foundation awards scholarships in five different categories every year.

  • High School (for seniors entering college)
  • Challenge Scholarship
  • Jerry Martin Scholarship (specifically for students wanting to become strength coaches)
  • Minority Scholarship
  • Women’s Scholarship

Applicants are judged on a number of categories including NSCA involvement, financial need and an essay.

Scholarships are worth $1,500 each and students must be current NSCA members by the application deadline. The number of awards hasn’t been disclosed for 2017, but in 2016, there were 38 scholarship winners across the five categories.

The deadline is in March annually.

3. Sports Unlimited Scholarship

Sports Unlimited awards one $1,000 scholarship annually to a college freshman or sophomore or high school senior.

Its unique essay question asks you to identify a piece of gear or equipment used in a sport and to describe how and why to improve it. My pick would be lacrosse sticks, with a glow-in-the-dark paint job.

The deadline is April 25, 2017.

4. Fitness and Education Scholarship

If you plan to major in a health- or fitness-related field at a four-year university, Ironcompany sponsors this $2,000 scholarship annually for an incoming college freshman.

Students must have a 3.0 GPA or higher and explain what makes you passionate about fitness in an essay using fewer than 500 words.

The deadline is May 1, 2017.

5. Triple-Impact Competitor Scholarship

The Positive Coaching Alliance awards high-school juniors $1,000-$2,000 scholarships based on their essays about improving themselves, their teammates, and the game.

Students must reside in the U.S. and play for a high school team or in club sports. The organization awards a minimum of 62 scholarships every year.

The deadline is May 31, 2017.

6. BigSun Scholarship

High school seniors and college students can apply for BigSun Athletics’ BigSun Scholarship.

Students must be engaged in a sport of any kind and apply with an essay describing how their participation in high school sports influenced them.

The deadline is June 19, 2017.

7. USATF Kim Haines Academic Excellence Grant

Student athletes who have been members of USA Track and Field for the two most recent consecutive years and have competed in one of the qualifying championships can apply for one of 10 grants from $500-$1500. The award amount is based on GPA.

The deadline is July 30, 2017.

8. Thomas “Sarge” Johnson Scholarship

These 11 scholarships are available for active USA Boxing members who have have competed in at least two sanctioned bouts in this year, as well as each of the last two calendar years. Applicants should have completed at least one semester in a college, technical or vocational school.

There are two trade school awards for $2,000 each, seven undergraduate awards for $3,000 each and two graduate awards for $2,500 each.

The deadline is Sept. 15, 2017.

9. Focus Fitness Scholarship

Focus Fitness teaches at-home bodyweight exercises and proper nutrition. Its annual $3,000 scholarship is open to all college students in any major, but special consideration is given to students committed to living a healthy lifestyle.

You’ll have to write a 1,000-1,500 essay about why you chose your major and what you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The deadline is Dec. 1, 2017.

10. Yoga Alliance Foundation Scholarship

If you’re more of a sun warrior and a four-year university isn’t your thing, then you can apply for one of the Yoga Alliance Foundation’s nine yoga education scholarships.

Awards are biannual. The spring deadline is in May, and the fall deadline is in August.

11. CaptainU Student-Athlete Scholarship

CaptainU is a site that allows student athletes to promote themselves to colleges and helps college coaches manage their recruiting efforts.

High school and junior college students who play sports and plan to attend a four-year college can apply for this $2,000 award by completing a profile and promoting themselves and CaptainU on social media.

This scholarship has a quarterly deadline.

12. Lawrence A. Golding Scholarship

The American College of Sports Medicine honors one undergraduate student at its annual ACSM Health & Fitness Summit with $1,000 in scholarship money and $1,000 credit to the ACSM store for DVDs, books or wearables.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors in college who have made a significant contribution to their community in the areas of health, fitness and/or education can apply.

The deadline is in November annually.

13. Foot Locker Scholar Athletes Scholarship

For high school seniors entering a four-year, accredited U.S. college or university, Foot Locker awards $20,000 scholarships to 20 students each year.

Of those, one scholar will be selected for the Ken C. Hicks Scholarship, receiving an additional $5,000 award.

Students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, be a member in good standing of a high school sports team or be involved in an after-school sport.

The deadline is in December annually.

Jen Smith is a writing intern at The Penny Hoarder and blogger behind Saving with Spunk. She’s a recreational runner who spends more money on her sport than she will ever get back.

Student loans are rough.

Over the past two decades the cost of college tuition has increased by more than double the national inflation rate, and undergraduate students are graduating with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt.

With 3,000 people defaulting on their loans daily, students are waking up to the burden of student loans and are looking at scholarships to offset their college costs.

That means more scammers looking to capitalize on unsuspecting students, including this one, who spent an entire year applying for “sweepstakes” scholarships only to have her information used to spam her.

With more than 1.5 million scholarships available, it’s important to know what to look for to avoid scams that take your money dishonestly or sell your information.

Tips for Spotting Scholarship Scams

The most commonly talked-about scholarship scams advertise exclusive information about awards and charge a modest fee for their expertise. They’ll usually approach you directly via mail, email or advertisements.

Be on the lookout for these types of scams:

  • Scholarships with an “application” or “processing” fee.
  • Free seminars offering advice on financial aid. These are often high-pressure sales pitches on investment, annuity and insurance products.
  • Reward without entry, like a postcard or email that says you’ve won a scholarship you didn’t apply for.

The Federal Trade Commission says to be wary of phrasing like:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
  • “You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
  • “We’ll do all the work, you just pay the processing fee.”
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.”

If you find any scholarship scams during your searches, you can report them to the Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General.

Even reputable sites let sketchy scholarships fall through the cracks, so know what you’re looking for to avoid the hassle of an overflowing inbox and voicemail by following these tips.

  • Look for grammatical and spelling errors; if it looks like a bad translation, it probably is.
  • Click around through the rest of the website. Does the rest of the site provide good information or is it also poorly translated?
  • Genuine scholarships will always have a phone number and business address; it should not be a P.O. box.
  • Check the company’s social media. Is it updated consistently? Does it post its own content? Is it posting about the scholarship?
  • Some legitimate scholarships will ask you to send your application via email; make sure you’ve researched the legitimacy of the site before sending any personal information.

Remember you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year you plan on needing federal financial aid. Don’t waste your hard-earned money (or your parent’s money) to have this or any application filled out for you.

And if you’re looking for legit scholarships to apply for, then check out our massive list of 100 college scholarships -- you’re bound to find the help you need!

Jen Smith is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder and the blogger behind Saving with Spunk. After paying off $53K of student loan debt, she wishes she’d applied for a few more scholarships.

What do you think of when I say “acupuncture”?

Probably something on the spectrum between reiki chakra clearing and the comic-book character Pinhead.

But, as an acupuncturist myself, I’m excited that people are realizing how much the discipline is more like science-based medicine than voodoo.

Acupuncture is rooted in immunology and neuroscience and has become increasingly popular over the last several decades. (This 2016 article from Time summarizes acupuncture’s clinical trials and how it works on a physiological level).

But misconceptions surrounding the practice and the price tag keep some people from seeing it as a healthcare option.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

[caption id="attachment_55083" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Community Acupuncture is Making Alternative Healthcare Affordable Jen Smith inserts needles during a treatment at St. Pete Community Acupuncture on April 14, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Studies suggest acupuncture can help relieve chronic pain, headaches and some of the symptoms of cancer treatments, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Acupuncture needles elicit immune responses in your body to send appropriate proteins or chemicals to the places they need to go to solve problems.

Say you have a sprained ankle. Acupuncture would be effective in reducing inflammation, blocking pain signals to the brain and speeding up the healing process.

Treatments are cumulative, so depending on how long your issue has been going on, it usually takes a course of eight to 12 treatments to see the full magnitude of results.

How Much Does Acupuncture Cost?

[caption id="attachment_55086" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Community Acupuncture is Making Alternative Healthcare Affordable Jen Smith treats Cathy Stroman at St. Pete Community Acupuncture on April 14, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The initial visit will typically run you $75 to $95, with follow-up visits costing $50 to $70, according to CostHelper, a consumer information website. When you consider you will need multiple treatments to see a difference, it’s easy to see why people often don’t get the number of acupuncture treatments they need to fix a problem.

On the flip side, acupuncture in China is pretty inexpensive, around $5 per treatment. It’s a high-volume, low-cost model where you’re treated in a clinic with lots of chairs and many people being treated around you.

Which led a few acupuncturists in the U.S. to ask, “Can we use the same model to solve the problem of expensive acupuncture in America?” That’s how community acupuncture came to be.

What is Community Acupuncture?

[caption id="attachment_55087" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Community Acupuncture is Making Alternative Healthcare Affordable A mannequin showing meridians, or rivers of energy in Chinese medicine, is pictured St. Pete Community Acupuncture in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Community acupuncture brings treatments back to basics, the way it’s practiced in China. It’s a worldwide movement that takes the cost barrier out of the healing equation.

Treatments take place in recliners in a shared space instead of private treatment rooms, and clinics see a high volume of patients. This model makes the price more affordable at $15-$40 per treatment.

What’s even more unique than the low price point is that patients decide what they want to pay on the $15-$40 scale -- no proof of income or signed agreements required.

The idea is to pay what you can afford to get the number of treatments you need.

[caption id="attachment_55088" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Community Acupuncture is Making Alternative Healthcare Affordable St. Pete Community Acupuncture is pictured in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The Oregon-based People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA) was formed in 2002 to help the general public learn about community acupuncture and to help acupuncturists set up their own practices.

It’s the only organization of its kind, and its most recent innovation has been an affordable acupuncture school in response to the overinflation of acupuncture education.

You can visit POCA’s site to find a clinic near you or do a Google search for “community acupuncture near me.” New clinics are starting all the time.

Your Turn: Have you tried acupuncture? What do you think about the model of community acupuncture?

Jen Smith is a licensed acupuncturist in the state of Florida and writing intern at The Penny Hoarder. She writes about personal finance after paying off $53,000 worth of student loans for her acupuncture degree.

On Sunday evenings, you can find most high school students catching up on homework, watching TV or sleeping.

But when I was a teen, I liked to volunteer at the front desk of the local children’s hospital.

One summer I went to South Africa to expand after-school programs. I even took a college semester off to ride around the country, educating students about child soldiers and the civil war taking place in Uganda.

To say I’m passionate about community service and social justice might be an understatement.

But I didn’t climb out of my crib with a fire for inciting social change. I started volunteering because I needed scholarships.

Apply for These 12 Community Service Scholarships

[caption id="attachment_55403" align="alignnone" width="893"] Jen Smith, a Penny Hoarder writing intern, spent one summer in South Africa volunteering her time to help expand after-school programs. Courtesy of Jen Smith[/caption]

Scholarship programs are a great way to introduce young people to life outside their social media-sized bubbles. I’ve kept the professional experiences and compassion I gained volunteering throughout my adult life.

You can make a real impact investing in your community through organizations that serve marginalized people, further the arts or contribute to whatever other cause lights you up. And here are some scholarships that will reward you for it.

1. DoSomething.org Campaign Scholarship

Every month, DoSomething.org runs “campaigns,” such as sharing ways to combat bullying or a digital guide on identifying abuse. You can participate in one or all of them and win up to $12,000.

There’s no essay, application or GPA requirement. You just have to be between 13 and 25 years old. And if you’re not in college when you win, the organization will hold on to your prize until you head to college.

The deadlines occur monthly.

2. Princeton Prize in Race Relations

This cash prize of $1,000 is awarded to students in grades 9-12 who’ve used community service to significantly encourage positive race relations during the past 12 months.

Winners also receive an all-expenses paid trip to Princeton University for its symposium on race. One prize is awarded in each of the 27 regions in which the organization operates.

The deadline is annually in January.

3. Jesse Brown Scholarship

Students 21 and under who have done at least 100 hours of community service serving veterans at a VA medical center can apply for these awards. There is one top scholarship of $20,000, as well as additional scholarships of $15,000, $10,000, $7,500 and $5,000.

The deadline is annually in February.

4. The Herbert Lehman Education Fund Scholarship

This $8,000 award from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund was originally created to help African-American students integrate into formerly segregated schools in the South and to increase their presence in the legal profession.

Any undergraduate student showing financial need, academic achievement and a commitment to public service is eligible to apply.

The award is distributed in $2,000 increments every year contingent upon the student maintaining good academic standing and maintaining scholarship criteria.

The deadline is April 1 annually.

5. Michael Crossland Humanitarian Scholarship

The Golden Key International Honour Society awards its members around the world multiple scholarships, but this $1,000 award is specifically for U.S. students who serve children in need through breaking down barriers in education, sports or assisting families in need.

If you win the scholarship, you’ll also join Michael Crossland and his organization, Frontier Project, on an all-expenses paid humanitarian trip to Haiti.

The deadline is annually in April.

6. The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

Each year the Barron Prize honors 15 young leaders, ages 8 to 18, who’ve made a significant positive impact to people and the environment.

Students must reside in the U.S. or Canada and be currently working on an inspiring service project, or have done so in the most recent 12 months to be eligible for this $5,000 award

The deadline is April 15 each year.

7. Caring Award

The Caring Institute, a nonprofit inspired by the legacy of Mother Teresa, awards five high-school students a $2,000 scholarship and honors them at its annual Caring Awards Gala.

Students must be nominated before they turn 18 or before they graduate from high school.

The deadline is in April annually.

8. Chely Wright LIKEME Scholarship

LIKEME is an organization that provides resources for LGBT teens and their communities. This $500 award is open to graduating high school seniors who’ve advocated for LGBT issues through community service and who demonstrate a commitment to the future of the LGBT community.

Thirteen scholarships were awarded in 2016, and the organization looks forward to expanding that number in the future.

The deadline is May 31 annually.

9. Bonner Scholars Program

Students with demonstrated financial need can apply for the Bonner Scholars program. The program meets each student’s full documented financial need for serving 10 hours of community service per week during the academic year and 280 total hours in the summer over their four years as an undergraduate student.

The award is available for students attending one of the Bonner Scholar partner colleges or universities across the U.S.

Admission is rolling and applications must be filled out directly at the student’s selected campus program.

10. Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

U.S. students in grades 5-12 who have participated in community service in the most recent 12 months are eligible to receive a Spirit of Community Award from Prudential.

National Honorees receive a $5,000 award, a medallion, a trophy and a $5,000 grant to a charity of choice. State Honorees receive an award of $1,000, a medallion and a paid trip to Washington, D.C.

The deadline is in November annually.

11. AXA Achievement Community Award

Every AXA financial advisor branch distributes up to 12 $2,500 scholarships every year to high school seniors with outstanding achievement in school, community service or work-related activities.

Special consideration is given to students who participate in activities related to reducing financial, environmental, health or safety risks, as well as emergency preparedness.

The deadline is in December annually, or until 10,000 applications are received.

12. Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship

One student from every school can be nominated by their principal for this $1,000 scholarship for students who show a strong commitment to and involvement in community service, leadership and academics. There are also higher levels of scholarships for eligible winners.

Since the inception of the program in 2000, more than $26 million has been awarded to more than 25,000 students.

The deadline is in December annually.

Jen Smith is a writing intern at The Penny Hoarder and the blogger behind Saving with Spunk. She was the president of her community service club in high school. 🤓

Do you find yourself browsing Pinterest after every episode of “Fixer Upper” thinking, “I could do that”? Or maybe your dreams aren’t about shiplap and midcentury modern, but they would require replacing your turn-of-the-century appliances.

While I personally have a problem hanging anything straight, maybe you’re the type of person who’s graduated from replacing door knobs and have the chutzpah to take on home improvement like a champ.

If you plan on tackling it with the Home Depot, check out these nine ways to save and make the most of every paint color misjudgment, sledgehammer swing and electrical shock that may be in your future.

1. Enroll in Pro Xtra

Pro Xtra is Home Depot’s program for professionals, but you don’t need to be certified or licensed to sign up. Anyone who’s a frequent shopper at Home Depot or undergoing a big project can benefit from this program. You can get paint discounts starting at 10% after $2,000 in paint purchases and reduced pricing on orders over $1,500.

Members also get special Home Depot coupons, weekly ads and purchase tracking, which can come in handy for tax purposes if you sell your home.

2. Take Advantage of Home Depot Fuel Rewards

If you have a commercial credit card from Home Depot, you can sign up for Fuel Rewards. You’ll earn at least 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend on qualifying purchases at Home Depot. You have until the last day of the calendar month following your purchase to use those rewards. The rewards are good for up to 20 gallons of fuel.

This offer isn’t available through Home Depot’s consumer credit card or home improvement loans. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a contractor, own a business or have a business account to apply for Home Depot’s commercial credit card. If you plan on making it rain at the Home Depot, it’s worth applying for this card.

3. Check the Home Depot Deal of the Day

Even those of us without Pro Xtra perks can benefit from Home Depot’s savings center. You’ll find the special buy of the day, which is a one-day, online-only sale with free shipping. You can also click by category to see all available discounts.

4. Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Sites like Gift Card Granny list gift cards people are selling through multiple resale sites. You won’t get huge savings, but buying a gift card at even a 6% discount saves you a few dollars. Home Depot has no restrictions on using gift cards with other discounts and promotions.

See how we got a free $10 Home Depot gift card using MyPoints.

(Bonus: Here are a few proven ways to score more free gift cards.)

5. Search the Rebate Center

Home Depot’s rebate finder lets you check out all the rebates on products available in your area. You can narrow it by appliance, brand or type of rebate to maximize your savings. Once you make your purchase, verify it online to get your rebate!

6. Check out the Overstock Page

Home Depot lists its overstock merchandise at discounts up to 75% off. Even if a discounted item isn’t available in your area, Home Depot will ship most items to your store for pickup at no extra cost.

September and October are good months to find deals on major appliances, October and November are best for patio furniture, and April is a good time to by plants.

7. Check for Home Depot Rebates on Ibotta

If you’re not in the market for a refrigerator or insulation, the rebates on Ibotta may be more your speed. Download the app, and unlock rebates on items you plan to buy. Once you make your purchase, just upload your receipt and get your rebate within 48 hours. So simple, my weed eater could do it!

8. Sign up for Emails

You’ll get $5 off your next purchase of $50 or more for signing up for emails from Home Depot. Once you’re on the list, you’ll get emails with special promotions, how-to projects and design ideas! Just don’t let it tempt you to buy all those plants you don’t need and will probably kill in two months.

9. Check Competitor Prices

Home Depot’s low price guarantee ensures you’ll get the best price whether you’re buying online or in-store. If you find a competitor with a lower price on an identical, in-stock item, Home Depot will match it. What’s more, you’ll get an additional 10% off the matched price on in-store purchases.

Your Turn: Are you going to use any of these tips to save on your next home improvement project?

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

Jen Smith is a writing intern at The Penny Hoarder and the blogger behind Saving with Spunk. She’s got shiplap dreams but seriously lacks interior design skills.

In 1970, a senator from the great state of Wisconsin decided that politicians and the media needed to pay more attention to the toll industrialization was taking on the environment.

That man was Gaylord Nelson, and he founded Earth Day.

Now, we celebrate the holiday every April 22 by planting trees, cleaning up local parks — and getting deals and freebies from other tree huggers.

We found nine deals to help you make the most of Earth Day 2017 this Saturday!

Earth Day 2017 Freebies

1. IKEA is hosting a “Sustainable Living Your Way” event April 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a bevy of promotions and discounts.

Stores will give away free two-packs of RYET 400-lumen LED light bulbs to the first 500 IKEA Family members in the door. All IKEA Family members will get free coffee, including specialty drinks.

2. EVOS will give away free organic milkshakes April 22 to celebrate its commitment to organic family farmers and sustainability.

3. Cult of Mac wants to put an extra $10 in your pocket this Earth Day. Now through April 22, trade in any Apple product, and it’ll give you an extra $10 on top of your normal buyback price when you use the coupon code “earthday.”

This is probably your cue to get rid of that iPod Nano hiding in the back of your junk drawer.

Earth Day Deals

4. Rockler Woodworking and Hardware stores are real tree huggers! April is also National Woodworking Month, and this national retailer is celebrating with giveaways, weekly make-and-take events and a spring clearance sale through April 22.

Rockler is also partnering with the Hardwood Forestry Fund to support forest restoration. It will match private donations of up to $15,000 throughout April.  

5. Amazon is offering 20% off its Warehouse Deals merchandise through April 22. Warehouse Deals are bargains on returned, warehouse-damaged, used and refurbished products.

6. Target is honoring Mother Earth with a nationwide car seat trade-in. Bring your old car seat to any Target through April 30, and get a coupon good for 20% off a new car seat good through May 31.

7. Whole Foods will host a one-day sale on organic produce April 22. Customers will receive $5 off any organic produce purchase of $25 or more.

Many stores are hosting their own Earth Day events, including free yoga, recycling drives and educational activities for kids, so check your local store to see what’s happening.

8. Natural Grocers is promoting earth-friendly food producers with a three-day event April 21-23. When customers visit the store, they can take advantage of deals on products from featured vendors and pick up a free reusable bag.

9. Earth Origins market will offer 25-cent savings for each reusable bag you use when shopping April 22. Paper and plastic bags do not qualify for this discount.

Your Turn: Do you know of any other Earth Day deals or freebies? Let us know!

Jen Smith is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder and the blogger behind @SavingwithSpunk.

What were your favorite books when you were young? Their themes probably focused on dreaming big and sharing with others. But do you remember any books about saving and spending, or prioritization and self-control?

When I think about it, I don’t remember many children’s books about money and entrepreneurship from my younger years. But that’s not the case now. There are tons of books teaching kids basic concepts about personal finance through fun storytelling.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which operates on funding from the Federal Reserve, saw an opportunity to take these books’ teachings a step further and started a kids book club to open the world of personal finance to young minds.

This Kids Book Club is so Money

The Money as You Grow book club is a financial education program that uses children’s books to start conversations about money. The CFPB designed the book club for kids ages 4-10 to spend an hour at home or at the local library reading, then talking about each month’s book with a parent or facilitator.

The program has 12 key ideas in three main learning areas: planning, money and me. Kids learn about things like setting goals, prioritization, earning, spending, saving, self-control and flexibility.

The CFPB has even designed themed icebreakers for each category! One of them includes a piggy bank puzzle (I might just print that one off for myself).

The CFPB also offers parent guides for 18 books on the list that summarize key ideas, suggest talking points and recommend activities appropriate for various ages. The goal is to start positive discussions about money instead of negative ones and use fun activities to build good money habits.

There’s also a table of financial capability milestones so you’ll know which age groups can handle what.

Not a Numbers Whiz? Not to Worry

The best part is that parents don’t need to know much about personal finance to read the books and go through the brief reading guide with their kids.

CFPB says it believes parents and caregivers are the No. 1 influence on children’s future financial capacities. You can start your kids off right no matter your experience.

You can download the implementation guide and book list here. It walks you through every activity the book club has to offer. And if you’re interested in bringing the Money as You Grow book club to your library or organization, you can order free parent guides in bulk from the CFPB website.

Your Turn: Are you interested in a financial book club for kids?

Jen Smith is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder and the blogger behind @SavingwithSpunk.

If the produce section was high school, the banana would be your high school sweetheart.

Banana is the total package: delicious, nutritious and versatile. He’s the most popular fruit consumed in the U.S., and while he may have a tough exterior, he’s really a softy on the inside. And he’s rich, so rich, in nutrients like vitamin B6 and potassium. What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, he has a very short shelf life. (He plays so hard to get!)

While your significant other may not live up to the banana’s reputation, don’t hold it against them. You can have the best of both worlds, whether your bananas are young guns or a little past their prime.

When it’s been a busy week and I choose other snacks (probably donuts) over my beloved bananas, that cheerful yellow starts to turn a sad, neglected brown. Then, I avoid the bananas for a few more days out of guilt until they’re completely inedible on their own.

I feel so guilty letting food go to waste, so I searched the internet high and low for what to do with overripe bananas.

By the grace of Google, I found more than enough banana recipes to give my little loves a longer life.

Banana Bread Recipes

I’m a fan of the classics, but I’m also the kind of gal who loves to try new spins on old favorites. I was pleasantly surprised to find foodies out there who share my love of innovation.

1. Banana Bread

Everyone should have a tried-and-true banana bread recipe. This one from Simply Recipes is mine. It’s been the most popular recipe on the entire site for 10 years, and with good reason: It’s foolproof and delicious.

2. Death by Chocolate Banana Bread

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This chocolate banana bread from Delish uses cocoa powder and has a generous helping of chocolate chips, making it a chocoholic’s dream. (So, my dream.)

3. Cream Cheese-Filled Banana Bread

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I’m always looking for ways to combine my love of cheesecake with, well, everything. I’m so glad Kristyn at Lil’ Luna shared this cream cheese-filled banana bread with us because I am in love. Bananas + cream cheese = BAE.

Banana Breakfast Recipes

You could just grab coffee and a bagel for breakfast, but why would you with all these sweet banana recipes?

They’re like eating a dessert that’s socially accepted as breakfast. Win.

4. Banoffee Scones

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Banoffee is an English banana-toffee flavor traditionally appearing in pie form. This banoffee scones recipe from King Arthur Flour takes this combo to the breakfast table, and I’m not mad about it.

The reviews alone make me want to whip out my apron and get baking.

5. Nutella Banana Swirl Muffins

Confession: I once took my roommate’s jar of Nutella and ate the whole thing with just a spoon. I love this stuff. So, of course, I ogled this banana muffin recipe from Jessica at The Novice Chef!

6. Banana Bread Donuts with Browned Butter Caramel Glaze

[caption id="attachment_49628" align="alignnone" width="550"] averiecooks.com[/caption]

Do I even need to justify why these are here? Averie from Averie Cooks is one of my favorite food bloggers, and this recipe for banana bread donuts with browned butter caramel glaze is one of the reasons why.

She even has a tutorial on how to brown butter in the microwave. If you don’t have a donut pan, these also make great muffins.

Banana Dessert Recipes

Bananas by themselves are the dessert of the produce section. But the real magic happens when you add a little flour and butter, and bam! You have desserts that make all the fruits jealous.

7. Banana Pudding Cake

Banana pudding is one of my husband’s favorite desserts, but you need pretty firm bananas to make it look good. Enter this banana cake recipe from Holly at Spend With Pennies. The mixture goes into the oven light and pudding-like and comes out as a cake with its own sauce. It’s the best of both worlds!

8. Banana Upside-Down Cake

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Do you like the sound of caramelized brown sugar and bananas atop delicious cake? Then we can be friends. And we can go find find Jessica at Sprinkle Some Sugar and thank her for the genius idea of swapping out pineapples for bananas in this upside-down cake.

9. Velvet Elvis Cupcakes

I didn’t think a list of overripe banana recipes would be complete without the King’s favorite flavor combo. Elvis may be known for his fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but Ingrid over at The Cozy Apron has perfected PB&B in these Velvet Elvis cupcakes. I mean, look at that peanut butter-cream cheese frosting!

10. Banana Cookies

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I’d never heard of banana cookies before and had no clue how popular they are. These banana cookies from Lovefoodies are basic, and you can customize them with your favorite add-ins.

Healthy Banana Recipes

I would rather work out every day than give up indulging my sweet tooth. So I had to find a happy medium with banana recipes that make me feel OK about skipping the gym.

11. Gluten- and Dairy-Free Strawberry-Banana Muffins

I have plenty of friends with gluten intolerance, so I have to include some gluten-free recipes. These strawberry-banana muffins from Delicious Obsessions are a cool spin on the traditional smoothie pairing, using coconut flour and coconut oil.

12. Paleo Banana-Blueberry Breakfast Bread

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Michele at Paleo Running Momma runs 10 miles like I hit snooze in the morning (hint: very easily). And she still has time to bake delicious, healthy treats like this gluten-free banana bread! It’s virtually guilt-free.

13. 3-Ingredient Flourless Banana Bread Cookies

Arman at The Big Man’s World creates easy, healthy sweets and breakfast recipes. His banana-oatmeal cookies look insanely good and are manageable for even a novice baker.

14. Tropical Green Smoothie

[caption id="attachment_49635" align="alignnone" width="550"] bakerbynature.com[/caption]

I wanted to include one of the many banana smoothie recipes, but of course, I wanted it to be the best. I think I’ve found it with this tropical green smoothie from Ashley at Baker by Nature. Cut up your overripe bananas and freeze them so you can make this pina colada-esque smoothie any time!

Savory Surprise

When I said bananas were the total package, I meant it. For centuries, we’ve been naively typecasting bananas in these sweet roles. But bananas have a savory side, too!

15. Filipino Banana Ketchup

[caption id="attachment_49629" align="alignnone" width="550"] seriouseats.com[/caption]

I almost didn’t think there were any savory uses for this sultry fruit until I found banana ketchup from Josh at Serious Eats. He adapted it from Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe's cookbook “Slow Fire: The Beginner's Guide to Barbecue.” It’s sweeter than tomato ketchup but spicier, with flavors like jalapeno, ginger and rum. Please let me know if you try this crazy sauce with your overripe bananas!

Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to use overripe bananas?

Jen Smith is a writing intern at The Penny Hoarder and the blogger behind Saving with Spunk.