ScoreCard Research Julie Mayfield - The Penny Hoarder

Raise your hand if you like making extra money.

Raise your other hand if you hate telemarketing calls.

Now keep both hands up if you’d like to be able to make money off those annoying calls.

Thanks to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), you might be able to. "Every call or text made without your permission is worth a minimum of $500, and if it's intentional, which 99% are, each one is worth $1,500," attorney Billy Howard told DailyFinance.

What’s the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?

Congress passed the TCPA in 1991 to place limits on telephone solicitations and automated dialing systems, including pre-recorded messages. The rules  include:

  • Solicitors can’t call residences before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. local time.
  • A solicitor must provide his or her name, the company he or she is calling for and a telephone number or address where you can contact the company.
  • Solicitors must comply with any do-not-call request you make during a solicitation call.

These rules apply only to calls placed to residences (not businesses), and there are a few exceptions for tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, bill collectors and companies you’ve done business with (like ordering a product).

What Happens When Telemarketers Violate These Rules?

Companies violating the TCPA rules can be fined between $500 and $1,500 for each violation and -- this is key -- they pay those fines directly to the affected consumers.

How? People affected by rule violations can launch class-action lawsuits, and settlements can be lucrative: Capital One just settled a $75 million suit, and AT&T just settled for $45 million.

How to Get In On the Money

You’ll need to lay the groundwork to profit from the next out-of-bounds telemarketing or robocall you receive:

  1. First, register with the national Do-Not-Call Registry.
  2. If you get a call that violates the rules, file a complaint with the FTC.
  3. Finally, do some research to see if there’s an open class-action lawsuit started by others who received similar calls from the same company.

As you can see, it’s not a quick process, but it could be one that rewards you with a big payoff for a little bit of work.

Want to learn more? Read the full story at Daily Finance.

Your Turn: Have you received money from a TCPA class-action settlement? How often do you get telemarketing calls?

Julie Mayfield is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance and lifestyle topics. She is the creator of The Family CEO, a blog about money and the business of life.

If you have one or more kids, chances are you’re thinking about the cost of college -- and the numbers are downright scary.

The average price of one year of college in 2013-14 ranged from $18,943 at a public, in-state school to $42,419 at a private college or university, according to statistics compiled by the College Board. And those costs are on the rise; they have increased 12% and 9% respectively in the last five years alone.

As a family, we’ve experienced this first-hand: Our daughter graduated from an in-state, public university last May, and our son started at a private university three months later. I can attest that you’re never truly prepared for the hypothetical college costs to become real ones.

In the face of these numbers, it’s easy to be discouraged, but the key is to start saving early and often -- and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.

Here’s one great chance to knock a bit off that tuition bill: Citizens Bank’s CollegeSaver account will give you $1,000 when you save for your child’s college fund. I only wish this is something that was available when my kids were younger!

How to get the Citizens Bank CollegeSaver Bonus

The CollegeSaver account is an interest-bearing, FDIC-insured bank account with Citizens Bank. The idea behind the account is that small, regular deposits will eventually add up to significant college savings. And to encourage those regular deposits, Citizens Bank will give you $1,000 when your child turns 18.

To qualify for the bonus you need to:

1. Open a CollegeSaver savings account before your child turns 12. While the bank itself has branches in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest, you don’t have to live near one -- you can open an account over the phone or online. You’ll need to have the child’s date of birth and social security number to open the account, as well as your own identifying information.

Each child can only have one CollegeSaver account, but anyone can open it: a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or even a friend who wants to contribute toward the child’s college fund.

2. Deposit a minimum monthly amount from the time you open the account until your child turns 18.

Worried about the minimum monthly amounts? Don’t be. They’re very do-able, and they vary depending on how old your child is when you open the account:

  • Less than 6 years old: You’ll need to open the account with at least $25, and then deposit at least $25 each month until your child’s 18th birthday.
  • Between 6 and 12 years old: Deposit at least $500 to open the account, then contribute at least $50 each month until your child turns 18.

On your child’s 18th birthday, you’ll see the $1,000 as well as any interest earned on the savings added to the account. The interest rate is variable and is currently .10%.

You can miss up to one monthly deposit each year and still qualify for the $1,000 bonus. To help make sure you don’t miss any payments, though, the bank recommends setting up automatic transfers from your own account into the CollegeSaver account.

How to Use the CollegeSaver Account to Help Pay for College

Obviously, $1,000 isn’t going to get you very far when it comes to paying for college, but free money is always good, especially when it’s viewed as part of a comprehensive college savings plan.

To beef up your college savings, save more than the minimum amounts in the CollegeSaver account. Citizens Bank has a College Savings Plan Calculator that can help you determine how much you’ll need.

You can also open a 529 plan, an investment vehicle designed specifically for college savings, alongside the CollegeSaver account. 529 accounts come with more investment choices and often tax breaks as well.

Finally, look for scholarships to offset the cost of college. Check out this list of over 100 college scholarships totaling $700,000 in free money. And don’t pass by the scholarships with smaller dollar amounts; those can be easier to earn, and winning a few of them can easily add up to a significant savings on your tuition bill.

By making the CollegeSaver account part of your bigger college savings plan, you’ll be well on your way to making college affordable for your child.

What if your child decides not to go to college? If you’ve met all the required monthly contributions, you’ll still get the $1,000 bonus and you can use the money however you or your child would like.

Your Turn: Are you helping your children save for college? What’s your strategy?

Julie Mayfield is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance and lifestyle topics. She is the creator of The Family CEO, a blog about money and the business of life.

Would you be interested in an investment that provided income on a regular basis, in addition to its potential to increase in value over time? That regular income would be passive, earned simply because you own the investment, with no additional effort required on your part.

If this type of investment sounds appealing, you may want to consider investing in a stock that pays dividends. Curious? Here’s a guide to help you figure out whether this kind of investment could be right for you, and how to get started.

What is a Dividend?

A dividend is “a distribution of a portion of a company's earnings, decided by the board of directors, to a class of its shareholders,” according to Investopedia.

Dividends are often paid out quarterly and can be paid in cash, stock or property. Cash dividends are most common, so I’ll focus on those in this post.

Who Might Want to Invest in Dividend-Paying Stocks?

Because they are a form of income, dividends are particularly attractive to investors looking for regular income, like retirees. This group can use the cash dividends that a stock pays to help cover living expenses, while keeping the original stock investment intact.

But retirees aren’t the only investors interested in dividend-paying stocks. Younger investors can reinvest the cash dividend back into more shares of the stock. This practice can then result in greater future dividends for the investor since he or she owns more shares of the stock. Over time, this benefits the investor much like compound interest benefits the saver.

How to Choose Stocks That Pay Dividends

There’s no shortage of dividend-paying stocks to choose from. In 2013, 81% of the S&P 500 companies paid a dividend. With all those options available, how should an investor choose?

It’s natural to want to focus on the stocks that pay the highest dividend, but another, more conservative strategy is to consider stocks that have most consistently paid a dividend. This strategy is especially useful for long-term investors who want to make sure the stocks in their portfolios continue paying dividends year after year.

These investors will want to pay attention to the Dividend Aristocrat list, made up of S&P 500 companies that have:

1.    Paid a dividend in each of the last 25 years
2.    Increased the dividend in every one of those years

The list is updated each year, and the 2014 edition lists 54 companies, including such well-known names as McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and Coca-Cola.

How to Buy Dividend-Paying Stocks

Individual shares of dividend-paying stocks can be bought the same way other stocks can: either through a broker or in some cases directly from the company itself. But buying individual shares is not the only -- or in some cases even the best -- route to take.

Investing through a mutual fund can help you diversify your portfolio by spreading your investment across a number of different stocks, and can possibly keep brokerage fees to a minimum at the same time. Many stock mutual funds contain dividend-paying stocks, but some of those funds are designed specifically to maximize dividends for the investor.

While I’m not going to recommend specific stocks or mutual funds, you could start by checking out some of the dividend-specific mutual funds at low-cost brokerages, like Vanguard or Schwab.

What Else Should You Know?

Investing in stocks is inherently risky and dividend-paying stocks are no exception. While you can reduce your risk (and potentially your return) by choosing more conservative stocks, there is no guarantee that any stock will increase in value or that the company will continue to pay a dividend.

For an investment with a guaranteed return, you will need to turn to something like a certificate of deposit (CD) or money market account.

Ready to start exploring dividend investing? Become familiar with these terms, and do your research before jumping in:

•    Dividends per Share: The dollar amount each share of stock receives

•    Dividend Yield: The dividend amount stated as a percentage of the market price of a share of the stock

•    Declaration Date: The date on which a company announces its intention to pay a dividend

•    Ex-Date or Ex-Dividend Date: An investor needs to own the stock before this date in order to be eligible to receive the dividend

•    DRIP (Dividend Reinvestment Plan): A company that offers a DRIP allows investors to automatically reinvest their dividends back into additional shares of the stock

Your turn: Are you a dividend investor? What strategies have worked for you?

Julie Mayfield is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance and lifestyle topics. She is the creator of two blogs: The Family CEO and Creating This Life.

It’s easy to let empty printer cartridges pile up. You don’t want to trash them because you know they’ll end up in a landfill, but refilling them is too messy. So they slowly accumulate on your desk or in a drawer, contributing to the clutter you keep meaning to do something about.

The good news? You can actually get paid to dispose of your empty ink or toner cartridges and be environmentally friendly at the same time.

Here are the three most common methods of earning money with empty printer cartridges -- read on to find out which one makes you the most money.

Sell Used Printer Cartridges on eBay

You may have seen new ink and toner cartridges for sale on eBay, but did know that you could sell empty ones there as well? (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!).

I’ve sold empty inkjet cartridges from my HP home printer through the site twice. The first time, I made $24.99 for six empty cartridges, and the second time I sold five cartridges for $34. Selling multiple cartridges at once, known as selling in lots, helps save you time and makes your listing more attractive to buyers.

Make sure your listings stand out by including details. Note the manufacturer, model numbers and whether the cartridges are black, color or a combination of the two. Add a picture of your cartridges as well. You don’t have to be Ansel Adams, but clearly show what you have to sell.

If you’ve never refilled your cartridges, make sure to include the word “virgin” in both the title and description of your listing -- it could make your post more popular and help you earn more money.

Turn Empty Cartridges in at an Office Supply Store

Big-box office-supply stores like OfficeMax and Staples have ink cartridge recycling reward programs. Each of these stores will give you $2 in store credit for each qualifying cartridge that you turn in, up to a maximum of 10 empty cartridges per month. That $20 a month could go a long way toward paying for school supplies each September!

To participate, you must be a member of their customer reward programs and make qualifying purchases. But if you regularly shop at either store, this could be a good solution for you. It’s also worth checking out your local mom-and-pop office-supply store to see if it has a similar program.

Use a Cartridge Buy-Back Site

Several websites offer to buy back your empty cartridges, and most also pay for the shipping costs. eCycle Group will pay anywhere from 25 cents to $4.50 for an empty inkjet printer cartridge, and Toner Buyer offers similar prices. Of course, laser printer cartridges command quite a bit more, sometimes as much as $20 each.

Each site lists all of its buy-back prices. If you like what you see, send them your “inventory” and they’ll give you a prepaid postage label. After they receive your shipment, they’ll issue you a check.

Which Option is the Best?

While each option has its advantages, returning cartridges to an office supply store is least desirable to me, since it involves both a special trip and store credit. Selling through a buy-back site is slightly better because it avoids those things, but the wait for the check makes this option less appealing.

For me, the best place to sell empty ink cartridges is eBay. I already know the site well, and once the transaction is complete, I can quickly access the money in my PayPal account.

Your Turn: What do you do with your empty ink cartridges? Have you ever sold them?

Julie Mayfield is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance and lifestyle topics. She is the creator of two blogs: The Family CEO and Creating This Life.