Kelly Smith - The Penny Hoarder

Your mindless indulgences are costing your parents a lot of money. Especially during the summer.

That trip to the fridge you do at 3 a.m. while watching “Orange is the New Black” reruns? It’s gotta stop.

Your eating habits will cost your parents an average of $51,790 while you’re between the moody ages of 13 and 19.

You heard me. You are racking up some ginormous grocery bills, and you aren’t exactly being nice about it in the process.

This is you:

Stop it.

Teens are Hungry, and Summer Makes it Worse

After surveying over 2,000 parents with kids between 13 and 19, food and drink company Farm Rich found that teens are hungry — and even worse, they’re hangry.

One-third of parents surveyed described their teen as a “bottomless pit,” and 75% of parents admit they have no idea how their kid manages to eat as much as they do.

(My theory? Boredom. I was 15 once.)

The cost of keeping up with these bottomless pits? The survey reports it costs $142 per week to feed one teenager.

You read that right: one teenager.

That cost skyrockets during summer, too — snacking increases by 50% when school is out.

Although parents are making valiant efforts to keep up with their hungry teens, it sometimes isn’t enough.

According to the survey, 57% of parents admit that their kid is quick to grumble about the food selection at home. Parents also claim their kids say “there’s NOTHING to eat in the house” three times a week.

Someone get these kids a Snickers, will ya?

How to Save on Your Bottomless Pit’s Grocery Bill

Farm Rich Director of Marketing Shannon Gilreath says keeping teenagers fed and happy puts serious strains on parents.

“Feeding teenagers can sometimes be a mental and financial challenge, particularly in summertime when kids are around the house more,” says Gilreath, “It’s no wonder parents can feel frustrated, with tensions rising at times, so stocking up on their kids’ favorite foods is just one way to help.”

If you’re a parent struggling to keep your teen fed and happy this summer, there are a few ways to help ease the strain on your grocery bills.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make a few changes. The Penny Hoarder CEO Kyle Taylor made a few adjustments to his grocery shopping and now saves $200 per month — here’s how.
  • If you’re a teen, get a summer job and stop draining your parent’s wallets. Here are 100 fun and lucrative summer jobs for teens. If you’re going to eat this much, maybe consider helping your parents pay for it. Just sayin’. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

Remember that one time I wrote about how millennials hate dinner dates?

Well, now there’s more information that further solidifies the fact that first dates are absolute dumpster fires and should be avoided all together.

Have you ever been sitting at a dinner table across from the rando you matched with on Tinder, feeling your palms sweat as the server places the bill right in the MIDDLE of the table?

Do you do “the reach”? You know, that sneaky move where you pretend like you’re going to grab your wallet, but you’re actually hoping your date insists on footing the bill?

Sometimes the reach works, but according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, it’s not as reliable as it once was.

We’re Going on More Dates, and It’s Getting Expensive

In traditional etiquette, a man is responsible for paying the bill on a date. Surprise, surprise. It’s no longer 1822, and traditions are no longer the norm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that easy accessibility to dates is starting to blur the lines when it comes to who pays — and it’s making stuff incredibly awkward in the process.

According to the article, online dating has changed the dynamics of the dating field.

Now that it’s easier to get a first date, more people are going on them, and it’s burning some big holes in their wallets. The article gives examples of dates in New York City or San Francisco that total up to $130. Someone who goes on three dates a week could spend more than $20,000 a year.

The high costs are putting pressure on men and women alike when it comes to paying for dates.

According to the article, women are now reluctant to do “the reach” because they may actually split the bill or cover it in its entirety in the end.

I’m not saying it’s terrible that a woman would ever responsible for paying for a date. If a gal wants to foot the bill, by all means, she should do it.

The real point I’m making here is about the people who don’t initiate the date. Are the ones who are asked on a date still somewhat responsible for paying the bill?

This is where it gets weird.

The article quotes Jaclyn Suchta, a woman who was asked out on a date on her 18th birthday. As she and her date got to the ticket counter, “her date looked at her blankly for several uncomfortable moments, until she ponied up cash for both tickets, plus popcorn and sodas.”


Another young woman, Alex Paull, went out on a Tinder date and didn’t do the reach because her date invited her and picked the place.

The result? She got home from the date with a $20 Venmo request for her share of the bill.

No, she didn’t pay it.

Why are We So Confused?

Theories are mixed as to why no one knows who should be responsible for paying for a date these days.

One theory is that women don’t want to come off as “gold diggers,” so they don’t do the reach.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, is a theory that the differences in gender equality should be taken into consideration when deciding who should pay.

Tinesha Zandamela, a self-proclaimed feminist, told The Wall Street Journal, “There’s a huge gender pay gap. The least a guy can do is pay for a date that he initiates.” Some men think if they do pay for a date, they’ll fall into stereotypes. To “embrace what they consider to be a more progressive view on gender roles,” they let the woman pay the bill.

When it comes down to it, there’s one thing about all of this that just doesn’t add up for me.

One of the most talked about characteristics of millennials these days is how open they are when it comes to talking about finances.

Sure, maybe you don’t want to talk credit scores and 401(k) balances with your rando Tinder date, but if talking money isn’t taboo for millennials these days, why bother beating around the bush about it?

Maybe we should be a little more transparent with each other before we order the lobster.

Just sayin’.

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

I just got back from a 10-day stretch in Europe — and let me tell ya, it was expensive.

Something about being on vacation throws the frugal side of me completely out the window. I realized this while I chugged a 60-euro ($66.89) bottle of Champagne in front of the Eiffel Tower one afternoon like it was nothing (worth it!!!!).

The good news is, I saved for my trip. Expensive wine, late nights out and a spontaneous day in Amsterdam didn’t throw me into a financial hole.

However, that isn’t the case for most Americans.

A new survey revealed that many Americans are hurling themselves into debt to pay for vacations.


Why Do People Go Into Debt for Vacation?

LearnVest, a personal finance planning company, recently revealed new findings from its Money Habits and Confessions Survey, in which 1,000 adults in the U.S. were polled between May 17 and May 23 about their money habits.

In the survey, 32% of respondents said saving for vacations is a financial priority, but less than half of them actually account for vacations in their annual budgets.

This lack of planning may explain why 74% of respondents say they’ve gone into debt to pay for a vacation. The average respondent's debt for a trip was $1,108.


Aside from the lack of vacation planning, LearnVest suggests additional reasons why people come home with debt, such as:

  • Falling for flash airfare sales. Flash airfare sales sound great, but it’s easy to jump at them without having the money available. Can you really afford that cheap ticket, or are you buying it just because it looks like a good deal? I won’t lie — I think I look up tickets back to Europe almost every day. There are multiple times when I’ve seen an extremely low price and wanted to pull the trigger, but I’ve grown to always think twice.
  • Buying plane tickets with a credit card. Putting a pricy airline ticket on a credit card is one of the fastest ways to pay way too much for it in the end. You may tell yourself, “Oh, I don’t have the money now, but I’ll just pay it off in a few months!” The truth is, you’ll end up paying for the ticket plus whatever interest it may incur. Don’t do it!

Some Good News (I Think?)

We may not be saving enough to go on vacation, but we are at least taking small steps in the right direction when it comes to prepping for one.

The survey shows that people are doing a few things well when they prep for vacations, such as reducing restaurant visits, shopping less and spending less on entertainment.

Although these efforts are notable, they’re still not enough.

If you want to have a baller vacay (that doesn’t involve you coming home chained to a pile of debt), here are a few things you can do to generate the money you need:

  • Consider getting a side gig for the months leading up to your trip. This can be a great way to build extra funds without disrupting your regular budget.
  • Sell your unwanted things. Ever heard of the Letgo app? By being able to easily sell things from the palm of your hand, you can embrace minimalism and maximize your vacation fund.
  • Make your money work smarter, not harder. Investing sounds scary, but Stash is an easy-to-use app that walks you through the process. If you start out small and build your portfolio, you could have a good amount of money waiting for you when you’re ready to cash it out for your trip.

This article contains general information and explains options you may have, but it is not intended to be investment advice or a personal recommendation. We can’t personalize articles for our readers, so your situation may vary from the one discussed here. Please seek a licensed professional for tax advice, legal advice, financial planning advice or investment advice.

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. Adding these links helps us keep the lights on in The Penny Hoarder HQ, which makes it a lot easier to play shuffleboard after a long day of deal seeking!

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

You got to work early today — you have a tight deadline to meet. As your lunch break approaches, your stomach twists and turns, causing you immense pain.

Staring at the sad banana on the left side of your desk, you think,“This just won’t do.”

Suddenly, your stomach is growling so loudly that your co-worker to your right is giving you intense side-eye. Your body breaks into a cold sweat.

Within seconds, you make a serious dash toward the office kitchen.

You think of the delicious leftover baked ziti that awaits you, salivating. That ziti is a microwavable token of happier times that will take you far, far away from your dusty cubicle, if only for your 0-minute lunch break.

You open the fridge, ready to grab your tin of food. You wrote a heart next to your name on the container in black sharpie this morning. Robert ❤️

But the heart wasn’t enough to keep your food safe. After rummaging through the entire refrigerator, you realize your food is gone.

It has been lost — again — to the Office Lunch Bandit.

R.I.P., beloved baked ziti.

Survey Says 18% of Your Co-Workers are Terrible People

Maybe this has happened to you once or twice — or maybe a dozen times, depending on where you work.

If so, you aren’t alone.

American Express OPEN surveyed over 1,000 employees and found that 18% admitted to stealing someone else’s lunch from the company fridge.

The numbers are unsettling. You might be looking around your office as you read this, wondering whom you can trust — and whom you can’t.

“To think that nearly 1 in 5 of my co-workers is a sociopathic monster is appalling,” says Alex Mahadevan, data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

The Office Lunch Bandit is ruining more than just your food routine. They’re also ruining your budget.

According to CNBC, a co-worker stealing your lunch can cost you big.

Not only do you lose the average $6.30 in groceries in your lost lunch, but you’re also out the average $11.14 you’ll spend on a replacement takeout meal.

If the Office Lunch Bandit were to steal one of your lunches every month for a year, that will add up to you losing around $210 total, CNBC reports.

I don’t know about you, but that’s enough money down the drain to make me feel like this:

What Do We Do About Office Lunch Thieves?

What’s the deal? Are people stealing lunches out of desperation?


The survey doesn’t say. But the internet pipes in with some interesting theories.

An article from NPR reports that most people do it out of hunger — and some think they aren’t stealing, but merely borrowing.

Another reason? Some people feel entitled to the food in the company fridge.

But thinking about the hundreds of dollars lost to sneakily swiped lunches, something must be done.

“Maybe [we should] make them wear a sandwich board that says ‘I STEAL LUNCHES’ near the fridge at lunchtime for a week,” says Mahadevan.

Lisa Rowan, writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder, takes a more sensible approach and suggests banning Office Lunch Bandit from the company fridge completely.

If you’re the one stealing lunches, take note: People probably hate you.

Not sure how to pack a lunch of your own? Check out these tips on how to bring your own healthy food to the office.

As for the rest of us, it’s time to get some locks for our lunchboxes.

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

It’s 2017. You’re in the kitchen zesting a lemon and realize you’re running low on paper towels.

The good news is, the future is now. Low stock of paper towels? No problem.

“Order paper towels,” you say.

And TA DA! Your Amazon Dash Wand automatically places an order for you.

The newest gadget from Amazon costs a mere $20 and comes with multiple benefits — but is it a smart choice for consumers?

The Danger of the Amazon Dash Wand

Amazon’s introduction of the Dash Wand this week caused quite a buzz throughout the interwebs.

The new gadget lets you order items with voice command or bar code scan. It even has a magnet so it can hang out on your refrigerator.


The Dash Wand is specifically for Prime customers — and is free, sorta. You pay $20 upfront and receive $20 off your next purchase after registering the device.

The initial $20 investment seems like a small price compared to spending thousands of dollars on a smart refrigerator with the same functions.

But just how much risk is associated with this tiny but convenient device?

The major pitfall in recent reviews of the Dash Wand is that it leads to overspending.

Of course, the Dash Wand doesn’t tell you how much products cost when it adds your requests to your cart. It just chugs right along and adds whatever you tell it to.

Buying paper towels doesn’t sound so dangerous, but what about those purchases you make after having a little bit of wine?

“Hey Alexa, buy me an umbrella hat!!!!! It’s raining!!!”

(This actually happens. Did you know 1 in 3 Americans shop online while they’re intoxicated?)

Even if you don’t drink and shop, there’s still reason to be wary of how much that little gadget is spending for you.

CNET reports that some items were “overpriced at times.” When the reviewer scanned the bar code of his normal stick of deodorant, the Dash Wand placed a single stick in his cart that cost more than $6; he usually buys a two-pack of the same deodorant in stores for around $4.

Moral of the story? Pay attention to how much you’re ordering — and check your cart before finalizing the order.

Not all orders are created equal. While buying from Amazon is usually pretty convenient, you might not always be able to get the same deals you get shopping in a store.

And if you’re someone who gets spend happy, it might take a little extra self-control to keep your spending within budget.

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

I’ll admit it: I have no idea how vegans do it.

I love chicken, and don’t get me started on seafood. (I grew up on the beach in Florida).

But when I think about cutting all animal products out of my diet, I’m left wondering: “What the heck would that leave for me to eat? And how am I supposed to afford it?!”

Don’t get me wrong — I love veggies. But fresh produce can get downright expensive.

So how do vegans do it without going completely broke?

The answer: carefully.

Here are six tips on how to eat vegan on a budget, plus three vegan recipes you can make for less than $10.

Going Vegan Can be Good for Your Body -- and Your Wallet!

Tina Russell, photographer at The Penny Hoarder, has been a vegan for eight years. Her commitment to animal rights led her to eliminate animal products from her diet, and she hasn’t looked back since.

Along the way, she has learned a few tips and tricks when it comes to eating vegan on a budget. While she loves rice and beans, she also knows the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet.

The good news is she has learned how to get all of the nutrients her body needs while sticking to the vegan lifestyle and her budget.

Here are her top tips for eating vegan on a budget:

1. Be Weary of Vegan Alternatives

[caption id="attachment_59293" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Vegan on a budget Russell cuts bananas for her vegan empanada recipe. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Russell says that vegan alternatives are the biggest budget busters of this diet.

Many imitation meats and animal product alternatives out there can get pretty pricy -- and these are what can push vegan eating costs upward.

When Russell lived in New York, she would spend $130 every two weeks on groceries for two people.

These days, she avoids these alternatives and has reduced her grocery bill to $50 to $70 every two weeks as a result.

She says you don’t have to give up these products entirely, but you should be conscious of how often you buy them.

“There are some things you just can’t live without,” says Russell. “For me, it’s almond milk or vegan butter.”

She recommends asking yourself, “Do I really need that?” before purchasing vegan alternatives. If the answer is no, put it down!

2. Eat at Home

[caption id="attachment_59296" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Vegan on a budget Russell's empanadas are simple but flavorful with eight ingredients for the filling. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Going out to eat, whether you’re vegan or not, can add up.

Russell says dining out as a vegan is a huge challenge. She has to plan what restaurants she will go to and what she will eat.

Although she manages to stick to her vegan diet at restaurants, she advises just staying home and making your own food.

Not only is it easier, but it’s cheaper, too.

3. Buy Expensive Ingredients When They’re on Sale

Many vegan dishes call for specialty items, like cashews and tahini sauce.

These ingredients can be expensive: A 16-ounce bag of cashews can cost as much as $5 at Trader Joe’s.

Russell suggests looking for sales on expensive items at your local health food store and planning your purchases around them. She says it’s possible to snag a good deal on many items every few weeks.

Russell has seen vegan cheese on sale for as much as $1 off, and raw chia seeds for $2 to $3 off.

4. Buy Frozen Instead of Fresh

If you’re looking for ways to cut costs without eliminating certain foods, consider buying them frozen instead of fresh.

Russell says that she enjoys topping some of her breakfast items with fresh fruit -- but if she’s in a financial bind, she’ll opt for frozen instead.

Just be careful of where you buy frozen veggies or fruits. Some grocery stores are notorious for having expensive frozen products. Do a little research beforehand so you don’t overspend.

5. Think of Cheaper Alternatives

If you find yourself struggling to afford a particular ingredient, Russell suggests finding a cheaper alternative.

For example, quinoa is more expensive than rice. If you’re on a tight budget, why not just use rice?

You also don’t have to buy the specific brand your recipe calls for. Russell says you can buy generic instead of name brand to save a few bucks.

6. Cook in Bulk

Cooking in bulk is one of our favorite money-saving strategies for anyone here at The Penny Hoarder — not just vegans.

By cooking in bulk with a slow cooker, you can save money and time. Plus, you can come home after work to a meal that’s ready to be eaten.   

Russell loves making slow cooker recipes and says they’re huge in saving her money.

Cooking in bulk also means you can precook your meals and store the leftovers sealed in a bag in your freezer. When you're ready to enjoy your meal, all you have to do is warm it up and enjoy. Freezer meals can help you save as much as $65 a month.

3 Vegan Recipes You Can Make for Less Than $10

[caption id="attachment_59297" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Vegan on a budget Russell buys frozen empanada shells to cut down on prep and spends about $4 on ingredients for six servings of empanadas. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Eating vegan doesn’t have to mean bland roasted-vegetable dishes, either. With the right amount of spices and ingredients, you can have delicious meals for just a few dollars per serving.

Here are three recipes that cost less than $10.

1. Slow Cooker North African Couscous

If you’re looking for a delicious bulk recipe, this one is loaded with flavor and nutrients.

This slow cooker recipe costs less than $10 to make and provides four or more servings. If you’re cooking for yourself only, this could be your go-to lunch for the entire week!

See the recipe from One Green Planet here.

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped: 20 cents
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets: $2.48
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks: 30 cents
  • 4 new red, yellow finn or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered: $1.25
  • 1 white onion, quartered: 79 cents
  • 15.5 ounces canned chickpeas, drained: 99 cents
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste: 9 cents
  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce: 5 cents
  • 4 cups water: $0
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil: 17 cents
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric: 50 cents
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin: 29 cents
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon: 33 cents
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt: 16 cents
  • 1 cup plain couscous: 91 cents
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter: 13 cents
  • 1 ½ cup vegetable broth 76: cents

Total cost: $9.40

Cost per serving (makes 4 servings): $2.35

2. Banana and Black Bean Empanadas

[caption id="attachment_59291" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Vegan on a budget A quick spray of coconut oil before baking helps make Russell's empanadas nice and crispy. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

If you’re in the mood for something different, take a hack at these banana and black bean empanadas.

Russell buys frozen empanada shells to cut down on prep. In case you can’t find those at your local grocery store, this recipe shows you how to make them from scratch.

See the full recipe from Vegetarian Times here.

  • 1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour: 25 cents
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour: 17 cents
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt: 24 cents
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder: 29 cents
  • 4 tablespoons cold soy margarine, cut into 1/2-inch cubes: 52 cents
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce: 33 cents
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar: 7 cents
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil: 10 cents
  • 1 medium onion, chopped: 79 cents
  • 1 cup cooked black beans: 43 cents
  • 1 clove garlic, minced: 10 cents
  • 2 bananas, peeled and diced: 38 cents
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin: 20 cents
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper: 5 cents
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander: 7 cents
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper sauce, such as Tabasco: 5 cents

Total cost: $4.04
Cost per serving (makes 6 servings): 67 cents

3. Mexican Quinoa Casserole

The best part about this recipe is it can feed up to eight people, and it’s super-simple to make.

Just throw the ingredients together in a casserole dish, cook for about 30 minutes, and you’re done! How easy is that?

The recipe calls for vegan cheese, but remember you can skip that ingredient if it doesn’t fit in your budget.

See the full recipe from blogger Chocolate Covered Katie here.

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa: 45 cents
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder: $1.16
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder: 29 cents
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder: 18 cents
  • ¼ teaspoon salt: 4 cents
  • 1 can of black beans: 79 cents
  • 1 can of corn: 88 cents
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes: 28 cents
  • 1 bell pepper: 99 cents
  • ½ cup onion: 40 cents
  • 1 cup vegan cheese: $4.49
  • 1 cup water: $0

Total cost: $9.95

Cost per serving (makes 8 servings): $1.24

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter @keywordkelly.

Wednesday, June 21 is the first official day of summer -- which means it’s about to get real hot up in here.

Instead of telling you to take off all your clothes (unless you really want to — that’s cool, too), we’ve found a refreshing deal to make the transition into summer bearable.

Ready for a cold iced tea -- for free?

Here’s how to snag one.

How to Score Free Iced Tea from La Madeleine

La Madeleine, a French-inspired bakery and restaurant chain, is offering customers a free signature mango iced tea or classic iced tea on Tuesday, June 20.

The deal is limited to one per customer at participating locations, while supplies last.

To get your free iced tea, simply say “summer” to your cashier.

There are currently over 70 La Madeleine restaurants in the U.S., with locations in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.

Want this cool deal, but not sure if there’s a location near you? Head to La Madeleine’s website to find a location near you.

Happy summer!

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

In theory, United Airline’s basic economy class sounds like a great idea. Pay a little bit less to fly? I’m all ears.

According to The Economist, people are flocking for these low fare tickets in droves. United’s chief financial officer, Andrew Levy, even reported that 30-40% of economy-class passengers have chosen these lower-priced basic economy fares since they were introduced earlier this year.

But after taking a closer look, I’m scratching my head because this isn’t exactly a deal.

And, as reported by Business Insider, customers are confused about the restrictions that come with basic economy tickets — and they aren’t happy about them.

Listen up, Penny Hoarders: I read the fine print for you.

Here’s what you really need to know about these basic economy-class fares — and how much they actually cost you.

United’s Basic Economy Class: Nowhere Near a Deal

Since it began earlier this year, the program has been so successful that United expanded it to all domestic markets last month, as reported by The Economist.

Basic economy customers are paying $15-$20 less than they would for regular economy-fare tickets. However, these cost cuts come at a significant price.

Riding basic economy means you are only permitted one personal item on board. That’s it.

According to United’s website, those who have luggage will have to check it and pay the checked baggage fee, which is $25 for the first bag.

If you’re thinking of being sneaky and bringing a carry-on with you, you’ll get hit big. You’ll pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 handling charge if you bring it to the gate.


These baggage fees mean you’re paying the same amount you would for a regular economy fare. And if you try to sneak on a carry-on and get caught, you’re paying more than a regular economy fare.

It doesn’t stop there. Basically, your regular economy-class privileges are stripped away when you purchase these basic economy tickets.

Traveling with family? Sorry, you can’t sit with them.

Want a window seat? Sorry, you aren’t allowed to pick your seat. What do you think this is, Burger King?

Need to change your flight? Nope. Not allowed.

You board the plane last. Now that just sucks.

Oh, let’s not forget: Even if you’re a MileagePlus or Premier member, you won’t get the fancy benefits of your membership, such as upgrades, qualifying dollars and more. (You still earn your frequent flyer miles, though.)

But there is some good news: According to United, you can bring a “small musical instrument” that fits in the overhead bins.

But if you do bring your sad trombone, you can’t bring your small personal item. So what will it be: your purse or your trombone?

Is There Ever a Time When These Tickets Actually Worth It?

I want to believe this basic economy class is a good idea, but I’m struggling here.

If the price difference between basic economy and regular economy is only $15-$20, the checked bag fee eliminates the savings entirely — and actually adds $5 to your overall cost (or more, if you try to sneak a bag on board).

The only time these tickets might actually be worth it are if you’re traveling without luggage.

But I have a really hard time believing that anyone actually does that — unless, maybe, you’re on a quick flight for business and only need to bring your briefcase.

Otherwise, these fares just don’t make sense.

You end up paying more to have less.

It’s another lesson for the books: Sometimes deals aren’t deals in the end. Read the fine print, and proceed with caution!

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

Buying car insurance can be a nightmare.

Trying to buy it while insurers still consider you a “young driver,” which is typically under 25 years old, makes it even worse.

I recently purchased my own auto insurance policy, and the quotes I received were beyond anything I had ever imagined.

A $400 monthly premium? You’re out of your mind. No thanks.

Why is Auto Insurance So Expensive for Young Drivers?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drivers ages 15 to 19 years old accounted for 11%, or $10 billion, of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries in 2013, even though the age group represented only 7% of the population.

Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations,” the CDC’s website says.

As a result, insurance companies see them as a huge risk and charge higher premiums to insure them.

If you’re drowning in a high auto insurance premium, don’t fret — there are ways to save on your policy as a young driver.

Here are a few ways young drivers can cut down auto insurance costs.

1. Consider Insurance Premiums When You Purchase Your Car

When you’re young, you may be looking to buy a sexy, fast or luxurious car -- but do you know how your selection will affect your insurance premiums? A common mistake is thinking about insurance costs only after you’ve purchased a car.

Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate at car insurance comparison website, says considering insurance costs when you purchase a car will save you money in the long run. Things like safety features, make, model and age all affect insurance premiums, so be sure to get quotes on any car before buying it.

If you can’t find an insurance quote within your budget, it might be time to look at different vehicles.

2. Purchase a Vehicle With the Right Safety Features

Usually, when you get an auto insurance quote, the process involves the insurer asking you many questions, including:

“Do you have anti-theft devices installed in your car?”

“Does your car have antilock brake system (ABS)?”

“Is your car equipped with airbags?”

Purchasing a vehicle with these devices keeps you and your car safe, resulting in lower risk. This reduced risk sometimes results in discounts from the insurer.

(P.S. Looking to buy a car while you’re still in college? Check out our top eight cars for college students!)

3. The Way You Pay Makes a Difference

Neil Richardson, a licensed insurance agent at The Zebra, says changing the way you pay can be a smart way to cut down insurance costs.

The Zebra’s 2016 State of Auto Insurance Report reveals that paying your bill in full, rather than in installments, can save you around $62 a year.

If you can’t cough up that large chunk of change at once, no worries. Richardson also says that electronically transferring funds from a bank account can save you $28 annually.

Another benefit of electronic transfers? You can set them on autopay and never miss a bill — but make sure you have enough money in your account so you don’t face overdraft fees!

4. Avoid Coverage Gaps

This tip depends on your situation at home, so it may not apply to everyone.

Richardson says that being on your parent’s car insurance policy before getting one on your own can work to your advantage when it comes to savings.

Your personal car insurance history began the day you were first insured (under your parents or otherwise),” says Richardson. “The longer you’re insured, the more money you can save.”

If you’re moving out and seeking financial independence from your parents, preventing a gap in coverage is crucial. Richardson suggests buying your own policy before you drop your current coverage under your parents. This can help you avoid coverage gaps.

According to Richardson, avoiding gaps in coverage can save you an average of $100 per year.

5. Use the Available Technology

Many auto insurers are using devices that record your driving habits to offer discounts to safe drivers. Progressive, for example, offers Snapshot, which measures things like how often you brake hard or accelerate quickly, and the time of day when you usually drive.

Insurers consider these metrics indicators of risky or safe drivers. They compile this information and adjust premiums based on the risk you bring — the safer your driving, the more discounts you get.

Providers sometimes offer a discount after you agree to install these devices in your car. The discounts aren’t immediate, though; insurers will collect your data over a period of time and offer a discount afterward.

6. Look for Good-Student Discounts

If you haven’t noticed by now, college student discounts are a wonderful thing, and you should use your student status to save on auto insurance.

Some auto insurance providers offer good-student discounts, which are usually based on your GPA. Insurers have different eligibility thresholds, so call and check with yours.

You’re in school and want to do well anyways -- why not save money for it?

7. Take a Safe-Driver Course

Safe-driver courses can improve a young driver’s skills behind the wheel, which is why some insurance companies offer premium discounts for customers who have taken these courses. Call your provider and find out if it offers this discount.

Get the Insurance Coverage You Need Without Going Broke

Auto insurance can be a budget breaker for young drivers, but don’t let the high price stop you from getting the coverage you need.

You may want to go with only the minimum coverage your state requires, but this isn’t always a good way to cut costs. If you were to get into a serious accident, you might not have enough coverage to pay for all the damage, which may force you to pay out of your own pocket.

Keep these tips in mind when you purchase car insurance as a young driver -- they could help you in the long run!

This article contains general information and explains options you may have, but it is not intended to be investment advice or a personal recommendation. We can't personalize articles for our readers, so your situation may vary from the one discussed here. Please seek a licensed professional for tax advice, legal advice, financial planning advice or investment advice.

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

How’s Fido feeling?

While you can usually tell if your furry friend is feeling icky, you might want to pay closer attention in the coming days.

An outbreak of the dog flu has hit Florida this week, putting furry friends at risk all over the state.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Dog Flu is No Walk in the Dog Park

The University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine released a statement May 31 explaining the dog flu epidemic in detail.

At least a dozen dogs in Florida have been infected so far. These dogs were either present at the Perry, Georgia dog show May 19-21 or the Deland, Florida dog show the following weekend.

The infection has also spread to dogs that have been in contact with those at the shows.

The infected dogs tested positive for the H3N2 strain of canine influenza, which is the same strain responsible for the 2015 outbreak of canine influenza in Chicago, as reported by UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Symptoms of the virus include sneezing, nasal discharge and coughing.

The statement also says there is no evidence this strain of the dog flu can infect humans.

How to Prevent the Dog Flu and Save Money if Fido Catches it

Just like the human flu, there is no actual treatment for the dog flu.

However, there are medications a vet can prescribe to help your dog feel better while fighting it. Vets may also prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce fever and fight secondary infections that may occur.

There is good news, though: The dog flu can be prevented.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there is a vaccine available to prevent the H3N2 canine influenza. This can cost $25 to $35 depending on where you take your pet, as reported by the New York Times.

If you’re searching for a cheaper alternative to a regular vet, The Balance suggests heading to a nearby veterinary college, saying they “offer a sizable discount over what the local vet clinics and animal hospitals charge.”

Not sure if you want to vaccinate your dog? The AVMA also says “good animal care practice and nutrition” in dogs can help build a healthy immune system. That means keeping your dog healthy with a balanced nutrition can help him or her fight off the virus on their own. (Here are our favorite pet loyalty programs for saving on everyday pet costs!)

The big costs associated with dog flu come if your dog needs to be hospitalized. Fortunately, this is only necessary if your dog become extremely dehydrated or develops further complications.

If you don’t have the money to pay upfront, you still have options.

One of those options is to apply for CareCredit, a credit card that specializes in health care financing. Depending on your credit score, you could be eligible for interest-free, short-term financing.

As with every credit card, be sure to understand the risks associated with opening a new line of credit, such as the possibility of credit inquiries affecting your credit score, and the danger of keeping high balances on cards with high interest rates.

Last but not least: If your fur baby should catch the flu, don’t panic. The AVMA reports the fatality rate is less than 10%, and most pups recover in two to three weeks.

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

You know that stage of a relationship when the little things suddenly become the norm — dinners together, Sunday Fundays together, grocery shopping together.

These are signs of a relationship progressing. (YAY, congrats!) But suddenly everything costs twice as much -- food, events, activities, etc.

Sure, you might be on an honor system.

“I’ll get you next time,” you say.

But is that really the best way to keep track of how much each person has spends?

And that’s just the beginning: What about when you move in together? Who is supposed to pay for what?

If you’re considering taking the plunge and splitting finances with your significant other, there are multiple strategies, risks and situations to consider.

We spoke with a few experts to get to the bottom of exactly what splitting finances means — and how to figure out if it’s the right decision for you.

How Millennials are Splitting Their Finances With Significant Others

Believe it or not, millennials aren’t hesitant to share their finances with partners.

TD Bank’s 2016 Love and Money survey revealed that 37% of millennials ages 18-34 who are in relationships combine all their finances, while 32% of them combine at least some of their money.

TopCashback personal finance expert Natasha Rachel Smith attributes this to the fact that millennials are pretty open about money.

The truth is, millennials are much more open to discussing finances with a spouse than any other generation,” said Smith.

The Love and Money study found that 74% of those surveyed ages 18-34 talk about money once a week or more, compared to 54% of those 55 or older.

Millennials value cohabitation and communication, and that often translates to sharing keys to an apartment and openly discussing budget and fiscal responsibilities,” said Smith.

3 Things to Discuss Before You Split Your Finances

If you’ve found the one — who you won’t be marrying for quite some time, since you’re a millennial — you might be wondering if it’s time to take the plunge and split your Bennies. Are you ready?

Emily Bouchard, a money coach and managing partner at Wealth Legacy Group, outlines three questions for you and your partner to discuss before you throw all your money into one giant pot:

1. How Well Do We Talk About Money?

According to Bouchard, couples should be comfortable sharing detailed financial information about with each other.

“If you’re not one of those couples, combining your money is not a good idea,” she says.

2. What’s the Money for?

Knowing where your money will go before you combine it can prevent confusion in the future. Bouchard recommends defining crystal-clear expectations and developing a spending plan before sharing money. This way, you’re on the same page about what you’ll use that money for and when.

3. What are Your Partner’s Spending Habits?

You know how you spend your money. But what about your partner’s spending habits? If they’re frugal and you’re a super spender, there may be trouble down the line. Bouchard says the more similar your spending styles, the more likely you are to be successful in sharing finances.

How Exactly Will You Split Your Finances?

So, you’ve decided to split your finances. But how much will each person contribute?

Some couples split their money right down the middle, whereas others split it in proportion to their incomes.

James Pollard from gave The Penny Hoarder a great example of this strategy:

“If Person A makes $100K per year and Person B makes $50K, then Person A should contribute double the dollar amount to the joint account.”

In some cases, the individual who contributes less financially might pitch in more in other ways.

Mika Pritchard-Berman, a user experience researcher at Google, told us how she and her previous boyfriend used this strategy.

[He] made twice as much as me, so we split the bills according to the ratio of income we made. For example, our rent was $1,500. He paid $1,000, and I paid $500. However, I did the majority of cooking and cleaning.”

If you don’t have the same income as your significant other, incorporating a similar strategy can help you both feel like you’re breaking even.

Should You Have a Joint Account?

According to TD Bank’s Love and Money survey, 51% of coupled millennials have at least one shared bank account. Meanwhile, 40% of millennial couples share at least one credit card account.

There are two ways to share a credit card: adding authorized user or a joint account holder.

Here’s the difference:

An authorized user is someone the cardholder allows to use the credit card. However, they are not responsible for making payments.

Julie Pukas, head of U.S. bank card and merchant services at TD Bank, says this can be a great tool for those looking to build or repair their credit.

For example, if you have great credit, but your partner’s isn’t so pristine, opening a credit card and adding them as an authorized user could help bring their score up, given that you make the payments on time. These accounts do show up on an authorized user’s credit report, even though they aren’t responsible for payment.

There are risks associated with this type of joint account. Pukas says that the account owner should make sure the authorized user is responsible about using the card to avoid putting their credit scores at risk.

Joint account holders share the payment obligation to the account. Both account holders must be present when opening the account, and the account activity affects both of their credit scores. Pukas says joint cards are “a good way for couples to budget for household expenses and big life purchases as a team.”

How Will Student Loans Factor in?

According to Student Loan Hero, the average 2016 college graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt. But how should that affect your approach to splitting finances with your partner? Is it seen as a negative or, even worse, a deal breaker?

Knowing the other person’s student loan situation is important to a healthy financial relationship.

According to Megan Ford, president of the Financial Therapy Association and a licensed marriage and family therapist, says most couples consider bringing student loan debt into relationships to be pretty normal. However, she advises they get smart about how they manage it together.

If both partners owe a substantial amount, they will likely have to navigate how to pay their loans, as well as meet their other financial goals,” Ford told The Penny Hoarder. “Consult help if you're unsure what the best strategy is -- a financial therapist or an accredited financial counselor would be a good place to start!”

How to Protect Yourself While Splitting Finances With Your Partner

Since millennials are open to sharing finances but are getting married later, they run a significant risk: There are fewer laws to protect unmarried individuals’ finances should the couple choose to split.

Sound scary? Definitely.

The good news is, there are a few ways to protect yourself without tying the knot.

1. Put Your Strategy in Writing

Putting things in writing is a proactive way to protect your and your partner’s finances before marriage. It also ensures you both have clear expectations of how much each should contribute and when -- and by signing the contract, you both make it clear you agree to the terms.

There are plenty of DIY legal sites, such as RocketLawyer, to assist people with writing cohabitation agreements. Setting up such an agreement should be one of your first steps when you decide to share finances with your partner.

2. Sign a ‘No-Nup’

Ever heard of a “prenup”? A “no-nup” is similar in the sense that it outlines how partners will disburse shared finances and property should a couple split or someone dies.

According to Schmitz Law, no-nups address assets and liabilities, who pays the bills and who gets what.

3. Keep an “F-Off” Fund

This might seem harsh, but an “f-off” fund is something I wish I had a few months ago when my ex abruptly broke up with me. I think it’s worth including.

I learned about the “f-off” fund from this article on The Billfold by Paulette Perhach. Basically, an “f-off” fund is a personal emergency account that can protect you when things go awry — your relationship, your job, your living situation, etc.

If the name is too much for you, think of it like an emergency fund — or as Nicole Dieker describes it, an “in case something bad happens” fund.

Because trust me: Life is unpredictable. Things happen, including bad ones. And take it from me: You don’t want to feel trapped when they do.

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

It’s officially June, which means it’s hotter than heck outside.

So hot, in fact, you feel like this 99% of the time:

But don’t worry, Penny Hoarders. I’m here to save the day (and save you from feeling like a crusty sponge).

While summer days are marked by ice-cream cones and flip-flops, there’s one summer staple that seems to go overlooked: iced tea.

For those who`may not know, June is National Iced Tea Month.

To celebrate, McAlister's Deli has some hot deals for the first stretch of summer.

Ready to feel refreshed?

How to Score Free Iced Tea This Summer From McAlister's Deli

McAlister’s Deli had a heck of a year. It opened its 400th location and expanded into its 29th state.

To thank its customers, it has some thirst-quenching deals lined up.

On June 10, National Iced Tea Day, participating locations are giving away free tumblers to the first 20 guests at each participating restaurant.

The 32-ounce tumbler usually sells for $9.99, and you can refill it as often as you’d like (which means all the time, duh) for just 99 cents .

If you miss out on the free tumbler, don’t worry. There’s another deal for you.

On Thursday, June 29, McAlister's will give away free tea, no purchase necessary. Guests can choose between 32 ounces of iced sweet or unsweet black or green tea.

For more information on these deals or to find a McAlister’s Deli near you, head to the restaurant’s website.

I don’t know about you, but it’s hot here in Florida -- these deals are just what I needed to cool off.

Pinkies up!

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.