Kelly Smith - The Penny Hoarder

Publishers Clearing House is famous for showing up on people’s doorsteps with larger-than-life checks for millions of dollars. For many, answering the door to find that they won one of the grand prizes would be a dream come true.

Scammers know just how popular these sweepstakes are, and they’ve found a way to capitalize.

If you’re someone who dreams of getting that special knock on your door someday, you need to be aware of a new scam to steal your money and make it nearly impossible to recover.

If Publishers Clearing House Calls You, it’s a Scam

On July 21, the Federal Trade Commission released a statement outlining a new scam involving Publishers Clearing House.

According to the statement, people pretending to be from Publishers Clearing House call consumers and tell them they’ve won a grand prize. The scammers then request a money transfer to pay for fees and taxes, saying they need the funds before they can issue the prize.

Most scammers request the money through Western Union, MoneyGram or a prepaid card. Receiving the money through these third parties makes it almost impossible to trace, meaning consumers may never recover it.

The FTC writes that anyone who requests you send money to claim a prize is part of a scam. Additionally, Publishers Clearing House says it will never call you about a prize and will never ask anyone to pay to receive one.

If you’ve received a call from a scammer pretending to be with Publishers Clearing House, report it to the FTC.

Criminals who seek to separate you from your money are everywhere, so protect yourself by creating strong passwords and learning what to do if you think you’ve been scammed.

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

Meal kits don’t necessarily save you money in the long run, but they do save you time, which could be just as valuable.

But what if you’re a vegetarian? You may think you’d end up saving some money compared to your carnivorous friends, but that might not be the case.

According to a Time MONEY study, if you want to get the best value ordering meal kits, you might want to think twice about that vegetarian meal.

Vegetarian Meal Kits Don’t Save You Money

MONEY tested six of the most popular meal kits to determine which one provided the best value. The meal kits were from Blue Apron, Green Chef, Martha & Marley Spoon, Plated and Sun Basket.

All six meal kits allow customers to pick between meat and vegetarian meals. Taking a closer look, though, MONEY found the meal kit companies didn’t adjust their prices to compensate for the lack of meat in the vegetarian kits.

The article cites a study by the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition that found that vegetarians typically save a minimum of $750 on food compared to people who eat meat.

When it comes to meal kits, though, there are no savings. MONEY reports consumers pay about the same amount ($10 to $15 per person) for a meal kit regardless of whether it includes meat.

So, if you’ve been trying to hack the system by ordering vegetarian kits and adding your own discounted meat at home, you’re not helping yourself any. And if you’re a vegetarian, you might want to think again before ordering meal kits.

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

Two of my best friends are engaged. I’ve seen them get fawned over in public by pretty much everyone: servers, cashiers, retail workers.

“Oh my gosh!! What a gorgeous ring!!”

“So who’s the lucky fella?”

“Here’s 10% off -- congratulations!”

I usually sit there feeling awkward when this happens. I’m not engaged. I’m also stumbling financially (thanks, student loans), so seeing them pay less for the same things I’m buying just because they have rings on their fingers baffles me.

One lady had an idea, though: She pretended to be engaged to reap the benefits that come with it.

How One Woman Faked an Engagement to Get Discounts

Lisa Ryan’s article “I Faked Being Engaged for the Discounts” is quite the conversation starter.

Ryan chronicled her experiences buying a fake $15 engagement ring and pretending to be engaged so she could get discounts on group exercise classes. According to Ryan, boutique fitness establishments offer bridal discount packages to help brides-to-be get in shape for their big day.

To make it as believable as possible, Ryan even went as far as making a fake wedding page on The Knot. She was committed.

Her fake engagement got her $100 off a membership to barre fitness classes.

While a fake engagement could seem like a harmless, fun way to cash in on some discounted goods, some people might not find it so amusing.

Branndon Coelho, lead developer at The Penny Hoarder, compared it to pretending to be a student or teacher or saying you’re in the military just to get a discount. In his eyes, doing that would would be looked down upon -- so Ryan’s stunt should be, too.

“I don’t really care what others do,” Coelho wrote. “But I’d prefer they were honest.”

Gretchen Lidow, Pinterest specialist, felt a bit differently. She agreed that it probably isn’t ethical, but she found it amusing, nonetheless.

“I actually think the whole extravagance surrounding weddings is appalling,” Lidow wrote.

Is Our Obsessions With Weddings Out of Control?

While it’s interesting that Ryan easily secured the $100 discount (all she did was call and say she was getting married), her experiences wearing her fake engagement ring bring forth deeper issues.

The obsession with weddings in our society, in general, is a hot topic, and those who are married or engaged are often treated differently.

Ryan describes interactions with complete strangers as suddenly full of kindness and genuine interest. Her recollection of a conversation with another woman at a fitness club about her “engagement” says it best.

Ryan writes: “At first, it felt like an interrogation — When are you getting married? Where are you getting married? How’s planning going? — until I realized that, no, she was actually just being nice, a phenomenon I’m not used to in New York. As it turns out, once you’ve got a ring on your finger, people are simply nicer to you in general.”

I’ve written before about the financial disparities single people face. However, while we aren’t showered with free gifts or handed tax breaks, we still save a bit because we aren’t forking over $35,329 on average for a wedding or a lump sum for a ring.

However, Ryan’s casual willingness to fake her relationship status shows that the obsession with marriage is now falling outside of the soon-to-be bubble.

She even goes as far as trying on wedding dresses and starts wearing the ring more often, even in places where she couldn’t get discounts. At one point, she describes watching the ring glisten when the subway car broke down.

At first glance, this article is a humorous account of a single woman ridiculing society’s obsession with marriage. Taking a deeper look, though, shines a light on the pressure single people face in day-to-day life -- both financially and socially.

Socially, our worth is still partially measured by whether we’re married. Millie Kerr explains it best in her article “Single People Should Get to Have Weddings, Too.”

Ryan’s example of being treated more kindly by random strangers attests to this -- what would they have said to her if she didn’t have a ring? Would they have even reached out to make a genuine connection with her? Also, would she have gotten free drinks at the bar if she wasn’t wearing her fake engagement ring?

So, if you were quick to decide that Ryan was wrong for lying about her relationship status, you might want to reconsider: Is it really her lying that’s wrong, or is our obsession with weddings and marriage the real culprit here?

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

I’d like to say that I’m surprised, but really, I’m not so sure that I am.

Did you hear about that Krispy Kreme deal last week? You know, the one when the donut chain celebrated its 80th birthday by offering a dozen donuts for only 80 cents — if you bought a dozen at regular price first.

Well, apparently everyone and their mother heard about it. The donut deal caused traffic jams, three-hour lines and made people late for work.

All that for a bunch of donuts?

Are You People Serious? This Deal Sucked

Let me start by asking a simple question. Who in their right mind would wait in a line for HOURS — just for donuts?
The people of America. That’s who.

According to Newsweek, the donut frenzy hit Charleston, South Carolina, hard. Police had to redirect traffic. People were late to work. Folks waited for three hours to get their 80-cent dozen donuts.

I’m all for donuts, but let me chime in with my two cents here: Was this deal really that great?

It was no traffic-stopper to me (even though it literally did stop traffic).

The flaw with this deal was that you had to buy a dozen at the regular price to get the discounted dozen.

Here at The Penny Hoarder, we didn’t bother writing about it.

Would you have bought that initial dozen if the next one wasn’t discounted? Probably not.

But Krispy Kreme duped you. It convinced you to overindulge in glazed donut goodness. As a result, a lot more people bought regular-price donuts last Friday.

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

What would you do if you couldn’t pay cash for your lunch?

It may seem like a no-brainer at first. With chip cards and smartphone payment options — like Apple Pay, Android Wallet and Samsung Pay — being highly accessible, the days of scrounging for change in the bottom of your purse may seem like an eternity ago.

Is cash really obsolete, though?

Visa seems to think so, and it’s ramping up a challenge to entice food establishments to drop cash altogether.

On July 12, Visa announced a challenge for 50 small restaurants, cafes and food truck businesses in the U.S. to go completely cashless. The incentive? A pretty $10,000 each to get them started.

The Visa Challenge: Good Idea or Hassle?

According to Visa’s announcement, a cashless business has multiple advantages. The company’s yet-to-be-released study of 100 cities calculated that if businesses transitioned from cash to digital in New York City alone, they could generate an additional $6.8 billion in revenue and save more than 186 million hours in labor.

Visa also claims that eliminating cash could mean “convenience, security and ease of use.”

But critics of Visa’s cashless society say it brings a multitude of problems to the table, such as increased menu prices and decreased revenue for small businesses.

Slate’s Henry Grabar writes that the U.S. has some of the world’s highest interchange fees, which are the fees the merchant pays to the cardholder’s bank. Small businesses earn lower profits from these fees, and customers see higher prices as a result, Grabar writes.

Here’s Who Pays Big in a Cashless Society

Along with small businesses that have to keep up with the interchange fees, customers who don’t have bank cards also lose out.

Last year, fast-casual salad chain SweetGreen announced it was going cashless in 2017. It cited increased efficiency, safety and hygiene as driving factors to eliminating cash transactions.

After the announcement, The New York Times reported how dropping cash increases obstacles to those who have no alternative. The article cited a 2015 Federal Reserve study’s finding that cash transactions still accounted for 26% of purchases in the U.S.

SweetGreen’s new cashless policy puts an unfair strain on “poor people, senior citizens, immigrants and historically marginalized folks,” according to Medium writer Dorian Paul. “Marginalized black and brown communities have distrust in financial institutions and have significantly less access to credit cards, debit cards, and smart devices,” which means SweetGreen’s shift away from cash put them at a disadvantage.

A 2015 FDIC study found that 31.1% of the black community is underbanked, meaning they depend on bank alternatives, such as check cashers or prepaid cards, to conduct transactions.

The Risks Associated With Going Cashless

Let’s not forget about the vulnerability that comes with digital transactions. Fast-food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill is still recovering from a data breach that affected transactions between March 24, 2017 and April 18, 2017.

With technology comes the risk of hackers stealing valuable consumer information and committing fraud.

For now, Visa insists cash is no longer king. Will its $10,000 incentive be enough to push 50 companies to make the switch? We’ll see.

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

For whatever reason, hot dogs seem to be popular these days.

If you use Snapchat, then you know the dancing hot dog has gained serious attention lately.

I’m talking about this dude:

You know what that means? It means this year’s National Hot Dog Day is going to be one for the ages.

If you’re in the mood for a free hot dog (or maybe another treat!) this week, you’re in luck: A popular travel center is offering free food (including hot dogs) in observance of National Hot Dog Day.

Sorry, dancing hot dog man, we’re about to eat all your friends.

How to Get Free Food From Pilot Flying J This Week

Starting July 19, Pilot Flying J will offer a free roller-grill item to anyone who brings in this coupon. If you don’t have a printer, don’t worry — you can show the cashier the coupon on your phone.

Pilot Flying J will limit this deal to one per customer per day (I know, bummer), but the good news is it’s valid in the U.S. and Canada.

If you’re not a fan of hot dogs, you can choose from cheese smokies, cheeseburger links, Tornados, chicken rollerbites, tamales and eggrolls.

The deal runs through July 26 at 11:59 p.m., which means you could eat free food every day for a week.

Pilot Flying J is a chain of truck stops in North America that has more than 750 locations. You don’t have to be a truck driver to enjoy it, either — its stores are open to everyone.

So, whether you’re a hot dog lover or not, get ready for some free food this week from Pilot Flying J.


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

It’s July, and I’m sure you’ve I’ve already given up on New Year’s resolutions, so I’m all ears when it comes to this delicious food deal.

And since I’m oh so nice, I’m here to share it with you. (How does that Chainsmokers song go? “If we go down, then we go down together?”)

Get ready — cheap pancakes are coming.

How to Get Cheap IHOP Pancakes This Week

There’s something so beautiful about IHOP. Whether you’re 16 and there at 1 a.m. because there’s nothing better to do or 35 and taking your kids in for a treat, it’s pretty charming.

Plus, what’s life without some fluffy buttermilk pancakes?

No matter how old you are, you’ll want to take part in IHOP’s 59th anniversary celebration, which will include 59-cent short stacks of buttermilk pancakes

You read that right: three delicious pancakes for a little more than half a buck. I’ll take it!

The offer is valid on July 18, the breakfast chain’s 59th anniversary, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sorry, but the offer is limited to one short stack per customer (but I know you could eat more), and only dine-in customers are eligible.

You don’t need a coupon either. Just head in and order your 59-cent pancakes.

Thanks, IHOP! Turning 59 looks good on you. 😉

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

Back in the day, I decided to work as a door girl for a night club downtown.

I was promised an hourly wage plus tips -- and I figured I could make a decent amount of money while only working a few nights a week. So I went for it.

I quickly realized the job was horrible.

I had to stand outside of the nightclub at the door in high heels for more than six hours each shift.

Even worse, I live in Florida and had to have full hair and makeup every single shift. I usually sweated my makeup off by the end of the night, and my hair would end up so frizzy that it looked like I had stepped straight out of an ‘80s music video.

To top it off, I had to deal with drunk people gawking over me and yelling at me -- not to mention the underage kids trying to sneak in.

I lasted a measly three weeks before I quit.

Penny Hoarders Share The Worst Jobs They’ve Ever Had

[caption id="attachment_60820" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Bad jobs TPH employee Jordan Piper, center, attends a meeting with other employees in St. Petersburg, Fla., Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Piper said one of the worst jobs he ever had was working at a golf course where he mowed the grass. "We had some members that couldn't wait any longer to play so they would tee off before the course would open,"he said. "I'd get cussed out and/or hit at on a pretty normal basis for being in the way with my mower."[/caption]

After taking a poll here at The Penny Hoarder HQ, I realized I’m not alone when it comes to having had a horrible job experience. It seems like having one is almost like a right of passage in the working world.

My coworkers shared some cringe-worthy stories.

If any of them sound familiar, stick around -- we’ll have tips on how to escape them at the end.

Heather Comparetto, Staff Photographer

I quit my first job at Chick-fil-A because they told me to walk guests to their car under an umbrella when it was raining. Me: I didn't sign up for this sh*t.

Dana Sitar, Staff Writer

I worked in a label factory for three weeks. My job was to splice rolls of labels together. Mostly it was just reading while I watched rolls of labels spin on this machine. Mandatory overtime + Saturdays, and I was like, "I think I was made to be broke, instead."

Justin Cupler, Assistant Editor

I literally worked in human excrement (and other nastiness people flush down toilets) for a whopping $9 an hour. I had to go into the tanks and use a big vacuum to suck all the (ahem) "crap" from the drained water-treatment buildings. I also cleaned the skimmer tanks, which is where all the non-poo that people flushed went. You can only imagine what was in this tank...

Alexa Vincent, Photo Coordinator

I was a seasonal stocker and had to carry 50-pound Christmas trees up a 10-foot ladder for 10 hours a day. I only lasted a month because I found myself constantly thinking, “I wonder what I could do to injure myself today that would allow me to go home early?”

Desiree Stennett, Staff Writer

I sold reference books door to door. It was a part of a program that took college students to different states to do it. I was with a group of students from FSU and FAMU, and we sold books in Akron, Ohio. Our pay was 100% commission. I lasted about two weeks before I spent the commission I had made so far on a Greyhound ticket back to Florida.

Kristy Gaunt, Illustrative Designer

I've been a nanny for years. One summer I decided to take a nannying gig early in the mornings and late at night that worked perfectly with my work schedule at the [Division of Student Affairs] Marketing office. The gig paid me really well, the best I'd ever been paid for a nannying gig, but the kids were monsters. (I'm not one likely to say that either since I really love kids.) On the day that I finally decided to quit, it was because one of the kids had thrown a hammer at me. I decided I didn't need the job anymore after that, especially since the mom didn't care when I told her what had happened.

Jordan Piper, Quality Assurance Analyst

I used to work at a golf course and had to drive the range cart that people love to hit at. I left everyday with a headache, and, if I was lucky, I had a bruise from a ball coming through a hole in the cage and hitting me. All for under eight bucks an hour.

Do You Have a Horrible Job? Tips for Getting Out of One

[caption id="attachment_60824" align="alignnone" width="1200"]bad jobs Kristy Gaunt, an illustrative designer at The Penny Hoarder, creates hand lettering designs on her lunch break. Gaunt said one of her worst jobs was a nanny job. Gaunt remembers an instance when one of the girls screamed while lying on the floor for an hour and then proceeded to slam doors because the carrots she requested for dinner where chopped up.[/caption]

Although having a not-so-desirable job at least once in your life is inevitable, it doesn't mean you have to be stuck at a dead end forever.

If you're ready to go from snoozin’ on the job to cruisin’ on one, you have plenty of options to choose from.

If you’re not ready to make a move, consider making your terrible job a little bit better by asking for a raise -- here are our tips on how to snag one.

You might also want to consider negotiating better hours. Sometimes a change of pace can go a long way.

Maybe you’re feeling like your job doesn’t fit who you are as a person. If you’re looking for something a little more low key that requires minimal human contact, check out our top picks of businesses and jobs for introverts.

While you’re searching for a new job, be sure to check out our favorite online sources for job seekers. They’ll help your hunt go smoothly!

Want to be your own boss? Check out these tips on starting your own business.

Or, you want to work from the comfort of your couch. If so, check out these tips on how to work from home.

Making money is a part of life. Let's at least not be bored to death while doing it!

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

Christine Cummings and her fiancé recently found their dream home. However, neither of them had been in the home-buying market for quite some time, and they thought they wouldn’t need their down payment until the closing date. But when they went to sign their mortgage papers, the bank asked for the lump sum — that they didn’t have — in less than a week.

The hurdle? Cummings, the vice president of marketing for All Set, is an immigrant from Germany who’s here on a working visa. She worked in Europe for more than 30 years, and the majority of her savings was sitting in a European bank. Because international money transfers involve a lengthy process, she wasn’t sure she would get her portion of the down payment in time.

An idea popped into her fiancé’s head: After hearing his friends talk about taking short-term loans from their 401(k)s, he decided to explore the option. He realized getting the loan would be as easy as logging into his account and paying a fee of less than $20.

So, they did it. They took the 401(k) loan, made the down payment on the house and reimbursed the account as soon as Cummings’ funds from Germany arrived.

“There was a little bit of a thought process because we’re both under the understanding that you don’t want to touch your 401(k), you know, until you retire,” said Cummings. “But since we knew we had the money and that we had to do it to beat the processing time for the money from Germany, we just decided to go for it.”

401(k) Loans: Part of a Bigger Problem

While Cummings had enough money to cover her down payment, not everyone else is in a similar situation.

In general, Americans are lacking when it comes to having cash on hand.

According to a recent GoBankingRates study, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts.


This means they often don’t have the means to cover emergencies, let alone make major purchases, such as a home.

So, some folks are tempted to take a loan from their 401(k)s.

There are rules associated with doing this, though.

Forbes reports that most 401(k) plans allow you to take out loans, although specifics vary by plan. Typically, you’re allowed to borrow up to 50% of your entire account balance up to $50,000 You must repay the loan within five years, although the repayment schedule can usually be extended to 10 years if you use the loan to pay for a down payment on a home.

But is it really a good idea?

We spoke to some experts to find out.

When is it OK to Take a 401(k) Loan?

Some financial planners say taking money out of a 401(k) strategically can work to your benefit.

Pedro Silva from Provo Financial Services says taking money out of a retirement fund can be appropriate if the money is put toward a long-term goal that helps you build a better future.

Silva says it may be appropriate to use a 401(k) loan to eliminate consumer debt, buy a home or start a business, but he also warns of situations when you should never take out a 401(k) loan.

“401(k) loans should typically not be used for treating ourselves as in vacations or for depreciating assets, such as a car or a boat,” he said.

But Travis Sickle of Sickle Hunter Financial Advisors in Tampa, Florida, says he finds it difficult to justify taking money from a 401(k) for anything but retirement.

A retirement account is a long-term investment, he says, and taking money out prematurely means you’re missing out on the opportunity for continued growth.

You’re also paying interest on your loan, although it’s usually at a modest rate.

MarketWatch reports that plans usually set a default interest rate that’s about 1 or 2 percentage points above the prime rate. That means those who have borrowers who don’t have good credit could pay less interest with a 401(k) loan than they would if they took out a loan from a third-party lender.

Still, unless your situation is so dire that it prevents you from having “a roof over your head and food on the table,” Sickle doesn’t advise taking out a 401(k) loan.

What Happens When You Take Money From Your 401(k) Early?

It’s important to note that a 401(k) loan is not the same thing as a 401(k) hardship withdrawal.

A loan is a set amount of money you take out of your account and promise to pay back; a hardship withdrawal is money that you take out of the account preretirement and don’t have to pay back.

While 401(k) loans are generally easy to obtain (there aren’t many requirements or specifications as to what you can use a 401(k) loan for), hardship withdrawals are much more regulated by the IRS. Only certain situations, such as down payments for houses, funeral expenses, medical expenses and more are grounds for taking out a 401(k) withdrawal.

If you end up withdrawing money from your 401(k) early — before age 59 ½, although there are some exceptions — you’ll owe income tax on the amount you withdraw and pay a 10% penalty.

If you leave your job for any reason, you’ll likely have to repay your loan within 60 days — otherwise, it is considered an early withdrawal and subject to income tax and the 10% penalty. Same goes for if you don’t make a payment for 90 days.

Why it Could Get Harder to Borrow From Your 401(k)

The Wall Street Journal reports that many employers see 401(k) loans as a major risk to the ability of their employees to retire (and make way for younger employees who work for less pay). Many companies are taking steps to make it harder for employees to borrow from their 401(k) plans.

These precautionary steps include requirements that employees wait 90 days after repaying a 401(k) loan before taking out another one or meet with a financial counselor before borrowing from their retirement accounts.

Alternatives to 401(k) Loans

After reading about 401(k) loans, you might be feeling a bit uncomfortable with all of the risks and contingencies.

If you’re still in a bind and are considering taking money out of your retirement account, check out our article about ways to avoid penalties when you take money out of your 401(k).

If you’re still wondering about your options when it comes to taking out a loan of any type, check out our article about the best and worst ways to borrow money.

Another option? If it’s not an emergency, hold off on the purchase. If you don’t have the money now, it might not be a good time to make it.

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.

The Takata airbag recall is slowly (but surely) inching its way toward an expected 100 million cars worldwide.

Since the first vehicles with exploding Takata airbags were identified, at least 17 deaths and more than 180 injuries have been linked to shrapnel flying from the airbags when they deploy in a crash.

For those who haven’t been keeping an eye on the recall’s developments, another massive group of cars was just added to its list, and yours may be included.

The Latest Takata Airbag Recall Updates

Takata is adding 2.7 million Nissan, Ford and Mazda vehicles to the list of vehicles affected by potentially deadly airbags and parts.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a statement Tuesday warning that these airbags can rupture if they’re not replaced.

The agency hasn’t released any reports of the airbag inflators — the propellant-filled components responsible for deploying the airbag — rupturing, as reported by ABC News.

The latest recalls affect the follow makes and models:

  • 627,000 Nissan Versas for 2007-12 model years.
  • 2.2 million Fords (models and model years are unknown, but more information will come).
  • 6,000 B-Series Mazda trucks for 2007-09 model years.

Takata filed for bankruptcy in late June, leading Chinese rival Key Safety Systems to buy the majority of the company’s assets for $1.6 billion. Critics of Takata, like U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, are still concerned over how long it’s taking the company to issue recalls and replace faulty parts.

Those who own an affected vehicle should expect their automaker to issue a recall. Affected owners will be eligible for repairs, financial assistance or compensation.

If your car has an affected Takata airbag, you could be eligible for a cash payout once a judge approves a multimillion-dollar settlement with automakers.

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

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…


That’s right, the golden-arched giant will make us giddy with an ice cream deal this weekend.

Yum. Actually, double yum, ‘cause it’s free.

With a simple app download, we’ll all be on our way to a free soft serve ice-cream cone from McDonald’s this Sunday.

Here’s the scoop:

How to Get a Free Ice Cream Cone Using the McDonald’s App

On Sunday, July 16, McDonald’s will serve up free vanilla soft serve ice-cream cones to customers who downloaded its app. The download is free, and you’ll automatically have the offer waiting for you in the “My Deals” section.

To receive your free cone, just order your soft serve and have the cashier scan the free offer on the app. It’s as simple as that.

The offer is good for both dine-in and drive-thru ordering. So, if you’re on the go, you can still get a free cone. Keep in mind it’s only good for one cone per customer.

Why the generosity? July 16 is National Ice Cream Day, and Micky D’s is here to celebrate with us. The deal highlights the fast-food joint’s improved soft serve recipe that eliminates preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors.

So, while you’re enjoying that free treat, keep in mind that McDonald’s is working hard to make sure our treats are (somewhat) good for us.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the best part. McDonald’s is sending out personalized tweets with the #SoftServed hashtag. So, in case your Tinder game has been lacking lately, you can count on Ronald McDonald’s creepy clown face to say something nice to you. Because that’s totally better than Tinder.

I think I’ll just stick to the ice cream.

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

About 40 to 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce, according to the American Psychological Association.

I’ve never been married, but I watched my parents get divorced when I was barely a teenager. The one thing I noticed most about the process? It’s expensive.

Elise Pettus, founder of UNtied, an online divorce resource for women, said there’s no set number for how much a divorce costs, but $13,000 is the rough average in the United States. And that’s without children involved.

Pettus went through the divorce process in 2010. After realizing there was no single space that offered a place for women facing divorce to connect and find professional resources, she founded UNtied in 2013.

So what makes divorce so costly?

After speaking with experts, it was clear: The small fees you may not initially account for are what end up killing your bank account during a divorce.

Let’s take a deeper look.

The Divorce Process is More Complicated Than You Think

When you think of divorce, you might imagine sitting in a room with your soon-to-be ex and an attorney. In a perfect world, you would both agree on how to split things and who sees the kids when, then you’d sign a paper to finalize your split.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Depending on how heated your case gets, multiple expenses can pop up.

The Fees That Start to Add Up

Hiring an attorney or mediator is only one costly part of the divorce process.

Every single aspect of your divorce gets billed: every phone call, every car ride to the courthouse and more. You might not initially think of paying for each of these expenses individually when you hire an attorney, but your final bill will include these items. Prices will vary, depending upon your lawyer.

Here are some expenses that quickly increase the cost of divorce:

Legal Fees

  • Attorney’s time: One of the biggest costs of any legal case is an attorney’s time. Some charge by the minute, others by the hour — and they charge you until your case is complete. According to, hourly attorney fees can range from $100 to $400, depending upon location, complexity of the case, experience and more.
  • Appraisers: You will likely need to hire an appraiser to assess the value of your assets, including real estate, antiques, art, collectibles, etc. Pettus says an appraisal can cost several thousand dollars.
  • Attorney travel time: Every time your attorney travels to and from court to discuss your case, they will bill you for it.
  • Changing your will: According to LegalZoom, hiring an attorney to write a new will can cost $100 to $150. Prices increase with more complicated wills.
  • Forensic accountant: If your divorce turns into a heated battle, you might need to hire a forensic accountant to find any assets or funds your soon-to-be ex spouse may have hidden. Considering this is a specialized service, you can expect to shell out hundreds of dollars per hour to hire one.

Expenses You May Incur if You Have Children

  • Guardian ad litem fees: A guardian ad litem is a court-appointed individual who seeks out the children’s best interests, such as living situation, contact with parents, etc. Pettus says a guardian ad litem can cost between $150 and $250 an hour.
  • Custody assessment This assessment usually takes place if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse can’t come to terms with the custody situation. According to DivorceNet, a mental health professional usually carries out a custody assessment to determine co-parenting responsibilities. This process is similar to a guardian ad litem assessment.

DivorceNet reports: “A county custody evaluation will probably cost between $1,000 and $2,500, and you could pay $10,000 or more for a private evaluation.”

  • Parenting classes: Some states require parents to take parenting classes before divorcing. While these classes focus on teaching the impacts of divorce on children, they also familiarize parents with the divorce process. Sometimes, you can take these classes online for as little as $20.

Saving Money on a Divorce: Is it Possible?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the thought of divorce costs, there are a few strategies you can consider to reduce them.

Since there’s no guarantee these money-saving tips will be right for your situation, it’s important to consult with a legal professional to discuss these options.

Here are a few ways you could potentially save money during the divorce process:

Consider Litigation Alternatives

There are multiple ways to get divorced, including litigation, mediation and collaborative law.

Bill Yanger, an attorney in Tampa, Florida, describes the differences between these options.

Litigation is the process of filing a lawsuit against another party. When you litigate a divorce, you’re seeking a judgment from the court based on law and facts.

Mediation, according to Yanger, is “a situation where the parties come together and sit down to review the facts and try to come to an agreement.” A third-party mediator helps spouses negotiate an agreement, and you don’t need an attorney, according to DivorceNet. Mediation is usually faster and more cost-effective than litigation.

Collaborative divorce is a process in which both parties agree to work together to negotiate an acceptable arrangement — it’s similar to mediation, but each spouse is represented by collaborative attorneys.

In a collaborative divorce, both parties put the best interest of themselves and their children first — all while using resources responsibly. Yanger says that collaborative law is “probably the most economic” way to get a divorce.

No matter what route you take, you can’t get a divorce without a judge signing off on it.

Don’t forget that you’ll eventually go before a judge, who will review your agreements before approving them. Court costs will vary depending on your state and the complexity of the case.

Pay Attention to the Time You Spend on the Phone With Your Attorney

Every interaction with your attorney costs money, including phone calls. According to Pettus, attorneys often bill time in six-minute increments.

To avoid racking up a big bill for phone communication, she suggests calling with a list of questions instead of contacting your attorney every time you think of a question.

She also warns that you should avoid emotional venting during phone conversations because these eat away at time with your attorney.

“Try to keep in mind that [a divorce] is a business transaction,” she said. “This can sometimes help people remember to be efficient with their attorneys.”

Prepare Your Documents Ahead of Time

Courts closely analyze many documents, such as bank statements, in a divorce to determine separation of assets and alimony.

Pettus recommends having all of these documents on hand to keep charges to a minimum.

She says that figuring out on your own what you spend every day is key to saving money during the divorce process. If you wait for your lawyer to calculate your spending with you, you’ll pay big time.

Consider Unbundling

The process of unbundling is when you and your soon-to-be ex spouse negotiate certain areas on your own, without an attorney present.

Unbundling, according to Pettus, is a fairly new practice in most states — but it can be one of the most efficient strategies you use in your divorce.

Pettus says this can help cut costs but warns you should only use it in situations where there are no major disagreements.

Know That There are No Winners

If you want to avoid a long, dragged-out divorce, Pettus offers this advice:

Go in with the mindset that you don’t have to “win” every single point.

“If you approach the whole process with one or two priorities and understand that nobody comes out of a divorce agreement as the winner, you’re likely to get through it much more quickly and much more affordably,” she said.

Divorces are about compromises — if you can accept that, you can save money in the long run.

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