Kelly Smith - The Penny Hoarder

Dogs and cats are adorable. Especially ones in shelters.

With Clear the Shelters Day coming Aug. 19, you may want to do a good deed and rescue a furry friend from your local shelter for free.

Not so fast. Are you sure you know just how much a new fur baby costs?

Adopting a Pet Is a Big Deal

On Aug. 19, hundreds of shelters across the country waive or reduce their fees in hopes of adopting out animals. While not all shelters celebrate Clear the Shelters Day, many will waive adoption fees when they’re running out of space for new intakes.

You may think the waived fee means it’s time for you to find your new best friend. But trust me — you should do a little soul-searching before adopting a pet.

My fur baby, Wrigley, has cost me more than I thought he would.

After my therapist recommended I get an animal to help me deal with anxiety, I woke up one day, headed to my local Humane Society and fell in love with his wrinkled shar-pei face.

I took him home that day.

What I didn’t consider? Shar-peis are prone to many, many health issues. In my first year owning him, we went to the vet more than five times for scary situations: eating things he shouldn’t have, sensitive tummy issues, weird skin reactions, tapeworms, a poked eye… The list goes on and on.

Today, he’s healthy and happy. But looking back, I wish I had been more realistic about the costs of maintaining a pet so I wasn’t always so surprised at the vet.

So, How Much Does Owning a Pet Really Cost?

There are tons of costs that go into raising and maintaining a pet, and many people don’t consider them when they head to the shelter.

A few of those overall costs that might hit you big include:

  • Vaccines: If you adopt a pet, you’ll have to get them vaccinated. My local Humane Society had coupons for Wrigley’s puppy shots, but remember some vaccinations are yearly and required for boarding or day care. And if you choose not to vaccinate your pet (yeah, people actually do that), it could cost you thousands in veterinary care.
  • Housing: If you rent an apartment, you may have to pay a pet deposit and a monthly pet fee. Even worse, some landlords and communities don’t even allow pets -- even if you are willing to pay extra for them. Taking in a pet often means finding a place for you both to live for the next decade or longer, which could get pricier and more difficult.
  • Day care: Wrigley is a mixed breed. He’s got a little bit of shar-pei, pit bull, Rottweiler and probably more in him. You know what that means? He’s hyper and incredibly social. I now pay $225 every six weeks so he can go to doggy day care while I work to blow off steam and make friends. If you’re considering day care for your pet, check out our tips for picking the right place for your pooch.
  • Pet Insurance: An emergency vet stay can cost thousands of dollars, so some people opt for pet insurance. Monthly payments can vary, and don’t forget about the deductibles you have to meet before the insurance kicks in.
  • Food: Obviously, your pet will need food to survive. In the beginning, I opted to feed Wrigley dog food that fell into the higher price point -- and he ended up getting sick. The good news here is that you don’t have to buy expensive dog food to keep your pet healthy. Additionally, there are pet rewards programs that can save you big when it comes to restocking on food. Keep in mind, though, that depending on how much you choose to feed your pet, you may be headed to the pet store two or three times a month to spend money -- and it can all start to add up! Today, I spend about $40 to restock his food about two or three times a month, totaling $80 to $120.

Take these things and more into consideration before you head to your local pet shelter. If you’re in good enough financial shape to work these costs into your budget, then absolutely adopt a new fur baby!

If not, now might not be the right time. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future!

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Follow her dog, Wrigley, on Instagram at @mr_wrigley_ .

When it comes to saving for retirement, it seems like no one’s prepared. Pretty much every report says retirement funds are falling short.

A recent Reddit thread, however, shines a different light on how people view retirement and are successfully preparing for it.

How One Reddit Thread Gives Us Hope About Retirement

On Aug. 10, Reddit user VintageBurtMacklin started a thread titled “Why Save So Much For Retirement?

The user explained how he maxes out his 401(k) contributions but worries doing so will result in him neglecting his other financial goals.

“It just feels like overkill to me to prioritize funding retirement in the midst of other savings goals like paying off house early, starting college savings, saving for new cars, or saving for major home repairs,” VintageBurtMacklin wrote. “I can't imagine the benefit of maxing out my retirement accounts to the full 401k and IRA maximums. Sure, it nets me the absolute highest return objectively, but what will I actually do with that money once I'm there? Is it not to the detriment of life in the meantime?”

VintageBurtMacklin didn’t see the long-term value in maxing out his contributions, but other Reddit users were quick to give him a rundown.

You logic is fine if you have other saving needs like a house or education. Just remember your calculations are figured for perfection. No illness, job loss, divorce, stock market dropping over 30 percent and not breaking even for over 10 years (which it has done numerous times),” wrote Reddit user Amcal.

Others generously offered their own personal experiences to back the suggestion that he continue to contribute as much to his retirement account as possible.

“When my father was your age, he made $150k per year. Today, he is unemployed and broke,” wrote palsh7. “Fortunes change. Don't assume anything. If you're still feeling good at 55, by all means, cut back, but right now you want to invest.”

Why This Thread Is So Great

Much of the buzz around retirement these days is about people not saving enough. According to MarketWatch, women ages 65 and older work more now than they did 20 years ago, mainly because they can’t afford to retire. On top of that, the same article says millennials also struggle to put money away for when they’ll retire.

This Reddit thread, however, sets a different tone for the retirement discussion. While we may not be perfect when it comes to saving, it’s refreshing to see we’re sharing lessons we’ve learned from our mistakes, hoping that others don’t make the same ones.

The other reason we love this thread so much? It shows people are taking strides toward becoming money-conscious.  

And we love that this guy is maxing out his contributions. Hopefully, he sticks with it!

Oh, by the way -- did you know Reddit is a great resource for financial information? If not, check out 31 of the best subreddits for Penny Hoarders.

Get reading!

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

Sephora lovers, I’m about to give you the best news of your week.

I know you might love finding the best eyeliner or lipstick on the cheap, but Sephora is finally giving us a way indulge a little without totally blowing our budgets.

Every week from now until Nov. 1, Sephora will offer deals and freebies both online and in stores through its Weekly Wow program.

I repeat: Sephora is having a deal EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. For more than two months.

You get a contour kit! You get some falsies! EVERYBODY GETS SOME FAB MAKEUP FOR CHEAP!

How to Get Sephora’s Weekly Wow Deals

If you love Sephora but hate the price, trust me -- I understand. It’s incredibly easy to walk in there and spend what seems like $400 on two things. (I’m exaggerating here, but seriously, it all adds up quickly.)

According to Glamour, the makeup giant’s sales are infrequent and planned months in advance -- which makes this new promo huge.

To get in on the weekly deals, all you need to do is keep an eye on Sephora’s social media accounts or emails for the announcement of the current week’s deals.

To put things into perspective for you, the first deal consisted of 50% off Anastasia Beverly Hills contour kits and Stila eyeshadow palettes.  

Thanks, Sephora!

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

If you bought a pair of glasses to watch the upcoming solar eclipse, you might want to double-check that they’re legit.

Amazon just announced that potentially counterfeit solar eclipse glasses are out on the market, putting consumers’ health and safety at risk.

Do you know if your glasses are affected?

Fake Eclipse Glasses Were Being Sold on Amazon

To watch a total solar eclipse, wearing extremely dark glasses is required. Without them, you could experience permanent eye damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

With the eclipse coming on Aug. 21, vendors have been capitalizing on our obsession with “eclipse glasses” -- but not all of the glasses are safe.

Amazon hasn’t released a full list of which products were not up to standards, but it has contacted and refunded customers who may have bought fake glasses, CNNMoney reports.

Additionally, it has taken down other listings for glasses that may be inadequate.

How to Safely Watch the Solar Eclipse

If you’re still on the market for eclipse glasses, be sure to buy them from a trusted vendor. The American Astronomical Society has released a full list of legitimate eclipse glasses vendors here.  

If your glasses aren’t on the list, you may want to reconsider using them. Even if they have an International Organization for Standardization seal, they may not provide adequate protection.

Don’t have the spare bucks to buy some? No worries -- we found a way to make a solar eclipse viewer with things you already have at home.

Have fun -- and most importantly, be safe!

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

When Sean Sutherland‘s divorce was finalized, he realized he had to toss his original plans for the future out the window.

Uncertainty about starting a new life started creeping into his head.

He was faced with questions about life after divorce he wasn’t sure how to answer: Will one income sustain me? Do I want to stay in an area that’s associated with memories of the relationship and people close to it?

While Sutherland, a Baltimore resident, considers himself lucky for having generous and supportive friends during his time of need, he still felt a financial burn from the startup costs of his new life.

Even though his divorce was finalized in January 2016, he still feels that burn to this day.

Life After Divorce Is Costly for Everyone

Sutherland isn’t alone in that he still feels the financial impact of his divorce.

It’s well-known that getting a divorce is an expensive process. Between litigation fees, charges for document copies, attorney bills and more, the expenses can leave you financially drained.

But the money woes don’t stop there -- it’s actually where they begin. Once the papers are signed and the judge approves your divorce, your world opens up to a whole new variety of expenses.

The true cost of life after divorce includes everything from establishing separate residences and obtaining new insurance policies to getting back in the dating field.

Here are some examples of just how much it costs to start your life over again.

You’ll Have to Find New Living Arrangements

You and your ex-spouse probably shared an apartment or home, meaning you’ll be faced with finding new living arrangements.

If you’re renting, chances are you’ll have to come up with some large upfront costs, such as a security deposit, and first and last month’s rent.

Depending on your divorce agreement, you might not get all of your previous home’s furnishings, which means you’ll have to pay to replace those, too.

Lizabeth Cole, director of public relations and communications at The Penny Hoarder, had to start nearly from scratch after her divorce was finalized.

While she took small pieces of furniture from her former home, she had to replace all of her bigger furniture, along with linens, kitchenware, towels and more.

On top of that, she had to pay a security deposit and first month’s rent for her new apartment. In total, she estimates she spent about $3,000 on securing and furnishing her new residence.

Depending on location and the size of the home, these costs vary widely.

Rebuilding Your Savings Might Take Time

For Sutherland, the 50-50 split of his savings was the biggest financial strain. He said he funded their nest egg, with the intention of the two of them living off it in the future. But he and his ex-wife agreed to split it in the divorce, which left him in a new reality.

“It certainly derailed the plans I had and the vision for what my future would be,” Sutherland said. “Cutting a net worth in half is a big hit for anyone to take, let alone someone who was still pretty young and in the early stages of my career.”

Sutherland lost around $15,000 when he split the savings with his ex; it’s taken him nearly two years to get within reach of where he was before the divorce.

You’ll Have to Pay the Bills on Your Own

It’s common for people to combine finances with their significant other.

Once you get a divorce, though, you no longer have someone to split bills with. If you’ve been doing this for dozens of years, you may find it difficult at first to adjust your spending habits.

There are plenty of ways to get back on track after a breakup, though. Doing things such as re-evaluating your budget, thinking twice before making emotional purchases and preparing for financial success can help you get acclimated to only having your own money to spend.

You Need Your Own Insurance Policies

No longer being married means you may not have the advantage of bundled services, such as auto and health insurance.

Examples of policies and services you will have to hold on your own include:

  • Auto insurance: If you and your spouse were on the same auto insurance policy, you may have received a multicar discount. Now you will have to seek out your own plan, and it might cost more to cover your car. According to The Zebra, a single person saves about 5.6% when they get married, which equates to about $74 extra. Getting divorced increases premiums to nearly the same rate a single person pays.
  • Health insurance: If your ex had you on their health insurance plan, you will now have to find your own coverage.
  • Disability insurance: After getting divorced, you may owe your ex-spouse alimony or child support. You may want to purchase disability insurance so you can make the court-mandated payments should you unexpectedly experience an illness or accident that prevents you from earning money.

You’re Now a Single Tax Filer

Filing joint taxes when you’re married usually means you get certain benefits, like tax breaks and increased standard deductions. That means that as a single filer, you could see your income taxes increase.

Don’t Forget About the Cell Phone Plans

If you and your ex-spouse or significant other split a cell phone bill, you’re going to have to think about what to do next.

Many cell phone plans involve contracts that are costly to terminate. However, if your divorce isn’t exactly amicable, you might want to consider canceling the plan.

Erin Routzahn, senior account manager at The Penny Hoarder, shared a cell phone plan with her ex-boyfriend of two years. After they separated, they opted to terminate the plan.

The total cost to cancel it was $300, which they split.

Your Mental Health -- an Overlooked Cost of Divorce

Caring for your mental health may not be an expense you considered part, but Elise Pettus, founder of divorce community group UNtied, thinks you should factor it in.

She compares divorce process to the grieving process, saying you might be “grieving the dream of having a family.”

“I do think therapy is a good idea,” Pettus said. “One of the things I see happen again and again is how helpful it is to have a community of others who are going through the same thing.”

If you’re turned off by traditional therapy due to the stigma or cost, there are outside resources available to help you. Examples include communities like UNtied or divorce recovery support groups. Some of these programs charge membership fees, and some don’t. Be sure to do your research.

Good News: You’ll Probably Need to Think About the Costs of Dating Again

After recovering emotionally from your divorce, you may consider dating again. While this is an exciting time in your personal recovery, keep in mind that it can be expensive.

Many adults spend $150 to $250 on a single date, including dinner, drinks and transportation.

Due to the rapid expansion of dating technology, we’re going on more first dates. That being said, some leave the traditional standards of who should be paying for the first date in the dust. Some people split the bill, others go simply for the free food.

The good news is, you don’t always have to go out to dinner for a date. Consider doing cheap or free activities such as bike riding or happy-hour hopping to save on costs.

A New Life: Expensive at First, But Worth It

The costs of starting a new life after divorce are significant, but with a new beginning comes hope.

Joy Prosperity Coaching founder and business coach Joy Passey signed her divorce papers in March 2014, after 13 years of marriage. Although she had to find her own health insurance plan, she also spent money on self-care and time with her friends.

My friends said I became more fun when I got divorced,” Passey wrote in an email. “Ha! I also started improvisational classes and started performing again. I became a better version of my former self after my divorce!”

If you find yourself struggling financially while you readjust to life on your own, know that you aren’t alone.

Sutherland rebuilt his savings by working as much as possible in the months following the divorce. He even took on a second job, where he worked most weekends. For him, rebuilding his savings came as a “mental victory,” and keeping busy with multiple jobs helped him move on.

Sutherland offers a few words of advice to those who may feel like they aren’t able to get back on track financially:

"The best advice I can give is that you will get through this: Once the immediate shock is over, do your best to replace the funds you've lost — increase your savings, decrease your spending, but do so on your own terms. Only you can know what the right pace is for cutting back or cutting loose with your spending during these tough times."

Here’s to new beginnings.

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

Update: Nissan has reached a $97.68 million settlement over defective Takata airbags in 4.4 million of its vehicles. The settlement will accelerate the airbag replacement process and pay for rental cars for “the most at-risk” class members while they wait for repairs.

It’s been a long time coming.

More than eight years have passed since the first vehicles were recalled due to exploding Takata airbags. But soon, nearly 16 million vehicle owners could finally get compensation.

The Takata Airbag Settlement is Worth Millions

On May 18, plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed a $553 million settlement agreement with four of the automakers that used the defective airbags.

The airbags were reportedly rupturing, sending dangerous material into vehicle cabins, harming passengers.

To date, at least 17 deaths, 12 of which were in the U.S., have been linked to the defect. Automakers have recalled and repaired more than 14 million vehicles, but plaintiffs argue the the companies have worked at a slow place, endangering those who are still driving the affected vehicles.

In January, Takata agreed to pay $1 billion for concealing its faulty airbags and submitting false tests to automakers. Three of its executives were also criminally charged with wire fraud and conspiracy stemming from the alleged cover-up and fake tests.

According to NPR, here’s how many vehicles are covered in the settlement and how much the automakers will pay if a judge approves the settlement:

  • 9.2 million Toyota vehicles: $278.5 million
  • 2.3 million BMW vehicles: $131 million
  • 2.6 million Subaru vehicles: $68,262,257
  • 1.7 million Mazda vehicles: $75,805,050
  • 4.4 million Nissan vehicles: $97.7 million

Ford and Honda were also named in the suit, but they have yet to announce settlements.

Final approval for the five automakers’ settlements depend on a hearing scheduled for Oct. 25.

The settlements compensate affected owners by offering reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, financial assistance and support for necessary repairs, free rental cars for some owners while they wait for repairs, an extended warranty and a possible payment of up to $500.

USA Today reports that those who have been injured by the exploding airbags are eligible for compensation under a separate fund.

The settlement will also create an outreach program for those who still drive affected vehicles. The program will work to get them repaired as quickly as possible.

More than 42 million vehicles worldwide have the potentially defective airbags. For a full list of vehicles involved in the recall, head to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.

The website also lays out the steps you need to take to get your vehicle fixed.

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

Add anything Disney to the list of apps that are most likely spying on you.

While you may not enjoy playing Elsa or Olaf on your iPad, your kids probably do -- and a new class-action lawsuit claims Disney is hijacking their information as a result.

Do you know if your children are being safe while they play online?

Disney’s Dirty Information Collection

On Aug. 3, Amanda Rushing filed a complaint against Disney and its marketing counterparts on behalf of her child. The lawsuit claims Disney is violating the privacy of children who use Disney apps on smartphones and tablets.

The lawsuit states that Disney and three of the software companies that develop its apps have collected personal information from children, some of whom are under 13, while they interact with the programs. This collection of information violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the lawsuit alleges.

The software embedded in the apps is allegedly used for advertising purposes, and the lawsuit says the data collected could contain identifying information. It also alleges the apps violate COPPA by not having disclaimers outlining how they use the collected information or requiring parental consent before data collection begins.

The lawsuit, which aims to represent users in 35 states, includes 42 apps. You can see a full list of the affected apps on page 17 of the lawsuit.

This isn’t the first time Disney has faced legal backlash for alleged COPPA violations. In 2011, the company paid $3 million after the Federal Trade Commission found that one of its subsidiaries registered 1.2 million users for online games, most of whom were children.

The lawsuit asks for the amount of damages to be determined in a trial.

Disney denies the allegations of any wrongdoing, saying it has a “robust COPPA compliance program” in a statement on Monday.

“We maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families,” the statement, as reported by The Washington Post, read. “The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in Court.”

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

In case you thought the Alfred Angelo disaster couldn’t get any worse, it is.

The bankrupt bridal retailer is now going back on its promise to fulfill remaining bridal gown orders.

In a new statement from the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee on the retailer’s website, any remaining orders that are unfulfilled will remain so due to the “logistical and financial strain” associated with completing them.

If you’re out money and a dress, you can file a proof of claim to attempt to recoup your losses, but there is no guarantee you’ll get your money back. Some retailers, such as David’s Bridal, are offering special discounts on new dresses for affected brides.

Meanwhile, some brides impacted by the closing are reportedly experiencing less stress than others because they made this smart money move: They purchased wedding insurance.

Why Wedding Insurance Is a Wise Financial Move

We know weddings aren’t cheap: The average wedding in 2016 cost $35,329, according to The Knot.

Considering that enormous chunk of change, buying wedding insurance is a great idea for many couples.

Also known as special event insurance, wedding insurance can cover losses when something doesn’t go as planned on the big day. It’s especially helpful if something big happens, like the venue falls through.

Will Shaffer from Tampa, Florida, experienced firsthand the consequences of not purchasing wedding insurance. He and his fiancee, Renee, put money down on a venue in nearby Ybor City last November, about a year out from their planned wedding day.

They opted to pay in installments. After paying about $6,000 toward the venue, they started to have difficulty reaching the owners. The couple called multiple times to no avail and had a feeling something strange was going on.

In late July, the venue filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, leaving them scrambling to find a new venue with less than four months until their big day.

“We never thought something like this would happen,” says Shaffer. “We saw [the venue] had great reviews, and we really weren’t worried. This was totally an unforeseen circumstance.”

They opted not to purchase wedding insurance because they knew they would get married no matter what, Shaffer says. They figured insurance was mainly in case something were to happen on the actual day, such as if someone got cold feet and called it off. He didn’t know it would cover something like the owners of a venue filing for bankruptcy.

Thankfully, his family owns property in North Florida where they will get married this November. Although money’s been tight since they lost the cash from the original venue, they have received deposit refunds and discount offers from the other vendors they initially planned to use.

How Much Is Wedding Insurance?

CNBC reports basic wedding insurance can cost between $155 and $550, depending on the desired coverage. Coverage can include reimbursement for a dress that never arrived, bad photographs, vendor no-shows and more.

Todd Shasha, managing director of personal insurance product management at Travelers, recommends purchasing insurance before you pay any deposits.

When purchasing a policy, be sure to understand what it covers and how much in reimbursements you’re eligible for -- and be sure to read the fine print. Be on the lookout for any clauses stating you might not be covered in specific situations.

The last thing anyone wants is to have their big day ruined by a company going out of business or a venue shutting down. For peace of mind and financial security, purchasing wedding insurance is a smart money move.

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

I don’t know about you, but when I get home from a long day, I like to plop myself down on the couch and partake in some mindless indulgences.

In other words, surfing social media on my phone or watching Netflix.

Aside from using it to de-stress from work, I use the internet for more than eight hours on any given day -- even on the weekends. It’s easy to say that I would probably die without it.

But wouldn’t it be a dream if we could all just get paid to use it? I mean, we’re on it enough...

Well, guess what? You actually can.

Don’t believe me? Well, I found a company that promises to pay me $200 just by connecting a simple device to my wireless router.

Yes, I’m for real. I decided to sign up and here’s what happened:

How to Make Money With Digital Reflection Panel

[caption id="attachment_40336" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Photo by Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder Photo by Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Digital Reflection Panel wants to pay you over $200 a year to let them gather information about your internet habits in hopes of one day making online experiences even better.

All you have to do is connect a simple device to your wireless router and do device updates every now and then. The rest is taken care of!

It took me about seven minutes to fill out the necessary panel and survey to participate.

Here’s how easy it was for me to sign up:

Step 1: Be Eligible for Membership

The beginning is easy. All you have to do is answer yes to having internet and living in a detached home.

After that, you’ll be approved to help provide research for the company and on your way to free money.

Step 2: Fill out the survey

This is the meat of the work, but the questions are simple.

There are only four sets of question, and each one requires you pick an option or provide a short response.

Make sure you indicate that you do in fact have a wireless router, and that you use wireless devices in your home.

One thing, though: You can’t be sharing your internet connection with neighbors.

This panel is only open to single family homes with their own router tied to their physical address. I guess it’s time to tell your neighbors to stop being freeloaders! 

Also, it's currently only open to U.S. residents over the age of 18 in households that make more than $75K/year.

Digital Reflection PanelAfter this step, you’re asked to put in your contact info, including your phone number.

Hesitant about giving your number out? Well, Digital Reflection is nice enough to ask what time is best to call you.

I’m always slammed during the week, so I chose weekend afternoons.

Screen Shot 2

After this, I was asked basic questions about my household, including an inquiry about using internet-connected devices.

Digital Reflection Panel

Since I answered “yes” to using them, the next set of questions was about exactly which brands those in my household use -- including my dog.

Just kidding.

Digital Reflection Panel

Digital Reflection Panel

After that -- and a few quick questions in between -- I was moved on to the last screen, confirming I understood my entire household had to participate, that I had to keep it plugged in at all times, and a few other specifics.

Digital Reflection Panel

Step 3: Start earning money!

Right after completing the survey, I received an email confirming a set-up kit with my meter and step-by-step instructions would be delivered to my home within the next week -- with notifications when it shipped and when it arrived!

The meter ended up on my doorstep after only a few days. But I didn’t let it sit on my counter for too long -- you'll earn a $25 bonus for installing it within four days!

Digital Reflection even gave me a call (on the weekend, like I requested) and offered to walk me through each step of the installation process. The manual that came in the box was super detailed, though, so I didn’t even need their help.

After everything was plugged in, I headed to my email inbox, clicked on a link Digital Reflection sent me and punched in some numbers. Then, ta-da! It was all set up.

Just for installing the meter (which takes five minutes per device), I earned $25. On top of that, I'll get $60 after the first two months, and if I keep it plugged in, I’ll get $10 each month after that.

Cha. Ching.

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

Kanye West is in a massive legal battle with insurance underwriter Lloyd’s of London.

What’s at stake? A pretty $10 million to cover the losses stemming from his canceled “Saint Pablo” tour in 2016.

Here’s why the lawsuit is on the table and what it tells us about reading the fine print:

Fine Print Clause Causes Kanye West a Huge Legal Headache

Remember Kanye West’s highly publicized erratic behavior last year? If you don’t, here’s a quick rundown:

West completed 36 shows during his Saint Pablo tour. Then things fell apart. After his wife, Kim Kardashian West, was robbed of over $10 million worth of jewelry at gunpoint, West started to cancel shows left and right. At one point, the rapper claimed vocal cord issues were to blame, but he then started to unravel before the public eye.

After going on a bizarre political rant mid-November, West was admitted into the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA for exhaustion. West remained in the hospital for the next eight days, and the rest of his Saint Pablo tour was canceled.

Performances can be jeopardized by everything from natural disasters to the health of the performers. That’s why high-level performers often purchase insurance to mitigate the high risks of putting on concerts.

As reported by The Washington Post, West paid “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in insurance premiums, but now Lloyd’s refuses to pay the millions West and his company, Very Good Touring, are seeking to cover damages from the tour cancellation.

Its reasoning? West’s marijuana use could have caused the medical condition that led to the cancellation of the tour, and his insurance policy included a drug clause that stated “non-appearance stemming from use of alcohol or drugs will not be covered.”

What Yeezy Taught Us About Insurance Policies and Fine Print

West’s lawsuit denies the allegations that drug use caused the tour’s cancellation, but his situation can teach us a great deal about the fine print in insurance policies. When it comes to signing any legal document, you absolutely must read the fine print first.

If something happens that requires you to file a claim with your insurance company, hidden clauses can cause you a major headache and result in you not receiving the money you think you’re owed.

For example, some home insurance companies bury clauses about specific deductibles for catastrophic loss, according to These clauses often say that should you experience loss from a hurricane or tornado, you’ll have to pay a separate deductible in addition to your regular one when you file a claim.

Additionally, some homeowners insurance policies contain anti-concurrent clauses stating that if damage is caused by an excluded peril -- one not covered by the policy -- and a second event that is covered causes more damage or contributes to the initial damage, your insurance company will not cover any of the damage.

Even when you purchase life insurance, you need to watch out for clauses that might limit your coverage within the first few years. For example, a contestable period clause typically means that if you omitted health conditions from your application, you could be denied coverage. Other clauses may specify that if you were to die from suicide, or drug or alcohol abuse, the insurance company will not pay out the policy benefits to your family.

The moral of the story? Be smart when signing a legal document, especially when it comes to insurance coverage. If anything is unclear to you, make sure you ask before you sign. That way, if you were to experience something unexpected like West did, you’ll know exactly what financial issues you’ll face afterward.

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

Google is collecting people’s credit and debit card purchase records, and one consumer protection agency isn’t having it.

On July 31, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Google collects sensitive consumer information without disclosing how it’s obtained it or how consumers can stop it.

Google’s New Ad Program Is Difficult to Turn Off

Google’s new advertising program closely monitors consumer spending habits by collecting in-store transaction information from credit card companies and data brokers. The search giant says it has access to 70% of all credit and debit card transactions in the U.S.

Google claims to use this information to determine which digital ads push consumers to make purchases at physical stores.

EPIC’s main issue with this new system is that there is no effective way to opt out of Google’s offline behavior tracking. The complaint also says that turning off the offline behavior tracking doesn’t completely free consumers from being tracked, because ads are still served to them and logged with their IP addresses on Google’s server.  

Furthermore, Google’s My Activity page provides no explicit instructions on how to keep Google from matching user data to the credit and debit card transaction information it collects from third parties. The Washington Post outlines the complicated process of opting out here.

According to the complaint, Google’s secretive algorithm that matches behavioral user data to the in-store purchase information lacks third-party auditing, which makes it a target for hackers.

Google told The Washington Post it doesn’t match credit and debit card data with specific personal information, such as names or addresses, and uses custom encryption technology that keeps the data private, secure and anonymous. As a result, the search giant claims consumers’ sensitive information is not at risk.

Google’s Complicated History With Privacy

Google has frequently been criticized for privacy issues. According to The Washington Post, Google paid “multi-million-dollar fines to settle FTC charges on privacy issues” in 2011 and 2012.

The 2011 case, which Google settled for $8.5 million, was in response to EPIC’s claim that Google used “deceptive tactics” and violated its own privacy policies when it launched its social network, Google Buzz. In the 2012 case, Google paid $22.5 million because it didn’t keep its promise that it wouldn’t place tracking cookies on the Safari browser or serve targeted ads to its users.

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

Pizza Hut just introduced its new Hut Rewards program.

You know what that means?

Pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner, ya’ll. As Guy Fieri would say, buckle your seatbelts; we’re going to Flavortown.

What You Need to Know About Hut Rewards

Hut Rewards gives you two points for every $1 you spend online. After you earn 200 points, you can trade them in for a free medium pizza with any toppings your heart desires. If you get your points up to 250, you can get a large pizza with unlimited toppings for free.

OK, I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, so I have to spend $100 to get a free pizza? As IF!”

But here, my friends, is the greasy silver lining: For online orders placed between Aug. 10 and Oct. 1, you’ll earn four points for every dollar you spend. This means you only have to spend $50 to score that free medium pizza or $62.50 to get a free large pie. And if you’re like me, you could rack that up in two or three orders, depending on how many people you feed and what sides you order. Cinnamon sticks, anyone?

Here’s the best part: This introductory promotion puts Pizza Hut’s rewards program at the top of the pizza rewards heap.

Domino’s gives 10 points for orders of $10 or more. Six of those orders will score you a medium two-topping pizza. This means you have to spend $60 before getting that free pie.

Papa John’s gives you a free dessert for every $50 you spend and a free medium, two-topping pizza for every $75.

So for now, Hut Rewards gives you the most bang for your buck. In the long run, though, Dominos or Papa John’s may be your best bet.  

Also, don’t forget to crunch some numbers with this pizza calculator. It’ll help you decide what size pizza will stretch your dollars furthest.

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