Kelly Smith - The Penny Hoarder

Have you been looking for a new cell phone provider?

If so, you might like this killer deal from T-Mobile. And no, T-Mobile didn’t pay us to write about this — it’s just so good that we had to!

The cell phone company is launching a promotional deal to snatch some of its competitors’ customers.

Starting May 31, T-Mobile will pay customers up to $1,000 to switch over their plans with no trade-in required.

T-Mobile Says Your Current Plan Sucks

The campaign is aptly named #GetOutoftheRed — a clear jab at Verizon’s red V logo.

A promotional video featuring T-Mobile CEO John Legere is kind of weird blasts Verizon, alleging it hasn’t been able to keep up with increasing demand for unlimited data. Legere claims that while Verizon’s download speeds have fallen 14% since it launched its unlimited data plan, T-Mobile’s speeds are only getting faster.

Legere also accuses Verizon of charging ridiculously expensive fees when customers want out of their contracts -- and claims at least 9 million customers don’t terminate them because they can’t afford to.

Legere “feels bad” for all the “trapped” Verizon customers — yes, he really said that — so T-Mobile will pay off financed or leased devices when customers switch to its service “whether you owe $1 or $1,000.”

While the video focuses on Verizon, the deal is also available to AT&T and Sprint customers.
The best part? The paid-off device stays with you, so you don’t have to pay for a new one. You also get to keep your phone number, and the pictures, videos and apps on the device.

Qualifying phones for this deal include the iPhone SE, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL.

Like every deal out there, this one comes with a few contingencies:

  • You must sign up for the $15 per month T-Mobile ONE device protection.
  • You’ll buy out your phone upfront, and T-Mobile will send you a prepaid MasterCard in 15 to 30 days to reimburse you.
  • The offer is good for up to five lines per subscriber.
  • You must have qualifying credit, and your current account must be active and in good standing.
  • AT&T and Sprint customers must have their original provider unlock their devices.

T-Mobile says that the average Verizon customer owes $315 on their device.

Is this deal good enough for you to make the switch?

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

If you work for the government or a nonprofit and have been panicking about the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts that include elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, this should come as a relief.

The White House released the president’s official budget proposal on Tuesday, and while it calls for cutting the program, the plan wouldn’t jeopardize those already enrolled in the program.

Only those who take out loans on or after July 1, 2018, or those who take out loans to complete their current studies, would be affected by the program’s elimination as proposed by President Trump.

The elimination of public service loan forgiveness and other cuts President Trump proposes are far from a sure thing because. They still must pass Congress, which typically makes makes huge revisions to presidential budgets.

Who is Affected by the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Cut?

The Bush administration established the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program in 2007 to encourage college grads to seek jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors by forgiving their student loan debt after 10 years of service.

Last week, The Penny Hoarder described the uncertainty many borrowers faced when a draft of the Trump administration’s budget proposal called for eliminating the program.

At least 552,931 borrowers participate in the program. As we wrote about, some borrowers worried that none of their loans would be forgiven, and others commented on how it could ruin their plans to start a family or retire.

Although the program’s future is unclear, if you’re currently on track for public loan forgiveness, you can rest a little easier knowing your devotion to public service probably hasn’t been for naught.

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

People like to rag on millennials. They say we’re bratty, spoiled and waste our money on things we don’t need. The thing is though, that’s just not true.

Millennials are actually more open to talking about money matters than other generations. We’re learning from our student loan experiences while also striving to foot the college bill for our children.

Sure, we like our fancy lattes, but we budget accordingly -- and smartly.

Before I started working at a personal finance website, though, I made some major financial mistakes. Considering I’m in my early 20s and still in school, it makes sense -- I never really learned how I should manage money.

Thankfully, though, since I started working at The Penny Hoarder last year, I’ve become more financially savvy. I’ve learned some major money lessons — and I fixed my mistakes before they negatively affected my life.

Money Mistakes I Made Before I Worked at The Penny Hoarder

Here are some of the biggest money mistakes I made -- and what I learned from them:

1. I Didn’t Have an Emergency Account

In 2016, GoBakingRates conducted a survey about millennials and their savings habits. A whopping 62% of those surveyed had less than $1,000 in their savings accounts.

Thankfully, I’ve always been pretty good at saving money; I broke my first $1,000 when I was 17. I’ve always considered that account to be my cushion in case anything unexpected happened to me.

Recently, though, I ran into an emergency when my car was towed -- and I was reluctant to pull funds out of that emergency account even though I needed my car to get to school and work.

I couldn’t figure out why I felt so bad about using my rainy day fund, so I reached out to financial experts about the right and wrong times to pull money from emergency savings. They helped me realize that even though I was saving money, I was still making a huge mistake: My emergency account also held my savings.

Emergency accounts should be separate from savings accounts. You should use a savings account to accumulate money toward a particular goal and spend it once you reach that target. Combining your savings with money reserved for an emergency makes it hard to determine how much money you’re saving for each.

I now have two separate accounts for my emergency funds and savings, and I feel much more comfortable drawing money from my emergency fund when something goes awry.

2. I Paid Way Too Much for Rent

[caption id="attachment_57237" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Since TPH writer Kelly Smith moved to St. Petersburg, she takes advantage of local parks including North Shore Park to walk her dog. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Before I learned to assess my finances, I locked myself into a 12-month lease for an unaffordable apartment. I fulfilled my lease, but I just barely got by each month -- even with some help from my dad, who agreed to pitch in since I was still in school.

I’m not the only millennial who has struggled with obscene housing costs. The New York Times reports that around 40% of 22- to 24-year-olds get help with rent from their parents. The article states that “America’s rapidly changing labor market is making it harder to find economic security at a young age,” and millennials are struggling to make ends meet as a result.

At the time, I had multiple jobs -- but I still wasn’t making enough to afford the apartment on top of all of my other expenses.

I didn’t know how hard my rent was hitting me financially until I created my first budget for an assignment.

Once I did, the number became so much more real to me. After researching the recommended percentage of income that should go to rent, I realized I was making a huge mistake by overspending on my housing costs -- and I decided to do something about it.

Now, I know to only pay 30% or less of my monthly income on rent, if possible. While I’m not quite there yet, I recently moved closer to my job and my rent dropped by $600.

There were sacrifices that came with this reduced cost: My previous apartment had almost 800 square feet, granite countertops and a walk-in closet. My current apartment is around 600 square feet. My closet is so small I had to donate a good chunk of my wardrobe to charity.

But I see this downgrade as totally worth it because I’m no longer struggling financially each month.

The best part is this move is also saving me big in other areas: My gasoline costs dropped by $80 per month, and my car insurance is down $40 per month, bringing my total monthly savings to $720.

3. I Didn’t Have a Rewards Credit Card

I’m not sure if there’s anything I love more in this world than traveling. As much as I’ve traveled, though, I always paid full price for plane tickets -- which isn’t necessary!

My co-workers are well-traveled -- and considering they’re true Penny Hoarders, they know how to travel on a budget.

I wasn’t among the many millennials who don’t have credit cards at all. But after talking with a few co-workers, I realized I wasn’t opening the right ones.

One of my co-workers told me about how she was able to travel on the cheap thanks to a rewards credit card.

Rewards credit cards can score you free airfare or hotel bookings if you rack up enough points -- and that sounded like a dream to me, so I decided to open one.

I paid off my roughly $2,500 in existing credit card debt before opening a rewards card. And no, paying it off wasn’t easy. I picked up every opportunity I could to make money. At one point, I had a full-time internship, a freelance gig and a paid position on my university’s newspaper. I didn’t sleep much.

To rack up points quickly, I use this credit card like a debit card for all of my expenses. To avoid nasty interest charges, I make sure to pay the card off in full each month.

The best part? I could travel to New York for free in a few months, or at the rate I’m racking up points, I could head to Europe for free by the end of the year!

If you’re considering opening a travel rewards card, make sure you do so responsibly. If you carry high balances each month, you could end up paying huge amounts in interest.

4. I Wasn’t Paying Off My Student Loans Early

[caption id="attachment_56679" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Kelly Smith is hugged by her mother after the University of Tampa college graduation. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Before learning more about student loans and how they work, I believed one of the biggest student loan myths out there — that you can’t start making payments on them until you graduate.

While researching common student loan myths, I discovered that many students incorrectly think you can’t pay off a student loan until you graduate.

I started slowly working my expected payments into my budget. These days, I’m already hacking away at my student loan debt -- and I still haven’t graduated yet. I plan to save thousands in interest payments as a result!

5. I Blew My Financial Aid and Tax Returns

[caption id="attachment_57244" align="alignnone" width="1200"] TPH writer Kelly Smith smiles as she receives flowers from her sister after her graduation ceremony from the University of Tampa. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

I really hated admitting this to my co-workers, but I couldn’t run from the truth: I spent thousands of dollars from financial aid and tax returns on trips abroad.

Do I regret it? No. But after writing an entire post on what not to do with a financial aid return, I felt foolish. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would save little by little for big travel expenses -- not just blow an entire check on it.

Because I have no credit card debt, I can still do something productive with any extra money that comes my way: Invest it!

One of the smartest things I’ve learned to do with extra money is to put it in an individual retirement account (IRA). I’m lucky enough to have a 401(k) here at The Penny Hoarder, but I can always do more to save for retirement.

When I’m ready to stop working, I don’t want to worry about how I’ll afford it -- and having two investment funds will help make sure I won’t.

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

In a day and age where it’s getting harder and harder to make money in the digital world, there’s still good news for those who flex their creative muscles.

Patreon, the online platform that gives artists and creatives an opportunity to earn a sustainable income, just released some new statistics -- and according to them, business is booming.

To date, content creators have been paid out over $100 million, and the number of people willing to pay them has increased in the past year.

Are you ready to make some money?

Good News for You: Patreon is Still Going Strong

In the past year, the number of people willing to pay content creators on Patreon has doubled -- the site now has over 1 million active paying patrons.

This is fantastic news, considering other platforms have been doubling down on earning potential.

YouTube, for example, now requires 10,000 views in order for a channel to be allowed to advertise. This has raised the standards significantly for those looking to cash in on their content creation -- and has forced out those with smaller followings.

Patreon’s setup offers a way to break through this barrier; those who follow your page financially support you. They are required to pay every other week or once a month in order to have access to your content -- and you decide how much to pay and when.

This system has allowed creators to earn anywhere from $25,000 to more than $150,000 per year, as reported by TechCrunch.

One example is Joanna Penn, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has been using her Patreon page, The Creative Penn, since mid-2015. She started podcasting in March 2009 and eventually needed a way to offset the costs as her audience grew.

She admits she was embarrassed to ask listeners to help her financially, but over time, she noticed they gave more and more each month, and they love keeping her show on air.

To date, she has made over $21,000.

Tips for Getting Started on Patreon

Considering Patreon has doubled in the past year, it’s safe to say the opportunity to make money on it isn’t disappearing any time soon -- so you might want to get on it!

If you’re just now venturing into the Patreon world, Penn offers these three tips for success:

1. Build an Audience First

Before Penn got started on Patreon, she had been podcasting for nearly six years. She already had an audience and a well-built library of episodes, and she credits that to be a key part of her success.

“If you build up goodwill first, people are more likely to support you,” she says.

Grow strong roots first, then branch out for payments.

2. Be Committed for the Long Term

Like many online money-making programs, you won’t become a millionaire overnight while using Patreon.

Penn stresses it takes time to gain traction on Patreon. She almost gave up after the first few months, but over time her followers have grown.

”You will start small but if you’re offering enough value, your support will grow,” says Penn.

On Patreon, patience and persistence are key to making a profit.

3. Don’t Promise Anything You Can’t Deliver

Some Patreon users like to offer incentives to their patrons. Penn, for example, offers bonus audio if her patrons meet a separate goal amount.

She warns you should be careful when offering these incentives, though.

“Make sure you don’t promise anything in your stretch goals that you won’t be able to deliver,” she says. She gives some examples of unrealistic incentives, such as personalized calls or customized posts.

For more tips on how to get started on Patreon, check out our article “How Bloggers, Bakers and Other Creatives Use Patreon to Make Money.”

Good luck!

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

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people banking on your job in the public or nonprofit sectors to pay off your student loans, listen up.

The Trump administration is set to release its first detailed budget May 23 -- and it could hit you hard.

Among its proposed budget cuts? The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

This means public school teachers, firefighters, health workers and others are facing a huge amount of uncertainty about their student debt.

What You Need to Know About the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Bush administration established the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program in 2007. It aimed to encourage college grads to seek jobs in public service or the nonprofit sector by forgiving their student loan debt after 10 years of service.

The Washington Post reports that at least 552,931 people are on track to receive loan forgiveness, with the first loans scheduled to be forgiven this October. It’s not clear how borrowers currently enrolled would be affected.

The program has been criticized for allowing borrowers to rack up hundreds of thousands in student loan debt to obtain graduate or doctoral degrees, though supporters argue that many public service jobs require advanced degrees.

In its 2015 budget proposal, the Obama administration suggested a $57,500 cap on the amount the program can forgive. (That cap was dropped from the budget, and no cap is currently in place.)

In March, the U.S. Department of Education said the student loan forgiveness letters the program handed were “not binding and can be rescinded at any time.”

People participating in the program have said they based many major life choices on the program. Some told NPR last month they passed up higher pay in the private sector to take advantage of the loan forgiveness program. Others said that cutting the program could cause them to delay their retirement and marriage plans, and even make them reconsider having children.

A White House official told The Washington Post that it’s too early to comment on the specifics of the budget, but had this to say:

The president and his Cabinet are working collaboratively to create a leaner, more efficient government that does more with less of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars,” the official said.

Other Ways the Budget Would Impact Your Financial Aid

The elimination of public service loan forgiveness is part of a proposed $10.6 billion cut to federal education programs, according to the preliminary documents The Washington Post obtained.

The Trump administration says it’s focused on creating a leaner budget that focuses on school choice.

If you weren’t thinking about taking advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, what’s proposed in the budget could still affect you or your children.

Other proposed changes that might impact your financial aid and/or student loan debt that you might want to take note of:

  • The cuts would slash work-study programs in half. That means if you’re working your way through school, you might have a harder time finding an on-campus work-study job in the coming years.
  • If you’re a low-income student who qualifies for Perkins loans, your financial aid award could be reduced because the budget would eliminate $700 million for Perkins loans. Pell Grant funding for students with financial need would remain in place.
  • The Washington Post reports the spending proposal would “take a first step toward ending subsidized loans.” The government pays the interest on subsidized loans while you're still in school, meaning you could pay more in the long run if subsidized loans are cut.

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of borrowers facing uncertainty about your student loans, don’t panic yet. The president’s proposed budget typically goes through significant changes under Congressional scrutiny.

Of course no matter what happens, always talk to your student loan servicer about your repayment options.

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

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 16 deaths, 11 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

Ford, Honda and Nissan are also named in the suit, but they have not yet settled.

The settlement compensates those who own or lease the affected vehicles. Those whose vehicles are included in the suit could receive financial assistance to fix their vehicles, free rental cars while they wait for repairs and up to a $500 payment.

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.

OK, I’m sufficiently grossed out.

In theory, meal delivery services are great. They’re cost-effective and convenient, and they taste great.

But do you really know what you’re sacrificing for that convenience?

Well, it could be your health. *gasp*

A recent study from Rutgers University revealed the worst about home delivery meal kits -- and the findings make sense.

The findings aren’t for anyone with a weak stomach (this is your warning, BTW).

Meal Delivery Services Can be Hazardous to Your Health

Earlier this month at the Food Safety Summit, a Rutgers professor presented research on 169 home meal kits and over 1,000 consumer interviews.

Of the 169 home meal kits, nearly 47% of the meats, seafood and poultry arrived at over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning they were unsafe to consume.

Hot food hot, cold food cold. If you’ve ever worked in the restaurant industry, you know temperature control is a vital part of food safety.

According to Delish, many of the animal products delivered were laden with pathogens.”

Gross. So gross.

Why is this happening?

The research revealed that part of the issue is the length of time between refrigeration and delivery. Products are often left outside for eight hours or more, which increases the chances of the food becoming hazardous.

Eating food that’s been stored at unsafe temperatures can result in foodborne illness from germs like listeria, E. coli and salmonella.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

What You Risk for Convenience

When you pay for convenience, you’re paying for someone else to do the heavy work for you. Sometimes that heavy work is labor you just don’t have time for -- which, in this case, is grocery shopping.

But when you make a decision based on convenience, you should be aware of the costs associated with it.

You may save time by getting meals delivered straight to you, but you’re also opening a black hole of health hazards.

This isn’t to say meal kits are bad. But a little extra consideration on your end, like having someone at home for the delivery so they can properly store the food, should be part of the process.

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

Phone bills suck.

Mine is exponentially more than I’d like it to be -- and sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m getting what I’m paying for.

Maybe your monthly phone bill is monstrous, too. After a few months, it can really add up. Maybe it makes it so you have to stick to a strict grocery budget or keeps you from heading to Disney World. (Who doesn’t love Disney World?)

What if I told you that your phone bill doesn’t have to hold you back anymore because you could have six months of cell service for free?

It’s true. Thanks to this awesome deal, we can slash our cell phone bills together.

Republic Wireless Offers 6 Months of Free Cell Phone Service

Have you ever heard of Republic Wireless? I hadn’t until I came across this deal. The more I read about it, though, the more I’m intrigued.

The cell phone provider is offering up to six months of cell service for free, and it can save you big. I’ll be straight up, though: It requires a startup cost of $35 or less.

But after the math is said and done, you’ll still save in the long run. I’ll prove it with numbers later.

To snag this deal, you must own a qualifying phone. Phones included in this deal include Moto G, Nexus, Pixel and Samsung Galaxy -- sorry, no iPhones. For a full list of qualifying phones, click here.

After you confirm your phone is eligible, download the Republic app to verify it. Your phone must run Android 6.0 Marshmallow or higher for the app to work.

The next step is to purchase a $5 SIM card kit, which fits in all compatible Android phones. The Republic Wireless website says it will ship the card to you two to three days after your purchase.

And now, the bulk of the startup cost: activating your plan. After you install your SIM card, you’ll head to the app and activate your monthly plan. Plans start as low as $15 per month for unlimited talk, text and Wi-Fi data, and they go as high as $60 per month for unlimited talk, text and Wi-Fi data, and 6 GB of cellular data.

There are some stipulations, though. The free six months only includes the $30 per month plan, which gives you unlimited talk, text and Wi-Fi data, and 2 GB of cellular data. If you choose a more expensive plan for your six-month free term, you’ll have to pay the difference between the $30 plan and the one you select. And you have to pay monthly taxes and telecom fees, but they’ll likely be just a few bucks.

So, in simpler terms, go for the $30 per month plan so you don’t pay extra.

After paying for the first month’s service, you’ll get the next six months free.

This offer isn’t good forever, though -- you have to purchase a SIM card between May 16-22, and activate it by June 6. So, get on it!

Here’s Why This is a Deal

Maybe you’re ticked off now. This isn’t a deal, you buffoons! I’m still paying money! This isn’t FREE!

You’re right — it isn’t free at first. But after that initial cost, it’s totally worth it.

I’ll use my personal situation as an example.

I pay $55 a month for my cell phone bill, which is an unlimited plan.

I barely talk on the phone, and I’m always connected to Wi-Fi, so I would say my data usage is low.

If I chose Republic’s $30 per month plan, I would pay $30 for unlimited talk, text and Wi-Fi data, and 2GB of cell data.

Total startup costs? $35 before taxes.

Under my current $55 plan, I will spend $330 over six months.

With Republic’s plan, I would only pay $35 over six months.

Total savings if I got in on this deal?

$295 minus a few bucks here and there for taxes and telecom fees.

To me, it still sounds like a good deal.

Of course, the savings do not include any money you might owe on your phone if it’s financed or early termination fees, so your mileage may vary.

What do you think? Is this deal good enough for you to make the switch?

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

I am very, very single. And I’m OK with it.

Look, I’m a really nice girl. But I’m young, and men my age absolutely suck just aren’t meeting my standards right now.

A recent article in MarketWatch reminded me of all the financial disparities singles face. But when it included this quote from “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw, it really hit me hard, considering I just graduated college:

If you are single, after graduation, there isn’t one occasion where people celebrate you,” she said.

Carrie Bradshaw was only talking about gift-giving, but the article goes beyond that, claiming that being single can cause you to experience some major financial drawbacks throughout your life.

Is this true? Am I doomed to foot the bill of my adult necessities on my own? Am I going to be single and poor for the rest of my life?

After taking a closer look, I’m not convinced.

Being Single Sucks for Your Wallet -- or Does it?

Being married means you’re showered with seemingly endless amounts of free s--t.

Weddings include abundances of perfectly wrapped presents simply because two people made the major life decision our society seems obsessed with.

I recently watched my sister get married and rake in a sofa, pots and pans, plates, wine glasses, a bar cart and more -- all for free, thanks to her posh Crate & Barrel wedding registry.

Single people, on the other hand, get the cold shoulder when they hit milestones in perfect stride -- all because they’re doing it alone.

As this article in The Atlantic says, “trips are not planned when we're promoted at work, nor crystal glassware gifted when we buy our first homes. It seems that milestone celebrations are still reserved for couples and families.”

So, yeah -- my fellow single peeps and I are left in the cold when it comes to free stuff, all because we aren’t putting a ring on it.

The MarketWatch article also brought up some obvious points, like how people in relationships save money on dating costs and housing.

Couples who live together not only save money on rent, but they also save big on daily expenses, such as groceries and household chores, because they’re splitting it all in half.

Cutting those expenses in half does sound like a dream, but I’m not downloading Tinder anytime soon.

Still, there are even more financial benefits to marriage that single pringles don’t have access to, such as the tax advantages of filing jointly and the ability to lean on someone financially, should something prevent you from working.

(Look, I can’t argue about tax benefits, but I think you should have your own emergency fund whether you’re single or coupled. Just sayin’.)

Married men make nearly $16,000 more per year than single men, according to this American Enterprise Institute study, although the study also found that married men work more hours than their single peers.

And what about women? The study found that despite married women working fewer hours than their single counterparts, the difference in incomes between married and single women is not statistically significant.

Why Being Single Could Save You Money

There are major financial perks to being married, so is it time to bite the bullet and fling yourself into the dating world?

Well, not exactly. There can be some major setbacks.

One thing you don’t have to worry about when you’re single? According to The Knot’s Real Weddings Survey, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. soared to $35,329 in 2016.

I think my stomach just fell to the floor.

Don’t forget the ring, either. The same study found the average engagement ring costs $6,163. **gulp**

Also, I hate to be grim, but 40% to 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. And while there’s no set number on how much one can cost, The Huffington Post reported a divorce could cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

As for me, there’s no amount of money or free things that could convince me to settle down with someone I wasn’t 100% gaga over -- even if that means having to buy my own plates (most likely from the dollar store).

That said, I’m going to enjoy my solitude -- for now, at least.

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

O Trader Joe’s, how I love thee.

Aside from just generally being awesome, the grocery store is also known for its Two Buck Chuck wines -- an affordable collection of vinos that doesn’t lack in taste or quality. (Check out our wine snob’s review here.)

In case you needed yet another reason to love TJ’s (seriously? You’re still on the fence about it?), the company recently announced a new product that will blow your mind.

And it’s just in time for summer. 😎

Trader Joe’s Introduces New Canned Wine

On April 29, TJ’s announced it will offer sparkling Italian wine in four-pack cases. The company partnered up with an Italian supplier to create its line of Simpler Wines Italian Sparkling Wine .

Two flavors are currently available: a white wine with hints of honeydew and fresh-cut herbs, and a rosé.

That’s right. I said it -- rosé.

Let’s imagine the possibilities, friends.

You’re on a giant pink flamingo floaty in your pool, and you feel a bead of sweat form on your forehead. To freshen up, you grab a can of wine out of your cooler, pop it open and return to your summer bliss. No safety hazards of popping corks required.

You now live a life of immense luxury and barely have to lift a precious finger while seeking your bourgeois beverage of choice.

Your picnics will no longer require the stress of gathering the appropriate cups and lugging around an entire bottle of wine -- not to mention the risk of spilling the leftovers everywhere on your way back home.

And you know what? Tailgating at country concerts is about to get 10 times classier — I can’t wait to see people try to shotgun these things.

A four-pack of 187-milliliter cans will cost $3.99 -- that’s about 99 cents per can.

At that price, I’m willing to drink my wine out of a can for the entire summer. Try and stop me. I dare you.

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

Oreos.

I was a cynical child, so I grew up making them “drown” in my milk. (Maybe I still do? Maybe I’m still cynical? You decide.)

No matter how you eat them -- whether you dunk them in milk, pull them apart, lick the icing first or devour them in one bite -- they are delicious. So delicious, in fact, I thought they were called “America’s favorite cookie.” My officemates laughed and informed me the actual slogan is “milk’s favorite cookie.” **shrug**

Like many brand-name items, Oreos have plenty of cheaper knockoffs to contend with.

But is it worth it to ditch the posh, household-name cookie for a generic version in the name of savings? Do generic sandwich cookies taste just as delicious, or does nothing compare to the real deal?

I put a few Penny Hoarders to the test to find out.

The Ultimate Sandwich Cookie Duel

We love Double Stuffed Oreos, but to keep it fair, we put the original Oreo to the challenge.

The contenders? Generic versions of “Milk’s Favorite Cookie” from four popular supermarkets: Walmart, Target, Aldi and Trader Joe’s.

To keep things fair, taste testers weren’t allowed to look at their cookies before the first bite.

[caption id="attachment_56202" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Sandwich cookies We tested generic versions from Walmart Target, Costco, and Aldi.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

1. Great Value - Walmart

Cost: $1.98

Cost per ounce: 12.8 cents

According to our four taste testers, these weren’t too terrible.

Editorial intern Jacquelyn Pica and associate video producer Teyonna Edwards both said their cookies tasted “pretty good” — though Edwards could definitely tell it wasn’t an Oreo.

Editorial intern Matt Vandenburgh mentioned how he could tell the cream filling was “generic.”

The cookie was notably crunchy, and social media graphic designer Pareesa Khwaja — who called herself a “cookie connoisseur” multiple times during the taste test — had strong feelings about the cream “not separating cleanly” when she pulled the cookie apart.

“Separation is weak, the cream came off,” she said. “A good cookie would come off cleanly.”

Verdict: Mediocre

2. Market Pantry - Target

Cost: $1.97

Cost per ounce: 10.9 cents

Thoughts on Target’s generic sandwich cookie?

Well, they were… mixed.

Edwards took one bite and looked like she wanted to throw up.

“I’m not finishing that,” she said through a scrunched “ew” face.

Vandenburgh noted that the cookie was thinner than the first one, which he said was “a little better, but not much better.”

Khwaja tried dunking it in milk, which seemed to ease her disgust.

“This tastes better with milk,” she told me. “I wouldn’t eat it without milk because it tastes gross.”

Her furious cookie dunking ended with milk in her hair. (We’re serious about our taste tests here.)

Pica complained about the lack of cream filling. Isn’t that the point of a sandwich cookie? C’mon, Target.

Verdict: Sketchy. Proceed with caution.

[caption id="attachment_56200" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Sandwich cookies The Penny Hoarder staff wanted to see if we could taste the difference between store-brand Oreos and the real thing.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

3. Oreo

Cost: $2.99

Cost per ounce: 20.9 cents

Everyone pretty much knew these were Oreos -- except for Khwaja. Let’s just say she had an existential crisis midbite.

“I don’t like this one. Do I not like Oreos? Was my whole life a lie?” she said as she stared off-camera for a while.

While Edwards wasn’t “100% sure” if it was an Oreo, she ate the entire cookie. She only took small bites out of all the other ones.

Vandenburgh looked at the cookie and smiled because he knew it was an Oreo.

Pica said it tasted like “the real deal.”

Verdict: They’re Oreos. Obviously they’re good.

4. Aldi

Cost: $1.69

Cost per ounce: 10.6 cents

Edwards complained about the lack of sweetness this cookie brought to the table. “I need to have my daily intake of sweets,” she said of the cheapest cookies in the taste test.

Vandenburgh took one bite and said, “Well, this is disappointing.”

After chewing for a few seconds, Khwaja realized there was a “minty” aftertaste.

“IT’S ALL A LIE,” she said, raising her voice. (And yes, in case you were wondering, she continued eating the cookie.)

Pica said it was “good,” she but noted the floral designs on the outside were “weird.”

Verdict: One big minty lie.

5. Trader Joe’s

Cost: $2.99

Cost per ounce: 15 cents

A box of Joe Joe’s, Trader Joe’s generic sandwich cookie brand, costs just as much as a package of Oreos, although Joe Joe’s cost less per ounce. So you might think you’re getting a deal by picking these cookies up instead of brand-name ones, but our testers clearly didn’t think that was the case.

Edwards took a single bite and immediately reached for her milk.

“NO” was all she said as she politely pushed the half-eaten cookie to the other side of the table.
“THIS IS GROSS. WHAT FILLING IS THIS?” Khwaja asked, pulling the cookie apart for intense analysis.

Her backstory of how this cookie came to be a sad one was as follows:

This is the cookie your grandma keeps in the cabinet that she keeps for only for when you come over. And they stay there for years and years,” she explained, while continuing to eat the cookie.

“Or, it tastes like the cookies you find in the back of your pantry that you know you shouldn’t eat, but you eat them anyways because you have no other food in your house,” she said. “Or is that just my problem? It’s a desperation cookie, that’s what it is.

Vandenburgh rated it his second favorite, but he’s obviously an outlier.

Pica rated it as one of her favorites -- but since she’s the one who brought the box in for us, so I’m throwing away her biased response. I never said this experiment followed the rules, all right?

Verdict: Don’t eat these.

[caption id="attachment_56203" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Sandwich cookies Writer Lisa Rowan eats a dunked Oreo during a taste test between store-brand Oreos and the real thing.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Oreos Vs. Generic Sandwich Cookies: A Final Word

The lesson here is pretty obvious: You get what you’re paying for when you drop nearly $3 on Oreos.

If you choose to buy generic, expect your cookie to come with a few quirks.

And don’t forget the milk!

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

If you’re sick, the last thing you want to deal with is figuring out how you’re going to get to your doctor’s appointment.

Even worse, missing a preventative care appointment because you can’t find a ride can be detrimental to your well-being.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has noticed that a lack of transportation in certain areas has created a barrier for those in need of non-emergency medical attention. Now it’s teaming up with Lyft to fix the problem.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Will Soon Offer Free Lyft Rides

Blue Cross Blue Shield reports that an estimated 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation.

To help, the insurer plans to offer some policyholders no-cost Lyft rides to medical appointments. According to CNN Tech, the free-ride pilot will start in August or September,.

Patients won’t be able to use the Lyft app to access free rides.

Patients will schedule their free rides through their doctor or BCBS, according to Forbes. An alert on their phone will notify the patient of their scheduled ride.

The program will be available with company-sponsored insurance plans, but BCBS is considering expanding it to those who have insurance through Medicare Advantage or the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

The free-ride pilot will begin in metropolitan and rural areas where public transportation is scarce. BCBS will announce specific details on the pilot markets later.

A statement from BCBS said that the partnership will be a “critical way to help make our communities stronger and families healthier.”

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