Kelly Clay - The Penny Hoarder

During one of my first lectures in college, a professor was explaining his background and said something that would eventually become a driving force in my life: “Everyone should become a waiter or waitress. It teaches you more than college ever will."

During the next eight years, I waitressed at Red Robin -- not necessarily because of what my college professor said, but because I was a stereotypically broke college student and then a victim of the recession.

I started as a host managing to-go orders, then bounced around four different locations as a waitress. I opened, I closed, I worked shifts so short it cost me more to drive to work than I made, and I worked 15-hour days that paid my rent for the month. And I became incredibly familiar with how Red Robin’s Point of Sale (POS) system worked -- and how customers could use loopholes in the system to save money.

Servers use the POS system to enter your order -- everything from your glass of water to your entree to each and every soda refill. Knowing its secrets can help you save money on your order, which can add up if you like to visit often or with a group.

Ready to learn how to save money at Red Robin?

1. Go Halfsies

Red Robin’s portions are huge, so it’s easy to share a meal and still feel full. If you and your friend or spouse can agree on the same meal, splitting a meal can save you serious cash.

A burger with fries costs around $8, but you can easily make this a decent-sized lunch by asking your server to split it between two plates. The biggest bonus: You’ll each get the same amount of fries as if you ordered your own burger. If you’re still not full, you can always ask for extra fries when you order, or when the server comes by to check on everything within two minutes of the food being dropped off.

By splitting a meal, you’ll save the cost of ordering a second burger, around $8. If you combine this strategy with only drinking water, your bill will be under $10 instead of the average $25.

Also consider splitting a milkshake. Red Robin offers two options for shakes -- a single or a “Monster,” which comes in a malt glass with extra milkshake in a tin. If you ask to to split a Monster shake, you’ll each get a full-size shake in a glass with whip cream and a cherry.

The price difference between a single and a Monster is only a few bucks, so you’ll end up saving around $5 by splitting a shake rather than each getting your own. The only downside? You’ll have to agree on the flavor!

2. Ask for Half To-Go

Not super hungry, but in the mood for one of Red Robin’s huge salads or entrees? Trying to control your portions, or watching your calories? Managing what’s in front of you while eating out can be hard, but it’s a lot easier when the food is out of sight, out of mind.

When ordering, ask your server if you can get half of your meal to-go. This may sound weird, but I promise your server won’t look at you sideways (though they might ask if you’d like your dressing on the side, or other questions to accommodate your order to-go.)

In Red Robin’s POS, the server will enter your food normally, and manually type in something like “half to-go”. This tells the kitchen to make half of your meal as normal, and place the other half in a to-go container, which will be delivered with the food you’re eating at the restaurant.

While you might not get much more food this way, by keeping half the meal in a to-go container, you’ll enjoy two meals for the price of one.

3. Don’t Order a Side of Fries

Red Robin recently revamped their menu to encourage customers to order fries -- even though they come for free with burgers. Unless you’re the only one at your table who wants fries, don’t fall for this!

If you’re craving a side of fries to go with your salad or other entree, and your friend is getting a burger with fries, take advantage of his option for “bottomless fries” by grabbing an extra basket of fries. When you order and the server asks if he wants any sauces for his fries, jump in and ask for a sauce you would like (my favorite is the kind that comes with onion rings, “campfire.”)

Servers work for tips, so most will pick up on this strategy and bring out an extra basket (called a "fry fill”, which is free) when they deliver your food. If they don’t, have your friend or date ask for more fries when the server stops by. This will save you about $3 -- not as much some of the other tricks, but enough to add up over time.

4. Order Off the Kids’ Menu

Technically the kids’ menu is only for those under 12 -- but that hasn’t stopped plenty of adults with bite-sized appetites from ordering a comfort bowl of mac and cheese.

The kids menu includes options not found on the adult menu, and is much cheaper than what you will find on the regular menu. If you aren’t very hungry and know spending $10 on a meal won’t make much sense, ask for the kids’ menu when you are seated.

Of course, there are a few catches with this strategy. Don’t order off the kids’ menu if you’re sitting in the bar. The cocktail waitress likely will impose the “kids-only” rule on you, since she’s working for tips and your $6 tab isn’t helping her at all.

While some of the kids' menu items are bottomless (such as the mac and cheese), don’t take advantage of this if you’re an adult ordering these items. You’ll find bigger portions of similar items on the adult menu if you’re actually that hungry.

While managers might not love this strategy, plenty of servers are happy to indulge you on these orders. If you truly just want a smaller portion of chicken strips -- and can’t find anyone to split it with you -- this trick can save you quite a bit of money. It’s worth a shot before ordering the adult portion and taking half to-go.

5. Take Advantage of Birthday and Loyalty Deals

Red Robin has offered free Birthday Burgers for decades. If you’re a member of their loyalty program, Red Robin Royalty, you can enjoy a free burger anytime during your birthday month. The Royalty program also offers you $20 towards your sixth visit after joining the program, and a free meal every 10th order.

To sign up, you just need an email address. To make the most of it, make sure everyone you’re likely to visit Red Robin with joins the program. That way, you’re most likely to knock a few bucks off your bill when it’s someone’s birthday month or one of you has reached a “free item” milestone.

These strategies will help you shave a few bucks off your bill each time you visit Red Robin. Just remember to factor in the true cost of your order when you calculate the tip -- your server is working just as hard whether your burger is free or not.

Your Turn: If you’re a regular at Red Robin, what tips and tricks do you use to save money?

Dreaming of working from home during your terrible commute each day? Here’s a cool opportunity to work from home for a company you probably already love: Apple.

That’s right: You could be the next Apple At Home Advisor -- an official Apple job where you would be in charge of offering virtual support for the company’s popular products, including iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, through the customer service program AppleCare. If you’re looking for more flexibility and the ability to work from home, this could be your chance to make that dream a reality!

You don’t need to live in a specific city to be considered for the job, though Apple is advertising through listings on job boards throughout the U.S. Instead, the company is looking for people with technical expertise who can work from home to get the job done to their standards.

Interested? Here’s what you need to know about these legitimate work from home jobs.

What Do Apple at Home Advisors Do?

“As our customers’ first point of contact, you’ll be the friendly voice of Apple, providing world class customer service, troubleshooting and technical support,” explains the At Home Advisor job posting. “We’ll rely on you to listen to our customers and use your technical expertise, creativity, and passion to meet their needs -- and remind them that behind our great products are amazing people.”

You’ll spend your time helping people use and troubleshoot their Apple products, supporting customers with everything “ from iPhones to iPads to MacBooks to desktop Macs” -- all from the comfort of your own home.

This sounds easy enough, but is it too good to be true? That depends on your previous experience in customer experience and technical knowledge.

At Home Advisor Job Qualifications

The company is looking for problem solvers who are amazing with customers. They want applicants who are "enamored by the way things operate, and have the ability to figure out how technology works when things go wrong.”

Apple is also looking for people who can multitask, "analyze and resolve a variety of complex technical issues, and comfortably navigate a technical environment.”

The actual list of qualifications is long -- and actually a bit scary. Apple asks for you to have a "a quiet workspace, ergonomic chair and desk, which means stay-at-home parents with young children around would likely not qualify, nor would those who rely on coffee shops as their “home offices.”

The company also requires the “flexibility to work between the hours of 7:00 a.m. CST and 10:30 p.m. CST including weekends and holidays, with the possibility to flex up or down hours depending upon business needs. It’s not clear whether they mean you’ll actually need to work during all of those house or whether you’ll work shorter shifts during that time.

How Much Do At Home Advisors Make?

While the job might eat into your family or social life, it could translate into some pretty good money if you end up getting hired. Most AppleCare At Home Advisors make between $9 and $12 an hour, so if you do work as many hours as the job description suggests, this job could be quite lucrative.

The company will also give you an iMac to use for work, as well as employee discounts and even benefits. They’ll also reimburse up to $600 a year for Internet service.

How to Become an Apple At Home Advisor

Getting hired isn’t as easy as figuring out how to use your iPhone. The first four weeks “on the job” -- during which you’ll be training from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- are actually a testing period, according to a guest post from Ashley Verrill on TechCrunch. Verrill explained:

The curriculum is broken into four, one-week sections that are a mix of live instruction and self-paced modules in iDesk [the training program]. Then at the end of each week, everyone takes an exam. You’ll have two chances to hit the grading benchmark (two advisors said this was 89 percent, one said it was 80 percent), before you are kicked out of the program.

So you’ll need to know your stuff, and be ready to study hard during the training period if you want to land the job.

While you’re at your desk and getting paid, Apple wants to make sure you’re actually working and paying attention to the training. According to the former advisors Verrill spoke with, the company does this in a couple of different ways.

“For example, trainers deliver regular prompts to each person throughout live instruction. These can be questions, requests for input, or just a cue for the trainee to click on," reported Verrill.

One source said Apple also monitors the trainee’s mouse movements. “If your mouse doesn’t move in a certain amount of time, then you’re sent a prompt. If you still don’t respond within 30 seconds, the trainer might actually call your cell phone,” explained Verrill.

Are You Ready to Be an Apple At Home Advisor?

If you want to an Apple job -- especially one that allows you to work from home -- you’ll want to make sure you’re already technically savvy enough with Apple products to qualify. If you fit that bill already, be sure that you’re ready to put in the time to dedicate yourself to this career.

The hours can be grueling and stressful, according to past advisors, but Apple is dedicated to building a strong community and ensuring you don’t feel like you’re working alone. “Before training starts, each advisor is sent a care package that might have a T-shirt, plaque, mug, gift cards and other keepsakes demonstrating that they are 'part of the Apple family,’” Verill noted.

That said, you’ll definitely need a quiet environment, so if you have roommates or a family, you’ll need to talk to them about creating dedicated quiet space so you can make it through training and keep this dream job.

If you can make all this happen -- or already have such a lifestyle set up -- becoming an Apple At Home Advisor could be a great opportunity to make money at home.

Your Turn: Would you apply to become an Apple At Home Advisor?

Are you one of the 38 million American families living paycheck to paycheck? If those paychecks come every two weeks, you might automatically earn a little extra cash this year.

Thanks to what some are calling a “payroll leap year,” if you get paid every two weeks, you may receive an extra paycheck in 2015.

“[T]here are 27 pay periods during the 52-week calendar year instead of the usual 26. This quirk happens about every 11 years, delivering a cash bonanza for many workers. Some employers will be paying that 27th paycheck on top of regular salary, resulting in about a 4[%] annual raise, while others will redistribute the set salary among 27 checks,” reports Yahoo Finance.

This means Americans who earn a paycheck every two weeks will receive an extra check at the end of the year -- which could be in addition to other traditional holiday bonuses. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you could suddenly have several extra thousands dollars in your pocket as a result of this irregular calendar.

Since earning this extra cash is so rare -- and may only happen once or twice in your professional career -- it’s important to make the most of it. Here are a few savvy ways to maximize your extra paycheck:

1. Pay Off a Credit Card or Student Loan

Most Americans are buried in some kind of debt, whether it’s from a consumer credit card or a student loan you’ve been carrying around for a decade (or even longer). This kind of debt negatively impacts your credit score, which can make it more difficult to get credit in the future, get a good deal on a car loan or even buy a house.

If you receive an extra paycheck this year, consider using this “bonus” to pay off your debt. Even if the extra paycheck doesn’t pay off an entire credit card or completely eradicate that awful student loan, it could make a large enough dent to lower future payments, which can open up room in your budget next year to pay off another expense, invest more in savings or even to treat yourself more often with a weekly latte (or even two!).

2. Save for Next Month’s Rent

When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s easy to get behind on payments -- or at least feel like you’re always behind. To help alleviate some of that stress, why not put your extra paycheck toward next month’s rent or mortgage payment?

If you have an especially large paycheck (or, alternatively, a low cost of living), you could even set the paycheck aside to cover several months’ worth of these expenses. When you don’t have to worry about making ends meet, you’ll free up your budget to cover other expenses as they pop up -- and you won’t feel like you’re living on the edge every month.

3. Create an Emergency Fund

What’s one of the worst things that can happen if you’re living paycheck to paycheck? An emergency, whether it’s a trip to the ER, a car accident or a broken appliance at home. If you aren’t setting aside money now, use that extra paycheck to create an emergency fund.

Create a second checking account or open up a savings account with your current bank that allows you easy access to funds. (Most banks allow you to transfer funds online between these accounts and your primary checking account for free, so try to stick with the same bank you already use for checking.)

After you deposit your bonus check, it’s important to remember this money is only for true emergencies. Don’t be tempted to withdraw cash just because you’re craving coffee or desperately want to go out for dinner!

4. Start a Savings Account

When you live paycheck to paycheck, you often barely have enough income to cover the basics, let alone enough to set aside for savings. Opening a savings or investment account with your extra paycheck could be one of the smartest moves you make with this extra cash. With the right type of account, the interest rate could help you earn thousands of dollars on top of your initial deposit over the course of your lifetime.

If this sounds like the right move you want to make, talk with your local bank to see what kind of savings or investment account is right for you.

5. Add a Little Extra to Your Retirement Account

This is another super-smart move to make with the extra money you’ll earn in 2015. If your employer offers a 401(k), sending this extra paycheck directly to your account will pay off when you’re older -- especially if your employer matches your contribution.

You’ll need to make sure you haven’t maxed out your possible contribution, but if you haven’t, this is a great opportunity to put as much as possible into your retirement account. The best part? Your bank account or budget won’t ever notice the money isn’t there, but it will make a significant impact on your life when you’re ready to retire.

If you get paid every two weeks, it may be worth asking your boss or HR department how they’ll be handling this payroll “leap year.” You may discover that you’re in for quite the treat at the end of 2015!

Your Turn: If you earn an extra paycheck this year, how will you spend the money? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!

Kelly Clay is a freelance writer and editor from Seattle. Her work has previously appeared in Forbes, VentureBeat and WearableWorldNews. Find her on Twitter at @kellyhclay.

Take a look around your living room or inside your closet, and you’ll probably notice a few things you never use or simply don’t need.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily get rid of those things and make money at the same time? While there are lots of online and offline options for selling your stuff -- garage sales, Craigslist, eBay -- all depend on negotiating terms with strangers.

That’s where PassUBuy comes in.

What is PassUBuy?

After almost being scammed while trying to buy a boat off of Craigslist (and hearing dozens of similar stories), Mark Blanchard created PassUBuy to provide a shopping experience with a safer environment. With PassUBuy, users post their items on Facebook and share them with their friends -- who can then share them with their friends, and so on.

By selling items to friends (and friends-of-friends), users have an inherently reduced risk of being defrauded or harmed when selling or buying items online. People who may otherwise be hesitant to use a service like Craigslist for fear of being scammed can feel more secure using PassUBuy, since they actually know the person on the other end of the deal.

How Does PassUBuy Work?

While you could post an ad for your goods on your own Facebook profile, your friends may not pass it on to others. PassUBuy helps more people see your ad by building in a financial incentive to share posts. Here’s how it works:

When someone posts an item for sale on Facebook, friends of theirs who pass the deal on get a percentage of the deal once it’s sold.

That’s right: you can get paid simply for clicking “share,” without selling anything yourself. If you see a friend post a cool item for sale via PassUBuy, it’s in your best interest to share it. Simply sharing your friend’s post earns you at least 2% of the purchase price if one of your friends buys it through your link. It’s not a lot, but it can add up to a decent sum, especially for high-value items.

Once you sign up, you can either log on to PassUBuy, see what your friends are selling and share their stuff directly from the app, or share items directly from your Facebook feed. Hovering your cursor over the “Pass It On” button will show you how much you’ll earn if one of your Facebook friends buys the item through your post.

How to Make Money Selling on PassUBuy

The real earning potential, of course, is for those who sell their goods with the app. Star Harris, a stay-at-home mom who lives in California, started using the app earlier this year, right after it launched.

“It seemed better than doing a yard sale,” Harris said. So far, she’s been able to clean out her closets and garage of items she doesn’t need anymore, but that still have value. While she doesn’t sell items every day, she says “I do sell something every couple of weeks on the site.”

Her grand total of earnings using PassUBuy? Approximately $1,000 -- and that’s in just a few months.

Compared to other selling sites, Harris says the PassUBuy is “safe, fast and accessible” -- which everyone who is looking to make a little extra cash loves to hear. She notes there’s no perfect day or time to use the app, which also makes it easy; you don’t have to time an auction just right or post ads only on Saturday mornings when no one is at work.

Is PassUBuy Worth Using?

Since there are two ways to make money via PassUBuy, this app is definitely one to keep an eye on -- and to tell your friends about. According to its creator, the app has been especially popular among women between the ages of 30 and 55. For parents with young children that just can’t seem to stop outgrowing clothes and toys, this app may prove to be a hit.

After all, what’s better than earning money selling items you don’t need -- or simply for helping your friends sell their stuff?

Your Turn: Have you tried PassUBuy? Tell us about your experience!

Kelly Clay is a freelance writer and editor from Seattle. Her work has previously appeared in Forbes, VentureBeat and WearableWorldNews. Find her on Twitter at @kellyhclay.

Earlier this month, a cute teenage boy who happened to work at Target became a literal overnight internet sensation when an anonymous shopper snapped a picture of him in the checkout lane and posted it to Tumblr. That photo was then tweeted by thousands of young women along with the hashtag “AlexFromTarget.”

Alex -- whose full name is Alex Lee -- was launched into a spotlight that has landed him hundreds of thousands of new Twitter followers, adoration from his own company and even a visit to the Ellen show. Which made us wonder: What’s the best way to turn unexpected fame into a pretty penny?

Before we dive into Alex’s options for monetizing his mass popularity, let’s take a quick look at how he became famous enough to warrant his own hashtag.

How #AlexFromTarget Became Massively Popular

According to Small Business Trends, a marketing firm called Breakr tried to take credit for the #AlexFromTarget phenomenon, releasing a statement that claimed it was a marketing stunt on behalf of Target. But there’s limited proof the viral sensation was part of a conscious marketing campaign, reports BuzzFeed. The website says some people involved claim to have never even heard of the company.

"It’s more likely that Lee’s popularity is the work of dedicated fangirl Twitter users like @NiallWifiPizzas and @5SOSBeliefs,” Small Business Trends says. “These Twitter accounts have large followings and passionately promote boy bands like One Direction and Five Seconds of Summer. (Lee’s resemblance to members of these bands all with boyish good looks and perfectly quaffed hair [sic], has been mentioned more than once.)”

As #AlexFromTarget rides out his 15 minutes of fame (and also experiences the downsides of becoming a celebrity), he’s in a prime position to capitalize and make some serious cash -- way more than the minimum wage he’s likely pulling at Target. Here are a few of the ways he could use his newfound fame to pad his bank account.

Grow and Monetize a YouTube Channel

Brandon Wirtz, CEO of BlackWaterOps, an SEO and public relations firm, has spent most of the last decade making a living off YouTube videos. He suggested that if Target has an affiliate program -- which allows bloggers and anyone who shares YouTube videos to earn commission by selling products for companies -- Alex could set up a YouTube channel reviewing products that Target offers for sale on Black Friday.

However, Wirtz believes Alex’s best bet is to leave Target altogether, assuming Target doesn’t have a non-compete like some companies (like Jimmy John’s) where you can’t work for another similar retailer within a certain distance for a certain amount of time. Wired recently featured Marques Brownlee, who at just 20 years old has built a "YouTube Product Review Empire.” While Alex is only 16, he already has more mainstream followers and is a bigger household name than Brownlee. If Alex were to start reviewing products today, Wirtz believes he could build a financially successful YouTube channel in a short amount of time by using affiliate programs.

How exactly would that work? As Wirtz explains, you don’t make affiliate commission only on items you reviewed that your viewer clicked. While your video might be about a $1,000 television, which might give you 6% commission (or about $60), that user could end up buying a $10,000 home theater system. Because of the way affiliate programs work, you get a commission on anything the user buys after clicking on your link. That means one viewer could end up generating you $600!

If Alex jumped ship from Target to simply reviewing products from Amazon, and capitalized on the Black Friday frenzy by reviewing the top 30 items people are looking for this holiday season, Wirtz believes Alex could easily amass 1 million views per video. That would earn him around $15,000 per video using affiliate links -- and approximately $450,000 by the end of the month.

Appearance and Speaking Fees

Back in 2012, another similar viral internet sensation was born overnight when Bryan Bundesen posted a picture of his sister’s cat on Reddit. The cat, named Tardar Sauce, had a form of feline dwarfism that caused a perpetual frown, making it look grumpy. The Reddit community immediately made it into a viral meme, which became known as “Grumpy Cat.”

Bryan then filmed the cat, and within 36 hours the video had over million views. With such a fast-growing and rabid fanbase -- not unlike Alex’s -- the Bundesens knew they had to cash in quick. Since then, the cat’s owner, Bryan’s sister, Tabatha, has been raking in six-figure appearance fees according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, especially at trade shows and other pop culture events. She brings the grumpy cat with her in a bag that looks like a purse, the Review Journal reports.

Alex could easily replicate the “Grumpy Cat” phenomenon if he acts just as quickly, but he would likely need some help. According to the Review Journal, the Bundesens hired a manager and launched a Grumpy Cat website. Alex would be smart to do the same if he wants to be able to command high-figured appearance fees.

Social Media Sponsorships

Almost every teenage girl agrees: Alex is cute. They are dying to see more of him, which is why now is the perfect opportunity for Alex to use his social media to post -- what else? -- more pictures of #AlexFromTarget!

Keeping his social media followers engaged and continuing to grow his social channels could help Alex earn corporate sponsorship opportunities, and those have dollar signs attached. Social media superstars and celebrities often get paid thousands of dollars by big companies for just one tweet or Instagram post. In fact, we’re willing to bet Alex could land a sponsorship like this now, if he hasn’t been offered some already. By leveraging his looks and his moment in the spotlight, Alex could easily make a few thousand dollars every day just by continuing to be active on social media.

While his 15 minutes of fame may slowly taper off, #AlexFromTarget has a unique opportunity to cash in on his devoted fan base. A quick pivot from cashier to YouTube superstar could turn this teenager from a schoolgirl crush into a multi-millionaire, and in pretty quick order. He certainly has a lot of options -- and we look forward to seeing how he acts on them.

Your Turn: What do you think makes the most sense for Alex if he wants to monetize his unexpected fame?

Kelly Clay is a freelance writer and editor from Seattle. Her work has previously appeared in Forbes, VentureBeat and WearableWorldNews. Find her on Twitter at @kellyhclay.