Kristen Pope - The Penny Hoarder

Every time a box from Amazon shows up on the front porch, I get excited.

For many people, especially those of us who live in rural communities, Amazon offers an easy way to get what we need, from clothing to electronics to groceries.

And no matter where you live, it’s pretty cool to be able to simply order what you need and have it arrive on your doorstep a few days later.

But no matter how awesome it is to save money shopping on Amazon, getting stuff for free is even better.

How to Get Free Stuff From Amazon

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Here are 11 freebies you can get from the online retailer.

1. Free Albums

If you love music, check out the free album listings on Amazon. Simply sort the list by price, making sure to select the “low to high” ranking feature, and you’ll see all the free options first.

You’ll see music from all genres, so you can find something to enjoy no matter your taste, from Christmas collections to metal albums.

2. Free MP3 Singles

Enjoy a huge library of free, downloadable MP3 singles. When we checked, there was everything from Blondie to She & Him to the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra.

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you'll find even more songs you can download for free!

3. Free or Low-Cost Music From New Artists

If you're at the cutting edge of the music scene (or want to be), check out the deals offered under “Artists to Watch.”

Amazon editors select a number of albums they think are likely to be big this year. Current selections include Royal Blood, ODESZA, The 1975, KONGOS and more.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member (or enjoying a 30-day free trial), you can score these albums for free. Otherwise, you can get them at a special discount from their regular price.

4. Free Movies and TV Shows

Once you pay for your Amazon Prime membership (or snag a 30-day free trial), you can watch more than 40,000 free movies and TV shows via Amazon Instant Video.

5. Free Kindle Ebooks

Grab something new to read or take a chance on a new author.

Every day, new freebies pop up in the listings. Some are permanently free ebooks, which the author offers in hopes that you’ll buy the next book in the series, while others are limited-time deals.

Check out the top 100 free ebooks or sort ebooks in any category from “low” to “high” prices to see what's available. You’ll see tons of options, from books of vegetarian slow cooker recipes to romance novels to career planning books to mysteries.

6. Free Kindle Lending Library

Another perk of Amazon Prime membership (or again, the free trial) is that you can borrow one new book each month out of the 800,000 in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

And it's not just a collection of unpopular books that don't sell. The library includes more than 100 bestsellers; for example, it has the full collection of Harry Potter books.

7. Borrow a Book from a Friend

Just as you can borrow or lend a paperback book to a friend, you can also lend an ebook.

This little-known service allows you to share a Kindle ebook purchased from Amazon with a friend for 14 days. The borrower doesn't even need to have a Kindle; they just need to download a free Kindle reading app.

To loan your book, go to the product page from your Amazon purchase and select the “loan” option. Once it's loaned to a friend, just like a regular book, you'll be unable to read it until it’s returned. You can only loan each book once, so think about who you’d most like to share it with!

8. Free Shipping

When you order physical products, you generally want to receive them cheaply and quickly as possible.

If you're an Amazon Prime member, you’ll get free two-day shipping on every order. Even if you’re not a Prime member, just bundle your orders so they add up to more than $35, and Amazon will give you free regular shipping.

9. Free Stuff With Points

You can redeem credit card points from a number of different cards (including Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card, Citi ThankYou Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Cashback Bonus from Discover and Chase Ultimate Rewards) right on Amazon.

Simply select “points” as a payment method when you check out. You don't need enough points to pay for your full order; if you only want to use points to cover a portion, you can specify that option.

Keep in mind that points cannot be used for all products on Amazon. Kindle downloads, AmazonFresh, Subscribe and Save and pre-orders are all exempt. But if you do a lot of shopping on Amazon, you might prefer to earn credit card rewards you can redeem there!

10. Amazon Student Benefits

In college? Sign up for Amazon Student to enjoy great benefits only available to students. You can try the program for six months for free, and then it becomes a half-price Amazon Prime membership.

You’ll get free two-day shipping, photo storage, streaming TV, movies, music, and other benefits (though not all benefits apply during the six-month trial period -- music, movie and TV benefits are excluded).

Another cool benefit? You’ll get $10 for every other student who signs up using your link!

11. Free Photo Storage

Enjoy a three-month free trial of Amazon Cloud Drive's unlimited storage plans for your photos, videos and files. You can also share photos a number of different ways, including Facebook, email and other options.

If you’re a Prime member, you’ll get unlimited free photo storage as well as 5GB of storage for videos and other files.

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Years ago, I spent a summer working at a general store in rural Alaska. I didn’t just earn cash every day for my efforts — I also got a good workout.

Whether I was scooping rock-hard ice cream for a never-ending line of customers, scrubbing down showers or running around stocking shelves, I was always moving.

You don’t have to move to the middle of nowhere to get a workout during your work day, though. This roundup of ways to get paid to exercise offers everything from jobs involving heavy lifting to apps you can use to get paid for going to the gym.

To make the most of your efforts, combine strategies when possible. For example, wear your Fitbit while you’re leading walking tours or doing other exercise as a part of your job.

Ready to get paid to exercise? Here are 16 options:

1. Bet on Yourself With Pact

Pact‘s tagline says, “Commit to you. Earn cash for healthy living, paid by members who don’t.”

Use the app to keep track of your fitness goals — with rewards if you meet them and penalties if you don’t.

If you reach your goals, you’ll receive a small payout (generally, 30 cents to $5 per week, which you can retrieve via PayPal when you’ve accumulated $10 or more). If you don’t, you’re fined a similar charge, which goes toward paying other members.

Freelance copywriter Betsy Mikel tried using Pact for a year.

“What I liked most about the app is that it motivated me not to lose money,” she said. “I didn’t want to get charged $5 for skipping the gym.” Over the year she used the app, she made about $100 from her healthy habits.

You can download Pact on iPhone or Android. To ensure honesty, you’ll have to verify your workouts with methods like GPS and photos.

2. Lead Fitness Boot Camps

Believe it or not, some people pay good money to be screamed at before dawn. If you’re a fitness fanatic, consider going into business as a fitness boot camp instructor, and get paid to help people get in shape.

To make sure you break a sweat, do the workouts with your clients.

3. Work in a Warehouse

Lifting boxes, walking long aisles and moving heavy items are all part of a warehouse worker’s typical day. See if you can use a fitness app like Pact while you work to increase your payday.

4. Babysit

Running after toddlers all day, pushing kids on swings and playing pick-up soccer with all-star nine-year-olds is a great way to get a workout while getting paid.

Consider whether you’d prefer to chase after older kids or carry around younger ones when working as a babysitter or nanny.

5. Guide Walking Tours

Share your town with visitors, meet new people and get paid to exercise — what’s not to like? If that appeals to you, consider becoming a walking tour guide and sharing your town’s history, nature and heritage.

You can go into business yourself (after obtaining any necessary permits from your town, plus insurance), or sign up with one of several tour companies. In addition to the payments from your guests or tour company, you’ll likely also receive tips for your efforts.

Sign up with Pact to cash in even more for your exercise.

6. Teach Yoga

How’s your downward dog?

If you’re a yoga fanatic, consider becoming a yoga teacher.

Pros need to demonstrate every pose and offer guidance and variations to help students develop their practice. Many instructors can also attend other instructors’ classes for free, which is a great added bonus.

7. Fight Forest Fires

If you don’t mind long days, hard work and a bit of danger, consider going into the field of forest firefighting. These pros can make up to $40,000 during a six-month season while they’re busy keeping the rest of us safe.

Be prepared for hard, physical labor and very little sleep (usually just crashing on the forest floor for a few hours here and there) when you’re working.

8. Teach Ski Lessons

Do you dream of hitting the slopes full time, at least during the winter?

Becoming a ski instructor is a great way to save on skiing or snowboarding. You’ll spend your days on snow and snag a free pass to spend your free time on the slopes, as well — making this a great way to earn and save money.

9. Work as a Ranch Hand

Ever dreamed of working on a ranch? Becoming a ranch hand or wrangler is a summer job to remember.

This job comes with plenty of exercise. Whether mucking stalls, stringing fences or helping guests hop on and off their horses, working on a ranch involves plenty of good old-fashioned exercise.

10. Offer Landscaping Services

Spend your springs and summers outside gardening, your autumns outdoors raking leaves and cleaning up, and your winters shoveling snow to get paid to exercise — as a landscaper.

From tossing mulch to planting trees, this job will keep you moving, twisting, bending and working out. Consider working for a company or branching out on your own (with proper permits and insurance).

11. Become a Bike Messenger

Pedal your way to fitness and a paycheck by riding around delivering packages and important letters as a bike messenger. While some businesses prefer to use messengers in cars, many use bike messengers, especially in big cities where parking is a challenge.

12. Work as a Farm Hand

Whether you’re corralling livestock, plowing and seeding the fields or throwing hay, working on a farm is definitely a way to get a workout.

While many farming chores are now mechanized, every farm still needs lots of labor to keep it running. You could also volunteer a few hours a week in exchange for fresh produce, which will cut down on your grocery bills.

13. Coach or Referee Sports

Become a coach and spend your workday practicing layups with players, running warm ups, doing calisthenics and offering encouraging words. Coaches can work out right alongside their players, then jump into strategy mode and help the team craft the best path to success.

Or, if you’d prefer to officiate, grab your whistle and become a referee. Whether you choose soccer, baseball, basketball or another sport, there are plenty of youth and adult leagues looking for coaches and refs.

14. Become a Personal Trainer

Work one-on-one with clients to help them carve the chiseled physique they’re after.

Working as a personal trainer involves being able to demonstrate exercises, and sometimes you can do them alongside your client. Another perk of personal training is many of these gigs come with gym memberships, which helps you save money.

15. Lead Hiking or Climbing Expeditions

Climbing guides get even more exercise than their clients, sometimes covering extra ground by going ahead to set up camp or ropes, and often carrying extra gear.

If summiting peaks is your thing, consider becoming a certified guide and helping people accomplish their bucket-list mountain-climbing goals as you accomplish your fitness goals.

16. Guide Rafting Trips

Navigate rafts and keep your clients safe in raging whitewater as a rafting guide. This job is a great workout, as it takes some strength and finesse to navigate the wily ways of rivers and manage risks out on the water.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Don't let a good garage sale price lead you astray. You should never buy some items at a garage sale, no matter how cheap they are.

Not every thrifty find is a good deal, and some could even put you and your family in jeopardy.

Here’s What You Should Never Buy at a Garage Sale

Skip these items when you see them at garage sales, thrift stores and other places where you purchased used goods.

1. Cribs and Playpens

Many families only need their cribs, playpens and other baby gear for a short time. It seems to make sense to pass along their used items at garage sales, but steer clear of used baby gear.

Older models can lack important safety features, and some old cribs have dangerous design flaws, like slats that can trap a baby's head. Materials can also degrade over time, breaking more easily when a child pulls on them.

2. Car Seats

Most experts recommend avoiding used car seats, unless you’re getting them from a trusted friend or family member.

If you buy one at a garage sale, you won’t know its history and, with such an important piece of safety gear, you don't want to take any chances. If the car seat was in a car accident, it could be compromised and may not fully protect your child.

In addition, older car seats may lack the safety features of current models, so be sure to get one that's up-to-date and properly installed. Many firehouses will be happy to check your car seat to make sure it's installed correctly.

This item is crucial, but doesn’t have to break your budget. Here’s how to save money on car seats instead.

3. Helmets

Whether you're looking for a helmet for skiing, biking, skateboarding or riding a motorcycle, be sure to purchase your noggin protector new. Any impact can compromise the helmet's integrity and its ability to protect your head, and buying a used one means not knowing if it’s ever been in an accident.

Some communities, such as Seattle, even offer opportunities for kids to get free helmets. Check around to see if your family can take advantage of a similar money-saving program in your area.

4. Mattresses and Upholstered Furniture

Sure, it's kind of gross to sleep on a mattress of uncertain origin. But you know what's even more disgusting? Bed bugs.

Don’t let these little blood suckers in your home on a used mattress or piece of upholstered furniture. Once your home is infested, a single pest treatment can cost $1,500 or more, and these notoriously tough-to-remove critters typically require repeat treatments.

Used mattresses and upholstered furniture can also contain mold, stains and odors that are almost impossible to get rid of. That's why it makes sense to skip these garage sale finds, no matter how tempting the price, says USA Today.

5. Shoes

Those cute, strappy shoes you found at the garage sale might look great, but they can do some serious damage to your feet. Used shoes are already molded to the original wearer’s foot, so wearing them can cause you foot pain and even injuries.

Used athletic shoes are often worn out and lack crucial support, so be especially sure to purchase these new, recommends USA Today. The exception? A gently worn pair might be worth the cost.

6. Kitchen Appliances

Dave Ramsey cautions garage sale shoppers to think twice before snagging a cut-rate used blender, toaster or coffee maker.

Older models of these kitchen appliances may be fire hazards. Blenders could also have dull blades, and any of these items could wear out quickly.

7. Tires

With your safety resting on your tires, it makes sense to buy the most reliable ones you can find. Used tires may lack tread, be subject to a safety recall or could even be rotting.

It's impossible to know what a tire's been through. It could have been outside for years in sub-zero weather, left to rot in the sun, or even in an accident causing instability. It's safer to buy these new.

8. Hats

Hats are hard to clean, and the ones you'll find at a garage sale are rarely completely hygienic. A garage-sale hat could have skin, sweat and hair products in it.

Unless you can properly sanitize the hat before wearing it -- like a cotton beanie you can toss in the laundry -- it's best to skip these.

9. Baby Bottles

Many older bottles were made with BPA, which was later found to be unsafe for babies and the FDA banned the material in baby bottles and sippy cups.

Some bottles may have cracks, and it's hard to know the history of a bottle. It's best to purchase safe, new bottles, or at least get them from a trusted friend or family member.

10. Worn Cookware

While you can find some great cookware deals at some garage sales, steer clear of worn cookware. Rusty items or those with flakes of non-stick coatings will add less-than-appetizing bits to your food, and some people even think they could be hazardous to your health.

11. Clothes That Don’t Fit

Always try on your garage-sale finds. If an item doesn't fit right, be sure to factor in the cost of tailoring, unless you're skilled with a sewing machine.

A bargain dress can quickly turn expensive if you'll need to hire a pro to make it fit right.

12. Makeup and Fragrances

Even if you can find brand new and in-the-box makeups and fragrances, steer clear of these at garage sales. These items expire and lessen in quality over time. Open products also contain a host of health risks, and can be laden with bacteria.

However, this one’s a toss-up, though -- some people even pull makeup out of dumpsters!

13. Stuffed Animals

While it might be tempting to snag a stuffed animal or two to make your kid smile, carefully consider whether or not to bring home plush toys. While some people, such as The Penny Hoarder’s Steve Gillman, find garage-sale plush toys a treasure trove, others have concerns.

Stuffed toys can harbor critters, according to Reader’s Digest. The editors note it's usually hard to wash these fragile creations in water hot enough to kill the potential germs or pests. Be sure to carefully inspect anything you plan to buy.

Check For Recalls

Stores regularly receive notifications from manufacturers about recalls on items deemed unsafe or hazardous. But people selling a few spare items from their garages never receive these notifications.

Before you purchase items at a garage sale, make sure they’re not recalled for safety or other reasons.

The U.S. government has a website to help you find out if an item has been recalled, so spend a few minutes on your smartphone before you buy.

However, not every item will necessarily be listed on that website. Be sure to check with the item’s original manufacturer to see about any relevant recalls before making a purchase.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

When you think about high-paying jobs, do you think of becoming a doctor or lawyer, or hitting it big in the tech industry?

You don't have to go to medical or law school, or move to Silicon Valley, to earn a high salary.

Choosing a Career? Consider These 13 High-Salary Jobs

If you're a student or you’re considering a career change, consider one of these professions.

1. Air Traffic Controller: $122,410

If you're detail-oriented and love all things aviation, consider going into air traffic control. This high-responsibility career pays off with a mean annual wage of $122,410.

You'll be responsible for guiding some of the 87,000 flights in the U.S. skies each day and following policies and procedures to ensure flight safety.

To head into this field, you must be a U.S. citizen, start the FAA Academy by your 31st birthday, and be able to pass background checks and medical exams.

You’ll also need three years of higher education as well as some work experience -- but you don’t need a college degree.

2. Accountant or Auditor: $76,730

Analytical skills are key to a successful career as an accountant or auditor. In this field, you'll prepare financial statements, interpret records, give advice and help individuals and businesses with their costs and budgets. You'll also examine financial records and make sure people and companies pay their taxes correctly and on time.

To pursue this career, which comes with a mean annual wage of $76,730, you'll need a bachelor's degree.

Many accountants also pursue certification as a Certified Public Accountant. Earning a CPA has a number of career advantages, including typically earning a 10% higher salary than people without the license.

Each state has different fees associated with the exam and licensing procedure, and many people opt to take a preparation course or purchase self-study materials. In Minnesota, it can cost more than $3,000 to become licensed.

3. Healthcare Administrator: $109,370

Ensure hospitals provide quality care by going into healthcare administration. This field pays around $109,370 per year and you'll need a bachelor's degree, typically in healthcare administration or management.

Many administrators also go on to earn a master's degree in a related field to boost their qualifications and become even better candidates for high-ranking positions.

4. Dental Hygienist: $73,440

If you're detail-oriented and don't mind peering into patients' mouths every day, you might do well as a dental hygienist.

This career, which pays an average salary of $73,440 per year, involves cleaning and examining teeth as well as educating patients about how to take care of their pearly whites.

You'll need an associate's degree and a state license. Each state has different licensing rules, so be sure to check with your state for up-to-date requirements.

5. Packaging Engineer: $85,110

This specialty within the engineering field is a blend of industrial engineering, industrial design, material science, marketing and logistics. Expect to work from broad design conceptualization right on through product placement.

You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, but you can expect to earn $85,110 a year if you pursue a degree in this field.

6. Data Scientist: $124,150

Working with data to mine information, spot a variety of different trends and work to help businesses succeed is what data scientists do each day. For this, they earn a median wage of $124,150.

However, in supervising roles, they can earn quite a bit more. Data scientists leading a team of up to three earn $140,000 a year, while those leading 10 or more earn $232,500 per year, according to a Burtch Works 2014 salary study.

7. IT Manager: $135,800

Spend your days planning, coordinating and managing computer activities for a median salary of $135,800 per year as an IT manager.

You'll generally need a bachelor's degree in computer or information science and work experience, and many IT managers also have graduate degrees.

8. Business Operations Manager: $116,090

This lucrative field helps companies manage day-to-day and long-term business performance. Expect to spend your time switching between managing policies, materials and personnel.

You’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in business or logistics, and you can earn an average yearly salary of $116,090.

9. Physician Assistant: $101,480

Work with doctors to diagnose patients, write prescriptions and help patients recover from illnesses and injuries. You'll need a master’s degree from a physician assistant program, but you'll earn a mean annual wage of $101,480.

10. Information Security Analyst: $92,600

Work with companies to maintain computer security, respond to security breaches and viruses, and help preserve digital privacy.

These pros earn a mean annual wage of $92,600 for their efforts keeping companies digitally safe. You'll generally need a bachelor's degree in a related field to get this gig.

11. Construction Manager: $99,510

Spend your days managing construction projects, coordinating and supervising personnel, sticking to a budget, and making sure you’re on track to complete projects on time.

You'll earn a mean annual salary of $99,510 in this field. Many people earn this job by working their way up the ranks from entry-level construction positions.

12. Actuary: $114,120

If you love working with data and statistics, consider a career as an actuary. You'll spend your days analyzing data on accidents, mortality, disability and retirement statistics, and use that information to forecast risks and liabilities.

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree and to pass a series of qualifying exams. Actuaries earn a mean annual salary of $114,120.

13. Political Scientists: $112,250

Spend your days analyzing political systems, including their origins, development and operations. You may even use your expertise to conduct public opinion surveys and analyze election results. Expect a mean annual wage of $112,250 in this field.

Many political scientists work for the federal government, research agencies, or colleges and universities. Others are consultants or work for local government offices.

Your Turn: Are you a student or career changer interested in any of these fields? Let us know in the comments!
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Why toss things in the trash when you could repurpose or recycle them?

April 22 is Earth Day, and one great way to celebrate is by recycling items you might usually throw away.

In addition to diverting items out of the waste stream and keeping them out of landfills, you could also make extra money or help out worthy causes.

From scrap metal to ink cartridges, bullets to construction materials, you can recycle a huge variety of items in exchange for cash or goodwill.

Ready to see how recycling can pay off for you?

Find a Collection Point

Though some recycling centers are closing, you can still find places to recycle a wide variety of items for cash.

To find a recycling center near you, head over to Earth911.com and plug in the item you’re looking to recycle as well as your location. The site lists collection locations for everything from antifreeze to ammunition.

Of course, you won’t get paid to recycle everything, but it’s important to properly dispose of potentially hazardous items.

Prepare Items for Recycling

Check with your local collection point to see whether you have to prepare your recyclables for the collection center in any specific way.

Some centers require you to remove bottle caps, rinse and bag bottles in certain increments, or sort and tie together cardboard. Check the rules before you go to save time later on.

Be sure to properly bag items that may make a bit of a mess. Even if you thoroughly rinse all your bottles and cans, there might be a bit of water and other residue on them; transport them in bins or bags to protect the interior of your car.

If you’re donating a cell phone or other electronic item, be sure to clear your personal information from it, including contact lists, voice mails, text messages, photos, passwords, downloads and anything else you wouldn’t want random strangers to access.

Back up your information on your new phone, your computer or a cloud-based service, then restore your phone to factory settings before recycling it.

What to Recycle for Cash

Depending where you live, you can get paid to recycle certain items.

Here are some common options and how to recycle them.

1. Scrap Metal

Scrap metal is one of the more profitable materials to recycle. For this reason, scrap metal theft is not uncommon and even community recycling dumpsters have been raided in search of the metal.

Many local recycling programs fund their programs through scrap metal collection, so be sure to check your local rules or laws about collection.

Copper, steel and aluminum are just a few of the scrap metals you can recycle for money. Google your local area and “scrap yard” to find a local scrap yard that may take whatever metals you have.

Once you’ve rounded up your metal, find out if it’s ferrous or non-ferrous by seeing if a magnet sticks to it.

If it does, the metal is ferrous and likely a common metal like steel or iron. These items typically aren’t worth that much, but it’s still important to recycle them.

If the magnet does not stick, you likely have copper, aluminum, brass, bronze or stainless steel on your hands. These metals are more valuable.

You can make money recycling a variety of these metals. Be sure to contact your local scrap yard to see what it accepts and learn its procedures for drop off.

2. Bottles and Cans

One Penny Hoarder writer made $1,500 cashing in soda cans he collected at work. You, too, can make money by rounding up bottles and cans, whether from work, friends and family, at events or just your own home.

California offers 5 cents for most plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans smaller than 24 ounces, with 10 cents for 24-ounce or larger containers. It’s technically a bottle deposit, but many people don’t bother to collect their refunds, so it’s easy money for bottle and can collectors.

Michigan has a 10-cents-per-bottle recycling rate, which has prompted people to illegally smuggle in empty bottles purchased out of state to cash in — this was even the plot of one “Seinfeld” episode.

Many states have a deposit or pay for recycling cans and bottles, so be sure to check your local area for rates.

3. Car Batteries

Advance Auto Parts offers a $10 store gift card to customers who bring in their unwanted used car batteries (light-duty truck batteries are also accepted).

If the company doesn’t have an outlet near you, call your local auto parts stores to see whether it offers a similar deal.

Some scrap metal yards test and sell used batteries they collect, though this price can vary widely.

4. Ink Cartridges

A number of office supply stores, including Staples and Office Depot, accept used ink cartridges for recycling. Staples offers $2 back per cartridge, with a maximum of 20 returns per month, though you do have to spend $30 on ink there over the previous 180 days.

Office Depot offers 200 points for up to 10 cartridges a month, but you must also make a $10 qualifying purchase during that month. Most in-store and online purchases count, but certain exclusions (such as gift cards and postage) apply.

There is no limit on the number of cartridges you recycle, but you will only receive points on the first 10 per month. You can use your points toward a number of different perks and discounts.

5. Electronics

Eco-Cell is one of many companies offering cash for old cell phones and other electronics. The company accepts working or broken phones, tablets, rechargeable batteries, circuit boards and a variety of other electronics.

Even if an item is broken or was submerged in water and is now unusable, Eco-Cell will accept it. The company wants to divert these electronics from landfills and properly dispose of the toxic components and metals in each item.

While it doesn’t list its prices, Eco-Cell does offer a revenue share on the items, and its FAQ recommends calling in for a quote.

Many cell phone providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have trade-in programs where you can receive a voucher, gift card or other reward for turning in your old phone. Amazon Trade-in could also help you earn gift cards.

A number of charities also accept cell phones, whether to re-purpose the phones or use the funds from their recycling to benefit others. HopeLine has donated 180,000 phones to domestic violence victims and survivors. Cell Phones for Soldiers will refurbish and sell your old phone to active-duty military members and veterans.

If a phone is too old or broken, Cell Phones for Soldiers sells it to recyclers who strip it for parts and dispose of its metals responsibly. The proceeds from the sales go to purchase international calling cards for troops and “provide emergency financial assistance to veterans.”

And of course, you could always sell your old phone yourself.

6. Quirky Recyclables

When you think of recycling, you probably think of bottles and cans. But you can recycle weird items ranging from wine corks to food packaging, too.

Look around and see what you may be able to cash in on!

Your Turn: Do you recycle items in exchange for cash or other benefits?

Disclosure: You wouldn’t believe how much coffee The Penny Hoarder team goes through. This post contains affiliate links so we can keep the grinds stocked!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The next time you’re in the grocery store, pick up a bottle of conventional bathroom cleaner and take a look at the label. You'll likely see unpronounceable ingredients and warnings galore. While you’d prefer to use something a little more eco-friendly, the natural cleaners on the next shelf are much pricier. How can you use better cleaning supplies without destroying your budget?

Thankfully, you can ditch toxic and expensive store-bought cleaners for some of these eco-friendly, family-friendly DIY cleaning products and techniques.

A few basic ingredients, including baking soda, borax, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, and more can help transform a dirty house into a sparkling one. Whether you want to clean your carpet, bathroom or kitchen, these cleaners are easy and inexpensive to make from simple ingredients that are far less toxic than store-bought formulas.

Of course, some of these ingredients and cleaners are still not anything you would want to inhale or consume, so be sure to take precautions. Wear gloves (and eye protection when necessary), work in well-ventilated areas, avoid inhaling fumes, rinse thoroughly and keep the products away from kids and pets. Just in case, be sure to keep the U.S. Poison Control Center's number handy: 1-800-222-1222.

1. Glass Cleaner

Keep those windows and mirrors spotless with this homemade formula from Good Housekeeping.

You'll need:

  • 2 cups water

  • ½ cup white or cider vinegar

  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol (70% concentration)

  • 1-2 drops of orange essential oil (optional)

  • Spray bottle

Add all the ingredients to the spray bottle. When it's time to clean windows and mirrors, simply spray the mixture on a soft cloth or paper towel and wipe down the glass.

2. Grease Cleaner

This heavy-duty formula will help get the gunk out of oven hoods, grills and more.

You'll need:

  • ½ cup sudsy ammonia (available commercially or make your own)

  • One-gallon container

  • Water

Put the sudsy ammonia into the one-gallon container. Add enough water to fill it. It’s that easy -- this solution is ready to use. Just dip in a mop or sponge, soak up some solution and use it to wipe down greasy oven hoods or other greasy items. Then, rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Be sure to fully rinse and dry items before using them. You may want to use gloves when preparing and using this solution. Also, be sure not to inhale any fumes.

3. All-Purpose Cleaner and Deodorizer

Scrub down kitchen counters, appliances and even the refrigerator with this simple solution made from basic kitchen ingredients.

You'll need:

  • 4 tablespoons baking soda

  • 1 quart warm water

  • Container to mix them in

Mix the baking soda and water together in a container. Then, simply moisten a sponge or cloth with the mixture and use it to clean.

Toilet Cleaners

Toilets can be tough to clean. DIY Natural suggests a few different methods to clean your toilet, including everyday cleanings, heavy-duty scrubs and a quick-clean strategy.

4. Everyday Toilet Cleaning

This solution uses the antibacterial properties of tea tree oil to disinfect your toilet.

You'll need:

  • ½ cup baking soda

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar

  • ½ teaspoon tea tree essential oil

First, get a spray bottle and add the vinegar and tea tree oil. Spray this mixture all over the toilet, including the seat, lid, handle and bowl. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, sprinkle the baking soda in the toilet bowl and scrub with a toilet brush. Use a cloth to wipe the vinegar and tea tree mixture off of the seat, lid and handle.

5. Deep Cleaning

If your toilet is stained and needs a deeper clean, use this mixture.

You'll need:

  • ¾ cup borax

  • 1 cup white vinegar

  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

  • 5 drops lemon essential oil

Mix all ingredients together. Flush the toilet to get the inside wet and then pour the mixture into the toilet bowl. Let it sit for several hours or, better yet, overnight. Do not use the toilet during this time. After the mixture has been in the bowl for several hours, scrub down the toilet bowl and flush again to rinse.

6. Quick Clean

If you don’t need a full clean, or time is of the essence -- it’s only been a couple of days since a deep clean, or your in-laws just texted that they’ll be over in ten minutes -- use this lightning-fast method.

You'll need:

  • Baking soda

  • Vinegar

  • Spray bottle

Keep some vinegar on hand in a spray bottle and a box of baking soda nearby for this quick clean method. First, spray vinegar on the outer surfaces (seat, lid, handle) and inside the toilet bowl. Let it sit for several minutes. Then, sprinkle baking soda in the toilet bowl, scrub with the toilet brush and flush. Next, wipe the seat, lid and handle clean with a cloth.

More Homemade Cleaners

For even more ways to keep your home sparkling while saving a few bucks, check out Good Housekeeping's list of 25 DIY home-cleaning techniques, from how to deep clean bathroom grout, to sprucing up the kitchenware, to making your own wood polish or even cleaning a wool rug with snow.

Your Turn: Do you use DIY cleaners in your home?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Winter storm Stella is taking aim at parts of the Northeast U.S. this week and could dump as much as 18 inches of snow in some states.
It’s tempting to huddle under a blanket, order a pizza and wait for the worst to pass.

But there are also plenty of ways to cash in on such an epic storm, from shoveling driveways to offering transportation.

Be sure to check the legalities in your area -- and have proper insurance and signed liability waivers when necessary -- but prepare to make some money when the snow falls.

Most people won't be out and about during a big blizzard, so think about how to reach potential customers at home with your advertising.

Use Facebook to run a hyper-local ad campaign targeting your neighbors. Post your services on Craigslist, local online community boards or neighborhood Facebook groups.

Or take the old-school route (which is still effective!) of going door-to-door, passing out flyers and explaining your services.

1. Clear Snow

When this much snow falls, you can count on days of shoveling following the storm.

While shoveling sidewalks and driveways (and digging out cars) is physically taxing, it can also be lucrative. The going rate for snow shoveling is $25-75 per hour. Many people have no desire to spend a few hours shoveling their home out after a storm, and others are physically unable to do so.

Consider offering a special deal (or free shoveling services) to low-income senior citizens or others who may be unable to clear their own snow. It's a great way to get some buzz while doing a good deed, much as the owners of Portland Oregon's Plaza Cleaners discovered when they received a massive amount of positive publicity for offering free dry cleaning to unemployed people with upcoming job interviews.

YouTube offers tips and techniques on the best ways to shovel snow. Be careful to use proper techniques so you don’t get injured! Snow blowers are also worth their weight in gold.

To go the extra mile -- and maybe earn a tip or two -- sprinkle ice melt on sidewalks and driveways.

Also, leave a card or small flyer with your customers. You can print them out cheaply at home or order affordable business cards from Vistaprint at 100 cards for $16.

Next time there's a storm, your clients will have your information handy, and they’ll also have it at the ready to pass along to friends and neighbors, telling them about your great shoveling job and attention to detail.

2. Plow Driveways and Parking Lots

While most anyone can shovel, operating a plow requires specialized training and equipment. If you have a truck equipped with a plow, plenty of people and businesses will hire you to clear snow.

Look to local businesses with large parking lots and residents with long driveways as your primary customers. Operators typically charge $30-65 per driveway -- more for especially long and curvy driveways.

Where I live in the Rockies, we typically receive more than 500 inches of snow per year. Plow operators here in Jackson, Wyoming, generally contract with clients at the beginning of the season and agree to terms, including when to plow, which is typically when there are four or more inches of snowfall.

Each time we have significant snowfall, the operators automatically plow, with no need to even call the property owners since the terms were set up in advance.

A big storm is also a great time to start your snow plowing business. Have cards or flyers ready to hand out, and be sure to keep track of your clients' information so it's handy for next fall (when you can contract them for the next winter season). If you come through for them when they really need it, that's a great way to begin a longer-term contract.

3. Run Errands for the Homebound

Just because most transportation has ground to a halt doesn't mean people don't still need to run errands. From medicine deliveries to stocking up on extra groceries, people still need a few essentials during the storm.

If the roads are in decent shape, and you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and good winter driving skills, consider running errands for neighbors and other customers.

Even if the roads are closed and impassable, if you have a good set of cross-country skis (and possibly a sled for larger hauls), you can still get around (and get a great workout) while running errands for people.

You might even consider teaming up with a store that is open (or a pharmacy) to offer your delivery service. You could either market yourself on your own or take advantage of a service like Task Rabbit that will match you up with people who need help running errands.

While there might be strict rules about transporting some types of medications, if someone just needs some more Nyquil, that's an easy request for you to deliver. Also, consider teaming up with restaurants to offer special snow delivery (via skis when necessary).

4. Sell Shovels, Snow Brushes and Ice Scrapers

If you live in a climate that doesn't normally have a lot of snow, you might not have great tools for clearing it. Heavy-duty snow shovels, snow brushes, and ice scrapers are a few things that are hard to come by if you live in a normally fairly temperate climate.

Next time you're on vacation in an extreme climate, stock up on some of these heavy-duty items (or order them online), and have them ready to sell (or rent) next time a big snowstorm comes around.

Apps like letgo make it super easy to sell stuff online.

Shoveling with a sturdy, reinforced, heavy-duty shovel makes a world of difference over attempting to use a dinky $2 shovel one that cracks and snaps halfway through.

5. Rent Out Snowblowers, Sleds and Other Winter Gear

While people might easily shell out some cash for a sturdy snow shovel, they may only want to rent a snowblower for a short length of time.

Consider renting out snowblowers, and other winter gear, even heavy winter clothing. Also, consider renting out “snow toys,” including skis, snowshoes and sleds.

6. Sell Snacks and Drinks

Cook up a pot of chili, bake some homemade cookies, brew up some coffee and hot cocoa, grab some bottles of Gatorade, and go around selling refreshments to people hard at work shoveling snow.

Put together a few pre-made s'mores kits, including graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows and skewers, and market these to families with stir-crazy kids who would love to find a family-friendly and memorable way to enjoy the storm.

S’mores kits are selling for around $30 online (plus shipping), so providing door-to-door service should be worth a premium.

7. Sell Firewood

In addition to providing cozy ambiance, firewood can provide a valuable heat source if the power goes out. With high winds and ice, there's a good chance a blizzard will lead to an outage, so be prepared.

By offering firewood, you can help your neighbors stay warm and make money. Have several delivery options in mind. If the roads close, using cross-country skis and a sturdy sled with a tarp bungeed down over the wood, you can offer a premium (and profitable) delivery service.

Urban dwellers are especially likely to purchase pre-chopped firewood. In many parts of Washington, D.C., for example, people go door-to-door selling firewood, and residents snap up the wood for their fireplaces at a rate of $50 for two stacked piles.

Make it easy for people, and they're likely to buy. Be sure to include some kindling and your card in case they want a re-supply.

8. Help Stranded Travelers

Every time there’s a huge snowstorm, countless travelers are stranded. Some storms can cancel flights for days, leading to chaos for travelers. But there are ways to make the experience of being stranded a positive one for travelers.

If you're comfortable with the idea of renting out a room, consider putting people up in your home for an affordable rate.

Try a service like Airbnb, and you could earn a few hundred dollars. This works best with someone you can verify, but some people are comfortable hosting strangers in their home, too.

Another option is to provide snow-related activities for stranded travelers. Offer sled rentals or snowmobile rides. Getting out and enjoying the snow is far more pleasurable than being holed up in a hotel room, watching daytime television all day.

9. Sell Your Storm Photos

Take photos and videos from the storm and sell them to news agencies.

If you have truly exceptional storm photos, call up your local news stations and publications (even national ones) and offer to send a watermarked version for their consideration. If travel is snarled, news crews can't be everywhere, and they may be willing to pay for your epic storm photos.

Also, look into stock photography options, where you can earn $1 or so per photo.

10. Babysit for Desperate Parents

Just because there's a giant storm doesn't mean all parents can stay home from work.

Offer your babysitting services to neighbors and friends, watching their kids if they're called off to work, and earn around $15 an hour.

You can even promote the fun, snow-related activities that you'll do with the kids, including sledding, making snow angels, building a snowman and making s'mores.

11. Provide Pet Care and Pet Sitting

Some pet owners have to head to work during a big storm, and others are physically unable to walk their dog through large snow drifts. When their dog is at home bouncing off the walls, pet owners may want to hire someone to take their pup for a walk.

A pair of snowshoes or skis can certainly come in handy for storm dog walking.

“I love animals and helping people out, so this is a perfect way to make money during a big storm,” said Melanie Reed. “I am always out skiing and snowshoeing, so getting paid to walk a dog while I'm on skis or snowshoes is even better.”

And, if the winds are blowing, some pets will be scared if they're home alone all day. Offer to care for pets in their home or yours. You can even watch several pets at once, increasing your earnings.

12. Offer Transportation

Just because the city has shut down doesn't mean no one has to get anywhere. Offering transportation via four-wheel-drive or snowmobile can be a lucrative service during a big storm.

One friend had a colleague who desperately needed to get somewhere during a big storm, and a neighbor provided a snowmobile ride down their two-mile-long driveway to get to the main (plowed) road.

Another option is to throw some chains on your tires, shift into four-wheel drive and drive with Uber to get people where they need to go.

Your earnings will be calculated by adding a base fare, plus time and distance traveled after your pickup, and Uber charges a service fee (20-35%, depending on your city)..

If you want to give it a try there are a few things to keep in mind. You must be at least 21 years old, have three years of driving experience, have an in-state driver’s license, a clean driving record and be able to pass a criminal background check.

Finally, your car must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers (excluding the driver), be registered in-state and be covered by in-state insurance.

Here’s a link to apply with Uber.

13. Make Money Online

Take advantage of a day home from work to make money online instead of watching a Netflix marathon.

Use the time off to create and sell a short course, sign up for special offers, or even cash in on playing video games.

14. Earn Cash at Home

You don't have to go online to make money at home. Take advantage of a snow day to clean out your closets and garage, seeing what you might be able to sell.

Search for old comic books to sell (and maybe even make $8,000), find clothes to sell on consignment, and search for '80s and '90s toys to cash in on.

15. Make Money Crafting

Use the snow day to knit, crochet, quilt, create clothing or bags, or whatever strikes your fancy. Market these items online or sell your creations in local shops.

You might even take advantage of a snow day or two to pick up a new hobby that can turn profitable. For example, learn how to knit, or even practice repairing your own clothing.

16. Create Storm Souvenirs

Create a design or two about “Surviving the Snowpocalypse” and take to Cafe Press or another on-demand printing site to produce storm souvenirs. Create beanies, T-shirts, mugs, or other items that might appeal to a few locals, and could be a hit with big-city tourists.

You may want to keep your design broad enough to apply to people throughout the storm-hit region. Put up a few ads on Facebook and other services, and sell your products in shops online and at local retailers. Voila -- you’ve created a clever online business!

17. Monetize YouTube Videos

Demonstrate your favorite snow-shoveling technique or show off your epic snow castle on YouTube.

Create a viral snow-related video or learn from Grumpy Cat's owners about how to make millions via YouTube.

18. Help With Clean Up

Blizzards pack a punch and, with high winds, they can leave a trail of wreckage and damage. Help your neighbors out and make a profit by offering your services to clean up the mess and repair the damage.

From chopping and hauling away downed trees (which you may be able to keep for firewood), to repairing downed fences, and picking up wayward shingles that have blown off roofs, there is plenty of work to do after a storm.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to earn a few extra bucks during a snowstorm?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

As the days start getting just a little bit warmer, it's time to start preparing for a great season of gardening. Growing vegetables at home can help you save money and know exactly what you're eating. Plus, it’s rewarding to harvest a feast you've grown yourself!

You don’t have to have a big plot of land in the countryside to grow delicious vegetables. Once, I lived in a small urban apartment and was able to grow a feast of tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplants and more in pots right on my porch.

Ready to start growing vegetables and pretty much cross them off your shopping list for the summer? Here’s how to start a vegetable garden.

Find Your Zone

Before you get started on your garden, take a look at this handy map to see what climatic zone you live in. The zones show the climatic conditions in different areas, based on the average low temperatures in the winter, and tell you what kinds of plants will grow best in your region. With this interactive online map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just type in your ZIP code to find out your zone number.

Be sure to consider plants to grow that thrive in your zone. If you live in Michigan but want to plant mango and lemon trees outside, you may end up disappointed when they fail to thrive. Work with your climate, rather than against it.

You’ll find plenty of plants that thrive in almost all climates, so do a little research. Ask around at your local garden shop, where staff can likely provide the best advice on veggies and fruits varieties that grow best in your zone.

Also consider how your zone will affect your timing. Burpee's vegetable catalog features interactive information telling you when to plant each vegetable for the area in which you live. For example, the site tells me that in my particular zone (zone 3), I will need to sow my cucumbers in mid-June. If I lived in Orlando, I could start planting my cucumbers right now. Those few months make a key difference, since if I planted cucumbers now, they would quickly die.

Gardening for Beginners: First, Decide What to Grow

Part of setting up your garden is, of course, figuring out what you'd like to grow. You’ll only have so much space, so you’ll want to make the most of it! Choose to plant foods you enjoy eating, and consider the impact on your bottom line by planting these cost-effective vegetables.

Consider your garden’s location. Evaluate how much sun you have and what times of day different areas of your yard or garden receive sunlight. Different plants have different sun and shade needs. For example, basil and bell peppers like full sun, while arugula thrives in shadier areas.

Your garden’s size is also an important factor. Different plants have different space requirements. Some plants, like corn and broccoli, prefer a foot or two of space between rows, while beans only need half that space. And leafy plants, such as spinach and lettuce, are often just fine when they are planted only 4 to 6 inches apart.

Also, think about how often plants need to be watered and what is realistic with your schedule. If you won't be around much, be sure to get lower-maintenance plants, and if you're planning on leaving town for a chunk of time, think about who may be able to help water your plants when you're away. It would be a shame to let months of work shrivel up when you're on vacation for a week.

Short on Space? Have a Potted Plant Garden

You might not have an extensive backyard to grow a garden. But this doesn't mean you can't enjoy homegrown tomatoes and other veggies this summer! It's possible to grow a bounty of tasty treats from pots right on your patio, or even inside your home.

Be sure to consider the sun and shade you have available, as well as the space needs of the vegetables you choose to grow. It's also a good idea to specifically ask at a garden shop if the plants you're considering growing typically do well in pots in your climate.

Gather Your Tools and Seeds

Now that you know what grows well in your area, how much space you’re working with and what you'd like to grow, it's time to start gathering what you'll need to put your garden together.

Think about seeds or starts, soil, fertilizer, mulch, a watering system (which can be as simple as a watering can or a mason jar, or as complicated as a sprinkler system), and any tools you may need and don't already have (shovel, hoe, rake, etc.) A local gardening shop can share in-depth information on the fertilizing combinations and items that will work best in your particular area for the plants you plan on growing.

Once you have an idea of what you need, think of ways to save money on these items. Many plant stores have sales in the springtime, but also consider Craigslist, FreeCycle, garage sales, Facebook garage sale groups and other ways to source these materials inexpensively (or even for free!).

Be mindful that used gardening supplies, such as pots and shovels, can harbor diseases and pathogens that can be transmitted to your plants. For example, if you use a tool or pot that previously held or touched contaminated soil or a diseased plant, your plants may be susceptible to becoming infected.

Be sure to thoroughly clean all the dirt off and wash everything well before using. These sterilization guidelines will help “disinfest” certain gardening items from certain pests.

Prepare Your Garden

Prepare the soil by evaluating its texture and cultivating it to allow air in and provide drainage. Consider using mulch to keep out weeds and enhance soil fertility, and add a layer of compost to help fertilize your garden. Compost is usually free -- you can collect veggie scraps and yard waste all year to create this “black gold.”

Consider Raised Beds

Raised beds help keep vegetables high and dry in areas with a lot of soil moisture. They also help keep neighboring plants, such as grass, from taking over your vegetable garden, and reduce soil compaction since you're not stepping on the garden itself to access your plants. And then there’s the added benefit that raised beds mean less crouching during garden maintenance, weeding and harvesting.

If you'd like to build your own raised beds, follow these simple directions for different options. It doesn't have to be a huge construction project, though. You can create raised beds by using logs to create an outline and then filling it up with soil. Concrete blocks can also do the trick, as well as a number of other simple materials.

Planting a garden doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s a simple way to save money on food. Plus, there’s nothing like biting into a perfectly ripe tomato straight off the vine, or serving a salad fresh from your backyard. Whatever you decide to grow this year, enjoy it!

Your Turn: What tips do you have about gardening for beginners?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

While most people don’t think of St. Patrick’s Day as a particularly expensive holiday, things can sure add up quickly if you want to celebrate in style with your family.

The most festive place to celebrate would likely be Dublin, Ireland, where the four-day, mid-March St. Patrick’s Day festival brings visitors from all around the world.

Plane tickets from New York City to Dublin start at $700. A hotel room would cost at least $70 per night for five nights, then there are the costs of dining and sightseeing.

And, if you want to get a good view of the parade (which, of course you do, since you flew all the way to Ireland!), grandstand tickets are 60 Euros each (nearly $70). It would be easy to spend well over $4,000 to bring a family of four to Ireland for the festivities.

8 Inexpensive St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Kids

But it’s not necessary to spend a fortune or travel across an ocean to have a festive St. Patrick’s Day with your family. Instead, enjoy these fun and almost-free activities with your wee ones, from joining local celebrations, to learning about Irish history, to making these crafts and recipes at home.

1. Head to a Parade

For over 250 years, Americans have held parades to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The first St. Patrick's Day parade was held in 1762 in New York City, as the city’s Irish population grew rapidly with more and more immigrants settling in the U.S.

Continue that tradition this year by bringing your family to a St. Patrick's Day parade near you. The two biggest parades are in New York City and Chicago. Chicago even dyes the river green for the holiday!

This year, Chicago's celebration will be held on Saturday, March 11, while New York is sticking to the traditional March 17 date.

You’ll find many other parades throughout the nation, so check your local newspaper for more information. Parades are generally free to watch, though you might want to spring for some green beverages and snacks afterward.

2. Learn a Little Irish History

Do you know about the 1177 Norman Invasion of Munster? Might as well brush up on your Irish history with free Irish history podcasts.

These podcasts (available on iTunes and online) feature stories about everything from Norman invasions to daily life in the medieval frontier, with categories including “The Story of Ireland” (featuring history from 800 AD to the 12th century), “The Norman Invasion of Ireland,” as well as “Modern History.”

Kids might also enjoy National Geographic's website with fun facts about Ireland. Once you’ve all absorbed this trivia, you’ll be ready for any leprechaun-themed questions on your favorite game show!

3. Have a Pot 'o' Gold Treasure Hunt

Send your wee ones on the hunt for their own pot 'o' gold with this memorable activity that is sure to become an annual tradition in your house.

You'll need:

  • A wooden or cardboard “treasure chest” (a cardboard box will work just fine)
  • Green craft paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Things to decorate the “treasure chest” (glitter, acrylic gemstones, markers, stickers)
  • Treats for “treasure” (gold coin candies, etc.)
  • Paper and markers (to create clues)

Here’s how to put it together:

1. With your kids, paint the “treasure chest” with green craft paint and allow it to dry. You can add glitter and stickers, or glue acrylic gemstones to the chest to make it more festive.

2. When your kids aren't looking, stuff the chest with treasures, including gold coin candies. Find a good hiding spot, and leave clues throughout the house, with each clue leading to the next clue. For example, leave a note about “The next clue is near Fluffy’s favorite place” and leave the next clue on the windowsill where your cat loves to soak up the sun. Leave several clues that progressively lead to the treasure's hiding spot.

3. Once everything is set, enjoy the hunt!

4. Make Shamrock Necklaces

Don’t get pinched for not wearing any green! Here’s a fun option: handmade shamrock necklaces.

You'll need:

  • Green and white construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Yarn
  • Glitter, markers and stickers for decoration

Creating this necklace is simple:

1. First, grab some green and white construction paper and use scissors to cut out several sizes of shamrocks.

2. Use a hole punch to create a hole in each paper shamrock, then use yarn to string them together and make your very own St. Patrick's Day necklace.

3. Use glitter, markers or stickers to decorate the shamrocks, and enjoy wearing your necklace.

5. Create St. Patrick's Day Carnations

This fun craft is also a science experiment -- so it’s entertaining and educational.

You'll need:

  • White carnations
  • Green food coloring
  • Water
  • Vase (or jar)

Here’s what to do:

1. First, mix water with a few drops of green food coloring in a vase or jar.

2. Place each carnation's stem in the water, and predict what will happen.

3. Watch over the next few hours as the green coloring spreads through the stem, and into the petals of the flower.

4. Once the flowers are green, you can display these festive carnations, wear them in your hair or decorate with them.

6. Bake Irish Soda Bread

This traditional bread was baked in different shapes in different parts of Ireland, with northern regions favoring a flattened, rounded disc with four triangles, and southern regions embracing a round loaf with a cross atop it.

Enjoy your own crusty, golden loaf of Irish soda bread with this tasty recipe.

You'll need:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup margarine, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a baking sheet.

2. Using a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine.

3. Add 1 cup of buttermilk and egg, turning out dough on floured surface and lightly kneading.

4. Make dough into a round and place on baking sheet.

5. In a separate bowl, mix butter with ¼ cup buttermilk, and brush the mixture on top of the loaf. Use a knife to cut an “X” on top.

6. Bake 45-50 minutes, testing for doneness after 30 minutes (then regularly afterward) with a toothpick (by inserting the toothpick in the middle -- when it comes out clean, it's done). Feel free to brush more of the egg and buttermilk mixture on the loaf as it bakes.

7. Make Corned Beef and Cabbage

This classic Irish-American dish was first created when Irish immigrants sought to find a lower-cost alternative to a traditional Irish stew that featured Irish bacon (similar to Canadian bacon) and potatoes.

Pork was very expensive in the U.S., so creative cooks substituted beef in the recipe instead. Cabbage was added as a less expensive potato substitute that absorbed the rich flavor of the beef. People fell in the love with the dish, and it became so popular that it was a featured menu item at President Lincoln's 1862 inaugural dinner.

For this modern recipe, you will need:

  • 3 lbs corned beef brisket with spice packet
  • 10 red potatoes
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 3” chunks
  • 1 large head cabbage, cut into small wedges

Here’s what to do:

1. Get a large pot or dutch oven and put the corned beef inside, covering with water.

2. Add the spice packet and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 50 minutes per pound or until tender.

3. Add whole potatoes and carrots, cooking until almost tender.

4. Add cabbage and cook for 15 more minutes.

5. Remove meat, let rest for 15 minutes.

6. Place vegetables in a bowl, then cover. Add broth and slice meat across the grain before serving.

8. Prepare Irish Potato Candy

Despite not containing potatoes or being from Ireland, this simple, no-bake confectionery treat was developed in Philadelphia by Irish immigrants, and it remains a St. Patrick's Day tradition in the City of Brotherly Love.

These delicious cinnamon-coated sweets resembles miniature potatoes and are often rolled into potato shapes and served in a “potato sack” (a brown paper bag).

You'll need

  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

Here’s what to do:

1. Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla together.

2. Slowly add the powdered sugar.

3. Then, mix in coconut and stir until well-blended.

4. Form tablespoon-sized balls, roll in cinnamon and roll each one into a potato shape.

5. Place the pieces onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and chill until set. Keep them in the refrigerator until serving time.

Your Turn: How are you planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Do you have any other kid-friendly activities to share?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Keeping a lawn or garden green and growing isn't as simple as splashing a little water on the grass once in a while.

Dedicated home landscapers often find themselves laying down weed covers, mulching, watering, aerating and fertilizing lawns and paying for supplies in addition to expertise and labor. Professional lawn care can cost $100-$200 per month.

But instead of shelling out $2,400 a year to keep their backyards looking great, these innovative home gardeners found their own tricks to keep plants lush and happy all year long.

Here are five pro tips for landscaping on a budget.

1. DIY as Much Landscaping as Possible

Ryan Willis has found doing everything himself when maintaining his 7,500-square-foot yard in Knoxville, Tennessee, is the best way to save money.

“The biggest cost savings for me is that I do everything myself -- from mowing to seeding, fertilizing, planting flowers, hardscaping, etc.,” he says.

Willis administers three treatments to his lawn throughout the year. In early spring, he puts down seed and fertilizer. The tall fescue seed costs $75 and the starter fertilizer with weed preventer is $50, and he uses a broadcast spreader (a one-time $40 expense) to apply them to his lawn.

Early in the summer, he adds “weed and feed” fertilizer for about $30, followed by a fall fertilizer application to help roots during the winter (another $30).

In addition to fertilizing and other do-it-yourself treatments, GreenPal CEO Bryan Clayton finds another, more innovative way to save money: aerating shoes.

"A pair of aerating shoes cost[s] around $50,” he notes. “However, if you wear these while mowing your yard every week in the late summer and early spring, you can save up to $300” versus the cost of paying a professional service.

2. Consider Artificial Grass

While many enjoy the process of caring for living grass, others may prefer to skip most of the maintenance altogether and opt for artificial turf.

Despite the potential for long-term savings, installing an artificial lawn can be a significant upfront expense. The exact price depends on the amount of labor involved, which largely depends on the type of soil, rocks and roots in the area.

Purchase Green’s Chad Vander Veen says his company's artificial grass is generally $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot, but “a typical installation, when looking across California and Nevada, will run between $6-$10/square foot,” including the necessary labor.

The national average to install artificial grass is anywhere between $5-$20 per square foot, according to home improvement site HouseLogic, depending on a number of factors.

Many homeowners find the low cost of maintenance over time appealing.

Vander Veen says once installed, artificial grass doesn't require nearly as much maintenance as conventional grass.

Since artificial lawns don't need mowing, he explains, you won’t have to pay for a mower or gas, not to mention fertilizer and pesticides.

One of the biggest savings is on water.

“A $200 per month water bill can be essentially cut in half by eliminating lawn irrigation,” Vander Veen says.

“Most homes in California use 50% of their water on irrigation. Over 20 years, the expected lifespan of a high-quality artificial grass, that can mean $24,000 in savings.”

However, artificial grass isn't completely void of maintenance. Owners should rake their lawns once a month with a special broom (around $25).

Many also buy a bottle of cleaner to remove stains or pet messes from the lawn. Vander Veen says a gallon bottle, which costs about $40, can clean up to 6,000 square feet.

3. Choose Perennial Plants

When it comes to your garden and landscaping, plant perennials instead of annuals, suggests Anthony Smith, owner of Nursery Enterprises.

These hardier plants survive from year to year and can lead to a smaller plant bill since you won’t need to constantly replace them.

“To keep your yard looking sharp on the cheap, instead of continually replacing dead or worn-out annuals, consider switching to woody perennial plants, like bushes, shrubs, vines and trees,” Smith says.

“The pretty colored plants may look spectacular for a short time, but eventually, they will look just as spectacularly dreadful.”

4. Plant Edible Greenery

Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti uses flowering herbs and a vegetable garden to keep her yard looking good while also providing a source of food.

She calculates she spends around $200-$250 per year on various costs, like plant starts and seeds.

However, the retail value of the produce she grows is around $750 per year, so her garden actually saves her about $500 annually.

5. Buy Mulch in Bulk

Spending money on unnecessary supplies is one common way to overspend when you’re landscaping on a budget.

Buying more than you need -- or not enough, which requires extra trips to the store and/or shipping expenses -- can rack up your bill.

Kurt Heckman's company, vCalc, sought to find a solution to this common dilemma. The company created an online calculator to help people figure out just how much mulch they’ll need.

At most home improvement stores, bags of mulch cost about $3.33 each for 2 cubic feet, according to Heckman. He says bulk mulch is less expensive at $35 per cubic yard.

“That’s comparable to $1.54 for a 2-cubic-foot bag, or a little less than half price,” Heckman notes.

He also says some jurisdictions require bulk loads of mulch be covered in the back of trucks driving down the road, so be sure to throw a tarp on top to avoid a costly ticket.

Finally, Heckman recommends making your own mulch by turning fallen wood into wood chips.

“This is noisy and can be dangerous, but it’s also the cheapest source of mulch,” he says.

“For $66 and a little gas, say $70 total, you can make several cubic yards (6) of mulch in four hours and eliminate yard debris while you’re at it. That’s half the price of bulk mulch.”

Your Turn: What are your best tips for landscaping on a budget?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

When Constance Amedore had her son two years ago, she pictured him wearing bright, knee-high socks, much like the basketball socks she used to wear.

When she shopped around to snag a few pairs of the socks she had in mind, she couldn’t find what she was looking for. And none of the socks she found were very good about staying up.

“The only socks I could find were either gender-specific socks, or socks that wouldn’t stay on,” Amedore says. “After a few months of frustration, I decided to design my own baby socks that were gender neutral, bright, and stayed up!”

Her sock enterprise soon turned from a simple mission into an actual company, which she called Little Royal Two, in honor of her two children.

[caption id="attachment_40729" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Constance Amedore created her children's sock company "Little Royal Two," because she had trouble finding socks for her baby boy that were stylish and stayed on.[/caption]

But the business wasn’t just a hobby. Amedore found a high demand for the socks -- the company sold 10,000 pairs during its first year of business, and made $25,000.

Since it began in 2014, Little Royal Two has expanded to five countries and 38 states. Its biggest order? A subscription box company specializing in baby products bought a whopping 7,000 pairs of socks.

But Little Royal Two wasn’t (and still isn’t) her full-time job -- Amedore works as a special education teacher by day.

Starting a Side Business Selling Baby Socks

When Amedore started her company, she didn’t have a business background, so she taught herself everything.

“I never had any formal business training, but I Googled every aspect of what I needed to know to open a business, and just went with it!” she explains.

Amedore used Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to spread the word about her business, along with email marketing campaigns. She spent a lot of time analyzing exactly what she wanted her product to be, and her husband contributed a few ideas, as well.

She spent a year Googling manufacturers, asking companies for prices and samples and fine-tuning the products, ultimately settling on a manufacturer in China. But, it still took a while to make sure the factory was producing the exact socks Amedore had in mind.

“We went through many samples to make sure the socks were excellent quality, washed well, and stayed up, and were the exact colors we were looking for,” she explains.

“It took a lot of time, sleepless nights and communication through email, but I am really grateful to my manufacturer for all her hard work and so happy with the product we have created for our customers!” Amedore says.

Her first sale was to a mom she knew, who was thrilled the socks stayed up.

“The first sale gave me reassurance that Little Royal Two would be a success,” Amedore says.

While she still does most of the work herself, Amedore sometimes brings in people to help with certain projects. When she’s seeking a specialized skillset for a project, she doesn’t hesitate to hire professionals for photo shoots, website work and even public relations.

The PR professional she worked with was able to get the knee-high socks onto the pages of magazines and popular “mommy blogs.”

Satisfied Customers are the Best Marketing

In addition to social media, the company is also working to include the socks in a number of “baby boxes,” the popular variety packs sold within the U.S. and in other countries.

Amedore approached several box companies and has been featured in Bluum, Citrus Lane, and Sassy Bloom (from the U.K.).

“These boxes go to moms and dads looking for baby products for their babies and toddlers,” Amedore explains, adding that marketing directly to parents or those expecting is the way to go.

She encourages other entrepreneurs looking to get featured in baby boxes to contact a variety of different companies that feature similar products and see what each needs in terms of quantity, size, and pricing.

Amedore says she received many orders from people who received the socks in the boxes because, after trying them out, they wanted more.

But one of the top ways the brand has grown is from satisfied customers. The majority of sales, aside from the baby boxes, come from social media.

“Many moms who buy socks from us will post a picture of their child in our socks on social media,” she says. “It is so kind of them and makes me so excited to see their child happy in our socks.”

Balancing a Side Business

How does she balance her business with her day job as a special education teacher, while also parenting two young children along with her husband?

Setting priorities is the key to getting the most important things done, Amedore says.

“I think the real answer is that when you are passionate about different things, you can make anything work,” she says. “I just try to prioritize my time the best I can for the people most important to me.”

In order to keep everything running smoothly, Amedore has also mastered the art of time management and scheduling her days to include everything she wants to get done. This often means Little Royal Two business happens after her kids are fast asleep.

“After I get home from school I play with my kids and connect with my husband,” she says. “I love to cook for them, too, and keep up with my housework. When the kids go to bed I run Little Royal Two.”

She also loves everything she does, from her teaching job to her business and family life, which also helps the balance.

“I love my family so much,” she says. “I also feel so blessed to work with children with severe autism. Each day I give my best to make a difference for the kids I teach and they make a difference in my life too.”

As for her side job, she says business is doing great and each month is busy. Sock sales vary by season, but she usually still sells a couple hundred pairs each month. She’s hopes to expand to other baby apparel in the future.

Your Turn: How are you balancing your side gig?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

It all started with an ice storm.

Curtis Stone was living in Montreal, Canada, when the city was hit by a storm that left everything covered in two inches of ice.

“The city was in pandemonium for days, the grocery stores were almost empty, and I realized how fragile the food system was,” Stone says. This experience led him to learn about growing his own food and, ultimately, start his own small organic farm.

In 2010, he established Green City Acres in Kelowna, British Columbia, a small city in Canada’s fruit-growing and winemaking region. By 2012, he was producing 50,000 pounds of food a year -- and making $75,000.

Becoming an Urban Farmer

[caption id="attachment_34791" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Urban farming/urban farmer Katie Huisman[/caption]

At first, Stone turned to YouTube to learn how to live off the land and grow things organically.

“I didn’t know anything about farming when I started,” he says. “I read books, watched tons of videos, made tons of mistakes and kept going on.”

In 2008, he moved to Kelowna from Montreal. Soon after, he biked from Kelowna to Tijuana, Mexico, visiting homesteads, ecovillages and organic farms along the way.

“I was inspired by what was possible,” he says. When he returned to Kelowna, he began developing his farm.

Maximizing a Small Urban Farm

[caption id="attachment_34793" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Urban farming/urban farmer Curtis Stone[/caption]

Green City Acres actually isn’t just one farm -- it includes six locations, all within a square kilometer (about one-third of a square mile).

“It’s a decentralized farm,” Stone says, explaining how he uses mainly the front and backyards of homes, including his own. He’s added a passive solar greenhouse, cold storage and harvesting areas to boost efficiency.

The greenhouse allows Stone and his team to grow microgreens and herbs year-round.

Because of the small amount of land -- the whole farm totals less than 0.4 of an acre -- Stone uses “bio-intensive” farming methods.

“‘Bio-intensive’ means giving the crop only the space needed to get to full maturity,” he says. “The beds are densely planted, and we’re growing everything in a 30-inch wide bed.”

The densely packed plants act as mulch and help retain water, prevent erosion and suppress weeds.

An added bonus?

“It has ergonomics built in,” Stone says. “A person can comfortably straddle it and work… You can walk in and out of plots, crossing over beds easily. We’re focusing on crops that require a lot of planting, replanting and harvesting, and we need to be able to get in and out of plots.”

How He Makes $75,000 a Year from Only 15,000 Square Feet

[caption id="attachment_34790" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Urban farming/urban farmer Curtis Stone[/caption]

Green City Acres grows about 20 different plants, which have a few general characteristics in common.

Stone focuses on crops that are ready within 60 days and have high yields (generally 2-2.5 pounds per square foot).

He also makes sure to grow plants that demand a high price per pound.

“We’re not growing things like potatoes and winter squash,” he explains. “We’re growing cut salad greens, fine fresh herbs, microgreens, cherry tomatoes.”

Stone also aims to grow crops that have long seasons.

“If we’re growing a tomato variety, we want a tomato that we can have from the beginning of June to the end of October,” he says.

The final key characteristic is popularity.

“We’re only growing crops that people demand,” he says. “I’ve experimented with growing 80 different types of vegetables and found at the end of the day, if you don’t grow what people want, you’re not going to make money farming.”

Stone sells his produce to niche grocery stores, farmers markets, restaurants and CSA programs.

How to Start Urban Farming

[caption id="attachment_34788" align="aligncenter" width="648"]Urban farming/urban farmer Curtis Stone[/caption]

If you want to grow a profitable urban garden, Stone advises you to start small.

“Start with a small piece of land,” he explains. “It doesn’t have to be much. The most ideal way is to start with one or two backyards.”

He encourages people to use the 30-inch bed and some of his other methods and scale these techniques to demand.

“Start with half a bed of arugula, start with a small diversity of crops, but don’t get too crazy,” Stone says.

He recommends starting with around five crops, adding that the best ones for beginners to grow are salad crops, like red Russian kale, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach and arugula.

“With five crops, you can have maybe 10 different products, which gives you optionality,” Stone explains.

“If you’re short on this one this week, just add it to the salad mix. That’s a really easy way to get started and get things growing.”

Following the Market

[caption id="attachment_34789" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Urban farming/urban farmer Katie Huisman[/caption]

Ultimately, Stone lets the market tell him what to grow.

“Let the market pull you instead of having an idea and going out to sell,” he says. “Let it tell you what to grow and what people want. If you understand the techniques and are able to learn on the fly and change your production based on what the market is telling you, you can be profitable very quickly.”

Stone encourages new farmers to start at farmers markets, but only if they’re not packed with others selling the same types of crops.

Green grocers (like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s), small restaurants, owner-operator cafés and collaborative CSA programs are a few alternate markets he suggests.

“The key is to never start in a saturated market,” Stone says. “Go where you can carve out a little niche.”

In addition to his farming work, Stone has also created a niche for himself in guiding others to become farmers. He published an Amazon-bestselling book about his techniques, and also offers a 10-week self study course for “farmpreneurs,” which about 200 people have taken.

Your Turn: Have you ever tried urban farming? Can you share any tips for other would-be growers?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.