Staff Writer

Quiz time!

When it comes to using vacation time, do you:

  1. Put off planning your vacation and never quite get around to taking one
  2.  Use up every last vacation day you’ve earned

Don’t worry, there’s no right or wrong answer, so you can tell me.

If you answered number one, you’ve got plenty of company.

A new survey by Glassdoor revealed that, of the U.S. workers who get vacation time or paid time off, those employees, on average, only take about half of their allotted time.

If you answered number two, I have another question for you.

Do you unplug from work when you’re on vacation, or do you still check your messages and email?

Still check your messages? So do two out of three Americans Glassdoor surveyed (including me!).

Unplugging is hard to do, and sometimes our workplaces can make it even harder. Roughly 29% of employees have been contacted by a coworker while on vacation, and 25% say they’ve been contacted by the boss (that’s an email you have to answer, right?).

“While taking a vacation may make employees temporarily feel behind, they should realize that stepping away from work and fully disconnecting carries a ripple effect of benefits,” said Glassdoor chief human resources officer Carmel Galvin. “It allows employees to return to work feeling more productive, creative, recharged and reenergized.”

The survey also found some workers think taking vacation time may cost them a promotion or raise (though sometimes the opposite may be true).

If you need incentive to leave your laptop behind next time you take time off, consider this: around 14% of survey respondents said family members have complained when they saw them working on vacation.

But if your vacation partner constantly has their nose in their work email instead of relaxing, they might feel like they have a good reason for it.

Project: Time Off looked into what drives people to work while on vacation and discovered something interesting.

A quarter of the workers they surveyed said they’re afraid taking time off will make them seem less dedicated to their job or that it would show how easily someone else could do their work.

"More than anything else, it’s this fear that ‘I could be seen as replaceable,’" said Katie Denis, senior director at Project: Time Off. "We have these post-recession fears that still linger."

How to Take a Vacation to Remember

When you’re ready to relax and get away from it all, you’ve got a lot of options that don’t cost a lot of money.

How to Take a Staycation to Remember

It can be hard to save for a vacation when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. These ideas can help you make the most of the time you have off right in your own hometown.

Whether you stay home or jet off somewhere exotic, it’s important to unplug once in a while, de-stress and maybe practice a little mindfulness.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves to travel but sometimes nothing beats a quiet weekend at home. Unplugged, of course.  

Am I alone in feeling like the scariest part of any job interview is not knowing what questions the hiring manager will ask?

You too? Phew.

I wish interviews were more like school exams.

“We’d like to interview you for this position next Friday at 2:30. In the meantime, here’s this handy study guide. Please review all the questions we plan to ask you and prepare your answers in advance.”

Since that’s just wishful thinking, the best thing any of us can do to prepare for a job interview is think about how we’ll answer some of the most common questions hiring managers ask potential recruits.

One popular question that comes up often is, “What’s your greatest weakness?”

It seems counterproductive to talk about your negative traits when trying to impress people you hope will give you a job -- but there’s a method to this madness.

It’s a way for potential employers to find your level of self-awareness and whether you look for opportunities to improve things that some may consider drawbacks.

Mary Ryan, associate director of Career and Leadership Services for Working Professionals at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, says this question helps determine if applicants can “give a genuine answer to an uncomfortable question or have a weakness that would be a deal-breaker for the job at hand.”

“Beats Me” is Probably Not Your Best Choice

There are a few ways to answer this question. Let’s take a look at what constitutes a good response -- and what doesn’t.

An interviewer once asked a friend of mine to describe his greatest weakness.

He responded (with a completely straight face, mind you), “Kryptonite.”

Clever, cheeky responses like that are probably not the way to go.

“Likewise, steer clear of clichés,” recommends FlexJobs. “Interviewers tire of people trying to disguise strengths as weaknesses with statements such as ‘I work too hard’ or ‘I’m too passionate about what I do.’”

Your best bet is to answer the question honestly but in a way that focuses on how you address the issue.

“For example, ‘I pride myself on being a 'big-picture' guy. I have to admit I sometimes miss small details, but I always make sure I have someone who is detail-oriented on my team,’” suggests employment website Monster.

Above all, don’t lie and tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear.

You might be tempted to claim a weakness you don’t really have, but that approach can easily backfire.

For instance, saying you’re working to overcome a fear of public speaking could come back to bite you if it comes out later you have a side gig as a stand-up comedian.

The only thing worse than having to answer this question is getting busted lying.

Some Interviewers Don’t Like the Question Either

If it makes you feel any better, some hiring experts say asking you about your weaknesses has no place in a job interview.

“You are an interviewer, not a therapist,” says Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of Human Workplace. “It is none of your business what someone's weaknesses are.”

Nevertheless, if the question comes up, you’ll need to have an answer ready.

Steer clear of anything that makes you sound like a sassy superhero and you should be fine.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. When she answers this question, Lisa always wants to (but never has) follow it up with, “And what’s yours?”

Grandparents are so much fun.

They spoil us and know all the best stories about our parents. Some can even run circles around us without breaking a sweat.

That’s why I’m happy to report that Americans are living longer than ever. The number of people in the U.S. aged 65 and older was 46.2 million in 2014 and is expected to climb to a whopping 98.2 million by 2060, according to the United States Census Bureau.

While it’s great that Gram and Gramps are going to be around a while longer, the rise in the senior population has led to a growing demand for non-medical assistants to help senior citizens manage the tasks of everyday life.

In fact, an entire industry has formed to meet this need and it’s something you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the coming years.

I’m talking about senior concierge services, or elder concierges as they’re sometimes called.

The Demand for Senior Concierge Services is Growing

Senior concierges are hired by families to drive seniors to doctor appointments and errands, assist with minor housework or simply just keep them company.

“It’s basically… mom and dad are getting older but they start needing a little bit of help,” explained Justin Lin, CEO of senior concierge service Envoy. “They’re not ready to hire a full-blown caregiver, they don’t need help getting dressed, they don’t need someone to come every day but they need a little support. And they need that personal touch and trust factor.”

The arrangement means senior citizens are less dependent on friends and family members, and concierges have an opportunity to make extra money. It’s a win-win.

Jill Kaplan, an elder concierge in Denver, Colorado told The New York Times she makes $25 to $40 per hour only working a few days a week.

Kaplan said it’s “very satisfying” and “more meaningful” than other side gig opportunities, like becoming a rideshare driver.

How To Become a Senior Concierge

Working for a senior concierge agency is a great way to connect with families looking for a little in-home help. AARP recommends checking the The International Concierge & Lifestyle Management Network database to see what companies are operating in your area

If you prefer to work as a freelance senior concierge, consider signing up with to be matched with families looking for an in-home care provider. (You’ll also get access to a variety of benefits!)

If you decide to branch out on your own instead of signing up with an agency or job matching service, make sure to file all the necessary paperwork to pay your federal, state and local taxes.

"If you're paid under the table, you're in violation of the law," attorney Hyman G. Darling told AARP.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves telling readers about interesting or unusual jobs. Look her up on Twitter (@lisah) if you want to tell her about yours.

A lot of work-from-home jobs cross our desks every day.

We always try to bring you the cream of the crop and this group of job openings is no different.

5 Work-From-Home Jobs Open Right Now

Most of them are full-time positions and some have super sweet benefits. See for yourself.

1. Customer Service Representative for Government Contracts at SaviLinx

Applicants for this full-time remote job at business process and marketing services outsourcing provider SaviLinx must be available to travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for occasional but regular training and meetings.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Providing customer service via text, email, chat and phone calls
  • Resolving customer inquiries and concerns and properly escalate issues when appropriate
  • Meeting established metrics and demonstrating improvement over time
  • Looking for learning and training opportunities

Applicants for this position must also have:

  • Advanced technical skills
  • 1-2 years of customer service experience
  • Previous contact center experience
  • Strong problem-solving and listening skills
  • Understanding of Windows operating system and the internet
  • Ability to work variable hours, including evenings, nights and weekends
  • Eligibility to obtain government security clearance
  • Ability to pass a drug test and background check

You’ll be eligible for the following benefits:

  • Paid sick time
  • 80 hours of vacation time
  • 401(k) retirement plan
  • Employee Assistance Plan

Pay: SaviLinx says it offers “high wages.”

Apply here for the Customer Service Representative for Government Contracts job at SaviLinx.

2. Reservations Coordinator at Vacation Strategy  

This full-time position comes with very specific schedule requirements: Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday afternoon/evening shifts; Sunday and Monday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Booking guest reservations online or over the phone
  • Quickly and accurately cancelling and rebooking reservations in a live system
  • Answering department phones
  • Assisting Guest Services and the Concierge team with reservations and cancellations

Applicants for this position must also have:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • High speed internet and your own computer
  • Access to and familiarity with Skype Video
  • Three professional references
  • Excellent listening and communication skills
  • Ability to multi-task

You’ll be eligible for the following benefits:

  • The ability to work from home full-time

Pay: $10.50 per hour

Apply here for a Reservations Coordinator job at Vacation Strategy.

3. Fact Checker (Science Educational Content) at Symmetry Creative Production

If you love to do research and have great attention to detail, this remote contract position may be right up your alley.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Reviewing PDF proofs and related content
  • Return marked-up PDFs with the required number of fact sources
  • Adherence to project guidelines and requirements

Applicants for this position must also have:

  • One year of fact checking experience
  • Samples of previous fact checking work

The listing does not include benefits or pay information, but I’ll update this article when I get more information.

Apply here for a Fact Checker job at Symmetry Creative Production.

4. Customer Service Pro at Meet Edgar

Act fast if you want this full-time remote job. Applications will only be accepted through June 2, 2017.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Taking customer phone calls and video calls
  • Helping customers with general questions and some technical troubleshooting
  • Working on personalized onboarding and engagement campaigns with other team members

Applicants for this position must also have:

  • Availability to work 40 hours per week: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Time (Your first month will be from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. ET)
  • Previous SaaS support, help desk or call center experience
  • High speed internet
  • Excellent problem-solving and written communication skills
  • A way of “putting people at ease and making them feel heard”
  • An affinity for working technology
  • A working knowledge of social media
  • Know what what "inspect element" and "view source" are

You’ll be eligible for the following benefits:

  • Four weeks of paid vacation
  • Up to two months of family leave for new parents
  • Monthly home cleaning service
  • Paid internet service
  • Paid coworking or coffee shop expenses
  • Health, dental and vision insurance
  • 401(k) plan with employer match
  • Mac laptop

Pay: I’ve reached out to the company and will update when I hear back.

Apply here for the Customer Service Pro job at Meet Edgar.

5. Content Associate At OfficeNinjas

This remote job is part-time but will potentially become full-time. Also, be prepared to take a quick quiz to assess your writing chops.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Contributing researched articles to the blog
  • Writing social media scripts, marketing materials, proposals and reports
  • Working on a variety of campaigns
  • Writing copy for landing pages, drip emails and customer support

Applicants for this position must also have:

  • Availability to work 20 hours per week
  • Experience working remotely
  • Understanding of content marketing
  • The ability to adjust priorities as needed and be self-motivated
  • Proficiency with Google Drive, Docs and Sheets, WordPress and Asana

The job listing does not include any benefits.
Pay: The company says, “Compensation will be based on experience and consist of a flat monthly package rate with room to grow.”

Apply here for the Content Associate job At OfficeNinjas.

Don’t forget to check out our Jobs page on Facebook. We post new jobs there all the time.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves telling readers about new job opportunities so look her up on Twitter @lisah if you’ve got a tip to share.

If you’re looking for a work-from-home job that doesn’t confine you to a 9-to-5 weekday schedule, here’s an opportunity you’ll want to check out.

Customer relationship management company Alorica is hiring work-at-home customer service representatives.

Alorica manages customer calls 24/7, and that means you can work evenings, late at night and weekends.

As a customer service representative, you’ll receive and process incoming calls for a variety of Alorica clients.

Responsibilities include taking down customer information, answering questions, resolving issues and presenting upsell opportunities on each call.

To land this job, you’ll need “exceptional customer service skills as well as patience and empathy,” according to the job description.

Alorica offers paid training at the minimum wage in your state or local area. Once you’ve completed training, your pay will be somewhere between the minimum wage in your area and $10 per hour.

You’ll need to meet a few requirements to be considered for this job, including:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • 18 years or older
  • Ability to pass a background check and drug test
  • Basic computer skills
  • Available to work a minimum of 10 hours per week
  • Clear and distinct speaking voice
  • Passing score on job-related assessments

If this sounds like a job for you, head over to Alorica’s website to apply.

Don’t forget to check out our Jobs page on Facebook. We post new jobs there all the time.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves telling readers about new job opportunities so look her up on Twitter @lisah if you’ve got a tip to share.

Want to know a secret?

I’ve never had a professional massage.

I totally get why they’re appealing, but they’re just not my jam.

Manicures on the other hand?  Heck, yeah.

My tombstone will read, “How do my nails look?”

I’m not gonna lie, getting my nails done every two weeks or so costs a pretty penny (or 6,000, to be exact), but it’s the one luxury I budget for, even if it means using cheap body wash or mascara.

The main reason I go to a salon to get my manicure done is because there’s no way I could do it at home. I’m basically the most uncoordinated person on the planet, so I’d end up with acrylic powder in my eye and nail shellac on the walls.

For all other spa-type treatments, though, I’m strictly a DIY gal.

Here are some of my favorite ways to indulge myself easily right in the comfort of my own home -- without spending a fortune.

15 Ways to Get Your DIY Spa Day On

  1. Everything you’ve heard about coconut oil is true. Skip the expensive body lotion or deep conditioner and use this low-cost alternative instead. An entire jar will only run you about $4 and will last for months.
  1. Apply an avocado or egg mask to your hair at the beginning of your spa routine, then wrap your head in a warm towel. Let it work its magic for at least 20 minutes while you give yourself a lip scrub. One egg will set you back 10 cents and an avocado is about a dollar.
  1. Korean sheet masks make your skin look amazing, but they can be awfully pricy. I picked up a handful at my local dollar store for a buck each recently and discovered they work just as well as the expensive brands. If you buy in bulk, you can save even more pennies.
  1. Speaking of masks, if you use Lush cosmetics or know someone who does, hang on to those little black pots and bottles their products come in. You’ll score a free face mask when you turn in five empties. That’s a savings of at least $9!
  1. Clear up blemishes and reduce fine lines with a 60-cent container of plain, generic-brand yogurt! Whether you use it plain or jazz it up with extras like a dash of honey or oatmeal, your pores will thank you.

    [caption id="attachment_57022" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

  1. After rinsing off the mask, I like to give myself a five-minute face massage. It’s surprisingly relaxing -- and totally free!
  1. If you’ve got a few dollars to spare, sign up for a Sephora Play! subscription. For just $10 per month, you’ll get a box delivered right to your door filled with deluxe product samples and a bonus fragrance.
  1. This homemade eucalyptus sugar scrub is both energizing and effective. For less than a dollar’s worth of sugar you can make a batch to slough off dry, dead skin, leaving behind a tingly clean that smells luxurious.
  1. For a change of pace, I like to mix things up and exfoliate my skin with this three-ingredient coffee body scrub that you can make with the (free!) used coffee grounds leftover from your morning brew. It reportedly also reduces the appearance of cellulite. (Don’t tell me if that’s just an old wives’ tale -- I don’t want to know.)
  1. Sometimes my skin just isn’t up for a harsh scrub down. That’s when I whip together this gentle scrub that rinses off easily with warm water. Not bad for 60-cents worth of oat bran. (I’ve tried it without wheat germ and it still works great.)
  1. If you plan to shave during your spa time, try dry brushing first to prevent ingrown hairs and razor burn bumps.
  1. If I’m going to sport beautiful nails, the rest of my hand better keep up appearances too. This lemon-sugar hand scrub is so easy to make, smells amazing and costs less than $2 to make. After you rinse it off, slather on some hand lotion and take a minute to admire your, er, handiwork.
  1. Do you know why every spa scene in a movie or TV depicts someone with cucumber slices on their eyes? Because it works! For about 75 cents, you’ll have all the slices you need, plus leftovers for salad. (Tea bags dampened with a bit of cool water are also a great way to reduce puffy irritated eyes if you’re fresh out of cukes.)

    [caption id="attachment_57023" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

  1. I’m cursed with dark skin patches on my face (thanks hormones!) that make me look like I blended my foundation with my eyes closed. One way I keep the discoloration in check is by dabbing a few pennies worth of lemon juice and honey on the affected areas. You can blend the ingredients together or apply them one after the other. Leave it on for about 20 minutes before rinsing off with warm water.
  1. Treat your feet to a nice soak with whatever gentle bath wash you have on hand. Follow it up with a homemade foot scrub that costs less than one dollar. Simply stir one part coconut oil into two parts sugar and scent with a few drops of essential oil. A dash of lemon juice adds extra oomph. To kick (ha!) things up a notch, slather on some lotion and cover your tootsies with thick socks while the moisturizer works its magic.

    [caption id="attachment_57021" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

10 Easy Ways to Spa-ify Your Surroundings

While planning your day of indulgence, don’t forget to design your own relaxation grotto. Give your bathroom a deep clean and then:

  1. Splurge on a soft, thick towel.
  1. Pick up some pretty containers from the dollar store to hold all the scrubs and potions you make.
  1. Scour thrift shops for a fluffy bathrobe to wear while relaxing.
  1. Get some inexpensive candles to create ambience during bath time -- or make your own.
  1. Set a plant or vase of flowers in the bathroom, because greenery makes everything better.
  1. Cover your bathroom window with frosted contact paper to diffuse bright sunlight that might harsh your mellow.
  1. Put a few sprigs of eucalyptus on the corner of the bathtub to create a clean, refreshing scent when you run the hot water.
  1. Buy a bathtub overflow drain cover so you can fill the tub extra deep and soak all the way up to your chin.
  1. Queue up this chill Spotify playlist.
  1. Make this fruit and cucumber-infused water to sip as you spa

Want even more DIY spa ideas? Check out how to make your own sea salt spray, body lotion and more.

Disclosure: We don’t hesitate to pick pennies off the sidewalk when we spot them. But the affiliate links in this post help our earnings grow even quicker. Plus, it’s a lot cleaner than sidewalk money.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Maybe one day she’ll get over her personal space issues and try getting a massage.

Far too many of us live paycheck to paycheck.

That means it would be a real struggle to come up with $100 for an emergency -- to say nothing of $400 or $500 -- without going deeper into debt.

Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes: unexpected medical expenses, car trouble, getting laid off — or even jail.

People don’t usually expect to wind up in jail, and it can be expensive to bail out yourself or someone else.

The average bail amount can range from a few hundred dollars for a misdemeanor charge to $55,500 for a felony.

In fact, the expense can be so prohibitive that some people end up staying in jail longer than they have to.

Gothamist reports that half the people sitting in New York City jails are there because they don’t have the bail money they need to get out.

“In addition to exposing people who are presumed innocent to the many hazards of [local jail complex] Rikers Island, pretrial detention disrupts people's ability to work, pay rent, and take care of their families, and drastically increases the chances that one will be found guilty of a crime,” writes Gothamist’s Nathan Tempey.

If you got a call from a friend or family member who needed to quickly raise bail money, would you know where to turn? Here are some easy ways to get cash.

If you’ve exhausted all your options and are still short on the money you need to bail out a jailed  friend or family member, consider going to a bail agent.

You’ll pay a bail bond premium, which is just a percentage (often 10%) of the total bail amount.

“The premium is a fee for the bail agent’s services to manage the defendant and make sure he or she shows up to all required court appearances,” explains Nolo.

Just be aware that while cash bail money you pay directly to the court is refundable, but any money or assets you put toward a bail bond premium is not.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. By checking out this featured content, you help us bring you more ways to save!

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

If your work clothes are feeling a little tighter lately, you aren’t alone.

Forty-five percent of U.S. workers say they’ve gained weight at their current job, according to a new CareerBuilder survey.

What’s more, 25% say they’ve gained over 10 pounds at their present job and 10% believe they’ve gained more than 20 pounds.

Workers say a lot of factors contribute to their weight gain, including:

  • Sitting at a desk most of the day (51%)
  • Work wears them out too much to bother with exercise (45%)
  • Eating because they’re stressed (38%)
  • No time to exercise (38%)
  • Eating out regularly (24%)

I’m right there with you, fellow workers: I spend a lot of working hours parked in a desk chair, and some days the only exercise I get is waving at my gym as I drive past it (which totally counts as arm day).

Several survey respondents also said workplace celebrations, happy hours and the temptation of office snacks contribute to extra poundage.  

Yep, I can relate to that too. The fridges at The Penny Hoarder HQ are stocked with healthy treats, but we also bring in our fair share of donuts and cookies.

Then there’s all the food we use on to make all our cool videos. I mean, we can’t let that go to waste either, can we?

Long story short, we eat a lot around here.

Battle That Bulge

It comes as no surprise the near-universal advice from the medical community is that consistent activity is a fundamental key to controlling weight.

Even though we know that’s the solution, CareerBuilder’s researchers say, “41% of workers don’t work out regularly or at all, and 47% of this group say they gained weight at their current job.”

Some companies are willing to help employees stay healthy -- 28% say their employer provides gym facilities or other wellness benefits. Unfortunately, 63% of workers who have those benefits don’t use them.

If you can’t or don’t exercise on a regular basis, there are a few other things you can do to reduce stress and fight the battle of the bulge.

If you can’t resist the urge to grab a nosh at work, getting a handle on stress and finding better work-life balance could help keep your waistline under control.

I suppose if there’s any silver lining in this new CareerBuilders report, it’s that many of the results are basically the same as last year. We may not be getting better at avoiding weight gain at work, but at least we aren’t getting worse.  

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s always on the lookout for hot tips on work-life balance because she struggles with it every day. Look her up on Twitter @lisah if you’ve got some to share.

Some graduation commencement speeches are inspiring, some are touching and some are simply hilarious.

Leave it to Bill Gates to be a little bit of each.

Gates took to Twitter earlier this week to share his thoughts on what he wish he’d known when he was younger and what grads today can do to have the best chance at success.

Gates goes on to say:

In a nice hat tip to his wife, Melinda, Gates recommends new college grads “surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. As @MelindaGates does for me.”

Gates also had some career advice for newly-minted grads.

Gates didn’t limit his advice to just Twitter. He also wrote a 700-word missive that takes a deeper look at why he recommends those three specific fields.

“If I were starting out today and looking for the same kind of opportunity to make a big impact in the world, I would consider three fields,” he says.

“One is artificial intelligence. We have only begun to tap into all the ways it will make people’s lives more productive and creative.

“The second is energy, because making it clean, affordable and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change.

“The third is biosciences, which are ripe with opportunities to help people live longer, healthier lives.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

If you’re ready to take Gates’ advice but aren’t sure where to begin, start with the resources at your local library.

No matter how lofty your employment aspirations, finding a job takes time. If you end up working in retail or become a barista, remember this: you’ll be learning the soft skills you need to be a success in whatever field you choose.

Twenty-somethings aren’t the only ones earning a degree to begin a new line of work. In fact, it’s never too late to start a career at any age.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She wishes Bill Gates had been handing out career advice when she was in college.

This year’s crop of fresh-faced graduates have a lot to look forward to. New job or school opportunities, maybe a party or two and, of course, gifts.

No fibbing, grads. You know one of the only things getting you through that last round of finals was the promise of a good celebration and a few presents for all your hard work.

Whether you’re the giver or the recipient of a gift during this graduation season, listen up.

I have some advice for you.

The Gift Grads Really Want

Gift givers, the graduates in your life are too polite to tell you this, so I’ll say it for them.

Personalized stationery or a new commuter bag makes a cool gift, but sometimes the best present is simply some cold, hard cash.

College Time’s Madison Rutherford sums it up best. “Let’s be real here: What we really want is cold, hard cash so we can buy the crap we really care about, like Chipotle and PBR.”

How Much Graduation Gift Money Should You Give?

First of all, let’s get one thing straight, gift givers: You’re under no obligation to give a present -- cash or otherwise -- to anyone.

If your budget doesn’t allow for it (or you just flat-out don’t want to), a heartfelt card or note is just fine. (Right, grads? Right?)

If you do want to give the gift of money, though, you’ve got a lot of company.

According to the National Retail Federation, more than half of the people who give graduation gifts prefer to hand out cash.

When you’re deciding how much to give, here’s a good rule of thumb: Based on a 2015 NRF survey, the average cash graduation gift is around $100.

What Should You Do With Your Graduation Gift Money?

Grads, I’m going to go all mom on you before I offer suggestions on what to do with the cash you get.

Before you spend or invest a dime of that money, send thank-you notes to everyone who gave you a present. Do it.

Now, I wouldn’t be a responsible Penny Hoarder if I didn’t suggest that you set aside a portion of the money to start building an emergency fund.

You can also:

  • Park it in a free checking account and let it start earning interest. Aspiration is one of our faves and features up to 1% interest, 100 times more than most banks.
  • Invest in the stock market. Stash walks you through the process and lets you get started for only $5. It also gives you $5 to invest when you sign up through this link.

Of course, we all need to cut loose a little bit and reward ourselves for a job well done. Take a little bit of the money you got and splurge on something nice for yourself. You deserve it.

But first, write those thank-you notes.  

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s been both a graduation gift giver and recipient. She thinks giving is much more fun.

Many of the work-from-home jobs we tell you about are focused on things like customer service or travel planning.

These opportunities often don’t require degrees or certifications and instead rely on what hiring agents call “soft skills” like problem solving or conflict resolution.

But we also know some of our readers are looking for home-based jobs that tap into skills on the other end of the spectrum -- jobs that require things like a background in computer programming or project management.

If that’s you, then you’ll definitely want to hear about a batch of work-from-home jobs that might be right up your alley.

Dell is hiring dozens of remote workers all around the country to fill a variety of openings. For these jobs, hard skills are definitely required.

The available jobs run the gamut from tech-based positions like Senior Systems Engineer to degreed positions like Business Operations Advisor.

In fact, there are at least six full pages of job listings on Dell’s website spanning the U.S. and Canada.

Here are a few of the openings you’ll find:

Senior Consultant, IT Security

This job asks applicants to have experience using a variety of programming languages, including Python, C and C++. You’ll also need a background in information security best practices, forensic analysis and reverse engineering mobile ARM architecture binaries. A BA/BS in engineering/computer science is required but a Master’s or PhD is preferred.

Talent Acquisition Advisor

This position requires at least six years of full lifecycle recruiting experience or eight or more years of equivalent work experience. You’ll also need to know how to work with common recruiting platforms like Taleo, MS Office Suite, PeopleSoft and WorkDay.

Principal Support Engineer

Applicants for this job need a strong background in IT networking, experience working with Windows Active Directory and a familiarity with shared storage solution vSAN. You’ll also need to understand FC, iSCSI and clustering technologies, and have a working knowledge of standard backup and recovery tools.

Senior Business Development Manager

To apply for this position, you’ll need a BA/BS degree and at least eight years of experience in the software technology industry. Contract negotiation skills are a requirement, as is a history of working for a large global system integrator. Experience with Software-as-a-Service and Deloitte or other large GSIs is preferred.

Job Benefits at Dell

Dell offers some snazzy perks and benefits that include:

  • Health and wellness programs
  • Career development opportunities
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Medical, dental and vision insurance
  • Life and disability insurance

If you’re interested in landing one of these sweet gigs, spend some time brushing up on what to expect during an interview at Dell and what to know before you apply.

If none of the openings at Dell grab you, be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook jobs page. We post work-from-home jobs there all the time.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She likes bringing readers new work-from-home opportunities so look her up on Twitter (@lisah) if you’ve got a hot lead to share.

Let me just say librarians get the coolest gigs in the world.

Atlas Obscura reports the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is hiring a librarian to catalog and develop its resources, participate in user outreach programs and supervise Library Assistants, interns and volunteers.

I never really thought about the Hall of Fame having a librarian, much less an entire department devoted to organizing and maintaining its collection. Who knew? (If that department isn’t named “Dewey Louis and the News” I’m going to be heartbroken.)

Part of the job involves the “physical processing of library resources, including books, dissertations, periodicals, sound and video recordings, music scores, and electronic resources.”

That means you get to actually touch stuff like:

The fancy outfit Mike Smith of Dave Clark Five wore on a 1967 TV special.

A post shared by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (@rockhall) on

The scrap of paper N.W.A.’s MC Ren used to write a song.

A post shared by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (@rockhall) on

Some Beatles paraphernalia.

A post shared by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (@rockhall) on

Joan Jett’s jacket.

A post shared by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (@rockhall) on

This giant hot dog from a Phish show.

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You’ll need to have some serious librarian expertise to land this awesome job.

Qualifications include a Master’s degree in library or information science, experience in a long list of cataloging and reference skills and knowledge of the history of rock and roll.

The full-time job may require some overtime and evening, weekend or holiday shifts but is primarily a Monday-through-Friday gig.

There’s no word on perks and benefits, but you can bet that one of them is getting to attend the yearly induction ceremony.

The job posting doesn’t list an explicit salary but says it’s “commensurate with experience.”

If the librarian job is out of reach for you, don’t despair. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is has a batch of other listings, including openings for interns, docents and volunteers.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’d take this job for free.