Mike Brassfield - The Penny Hoarder

Virge and Cheryl Cavalli were at a crossroads.

After 12 years of raising two daughters as a stay-at-home mom, Cheryl wanted to go back to work. But she needed the flexibility to be available for her children as they became busy teenagers.

She found the ideal opportunity: She’d launch a business as a home-based travel agent who provides personalized service to her clients. It was the perfect fit for Cheryl, a veteran traveler who had always loved planning out her family’s vacations.

And after suffering for years, the travel agent industry has been rebounding as more travelers are finding value in their services. Travel agents can save their clients time, money and hassles, as well as make sense of the glut of information available online, and find the best promotions and deals.

Now, while Virge continued commuting to his office for his business development job, Cheryl would work from home, planning her customers’ trips from door to door -- cruises, resorts, trips to Disney or Universal theme parks, transfers, tickets, excursions, events, the works.

She would also have the flexibility to take off in the middle of the day if one of their 10- or 12-year-old daughters got sick or needed to be dropped off at team practices after school.

First, though, the couple would need to figure out the challenges that come with starting your own business.

Some Big Decisions Right Off the Bat

Before they could officially launch the business, Virge and Cheryl had some research to do.

Legal Stuff

They didn’t have to start a corporation. But under the state laws of New Jersey, Cheryl had to register as a sole proprietor -- basically a one-person business. That was pretty simple. So was registering online for a state business certificate and a business tax number.

Cheryl opened a business bank account. She also learned she’d need errors and omissions insurance, a form of professional liability insurance.

For newbies thinking about starting a business, the U.S. Small Business Administration has this useful checklist of 10 steps you should take. They include figuring out your business structure, filing to pay taxes, and acquiring a business license.

Social Media

Cheryl had previously used Facebook mostly to post cute photos of her children. She had a lot to learn about how to use various social media platforms to promote her business and educate people about travel. “I’m asking my kids, ‘How does Snapchat work?’”

Savvy entrepreneurs follow a few best practices for social media. Whatever social media platform you’re using, you have to strike a balance between engaging your audience and too much self-promotion.

Most of your posts should be sharing useful or interesting content.

Marketing

With a home-based business like Cheryl’s, you don’t have a brick-and-mortar office location for the public to see, so it’s crucially important to trumpet the fact that your business exists.

Cheryl spent her first year in her new career learning what kind of marketing works for her and what doesn’t -- which business networking group to join, which community fairs she should rent a table at.

Marketing your own small business is a challenge. It’s important to attend networking events and to not be shy. Get your name out there!

Look into whether email marketing could work for you. Have a short and interesting “elevator pitch” about what you do.

Website

Her new business would need a website, obviously. She chose the name PipeDreamVacations.com because it spells out what her business is all about.

A good website is crucial. Here’s a story about a woman who built her own business and its website in 30 days on the cheap.

Startup Costs

The Cavalli’s figured they’d need $20,000 to get her new business off the ground.

That would cover start-up costs, like marketing, business cards, trade show fees, launching the website, and a keeping a cash cushion while she was building up her clientele. It would also enable her to become a travel agent with Cruise Planners, the nation’s largest home-based travel agent franchise network.

Entrepreneurs use different ways to pull together their startup money. Some use crowdfunding, like this young inventor who started a business while he was still in college. Others look for investors.

Virge and Cheryl decided to borrow the money. One problem: They dreaded the prospect of filling out piles of paperwork for a home equity loan, and the endless hassle of shopping around for the best interest rates and loan terms.

“We weren’t looking forward to jumping through all those hoops,” Virge recalls.

That’s when they found Even Financial. Virge went to the website, typed in the couple’s information, and it produced a series of personalized loan offers.

“All of the major loan providers were presented in a very simple table -- what their rates were, what the terms were,” he said. They got a $20,000, three-year loan with a 5.9% interest rate from SoFi, an online personal finance company.

‘Building Something of My Own’

Have you ever thought about starting your own work-at-home business? Creating your own flexible schedule? Working in your pajamas?

Here are three other people who started theirs from scratch, with the help of online courses. One started taking courses from Transcribe Anywhere. Another started taking a course called Learn to be a Bookkeeper, and a third took online courses from Proofread Anywhere. Each makes at least $1,200 per month.

As for Cheryl, she launched her business a year ago. Since then, she has taken to her new career like a duck to water.

She’s been steadily building a base of clients. She has also mastered the art of being a long-distance Mrs. Fix-It if one of her traveling clients runs into a jam while on vacation.

“I love it. It’s a 24/7 job, and dinner has been late a few times,” she says, laughing. “But I can arrange most of my day around my kids’ schedule, and participate in their school and sport activities.”

“I get to do something I’m passionate about, and I’m building something of my own.”

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He needs to start traveling again.

What is robo-investing?

Is that like when Robocop puts down his huge robot gun, pulls on a green accountant eyeshade and starts handling your investments?

“Citizen, my programming indicates that your portfolio requires more mutual funds.”

No. That’s not it at all. Not even close.

Robo-investing is when online financial companies use sophisticated software instead of human stockbrokers to manage your investments. That way, the companies can keep fees super low.

Two of the dominant robo-investing companies are Betterment and Wealthfront. In many ways they’re very similar. But there are important differences between the two, so let’s compare them.

Launched in 2008, Betterment is considered the pioneer of robo-investing. It’s now managing $9.5 billion in assets. Wealthfront, which moved into robo-investing in 2011, is managing $5 billion in assets.

Betterment is based in New York, Wealthfront in Silicon Valley.

The Epitome of ‘Set It and Forget It’

The two companies are strikingly similar. They have the same basic business model, designed for long-term investors who want a professionally managed portfolio at a rock-bottom price.

Each company’s website asks you about your age, when you hope to retire, and your tolerance for risk.

Based on your answers, it’ll funnel your investment money into a portfolio of low-cost index funds that track the stock market as a whole.

Both companies use software robots -- proprietary programs that act as automated advisers -- to steer your investments and cheaply do things stockbrokers and money managers would charge you high fees to do.

The Robo-Adviser Industry, Nearly a Decade Old

If you’re trying to decide between Betterment or Wealthfront, consider how they’re different:

Minimum Deposit

Wealthfront requires a minimum deposit of $500 to open an account. (It used to be $5,000.) In contrast, Betterment requires no minimum deposit.

Fees

Let’s assume you’re opening a tax-deferred account like an IRA. That’s what most people do with these companies.

Betterment and Wealthfront each charge the same annual management fee of 0.25% of your investments. For example, if you invest $10,000, you pay them $25 a year to manage it.

Except that Wealthfront doesn’t charge any fees for your first $10,000. And if you invest more than $2 million with Betterment, it caps its fees at a maximum of $5,000.

Types of Accounts

Both companies handle 401(k) rollovers and several kinds of investment accounts -- traditional and Roth IRAs, trusts, and taxable accounts. However, Wealthfront also offers 529 college savings plans. Betterment doesn’t offer a 529 plan, but has goal-setting tools to help you save.

Refer a Friend

For every friend or relative you refer to them, Wealthfront will manage an additional $5,000 of your assets for free. Betterment offers one free month of service for every referral, and one free year for every three referrals.

Speak to a Human

For an additional fee, Betterment will arrange for you to speak with an actual human advisor, not just a robo-adviser.

A plan called “Betterment Plus” charges 0.40% instead of 0.25%, but gives clients unlimited advice via email and one financial planning call per year. “Betterment Premium” charges 0.50% and offers unlimited email and unlimited phone calls with advisors. These plans require a minimum balance of $100,000.

Goal Setting & Guidance

Both websites offer retirement planning tools. Betterment has “RetireGuide,” while Wealthfront has “Path.”

However, Betterment also helps you create personal savings goals right from the beginning when you sign up and answer their questions. You can customize your Betterment accounts to aim for four different kinds of goals: “retirement,” “safety net,” “wealth building,” or “major purchase.”

Socially Responsible Investing

Betterment recently launched socially responsible investing (SRI) portfolios. The site explains that this is an approach to investing that reduces exposure to companies that are deemed to have a negative social impact. For example, companies that profit from poor labor standards or environmental devastation. These portfolios also increase exposure to companies that are thought to have a positive social impact, like fostering inclusive workplaces or committing to environmentally sustainable practices.

Betterment vs. WealthFront: Which is Best for You?

Here’s the million-dollar question, and it’s a tough one.

Which is better?

“The answer to that question depends on many factors and is not a simple, straightforward answer,” says Investor Junkie, which compared the two. “Unlike other comparisons we’ve done, this one doesn’t have a clear winner.”

InvestorMint compared the two and concluded, “Management fees and expense ratios are almost identical at Betterment and Wealthfront … Both feature good retirement planning tools, though Betterment goes a step further in offering goal setting features.”

It was those goal-setting features that convinced business development strategist Michael Gardon. Writing for the personal finance website The Simple Dollar, he compared the two robo-advisers and chose Betterment because it helps you set financial goals.

Novice investors and those saving for multiple goals at once would be a great fit for Betterment’s services. Just answer the questionnaire, set your goals, and forget it -- Betterment takes care of the rest,” he wrote.

“What’s more,” he wrote, “Betterment requires no minimum investment, opening the door to first-time investors who might have minimal funds starting out.”

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He definitely needs to invest more.

They call themselves The Minimalists. It’s a nice, simple name.

Eight years ago, childhood friends Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus were making lots of money, working 60-80 hours a week in corporate jobs. They had luxury cars, big houses, designer clothes. 

And they were miserable.

Stressed, depressed and in debt.

So they quit their jobs and sold or donated most of their stuff. They embraced a minimalist lifestyle, preaching the benefits of living simple, meaningful lives with less.

They own less, buy less, and spend their time with a close-knit group of peers, friends and family who motivate them.

They’ve written three books, launched a website and produced a documentary. They’re probably best-known for their chart-topping podcast.

All in all, they’ve built an audience of some 20 million people.

Here’s what happened when The Penny Hoarder talked with Milburn, 36, about what’s really important in life.

The Penny Hoarder: Let’s start with the basics. What is minimalism?

Joshua Fields Milburn: Minimalism allows us to identify what is essential in our lives and what is non-essential. It helps us get rid of what’s non-essential so we can focus on life’s most important things -- which aren’t things at all.

TPH: Tell us more about how you got started down this path.

JFM: When I was 28, I was living the American dream. I had a six-figure salary and a big suburban house with more toilets than people. Then in the same month, my marriage ended and my mom died. I had to deal with all her stuff.

(It was 65 years worth of stuff. At first Milburn was going to box it all up and put it in storage, probably forever. Then he realized his memories of his mother weren’t in her stuff. He photographed the things that mattered to him, then got rid of everything. That got him started doing the same in his own life.)

JFM: This one-two punch happened in my life and forced me to look around at what had become my life’s focus -- the accumulation of stuff. I might have been living the American Dream, but it wasn’t my dream. Maybe what I thought I wanted actually wasn’t what I wanted at all.

Over eight months, I got rid of 90% of my material possessions. I felt freer and happier and lighter. Now every possession serves a purpose.

TPH: That’s going to sound extreme to some people. What’s a simple first step that someone could try out?

JFM: Ryan and I aren’t trying to proselytize. We’re just sharing a recipe that’s worked for us. Minimalism is a tool that has allowed me to live more deliberately.

Get rid of the stuff you don’t like very much or that you’re holding onto “just in case.” But it’s more than just decluttering. First, ask yourself: How might your life be better with less? The answer is different for everyone.

How might my life be better with less? Maybe I’ll be able to regain control of my finances. Maybe I’ll focus more on my health. Maybe my relationships will improve. Maybe I’ll reclaim my time and my creativity, and work on that passion project. Or maybe I’ll just have a cleaner house.

TPH: People sometimes latch onto an idea like this, but then fail to follow through. How do you suggest they keep it up?

JFM: The cool thing about letting go is that, once you gain momentum in embracing minimalism, it gets easier by the day. The more you do, the better you feel.

For me, getting rid of a few shirts led to half a closet. A few DVDs led to getting rid of my entire library.

But all the clothes I have now are my favorite clothes. And it’s not like I got rid of everything. If you walked into my home right now, you would probably just think: “Whoa, this family is tidy.”

The average American household has more than 300,000 items in it. But for me, every possession serves a purpose or brings me joy. I get far more value from the few items I own now than if they were watered down with 300,000 other items.

High-Tech Help Getting Started

[caption id="attachment_61165" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Joshua Fields Milburn, left, and Ryan Nicodemus Joshua Fields pose in front of mountains. Joshua Fields Milburn, left, and Ryan Nicodemus reach 20 million through their website, books, podcast, and documentary with tips on how to live well with less. Photo by Joshua Weaver[/caption]

So, how do you get started getting rid of your old stuff?

Once upon a time, your best bet would have been to have a garage sale. Nowadays, apps make it easy to sell your stuff.

We like Decluttr -- which sells your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, cell phones, tablets, video games and gaming consoles.

You scan your media with your phone, and Decluttr sends you a free shipping label.

One user, Gil Flores, sold about 100 DVDs and 75 CDs — he had so many, he said, that he’s not certain of the exact number anymore — and made $275, an average of $1.57 each.

Another simple app is Letgo, which lets you sell just about anything. Just snap a photo of your item, and set up a listing in about 30 seconds.

Hoarding old textbooks? Someone will probably pay you for them! Just search the book’s ISBN on Bookscouter, and the site will connect you with more than 25 of the best-paying and most reputable online buyback companies.

As for The Minimalists, there’s one more cool thing we’d like to mention.

They’ve had tens of thousands of people play something they call the 30-day minimalism game, where you compete with a partner to start jettisoning items each day.

Take the challenge with a friend, relative or roommate. On the first day, each of you gets rid of one thing. On the second day, two things. Three items on the third. And so forth and so on.

Donate, throw away or sell your electronics, clothes, furniture, knickknacks, decorations, etc. They need to be gone by midnight.

It’s easy at first.

After a couple of weeks, it starts getting harder.

But if you both make it to 30 days, everybody wins.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. This is the first of two posts about The Minimalists, with the second part coming soon.

Gather around for today’s lesson, won’t you?

We’ll call it Credit Scores 101. Here are the basics:

  • Credit scores range from 300 to 850.
  • That’s lower than 700, which is widely considered to be a “good” score.

Naturally, we know the best way to raise a low credit score is to strategically pay down your debts and to correct false information in your credit history.

Ah, but here’s what we don’t know: What about those black marks on your credit history you can’t do anything about? For example, do you have any late or missed payments on your credit cards or car loans?

Does that bad stuff come off your credit report after a while? And what happens to your credit score when it does?

Now FICO has the answer. The credit scoring company analyzed its own data to get the details.

Delinquencies, like late payments, typically get removed from your credit report after seven years, thanks to a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

That improves your credit score. But by how much?

Here’s what FICO found out:

  • People who had a single delinquency removed from their credit report this way saw their credit scores go up an average of 14 points.
  • People who had all of their remaining delinquencies removed from their credit report saw their scores increase by an average of 33 points.

The More You Know

One of the key lessons here: It’s worth knowing what’s in your credit report.

As Money Talks News point out, “FICO’s research highlights the importance of your credit report -- knowing what’s in it, checking it regularly and disputing errors and other negative information.”

An easy way to do that is to sign up with a free service like Credit Sesame. This tool shows your balance on any unpaid bills, credit cards or loans. It offers personalized tips on reducing your debt and raising your credit score.

It’s a good way to raise your credit score more than 14 points at a time.

Take the example of North Carolina business owner Kenneth Bain. He signed up for Credit Sesame and found out he had a low credit score of 487. Just seven months later, he’d raised it by a whopping 234 points, to 721.

Bain was surprised to find some very old -- and fully paid -- hospital bills mucking up his score, as well as some other things that were incorrectly reported.

“I looked at what was there (on my credit report) so I would know what I should change, correct and challenge,” Bain said. “I used Credit Sesame as a compass to tell me where to go.”

So, just to sum up:

  • When an old delinquency gets taken off your credit report after seven years, your credit score might go up about 14 points.
  • Arming yourself with information, paying down your debts and challenging false data in your credit history could raise your score by hundreds of points.

And a better credit score means a lot when it’s time to get a mortgage, a credit card or a car loan.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. His credit score isn’t quite as terrible as it used to be.

Step aside, debit cards. Move over, cash. Get lost, checks.

Credit cards are now officially Americans’ preferred form of payment.

This is a big change, and it’s happening because consumers are increasingly drawn to the rewards credit cards help them earn.

These days, the credit card industry as a whole is ramping up its rewards programs to compete for affluent customers.

Here at The Penny Hoarder, we’ve noted before that Americans love using a credit card. Just recently, Americans’ collective credit card debt topped $1 trillion, its highest level since the 2008 recession.

However, this is the first time credit cards have pulled ahead of debit cards and cash as shoppers’ preferred way to pay for stuff, according to the most recent U.S. Payment Study conducted by payment processing company Total Systems Services (TSYS).

This is the sixth year that TSYS has conducted the study. It surveys 1,000 consumers who have at least one credit card and one debit card.

Here are a few things we learned from the study:

  • About 40% of respondents chose credit cards, compared to 35% for debit cards and 11% for cash.
  • The more money people make, the more they prefer credit cards.
  • Older millennials -- those aged 25 to 34 -- are the most fond of credit cards, with about 57% saying they prefer them.
  • Younger millennials -- those aged 18 to 24 -- are the least likely to use credit cards. At this point in their lives, they prefer debit cards.

Apparently when you turn 25, the Magical Credit Card Fairy appears in a puff of smoke and glitter and hands you a Chase Freedom card.

What You Should Keep in Mind About Using a Credit Card

Don’t let that shiny platinum go to your head. Get the best credit card you can.

One way to do this: Sign up with a free service like Credit Sesame, which can help you search for smart credit cards, ones that might best benefit your lifestyle. It also lets you see your credit score and offers tips for reducing your debts.

Another option: With a cash-back rewards card, you can get paid for every dollar you spend. We recommend checking out the Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back, plus a $200 bonus for signing up.

Here’s a list of 10 reasons you should use a credit card instead of cash. Remember, though: To avoid spending lots of your hard-earned money on interest, pay off your balance every month.

Credit cards aren’t for everyone. We only recommend using them if you know you can be responsible.

Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which ThePennyHoarder.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). We do not feature all available credit card offers or all credit card issuers.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s a debit card guy.

Every time you flip a coin, they’re looking back at you. Whenever you handle a crisp new bill, there they are.

Their faces are on our currency. So what can they tell us about money management?

To celebrate Independence Day, here are the financial lessons we’ve learned from the Founding Fathers and American giants whose portraits are on our legal tender.

Next time you pull out a little cash, take a look at the face on it.

Ask yourself, What would they do?

The $1 Bill -- George Washington

[caption id="attachment_60362" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management Panama7/Getty Images[/caption]

The father of our country is also on the quarter.

Aside from being a Revolutionary War general and our first president, Washington was a shrewd businessman who diversified his assets.

He owned 35,000 acres of farmland. But when the price of tobacco dropped, he planted wheat instead. He rented out land, had fisheries on the Potomac River, and charged for the use of his docks.

As commander of the Continental Army, he didn’t take a salary. But he kept meticulous records and got reimbursed for all his expenses, including every meal of mutton and potatoes.

The lesson: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Don’t depend on just one thing. An app like Stash will invest your money in a set of portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals. It’ll pull a specific amount from your bank account at regular intervals, so you can grow those investments over time.

The $2 Bill -- Thomas Jefferson

[caption id="attachment_60364" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management FierceAbin/Getty Images[/caption]

He’s also on the nickel, which is way more common than the $2 bill.

The man who drafted the Declaration of Independence wasn’t great with money. Jefferson lived way beyond his means, spent a fortune on wine, and was constantly renovating his plantation, Monticello.

He died in debt.

The lesson: Stick to a budget and save some money. Start a rainy-day fund with a high-yield bank account. Online bank Aspiration’s Summit Checking account has no fees, no minimum balance, and pays up to 100 times more interest than an average checking account.

The $5 Bill -- Abraham Lincoln

[caption id="attachment_60366" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management Yamtono_Sardi/Getty Images[/caption]

Honest Abe is also on The Penny Hoarder’s favorite coin. You may have read that somewhere.

Lincoln said a great many quotable things. There’s this: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

And this: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” And this: “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Here’s my favorite: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

He was a planner, Lincoln was. Always making plans. That’s how a guy born in a log cabin in the backwoods of Kentucky grows up to become one of our greatest presidents.

The lesson: Make a plan. Sign up with a free service like Credit Sesame. This tool shows your balance on any unpaid bills, credit cards or loans. It offers personalized tips on reducing your debt and raising your credit score.

The $10 Bill -- Alexander Hamilton

[caption id="attachment_60367" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management lozan365/Getty Images[/caption]

Man, this guy was fascinating. Somebody should write something like a Broadway rap musical about him.

Just kidding -- C’mon, like that would ever happen.

Hamilton was a financial visionary who steered our young nation out of economic turmoil and founded our first national bank and the U.S. Mint. But, like Jefferson, he was not great with money.

After he was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr (and you thought today’s politics were tough), his death left his wife and seven children virtually penniless. Mourners at his funeral had to pass around a hat to pay for his burial.

The lesson: Make sure your family will be taken care of if you die. Consider a life insurance policy, which could be useful for paying off your funeral, mortgage or car loans.

Companies like Haven Life offer streamlined ways to get life insurance. Unlike traditional providers, this online-only platform provides instant decisions on coverage applications. Some qualified, healthy applicants up to the age of 45 may even get to skip the medical exam most providers require.

The $20 Bill -- Andrew Jackson/Harriet Tubman

[caption id="attachment_60369" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management omersukrugoksu/Getty Images[/caption]

Hmmmmm, here’s a tricky one.

At the moment, Andy Jackson is the face on your $20 bill.

Our seventh president acted as the voice of the common man, speaking in plain language to the people at large. But he was also a slave owner whose Indian resettlement policies drove thousands of Native Americans to their deaths.

So he’s being replaced on the $20 by Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who freed other slaves via the Underground Railroad. She’ll appear on the $20 and Jackson will move to the rear of the bill sometime after 2020.

[caption id="attachment_60370" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management Photos.com/Getty Images[/caption]

Harriet Tubman was … well, Harriet Tubman was a badass.

A tiny, 5-foot-tall, gun-toting African American woman who snuck onto slave plantations before the Civil War. Carried scars from being whipped as a child. Served as an unpaid Civil War nurse, treating soldiers dying from smallpox and dysentery. Supported herself by selling pies and root beer, which she made in the evenings. Lived in poverty until she eventually got a small government pension.

I don’t know if we have a nice, neat financial lesson to take from Harriet Tubman, other than maybe this: Know your worth. Never give up.

The $50 Bill -- Ulysses S. Grant

[caption id="attachment_60372" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management Panama7/Getty Images[/caption]

Another guy on our money who lost all his money.

After commanding the Union Army during the Civil War, and serving two terms as president, Grant was struck by financial disaster. He became a partner in a financial firm, which went bankrupt and left him penniless.

About then, he also learned he had terminal cancer.

As Grant’s official White House biography says, “He started writing his recollections to pay off his debts and provide for his family, racing against death to produce a memoir that ultimately earned nearly $450,000. Soon after completing the last page, in 1885, he died.”

The lesson: Hustle.

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

You can hustle up extra money driving for Uber or Lyft on your own schedule.

Thanks to the growing gig economy, there are other ways to scratch up some extra cash nowadays. Craigslist is an easy place to sell your services under the “Gigs” section. And if you don’t trust Craigslist, check out TaskRabbit or Fiverr -- to name just a few.

The $100 Bill -- Benjamin Franklin

[caption id="attachment_60373" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management Sergdid/Getty Images[/caption]

Hands-down our most quotable Founder, Ben Franklin earned much of his wealth by writing “Poor Richard's Almanack,” an annual book about being diligent and frugal.

He famously coined the phrase, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

We’re more interested in another famous quote of his: “A penny saved is a penny earned."

The lesson: Save your pennies. They add up.

Consider trying an app like Acorns. Once you connect it to a debit or credit card, it rounds your purchases up to the nearest dollar and funnels your digital change into a savings or investment account. Because the money comes out in increments of less than $1, you’re less likely to feel an impact in your bank account.

The Dime -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

[caption id="attachment_60374" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]money management brianpasko/Getty Images[/caption]

Why is FDR on the cheap little dime? He was a wealthy man from a wealthy family. Why isn’t his face on the $100 bill or something fancy and swank like that?

Because Roosevelt knew the power of dimes. He was in a wheelchair because he had polio. As president, he encouraged people to donate to find a cure for the disease.

This was during the Great Depression, mind you. People didn’t have a lot to give. But FDR believed that if every American donated just one dime, we could find a cure. This led to the March of Dimes -- and to a cure for polio.

The lesson: Every dime counts. Investing even a small amount now can pay off in a big way down the road.

You only need $5 to start investing with Stash, a super simple investing app. It basically does everything for you. Plus, when you sign up through this link, Stash puts $5 in your account!

The Half Dollar -- John F. Kennedy

[caption id="attachment_60376" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Black and white image of a pile of John F. Kennedy half dollars.[/caption]

Ask not what your bank account can do for you, but what you can do for your bank account!

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He thinks Teddy Roosevelt is getting a raw deal here.

Have you ever whipped out a flashy platinum credit card to pay your tab at a bar or restaurant?

Or have you seen someone else do it?

It looks cool, right? It’s downright impressive. Oooohhh, a platinum card. FANCY.

According to new research, however, that flashy credit card may be a sign of low self-esteem.

If you can’t afford a Porsche or a Jaguar or the latest fashions from Armani or Gucci or Fendi or Prada, then brandishing a platinum credit card in a social setting is another way of showing off a status symbol.

It can serve as an achievable way of improving your social image and building up your self-esteem, according to a new study by economists from the University of Chicago, the Sao Paolo School of Economics, UCLA, the World Bank and Harvard.

Here’s the catch: Financially, you’re better off with an ordinary credit card. A less-flashy card that offers cash back or other discounts.

An Average Joe or Plain Jane credit card might not be a self-esteem boost, but it would serve you better than that super sexy platinum card.

Not So Exclusive Anymore

Historically, gold or platinum cards came with higher credit limits. They were symbols of prestige, signifying that cardholders belonged to an exclusive club of high rollers.

That’s no longer the case.

These days, platinum cards often have higher fees than ordinary credit cards.

The economists who conducted the recent study on self-esteem and credit card use tried this experiment: They offered people a platinum card that didn’t offer any cash-back rewards.

They found that nearly half of these platinum cardholders used their flashy card in social settings -- even though they had another card that would’ve gotten them cash back on their purchase.

“Platinum cardholders … appear willing to pay a cost to show off their platinum cards,” the researchers wrote.

Here’s What to Do Instead

Don’t let all that shiny platinum go to your head. Instead, just get a better credit card.

One way to do this: Sign up with a free service like Credit Sesame, which can help you search for smart credit cards, ones that might better benefit your lifestyle. It also offers tips for reducing your debts and raising your credit score.

Another option: With a cash-back rewards card, you can get paid for every dollar you spend. We recommend checking out the Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back, plus a $200 bonus for signing up.

Status Symbols: Even Pricier Than Expected

A platinum card is only one of the tempting status symbols that can backfire on you financially.

  • If you buy a fancy car, you’ll pay more for auto insurance.
  • If you buy a big house, you’ll probably pay more for maintenance and repairs.

Moral of the story: Next time, skip the platinum card. Your self-esteem doesn’t need the artificial boost.

Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which ThePennyHoarder.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). We do not feature all available credit card offers or all credit card issuers.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He does not have a gold or platinum card. Not even a copper or tin one.

We sure love our plastic. Americans now owe more than $1 trillion in credit card debt.

Apparently our national motto is “Charge it.”

You know what we don’t love, though? Those sneaky credit card fees.

It’s annoying when credit card companies add fees on top of the hefty interest they’re already charging us.

They’re required to disclose these fees, but this information is often tucked away in the fine print of your super-long, super-boring credit card agreement.

Don’t let your plastic get the upper hand. Here are some common credit card fees and how you should handle them.

1. Paying By the Year: The Annual Fee

Lots of rewards cards charge a once-a-year fee to pay for the benefits that come with the card. These fees typically range from $25 to $500.

Luckily, plenty of cards don’t have annual fees -- and still offer sign-up bonuses and cash rewards. Here are six of them.

One is the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard®, which gives you 1.5% cash back on every purchase.

Each time you redeem those rewards, you also get a 5% redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption. You also get a $200 bonus if you spend $1,000 on the card within the first 90 days.

Is a card with an annual fee ever a good deal? Here’s our primer on how to tell. Basically, the rewards you earn from the card should add up to more than the annual fee.

2. From a Faraway Land: The Foreign Transaction Fee

When you make a purchase in a foreign currency, many cards tack on a surcharge of 2% to 5% of the price.

This is supposedly to cover the cost of converting foreign money to U.S. dollars, although we all know this is done by some computer algorithm and they don’t really need to charge you 5%.

If you’re traveling overseas, look for a card that doesn’t charge this fee.

If you do get charged, ask customer service to waive the fee. Threaten to switch to a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

It won’t work if you don’t try...

3. It’s a Balancing Act: The Balance Transfer Fee

If you can, it’s usually a smart move to shift your debt from a high-interest credit card to a card with a lower interest rate. It can save you hundreds of dollars in interest.

To do this, the new card will typically charge you 3% to 5% of the amount you transfer.

Many cards will tempt you with a 0% interest rate on balance transfers for a year or so. You’ll have to do some back-of-the-envelope math and guestimate whether the money you’ll save on interest will make up for that balance transfer fee.

4. I Need Money Right Now: The Cash Advance Fee

Pro tip: Don’t use your credit card like a debit card.

Here’s why not:

You pay this fee when you borrow cash against your credit card -- like when you use your credit card at an ATM to tap into your credit line and get some immediate cash.

Many cards charge you an up-front fee of 4% to 5% on the cash you’re borrowing. They also charge way higher interest rates on cash advances compared to regular purchases.

And if you make the minimum monthly payment on your credit card, they’ll apply that payment only to your purchases, not to advances. So your high-interest cash advance will linger like a persistent hangover, sucking up money.

If you’re getting cash advances regularly, look for cheaper ways to get the cash you need -- like a personal loan.

Credible is an online marketplace for personalized loan offers. Rates start at 5.99%, and you can check yours by entering a loan amount here ($500 to $40,000) and comparing your options in under 90 seconds.

If you really need cash in an emergency, the best option is to pull it from savings if possible. Try starting an emergency fund with Stash, an app that automatically pulls a little money from your checking account each week and invests it for you.

5, 6 and 7. The Ref Throws a Flag: Those Penalty Fees

If you don’t pay attention to your credit card statements, it can get costly real quick.

  • Late payment fees: If you don’t make your minimum payment by the due date, your card will charge you a fee of up to $25 -- or more if you’ve been late previously in the past six months. If you call your credit card company, you can typically get this fee waived the first time you’re late.
  • Returned payment fees: This is basically a bounced-check fee. If there’s not enough money in your checking account to cover your credit card payment, your card will charge you up to $35. Make sure there are enough funds in your account before a payment goes through, or you’ll just end up paying more.
  • Over-the-limit fees: If you spend too much on your card and go over your credit limit, you can be charged a maximum of $35. This used to happen more frequently before a 2009 law started requiring card holders to opt in for the ability to exceed their credit limit. If you don’t opt into this, your purchase will just get rejected at the register -- a little humiliating, maybe, but not expensive.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He has paid too many late fees in his life.

Like everyone else, David Edwards has a cell phone. And like everyone else, cell phone bills were bleeding him dry.

“I was with Verizon for many years. I got tired of paying $185 a month for three lines, and I didn’t even have a smartphone,” said Edwards, a 55-year-old marine science technician who lives in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Then his 27-year-old son told him about Twigby. Edwards made the switch and started saving a ton on his phone bill.

Now, he’s paying $24 a month for his single line. He can hardly believe it.

“So far, so good,” Edwards says, wrapping up his third month with Twigby. “I’m really happy with it.”

What is Twigby, exactly?

It’s a discount wireless carrier that’s making a splash in the incredibly competitive world of low-cost, no-contract cell phone service.

If you’re a company intent on surviving in that ultra-competitive business environment, your product has to be affordable -- really, really affordable. That’s job one.

“We keep the prices as low as possible,” says Twigby representative Chris Alarcon. “Price point is a big thing that we’re always monitoring.”

Beyond the Big Four

In the United States, just about every John and Jane with a cell phone uses one of the “Big Four” wireless carriers.

Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint have more than 412 million wireless subscribers collectively. These are big-time, mega-corporations with Super Bowl ads, celebrity spokespeople, storefront locations, and vast networks of cellular towers sprawling across this great land.

Then there’s everyone else -- a slew of independent providers, all competing for a small corner of the cell phone market.

“Maybe 95% of people are with one of the big carriers, and 5% are okay with more budget-friendly brands,” Alarcon says. “We’re in a hyper-competitive industry, with a lot of companies fighting over that 5% of the American population.”

And that brings us back to David Edwards, a guy who grew weary of paying through the nose to use his cell phone.

Making the Break from the Big Carriers

Like many other customers looking to leave the Big Four behind, Edwards had nagging questions about signing on with a discount carrier: Will my phone even work? Will I be dropping calls? Is this a legit business? How’s the coverage? Will customer service be there when I need it?

Edwards had tried a number of different discount wireless providers before, with mixed results. It didn’t always work out

He’s awfully pleased with Twigby, though

[caption id="attachment_58751" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Edwards' bill with Twigby is $24 for a single line compared to the $185 monthly bill he previously paid for Verizon. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

“The pricing structure is good. I’ve never had an issue with coverage,” Edwards says. “The customer support is simple to use. I’ve used it online a couple of times. Almost immediately someone was online with me, so I didn’t have to wait and wait and wait.”

Spoken like a man who’s previously had to wait for ages for customer service to get back to him.

When it comes to pricing, here’s the lowdown on what Edwards pays: It’s $21 per month (before tax) for unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, and 500 megabytes of data. That’s for one phone.

Last month Edwards paid $25 (before tax) because he ended up using more than 500MB of data. So he got bumped up to Twigby’s 1-gigabyte plan, which is $4 extra.

“If you go over, you can choose to have it automatically bump you up to the next level,” he explains. “You only pay for what you use. That’s very attractive.”

For more info, here’s Twigby’s pricing structure for voice minutes and data.

With Twigby, Edwards is paying $24 a month for one smartphone.

Just to be clear, back when he was with Verizon, he was paying $185 a month for three lines -- a smartphone for his son, and flip phones for Edwards and his mother.

At different times in the past, he had cell phone service through Verizon or Sprint. He also tried discount carriers like Page Plus Cellular and then RingPlus, which went out of business earlier this year.

“RingPlus was pretty horrible,” he recalls with a rueful chuckle.

His phone, a Motorola Moto G5 Plus Android smartphone, works fine on Twigby’s network. Twigby sells a large assortment of phones (17 at our press time). You can also use this online tool to see if your current phone is compatible with Twigby’s service.

Customer Service a Key Selling Point

Twigby launched in late 2015 and has been gaining momentum ever since, company officials say.

It’s an MVNO, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. There are dozens of these companies that buy connection wholesale from the big wireless carriers and resell it to customers.

WhistleOut, a website that compares wireless plans, explains how this business model works: “Essentially, all of the MVNOs buy service in bulk at wholesale prices, then resell that same service on to us. But because they have lower overheads, smaller advertising budgets and many don’t stock handsets, they can offer the same products as the big networks but at much cheaper rates.”

Twigby is on Sprint’s cellular network for voice calls, texting and data, and uses Verizon’s network as a backup for calls and texting

A number of these smaller wireless providers have been criticized for poor customer service -- too slow, haphazard and difficult to understand.

Edwards recalls: “When I was with RingPlus, for their customer service you had to fill out a service ticket, and it would take days to get a problem solved.”

Well aware of these kinds of criticisms, Twigby has taken pains to make sure its customer service is prompt, efficient and helpful. Instead of a call center for customer service, the carrier has an online chat feature.

“Our chat team replies super quickly to any questions,” Alarcon said.To compete, we’re differentiating ourselves based on how accessible we are to our subscribers -- how easy it is to get in touch with us.”

As for Edwards, he’s been easing into semi-retirement and is pleased to have found an affordable, reliable cell phone service

Although some Twigby subscribers are retirees, many are on the other end of the age spectrum. They’re children and young teens whose parents are getting them bargain cell phone plans.

“I used to pay an arm and a leg for the exact same service,” Edwards said. “I’m really happy with (Twigby).”

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s clearly paying way too much for wireless service.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m better at spending than I am at saving.

I’ve got bills to pay and places to be, and that makes it hard for me to save up a nice little nest egg.

It’s like I have to trick myself into doing it. I have to outsmart the primitive lizard brain inside me that’s ready to burn through all my cash.

That’s why saving for retirement with an automated 401(k) plan works for me. Those 401(k) contributions get taken out before I ever see my paycheck. I never see that money, so I’m never tempted to spend it.

But what about saving money outside your retirement fund? What about socking something away for an emergency? How about saving for a car or a wedding or a down payment on a house or an amazing vacation, or for whatever else you want?

Me, I’ve gotta trick myself. If I really want to save that money, then I’ve got to put it somewhere other than my wallet, where I guarantee it will get spent.

Just like with my 401(k) contributions, I have to automate it.

Tricking Yourself Through the Miracle of Automation

There are easy ways to set up automatic withdrawals from your checking account into your savings or retirement accounts (or, even better, both!).

One way to do this is to push 10% of your paycheck into a separate, hands-off account with Chime Bank, which helps you automatically save every time you get paid.

The FDIC-insured account comes with more than 24,000 fee-free ATMs, zero overdraft fees and doesn’t require a minimum or monthly payment.

Plus, when a slice of your paycheck gets automatically funneled into your secret stash, well… what you don’t see, you won’t miss, right?

Another plus: If you sign up for direct deposit, Chime gives you access to your money immediately. So you can get paid up to two days earlier, unlike many other traditional banks.

Chime also has a feature that helps you save when you spend. It rounds up your purchases to the next dollar and puts the difference into your savings account.

Not only that, but through the end of July, it'll also reward you with a 10% bonus on round-ups every week. You get your bonus on Friday, right before the weekend. You can earn up to $500 in bonuses per year.

Really, this is about taking financial control away from your primitive lizard brain and its yearning for shiny, shiny things.

This is about letting your brain’s frontal lobe use its higher cognitive functions to formulate and execute a successful, long-term savings strategy.

In other words, it’s a wicked sneaky ninja move against the lizard brain.

It’s a Jedi mind trick you use against yourself.

I’m not even kidding here, people. This kind of thing is all that works for me.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. His lizard brain is mighty.

Like nearly everyone else my age, I was raised on a television diet. Protein, carbohydrates and television.

My father always gave good advice, but I also vividly remember the lessons I learned from a succession of wise and witty TV dads, ranging from Ward Cleaver to Al Bundy.

Now that I’m a father myself, those TV dads seem wiser than ever to me.

To celebrate Father’s Day, here’s the best financial advice I ever got from them.

Mike Brady, “The Brady Bunch”

On used cars: “Them who don't look, sometimes get took.”

He was telling one of the Brady kids how to shop for used cars without getting hustled. You definitely have to be careful there. For tips on buying a used car, go here or here or here.

Still, used cars are often a better deal than new ones. Consumer Reports recommends buying a car that’s two or three years old.

Homer Simpson, “The Simpsons”

“Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers.”

Okay, so Homer’s not an ideal financial role model. You probably have a better chance of being struck by lightning than winning the lottery.

Instead of buying lottery tickets every week, you should funnel that money into something like Stash. Just link this app to your checking account and ask it to automatically pull a few bucks from your account each week. It’ll invest your savings in the stock market -- giving you a far better return than all those used lottery tickets will.

If you sign up for Stash here, you’ll get an extra $5 to invest when you open your account.

Tony Soprano, “The Sopranos”

My favorite TV mobster dad had so many tough lessons to dish out, he actually inspired a business book: “Leadership Sopranos Style: How to Become a More Effective Boss.”

But instead of how Tony’s example relates to corporate strategic goals, I’m thinking of some actual financial advice he once gave to his son: “Buy land, A.J., ’cause God ain’t making any more of it.”

Buying a house is a solid lifelong investment. Here are our tips for first-time homebuyers.

However, to get a good mortgage rate and save yourself buckets of money, you need a good credit score.

For that, a free service like Credit Sesame can come in handy. This tool shows your credit score, balance on any unpaid bills, credit cards or loans. It also offers personalized tips on raising your credit score.

Danny Tanner, “Full House”

Where would I be without Danny Tanner’s weekly words of wisdom on “Full House?” Lost, I tell you. Lost.

Here’s one of his best-known pieces of advice: “You have to move on in life.”

It’s true. There's no sense dwelling on the past. Out with the old and in with the new, yada yada.

To move on from your old unwanted stuff, you can use the Decluttr app to sell your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, cell phones, tablets, video games and gaming consoles. Scan your media with your phone and Decluttr will provide a free shipping label.

Pro tip: Use the code PENNY10 at checkout for an extra 10% back on your old stuff.

Ward Cleaver/Carl Winslow

“Leave It to Beaver” had the original wisdom-dispensing suburban dad, Ward Cleaver. I’m telling you, Mr. Cleaver was the prototype.

“When you make a mistake, admit it. If you don't, you only make matters worse,” he once told the Beav.

Itt’s such a timeless bit of advice that it was repeated decades later on “Family Matters.”

The dad on that show, Carl Winslow, had this to say: “Don’t you know when you make a mistake, you fess up to it? Trying to cover it up would only make it worse.”

You might be making a mistake by paying too much for your bills.

Luckily, a free app like Clarity Money can automatically negotiate your bills down on your behalf. If Clarity successfully negotiates a bill for you, it charges you 33% of that savings -- but only once, and only after those savings have gone into effect.

Louis C.K., “Louie”

Once again, Louis C.K.’s character in “Louie” is not your traditional spotless TV dad. But he tries to be an example for his daughters. I’ll always remember the time he admonished one of them with this:

The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor's bowl to make sure you have as much as them.”

It’s important to give back, even if you don’t have a lot to give. These eight tools can help you donate to charity without spending an extra cent.

Philip Banks, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”

“Uncle Phil” was the stern (but caring) father figure that Will Smith’s character needed on the show.

He could be a little gruff, like he was here: “Being a joker’s what’s gotten you into trouble. You may think it’s cool to be on the streets when you’re 17, but when you’re my age, it’s a waste.”

Adulting. He’s talking about adulting.

Part of adulting is saving money for a rainy day. Start an emergency fund. A good option is online bank Aspiration’s Summit Checking account. It has no fees, no minimum balance, and pays up to 100 times more interest than an average checking account.

Ned Stark, “Game of Thrones”

When it comes to Eddard Stark quotes, I’m partial to “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword,” but I’m not sure that has a clear financial application.

Here’s Lord Eddard’s advice on the importance of family: “Winter is coming. In the winter, we must protect ourselves, look after one another.”

One way to look after your family: Consider a life insurance policy, which could be useful for paying off your funeral, mortgage or car loans if you suddenly find yourself on the wrong end of a “Red Wedding” situation.

Companies like Haven Life offer streamlined ways to get life insurance. Unlike traditional providers, this online-only platform provides instant decisions on coverage applications.

Some qualified, healthy applicants up to the age of 45 may even get to skip the medical exam most providers require.

After all: Winter is coming.

Walter White, “Breaking Bad”

On second thought, maybe Walter White’s not the guy you go to for legit financial advice.

How about a different TV dad also played by Bryan Cranston? Here’s “Malcolm in the Middle’s” Hal Wilkerson giving his sons some advice about hard work:

“You can have anything you want if you’re willing to work for it. Just reach for the stars and never let go. I should’ve told you that a long time ago. And when you write an angry letter, hold on to it for a day. You might not feel the same in the morning. And never invest in a friend’s restaurant. Never.”

For many of us, hard work includes having a side hustle. Like, for instance, driving with Uber.

As an Uber contractor, you set your own schedule and work when you want. Your pay is calculated on a base fare, plus time and distance traveled for each pickup. Uber charges a service fee of 20% to 35%, depending on your city.

If you want to give it a try, you must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have three years’ driving experience
  • Have an in-state driver’s license and a clean driving record
  • Be able to pass a criminal background check
  • Have a four-door car

Don Draper, “Mad Men”

Another super perfect TV dad! Alcoholic, philandering and distant, Don had three kids but gave most of his advice to his advertising clients: Happiness is the smell of a new car, etc.

Still, here’s a bit of wisdom from Don Draper that resonates: “Change is neither good or bad, it simply is.”

To be ready for change, any good dad will advise you to sock some money away. You’ve got to find a way to do it, whether it’s through Stash, Aspiration, an actual sock in your sock drawer, or a free app like Acorns.

Once you connect Acorns to a debit or credit card, it rounds your purchases up to the nearest dollar and funnels your digital change into a savings or investment account. Because the money comes out in increments of less than $1, you’re less likely to feel an impact in your bank account.

Honorable mention:

  • Al Bundy, “Married With Children”
  • Hank Hill, “King of the Hill”
  • Red Forman, “That 70s Show”
  • Steven Douglas, “My Three Sons”
  • J.R. Ewing, “Dallas”
  • Andy Taylor, “The Andy Griffith Show”
  • Eric Taylor, “Friday Night Lights”
  • Cliff Huxtable, “The Cosby Show” (too soon?)
  • Frank Costanza, “Seinfeld”
  • Jack Pearson, “This is Us”
  • Gomez Addams, “The Addams Family”
  • Fred Flintstone, “The Flintstones”

Thanks, Dad.

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.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He somehow couldn’t find a suitable Al Bundy quote for this story.

The evidence is in. It’s clear that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is basically a god walking among us mortals.

He’s 6-foot-4-inches tall and 270 pounds of muscle. He’s a hugely bankable Hollywood star. He’s talking about running for president. In last year’s animated film “Moana,” he even plays a god, the demigod Maui.

Time to ask yourself that vital question: How can I be more like The Rock?

For starters: What would it cost to eat like "The Rock"? And is there an affordable way to do the Dwayne Johnson diet?

Do you smell what "The Rock" is cooking? We really wanted to know the answer! So we did some research. And all we can say is, Whoa.

Oh My Cod

Johnson’s dietary regimen is astounding. To eat like him, you must be prepared to consume a jaw-dropping amount of protein on a daily basis.

This guy gets up at 4 a.m. just for his first meal. He eats 10 pounds of food a day -- more than 5,000 calories spread over seven meals.

(For comparison, the average man burns 1,900 to 2,500 calories a day.)

For years, a stunning amount of this food is cod, a fish rich in protein. The rest has always been eggs, steak, chicken, veggies and potatoes.

"The Rock" consumes so much cod -- more than two pounds a day, about 70 pounds a month. Cod for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. All the cod in the North Sea.

“In one year, 'The Rock' consumes more than one-third of a ton of cod alone,” noted the website FiveThirtyEight. It also estimates that Johnson spends $1,400 a year just on fish, assuming he buys in bulk.

However, last year he tweeted he had stopped eating cod because stocks of cod are dwindling. No word on what has replaced it in "The Rock’s" diet, although it’s undoubtedly some other low-fat, protein-rich fish.

Before dropping cod, good ole’ Dwayne detailed his diet for Muscle & Fitness magazine in 2015, shortly after playing Hercules in a movie.

Here are the deets:

  • Meal 1: 10 ounces cod, 2 whole eggs, 2 cups oatmeal
  • Meal 2: 8 ounces cod, 12 ounces sweet potato, 1 cup veggies
  • Meal 3: 8 ounces chicken, 2 cups white rice, 1 cup veggies
  • Meal 4: 8 ounces cod, 2 cups rice, 1 cup veggies, 1 tablespoon fish oil
  • Meal 5: 8 ounces steak, 12 ounces baked potato, spinach salad
  • Meal 6: 10 ounces cod, 2 cups rice, salad
  • Meal 7: 30 grams casein protein, 10-egg white omelet, 1 cup veggies (onions, peppers, mushrooms), 1 tablespoon omega-3 fish oil

What Happens When Regular Humans Try the Dwayne Johnson Diet

Let’s go ahead and stipulate that this diet is not for everyone. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.)

For one thing, "The Rock" is HUGE. This diet is what’s required to maintain his massive physique. And when he’s not stuffing his face with fish, he’s also powering his way through grueling workout routines.

Nevertheless, after reading about "The Rock’s" diet, two lesser mortals tried it out for themselves.

A blogger for Complex, facing what he described as “a steady onslaught of grilled meats and steamed veggies,” couldn’t manage it for even a day. (Big problem: He hated cod.)

Another guy, a self-employed dude named Mark Webster, tried it and tracked his progress online.

“I feel fantastic,” he told FiveThirtyEight after a month.

But over that month, he spent $1,262 on food -- about $42 per day, including $18 just on cod.

Can You Smell What 'The Rock' Is Spending?

That’s the other challenge here: Most of us can’t even afford to eat like Johnson, even if we wanted to.

All that protein can put you in the poorhouse. At the grocery store closest to my home, fresh cod is $12.99 a pound, and frozen cod is $6.99 a pound. Other kinds of fish are comparable.

In any case, people who aren’t named Dwayne Johnson still dine on fish, chicken, eggs, steak, vegetables, rice and potatoes.

Whether you’re trying to eat like "The Rock" or just trying to eat well, here are seven ways to save money on groceries.

1. Take a Picture of Your Receipts

You can get cash back on your groceries just for photographing your receipt. Here's how it works:

  • Sign up for Ibotta. (You just need a name and email address to start.)
  • Browse through the cash-back offers in your area, and take note the next time you go to the store — the offers change every week.
  • Scan the item’s barcode and submit a photo of your receipt to the app, and you’ll see the cash in your Ibotta account soon.
  • Once you’ve reached at least $20 in earnings, you can request payment via Paypal or Venmo.

2. Get Farm-Fresh Meat at Way Below Retail Price

This company doesn’t do cod, but they have lots of other quality protein in stock.

Zaycon Fresh supplies meats like steak, chicken, beef, turkey, pork and shrimp in bulk at prices well below what you’ll usually find at your grocery store.

For example, we found boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.69 per pound -- about a third of what we pay at our local supermarket!

You’ll buy it by the case, and a 40-pound case of chicken breasts costs $67.60. So you’ll want to clear space in your freezer, but it’s worth it: That’s more than $150 in savings.

The company’s founders applied their grocery industry experience and a unique model to directly supply food to consumers and cut out the middleman.

By hosting sales events at more than 1,200 locations nationwide, Zaycon Fresh is able to provide farm-fresh meats without charging specialty-store prices.

Here’s how it works:

  • Register for a free account here.
  • On the day of your local Zaycon sales event, bring your order confirmation to a designated location a short drive from your home, and you get your fresh, delicious, nutritious food.

3. Buy Online

Fish, veggies and more fish -- "The Rock" eats healthy. To save on organic food, consider shopping at Thrive Market. You can buy food at up to 50% off retail price, and the stuff it tends to stock is usually healthier than what you’ll find in the store.

You can get a 30-day free trial through this link, plus $20 off your first three orders. Thrive members report saving an average $200 per year.

You probably won’t find any of "The Rock’s" precious cod there. But a search on Thrive’s website for “rice” turns up 143 results.

4. Upgrade Your Rewards Card

If you qualify, we recommend signing up for a cash-back rewards card like the Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard.

You’ll get unlimited 1.5% cash back with each purchase, whether it’s gas or groceries.

Or cod.

Now that we know what Dwayne Johnson eats to maintain his humongous muscles, I can definitely smell what "The Rock" is cooking.

And let me tell you, it smells fishy.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. May we all be a bit richer today.

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Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’ll always think of The Rock as “The People’s Champion.”