Nicole Dow - The Penny Hoarder

If you’re a fan of stability, you’re probably going to want a career that’s going to stand the test of time -- a job that won’t be taken over by robots or (gulp) squashed by the next economic recession.

Well, a career in nursing just might be the thing for you.

Of course, you have to be up to working in a caregiver role, and you can’t be squeamish about needles and bodily fluid.

But the fact that the number of nursing jobs actually went up during the last recession while overall employment went down is a good sign of a dependable career.

There are several different titles in the nursing profession, and with all the acronyms (LPN, RN, APRN), it can get a little confusing. So I turned to the American Nurses Association and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for information on the different types of nurses, how to become one and how much people who work these jobs can expect to make.

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)

A licensed practical nurse (also called a licensed vocational nurse, or LVN, in California and Texas, according to the ANA) falls within the most basic level of the nursing profession rankings.

As the name implies, these type of nurses must be licensed. The BLS states LPNs must complete a state-approved education program that typically lasts one year.

Last year, the median pay for LPNs was $44,090 per year or $21.20 an hour. The BLS predicted the job outlook for this career path would grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average occupation.

Registered Nurses (RNs)

The next step up from an LPN, registered nurses provide care and educate patients in a number of settings and also supervise the work of LPNs.

You’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree to be an RN, according to the BLS.

Last year, the median pay was $68,450 a year, or $32.91 an hour, for nurses at this level of the profession. As it was with LPNs, the BLS projected RN jobs to grow by 16% between 2014 and 2024.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)

The ANA states this upper-level ranking of nurses requires a graduate degree and clinical practice beyond the basic education requirements of RNs.

Depending on their speciality, different types of APRNs include nurse practitioners (NPs), certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), clinical nurse specialists (CNS) and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).

Last year, the median pay for these professionals was $107,460 a year, or $51.67 per hour, according to the BLS, which also predicted jobs in this specialized industry would grow 31% from 2014 to 2024.

Now that’s a great job to have to ride out the next recession. Robots, back off!

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Nordstrom must be celebrating Christmas in July.

The retail chain is gifting work-from-home job seekers with openings for seasonal customer care specialists, starting at $14.65 an hour.

Though these are remote jobs, it’s important to note this job listing is just for those who live in Florida.

However, when we wrote about Nordstrom hiring seasonal customer care workers last September, the role was open for applicants in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Utah -- so there’s a chance seasonal work will be available to people in other states as we get closer to the holidays. Keep searching the company’s careers page if you’re interested.

What You’ll Do in This Work-From-Home Job

As a customer care specialist, you’ll be supporting Nordstrom and its related brands like HauteLook and Nordstrom Rack. You’ll interact with customers via the phone and the web, so you’ve got to have great communication skills and troubleshooting ability.

Nordstrom prefers its customer care specialists to have six months of previous retail experience.

The hiring process includes completing two skills tests, and if you make it through those, you’ll have to complete a three-week online training class.

After training, your schedule may ebb and flow, depending on business needs. Since Nordstrom’s customer service is a 24/7 operation, you may be required to work evenings, early mornings or weekends.

This job is for people who can handle a flexible schedule. Full-time hours are available.

The Rewards of Working for Nordstrom

In addition to the $14.65 an hour pay, this position offers employee discounts, plus incentive opportunities. For example, if you continue with the company through the entire holiday season, you’ll get a $250 bonus.

The job listing also states that Nordstrom’s benefits package includes medical, vision and dental insurance, an employer-matched 401(k) plan and more, but what you’re offered will depend on your role at the company.

Check here to find out more about this job and to apply.

Want to be the first to know about other fun and interesting jobs like this? Like The Penny Hoarder Jobs on Facebook to stay in the loop!

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Coming in at less than $10 for hundreds, dryer sheets are an incredibly inexpensive household good.

But do you know about the many uses for dryer sheets beyond making your laundry softer and smelling fresh?

We scoured the internet, and Apartment Therapy, Real Simple, All You and Curbly offered a bunch of ways to use dryer sheets aside from in your dryer. Some are pretty obvious alternative uses, while others are more impressive hacks.

12 Uses for Dryer Sheets That Aren’t Laundry

Next time you’re getting ready to do laundry, save a few sheets to try out some of these 12 ideas yourself -- or wait until they’ve gone through the dryer cycle. Some of these tips work best with used dryer sheets!

1. Dust

[caption id="attachment_61989" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Wipe a dryer sheet across your window blinds and furniture surfaces, as well as your television, laptop and other electronic appliances. Curbly suggests dusting with used sheets.

2. Make Spaces Smell Good

Dryer sheets come in all kinds of scents, from fresh linen to lavender to multiple versions of floral. Stick a sheet in smelly spaces -- like your gym bag, laundry hamper, trash bin, diaper bag or even your car -- to keep things smelling fresh.

3. Clean Up Pet Hair

[caption id="attachment_61991" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

If your cat or dog sheds all over their bedding, you and your furniture, use a dryer sheet to wipe away stray hairs.

4. Reduce Static

If your body seems to generate a lot of static electricity, wipe your hair and clothing with a dryer sheet to reduce that pesky problem. Apartment Therapy recommends using a used dryer sheet.

5. Clean Gunk Off an Iron

To get rid of gunky build up on your iron, Real Simple advises turning your iron to a low setting and rubbing it over a dryer sheet until the residue is gone.

6. Air Freshener

Skip the sprays, plug-ins and candles! Curbly suggests you tape a dryer sheet to your air vents -- or to ceiling or portable fans -- to keep the air circulating in your home smelling fresh.

7. Polish Chrome

Keep chrome items -- like plumbing fixtures or tire rims -- looking shiny by polishing them with a dryer sheet.

8. A Sewing Assist

Keep thread from tangling up while sewing by rubbing it with a dryer sheet, Apartment Therapy recommends.

9. Keep Bugs Away

[caption id="attachment_61990" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The scent of dryer sheets may keep some pesky insects away. Apartment Therapy says to stick a used sheet in your belt loop. All You says to place dryer sheets in the corners of rooms or wherever spider webs tend to crop up. Curbly says to place them under lawn furniture or even rub them right on your skin.

10. Keep Rodents Away

Though we think dryer sheets smell good, mice, rats, squirrels and other rodents may be turned off from hiding in your basements, attics and garages if dryer sheets are there. Apartment Therapy suggests clogging up any holes where rodents could gain entry to your home with a used sheet.

11. Scrub Pots and Pans

All You suggests removing stuck-on food from pots and pans by putting a dryer sheet in the dish and soaking it in water overnight for easy cleaning the next morning.

12. Clean Glasses

This six-pack of microfiber cleaning cloths for glasses is currently on sale for $8.98 on Amazon. Use dryer sheets to wipe smudges off your glasses instead, and you could have more than 200 additional cleaning cloths for about the same price.

Disclosure: Here’s a toast to the affiliate links in this post. May we all be just a little richer today.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She doesn’t always buy dryer sheets, but when she does, she buys the unscented kind.

Halloween may not be on your radar just yet, but if working as a zombie is on your bucket list, you’ll want to pay attention.

Theme parks across the country are currently hiring seasonal workers to be a part of their Halloween-themed festivities. Think of it as extended trick-or-treating, except instead of candy you’ll get a paycheck and free park admission.

These gigs are temporary -- but fun -- and you’re sure to walk away with a fun story to tell. Happy haunting!

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is looking for seasonal entertainers to scare guests during Howl-O-Scream.

Busch Gardens will provide the costume, makeup and masks needed to get you in character, but you’ll need to bring your own black pants and black shoes.

You have to be 18 years old and be able to walk, stand or perform physical activity for prolonged periods of time. You must be available between the hours of 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. during event nights and some rehearsals.

Previous experience as a performer helps but is not required.

Pay starts at $9.75 an hour.

Auditions are Aug. 11 and 12, but you must apply first to secure an audition spot.

See here for more information or to apply.

Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, is also looking for scare squad event performers. Pay starts at $9.40 an hour. There will also be spots available for 16- and 17-year-old applicants. Apply here.

SeaWorld

SeaWorld San Diego is looking for performers for its Halloween Spooktacular Event. These seasonal workers will dance and engage guests while portraying different characters, including members of SeaWorld's spooky school of fish.

You’ll need to be 18 years old and have previous performing arts experience. You also should be able to lift up to 50 pounds and be able to stand or walk for long periods of time.

Pay is $18 an hour during rehearsals and $25 an hour for shows. Work benefits include free park admission and complimentary tickets.

Auditions are Aug. 5, but you’ll first need to apply. To audition, you’ll need to prepare a one-minute family-friendly comedic monologue and be prepared to perform a character improv or read from a script.

Rehearsal dates start Aug. 21. The Spooktacular shows occur on Saturdays and Sundays from September 23 to October 29.

See here for more details or to apply.

Six Flags

Six Flags is hiring seasonal employees to be part of Fright Fest at various locations.

The amusement parks are looking to fill slots for scary characters, character escorts, makeup artists, performers and other related roles.

This job posting for a zombie/scare actor at Six Flags St. Louis requires applicants to be at least 16 years old. In addition to “competitive wages,” the job includes free tickets and employee discounts. You must be comfortable wearing a costume, makeup and possibly prosthetics.

Other roles may have different requirements. See here to check if the park nearest you is hiring.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She grew up wanting to go to Fright Fest at Six Flags every year but never went. Last year, she attended the Halloween Spooktacular at Sesame Place.

It’s date night. A couple is getting ready for a dinner out at Longhorn Steakhouse. Deciding each partner needs a special outfit for the evening, they go shopping for clothes.

So they pull up to Goodwill. To pick out the tackiest ensembles they could find. For $10.

That’s how Noel and Shane Pauley spent their Friday night, according to Noel’s Facebook post, which went viral with over 300,000 reactions, 401,000 shares and 179,000 comments (and growing!) in less than four days.

Noel shared on her blog, Baby Bows and Bullets, that her husband came up with the idea for their date night after hearing about another couple who’d done the same.

They established some rules: they each only had $10 to shop, they had to wear whatever their partner picked out for them and they couldn’t discuss their zany plan after leaving Goodwill.

That led onlookers wondering if they just dressed like that all the time.

For his wife, Shane picked out what appears to be a floral two-piece dress with shoulder pads that belonged to someone several generations older than her, while Noel dressed her husband in a mismatched plaid getup.

Cue the giggles.

Laughter at a Low Cost

The two spent a collective $13 on the date night gear, significantly less than the allotted $20, according to Noel’s blog post.

To add to the fun, the couple picked fake names and had to commit to using their aliases all night. Noel became Ethel, and Shane became Roger.

“Y’all, I don’t think we have laughed this hard in a long time,” Noel wrote in her blog. “Marriage is tough, parenting is tough, and honestly, life is tough. But everything is better when you’re doing it with your best friend.”  

To all the regular Goodwill shoppers who think the Pauleys were throwing shade at the secondhand shopping chain, that isn’t the case.

“A few think we are making fun of people who shop at Goodwill, but we definitely are not,” Noel told Scary Mommy. “We shop there for clothes too! This was just to find crazy outfits that we wouldn’t normally wear!”

Get In On the Fun

Noel challenged other couples to try the date night idea and post photos of their adventures to social media using the hashtag #goodwilldatenight.

While the Pauleys’ low-cost date seems like a hilarious time, there are so many other affordable options out there if getting laughed at all night isn’t your idea of fun.

Go geocaching or try another one of these 25 budget-friendly date ideas.

Exploring a new neighborhood with your significant other is on this list of 11 cheap date night ideas for parents.

For a daytime date, consider going to an arts festival -- which is on this list of 10 ideas for a fun, free outing.

Dating doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can enjoy a memorable moment with your sweetheart on any budget.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

 

Looking for a job can be stressful.

You polish your resume, craft cover letters, fill out dozens of repetitive application forms and prepare for future interviews in hopes that the combination of all these efforts will appeal to a hiring manager who’ll offer you a job you’ll love.

But are you overlooking a significant factor that could hurt -- or help -- you in the process?

CareerBuilder surveyed over 2,300 hiring managers and human resources professionals and found 70% turn to social media to screen job candidates before offering a position.

Have you considered the impression your social media presence is making on future employers?

Your Online Presence Matters

[caption id="attachment_60933" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Your Online Presence Matters Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

“For the most part, and for better or worse, employers are searching for candidates online before they ever call them for an interview,” said Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs.

“Some employers find it more appealing or easier to learn about a candidate through their online profiles rather than just their resume and cover letter,” she said. “Some are looking to confirm the data you've given them in your application materials. And if the job you're applying for is a front-facing role, employers are looking to see if you would be a good representative of their company.”

Reynolds said LinkedIn is typically her go-to source to learn more about job candidates, but she has also turned to Google searches for further investigation.

Bryan Chaney, director of employer brand at Indeed, said job seekers should make sure to search their own names (and all of its variants) online.

“Any good recruiter or human resources professional will paste a candidate’s name into a search engine if they are in serious consideration for a role,” he said. “Be aware of your digital footprint so you can take action to clean up or explain what a recruiter may find.”

What Happens Online Doesn’t Stay Online

[caption id="attachment_60935" align="alignnone" width="1200"]What Happens Online Doesn’t Stay Online Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Since potential employers are seeking you out, it’s important to make sure the content you post doesn’t draw any red flags.

“In a recent CareerBuilder survey, employers that did not hire a candidate based on their social media presence cited seeing provocative or inappropriate content, drinking and drug use, discriminatory comments and bad-mouthing a previous employer,” said Ladan Hayes, senior career advisor at CareerBuilder.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said a job candidate’s social media profile led them to not offer a job.

Chaney said highly polarizing views are also problematic when it comes to reviewing a candidate’s background.

“Having a personal perspective is important, but having that opinion drive all of someone’s decisions is dangerous, especially when the role has any level of public visibility,” he said.

Lack of professionalism is another thing to be aware of.

“Ditch that cropped college party photo and get a proper headshot that you can use across networks,” Chaney advised. “Consistency in your image and your message will help showcase your personal brand management skills and show that you care.”

Social Media is NOT the Enemy

[caption id="attachment_60936" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Social Media is NOT the Enemy Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Now if you think the easy solution would be to delete all your social media accounts or take a moratorium on posting anything online, you might want to think twice.

“Old or outdated information (or dormant profiles) are also red flags, as maintaining a personal presence online is now a priority,” Chaney said. “If you haven’t kept your profiles up to date, will you finish what you started on the job?”

Reynolds said having no online presence -- not even a basic LinkedIn profile -- is cause for concern for employers.

“So many of today's jobs are based in the knowledge economy, which requires a good amount of activity online,” she said. “If an employer thinks you aren't very active online, they may (rightly or wrongly) think you aren't up to date when it comes to skills and knowledge.”

While a lack of an online presence is frowned upon, restricting access to certain accounts may be more acceptable.

“I've never heard of employers worrying about candidates who have blocked or protected social media accounts,” Reynolds said. “If anything, it shows that you've savvy enough to protect yourself online.”

Chaney said Instagram and Facebook pages are more commonly restricted, but blocked accounts could give the impression that the person may have something to hide.

Show Yourself in the Best Light

[caption id="attachment_60937" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Show Yourself in the Best Light Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Reynolds said the key to making social media work for you during the job application process is to make sure your online presence is consistent with your professional persona.

“[Social media] is actually an opportunity for a candidate to stand out,” she said. “On a resume, you are limited as to what you show employers. But online, you can create a very detailed portrait of yourself as a professional.”

Reynolds recommends taking advantage of LinkedIn’s features to highlight your skills and expertise, include links to projects you’ve worked on and write or share articles relevant to your field. She said Twitter is a great platform for interacting in casual, but memorable, ways with other professionals in your line of work, including recruiters and hiring managers.

“Candidates whose content show off their great communication skills, professional qualifications and creativity can impress their potential employers,” Hayes said.

“Personality cues that show up in social media content should help tell the rest of the story that your resume or CV can’t,” Chaney said. “If you have a passion for social or charitable causes and the hiring manager is looking for someone committed to a purpose-driven mission, there’s a natural alignment for the job.

“If it’s a marketing or communications role, staying up to date on recent developments or news around an industry topic will show that you care and that you’re already paying attention to what matters to your future boss.”

It’s Not Over Once You’re Hired

[caption id="attachment_60939" align="alignnone" width="1200"]It’s Not Over Once You’re Hired Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

It’s vital to note, maintaining a positive online presence after you get the job is still important, especially if you’re socially connected to your co-workers or superiors.

“Just because you got the job doesn't mean you can disregard what you post online,” Hayes said. “More than half of employers (51%) use social media sites to research current employees.”

CareerBuilder’s survey found 34% of employers have reprimanded or fired an employee based on content discovered online.

“If you decide to become ‘friends’ with your boss on Facebook, you have to assume that they will see everything you post,” Reynolds said. “And even if it's unfair, they may associate your posts as a reflection of you as a professional. We've seen lots of examples of people being fired because of the things they post online -- offensive comments, inappropriate pictures, risky social media handles, you name it.”

But not all career professionals think your online presence should be under scrutiny after you’re hired.

“Unless they are in entertainment or hired as a public figure, an employee’s social media presence is their business,” Chaney said. “The only time it should be a concern is when speaking about confidential company matters and airing grievances directly with [or] about their coworkers and potential supervisor.”

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s still finding her place amongst social media channels.

Days before I got the job offer to work for The Penny Hoarder in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, I was shoveling snow at my grandmother’s home in East Orange, New Jersey, where I was living at the time.

Instead of doing the typical millennial boomerang and moving back home with my parents, I spent time living with both sets of grandparents and a family friend who’s over 80.

I saved on rent and was able to help them out around the house by doing laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning.

So when I heard about a new housing arrangement app called Nesterly, I could totally relate.

Pairing Roommates from Different Generations

Created by two urban planners who graduated from MIT, Nesterly will pair college students with baby boomers willing to open their homes up to renters, City Lab reported. The millennials can benefit from lower rental rates in exchange for helping the homeowner out with agreed-upon tasks.

"We're really excited about the opportunity to help the rapidly aging population in the U.S. stay in their homes, and one way is helping them access household help like changing the light bulb or shoveling the snow," Noelle Marcus, co-founder of Nesterly, told Apartment Therapy. "Simple tasks that students can do, but could really make a big difference for an aging household."

The app’s website states the service will be piloted in the northeast this summer, with plans to roll out more widely in September.

A Growing Trend in Home Sharing

Pairing older individuals up with younger ones in shared housing isn’t a new phenomenon.

A Cleveland retirement home opened its doors in 2015 to a handful of college students majoring in the arts, Smithsonian Magazine reported. They stayed there rent-free in exchange for giving recitals and concerts, leading art therapy classes and just being there to socialize and help out.

In 2016, CNN reported on senior centers in Finland and the Netherlands inviting young people to live amongst the older residents at low rental rates. In return, the young adults committed time to helping their elderly neighbors.

But not everyone has had positive experiences with senior home sharing. Writer Nicola Slawson explained in a piece for The Guardian that her experience turned sour when she was expected to provide more care than she originally bargained for.

If living with someone outside your generation isn’t your thing, you can always consider renting a home with friends to save on housing costs.

Or if you already have a place of your own, renting out a room in your residence can help you keep more money in your pocket.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

If you’re reading this post, you obviously have a solid grasp of the English language.

But if you’re securely confident in your English language skills (including grammar, spelling and punctuation), then this work-from-home gig might be a great opportunity for you to earn some extra cash on a part-time basis.

Lionbridge, a company that supplies international organizations with various business services, is in need of native English speakers to do transcription and validation work.

Those hired for the role will spend up to 24 hours a week reviewing audio and online transcriptions for quality and content. Schedules are flexible.

You’ll have to be a speedy typist and a good listener who has a personal computer with high-speed internet access.

Applicants also must be over 18 and pass a language skills test. Having a high school diploma is desirable but not a requirement.

Information about salary and benefits was not included in the job posting for this gig, but I reached out to the company and will update this post once I hear back.

Check here for more information about this position and to apply.

Want to be the first to know about other fun and interesting jobs like this? Like The Penny Hoarder Jobs on Facebook to stay in the loop!

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

When it comes to career advancement, there really is no instruction manual or guidebook. A mentor helps you feel like you’re not in this alone.

Having a mentor is like having a big brother or favorite aunt looking out for your career, answering questions when you’re confused and providing guidance when you have no idea what direction you should be going in.

Now LinkedIn, your favorite social-networking site for all things career-focused, is coming out with a new feature that’s intended to help your work life flourish.

By the end of the summer, all members should have a new dashboard with a “career advice hub” where they can sign up to get advice from a more senior member who’ll serve as an informal mentor, Fast Company reported.

And apparently, many upper-level professionals on LinkedIn are just itching to share their knowledge. An internal analysis found 89% of senior leaders on the site would be interesting in giving career advice, Fast Company reported.

The new feature will be free to LinkedIn members (a basic membership is free as well!), and you can specify what you desire in a mentor by using parameters such as industry and location, as well as what type of advice you’re looking to receive.

LinkedIn’s algorithm will then match you up with suitable professionals. Next, both parties have the opportunity to verify whether they’re interested in connecting, and the mentoring relationship can begin!

Fast Company said the new feature will start rolling out today to “a small subset” of select members and will expand as it’s tested over the summer.

Suzi Owens, group manager of consumer products and corporate communications at LinkedIn, said this new feature is not designed to replace traditional, long-term mentorships but instead is intended to serve as an outlet where professionals can get “quick question” requests answered by someone with more experience.

But I can imagine if a pair makes a really solid connection, this could serve as a springboard to establishing a substantial mentoring relationship that spills over into real life and lasts years.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

The birds and the bees. Divorce. Death.

These topics are sure to make even the most confident parent squirm with awkwardness when it comes to discussing them with their kids.

Add talking about money to the list.

M&G Investments surveyed more than 500 parents in the United Kingdom and found that one in six lacked the confidence to teach their children about vital money skills, even though 83% believed they should be the ones doling out that knowledge, MSN reported.

Some parents surveyed thought the responsibility of teaching kids about money should also fall on others’ shoulders:

  • 55% said schools should teach financial literacy
  • 28% said kids should learn about money on their own
  • 27% said grandparents should give financial advice

M&G Investments also surveyed more than 360 grandparents, and 60% of them said they played a role in teaching their grandkids about money, according to MSN.

So what do you do when you feel clueless when it comes to teaching your child how to manage the dollars and cents?

It doesn’t matter if your kids are young or about to go to college -- having discussions about financial literacy doesn’t have to be unbearable.

Luckily, The Penny Hoarder has an ultimate guide to teaching kids about money. Our guide has advice from experts, stories from real-life parents and tips on what to do even if you’re bad with money yourself.

And remember, your kids pick up a lot by example. Watching you work, pay off debt and save can be a great start to teach them positive lessons about finances. You don’t want them to become young adults who believe these money myths.

Having serious life conversations can be tough, but don’t skip over the complicated ones and don’t be one of the parents who tell their kids these money lies. Honesty is the best policy.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She is the parent of a 2-year-old daughter who loves dropping money into her piggy bank and selling items to people from her pretend store.

Doesn’t it feel like summer just started?

So why are we discussing back-to-school anything?

Well, it’s because several states have special tax-free holidays scheduled over the next two months so parents can buy all the school supplies, clothes, shoes and electronics their kids need for the upcoming academic year and not pay the normal sales tax.

Last year, the National Retail Federation reported families with children in grades K-12 planned on spending an average of $673.57 for back-to-school shopping needs.

Skipping out on paying tax on those items help families keep a little more money in their bank accounts.

Tax-Free Weekends 2017

The first round of tax-free holidays starts in two weeks, so now’s the time to plan ahead and shop smart.

July 21-23

Alabama

What’s Included:

  • School supplies -- $50 or less per item
  • Clothing and shoes -- $100 or less per item
  • Computers -- $750 or less per item
  • Books -- $30 or less per item

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

July 28-29

Mississippi

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- less than $100 per item

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

July 28-30

Tennessee

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- $100 or less per item
  • School supplies -- $100 or less per item
  • Computers -- $1,500 or less per item

See here for a list of eligible items and here for a list of non-eligible items.

Aug. 4-5

Iowa

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- less than $100 per item

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

Louisiana

This state’s sales tax holiday lowers the sales tax to 3% on the first $2,500 of any consumer purchase of an eligible item. See here for more details.

Aug. 4-6

Florida

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- $60 or less per item
  • School supplies -- $15 or less per item
  • Computers -- $750 or less per item

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

Missouri

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- $100 or less per item
  • School supplies -- $50 or less per purchase (for graphing calculators, $150 or less)
  • Computers -- $1,500 or less per item (for computer software, $350 or less)

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

New Mexico

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- less than $100 per item
  • School supplies -- less than $30 per item
  • Computers -- $1,000 or less per item ($500 or less for related computer hardware)

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

Ohio

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- $75 or less per item
  • School supplies -- $20 or less per item
  • School instructional material -- $20 or less per item

See here for more information.

Oklahoma

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- less than $100 per item

See here for a list of eligible and ineligible items.

South Carolina

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes
  • School supplies
  • Computers

See here and here for lists of eligible and non-eligible items.

Virginia

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- $100 or less per item
  • School supplies -- $20 or less per item

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

Aug. 5-6

Arkansas

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- less than $100 per item (for accessories, less than $50 per item)
  • School supplies

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

Aug. 11-13

Texas

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- less than $100 per item
  • School supplies -- less than $100 per item

See here and here for lists of eligible and non-eligible items.

Aug. 13-19

Maryland

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- $100 or less per item

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

Aug. 20-26

Connecticut

What’s Included:

  • Clothing and shoes -- less than $100 per item

See here for a list of eligible and non-eligible items.

Writer’s note: If you live in (or close to) Delaware, Montana, Oregon or New Hampshire, you don’t need to worry about special tax-free holidays because these states don’t charge sales tax year-round.

Alaska also has no statewide sales tax, but local municipalities levy their own sales tax, The Motley Fool reports.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She grew up in New Jersey where there is no sales tax on clothes, but her family sometimes drove over to Delaware to take advantage of tax-free school supplies and electronics. She loved back-to-school shopping.

Chicago Public Schools recently implemented a new high school graduation requirement that may prevent some students from receiving the diplomas they’ve earned.

The school system’s “Learn.Plan.Succeed.” initiative is designed to ensure students have successful futures after graduation. Yet it will withhold high school diplomas from students in they fail to meet (and provide proof of) one of the following criteria:

  • College acceptance letter received and returned
  • Military acceptance or enlistment letter
  • Acceptance into a job program (like a coding boot camp)
  • Acceptance into a trades pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship
  • Acceptance into a gap-year program
  • Current job or job offer letter

The class of 2020 will be the first to tackle this requirement, according to the school system’s press release.

Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s third-largest school district and the first large urban district to implement such a graduation requirement, the release said.

Where This Could Go Wrong

When I initially learned about this new requirement, I thought of several ways this could go wrong.

What about students who can’t secure a job before graduation, especially disabled students who might face more challenges finding work?

What about students who intend to go to college but were rejected from the schools they applied to for fall enrollment?

What about students whose families will rely on them to provide full-time care for a younger sibling, sick parent or elderly grandparent, which would impede them from holding a job or taking college courses?

What about students whose lives after graduation include plans to be a stay-at-home spouse or stay-at-home parent?

What about the students who plan to start their own business instead of jumping into the traditional workforce? Or students who choose to do freelance work or join the gig economy?

What if a student plans to take a gap year to volunteer, travel or explore their interests and those plans don’t follow a specific “gap-year program”? Or if instead of a gap year, they just want to take the summer off before starting a lifetime of work?

The list could go on.

Chicago Public Schools said students with extenuating circumstances could get waivers from this graduation requirement. I reached out to the school district’s office of communications to get a better idea of what qualifies as “extenuating circumstances” and will update this post once I get a response.

In addition to the concerns that popped into my head, The Washington Post reported critics believe the school district doesn’t have the financial resources to support students making post-graduation plans, citing the 2016 layoff of over 1,000 teachers and staff and a lack of guidance counselors to handle the volume of students.

But...It Could Also Benefit Students

While the “Learn.Plan.Succeed.” graduation requirement initially angered me, I do see the value in having students know their plans for the future before graduation.

Having a path to follow can prevent some young adults from fumbling through the unstructured world of post-grad life and accumulating debt along the way.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told The Washington Post, “We are going to help kids have a plan, because they’re going to need it to succeed.”

In addition to the “Learn.Plan.Succeed.” initiative, Chicago Public Schools also announced new graduation requirements for students to take financial education courses (starting with the class of 2021) and specific science curriculum (starting with the class of 2022).

Here are some resources to help members of the class of 2020 decide their post-grad plans:

  • For students looking to forgo a four-year school, this post, this one and this one each highlight careers that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, though some do require completion of a two-year program.
  • For those considering enrolling in the military, Today’s Military provides information on the different branches of service and what it takes to enlist.
  • For those considering a gap year, this post featuring three young adults who took breaks from school can offer a helpful perspective.

I’ll be interested to see whether this initiative will be successful in Chicago and if other school systems will follow suit.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.