Tyler Omoth - The Penny Hoarder

Amazon has everything.

Seriously. No matter what you need to buy, your first stop is Amazon. Sometimes, you even find what you want for an amazing price.

It turns out that some of those too-good-to-be-true prices are just that: too good and not true.

Because we can never have a good thing without someone trying to screw it up, a wave of Amazon fake sellers has started to create problems for buyers, legit sellers and Amazon itself, according to BuzzFeed News. Forbes reported earlier this year about what seems to be a growing number of fraudulent sellers on Amazon.

A Scammer’s Gotta Scam

Amazon fake sellers are just what they sound like: people who set up an account and put items up for sale that they don’t actually have. Not only do they put items up for sale, they slap crazy-good prices on them.

Fifty percent off a laptop? Yes!

Then buyers click away and send their payments only to wait for that awesome delivery that never comes.

Luckily for buyers, Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee means buyers usually get their money back.

Unfortunately, that means Amazon refunds the buyer, while the fraudulent seller runs off with the money. Amazon loses.

Think Before You Click to Avoid Amazon Fake Sellers

As we get closer to the holiday season and you start looking for those sweet deals on gifts for your friends and family, avoid scammers by paying close attention.

The easiest way to ensure you’re using a legitimate Amazon seller is to look through their reviews. If a seller has a relatively long history of positive reviews, you should be fine. Be wary of any seller with reviews from consumers who claim they never received their items.

If a seller’s information says they “just launched,” it means they are new to Amazon. Now, there are plenty of legit sellers out there who may have just started out, and they could be great. However, if you find a price on an item from a new seller that is dramatically lower than you’d expect, consider it a red flag.

There’s no need to run away from Amazon. Just be a smart consumer, and don’t let scammers ruin your day.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

You hear those words “to have and to hold, for better or for worse” and pause.

You know he likes the toilet paper roll to go over the top; you prefer underneath. OK, you’ll hash that out.

What about his (or her) debt?

When it comes to getting married, you’re bonding your life to another human’s, and that’s pretty cool. It’s also pretty scary. If you’ve worked hard to minimize your debt and build your credit score, are you putting all of that at risk by marrying someone who brings a fair amount of financial baggage into the union?

The honest answer is yes... and no. There are many misconceptions out there about debt and marriage. Before you say “I do,” it’s smart to know what you’re getting into.

6 Myths (and Truths) About Marriage, Debt and Credit

When it comes to marriage, debt and your credit score, you may think you know what’s in store, but wading through the misconceptions can be difficult. Here are some of the most common myths about marriage and finances and the valid truths that bust them.

Myth #1: The Two Become One, and Their Debt is Your Debt

[caption id="attachment_64463" align="alignnone" width="1200"]The Two Become One, And Their Debt Is Your Debt Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Not exactly. If you are not a co-signer on any loans or credit cards with your betrothed, you are not responsible for your spouse’s pre-existing debt. However, it is a good idea to work together to improve that situation, if possible.

Mental health counselor and CPA Denise Kautzer, who helps couples struggling with financial issues, said: “If somebody has a lot of credit card debt, typically what they are doing is financing a lifestyle they cannot afford. If someone came to me and said I have a little credit card debt, but my fiance has a lot, I’d try to get them to stop and figure out how they want to move forward. Get their expenditures in line with their income.”

Myth #2: You Should Help the Person You’re Marrying Pay Off That Debt ASAP

[caption id="attachment_64464" align="alignnone" width="1200"]You Should Help The Person You're Marrying Pay Off That Debt ASAP Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

It may sound pessimistic, but you might want to think twice before you start putting money toward your true love’s debt before you get married. Since you’re not legally bound while engaged, the money you put toward their debt is a risk. It’s a personal choice, but you definitely want to consider all the pros and cons before paying off your partner’s debt.

A safer bet might be to encourage your fiance to display their love by paying down that debt on their own before the big day. What a wedding gift!

Myth #3: Your Credit Scores Combine Once You’re Married

[caption id="attachment_64465" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Your Credit Scores Combine Once You're Married Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Not at all. Your credit scores are connected to your Social Security numbers, therefore, remain tied only to the individual.

That said, it’s still possible for one spouse to hurt the other’s credit score. If your spouse continues with the same bad habits after you open a joint account, they could drag you down, too. On the flip side, if you can keep that joint account in good standing, it could be the first step in rebuilding your spouse’s credit score.

Myth #4: If I Change My Last Name, My Credit History Starts Over

[caption id="attachment_64466" align="alignnone" width="1200"]If I Change My Last Name, My Credit History Starts Over Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

While you may be starting a new life with your sweetheart, your credit history remains unchanged. As mentioned above, your credit is tied to your Social Security number, not your name. Your credit history remains yours and is not affected by the marriage itself (unless you charged the horse-drawn carriage, 101 white doves and 33 flavors of cupcakes to your credit card).

Myth #5: You Must Apply for Loans Together

[caption id="attachment_64470" align="alignnone" width="1200"]You Must Apply For Loans Together Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Though you’re married, you can still apply for a loan or credit card on your own. If you’re looking to buy a big-ticket item, like a house or a car, you need to consider how much your spouse’s poor credit could hurt your chances of getting a loan or a good interest rate.

If you don’t live in one of the nine community property states -- those that consider your spouse’s debts your debts too -- you can leave your spouse off the application and bypass their credit issues. But if you do this, you can’t use their income to qualify for the loan, so you may need to lower your purchase price.

One spouse’s terrible credit doesn’t rule out buying a house or a car, but it can make these purchases a bit more difficult.

Myth #6: Debt Is a Marriage Killer

[caption id="attachment_64471" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Debt Is A Marriage Killer Kristy Gaunt - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

It can be, but that’s up to the couple. What we can say is that it shouldn’t be a marriage killer. If you talk things through before saying your vows and develop a plan to work together, you may discover just what a good team you make. It may be wise for the person with the stronger financial track record to take the lead on financial matters, but it’s essential for that person to remain supportive of his or her spouse, not judgmental.

“Money is a resource to help you do what you want,” says Kautzer. “Is that a vacation? A new home? A lake home? Retiring at a young age? Figure that out so you’re both on the same page.”

Love happens, and that’s great. Debt happens, too. As long as you address the issue, know what you’re getting into and develop an appropriate plan, you can start building a marriage that heads toward your debt-free goals. If you find yourself struggling, seek the advice of a marriage counselor or financial planner who can help you get your plan in place. The key is open communication.

The toilet paper debate isn’t quite as easy. Good luck with that.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

It’s almost fall. You can smell it in the air. It’s the unmistakable aroma of pumpkin spice, well, everything.

If you’re the type who has been twitching uncontrollably in anticipation of pumpkin spice lattes or frantically scanning the craft beer aisle for your yearly fix of Southern Tier’s Pumking Imperial Ale, this fall will not disappoint. There are new pumpkin spice products every year, and some of them are very affordable.

Not only can you live a life full of pumpkin spice everything, but you can load up your pantry to start every morning with your favorite flavor without overspending on froufrou coffeehouse drinks. Here are five awesome items to start your day the pumpkin spice way that cost less than $5 each.

1. International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer

Who are we kidding? Coffee has to be first, right? International Delights Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer can turn your standard cup of brew-at-home coffee into a delicious, fall-flavored beverage. It’s the perfect way to kick off your day.

I found a 24-count box of individual serving creamers at Walmart for just $2.38. That’s just 12 cents per serving. Go ahead. Get crazy and put two in your mug, and feel the pumpkin buzz.

2. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios

You’ve been eating Cheerios since you were a baby. That’s almost guaranteed. Now, your go-to breakfast cereal has jumped on the pumpkin spice bandwagon.

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are gluten-free and made using real pumpkin puree. Prices may vary, but you should easily find a box for under $5, unless they hit the pumpkin spice black market.

Not a Cheerios fan? It looks like Frosted Mini Wheats and Life cereals will also throw their hats in the pumpkin spice ring. Choose your favorite or stockpile them all.

3. Yoplait Light Pumpkin Pie Yogurt

A small cup of yogurt is a great addition to your morning routine. It’s light, creamy and now packed with your favorite flavor.

You can usually find Yoplait yogurts for under $1 at your favorite grocer, so Yoplait Light Pumpkin Pie Yogurt is an affordable fit to your pumpkin spice breakfast buffet.

4. Belvita Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Biscuits

Whole grains, fiber, “4-hours of continuous energy” plus a new pumpkin spice flavor? What’s not to love?

Belvita Breakfast Biscuits are an easy-to-eat breakfast option you can throw in a purse or a pocket on your way out the door. At just $2.38 for a box of five, you can afford to stock up and snack pumpkin-style all winter long.

5. Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies

Cookies for breakfast? Umm, yeah. Why not? You deserve a treat before noon, and Pepperidge Farm’s Milano cookies are an old favorite.

Now Pepperidge Farm has upped the ante and made them pumpkin spice. According to its website, the cookies are “the perfect balance of crisp cookies and rich, luxurious chocolate for a truly indulgent treat.”

Cookies, chocolate and pumpkin spice? Mind blown.

And at $2.98 for a 7-ounce bag, you won’t need to share.

Get ‘Em While You Can

Most of these pumpkin spice treats are only available for a limited time, so stock up while you can. You’ll be munching on your favorite flavor long after the final leaf falls.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He secretly believes that pumpkin spice is the perfect way to ruin anything. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

If you’re like nearly 75 million other Americans, you’re getting excited. You’re keeping an eye on NFL training camps to see who’s exceeding expectations and who pulled up with a nagging hamstring issue.

It’s almost fantasy football time. Say it with me. Finally!

For many, one of the best moments of the season is when your league gathers in one spot, shares some food and beverages, and hashes out its draft.

“It’s about hanging out with my friends in the league and talking about NFL football whilst enjoying a cold beer and some good food,” said Jonny “Saferide” Hines, a longtime league commisioner living in Waverly, Iowa. “It’s different than during the season because it’s new and fresh, and everyone still has a chance to win it all!”

For some, it’s fun to host the draft party in someone’s home. Other leagues like to take it public. As the popularity of fantasy football continues to run rampant each August, sports bars are competing to host your draft party. That means you can score big before the season even starts.

Here are a few draft day locks — plus a couple of sleepers.

Hooters

The classic wing joint knows just who its base customers are, and it’s not afraid to lure them in. Here’s what Hooters will put on the table to draw in your war room team.

Draft Kit With Extra Swag

While supplies last, Hooters will give your league a CBS draft kit with everything you need, including a draft board with player stickers and cheat sheets. You’ll also get Hooters swag, like thunder sticks and koozies.

Over $200 in Coupons

Hooters isn’t dumb. It wants to you come back and watch every game throughout the season and will provide the coupons to lure you back.

Win a Trip to the Super Bowl

Hold your draft party at Hooters and get entered to win a trip to Minneapolis for the biggest game of the year, which happens to occur in the middle of the winter in an outdoor stadium. To be entered in the contest, you must book your party by 11:59 p.m. Sept. 3, 2017.

There’s no upfront cost to book your party at Hooters, but restaurants will not throw any food or beverage deals your way.  

Dave & Buster’s

It’s Chuck E. Cheese’s for grown-ups. Seriously. Dave & Buster’s is like a sports bar with a giant room full of fun that includes Skee-Ball and video games. Dave & Buster’s knows fantasy football players are fun people, so it wants you to make your picks at its place.

Book your party before Sept. 7, 2017, and you have two options for your draft day get-together at D&B’s.

The Ultimate Draft Party Package

This package requires at least 10 people and runs for $21.99 per person. Your league gets its choice of three entrees, including wings, nachos, bar burgers, pretzel dogs or Carnivore Pizzadillas. On top of the entrees, you get french fries and unlimited coffee, tea and soda.

The Premium Draft Party

This package also requires at least 10 people, but it’s slightly pricier at $28.99 per person. It includes the same entree options, sides and drinks, but it also gives each attendee two free drink coupons they can spend on beer, wine or well drinks. One caveat: Your entire party must be 21 or older to book the premium draft party.

Free Game Play During the Season

Book either package for your league, and Dave & Buster’s will give away $10 in free game play with a $10 game play purchase. Plus, the commissioner gets a free $20 Power Card -- it’s good to be the commish. Both cards are valid only during the NFL season, which runs from Sept. 7, 2017-Feb. 4, 2018.

Tilted Kilt Sports Pub & Eatery

If you’re lucky enough to have the Tilted Kilt Sports Pub & Eatery in your neck of the woods, you may want to check it out for your draft party. Here’s what it’ll do to bring you in:

Draft Kit

The first 50 draft parties will get a draft kit that includes draft boards, player rosters and Bud Light swag for up to 14 people.

Food & Drink Specials

Your league gets special prices on food and drinks for up to four hours. The offers may vary by location.

Kilt Girl ‘Commissioner’

Yep. You get one of the Kilt Girls assigned to your party to help you with the draft.

Locations are selling out quickly, so if the Tilted Kilt is your favorite, call a location near you today.

Miller’s Ale House

A staple for those who enjoy a craft beer with their food, Miller’s Ale House doesn't want to get left on the sidelines.

For $125, your league gets 25 wings, 25 zingers, two orders of fiesta nachos, two zinger flatbreads, two pepperoni flatbreads, two orders of loaded fries, one basket of onion rings and a fantasy draft board.

If your party orders $100 worth of food on top of this, Miller’s will also throw in a $25 Miller’s Ale House gift card.

I did the math, and for the $125 your league will pay to book its party, Miller’s gives almost exactly $125 worth of food. If you have 10 people in your league, each member will eat well for just $12.50 each.

Keep in mind that you’ve got to book your party at least 24 hours in advance.

The Local Scene: My Sleeper Picks

If you don’t want to do the chain sports bar thing for this year’s fantasy draft, I recommend checking out your local craft brewery scene. Some breweries will offer specials for draft parties that are just as good as or better than what the sports bars have. What could be better than picking up Julio Jones while sipping an IPA made just 20 feet from your seat?

Here are a couple examples.

MadTree Brewing — Cincinnati

MadTree Brewing will hold two special draft events. You can reserve a table for your league’s draft on Aug. 21 or Aug. 28, from 5 to 10 p.m., for just $50. If you have more than 12 people in your league, you must book two tables.

For these events, MadTree will close its doors to the public, leaving leagues as the only guests. That means grabbing a beer between picks should be a breeze.

Each table gets a large cheese pizza and a large pepperoni pizza from Catch-A-Fire Cafe, and MadTree swag.

26° Brewing — Pompano Beach, Florida

For $20 per person at 26° Brewing, each league member gets two craft beers, wings and curly fries. The brewer also throws in a draft board or projector and free Wi-Fi. Your party must include at least 10 people to score this deal.

Craft breweries are cropping up all over the country, so check out your local scene. Even if one in your area isn’t promoting a special, ask the manager if the brewery would consider hosting your league. You could be the trendsetter in your area.

No matter where you hold your draft this year, you should call to reserve your spot now. Preseason games are underway, injuries are already happening, and the league is doling out suspensions. (Sorry, Zeke fans!)

Good luck with your season, and may your team name be the most clever in your league.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. His fantasy football team, “Hedley’s Froggys,” is destined to dominate this year. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

So apparently there’s a solar eclipse coming soon. Who knew?

Oh yeah, everybody.

If you don’t have your solar eclipse viewing glasses yet, you still have a little time to get a pair. Or if you prefer, make a pinhole projector from stuff you have around the house.

People are seriously excited about this cosmic event for good reason. It’s bringing out all sorts of cool, fun and goofy sales! Here are four solar eclipse specials and deals that will have you celebrating in style.

1. U.S. Postage Stamps

Uncle Sam loves to cash in on momentous events with commemorative stamps, but he may have outdone himself this time. The special Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever Stamps sell for the normal 49 cents apiece and may be the coolest U.S. postage stamp ever.

Using thermochromic ink, these stamps react to your body heat. Hold your thumb on the black spot on the stamp, and it reveals an image of the moon. Once the stamp cools, the black spot covers the moon again. How cool is that? You can have a functioning eclipse on every letter you send!

By the way, thanks to Uncle Sam for giving the stamp that name. I’ll have Bonnie Tyler in my head for the rest of the day.

2. Krispy Kreme Eclipse Donuts

If there is something going on, you know Krispy Kreme will throw its hat in the ring. The solar eclipse is no exception.

Introducing the Krispy Kreme Eclipse Donut.

“For the first time, Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed® Doughnuts will be eclipsed by a mouth watering chocolate glaze to coincide with the solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21 at participating US/CAN shops. Guests also can get an early taste of this limited-time doughnut during evening Hot Light™ hours Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 19-20.

So yeah, it’s basically a chocolate-covered donut, but it’s probably pretty delicious. Why not?

3. Denny’s

Why have pancakes when you can have “mooncakes” as a celebratory breakfast in honor of the eclipse? On Aug. 21, Denny’s is offering all-you-can-eat mooncakes for just $4. What’s a mooncake? It’s a buttermilk pancake shaped like the moon.

Is this an awesome deal? No, not really. You can get $4 all-you-can-eat pancakes any day at Denny’s, but why not have a little fun with it on the special day? No coupons or codes needed. Just show up and ask for a stack of mooncakes.

4. Schlafly Beer

I saved the best for last. Schlafly Beer in St. Louis is ready to get into the eclipse party mode with a fun-filled field trip.

For $45, guests will get:

  • Bus transportation to and from Dew Drop Inn in Bloomsdale, Missouri
  • Beer on the bus and at the event
  • Barbecue lunch
  • Lawn games
  • Live music
  • Commemorative eclipse-viewing glasses

That’s a pretty sweet deal. Hop on a bus, drink some brews and go to a prime spot for viewing the eclipse with a busload of your soon-to-be closest friends.

Regardless of where you’ll be when the eclipse happens, you’ll have no shortage of companies hoping to cash in on this major event. Find the best deals, and have fun with it.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

Amazon can be a lifesaver. You can find some pretty great deals and have the things you need or want shipped right to your doorstep.

When you’re a new parent trying to keep the house in order, as well as feed, bathe and change a baby, that kind of convenience is even more amazing. It’s the savings, however, that really rock.

Previously, parents who subscribed to Prime and purchased their baby’s diapers on Amazon could save a whopping 20% simply by making it a monthly subscription.

For instance, a 216-count box of Pampers brand diapers goes for $40.84. If you can save 20% on that box of uber-essential baby items, you’ll save $8.17 each month. That’s $98 each year.

Sadly, the honeymoon is over. Amazon has changed its subscription policies, and it could hit parents hard in the bank account.

Buy, Buy (and Buy More) Baby

Amazon’s new policy still allows parents to get the 20% discount with Amazon Prime, but they’ll have to buy more stuff for their precious little ball of joy. Here’s what Amazon Family says:

“Amazon Prime members unlock 20% savings on diapers and baby food subscriptions when receiving 5 or more products in a given month to a single address, compliments of Amazon Family. Amazon Family also provides special offers and age-based recommendations to Prime members with young children.”

So instead of simply getting 20% off your diaper subscription, you need to pick up a subscription to four more items. Let’s see, baby food, wipes, rash cream and laundry detergent?

It’s up to you to decide if the new rule will save you bundles on all the things you need, or if it will just mean buying more stuff than you really need.

Want to save even more money on diapers? Here are nine ways you can get diapers for free.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

Kids love Disney movies. They demand to see them not once, but over and over and over and… You get the drift.

Admit it: You love them too. Not just the classics, but the new ones as well. You’re singing the songs in your head right now, aren’t you?

If you’ve been rejoicing over the fact you can watch so many of your favorite Disney movies on Netflix, we suggest you enjoy them while they last. Disney just announced it’s bidding bon voyage to Netflix streaming in the near future.

Our ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ Will Have to Pay for Disney

Just as the world realized it could watch a ton of Disney films on Netflix, Disney declared that the end is near. On Aug. 8, the mega-corporation announced it’s preparing to launch its own Disney-branded streaming service.

The good news is the new channel will not launch until 2019, which means the current deal with Netflix will continue through the end of 2018.

The bad news is if you are a Disney junkie or have kids, you may want to start saving to pay for yet another service to add to your streaming library.

The new Disney streaming service will feature such titles as “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King” live-action movie and the sequel to “Frozen,” as well as new shorts and features.

So much for getting by on just the “Bare Necessities.”

Make the Most of it Before You “Let it Go”

You have less than one year and five months to catch all the Disney titles you can on Netflix, so binge, binge, binge!

Currently, you can stream newer titles like “Zootopia,” “Finding Dory,” “Pete’s Dragon,” “Moana” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

What? You didn’t forget that Star Wars is now a part of the Disney universe already, did you?

And don’t forget to reminisce with some of your favorite classics like “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Lilo and Stitch,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “The Mighty Ducks.”

Will Disney Streaming Be Worth the Money?

We don’t know what the price will be for the new Disney streaming service, but if it’s like most Disney products, it won’t be cheap, but it will probably be high quality.

If you’re a true Disney fanatic, it may well be worth your money. Perhaps you can save money at Disney World on your next vacation to stockpile for the extra expense.

In the meantime, you already have Netflix. Take advantage of the Disney-Netflix partnership while it lasts!

Hakuna Matata!

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

Update: A PetSmart spokesperson told us these deals are only valid for customers who received the coupons directly from their PetPerks accounts. They are valid for one-time use only.

Your cat loves you. He purrs, rubs up against you and makes a shameless display of devotion and affection.

Then your cat bites your toes and runs away.

Perhaps your cat is plotting to kill you.

For all his little quirks, your feline friend needs you to feed him. Or maybe you don’t want to put up with that nonsense and choose a dog instead.

Either way, here’s an awesome deal for you: PetSmart has two new offers for free cat food or free dog food for PetPerks members.

Get the Coupons, Feed the Kitty (or Dog)

If you have a pet, there’s a good chance you head to PetSmart on a regular basis. If you’re a crazy cat lady (and that’s OK), you practically live there. It’s a playground of cat toys, treats and feline luxuries most of us haven’t even dreamed existed.

That means you’re also probably a PetPerks member. Smart move. If you’re not, you can sign up for a PetPerks membership to get frequent deals for you and your little buddy.

Right now, PetSmart has two great coupons for PetPerks members.

One is good for a free bag of Wellness brand dry cat food or dog food (2- to 6-pound size). Simply print out the coupon, and take it to your nearest PetSmart store.

The second coupon is nearly identical. With this coupon, PetPerks members can get a free bag of Nutro brand dry cat or dog food (3- to 5-pound size).

Act fast because these coupons expire Aug. 14!

That’s it. There doesn’t appear to be any catch, except that each coupon is limited to “one coupon per customer, per transaction,” so you can’t print out multiples and snag a stack of free food in a single transaction.  

Whether you own a dog who wants to lick you to death or a cat who stares at you with self-righteous contempt from the windowsill, you owe it to yourself to cash in on these deals. Who knows, it could be your pet’s new favorite food.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. His wife’s cat did not approve of this article’s content. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

Costco is a bulk shopper’s playground. The retail giant is full of bargain deals from groceries to home products to health and beauty supplies, if you don’t mind buying ginormous quantities.

I buy my ground beef there for about half the price of my local grocery stores -- I just have to buy it 6 pounds at a time. It’s easy enough to split that up into freezer bags and enjoy having it on hand for a bargain.

What’s the catch? To shop at Costco, you have to be a member, and a standard Costco Gold Star membership costs $60 annually. That’s an OK price for a year’s worth of bargains. (I probably save that much on ground beef alone. Don’t judge.)

But thanks to LivingSocial and Groupon, you can now get your membership plus over $155 in free stuff and discounts.

Is it Really a Deal?

OK, you’ve seen these special offers to lure you into memberships before, and sometimes, they’re not worth it. At The Penny Hoarder, we don’t like to tell you about it unless we think it’s a good deal, but I’ll let you be the judge. Here’s the offer:

  • A one-year Costco Gold Star membership with two cards (one for the membership holder and one for another household member).
  • $20 Costco cash card. Free money!
  • $75 Costco cash card toward Costco Travel to the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico or the South Pacific (excludes cruises). If you haven’t used or checked out Costco travel, give it a look. I used it to book a cruise and found it really easy, and it offered a great price!

Coupons for three free Kirkland Signature products:

  • Free 12-pack of create-a-size paper towels ($15.69) Who doesn’t use these?
  • Free 24-pack of VitaRain Zero flavored water ($9.99) A nice, tasty beverage.
  • Free whole pizza from the food court ($9.95) Umm... pizza!

Keep in mind that coupon item values may vary by Costco location.

So even if you don’t use the online coupon and the travel card, you still get your new membership plus $55.63 in goods and store credit. Not too shabby if you ask me.

What’s more, you can sample about 25 different items while you shop. On a recent trip, Costco was giving out samples of bacon. Bacon!

OK, What’s the Real Catch?

Alas, no offer is perfect. (And, yes, I said “alas.”)

Costco will not send the coupons and gift cards to you immediately via email or any other 21st century method. Once you redeem your voucher online, the wholesale club will mail your goodies to you within four weeks.

It seems Costco set up this offer to bring in new customers or to bring back customers Costco may have recently lost. So, it’s not for everyone.

The fine print tells us that you may not participate if you are a current member looking to renew or if your membership expired after April 1, 2017. In other words, it’s not looking for renewals or slightly late renewals -- it wants people who may be on the fence about a membership.

However, if you have never had a Costco membership and have contemplated taking the plunge, or if you let your membership run out more than four months ago and were thinking about jumping back in, this deal could be for you.

Neither Groupon nor LivingSocial list an expiration date for this deal -- they only say there’s “Limited Time Remaining” -- so we suggest jumping on it sooner rather than later.

Now, go get your deal because there is a 3-pound box of Cheez-It Cheddar Crackers with your name on it!

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

A few years back, I splurged on a beer that was practically legendary. It was only available in small batches and very hard to find. So, with excitement, I picked up a bottle of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout. It’s an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels.

I like stouts. I like bourbon. I hated that beer. Granted, my palate for craft beers was still developing, but even today, I realize that I simply don’t care much for bourbon or oak-aged beers.

As I watched the sudsy brew flowing down my drain, I thought to myself: “This beer was supposed to be awesome! Everyone said so. Now it’s just money down the drain.” Then I reached for an old favorite.

Avoiding Beers You Don’t Like? There’s an App for That!

If only there was a way to learn which new beers you might love using your old favorites.

Now there is.

World of Beer, that wonderful chain pub that promotes all things great beer, has created the ALEgorithm app. The app, which is free, uses your beer ratings to recommend other brews you might like. Sound familiar? It’s really the same sort of technology Netflix and Pandora use to suggest movies and music you’ll like.

The beauty is that you may never have to buy a beer you don’t like again. You see, that beer you poured down the drain may be the second coming of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale to someone else, but it simply may not fit your tastes. Kind of like how someone who loves “Star Wars: Rogue One” may not enjoy “La La Land.” They’re both good movies, but they cater to different tastes.

Before you get too excited, we should warn you that, as of this writing, the updated app with the ALEgorithm feature is only available on iOS. According to some less-than-flattering user reviews on Google Play and some Penny Hoarders’ own experiences, an updated app for Android is not available.

The Penny Hoarder reached out to World of Beer to get an update on when it will be available to Android users, and according to their marketing rep, there “have been glitches, but it should work fine now.” Android users in our office did not find this to be the case. They could only download an old version of the World of Beer app that didn't seem to have the ALEgorithm on it; iPhone users were able to access ALEgorithm just fine, though.

When you sign up for the app, click on “My recommendations.” It will ask you to rate 50 random beers. Give it a thumbs up if you like it or thumbs down if you don’t. Or you can simply skip any beers you’re not familiar with. Then it tells you you’ll have recommendations in 24 to 48 hours.

While this may be a great way to find the perfect pint at World of Beer, don’t forget, the chain allows you to sample beers for free before committing to the whole pint. The ALEgorithm can give you suggestions, but your taste buds are still your best decision-makers.

Where the ALEgorithm may help you out even more is at the store. There are so many beer choices today, and the shelves can be a little overwhelming -- even if you have an idea what kind of beer you’re looking to grab.

If you want to pick up a six-pack of a nice, juicy IPA like the one you tasted and rated the other night, pull up your ALEgorithm app and see what it suggests. You can be relatively confident that the brew it suggests will fit your palate.

No one should have to witness the pouring of a beer down a drain. It just doesn’t need to happen. Thanks to the World of Beer ALEgorithm, the chances of it happening again are largely reduced. That’s putting science to good use.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others, especially when it comes to finding great beer. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

We love to shop online. And when the holidays roll around, we really love to shop online. Who wants to battle the crowds, the cold and that stray shopping cart someone left in the only open parking spot when you can get nearly everything you need right from the comfort of your couch?

This year, FedEx will embrace the spirit of giving by not adding extra surcharges to most packages shipped during the holiday season.

Yay! Wait... what? Does that mean some companies do bump up their charges during the season of cheer?

It does. “Then he got an idea. An awful idea. The Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea.”

In June 2017, UPS announced a set of surcharges it will add to packages shipped during a “peak period.” These surcharges include:

  • 27 cents on UPS Ground packaged shipped Nov. 19-Dec. 2, and Dec. 17-23.
  • 81 cents on UPS Next Day Air packages shipped Dec. 17-23.
  • 97 cents on UPS 2nd Day Air and 3-Day Select packages shipped between Dec. 17-23.

These charges are added to the normal rate UPS would charge during non-holiday times. These peak periods include Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmastime.

Well, that doesn’t seem very full of holiday cheer.

That’s where FedEx comes in. While the company will still add surcharges to oversize items, unauthorized shipments and packages that require extra handling, standard shipments will have no added fees during holiday rush.

Is this just a ploy to get a bigger slice of that e-commerce shipping pie? Maybe, but that’s the beauty of competition: The consumer wins.

If you want to avoid the hassle and still do your shopping online, look for ship-to-store options. Yes, that means you have to go out and grab the stuff, but at least you get your shopping done online and may not have to pay anything at all for shipping.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

Here at The Penny Hoarder, we’re all about the side hustle. For many people, that means selling a few things -- or many things -- through online marketplaces like Amazon.

Now, Amazon has made some sweeping changes to the way individual sellers process returns.

Starting Oct. 2, 2017, all products sold by private sellers will be subject to the same return policies as items shipped by Amazon.

So What Does That Mean for Buyers?

For shoppers, this means if you buy something through Amazon and don’t like it for any reason, you have 30 days to return it for a full refund without paying for the return shipping. You can simply print out a prepaid return-shipping label via Amazon’s Online Return Center and ship the item back.

No arguing your case with the seller. No worrying about getting stuck with something that’s broken, ill-fitting or just not what you wanted. Pretty sweet, huh?

The only thing the customer has to worry about is damage or loss during shipping. That part is the buyer’s responsibility.

I’m an Amazon Seller. Now What?

Some sellers may see this as an added convenience, but definitely not all of them.

For instance, if you have someone who purchased an item that has a slight scratch on it, you may not have the opportunity to negotiate with them.

In some cases, you’d rather give them a small discount than issue a full refund, right?

Amazon is also rolling out “returnless refunds,” which means a buyer may receive a refund for a product without sending the item back. For some items, this could be beneficial for the seller. For example, it can be expensive and pointless to ask a customer to return a large broken item. You can’t resell it, so why ship it?

Sellers can exempt some items from automated returns, and the returnless refund service is optional, according to a statement from Amazon.

The policy does, however, open the door to possible abuse by less-than-honest shoppers.

On Amazon’s seller forums, it’s clear that not everyone is on board with the change. Many sellers are speaking out about the new policies and the possible issues they could cause.

One seller posted, “And Amazon is going to assume that a buyer would NEVER lie about the reason for the return so they don't have to pay for it.”

Hmm… that’s a good point. Remember, Penny Hoarders aren’t penny stealers. Amazon does track returns and may flag people who seem to have an overabundance of returnless refunds. What that number is, we don’t know. Returning too many items can even lead to a lifetime ban from Amazon.

The new policy may have some bumps along the way, but it could also make shoppers more confident in third-party sellers with better prices.

Buy with confidence, but use good judgment when returning items. If you abuse the honor system, you could hurt someone’s side hustle.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.