5 Things I Always Buy at the Dollar Store
By: Brittney Myers |
– First published on Oct. 5, 2023
The dollar store is this sort of magical place where, if you hunt through aisles of junk, you can occasionally find an absolute gem of a deal. But the key to keeping the dollar store a boon to your personal finances — rather than a hazard — is to learn to identify the difference between the junk and the deals.I’ve been visiting my local dollar stores for forever (give or take), so I’ve purchased my fair share of stuff that’s wound up in the garbage. I’ve also managed to find some go-to items that always give me great bang for my buck. Here are a few things that always wind up on my dollar store shopping list.1. Gift bags and boxesI am a terrible wrapper. Despite my best attempts, it always comes out uneven, wrinkled, and inevitably torn. So, I love gift bags. What I don’t love? The price of gift bags. Who is paying $5 a pop for something the recipient will more than likely toss? Not me!The dollar stores near me have a surprisingly awesome selection of gift bags. You can get fantastically festive holiday bags, glittery birthday bags, and even more tame bags for any occasion.You aren’t limited to bags, either. You can get boxes of all shapes and sizes, including small ones ideal for trinkets or gift cards. And don’t forget the accoutrements, like tissue paper, ribbons, and bows — all available at the dollar store for a fraction of the department store cost.2. Greeting cardsIn a world of digital this and e-that, there’s something utterly charming about receiving a physical greeting card. What’s less charming is paying $7 for a simple card (and twice that if you want something fancy). Not only does my local Dollar Tree have a great array of greeting cards for all occasions, but they even have lots of choices priced at two for $1. The envelope is even included.Are the cards cute, sweet, and/or funny? Absolutely. Are these cards going to sing and dance? Not without a magical incantation. But does a greeting card need to do all that? It’s what you write inside that the recipient will really remember.3. Seasonal decorDollar stores have a remarkably good arrangement of seasonal decor items, especially if you catch them right after a transition from one holiday to another. You can find indoor decor, from tableware to tea towels, as well as exterior decor. For instance, Halloween brings out the plastic spiders, posable skeletons, and pumpkins galore. I particularly like hitting the dollar store for seasonal napkins and paper plates. For less than $5, I can pick up a variety of plates and napkins, adding a festive touch to my table while also cutting Thanksgiving clean-up time in half.4. Hobby and craft materialsThere are a remarkable number of hobby and craft goods you can pick up at the dollar store. Want a painting project? Pick up some craft paint and a small canvas for a buck each. Looking to try your thumb at gardening? You can find seeds, dirt, pots, and even plant markers if you’re hitting the dollar store in the spring or summer.The same is true if you like to DIY gifts. The selection of florals changes regularly, as does the various types of glassware, from votives to champagne glasses. And the selection of photo frames is surprisingly decent.5. Cleaning suppliesI like to DIY a lot of my cleaning supplies — you can get a lot done with some vinegar and elbow grease! — but the dollar store is where I get a lot of the rest. Sponges and cleaning cloths? Cheap and abundant. Pads for the mop? A fraction of the price of the name brand. It’s not all knock-off brands, though. You can get brand-name cleaning supplies at the dollar store, just in smaller amounts than you’d find on the grocery store shelves. I’d argue that these are far more usable sizes, however. Do I use a capful of bleach now and then? Of course. Does that mean I need a 64-ounce jug taking up half the space under my sink? Nope!Shop with cash for a hard budgetHave you ever walked into the dollar store to pick up one or two necessities — and somehow spent $30 on you-don’t-even-know-what? Yep, me too!If you have an inner bargain gremlin (I call mine Sal), then seeing a veritable smorgasbord of “deals” can be overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that both my Junk Meter and my Budget Meter get all out of whack, leading me to overspend on nonsense I don’t even need.My solution? Cold hard cash, baby. Yes, I know, I’m usually the first one to tell you to bust out your rewards credit card for pretty much everything. But the dollar store falls into that “pretty much” bit. Don’t take your credit cards into the dollar store if you’re soft-willed around low prices (like me). Take cash instead. It makes it much easier to spend only what you set aside for the trip. Your bank account (and junk drawer) will thank you.
5 of the Best Costco Deals for October 2023
By: Maurie Backman |
– First published on Oct. 5, 2023
Costco is pretty much synonymous with low prices. It’s for that reason that so many people are willing to shell out a membership fee for access to a warehouse club store.Even better, Costco tends to offer deeper discounts on a rotating basis on select items. Here are some of the best deals you’ll find at Costco this month.1. $5 off 32 Degrees Ladies’ Down JacketYou’ll find the 32 Degrees brand at Costco in a variety of products. And this women’s jacket is a great buy. It’s warm and packs down easily to fit into a backpack for trips. And it comes with zippered pockets so you can store your cellphone or travel credit card without having to worry about it slipping out. Snag a new jacket for $5 off just in time for the cooling weather.2. $30 off of the Samsung 27″ Class CF39 Series FHD FreeSync™ Curved MonitorIf you work from home, you’re well aware that the right setup could help boost your productivity. So if it’s time for a monitor upgrade, consider this Samsung model, which is discounted at Costco right now. It features 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 60 Hz refresh rate. Plus, as is the case with all Costco electronics, you’ll be eligible for free tech support.If you’re self-employed or own a small business and you’re buying this monitor for work purposes, make sure to hang onto your receipt. That’s because you can potentially write off your monitor purchase on your taxes as a business expense.3. $5 off the Duracell 1000LM 4AAA LED Flashlight 3-packWinter will be here soon enough. And in some parts of the country, that means heavy snowstorms with the potential to cause power outages.A good way to prepare your home for an outage is to have plenty of flashlights at the ready. So why not pick up this three-pack of flashlights from Costco while it’s on sale? You’ll get up to 90 minutes out of each flashlight on its brightest setting and up to five hours on its lowest.4. $80 off the Ring Alarm 8-piece Home Security KitEven if you feel safe in your neighborhood, it never hurts to add some built-in security to your home. And a Ring alarm system is a good way to do that. This home security kit, which is now available at Costco at a major discount, includes a motion detector, three contact sensors, and a panic button so you can keep tabs on your home and have a way to sound an alarm if necessary.If you decide to purchase this system, contact your homeowners insurance company to see if it renders you eligible for a discount on your premiums. Some insurers offer discounts to homeowners who put security measures in place.5. $10 off Pokémon Halloween Trick or Trade BOOster Packs, 120-countFor children with allergies, Halloween can be a real bummer. You can be a hero to those kids by loading up on this set of Pokemon mini packs. You’ll get 120 packs with three cards each. And even though the cards are Halloween-themed, you can also keep some around to use as stocking stuffers for your kids later on in the year.These are only a sampling of the great deals Costco has available this month. If you’re starting to make a holiday shopping list or have a wishlist of your own you’ve been saving up to fulfill, then it pays to head over to your nearest Costco or browse online and see what discounts you can snag.
The 5 Best Kirkland Products to Buy at Costco
By: Steven Porrello |
– First published on Oct. 8, 2023
Buying generic brands can save you money, but rarely can they surpass (or even replicate) the taste of the original. The exception is Costco’s Kirkland Signature products. Many of these products have amassed a cult following simply for being better in taste and lower in price than many nationally recognized brands.It’s tough to pick which Kirkland products are the best, but if I had to narrow it down, here are five Kirkland products I’m buying regularly at Costco.1. Shelled pistachiosPrice: $14.99 to $16.99I’ve always loved pistachios but could never betray my personal finances to pay exorbitant prices for such small bags. Costco, however, changed that. The Kirkland Signature Pistachios come in 24 ounce bags (1.5 pounds) and cost only $15 to $17. That’s cheaper than Kroger ($5.49 for six ounces), Safeway ($7.99 for six ounces), and Walmart ($9.98 for 12 ounces).2. Lounge pantsPrice: $16.99Fall has just arrived in my home city, Portland, and we’re already breaking out the winter clothes. This year, I bought a pair of Kirkland Signature lounge pants and they’re super comfortable. Plus, you can’t beat that price. Costco is even running a promotion online that will save you $25 if you buy five to nine qualifying clothing items and $60 if you buy 10.3. Kitchen bagsPrice: $20.49The Kirkland Signature Kitchen Bags are a staple in our household. They’re big, sturdy, and have flexible tops to wrap around trash and avoid punctures. These bags are strong enough to hold our garbage, plus cat litter when we clean the boxes.4. Adult multivitamin gummiesPrice: $16.99 for twoNot the most exciting Costco purchase you’ll ever make, but nevertheless a good value, this two-pack of multivitamins comes with 320 gummies for about $17. That’s cheaper than buying Vitafusion gummies off Amazon ($12.19 for 150 gummies) and even rivals the price on Walmart’s brand of adult gummies ($8.88 for 150).5. Variety snack packPrice: $32.99This is one of the best buys I’ve seen in awhile. For about $33, this snack pack gives you 51 single-serving pouches with snacks you’ll actually like, like granola bars, trail mix, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and blueberries. Perfect for kids’ lunches or your own snacks during the day.How to find good Kirkland productsPrepare yourself for some trial and error. Fortunately, even the worst Kirkland Signature products are still decent enough to consume (case in point: the notoriously ugly “Costco sweater” you can’t help but buy). Even better: Most are covered by Costco’s 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t like it, you can bring it back for a full refund.There is one little-known way to find popular Kirkland products. You’ll need to the download the Costco shopping app, then follow these steps:Open the Costco shopping app.Click “Shop” from the bottom menu.Scroll to the bottom and click “View more categories.”Click “Explore Our Brands” from the list of categories (in my app, the categories are in alphabetical order, so just look for the “E’s”).Find Kirkland Signature from the list.Click “Shop All Kirkland Signature.”Organize the products by “Most Viewed.”This will bring up product pages that have received a large volume of traffic. When I did it recently, I saw the variety snack pack was number one, followed by toilet paper, batteries, and a stone island 12-burner gas grill (shrug). Take a look for yourself the next time you browse the Costco app and see what other Costco members are buying.
The 5 Best Deals at Costco for Under $100
By: Steven Porrello |
– First published on Oct. 9, 2023
4. Halloween costumes for kidsCostco’s Halloween costumes are ridiculously cheap — and pretty adorable. It sells a variety of Teetot full costumes, ranging from ninjas to dinosaurs to fairies and astronauts and Disney princesses. Most of its costumes are below $35, so if you’re shopping for two, you can still keep your Costco deal under $100.5. Gourmia air fryerThis Gourmia 7-quart digital air fryer is selling on Costco’s website for $47.99, but you’ll likely find it cheaper in-store. In fact, I bought this air fryer back in May for $39.99 (regular price of $49.99, plus a $10 discount). For perspective, this same air fryer is selling on Amazon for $109.99 — and that’s with a 13% discount!These are just a few of my favorite Costco deals under $100. They won’t all be the best decision for your personal finances, but if you’re already budgeting for them, they can sweeten the purchase with a little savings.
5 Ways to Turn $500 Into Passive Income
By: Chris Neiger |
– First published on Oct. 10, 2023
If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of passive income, it can include any type of money you earn that doesn’t require you to be constantly working.For example, if you buy a second home and rent it out, you’re collecting passive income each month. You still need to invest time and money into getting the house on the rental market, finding a tenant, and occasionally doing repairs, but most of the time, it’s providing a constant stream of income.Your day job, on the other hand, isn’t passive at all. You have to get up every morning and work on your projects, make calls, close sales, etc. Then you get up the next day and do it all over again.Nearly one-fifth of Americans have some form of passive income, but what if you don’t have lots of money to spend on buying a second home to rent out? Fortunately, there are ways to improve your personal finances using passive income that don’t require a significant financial investment.Here are five ways you can get started building passive income with $500 or less.1. Sell digital products onlineOne way to generate passive income online is to sell digital products. For example, you could design journals, notebooks, or digital artwork and sell them on Etsy.You’ll have to spend time creating the content at the beginning, but once you have it all made, you can upload it to an online shop. Many people who sell digital products manage their business by creating new products regularly and researching lucrative niches. But once your products are online, they can generate sales on their own.If you go this route, you may need to spend some money on a subscription to design software like Adobe’s Creative Cloud ($55 per month) or even Canva ($120 annually).2. Buy stocksThis is a pretty obvious one, and it’s one of the most passive ways to generate income. Like any investment, there’s no guarantee you’ll make money from it, but the potential from buying stocks is significant.For example, let’s say you invested $500 in Microsoft five years ago, added $500 to your position each year, and reinvested any money you received from the company’s dividends. Your total contributions over the five years would be $2,500 ($500 in the first year plus $500 for the next four years), but with Microsoft’s share price gains over this time, your total investment would now be worth nearly $4,700.This is just one example; not all stocks will increase at the same pace, but the point here is that small amounts of money — even $500 invested each year — can turn into much larger sums, thanks to compounding interest. The good news is that you don’t even have to like investing or pick your own stocks to benefit. You can always invest in passive exchange-traded funds and let your money grow over time.3. Real estate investing through crowdfundingCompanies like Yieldstreet, CrowdStreet, and Fundrise allow you to invest as little as $10 into a property portfolio. These crowdfunding platforms combine the investments from a large group of investors and then put them toward buying properties. This allows the collective group of investors to purchase properties they wouldn’t otherwise be able to purchase on their own.No form of investing is a guaranteed win, so do your research before putting money into a real estate crowdfunding app. You should also look into each platform’s fee structure. For example, Yieldstreet’s annual management fee is between 0% to 2.5%. The more fees and the higher the percentage companies charge, the less you’ll earn on your investment.4. Vending machinesOwning vending machines can be a relatively easy way to earn passive income. While new machines can cost thousands of dollars, I found some used vending machines on eBay for under $500 that were still in working order.You’ll have to find high-traffic locations and get permission — or rent the space — to get your machines up and running. But other than spending some time restocking and maintaining them, this can be a great passive income source.Data from Naturals2Go, a vending machine company, says that the typical machine earns about $300 monthly.5. Open a high-yield savings accountBanks are paying very high yields relative to a few years ago, which means that depositing your cash into a new account could easily earn you some nice passive income. Some of the best high-yield savings accounts offer between 4% to 5% APY right now.Some banks even offer bonuses when you set up a new account, but you’ll have to check to see if there are any requirements — such as setting up monthly automatic deposits — to get the deal. The good news is that you can likely open a new account with just $500 and start earning money immediately.You won’t get rich off of a high-yield savings account, but considering that you need a good place to store your emergency fund and other savings, it’s a no-brainer way to make some easy money.