People who are very low-income often struggle to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families. People who are unemployed face the same difficulties. Food banks and food pantries can help people get the food they need. This allows the person to use their limited money on other bills and necessities.
Feeding America is a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs that provides food and services to people each year. In addition, some cities and counties may also have their own food banks and food pantries.
A food bank is a non-profit organization that collects and distributes food to hunger-relief charities. Food banks act as food storage and distribution depots for smaller front line agencies, and usually do not themselves give out food directly to people struggling with hunger.
A food pantry functions as the arms that reach out directly to a community. It receives food from a food bank (which functions like a warehouse) and makes that food accessible to people who need it. Visit the Feeding America website to find the food pantry nearest to where you live.
During the 2018-2019 partial government shutdown, Feeding America is helping unpaid federal workers to obtain food. Some of these workers had been furloughed, and will not be paid until the shutdown ends. Others workers are still working – but not receiving paychecks.
To help, Feeding America has been deploying pop-up food pantries in areas where there are many government workers who need help getting food. Some Feeding America food banks are opening on days when they are usually closed in order to help meet people’s needs.
Local food pantries can also help individuals and families who lose their SNAP benefits, or their WIC benefits due to the partial government shutdown. Contact Feeding America, or your local food pantry, for more details.
One way to get in shape is to get a gym membership. Many people do this in January as part of their New Year’s resolution. Sometimes, a gym membership can be more expensive than your budget can handle. Here is how to save money on a gym membership.
Ask for a Trial Membership
Not sure if a particular gym is the right one for you? Ask if you can get a trial membership. The cost of a trial membership is typically less than the price of a regular membership. Some gyms will offer people a free trial membership.
A trial membership gives you the opportunity to try out the gym and see what it has to offer. You can use the equipment, the pool, and possibly take some classes. You get the opportunity to see if you fit in with the other gym members, and if the environment is comfortable, before you spend a lot of money.
Ask for a Discount
Does the gym offer a discounted membership fee for people who happen to work at the company you are employed at? It might be worth finding out. Check with the gym, and ask your HR department about it.
You might qualify for other types of discounts. Gyms may offer student discounts, military discounts, teacher discounts, or senior discounts. If you qualify for any of those categories, and can bring an ID that proves it – you can save money on a gym membership.
Wait Until Later
Businesses often have a quota to hit before the end of the month or end of a quarter. Gyms need to make a certain amount of money on memberships. You might get a better deal at the end of the month than you would at the beginning.
Another option is to wait a few months when people give up on their New Year’s resolution to exercise. Gyms may offer nice discounts later in the year to attract new customers.
Is your electricity bill higher than you expected it to be? This can happen if you are wasting electricity. There are many hidden ways that wasting electricity could cost you money. Here is some advice that can help you to stop wasting electricity.
Don’t hold the fridge door open
You are hungry, but aren’t sure what you want to eat. Many people solve this problem by opening the refrigerator door and looking at the food inside it until they figure out what they want to eat.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences estimates that 7% of a refrigerator’s total energy use is the result of opening its doors. You can save on electricity if you figure out what you want to eat first and then open the refrigerator door to get the ingredients.
Don’t leave appliances plugged in when not in use
The U.S. Department of Energy has advice on how to make your appliances more energy efficient. One way is to look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY Star certified computers and office electronics power management features and efficient internal and external power supplies to ensure energy savings.
Use Advanced power strips to prevent electronics from drawing energy when they aren’t being used. Many consumer electronics continue to draw power even when switched off, which could add an extra 10% to your monthly utility bill.
One easy thing to do is unplug your appliances when they are not in use. It only takes a second to plug the microwave or coffee maker back in right before you need to use it.
Don’t use the dishwasher’s drying cycle
The Department of Energy says that a dishwasher’s drying cycle is an energy waster. A more energy efficient way to dry dishes would be to open the dishwasher door and allow the dishes to dry before putting them away.
One way to stay healthy is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. That’s not always easy to do, especially if you don’t have many groceries stores to choose from. Here are some easy ways to save money on vegetables.
Buy Seasonal Produce
You can get the very best price on vegetables if you buy them when they are in season. Why? It is because that is when a specific fruit or vegetable is the most abundant. The price will go back up when that type of produce goes out of season.
Not sure when certain types of produce are in season? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a Seasonal Produce Guide that clearly shows which produce is in season during the spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Eat Frozen Vegetables
According to Eating Well, frozen vegetables may be even more healthy than the fresh produce you find in grocery stores. Frozen vegetables are processed at peak ripeness, when they are the most nutrient packed.
Another great thing about frozen vegetables is that they last longer than fresh produce. You can buy frozen produce in bulk, which can bring the cost down.
Consider the Dollar Stores
Supermarket News reported that Dollar General is adding extra refrigerated space and a fresh produce section. This could potentially result in other, similar, stores to do the same. Visit the store’s website to find out what produce it offers.
Eat Your Vegetables
The best way to save money on vegetables is to make sure you eat them before they go bad. That money will be wasted if you had to throw the food away.
One way to ensure you eat your vegetables is to make a meal plan that includes them. Another good idea is to think small. How many vegetables can you realistically consume in a week? Buy only what you need.
Gift cards make excellent gifts. You can buy one for a friend or family member who is difficult to buy for. Receiving a gift card means you get to pick out something nice for yourself. Will your gift cards expire before you can use them up?
In 2009, the United States Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. It provides some protection for consumers who use gift cards.
Here is a summary of the CARD Act on the National Conference of State Legislatures website:
“The law provides that gifts cards cannot expire within five years from the date they were activated and generally limits inactivity fee on gift cards except in certain circumstances, such as if there has been no transaction for at least 12 months.”
The following states prohibit expiration dates on gift cards: California, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Rhode Island.
Maine says: “A period of limitation may not be imposed on the owner’s right to redeem the gift obligation or stored-value card.” Montana says: “A gift certificate is valid until redemption and does not terminate.” New Hampshire prohibits an expiration date for gift certificates valued at less than $100.
Oregon limits the situations in which a gift card can have an expiration date to some very specific rules. Washington does not allow expiration dates on gift cards unless no money was paid for the gift card.
All the other states do allow gift cards to expire. You might want to scroll through the CARD Act website to learn the full details about what your state does, and does not, allow.
Some states allow gift cards to expire after a certain amount of years. Others allow expiration dates on gift cards if the card makes the expiration date very obvious. When in doubt – use up the gift card as soon as possible.
The holidays are over and it is time to try and return gifts that are not suitable for you. The process of bringing in a return, and standing in a line, can be unpleasant. Here are some tips for returning gifts that will make things a little bit easier.
What are you allowed to return?
The first thing you need to do is figure out what a store will accept as a return. Some stores only accept items that are damaged or defective. This means you can return a gift that was defective or missing some parts.
Other stores are more open to what kinds of things they will accept as a return. Many stores will allow you to exchange a sweater that was the wrong size for one that fits you. Some stores don’t require people to give their reason for a return – they simply accept all items that they currently sell.
Do you need a receipt?
Some stores will not accept a return unless it comes with a receipt (either a gift receipt or a regular one). Hopefully, your friends and relatives have kindly included a gift receipt with your gift. If not, you may face some difficulty when trying to return that gift.
Where can you return the gift?
In general, if the gift was purchased in a brick-and-mortar store, it is possible that you can return it if you physically bring it to that store. If the gift was purchased online, you might have to send it back to the vendor through the mail. Find out if you have to pay for shipping.
Very few brick-and-mortar stores will accept returns that were purchased from the store’s website. The item might be something that the physical stores do not carry.
How is the money refunded?
The store accepts your return. Where does the refund go? The store might refund the money onto the credit card that the purchase was made with. Or, it could give you a gift card for that amount.
The end of the year is a great time to get your coupons ready for the days ahead. There are certain habits that people who use a lot of coupons utilize in order to get the most from their efforts. Here are some coupons tips for the new year.
Ditch the Expired Coupons
Start by going through all of your paper coupons and getting rid of the ones that have expired. Stores do not take expired coupons, so these are of absolutely no use to you. Toss them into the recycling bin.
Next, go through your coupon apps. Some coupon apps will automatically remove coupons that have expired. Check through the digital coupons that are currently available to you. Take a close look at the expiration date. Delete the ones that have expired.
Organize Your Coupons
The main reason to take the time to organize your paper coupons is so you won’t lose them before you have the opportunity to use them. Some people organize with a three-ring binder that is filled with plastic sheets that were originally designed to hold baseball cards. Extreme couponers tend to use this method of organization.
Other people will use a small, closable, coupon holder to put their coupons in. This works best for people who do not tend to use tons of paper coupons. Toss the coupons into the coupon holder (or a regular envelope). Bring it with you when you go grocery shopping.
Get the Store’s Loyalty Card
If you haven’t done it already, get the loyalty card for the grocery store that you shop at the most often. The loyalty card might connect with the store’s app – which usually will have coupons and special offers.
Check the Coupon Information Center
The Coupon Information Center is the first website you should visit if you saw a coupon online that doesn’t seem right. It keeps an updated list of counterfeit coupons that you should avoid using.
Gap has revealed that it will be closing many of its stores. The reasons is because Gap stores are not as profitable for the company as they had been in the past. Gap’s online business, however, continues to be profitable.
Gap did not specifically say how many stores would close, where those stores are located, or what their timeline is. One way to find out if the Gap near you is closing is to check your local newspaper. A more efficient way is to go online type “Gap closing” and the name of where you live.
If your local Gap has closed, there is another way to continue buying Gap products. Visit the Gap’s website. It appears that the website is making enough money for the company to keep it going. In addition to Gap, the company is also closing Banana Republic stores.
In 2017, approximately 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores were shut down. This year, the company opened up 109 new stores, most of which were Old Navy and Athleta.
CEO Art Peck said “There are hundreds of other stores that likely don’t fit our vision for the future of Gap brand speciality store, whether in terms of profitability, customer experience, traffic trends. The range from the very best to the very worst stores is extremely broad.”
Is the Gap store near you still open? Now is a good time to use up your Gap coupons. This could be the last holiday season that your local Gap store is open, so make sure to pick up some things for family and friends who love Gap products. There is a chance that a closing store will have very good sales.
You might want to hold off on purchasing Gap gift cards this holiday season. Gift cards can sometimes be difficult to use online. The brick-and-mortar Gap store near you could potentially close before that gift card gets used up.
Instacart announced that it is winding down its relationship with Whole Foods Market. This means that people who used Instacart at Whole Foods Markets are going to lose that service soon.
The first phase of Instacart’s transition away from Whole Foods Market has already begun. Instacart is scaling back their in-store shopper operations within Whole Foods locations.
Before this change, Instacart had 1,415 in-store shoppers across 76 Whole Foods locations. Out if this group, 243 Whole Foods locations will lose their Instacart in-store shoppers beginning on February 10, 2019. In the months that follow, Instacart will ramp down all remaining Whole Foods in-store shoppers.
Instacart can save you some time. The first thing you need to do is see if Instacart delivers in your area. Next, see if Instacart is partnered with your favorite grocery store. Those who currently use Instacart at Whole Foods Markets should see if they can find a different store that will continue to partner with Instacart.
Use the Instacart app to make your grocery list and schedule a delivery (or to schedule when you will pick up your groceries at the store). An Instacart personal shopper will do the shopping for you.
ALDI began teaming up with Instacart in November of 2018. There could be an ALDI near you! More than 90 percent of the brands ALDI carries are their own produces and exclusive brands.
ALDI tends to be less expensive than other grocery stores. They charge for grocery bags, so there is a chance that your Instacart order at ALDI will include a charge for the bags your groceries required.
Instacart has also partnered with Publix, Wegmans, HyVee, and ShopRite. Check the Instacart website to find out if there are any partner stores near you. Visit the Instacart Twitter account to see updates about additional grocery stores they have partnered with.
Are you struggling to stay within your holiday budget this year? That’s understandable. Many people end up spending more money during the holidays than they planned to. This problem can be prevented if you plan ahead for next year’s holiday budget.
According to State Farm, consumers spend $1,2226 on their end-of-the-year shopping. In addition, American consumers spend about $289 over the Thanksgiving weekend (which includes Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday).
Begin planning out your holiday budget for next year right now. Figure out how much you spent on gifts, food, and travel. Start putting away money now so you won’t have to go into debt next holiday season. Don’t forget to save a little extra for things like cards and wrapping paper.
Another strategy that can help cut costs next year is to use a prepaid debit card instead of credit cards. State Farm says that 23% of consumers take four to six months to pay of their credit cards after holiday spending.
You can control your spending by limiting yourself to the amount that you put on a prepaid debit card. Doing so forces you to make conscious choices about not only what you buy but also how much you are willing to spend on each item. You are going to have to comparison shop to see who has the best price.
That may sound frustrating, but it is worth it. Plan ahead, and you may be able to avoid using your credit cards. Your new year doesn’t have to start with a massive amount of credit card debt!
State Farm says you should wait 2 days between when you see something online that you want to buy and when you actually buy it. Doing so prevents impulse shopping – which can really get expensive over time. It also gives you time to see if the item is selling for less somewhere else and to really think about the potential purchase.