Can’t Qualify for a Cash-Back Credit Card? Try This Instead

Those cash-back credit cards are wicked cool, aren’t they?

Buy a cartful of groceries; get cash back. Fill up your gas tank; get cash back.

As long as you pay off your balance each month, this is basically free money — especially if you’re just buying stuff you’d need to purchase anyway (like gas or food).

Unfortunately, it can be hard to qualify for these cards. The Credit Card Gods are awfully picky when it comes to handing them out. To get your hands on that sweet, sweet cash-back plastic, you might need a near-flawless credit history. Let’s face it: That’s something many of us don’t have.

We found another option, though.

It’s called the Aspiration Spend and Save Account. This online account comes with a debit card that gets you 0.5% cash back on purchases. It basically turns your debit card into a cash-back card.

An Account We Love as Much as an Everything Bagel

This is actually an all-in-one account that does a bunch of different things. You can pay your bills, build your savings, invest and earn interest — all in one place.

Here’s what Aspiration offers:

  • You get your cash back, obviously. (Bonus!)
  • The debit card comes with no ATM fees, so you can use any ATM you want.
  • It pays up to 2.00% APY on your savings.
  • The company also offers two investment funds for middle-class investors. These require only a $ 100 minimum investment.

Declutter Your Financial Life

Are you a little leery about using an online account? Aspiration makes it super easy.

Its mobile app lets you access the account from anywhere and deposit checks from your phone. It offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursements anywhere in the world.

There’s no monthly fee and no minimum balance. All of Aspiration’s services work on a “pay what is fair” model. You choose your price and pay as a “tip” — up to $ 10 a month and as little as $ 0.

It’s also simple to set up. The whole sign-up process takes about five minutes, and you can open an account with just $ 10.

So go get that cash back!

Get cash back at the grocery store, at the gas station, at the gardening center — heck, wherever you’re spending your hard-earned money.

Tell the Credit Card Overlords to take a hike. You don’t need them or their approval anymore.

Mike Brassfield ( is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He doesn’t qualify for a cash-back credit card — not that he’s bitter about it or anything.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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Dry January: Why I’m Doing It Again — And What to Drink Instead

What to Drink Instead During Dry January

Ladies, are you doing #dryjanuary — or otherwise trying to back away slowly from alcohol? Do you have favorite mocktails to drink instead during Dry January? I did Dry January last year and found it really refreshing because I broke a lot of bad habits, and got a lot of clarity over when I actually want to drink instead of just drinking out of habit or because of social obligation. For example, most Fridays we have a regular dinner with extended family, and I found that that the first martini that my husband and I share is a really big thing for me. It’s an “us” thing (everyone else drinks wine), as well as a celebration of the week being done and the weekend arriving. On the flip side, it’s far too easy to get in the habit of pouring yourself a glass of wine while making dinner… or watching TV… or as just your default order if you’re meeting a friend out and about… and I find that glass of wine is hugely related to habit more than anything. It isn’t a celebration or a treat — it’s a reflex. Last year, Dry January actually extended into February for me because I got strep throat around my birthday at the end of January… and I lost eight pounds really easily, so there’s that. (Full disclosure: I gained all that back — plus most of my old habits or just as negative new ones — by mid-April — but I’m still grateful I did Dry January! I did really try to resist the pull of mid-week drinking without cause all year, though.)

So… what else to drink instead? I thought I’d round up some of my favorites… readers, are you trying to curtail your drinking as a New Year resolution or as part of Dry January? What are your motivating factors? What else do you drink? 

What to Drink Instead During Dry January - infused water

Water or Infused Water

Something I’ve only recently realized is that everyone has the perfect temperature at which they like to drink water, and that it varies pretty widely from person to person. I haaaate lukewarm or room temperature water, but will happily gulp down ice cold water. (But no ice cubes.) In the summer I often freeze a half-filled Nalgene bottle, then add cold water to it to take with me if I’m running errands. I enjoy lemon water water but not so much that it’s worth the extra trouble to me. I once tried to make jalapeno/grapefruit-infused water based on a recipe I saw online, and…. that is too spicy for me. 

What to Drink Instead During Dry January - tea

What to Drink During TV Time Instead of Wine: Tea

I feel like it was just yesterday that I hated tea… but I’ve been into it for a while now. (We had a nice discussion on the best teas a while ago!) Rooibos tea was my gateway, and I started drinking it because it had been recommended as a wine replacement. It is not that — but it has a nice, non-bitey taste to it, and it’s caffeine free so it’s a good option for late afternoons or evenings. If I want a sweet hit at night while watching TV or reading I’ll make myself some fruity herbal tea or chocolate mint tea. This mojito marmalade tea looks all kinds of awesome. Funnily enough, I’ve since acquired a taste for black tea and earl gray tea… but I still find green tea hard to enjoy.

What to Drink Instead During Dry January - seltzer

What to Drink During Meal Prep & Dinner: Seltzer

There are a TON of seltzers out there right now, and I’ve totally become the person who brings a case of Spendrift with me to parties in addition to wine and other nibbles. My favorite is Spindrift, but I’m also a fan of plain seltzer (or seltzer with a splash of juice) from the SodaStream (affiliate link) or LaCroix Cúrate in Cerise Limón.

what to drink instead during dry january - unicorn juice

Celebratory Non-Alcoholic Drinks:  Unicorn Juice

Readers turned me on to this, and it’s kind of fun to offer someone unicorn juice — it’s unflavored seltzer with a teaspoon or so of powdered pink lemonade. Yum!

what to drink instead during dry january - kombucha

What to Drink Instead When You Want Something a Little Zippy: Kombucha

Kombucha feels too expensive (and my fridge is too small) to drink it really regularly, but I like to have half a bottle or so during dinner every so often. (Note that kombucha has some alcohol content, but I believe it’s very small.) 

what to drink instead during dry january - shrubs

What to Drink Instead During Dry January: Fancy DIY Mocktails

If you want to get fancier, you can start making fancier mocktails with bitters. I’ve even heard of people who use gin-making kits to flavor a club soda, or to soak the flavorings in hot water to make a large batch of gin-flavored tea to keep in the fridge, either to mix with tonic water or to use with the Sodastream. The Kitchn has a lot of fancy articles on mocktails, including one on shrubs (which, whoa, look really interesting and now I need to order some). 

what to drink instead during dry january - Seedlip

What to Drink Instead: Non-Alcoholic Versions of Alcoholic Drinks

I’ve heard amazing things about Seedlip Spirits, but have never tried them myself. Non-alcoholic wine is… kind of vinegary, IMHO, but it does exist. When I was pregnant I liked O’Douls non-alcoholic beer because everything else tasted too sweet to me (I am really not a beer drinker otherwise). Here’s a recent roundup from Esquire on non-alcoholic beers, and from The Spirits Business on non-alcoholic spirits. 

Readers, are you doing Dry January? What are your favorite things to drink instead during Dry January? If you’ve done Dry January before (or regularly take time away from alcohol), what have you learned during your dry periods? 



The post Dry January: Why I’m Doing It Again — And What to Drink Instead appeared first on


7 Mistakes to Avoid Now If You Ever Want to Retire (and What to Do Instead)

Picture this: You’ve finally retired, and now you are sailing in the Gulf of Mexico on your boat with your closest friends and loved ones. The water is blue, the breeze tickles your nose with salt and the cool drink in your hand is perfect.

Or maybe your retirement dream is built around a cabin in the mountains, travel to exotic places or just a whole lot of golf. But what if you lose your focus?

We spoke with Mike Windle, a retirement planning specialist at C. Curtis Financial in Plymouth, Michigan, about some common bad moves people make to derail their retirement savings plans.

And, because we don’t want to see you still punching the time clock in your 70s, we’ve added some solutions to help keep your retirement savings growing in a way that will support you after you’ve called it quits.

Bad Move No. 1: Having Too Much Debt

TPH photographer, Tina Russell, in various scenes showing credit card debt, consolidation and bankruptcy on August 14, 2018

It’s hard, if not impossible, to make great strides toward your retirement if you’re paying a small fortune in interest on old debt.

Have you ever considered consolidating that debt? It could substantially lower payments you’re already making and help you save more money each month.

A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.

A good resource is Fiona, a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Its platform can help you borrow up to $ 100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

When you’re not shelling out so much money for high interest debt, you have a little more that you can put toward the future.

Bad Move No. 2: Not Starting While You’re Young

According to Windle, this is the No. 1 issue when it comes to bungling retirement plans. It’s best to start young, and it can be very difficult to make up the difference if you start later on.

“For every year sooner that you start, on average, you’re able to cut potentially two to three years off of how long you have to work,” he says.

However, when you’re young, it seems like you never have enough money left over after you pay bills. If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.

You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $ 10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you. It doesn’t offer all the benefits of a retirement account, but if you need a little help, it can at least get you started.

The app is $ 1 a month for balances under $ 1 million, and you’ll get a $ 5 bonus when you sign up.  

When it comes to long-term investing, starting young is rule No. 1. Even if all you can do is a little, it can make a big difference down the road.

Bad Move No. 3: Ignoring High Fees on Your Retirement Accounts

If you’re saving for retirement with a 401(k), awesome.

But when’s the last time you truly checked in on your account, adjusted your allocations, addressed any fees and all that other fun stuff?

Try using a robo-adviser to make sure your 401(k) is on track with your retirement goals. Blooom is an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that’ll optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

Your initial account checkup is free, and you can do it online in less than five minutes. This will help you get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many investment fees or if you have the appropriate amount of money invested in stocks versus bonds.

If you’re satisfied with the outcome of your initial check up, great! If not, you can enroll in Blooom for $ 10 a month (Penny Hoarders get one month free with the code PNNYHRD). It’ll automatically adjust your 401(k) to best fit your needs all the way up to retirement.

Bad Move No. 4: Stashing Money in a Low-Interest Savings Account

Business Man Stock, shot in Atlanta, GA, on November 25, 2018.

OK, maybe you don’t want to risk everything on investments. That’s OK, but if you want a simple savings account for some of your retirement savings, at least make sure you’re earning better-than-average interest on that money.

An iOS app called Varo Money combines traditional banking tools with modern technology to help its customers become financially healthy.

Here’s the best part: Pair your Bank Account with a Varo Savings Account where you’ll earn 1.75% Annual Percentage Yield. That’s nearly 30 times — repeat, 30 times — the average savings account, based on a 0.06% average reported by CNN Money.

Varo goes easy on the fees, too. As long as you use one of its 55,000 ATMs across the world, you’ll never pay fees.

Additionally, you’ll pay no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, no foreign transaction fees and no cash replacement fees. You’ll just pay any fees charged by out-of-network ATMs and cash deposit fees if you deposit cash in-store through Green Dot.

Bad Move No. 5: Taking Money out of Your 401(k) Early

Just when your retirement savings are doing well, your car breaks down. Or you have medical bills that pile up. When things get tough and you need money, that stash you have sitting in your 401(k) can start to look pretty tempting.

There are better ways to fight through a tight spot than to sacrifice your future. Try getting a low-interest loan instead.

“Any low interest is better than draining money out of your 401(k),” says Windle. “If you take it out, you get a 10% penalty, most likely. For the vast majority of America, most of their retirement is in a 401(k), so if you start to deplete that and pull out $ 10,000, $ 20,000, $ 30,000, you could be taking two to three years [of savings] off and adding four to six years on the back end.”

If you need a personal loan quickly, look into the online lending platform Upstart, which can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.

Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness.

It can help you borrow up to $ 50,000, potentially with better terms (e.g. lower interest or lower monthly payments) than traditional lenders. If managing many different bills and credit lines is a hassle, you can also use an Upstart loan to streamline all of your loans into one.

Windle says there’s another option, as well. “A lot of times, 401(k)s will offer loans. Technically your money is still in there, so it’s still growing, but you end up paying yourself back.”

Bad Move No. 6: Not Contributing the Right Amount to Your 401(k)

If you think you’re on top of your game because you’re tucking away 2% of every paycheck and you’re still young, think again.

If your employer offers a 401(k) program, there’s also a good chance it offers a match. Typically you’ll see companies match your 401(k) contributions up to about 3 or 4 % —  some are even higher. That doubles the money you’re saving. Then, when interest kicks in, you really get a boost.

So how much of your paycheck should go to your 401(k)? You might be surprised at the answer.

“The best strategy, this was against the grain, but really you only want to put in the match,” says Windle. “By putting more into your 401(k), all you are doing is creating taxable income down the road.”

If that’s the case, how do you save more than just what your employer matches?

“If your work offers a Roth option, that’s where you want to put the most you can,” he says. “Anything above the match, you definitely want to go into Roth.”

A Roth IRA or 401(k) account is an account that uses after-tax money. That means you’ll pay taxes now, but it’ll earn interest tax-free, and you won’t pay taxes when you withdraw it.

Then reconsider your contributions when you get a bump in pay.

“As you get raises, take a portion of that raise, and put it toward your retirement,” says Windle. “Typically what I recommend is at a minimum, take 10 to 20% of that raise and add to whatever you’re doing for retirement savings.”

It won’t be long before you’ll love checking in on your retirement accounts and seeing how much they have grown.

Bad Move No. 7: Not Budgeting

Budgeting with cash in envelopes.

Budgeting is like going to the dentist. No one really wants to do it, but if you do, it makes life much, much better.

You don’t have to go right for a root canal. Ease into it. To simplify the process, try using the 50/20/30 budget plan: 50% of your money goes toward essential living expenses; 20% goes toward hitting your financial goals (can you say retirement savings?); and 30% is designated for personal spending.

You’ll want to map out your current spending. Rather than combing through your monthly statements and inputting numbers into an Excel sheet, use the automated spend tracker in the Empower app, which helps you organize and track your financial goals.

Simply link your various accounts, and you can review your spending and make adjustments as needed to stay on the right track.

“Write down a budget that shows what you’re spending your money on,” says Windle. “It opens people’s eyes to where their money goes. Circle four to five things you can do without, and see how much you have.”

Don’t Panic, but Don’t Procrastinate

Saving for retirement shouldn’t be a tremendous burden on your life now. That being said, you can’t wait until that magical day when you have plenty of expendable income to shuffle toward retirement savings, either.

Why? Because that day never really comes for most of us.

“It’s human nature,” says Windle. “As you have more disposable income, you’ll get more bills and spend more money. It’s always good to take what excess you have and start saving.”

Set a plan, get started as early as you can and then follow these basic tips to keep from derailing your retirement. You want to make those golden years really shine.  

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.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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Skip the Hand Turkeys — Here Are 4 Crafts to Make With the Kids Instead

Stuck between Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to getting creative and crafty.

Sure, there are the handprint turkeys your kid will bring home from school year after year, but we can do better than that.

After all, the little ones will need a fun, constructive outlet to keep them occupied while you’re busy preparing dinner. These four Thanksgiving crafts use inexpensive items you’re likely to have at home already.

1. Mini Salt Dough Cornucopia

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

The cornucopia is a popular Thanksgiving symbol. Usually the “horn of plenty” is filled with fruits and vegetables of the harvest. You can line the inside of this mini version with a little wax paper and fill it with M&Ms or candy corn instead.

What you’ll need:

  • One cup flour
  • ¼ cup salt
  • ½ cup warm water
  • Foil
  • Brown acrylic paint
  • Paint brush

How to create this craft:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. Use foil to create a solid cone about 4 inches tall and about 2½ inches in diameter. Set aside.
  1. To create your salt dough, first mix the flour and salt together. Add the water in slowly, kneading the dough with your hands. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it’s too dry, add more water.
  1. On a floured flat surface, roll out your ball of dough into a circle about ¼ inch thick. It should be roughly 8 inches in diameter.
  1. Drape the flattened dough onto your foil cone (pointed end up). Shape the dough around the cone, removing extra dough. Use a pinch of the extra dough and add it to the pointed end of the cone, creating a curved hook.
  1. Place on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for an hour. Your dough should be hardened and dry.
  1. Once it has cooled, remove the foil from the center of your mini cornucopia. Paint and then let dry.

2. Tissue Paper Harvest Corn

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Corn is noted as likely being among the food eaten at the first Thanksgiving. This simple craft is fun and easy to make.

What you’ll need:

  • Brown construction paper
  • Yellow, orange and red tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue

How to create this craft:

  1. Using the brown construction paper, cut out one large oval and two medium-size ovals.
  1. Glue the medium-size ovals to the bottom end of the large oval on diagonal angles to create an ear of corn with the husks peeling off.
  1. Crumple up small pieces of tissue paper to make the corn kernels. The number you’ll need will depend on the size of your large oval. You can place the “kernels” on top to gauge whether you have enough to fill it out.
  1. Once you have enough crumpled tissue paper, glue them to the large oval to create your harvest corn. Let it dry.

3. Sponge-Painted “THANKFUL” Sign

sponge painted "thankful" sign
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

This holiday is all about giving thanks. Say it with a burst of fall colors.

You can customize this craft by using different words, such as “thanks,” “Thanksgiving” or “love.”

What you’ll need:

  • White or light-colored construction paper
  • Paint in fall colors
  • Colored pencil
  • Sponge
  • Scissors
  • Tape

How to create this craft:

  1. On a piece of construction paper, write out the word “THANKFUL” in big block letters, all caps. The bigger, the better. You can use stencils here if you’re not comfortable free-handing it.
  1. Carefully cut out the inside of each letter, creating your own custom stencil of the entire word.
  1. Tape the THANKFUL stencil to another sheet of construction paper.
  1. Cut off a small piece of sponge, dip it in a fall color of your choice and blot over the stencil.
  1.  Repeat step 4 using a variety of fall colors until the void created by the stencil is well concentrated with paint.
  1.  Let dry and remove the stencil.
  1. If desired, you can use a colored pencil to refine the words and make them more readable.

4. Thankful Turkey

thankful turkey craft
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Yes, I know we said we were going to move away from the old turkey craft, but this is an upgraded version. Plus you can use this as an opportunity for your kids to express what they’re grateful for this year.

What you’ll need:Construction paper in brown, yellow, orange and red

  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black marker or colored pencil

How to create this craft:
Using the brown construction paper, cut out an oval, about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide. This will be the body of the turkey. Make a horizontal cut at the very bottom to create a flat end.

  1. Cut out a yellow triangle for a beak and a red heart for the piece of flesh that dangles from the beak. (It’s called a snood, by the way.)
  1. Glue the beak and snood (just turn the heart upside down and voila!) onto the brown turkey body and draw in two eyes. Glue the turkey body to the bottom a piece of white construction paper, but don’t put any adhesive on the edges of the turkey. Set aside.
  1. Cut the yellow, orange and red paper into nine 1-inch-wide strips (three strips for each color) about 8 inches long.
  1. Have your kids write one thing they’re thankful for on each strip. Only write on one half of the strip. Alternate between writing from the edge going toward the center of the strip and then writing from the center going toward the edge.
  1. Glue the ends of each strip together without creating a crease to create the turkey’s plumage feathers. Make sure the words are showing on the outside.
  1. Stick the feathers into the outer edges of the turkey body, making sure the words can be read. Glue the edges of the turkey down after you tuck in each strip.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She enjoys writing about parenting and money. She aspires to be one of those Pinterest moms. (It’s a work in progress.)

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

The Penny Hoarder


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Add wireless charging to your old iPhone for $17 instead of spending $1,000 on an iPhone XS

Wireless Charging Case For iPhone 7 Plus

Apple’s iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR all support wireless charging. It seems like it might not be a big deal but believe us when we tell you that it makes your life so much easier. Of course, you don’t need to upgrade to a $ 1,000 iPhone if your current model doesn’t support wireless charging. Just pick up an Antye Wireless Charging Receiver Case on Amazon for $ 16 or $ 17 depending on which iPhone model you have, and enjoy wireless charging with any charging pad out there.

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Here’s more info from the Amazon page:

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  • 【What You Get】1 × ANTYE Qi Wireless Receiver Case, 100% No-hassle 12-month REPLACEMENT warranty and friendly customer service

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Add wireless charging to your old iPhone for $ 17 instead of spending $ 1,000 on an iPhone XS originally appeared on on Fri, 2 Nov 2018 at 08:58:10 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.



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