How humor saved Arby’s and propelled it to the forefront of pop culture

Arby's Paul Brown doesn't believe a "corporate-ish" approach is always best. Case in point: When Jon Stewart made offensive jokes about the sandwich chain on the "Daily Show," Arby's shot back with humor and turned the "ribbing' into an opportunity.
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Behind the scenes: How four veteran lawmakers saved the budget deal and avoided a second shutdown

Richard Shelby needed a drink. As the top Republican negotiator in Congress, the powerful Appropriations Committee chairman had spent the past few days hammering out the contours of a bipartisan spending bill to avert a second government shutdown.


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How This Couple Paid Off Debt and Saved $10K After Hitting Rock Bottom

In 2013, the apartment Tyler Philbrook shared with his wife, Ashley, started to flood from the vacant unit upstairs.

He called his landlord, who told him to rent the equipment to fix it and take it off the next month’s rent. The cost was $ 50, and he didn’t have it.

Their credit cards were maxed out. He didn’t have $ 50 in the bank to stop the flooding.

Standing in Home Depot with only minutes before closing, he called family and friends and begged them for money to stop his possessions from being destroyed.

“My dad came through and paid with a Home Depot credit card, which was the only kind of credit card they would take over the phone,” he said.

Fast forward to the end of 2018: Tyler and Ashley have paid off $ 6,000 of the $ 25,000-plus they had in credit card and student loan debt, and put away over $ 10,000 in savings.

But those financial accomplishments didn’t happen immediately. It took another financial rock bottom for the couple to finally start working together to solve their spending problem.

Why They Got Into Debt

A man works at his computer and wears headphones.

Tyler, an advertising manager, and Ashley, a restaurant server, married in February 2012. A short time later, Ashley became unemployed for a month.

“We started putting a bunch of things on credit cards then, [but] that wasn’t the problem,” Tyler said.” “The problem was then we’d get used to putting things on the credit card. And so it kind of built these bad habits.”

They refinanced their debt in 2015, but they didn’t change their habits. They ended up with even more debt.

Tyler watched as they slipped deeper and deeper into their financial mess. He tried to budget, but Ashley didn’t share his concern about their personal finances.

“I thought [he was] trying to be controlling over me and the money I spend,” she said.

The tension reached a head at the end of 2017. That’s when Tyler put Ashley in charge of the finances.

At first, she was against it. But when she realized she could finally spend without recourse, she embraced it. And at the end of the month, there was no money left for rent.

Unbeknownst to her, Tyler had set aside about two to three months of expenses in an account he didn’t tell Ashley about. So when Ashley asked for help, he was able to pull from that account to pay their bills.

The next month, she shopped more, and again, they didn’t have enough for rent. But this time, she came to Tyler and confessed there was a problem. For the first time, she was on board with fixing it.

“Those two months were very expensive months for me,” Tyler said. “It wasn’t like I wasn’t looking at the finances. I was seeing it, [and] I was cringing the whole time.”

It was a rough time for Ashley, too. She realized she’d been blocking out the effect her spending had. Being confronted with it was humbling. “I didn’t like being wrong,” she said.

But those costly two months were worth it. For the first time in their marriage, they were on the same page about finances.

So, Where Was Their Money Going?

A man and woman put chia pets in a box.

The couple brings in around $ 60,000 combined, so they don’t have a lot of disposable income every month.

Tyler thought they stuck to a budget pretty well and that they weren’t making expensive purchases. But still, they somehow found themselves living paycheck to paycheck.

To find more money to pay off their debt, they first needed to understand where their money was going.

Tyler created an Excel spreadsheet. After tracking all their individual purchases on the spreadsheet, he learned a hard lesson: “We were spending way more on things that we didn’t realize,” he said.

The $ 200 monthly grocery budget they thought they stuck to? It was closer to $ 800, because they weren’t tracking the extra trips to pick up random items. Plus, they were spending way more on eating out than they thought.

Tyler and Ashley got a budgeting journal to help them stay on top of their daily transactions. It helped them identify where they were overspending.

The journal has drastically cut how much they spend, especially on eating out.

Now, because Tyler loves the show “Chopped,” Ashley will often pull items out of the pantry and challenge him to make dinner with them. “[It’s] been really great, because she usually picks stuff that we’ve been avoiding making something with,” he said.

Making lunch at home has saved them a lot, too. They still go out occasionally or fall back on ordering a pizza on busy nights. But because they have a budget, they can see as soon as those indulgences get out of hand.

How They’re Keeping Their Spending in Check

A woman swings on a swings and her husband stands next to her

Ashley is still in charge of paying the bills.

She even did a saving challenge in 2018 to contribute to their debt payoff. She saved almost $ 1,400 over 52 weeks.

“Going from someone who’s overspending by $ 1,400 a month to saving and then, you know, paying off debt in one big chunk… that was huge,” Tyler said.

With their spending in check, they’re making headway on paying off debt.

They refinanced their debt again, though they hesitated at first. But once they knew they’d both changed their habits, they did so using their car as collateral. They were able to consolidate $ 25,000 of credit card debt — some of which had a 23% interest rate — down to 4% interest.

They now have less than $ 16,000 left on their consolidation loan and $ 3,400 left on Ashley’s student loans. Tyler now documents their debt-free journey on his blog, I Am the Future Me.

Their goal is to be debt-free by the end of 2019 so they can volunteer overseas full time in 2020. And at this rate, they’ll be able to afford it — by working together.

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She and her husband paid off $ 78,000 of debt in less than two years on two less-than-average salaries. She gives money-saving and debt-payoff tips on Instagram at @modernfrugality.

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.

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10 Unique Ways Homeowners Saved to Buy a House

Tired of rising rent prices? Looking for a place to really call home? The lack of quality affordable housing can make the dream of homeownership seem unreachable. It doesn’t have to be this way! Take heart from these 10 hopeful stories, along with some practical tips and insights for making the dream a reality.
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How This Woman Cut Her Mortgage Payment in Half and Saved $525/Month

In 2005, Melinda Smieja was spiraling into credit card debt. With a 13-year-old daughter undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, an 8-year-old daughter at home and her only income from disability, she relied on plastic to cover everyday costs.

“I used [a credit card] for dinners; I used it for food,” she says. “For a place to stay. It got to the point where all of my credit cards were maxed out.”

By the time she thought to check, her credit score had plummeted to 480, and she had somewhere between $ 20,000 and $ 40,000 in debt on 11 credit cards.

Though she was living much of the time in Seattle to be near her daughter in treatment, Smieja still paid $ 1,200 a month — including 6.5% interest — toward a mortgage on her Seabeck, Washington, home.

“I knew that if I could get it [the interest rate] down, then that would help me out,” she says.

When she was denied twice for refinancing because of poor credit, it really struck her how much of a hole she was in.

How She Cut Her Mortgage Payment in Half

Smieja finally realized, “I knew that I could only go for so long the way that I was going. I was going to crash and burn.”

Nearing 40 in 2010, she knew it was time to grow up and get a handle on her finances. But she had no idea how to do it.

“I was struggling. It was stressful,” she says. “I would cry every night, because I didn’t know how I was gonna pay these bills.”

Then an email campaign led her to Credit Sesame, a company offering an easier way to monitor your credit history and see how to improve your credit.

Most consumers like Smieja won’t put in the work to request a free credit report from the major bureaus, she pointed out, even though we’re entitled to them every 12 months. It seems like a hassle, so most of us steer clear.

Smieja signed up with Credit Sesame to receive her free “credit report card,” which revealed her credit score, along with everything that went into it. She could see exactly what was hurting her score — and keeping her interest rates high — and how to fix it.

Slowly but surely, she used her credit report card and suggestions from Credit Sesame to pay down her credit card debt. In 2015, her credit score hit 680 — up 200 points and, for the first time, crossing the line of what lenders consider “good credit.”

She applied again to refinance her mortgage, this time with a company Credit Sesame recommended and was finally approved, more than a decade after her first attempt. With the interest rate reduced to 4.1%, her monthly payment dropped to $ 675.

With so much of her monthly budget freed up, she was able to pay off credit cards faster and apply for new ones with better interest rates. That way she could keep her credit limit up but her balance low — maintaining a healthy credit utilization, great for your credit score.

And, she told us, “It’s so much easier. Oh, my God the stress. It was so nice to have that stress gone.”

Dana Sitar is a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.

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.

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Killing Snoke Saved Star Wars

Snoke ranks #4 on our list of the 100 most popular villains of 2018 (check it out here).

The Force Awakens presented an interesting challenge for Disney. When Star Wars first came out, no one knew a thing about it, so information was taken at face value, without question. Luke is a farm boy with space wizard blood in his veins. Darth Vader is an evil emissary of an evil Emperor, who is so evil he recently dissolved the Galactic Senate. They have a Death Star, which is very scary, and very evil.

At no point did we ever hit pause and say, “Wait, but WHO is the Emperor? What’s his deal? What other characters is he connected to and why?” We just nodded, accepted that there was an Emperor, and that he was evil, and moved along with the story unfolding in front of us.

What If The Force Awakens Was the First Film?

Imagine if The Force Awakens had been the very first Star Wars movie. We’d nod along as a hotshot pilot searches for a map to an old war hero (General Kenobi, you’re my only hope) only to be pursued by the evil Kylo Ren, an evil emissary of the evil Supreme Leader Snoke, commander of the First Order (and #4 on our list of the 100 most popular villains of 2018). They have a Starkiller, which is very scary, and very evil.


Starkiller Base Star Wars
This is some grade-A evil stuff.

Who is that old war hero? He’s just a war hero. Who is Kylo Ren? He’s the evil son of two other war heroes and works for Snoke. Who is Snoke? He’s in charge of the bad guys. We nod, accept, and move along.

Eventually, books and toys would come out to fill in the blanks as we waited for the second film to hit theatres. We would consume it with a frenzied passion, but we wouldn’t pick it apart or look at it with skepticism. We’d accept this wonderful new information at face value. “That guy’s name is Bossk? Cool!” We’d ask “what else?” instead of saying “yeah, but uh.”

Skipping to the Third Act

However, The Force Awakens was not the first Star Wars film. Worse: It was the first after years and years of lore building and world construction. The who, what, where, why, and how of Star Wars wasn’t just in place — it was an indestructible death machine capable of destroying planets. Awakens was the first Star Wars thing to give us new information without the safety net of established lore. There was no trilogy of books to read to make sure something checked out. Even Wookieepedia was helpless in the face of the Dark Side of New Information.

To make things more challenging, it was, in a lot of ways, the third act of a story we didn’t get a second act of. We saw the first act: the rise of Luke, Han, and Leia and the fall of the Empire in the original trilogy. But we didn’t get a second act trilogy about their adventures protecting their New Republic, or any seeds of the First Order rising to oppose it. We were dropped directly into their final days as heroes, a new generation, and the fully realized threat of Snoke. Obsessed and driven as we are by needing to know the information about Star Wars, that was a tough pill to swallow. So needing to know, we took to the lore and made our own guesses. Forget the story unfolding — we need to know.

And it is through that lens that I like to examine Supreme Leader Snoke, an Emperor that exists on two timelines at once: his timeline as a character being introduced to Star Wars fans and the timeline of his character’s actual arc.

It’s All for You, Kylo Ren


Supreme Leader Snoke Star Wars Episode IX
Snoke’s story is not uncommon in literature.

The arc of Snoke’s character is simple enough: From the Unknown Regions, this cruel Force user assembled the elements of what would become the First Order, a war machine that would dwarf even the military resources of the Clone War era. He took Luke Skywalker’s prize student and twisted him in the dark side. Always a master, always an apprentice. In the moment of Snoke’s greatest triumph, his apprentice betrayed him, murdered him, and took his place.

We’ve seen this story play out countless times in literature and pop culture, but what gives it a new spin in Force Awakens and Last Jedi is the moment we’re brought into it. We’re only given the end. Could we have had a “second act” trilogy covering the origin of Snoke? Probably. Would it have been about as rewarding as the origin of Palpatine in the prequel trilogy? Probably. Instead, the fat is removed and we’re given the story beat about Snoke that truly matters: the rise of Kylo Ren.


Kylo Ren Star Wars
The rise of Kylo Ren was inevitable and necessary.

After all, even Palpatine is simply a means to an end. He’s a lightning-shooting Faceless Evil. It’s why he’s usually just called “The Emperor.” That’s all he needs to be: a lightning rod of fear for the galaxy, and ultimately a guy to be tossed into a pit when Darth Vader needs to be redeemed. Sometimes we just need to get to the fireworks factory, and Palpatine manipulating Naboo into a land war isn’t the factory — getting tossed in a hole by Vader is the fireworks factory.

Let’s Play a Game — With the Audience

In The Last Jedi, it’s revealed to the audience that they’re watching the end of Snoke’s story. The fireworks factory. His end is a means to Kylo Ren’s beginning. A lot of words have been written for and against director Rian Johnson’s “subversion of expectations.” But in this case, the reveal that we’re at the end of Snoke’s story — not the beginning — is less of a subversion and more of a meta kind of twist — a game with the audience.


Kylo Ren standing triumphant with lightsaber
Snoke's end shifts our focus to Kylo Ren and the future of the franchise.

How do you make an audience raised on knowing all of the lore actively watch a new story play out and engage with it instead of just playing “Star Wars Expectations” bingo? A simple shake-up of Joseph Campbell storytelling theory and trilogy structure — killing the Emperor ahead of our expected schedule — takes us out of our dependency on the past and forces us to actively watch the future play out.

“Kill it, if you have to,” Kylo says. And so he does. Killing Snoke cements that Kylo Ren has his own destiny to follow. It forces us to realize that for better or worse, we are watching something wholly new that isn’t concerned with the things we knew. It challenges our ability to absorb something new that doesn’t match our expectations and asks us to make ourselves comfortable with the idea that everything we tried to guess about Snoke was meaningless.

All of that in one stroke of a lightsaber.

The Supreme Leader is dead. Long live the Supreme Leader.

The Psychology of Emperor Palpatine

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Lance Armstrong's early investment of $ 100,000 in Uber has multiplied in value. Armstrong tells CNBC the investment has "saved" his family after being forced to pay millions in settlements over his doping as an elite cyclist.
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Tina Turner reveals how she planned for assisted suicide after cancer diagnosis but was saved by her husband’s kidney

TINA TURNER has revealed she was so ill she considered assisted suicide — until her husband saved her life by donating his kidney.

The soul icon fell in love with music producer Erwin Bach, 16 years her junior, in 1985 after suffering years of ill-treatment at the hands of ex-lover Ike.

Tina Turner reveals how she found happiness in her new auto-biography My Love Story
Tina Turner reveals how she found happiness in her new auto-biography My Love Story
Getty – Contributor

Tying the knot 28 years later, the singer says their 2013 wedding was one of the happiest days of her life.

But, in her new autobiography — My Love Story, out later this month — Tina, 78, revealed how she started feeling faint during that day as the party gathered for photos.

It was the first sign of an impending stroke.

Just three months later, she woke up and felt a lightning bolt in her head and right leg.

Tina was married to Ike Turner, suffering domestic abuse and reveals she was beaten on the head by a wooden spoon
Tina was married to Ike Turner, suffering domestic abuse and reveals she was beaten on the head by a wooden spoon
1964 GAB Archive

Tina said: “I tried to speak but I couldn’t get any words out.

I was having a stroke.”

It left Tina unable to walk or use her right arm.

And, to add to her troubles, doctors also found she had high blood pressure which left her kidneys working at just 35 per cent of their normal function.

Yet Tina now admits she “foolishly” scuppered her treatment by ditching her medication and instead turned to homeopathy — a decision which almost cost her her life.

Her homeopath had claimed toxins in the water near her Château Algonquin home in Switzerland were damaging her body, so she set about replacing the water pipes and having the water purified by crystals.

‘I was overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer’

But the blunder sapped her strength, leaving her unable to walk from room-to-room.

Another shock diagnosis, early stage intestinal cancer, led to part of her intestine being removed.

By 2016, Tina’s kidney function was down to 20 per cent, leaving her unable to eat.

Tina admits at one point she thought of assisted suicide — legal in Switzerland — and signed up to be a member of Exit, “just in case”.

Ms Turner here poses with her late son Craig who took his own life
Ms Turner here poses with her late son Craig who took his own life
Facebook

She said: “I think that’s when the idea of my death became a reality for Erwin.

He was very emotional about not wanting to lose me, not wanting me to leave.

“He said he didn’t want another woman, or another life; we were happy and he’d do anything to keep us together.

Then he shocked me.

Erwin Bach and Tina married in 2013 after Mr. Bach proposed three times
Erwin Bach and Tina married in 2013 after Mr. Bach proposed three times
Getty – Contributor

“He said he wanted to give me one of his kidneys.

“I was overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer.”

Tina, who has notched up 200million in record sales, is no stranger to struggle.

Hers has been an extraordinary journey, from being an unwanted child picking cotton in the tiny ­segregated backwater of Nutbush, Tennessee, to years of being too afraid to leave her abusive first husband Ike.

When Tina went on stage the first time with Ike she thought he was 'real ugly'
When Tina went on stage the first time with Ike she thought he was ‘real ugly’
Getty – Contributor

She once said: “My struggle started inside my mother’s womb.

I suffered all the way from childhood right up until the end of Ike.

“What kept me on course was me, it was something I was born with.”

In July this year, that strength was tested again.

After she left Ike her career stalled buy then the album Private Dance launched her into the mainstream
After she left Ike her career stalled buy then the album Private Dance launched her into the mainstream
not known check with features

As the chart queen posed for photographers on the red carpet outside a fashion show in Paris, her eldest son Craig, 59, was in Los Angeles, about to turn a gun on himself.

Eight days later, Tina posted a picture of herself scattering her boy’s ashes off the coast of California, accompanied by the words: “My saddest moment as a mother.”

Tina, who was born Anna Mae Bullock, was just 18 years old when she gave birth to Craig in 1958.

She was determined to be a good mother, having been deserted by her own mum Zelma at ten.

Her father left three years later.

Tina performed with Mick Jagger in Live aid to sold out crowds in 1985
Tina performed with Mick Jagger in Live aid to sold out crowds in 1985
Rex Features

The baby’s father was the ­saxophonist in a band she became obsessed with after moving to St Louis, Missouri.

Its frontman was Ike Turner.

One night when she was in the audience, he invited her on stage and, wowed by her voice, later asked her to tour with them.

There was no romantic attraction initially.

Tina has performed at the Grammy's a number of times including sharing the stage with Beyonce in 2008
Tina has performed at the Grammy’s a number of times including sharing the stage with Beyonce in 2008
AP:Associated Press

It was only when she was trying to escape the advances of another musician she found herself in Ike’s bed — even though she knew then: “He wasn’t right for me”. ­

In 1960, the pair had son Ronnie.

Two years later they wed.

In 1966, they hit the big time with single River Deep Mountain High, which hit No3 in the UK.

Ms Turner's singing career began with Ike but after leaving him she became a household name
Ms Turner’s singing career began with Ike but after leaving him she became a household name
AP:Associated Press

More hits followed, along with the first of Tina’s eight Grammy awards.

But at home, she was nothing but a punchbag for cocaine addict Ike.

Describing the first beating at his hands, she recalled: “It was against the head, always against the head.”

But it was not until July 1976 that she finally fled with just 36 cents in her pocket.

Tina performed with Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Tina performed with Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Corbis – Getty

For a few years, her career stalled — but then in 1984 came her solo album Private Dancer.

The album sold 20million copies and gave her her first US No1 ­single with What’s Love Got To Do With It.

In 1985 she starred in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with Mel Gibson — the same year she met German-born record executive Erwin, after he picked her up at an airport.

Tina recalled: “My heart was going da-dum.


I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is love at first sight.’”

They have been together since. The secret, according to Tina, is simple. She noted a few years ago: “What’s love got to do with it? A lot!”

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