All posts by Hero

About Hero

I launched FinanceSuperhero in April 2016 to help others save money, get out of debt, earn more money, and live the best life possible. Send me an e-mail or a comment if I can help you in your journey. Thanks for reading!

April 2017 Blog Income Report: How I Made $1,070.40 Blogging

Welcome to the FinanceSuperhero April 2017 Blog Income Report. In this post, I will be outlining exactly how I made money on my blog last month.

If you’re new to FinanceSuperhero, you may not realize this is the first income report I’ve ever published. And if you’re new to bloggers income reports in general, you may be scratching your head and wondering, “Is this really a thing?!”

How do bloggers earn an income? In this report, I'll show you exactly how I made $1,070.40 in one month as a part-time blogger. I'll also share strategies I used to boost my blog traffic, increase my affiliate income, and add new subscribers to my email list.Ever since I started earning money through my blog – a few cents and dollars here and there – I have had an ongoing internal debate with myself about whether or not I should post income reports. That’s one reason that this post was so hard for me to write!

On one hand, I’ve always felt that some (not all) income reports read a little bit like bragging (it is my sincere hope that nothing in this post will come across that way). But on the other hand, I’ve always admired the honest transparency of bloggers who post income reports and detail exactly what is working for them.

From reading others’ income reports, I have learned a lot about the ins-and-outs of how to blog for profit while still staying true to my beliefs and values as a blogger. After much reflection over the past several weeks, I decided in the middle of last month that it was time to pay it forward, so to speak, and share how I am earning money through my blog.

Moving forward, I plan to publish a monthly income report every month. To anyone wondering, “Why on Earth would anyone want to share their income publicly for all the world to see?“, I have 2 main reasons:

  1. First, my long-term goal is to begin earning enough money through FinanceSuperhero.com to replace my current teacher salary (and my wife’s salary, as well, not too long after). Just over a year ago, I had no idea that blogging could provide a viable living. Others’ income reports helped me see that it was possible. I hope that my reports will help others see the truth about blogging, as well.
  2. Second, I believe very strongly in the power of goals and accountability. These reports will be a very public way to hold myself accountable for working to grow and build my business. To be honest, it is scary and intimidating to be accountable to thousands of readers and blogger friends, but I know it will be good for me.

At this stage, I know I’m just reaching the tip of the iceberg as a blogger. Plenty of bloggers, even dozens in the personal finance niche, dwarf my monthly earnings every single day. This blog is still a small fish in a mighty large pond.

But to look up after one year of blogging and find that I am earning money is honestly exciting. I’m in no way special or unique, except perhaps for the fact that I didn’t give up during the tough times. I genuinely believe virtually anyone can start a money making blog with the right combination of passion, patience, and perseverance.

Related: How to Build a Blog and Get Noticed – a Comprehensive Guide

If you’ve been pondering making the leap yourself, please let me encourage you: now is the time to start your blog! As a FinanceSuperhero reader, you can start your blog with Bluehost for only $3.95 per month and receive a FREE domain for one full year (a $15 value). If you follow my step-by-step guide, you can have your new blog up and running in a matter of minutes. Once your blog is active, I’ll even walk you through the most important steps to take to write content that will get noticed and shared regularly!

Click here to start your blog now!

How I Earned $1,070.40 Blogging Last Month

Each monthly income report on this blog will track all blog income on an accrual basis (i.e. income will be accounted for when it is earned, not necessarily when payment is received).

On to the details!

Monthly Page Views

April was the highest traffic month on FinanceSuperhero to date. As you can see in the graph from Google Analytics below, the blog received 51,208 unique page views for the month:

I have long maintained the opinion that page views can be a vanity metric, but I honestly value every reader who takes the time to visit FinanceSuperhero and spends a few minutes reading an article or two.

I attribute this growth in traffic to Pinterest. If you’re a blogger who is serious about growing your reach, you need to develop a Pinterest strategy NOW. My biggest regret as a blogger is that I ignored Pinterest for nearly my entire first year.

The secret to my Pinterest traffic is two-fold: joining high performing group boards and regularly pinning content to them using Board Booster. Thanks to Board Booster, I spend only a few minutes per day on Pinterest, yet my content is still seen by thousands of people each day. If you’re looking for a good tutorial or guide to getting started with Board Booster and Pinterest, I recommend checking out the video below from Rosemarie Groner, the mastermind behind The Busy Budgeter.

Board Booster Tutorial – Setting Up Your Group Boards

If you’re interested in taking your Pinterest game to the next level, Board Booster is a serious game-changer. If you sign-up using my link, you’ll get a $15 credit (and so will I!). If you have any questions on my strategy or how to use Pinterest or Board Booster, send me an email – I’d be happy to help you!

Subscribers

One of the biggest victories of last month, aside from earning extra money, was the growth of my subscriber list. Prior to April 1, I really didn’t pay much attention to my subscribers or put effort into reaching new subscribers.

During the month of April, I launched two campaigns to help readers Take Back Control of Life and Money. The first is a FREE guide titled “5 Keys to Taking Back Control of Your Life and Money.” The second is a FREE 10 page guide to improving your budget titled “The Money Values Toolkit.”

I use MailChimp and the FREE MailMunch plugin to offer these resources to readers. (You can receive one or both in your email inbox by filling out the forms above and below.)

All told, these two new free resources helped me connect with nearly 550 new subscribers to the blog in April. I plan to continue A/B testing these offers and may roll out a new offer sometime in May or early June based on the results.

Income Breakdown

As previously mentioned, I earned $1,070.40 through blogging in April. Below is a breakdown of how I earned this income.

Affiliate Marketing

If you’re newer to blogging, you may or may not have heard of affiliate marketing. Essentially, affiliate marketing is the process of earning commission by promoting products and services. Each time a purchase or sign-up occurs, an affiliate marketer receives a portion of the profits based on a negotiated agreement.

I only recommend products and services which I feel will genuinely help readers Take Back Control of Life and Money. In the past, I have turned down several opportunities to form affiliate partnerships simply because the product or service did not provide a high value.

That said, here is a breakdown of my affiliate income, sorted by partner:

ImpactRadius: $60.00

ImpactRadius is one of my favorite affiliate programs. Currently, I’m partnering with them to help readers make extra money by driving for Uber and UberEATS.

FlexOffers: $54.15

FlexOffers is one of the most well-known affiliate programs for a reason. They offer great value, are a pleasure to work with, and have a great offering of affiliate programs for all niches.

If you’re a blogger, you should definitely sign-up with FlexOffers. You can click here to get started today.

iGain: $17.80

I recently joined the iGain network after discovering that they offer high value survey opportunities for readers. There are many poor survey offers out there, but iGain offers many of the highest payouts for those who are interested in taking surveys.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to earn more than $200 per month by taking simple surveys in your free time, check out the post below:

The Best Survey Sites to Make an Extra $200+ Each Month

$5 Meal Plan: $7.50

Meal planning is a surprisingly simple key to maintaining a healthy grocery budget. $5 Meal Plan removes the hassle and frustration by doing the planning for you. I’m proud to recommend them because they offer a tremendous value at a very low monthly price of only $5.

Zaycon Fresh: $30.00

For most families, meat is the most expensive category in their grocery budget. Zaycon Fresh is on a mission to change that by offering farm-fresh meat at a fraction of the cost of your local grocery store. They work with local supplies to provide the highest quality meats directly to you while helping you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year.

You can sign-up for Zaycon Fresh and begin receiving offers in your area here.

 

If you are a blogger and would like to join the Zaycon program as an affiliate partner, you can sign-up here using my link.

Budgeting for Budget Haters: $28.50

My friend Adam Hagerman, CFP, has put together the best interactive course on budgeting I’ve ever seen. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t seem to create a budget that works for your family, I recommend checking out Adam’s course, Budgeting for Budget Haters. It even has a risk-free, money-back guarantee.

In the course, you’ll learn how to

  • Gather the right information needed to create your budget
  • Set smart financial goals and use them to avoid the debt/savings roller coaster
  • Create an annual budget and plan like you’ve never planned before
  • Budget for periodic expenses
  • Budget for the fun stuff and incorporate guilt-free spending
  • Budget with a variable income
  • Prioritize debt repayment
  • Use budgeting software (with on screen instructions!)
  • Talk money with your honey
  • Set up your budget so it requires low maintenance

Click here to sign-up for the Budgeting for Budget Haters course. You literally have nothing to lose! This is one of the few $98 investments that could change your life forever.

Total Affiliate Income: $197.95

Display Advertising

I use two types of display advertising on FinanceSuperhero: Google Adsense and MyFinance. Both produce fairly unobtrusive ad blocks and do not seem to take away from the user experience. In fact, many readers seem to value the supplementary content provided by MyFinance based on the number of daily click-throughs.

Google Adsense: $323.54

MyFinance: $55.55

Display Advertising Total: $379.09

Sponsored Posts and Mentions

Each month, I receive many requests for sponsored posts and turn down nearly every proposal. However, when a quality proposal comes along, I am always happy to provide value for readers.

Sponsored Posts/Mentions: $410.00

Odds and Ends

From time to time, I like to recommend products and apps to help people save money without doing anything extra beyond normal day-to-day life. Ibotta and Digit are two of those apps.

Ibotta is one of the best tools available to help families save money on groceries without clipping coupons. It coordinates with your local grocery store and learns your shopping habits, then provides money-saving offers. You can sign-up here.

Digit is an automated savings assistant designed to make saving money as easy as possible. They will be moving to offering a paid service soon, so I may not be recommending them in the future.

Ibotta: $73.00

Digit: $10.00

Odds and Ends Total: $83.00

Wrap-up

When I started blogging, I had no idea that I would make over $1,000 after just one year blogging. It goes without saying that I would love to see my income trend upward, but as in all things in life, there are no guarantees. However, I am thrilled to be doing what I love – helping people gain control over their life and money – and earn an income at the same time.


How was your April 2017 income? Do you have an interest in starting a blog or monetizing your current blog?

What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments section below.

How do bloggers earn an income? In this report, I'll show you exactly how I made $1,070.40 in one month as a part-time blogger. I'll also share strategies I used to boost my blog traffic, increase my affiliate income, and add new subscribers to my email list.
How do bloggers earn an income? In this report, I'll show you exactly how I made $1,070.40 in one month as a part-time blogger. I'll also share strategies I used to boost my blog traffic, increase my affiliate income, and add new subscribers to my email list.

Helium Investments – Professional Advice, Low Investment Fees

Basic economics show that when you and I buy anything, we are paying for more than just the product or service. This is true of cars, groceries, landscaping services, and of course, investment services. While many of these fees are one-time hits on your wallet, the painful impact of investment fees continues for years and wears away at the size of your retirement portfolio.

Consider the chart below, as produced by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which illustrates the incredibly disastrous impact of investment fees over a 20 year time period.

impact of investment fees over time | fees hurt your investment portfolio
Source: SEC.gov

A quick glance reveals that even a difference of 0.25% in annual investment fees can reduce portfolio value by $10,000 over 20 years (see the gap between the blue and red lines). The $30,000 difference is even more disastrous when comparing the 1.00% annual fee portfolio to the 0.25% portfolio (blue line and green lines, respectively).

Investment fees are far from the only factors worth considering when selecting investments and choosing an adviser or service, but the graph above is proof that failure to consider investment fees is a serious and costly mistake.

Many professional advisers and services tout their reputation and experience in an attempt to justify their high investment fees, but as an investor in today’s market, it is possible to design an investment portfolio to achieve your goals AND receive personalized professional advice without sacrificing thousands upon thousands of dollars of long-term portfolio growth to investment fees.

Enter Helium Investments.

High investment fees can make or break your retirement and your family's future. In fact, did you know that high fees could rob you of thousands upon thousands of dollars over many years, even if you don't have a million dollar portfolio? Helium Investments is on a mission to change that by minimizing fees and maximizing investors' returns. You can start an account with them today and pay 0% fees on accounts under $10,000. Click to read more of our review!

What is Helium Investments?

Helium Investments logoHelium Investments has made it their mission to give average investors access to leading financial industry investment techniques at a fraction of the cost of large investment advisor firms.

Simply put, Helium offers low fee, low tax investment options to help investors maximize returns now and over the long haul.

How is Helium different?

Thanks to the internet, investors have more options than ever before. Stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs are available and accessible through a number of avenues.

However, many of these companies willingly set-up your retirement or taxable brokerage account, take your money, and then the air waves go silent. Your money is still invested, but when it comes to paying attention to your investments, you’re on your own. And if you want to make changes to your portfolio, perform periodic rebalancing, or make trades, you’re charged a fee.

Helium offers a different model built upon low fees and professional advice. When you deposit or withdraw money from your account, there are no fees. As your portfolio grows over time, Helium performs rebalancing for you based upon your goals at no cost to you. There are no fees for buying or selling securities within your portfolio, and if you want to connect with your advisor online or via phone, that is also free.

How does Helium earn a profit?

With extremely competitive low fees, Helium generates its profits based on a simple fee model.

  • Accounts valued under $10,000 are free
  • Accounts valued over $10,000 and under $250,000 are charged a 0.50% fee each year
  • Accounts valued over $250,000 are charged a 0.40% fee each year

As our opening example from the SEC above showed, investment fees can eat away at your retirement and other investment accounts in dangerous ways over time. Maximizing your returns and access to professional advice while carefully minimizing fees is one of the best ways to protect your future.

What can Helium do for you?

Helium’s mission is to help you save money while also investing your money in a manner that aligns with your goals and dreams. They achieve this by offering a rare combination of individually tailored client services, tax loss harvesting, automatic investing and rebalancing, carefully crafted portfolios, and low fees.

Helium investments portfolio offerings
An overview of a few of Helium’s tailored portfolio offerings

Whether you’re looking to build for your retirement, save money for a home or boat, or even build an emergency fund, Helium offers a variety of accounts to help you meet your goals:

Traditional IRA

A traditional IRA is a great investment account to help you save for retirement. Yearly contributions are deducted against your gross income, which you’ve most likely already paid income tax on. The IRS will typically issue you a refund for the excess income tax paid.

Taxable: No (Deposits), Yes (Withdrawals)
Maximum Contribution: $5,500 per year under 50 years old, $6,500 above
Maximum Age to Contribute: 70½
Withdrawal Must Start: April 1st after you turn 70½

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is an excellent investment vehicle to save for retirement, but it has income limits. If you earned more than $132,000 in 2016 – you’re unable to contribute to a Roth IRA. Unlike a Traditional IRA the gains and withdrawals from a Roth IRA are generally tax-free even before age 59½

Taxable: Yes (Deposits), Typically no (Withdrawals)
Maximum Contribution: $5,500 per year under 50 years old, $6,500 above

Rollover IRA

You can move your employer based 401(k) into a Rollover IRA account and have the funds managed by Helium. You can roll up to one account per year. The contributions from a 401(k) are not taxed but still need to be reported. Most 401(k)s have management fees – the average American will pay over $138,336 in 401(k) fees.

Unregistered Accounts

Unregistered accounts are still a valuable investing tool as short term savings and when you reach your yearly IRA contribution limits. With an unregistered account the deposits are not taxed, however the gains are taxed at your capital gains tax rate. This rate varies based on your marginal rate – typically between 0% for those making $37,650 and under to 20% for those making $451,051 and over.

Taxable: No (Deposits), Yes (Withdrawals)

The Helium Advantage

A major value at Helium is helping investors start early and receive good advice from the start. They believe in a continuous cycle of getting advice, setting your goals, reaching them, and setting new goals.

Prospective investors can use their intuitive calculator to evaluate just how much money they can save with Helium compared to remaining in a portfolio of higher-fee mutual funds.

For example, I used the calculator to evaluate how much I could save in Helium’s aggressive portfolio based upon an initial $2,000 investment and $750 monthly contributions over 10 years. Based upon a reasonable estimated return of 6.5%, the calculator showed that I could save nearly $10,000.

How to get started with Helium

Registering with Helium is fast, simple, and even fun. It only took me a few minutes to work my way through the process on my laptop when testing it out.

If you prefer, you can also download the mobile app to your device and register that way. It is available on both iOs and Android devices. Users can even begin registration on one device, pause midway, and resume on another platform.

You’ll start by choosing a username and password, then proceed to entering typical identifying information, such as your name, address, and contact information.

Next you’ll be asked a series of interesting questions designed to help the Helium team get to know you better, such as:

  • If you were on a TV game show and could choose from one of the following, which would you choose?
  • If you needed $2,000 tomorrow, what would you do?

After answering approximate questions regarding income, net worth, savings goals, current debt levels, and preferred account types, all that remains is adding a beneficiary, social security numbers, and linking your preferred banking account.

The Helium Investment Dashboard

In order to help me provide maximum insight in this review, the team at Helium built a test account for me. After logging in, I was shown a centralized dashboard which highlighted my overall portfolio composition.

By navigating to the Portfolio tab, I was able to take a quicker look at the composition of each account by date by using the drop down menu. Here is a look at the test Roth IRA account as of February 5, 2017.

The Performance tab provides helpful linear graphs to help investors see performance trends over time. Here is a snapshot of the performance of the Traditional IRA within the test account.

I was pleased to see a tab for users to create and update goals within the dashboard; this is a great example of how Helium strives to live up to its mission of helping their clients achieve their goals. Establishing a goal within the test account was simple. I named the goal, established a monetary figure and target date, selected a corresponding account, and saved the goal.

Why Should I Sign-Up With Helium?

As an investor, you have several viable options when it comes to building for your retirement or other financial goals. It is important to keep in mind that your unique situation, goals, and desired level of involvement will play a big role in determining the best way to manage your investments.

For an investor who is looking for regular access to professional advice without paying high fees, Helium Investments can provide very high value. They offer a rarely seen combination of tailored advice, low fees (or no fees for accounts under $10,000), automated rebalancing, and sophisticated tax loss harvesting. And by all indications, they’ve cracked the code on leveraging technology and low-cost ETFs to maximize portfolio gains and minimize fees.

For investors who embrace the notion that what you keep is more important than how much you make, this is a perfect approach. If you’re interested in actively trading on a daily basis (which I do not recommend), Helium isn’t for you.

I recommend connecting with Helium Investments and giving their team the opportunity to review your portfolio. By simply uploading a statement, Helium can review your portfolio and analyze it for potential savings. They may be able to save you several thousand dollars.

What’s Not to Love?

To be perfectly transparent, I tried very hard to uncover “the catch” with Helium. I thought I might discover hidden fees, high set-up costs, or other red flags.

But I didn’t.

After an in-depth review, it appears that the Helium Investments team has built a client-friendly model that is also profitable for their company. As their website shows, they have a small core team and, therefore, likely have low overhead.  Some may see this is a disadvantage, but I don’t.

Perhaps the biggest question mark is the future direction of Helium Investments. They are a newer company competing in a saturated market. However, no market is too saturated for a new company which provides incredible value when compared to its competitors.

So far, Helium is doing exactly that.

For more information about Helium Investments, click here to visit their website.

Related Reading:

Helium Investments™ and the Helium Investments Balloon are trademarks of Helium Investments Inc, all rights reserved. Helium Investments Inc is a registered Investment Advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the jurisdictions of
CA, TX, FL, NY, IL, PA, OH, GA, NC, MI. Investment accounts are free up to $10,000 USD after fees apply. Any historical returns are not indicative of future performance. Investment values will fluctuate over time. SIPC Member, Not FDIC Insured. No Bank Guarantee.

This review is sponsored by Helium Investments; however, all analysis, review, and opinions are the the product and intellectual property of FinanceSuperhero.com.


How often do you pay attention to investment fees? Are you paying high fees and getting little in return?

High investment fees can make or break your retirement and your family's future. In fact, did you know that high fees could rob you of thousands upon thousands of dollars over many years, even if you don't have a million dollar portfolio? Helium Investments is on a mission to change that by minimizing fees and maximizing investors' returns. You can start an account with them today and pay 0% fees on accounts under $10,000. Click to read more of our review!

How to Improve Your Relationship with Money

One of the keys to financial health is maintaining a purposeful and conscious relationship with money. It involves having reasonable debt (if any), spending money based on your values, having a safety net such as insurance, and saving and investing money to meet your future goals. Regardless of your relationship with money, various steps can be taken to improve it.

How exactly should you go about it? The following steps will help you develop a better relationship with money.

One of the keys to financial health is maintaining a purposeful and conscious relationship with money. The following steps will show you how to get started!

Take Note of your Money Habits

First, take time to evaluate how and where you spend money on a monthly basis. The following simple exercise will help.

List the top things you spend too much money on and then rank them in the order of what makes you happy the most and what least appeals to you.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What motivates you to spend money on certain areas?
  • What are my triggers?
  • Am I an impulsive buyer?

Note that your relationship with money is largely embedded in your character. By paying close attention to your behavior around money in terms of income streams, you can get a deeper understanding of yourself then use the knowledge to improve your financial habits.

Putting it all together

Improving your relationship with money also stems from making a fundamental change in your mindset. Having a good relationship with money is not necessarily about earning a large income or working overtime.

However, it is about placing less emphasis on decisions where money is involved. There will not be pressure to take up a job or a career where money is not the primary factor.

Adjust your Goals

Watch your budget closely and only spend what you comfortably can afford. Many people tend to spend more and more as their income increases. Rather than increasing spending, it is wise to increase savings instead. The best way to help you focus on your goals and spend less is by establishing incentives that will motivate you to watch your budget.

Focus on Saving

Credit cards are very tempting since they separate spending from the pains of payments that need to be made. The best way to do this is to set a default savings transfer your bank account or paycheck. It is wise to focus on your hard-earned money and use it invest in businesses, purchase a home, and opening savings accounts.

You can even have your pay raises directed to your retirement accounts, for example. Saving can be interpreted differently by various people; one reason it is important to create a healthy relationship with money is to ensure you pursue your long-term goals.

Invest wisely

Investing is a great way to strengthen your relationship with money. The first rule here is to invest in what you already know and understand what makes a good investment, i.e. penny stocks vs. small-cap stocks vs. large-cap stocks, etc.

The world of investing can be overwhelming and confusing, which leaves many would-be investors unsure where to start. Some of the forms of trading include:

  • Swing trading – trading here is held more than a day, but shorter than a hold and buy strategy that can be held for months. To profit from swings, the asset being traded may be held for a number of days at a time. Profits in swing trading are gained by short selling or buying an asset.
  • Value investing – this is where the market is believed to overreact to bad and good news. The trader is involved in looking for stocks that may have been undervalued and profit by buying when prices are deflated.
  • Growth investing – this is when an investor makes an investment in companies that have an above-average growth rate. This method focuses on capital appreciation.

Investing in stocks, no matter what form you choose, will require you to be ready and willing to take the risk. It is wise to ensure you research ETFs to track the performance of the industry, choose sectors to select your stocks based on your criteria, and stay informed by reading stock analysis constantly updated by CMC markets and other reputable financial news releases.

Get Started Now

Many people have an unhealthy relationship with money. For you to change your financial status, first alter your paradigm about money and then act on it. Developing a good relationship with money is vital if you want to live the best life possible now and in the future.

The Best Items to Buy at the Dollar Store

Now more than ever, low-price retailers are locked in a fierce battle to earn your loyalty as a customer. As buyers develop more and more purchasing savvy and shop online even for items like toothpaste, toilet paper, and peanut butter, the stakes are higher than ever. The bottom-line is that shoppers are always on the lookout for the best possible value when making a purchase, even if the local dollar store offers the best value. But it isn’t always easy for buyers to determine the best items to buy at the dollar store.

At the end of the day, the average buyer simply wants a good deal. However,  he or she isn’t interested in spending the time to analyze things like cost per unit, compare manufacturers, and evaluate the effectiveness of a product and its ingredients.

Who has time for that? 

Not every purchase at the dollar store helps you save money. Check out the best items to buy at the dollar store and start spending wisely!

A List of the Best Items to Buy at the Dollar Store

With busy work lives, never-ending house chores and yard work, and shuttling kids to activities, you probably don’t have time to play home economist. If you have three minutes, keep reading and we’ll show you the best items to buy at the dollar store to help you save money and still get maximum value from your purchases.

Cleaning supplies

Marketers know exactly how to hit your pain points and convince you that you need expensive chemicals to keep a clean house and a healthy family. Tapping into your fear and pride allowed them to create a multi-million dollar industry.

The truth is that basic cleaning supplies, such as bleach, ammonia, toilet boil cleaners, toilet cleaning brushes, brooms, mops, dust pans, and dusters are manufactured nearly identically across the board. They are without a doubt some of the best items to buy at the dollar store without sacrificing value.

Related Reading:

Candy

Packaged candy quantities seem to change frequently, but many varieties are among the the best items to buy at the dollar store. Stock up on thin mints, hard candy, and generic favorites to save money on your next at home movie night.

Personal hygiene items

These purchases may require a bit of trial and error, as products come and go, but many personal hygiene items at the dollar store are made with the same ingredients as their more-expensive counterparts. This is especially true of shampoo and deodorant. Just be careful with dollar store toothpastes, as many are not FDA approved.

Dishware and flatware

If you’re in the stage of life in which things inevitably get broken by your kids, pack away the nice dishes and use these for a while instead. The ceramic plates and mugs in particular will last a long time. You can also use them for display purposes if you prefer keeping your dining room table set.

Basic Tools for a Starter Toolbox

You won’t find Craftsman or other elite brands there, but if you’re looking to build a basic starter toolbox, the dollar store is the place to start. You can find small toolboxes, hammers, screw drivers, nails, tape measures, duct tape, bungee cords, zip ties, glue, paint brushes, and more at most dollar stores, and these tools are more than adequate for light household use.

Greeting Cards

If you dislike spending $4.99 on a greeting card and don’t have time to make one yourself, cards rank among the best items to buy at the dollar store. Many stores sell them 2 for $1.00.

Party Supplies

Throwing a party soon? Your local dollar store is the best place to score deals on plates, napkins, cups, decorations, and balloons – and you’ll save money compared to visiting a designated party supply store.

Pregnancy Tests

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not: dollar store pregnancy tests are usually just as accurate as their more expensive counterparts when used correctly. Since it takes the average couple several months to one year to conceive, the enormous money saving potential makes pregnancy tests one of the best items to buy at the dollar store by a wide margin.

Hair accessories

Hair clips, scrunchies/ties, bobby pins, combs, and brushes are usually inexpensive no matter where you shop, but if you look carefully and find them in good quantities you can save money at the dollar store.

Home decor

Most dollar stores have taken a cue from their rivals and now offer a selection of home decor items, including vases, decorative plates, mugs, mirrors, and picture frames. Wise shoppers will scrutinize the quality of some items, but they are there to be found.

Similarly, most dollar stores offer a great selection of seasonal holiday decor, from window decals to traditional Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter decorations.

Wrapping paper and gift supplies

While picking up greeting cards, grab wrapping paper and/or gift bags while you’re at it. These items won’t be as fancy as their counterparts at more expensive stores, but they’re just going to be ripped and discarded anyway.

Reading glasses

Many dollar stores offer specialized reading glasses. They are a great value at only $1.

Disposable containers

If you’re planning to prepare a meal to take on the go or bring to a pot luck, pick up disposal containers at the dollar store first. You’ll save a ton of cash by avoiding higher prices at the local grocery store.

Books

Finding good books at the dollar store isn’t easy, but it’s not out of the question to find several best-sellers waiting on the shelves.


What are your favorite items to buy at the dollar store? Tell us in the comments section below.

Buying More Stuff Won’t Make You Happy

Do more. Work harder. Jump higher. Go faster. Phrases like these illustrate just how obsessed with increase our culture has become. Holiday spending, Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and overall consumption in general prove that we are a culture primarily focused on material possessions. If you’ve bought into the hype and spend your time and money striving to accumulate more and more, you need to know the truth: Buying more stuff won’t make you happy.

I’ll be the first to admit that happiness is one of the greatest mysterious of life. It comes and goes seemingly as it pleases, often without any obvious reason. And when it inevitably goes, human nature leads me to medicate the pain with stuff. But I’ll also be quick to admit that my human nature has led me down the wrong path many times in life, so it probably shouldn’t be trusted.

In a culture obsessed with increase, everyone wants more and thinks it will make them happier. But the truth is buying more stuff won't make you happy. Real happiness and contentment is deeper and lasting. When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

Take a moment and think back on some of the birthday gifts you desperately wanted as a kid. I’m talking about the gifts that you truly thought would change your life forever, like a new bike, video game system, or special toy.

Do you still have that item today? I didn’t think so.

Logically, it follows that your happiness wasn’t really dependent on that one special thing after all.

So why do we buy more and more even though stuff won’t us happy?

The short answer: we’re looking for the quick fix of adrenaline that buying things provides.

The long answer: we don’t understand the true nature of what makes us happy.

When you buy that new car, trendy pair of imported shoes, or new house, it is often for the wrong reasons: making a statement, impressing others, trying to fill an emotional void, or suppressing other feelings.

On the other hand, if you’ve planned ahead, spent within your budget and means, and truly value the items you’ve purchased, then that is a wise purchase. The difference lies in self-understanding and developing an accurate picture of what you value most.

Why Buying More Stuff Won’t Make You Happy

The bottom line is that more often than not buying more stuff won’t make you happy. Check out the following reasons to see for yourself why this is true.

More stuff leads to more responsibility

Sometimes my wife and I like to walk our dogs along a trail near some of the largest homes in our neighborhood. It usually leads to a discussion about what it must be like to live in such a large home.

Not everyone will share our viewpoint, but it is undeniable that living in a larger home and having more possessions leads to more responsibility. Psychology shows us that people thrive when their responsibilities provide them with purpose in life, but the opposite is true when too many responsibilities make people overwhelmed.

Buying more stuff can lead to debt

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m so happy to be drowning in so much credit card and student loan debt! At least I’ve got this sweet pair of Jimmy Choos!”?

No? I haven’t either.

The truth is that many people buy stuff they can’t afford to buy and end up deep in debt. Once the adrenaline rush of that new purchases feds, stress and regret move in quickly.

I like to think that it’s not a coincidence that debt and regret rhyme so nicely.

You are not your possessions

My wife and I watch Friends re-runs now and then, and one of my favorite show moments involves a conversation between Monica and Roger, a psychiatrist. After a long conversation, Roger leaves Monica and Ross, who are sitting at the table eating cookies.

“Mon, um, easy on those cookies, okay? Remember they’ re just food. They’re not love,” Roger says.

We laugh, but the same can be said of the stuff we buy. Remember, they’re just things.

They’re not happiness.

And they certainly don’t define you in any way.

Your stuff won’t make you happy because happiness is deeper.

Your stuff is costly

While a lot of items we buy are expensive, that’s not what I mean by the heading above. Your stuff is truly costing you in more ways than you realize.

For example, if you bought a boat and financed the purchase, the cost goes beyond just the principle and interest payments you make each month. Your time spent earning money to make the payments, missed opportunities to do other things because you have a boat that needs to be used every weekend, and lost time and money to maintenance and repairs are additional costs.

Stuff ties us down

The above example of the boat also illustrates another way stuff won’t make you happy: it leads to obligations and limitations on your life.

I’ve watched friends and family buy campers, motor homes, recreational vehicles, bigger houses, new cars, and yes, boats, only to see the initial euphoria replaced by the sinking feeling of a boat anchor firmly resting at the bottom of a lake.

Put simply, if you buy the wrong stuff, your still will have you.

Emotions change

It is true even for the most-stoic of people – emotions change.

All. The. Time.

This is precisely why it is dangerous to allow your emotions to be dependent on the presence of physical items. Every time the initial rush of a new purchase wears off, you’ll be desperate to replace that feeling.

Too many possessions are not healthy

When you have too many possessions, you cannot possibly use them all. Even if you’re not a hoarder, keeping too many things around starts to affect their utilitarian value.

Many experts recommend getting rid of one or two items for every new item purchased. My wife and I follow this guideline when buying new clothing. We also clean out our closets a few times each year and purge clothes that we haven’t worn in over a year. This decision has made both laundry and planning our clothing choices much easier.

Focusing on possessions leads us to miss out on what is most important

At the end your life, do you think you’ll rest in your final moments and recall the experiences you had with your favorite possessions? Or will you cling to your loved ones, recall special memories with them, and cherish your relationships?

Personally, I don’t fear death, but I do fear reaching the finish line of life and realizing that I lived by the wrong values and priorities. Living a life that worships stuff is a sure-fire way to one day end up old, tired, and full of regret.

If you take away one thing from this article, it should be this: stuff won’t make you happy. 

Please don’t wait until your deathbed to discover that this is true.

What choice will you make?

When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

In a culture obsessed with increase, everyone wants more and thinks it will make them happier. But the truth is buying more stuff won't make you happy. Real happiness and contentment is deeper and lasting. When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

Essential Tactics to Start a Business the Right Way

My wife, Meg, and I never set-out to be entrepreneurs after college. It was never part of the plan for two music education majors. But as the saying goes, life happens when we’re busy making plans. Meg was the first to start a business when she launched her own music lesson studio while we were still in college. To say she has been successful would honestly be an understatement.

And in the last year six months I have been steadily building this blog and my real estate business with the end goal of replacing and eclipsing my current teacher’s salary. Both business pursuits are great fits for my personality and skills. I enjoy teaching people and helping them solve problems so much that both jobs rarely feel like work.

That’s the beautiful thing about the decision to start a business. It can free you from a stressful, draining job and give you a greater sense of purpose by allowing you to make money doing what you love.

You won’t be able to start a business overnight – at least not a business that replaces your full-time income. But if you’re willing to put in the hours in the early morning, late nights, and weekends, you can do it!

The choice to start a business is one of the smartest moves anyone can make. Your tactics will determine whether you succeed or fail, so choose them wisely! Your business marketing plan will be key, and so will separating your personal and business finances, forming a business entity, having a presence on the web and on social media, and ensuring that your business is active in the local community. We'll show you how to start a business that will succeed!

Key Tactics to Start a Business the Right Way

In this post, I am sharing with you the exact tactics we have used recently in our businesses. They have put us on a path to have the freedom to quit our current day jobs in the near future.

If you’re planning to start a business soon or simply looking to improve your existing business, we’re confident they will help you.

Keep start-up costs low

The decision to start a business can be very emotional. Many business owners have undoubtedly gotten excited, gone all-in, and put the cart before the horse over the years when it comes to spending money to support their launch.

To be honest, I have never understood why. Yes, it is necessary to spend money to make money in many cases, and I get that. However, it is never a good idea to push to spend more than is necessary on start-up costs.

For example, I watched a client in one of my former consulting positions doom their new family business because they spent way too much money right out of the gate. From material costs and marketing to staffing costs, they were spending far more money than necessary for a new business.

I no longer am a consultant with this business, but I ran into a mutual contact of ours last week. The business is no longer open after only a few months of operation.

If you can minimize your start-up costs, you’ll fare much better. If you can make it work, start your business at home and also take advantage of the home office deduction at tax time.

Use your knowledge and skills to your advantage

When many people decide to start a business, they overlook the obvious. I don’t mean to insinuate that you should start a business doing exactly what you’re doing now. It’s not a bad idea if you can make more money working for yourself, but you have other options, too.

You don’t necessarily have to do what you already know, but you can use those skills in a different way.

For example, I’ve always had a knack for writing since high school. My classmates complained about writing long papers, while I was able to crank out long papers in short time and actually have fun doing it. I also have had a successful teaching career. This blog is the perfect way to leverage and combine these skills.

Side note: If you are open to sharing your unique skills with others and helping them solve problems, you need to start a blog. I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help start your blog. It includes help with the technical components of building a blog from scratch, creating interesting content that will get noticed and shared, and marketing your new blog effectively. As a FinanceSuperhero reader, you can use this link to start a blog with Bluehost for only $3.95 and receive a FREE domain name for one year.

Get your finances in order right away

When you start a business, many things can get lost in the shuffle if you’re not careful. Depending upon your niche and services of your business, the paperwork alone can be a full-time job just to complete.

After all, you need to open separate checking and savings accounts, along with a credit card, for most businesses. This can take several hours for even the most experienced business people. And if you plan to form an LLC or other business entity, you’re in for hours and hours of paperwork.

Fortunately, there are a few good companies out there who aim to help make starting a business easier.

Checking out Spark Business is a smart move for anyone who starts a business. Unlike most local banks, who want to charge outrageous fees to business owners for simply starting a checking and savings account, Spark is all about the customer.

Check out just a few of their benefits for business customers:

With no fees, no transaction limits, 40, free ATMS, free online bill pay, and free online invoicing, it doesn’t get any better! You can open an account with Spark by clicking here.

After you’ve separated your personal finances from those of your business, the next logical step may be to form a legal business entity. In the past, formation of an LLC or other legal business entity was extremely time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive in most states.

The team at MyNewCompany has made the process as simple as three easy steps in many cases. Their Basic Package starts at only $79 and includes the preparation and filing of Articles of Organization, which many people consider the most stressful aspect of forming an LLC. They can also help you form a Federal Tax ID, secure Registered Agent Service, help you create a personalized LLC Operating Agreement, and much more.

Market yourself everywhere

If you disregarded all of the tactics shared so far, be sure you don’t miss this one. It truly has the ability to make or break your efforts to start a business the right way and achieve success.

The simple truth is that when you start a business nobody knows unless you tell them! It is critical that you do everything you can to get the word out about your business.

The following suggestions can help you get started:

  • Tell friends and family in person, over the phone, etc.
  • Create a social media presence for your business (start with Facebook)
  • Create your own website (or hire someone else to do it if you don’t have time)
  • Create business cards, pens, magnets, calendars, etc. and give them away
  • Formulate a plan and send out mailers locally
  • Sponsor a local team or event
  • Join the local chamber of commerce or business groups

Finally, this must be said: no, marketing won’t be free. It won’t even be cheap. But investing even a small amount of your start-up costs in this area will pay dividends.

Be efficient with the small things

When you start a business, it will feel like a million tasks are constantly competing for your time and attention. It is important to maximize your  time and productivity in every way possible.

Start by taking an inventory of all of the apps on your mobile device. If you don’t have Waze, Google Calendar, Personal Capital, Evernote, PayPal, and MileIQ (if you drive frequently your business miles will add up in a hurry, and the IRS requires you to track them rather than estimate them) you should download them right away. These simple apps will help you save enormous amounts of time each week.

Hustle, hustle, hustle

If anyone ever told you it was easy to start a business, they were lying. It is hard work, and it often requires sacrifice.

Work other jobs if you need to pull in cash to support your start-up. You can make money driving for Uber, taking surveys, pet sitting, mowing lawns, or even delivering food on your bike. This is the time to get creative and do what ever you have to do to make it!

For most people, it will make sense to launch your business while still keeping your current job. The sad reality is that you won’t know for sure if the new business is viable long-term right away – at least not in most cases. You might have to cut out watching TV, going out every weekend with friends, and playing fantasy football.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Engineer Your Layoff!

Of all the steps involved in starting your own business, this one may be the most important: for goodness sake, don’t just quit your day job – engineer your layoff instead!

This bold strategy is exactly what allowed Sam Dogen, the founder of FinancialSamurai, to leave his corporate job and avoid the pressure of finding another job. Instead, a steady stream of severance money allowed Sam to focus on building a stream of passive income through wise investments and also create a profitable blog that welcomes millions of readers each year.

You can download Sam’s newly-updated book, How to Engineer Your Layoff eBook, using this link. The cost may be tax-deductible for business owners (check with your CPA to be sure), and if not, it is still well-worth every single penny. If you can gain severance money it will help you stay afloat during the early stages of your start-up.

Click here to visit the Financial Samurai Store.

Get started on your business plan today!

You won’t be able to start a business that becomes a well-oiled machine overnight, but if you have the determination, desire, and willingness to do whatever it takes to grow, you can be successful! The above tips have helped my wife and I build three profitable businesses.

The best part of our choices to start our businesses is that we may soon have the choice to walk away from our day jobs and experience an incredible new level of freedom. You can have that opportunity, too, but like all journeys, this one starts with a single step.


Business owners (bloggers included), how would you describe your decision to start a business?

What barriers stand in the way of your desire to start a business? How can you overcome them?

Clever Kitchen Cleaning Hacks for Cheapskates and Clean Freaks

Have you noticed how well TV commercials, magazine advertisements, and internet ads hit your pain points? They never fail to remind me that laundry is a tedious chore, making dinner at home is stressful, and gosh darn it, I haven’t been on a vacation in a long time! Marketers are at their best when they remind us that kitchen cleaning is one of the worst tasks of all.

Of course, taking the pain and stress out of cleaning the kitchen is always a simple matter of finding just the right cleaning product, appliance, or accessory, right? At least that’s what they want us to think! I’ve been convinced to drink the kool-aid and buy several products in the past, and you probably have as well.

I was being strung along and duped time and time again, always thinking that the next product would finally make kitchen cleaning easier. One day I realized something: my grandma didn’t have access to any of this stuff when she was a newlywed homemaker in 1942, and her kitchen was always spotless. 

Maybe products had nothing to do with the key to taking the stress out of kitchen cleaning after all!

Advertisers want to you to believe the lie that kitchen cleaning requires costly products. Your inner clean freak will love these amazing and cheap hacks! We'll show you how to clean your counters, sink, refrigerator, microwave, pantry, and more using simple and basic products like vinegar, dish soap, ammonia, and salt. You'll save money, clean your kitchen, and protect your family from dangerous cleaners and chemicals at the same time.

Kitchen Cleaning Hacks to Simplify and Save

So I started researching simpler methods of kitchen cleaning by asking family members, reading articles, researching on Pinterest, and experimenting myself. In this post, I’m going to share with you the most clever kitchen cleaning hacks that I’ve discovered – I hope they will take the stress and monotony out of cleaning your kitchen and also help you ditch expensive products and save money.

A Simple All-Purpose Cleaner

Over the years we have tried all sorts of cleaners in the kitchen: Lysol, generic disinfectant wipes, orange-based cleaners, and the list goes on and on. I often felt like no matter what I did I could not rinse our counter top surfaces well enough to ensure that we weren’t ingesting chemicals. And I wasn’t a big fan of spending over $3 on most bottles.

Several of our family members shared their natural, inexpensive solution: an all-purpose cleaner made with water, dish soap, and vinegar. When combined these three ingredients are an excellent degreaser, adequate disinfectant, and very safe.

To create your own all-purpose cleaner, follow these steps:

  • purchase an empty spray bottle from your local Dollar Tree
  • Simply add two parts vinegar, one part liquid dish soap, and two parts water to your spray bottle, replace the nozzle, and shake vigorously
  • (optional) Some recipes recommend heating the vinegar first and omitting water, but we have found that the addition of water makes rinsing easier

This cleaner is not only useful for kitchen cleaning; it can be used to remove grime from shower days, clean dirty windows, and more.

Clean Your Stained White Ceramic Sink

When we moved into our home in 2013, our white ceramic kitchen sink had seen better days. Every time I cleaned the kitchen was a sobering reminder that our nearly-new kitchen hadn’t been maintained properly.

One day, we invited neighbors over for dinner, and they shared their simple trick for making their white ceramic sink look new using only water and bleach:

  • Run your hot water until it reaches its hottest temperature
  • Use your sink stopper to plug the drain
  • Add 1/2 cup bleach to the sink (Note: it is always a good idea to wear protective gloves/eye wear and open a window to provide adequate ventilation when using bleach)
  • Allow the water level to rise high enough to cover any spots that are discolored
  • Let the water sit for 1-2 hours, then scrub all sink surfaces
  • Rinse thoroughly with cool water

I use this simple trick once per month while tackling other kitchen cleaning chores to keep our sink looking new.

Freshen Up Your Smelly Garbage Disposal

kitchen cleaning hacks and orange peelsI love having a garbage disposal, but from time to time the smells radiating from our disposal become pretty unpleasant. Most of the time I can take care of the smell by plugging the disposal with the stopper, filling up the sink with warm soapy water, and running the disposal after unplugging the sink.

When this simple fix fails, we grind orange or lemon peels with cool water in the disposal. Even after forgetting to run the disposal for a day or two, orange and lemon peels neutralize odors quickly and easily.

Use Dryer Sheets to Remove Baked on Foods

My favorite meal growing up was my grandma’s meat loaf and scalloped potatoes. Even as an adult, I look forward to the days when my Mom breaks out the recipe. The only downside to this meal is the baked on residue that remains long after dinner is finished.

If you’ve spent hours and hours scrubbing similar baked on foods and suffered from dishpan hands, there’s a simple solution: fabric softener sheets, i.e. dryer sheets.

Simply fill the baked on pan or dish with a few drops of dish soap, the hottest water from your sink, and a dryer sheet; let it sit for a few hours or overnight and gently scrub the pan or dish in the morning, if necessary.

Make Your Stove Burners Shine Like New Without Scrubbing or Using Harsh Chemicals

Dealing with gross, greasy stove burners/grates is a nightmare. Over the years I’d tried just about everything until I stumbled upon a great solution from Vivienne at The V Spot back in 2012.

Simply place your burner grate in a large enough, durable plastic bag and add 1/4 cup ammonia. Seal the bag as tightly as possible so the fumes can work their magic and place the bag outside or in the garage (ammonia smells BAD!).

The next day, the fumes will have loosed or removed entirely all of the built up layers of food debris and grease. Wipe the grates clean with a damp sponge and you’re done!

Clean Your Coffee Pot With Salt

I worked at a movie theater during high school, and the coffee pot in the concession stand really took a beating. Cleaning the carafes was one of the jobs I hated most because the stains were very tough to get out – that is, until one of my supervisors taught me a simple trick.

You can clean your carafe simply and quickly by allowing it to return to room temperature, adding a mixture of salt (Morton salt works best) and ice cubs, and shaking vigorously. Just be sure to rinse and wash your carafe with warm soapy water to avoid running salt through your coffee maker.

WARNING: DO NOT DO THIS WITH A HOT OR WARM CARAFE, AS IT WILL SHATTER!

Reuse Old T-Shirts as Cleaning Rags

All T-shirts have a wearable shelf-life, but you can reuse them as kitchen cleaning rags when that time comes.

Effortlessly Clean Your Filthy Microwave

There are few chores I used to dislike as much as cleaning dirty, cooked-on microwave splatters.

Now, cleaning even the worst splatters is an easy two step process. First, microwave 1/2 cup of common vinegar in a microwave safe mug on high for 1-2 minutes and let sit for another minute. Second, wipe all of the interior surfaces of your microwave with a rag or paper towels. Repeat the process for large splatters, if necessary.

Use Dollar Store Bins to Organize Everything

If you’re looking to reduce the time and frustration of kitchen cleaning, getting organized is a simple and effective step that will pay off now and in the future. The quickest and cheapest way to improve your kitchen organization depends upon your ability to master the art of dollar store hacks.

We use dollar store storage bins in our pantry to catch loose items and organize pantry stables in similar groups. One bin holds coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and K cups, while it’s neighbor organizes snack foods like nuts, popcorn, granola bars, and small chocolates. Two other bins hold Italian food staples (like pasta and sauces) and miscellaneous baking supplies (food coloring, confectioners sugar, vanilla, chocolate chips, etc.).

In the past, our horrible organization made kitchen cleaning a time-consuming nightmare because we had to remove each item individually and replace it after cleaning out the pantry. Making use of inexpensive organization tools has cut that time in half!

Use Your Dishwasher Wisely

If you find kitchen cleaning to be boring, you haven’t likely read your dishwasher’s owner’s manual. It’s not likely to be riveting reading material, but loading your dishwasher according to manufacturers’ specifications is the number one way to ensure that it cleans your dishes effectively each and every time. 

Here are a few additional universal tips:

1. Ensure that dishes are arranged so dirty sides face the spray pattern of your dishwasher
2. Do not over-fill detergent
3. Make sure flatware does not “nest” together
4. Never stack items

Following these tips and loading your dishwasher based upon the manufacturers’ recommendations will ensure your dishwasher is efficient.

Use Reusable Microfiber Cloths

For some jobs, however, old t-shirts just won’t cut it. For the past few months we have been using washable microfiber cloths to lessen our paper towel costs. If you use an antibacterial microfiber you’ll greatly reduce the risks of cross-contamination that can occur when you use the same sponge to wash dishes, clean the sink, and wipe down counters and tables.

I was concerned that they would not hold up well over time, but washing the cloths hasn’t damaged them a bit. I also love that they hold up to 8 times their weight in water, which a paper towel definitely cannot do!

Baking Soda in the Refrigerator

My wife is extremely sensitive to smells, so when she opens our usually-clean refrigerator I often brace myself. Keeping an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator and freezer is a simple fix for even moderate odors.

Some people recommend replacing it every three months, as it loses its odor-absorbing ability after that time. I find that you may get away with more time if you do not over fill your refrigerator and properly sealed stored foods in air tight containers. Either way, it is a good idea to write the “opened” date on each new box of baking soda when swapping them out.

Make Your Stainless Steal Appliances Shimmer

Though I don’t have stainless steal appliances in my kitchen, I have to admit that they look incredible when they’re well-maintained. A friend recently shared the simple kitchen cleaning hack that she uses to keep her stainless steel refrigerator looking new.

Begin by cleaning the surface of your stainless steel appliance using gentle soap and water. Rinse and allow the surface to dry completely. Then apply a few small drops of olive oil to a soft cloth and work it into the surface by going with the grain. Finally, be sure to remove any excess oil with an additional clean cloth or paper towel. That’s it! Your appliance should look nearly new again.

Satisfy Your Inner Clean Freak

Kitchen cleaning will probably never be fun (unless you’re Danny Tanner), but it doesn’t have to be a miserable or expensive experience either! The tips above can take the time, stress, and expense out of maintaining a clean kitchen. Pick out a few to try and get started this week!


Try our kitchen cleaning hacks and let us know how they worked for you in the comments section below! If you have any other helpful tips, share them as well.

Advertisers want to you to believe the lie that kitchen cleaning requires costly products. Your inner clean freak will love these amazing and cheap hacks! We'll show you how to clean your counters, sink, refrigerator, microwave, pantry, and more using simple and basic products like vinegar, dish soap, ammonia, and salt. You'll save money, clean your kitchen, and protect your family from dangerous cleaners and chemicals at the same time.
Advertisers want to you to believe the lie that kitchen cleaning requires costly products. Your inner clean freak will love these amazing and cheap hacks! We'll show you how to clean your counters, sink, refrigerator, microwave, pantry, and more using simple and basic products like vinegar, dish soap, ammonia, and salt. You'll save money, clean your kitchen, and protect your family from dangerous cleaners and chemicals at the same time.

10 Must-Try Crock Pot Meals On a Budget

Few tools can compare to the money and time saving powers of the Crock Pot. In our household, we use our two Crock Pots several times per week, which saves us from expensive trips to Panera or calling for pizza. We have a steady rotation of Crock Pot meals that we love, and they’re even budget-friendly!

Our 10 Favorite Go-to Crock Pot Meals

In this post, we’re assembling a round-up of 10 of our favorite quick and cheap Crock Pot meals. Some of them are original recipes that my wife and I have created from scratch, and others are tried-and-true recipes created by others that we instantly loved.

Related Reading:

Few tools can top the money and time saving perks of the Crock Pot. Check out these 10 quick, cheap, and delicious Crock Pot meals that everyone will love, including recipes for spaghetti, chicken tacos, beef stew, BBQ meatballs, Cuban Pork, mac and cheese, beef tacos, chicken noodle soup, and chicken tortilla soup. The best part? These recipes are budget-friendly!1. Chicken Tacos

On extremely busy days, chicken tacos are our go-to meal because the ingredients list is very small and prep time is almost non-existent.  The tacos are ready to eat when we get home from work, they’re delicious, and clean-up is a breeze!

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-2 pounds chicken breasts or tenderloins
-One jar of salsa (we prefer Simply Nature Organic Thick and Chunky Medium Salsa from Aldi)
-1/4 cup water

Steps:

1. Place all ingredients in the Crock Pot.
2. Cook on Low setting for 8-10 hours.
3. When cooked, shred chicken using forks.
4. Serve on tortillas with desired ingredients (lettuce, cheese, sour cream, etc.).

2. Crock Pot Spaghetti

Source: LifeShouldCostLess.com

When I was young, my aunt made a great spaghetti recipe – sometimes with her Crock Pot, and sometimes on the stove. This recipe from Sarah at Life Should Cost Less is just as good and is very time and budget-friendly!

Here are my favorite aspects of the recipe:

Prep time is only 5 minutes if you’re using pre-browned ground beef
-The noodles cook in the Crock Pot
-Clean-up is a breeze
-You can change up the recipe and use a variety of noodles (bow ties, angel hair, farfalle, etc.)
-You can substitute your favorite sauce or even use homemade sauce

3. Chicken Tortilla Soup

Source: Justapinch.com

To be 100% honest, I don’t love many soup recipes because they get pretty boring after eating them several days in a row. However, this awesome chicken tortilla soup recipe from Carla Smith never fails to keep my taste buds interested for days on end. It is a perfect mixture of bold, spicy flavors and hearty, satisfying textures.

Technically, this recipe doesn’t fall within the “Crock Pot meals” category. However, you can easily cook the chicken in advance and make the rest of the recipe using your Crock Pot.

4. Ground Beef Tacos

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-2 pounds ground beef
-1/2 cup Ketchup (more or less to taste)
-3 tablespoons chili powder (more or less to taste)
-1 teaspon paprika (optional)
-1/2 teaspon Cayenne pepper (optional)

Steps:

1. Crumble the uncooked ground beef in the Crock Pot
2. Cook on Low for 6-8 hours
3. Drain excess grease and return ground beef to Crock Pot
4. Add desired spices and Ketchup to the ground beef and mix thoroughly
5. Allow ground beef and sauce mixture to warm and thicken slightly (5-10 minutes)
6. Serve on tortillas with desired toppings (lettuce, cheese, sour cream, etc.)

5. Game Day BBQ Meatballs

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-2.5 lb bag of frozen, fully-cooked meatballs (or substitute homemade meatballs to save more money!)
-1 jar of Heinz Chili Sauce
-1 jar of generic grape jelly
-(optional) 4 drops of Wright’s Hickory Liquid Smoke

Steps:

1. Add all ingredients to Crock Pot and cook on low, stirring occasionally

Note: This recipe is a tried and true favorite and may already be a party staple in your family. The addition of liquid smoke adds a unique depth of flavor and adds new life to this classic recipe.

6. Ridiculously Easy Pulled Pork

My wife and I are huge barbecue fanatics, and few Crock Pot meals satisfy the urge for barbecue like this simple pulled pork recipe.

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-1 whole pork loin
-1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
-3 tablespoons chili powder
-1 tablespoon garlic powder
-1 cup water
-(optional) Barbecue sauce of choice
-(optional) 4 drops of Wright’s Hickory Liquid Smoke
Pretzel or ciabatta rolls

Steps:

1. Place the pork loin in the Crock Pot with the fattiest side down
2. Mix the dry rub ingredients in a bowl and apply liberally to the top side of the pork loin
3. Add the water and liquid smoke to the Crock Pot, making sure to avoid rinsing the dry rub off the pork loin
4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours
5. Remove pork loin from the Crock Pot and shred using forks
6. Place shredded pork back in the Crock Pot and add your desired barbecue sauce (optional)
7. Allow sauce to warm and thicken, then serve on pretzel or ciabatta rolls

7. Boxcar Beef Stew

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

When my wife was younger she was obsessed with the children’s book series The Boxcar Children. Her mom created this simple Crock Pot meal to get her and her brother to eat their meat and vegetables!

Ingredients:

-2 lbs beef stew meat
-4 large carrots, chopped
-1 onion, chopped
-4 celery stalks, chopped
-4 medium potatoes, pealed and cubed
-1 can tomato juice
-1 cup water

Steps:

1. Add all ingredients to the Crock Pot
2. Cook on low for 8 hours

8. Set and Forget Mac and Cheese

Source: Pipandebby.com

I seriously wish all recipes could be this easy. This simple mac and cheese recipe from Pip and Ebby is as easy as it gets – and it is delicious!

Making this recipe is simple. Follow the link above, throw all of the specified ingredients in your Crock Pot on low, stir occasionally, and serve 2-3 hours later.

Tip: You can spruce this recipe up even more by adding grilled Andouille sausage and fresh cut scallions. 

9. Cuban Pork

Source: Amy at Bellyfull.net in collaboration with Smithfield

I had never eaten Cuban pork sandwiches until we attended my niece’s first birthday party. Now I fear I may be developing a new obsession.

This recipe from Amy at Bellyfull.net is very similar to the recipe my brother-in-law used and is every bit as good. I’m seriously drooling just looking at the picture to the right.

My favorite aspect of this and other similar Crock Pot meals is versatility. You can serve this on your favorite rolls, tortillas, or over a bed of lettuce and rice.

10. Chicken Noodle Soup

This is one of our go-to Crock Pot meals simply because it is fast, easy, and doesn’t make an overbearingly high number of servings. You’ll love this chicken noodle recipe on cold winter nights.

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-1 lb cooked chicken breast, shredded
-5 cups water
-4 chicken bullion cubes
-1 teaspoon salt
-4 cups egg noodles
-1/3 cup celery, chopped
-1/3 cup carrots, chopped
-2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

Steps:

1. Pre-cook chicken in oven, grill, or stove top; shred
2. Place all ingredients in Crock Pot
3. Cook on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally



What are your favorite Crock Pot meals? Share your recipe below in the comments!

Few tools can top the money and time saving perks of the Crock Pot. Check out these 10 quick, cheap, and delicious Crock Pot meals that everyone will love, including recipes for spaghetti, chicken tacos, beef stew, BBQ meatballs, Cuban Pork, mac and cheese, beef tacos, chicken noodle soup, and chicken tortilla soup. The best part? These recipes are budget-friendly!

How to Overcome Your Fear of Investing and Build Your Dream Retirement

I’m going to hit you with the cold, hard truth: You’re probably not investing enough money to be able to afford the future of your dreams, and your fear of investing is to blame. Don’t believe me? Let’s see if any of these statistics describe you:

How many of these statistics describe you?

If not many, you’re probably in great shape with your investing.

If more than one describes your situation, you have some work to do if you’re going to retire comfortably.

The first step lies in overcoming your fear of investing.

Is fear of investing holding you back from building your dream retirement and threatening your future? These tips will help you overcome and invest wisely! We'll help you look at your current finances and budget, find out how much money you'll need for retirement, and make a solid plan to invest wisely and reach your dream retirement.

9 Stupid Reasons to Put Off Investing for Your Retirement

Life is full of many uncertainties and only a few certainties. One major certainty for nearly all of us is the fact that we will need to retire someday. Trading our time and skills for earned income can only go on for so long.

So why do you so many people live like investing is unnecessary or optional? You guessed it: a combination of the fear of investing and lack of understanding.

Consider the following reasons that may be holding you back from investing in your dreams:

1. You have too much debt

Student loans, car payments, credit cards, home equity lines, and first and second mortgages make it possible to borrow lots of money, but lots of payments come with lots of loans! As a result many people don’t have much money left to invest.

2. You don’t know where to start

Investing seems too nuanced and sophisticated to many people, so they just don’t bother to start learning the ropes.

3. You don’t understand how investments work

Similarly, many people have a desire to invest and know they should be investing, but they are paralyzed by a fear of investing and lack of basic understanding of investment options. Words like bonds, stocks, mutual funds, annual return on investment, IRAs, and index funds are SCARY!

4. You’re planning to live off Social Security 

Like Dave Ramsey sarcastically reminds us, the government is well-known for its ability to take care of money. Still, many people look to Social Security as their only source of retirement income.

5. You’re expecting an inheritance 

Inheritance money can be an incredible blessing, but relying on it instead of investing consistently is a huge risk. Long-term care costs for their elderly are always on the rise, and many nest eggs have been cracked and scrambled by these costs.

6. You’re afraid to lose money on investments 

I get it. Nobody wants to lose money. But losing money from time to time is part of the game of investing. The obvious goal is to win more than you lose, but like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Investing isn’t a spectator sport; you have to play to earn money! If you allow the fear of investing to keep you out of the game, you’re guaranteed to lose.

7. You don’t have the knowledge to choose your own investments 

Many would be investors have excitedly signed up for an online trading account only to realize that they’re not sure what to do next. The options seem limitless and unpredictable. So they put their money away in savings accounts and CDs instead and collect a very predictable but low interest rate.

8. You’re not willing to trust someone else with your money 

Investment professionals are some of the least-trusted people in the financial world. Over the years, scandals and horror stories have legitimized these fears to some degree, though many true professionals are still out there. The sad truth is that many people aren’t willing to trust someone else with managing their investments.

9. You’re not willing to pay someone else to manage your investments

And even for those people who are willing to trust a professional with their money, management fees often scare them off in a hurry.

Is fear of investing holding you back from building your dream retirement and threatening your future? These tips will help you overcome and invest wisely! We'll help you look at your current finances and budget, find out how much money you'll need for retirement, and make a solid plan to invest wisely and reach your dream retirement.Overall, the fear of investing and the above barriers create three types of people:

  • Those who actively invest (Investor) by overcoming their fear and getting the help they need
  • Those who want to invest but fail to act (Aspiring Investor)
  • Those who ignore the importance of investing (Non-Investor)

By the end of this article, my goal is to empower you to move yourself up the top of the pyramid by providing resources and tools to boost your confidence and start investing as soon as possible.

The Best Resources to Overcome Your Fear of Investing 

The first step toward overcoming your fear of investing and getting on track toward your dream retirement is evaluating your current financial situation. You need to create a one page summary of your current debts, investments, and other assets. The best way to do this job only once is to  sign-up for Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can monitor all of your financial accounts in one place, analyze your portfolio, and track your net worth all from your mobile device.

You’ll also need to create a budget – think of it as a map that will take you to your retirement dreams by keeping you on track every month – if you don’t have one. Even if you’ve never lived on a budget before, this is the time to start.

Read: Budgeting for People Who Suck With Money

Next, you need to estimate your overall retirement needs. One of my favorite financial writers, Chris Hogan, has created a FREE tool to help you calculate the amount of money you’ll need to save to retire; he calls it your R:IQ. Take a few minutes and get your number – it’s free, and you won’t get bombarded with SPAM.

Now that you have a clear picture of your current situation and what you want to achieve, it’s time to make a plan to get there. Depending upon your knowledge, interest, and available time, you can take on full responsibility of your retirement portfolio, manage only some aspects on your own, or work with a dedicated adviser who can help you reach your goals.

If you want to spend many hours learning the nuances of buying and selling stocks, TradeKing is a good option for you. TradeKing provides a powerful platform for investors to discover, research, and purchase stocks, options, and ETFs.  They also offer access to knowledgeable brokers who will answer questions or even manage your portfolio at a cost to you. If you open a new account and start with a minimum balance of $500, you’ll receive $5,000 in free trades if you sign-up using this link for FinanceSuperhero readers.

Looking for more guidance and support? TD Ameritrade offers the next level in investment services with no investment minimums to open your account. Investors can choose the Build It Yourself option, receive a managed portfolio recommendation from TD Ameritrade Investment Management, LLC, or get connected with an independent Registered Investment Advisor. Check out your options with TD Ameritrade here.

And if you’re looking for a simpler approach that is more hands-off, the popular robo-adviser Betterment is the best choice for you. Why approach investing the Betterment way? The Betterment portfolio is designed to achieve optimal returns at every level of risk. Through diversification, automated rebalancing, better behavior, Tax Loss Harvesting (selling a security that has experienced a loss to offset other gains), and lower fees, the Betterment approach to investing can help generate 2.9% higher returns than a typical DIY investor. And they still offer investors access to a licensed adviser over the phone. You can open a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or complete a rollover 7 days per week.

Note: If you have an old 401k from a previous employer still hanging around, Betterment will help you with your rollover and make the process as painless as possible.

As mentioned earlier, Personal Capital is the best FREE resource available for tracking all of your financial accounts, monitoring spending, and tracking your net worth all in one place. But they’re also one of the premier wealth managers today due to their integrated approach built upon a combination of innovative tools and the personal touch of a licensed adviser.

If you already have a sizable portfolio ($100,000 or more), I cannot recommend enough that you take advantage of Personal Capital's free consultation offer to analyze your portfolio. Yes, it’s really free, and if you don’t like the advice you’re given, you can continue to use the Personal Capital Dashboard to monitor your financial picture at no cost. If you’re impressed enough and convinced that Personal Capital will better manage your investment dreams better than they’re currently being managed, it’s also a win, as they will almost undoubtedly reduce your fees and improve your returns.

Get Started Now

Of course, these tools aren’t the only options available to help you overcome your fear of investing. You could visit a local brick-and-mortar adviser, read dozens of investment books for free at the library, or ask one of your connections for his best advice. You could search for the latest robo-adviser to pop up overnight. Any of these options is better than doing nothing, even if they’re incredibly risky.

My point is this: Don’t allow yourself to go another week without taking the steps to crush your fears and start investing in your future. Your family’s future is way too important to allow anything – lack of time, fear of investing, or uncertainty – to stop you from building a secure nest egg. Get started now!

Is fear of investing holding you back from building your dream retirement and threatening your future? These tips will help you overcome and invest wisely! We'll help you overcome 9 reasons you may be delaying investing, look at your current finances and budget, find out how much money you'll need for retirement, and make a solid plan to invest wisely and reach your dream retirement.

Is fear of investing holding you back from building your dream retirement and threatening your future? These tips will help you overcome and invest wisely! We'll help you look at your current finances and budget, find out how much money you'll need for retirement, and make a solid plan to invest wisely and reach your dream retirement.

The Biggest Reason Why Budgets Fail and the Easy Solution

If you’re like most adults, you have a love-hate relationship with your budget. You love the hope and optimism your budget gives you at the start of the month, and you hate tallying up the numbers at the end of the month only to realize that you didn’t stick to your budget – again. It is a discouraging cycle, to say the least. And it causes many people to abandon budgeting once and for all and leaves them wondering why budgets fail.

The biggest reason why budgets fail isn’t just about numbers or behavior. Budgets don’t fail or succeed because you switched from Excel to paper-and-pencil. And they don’t fail because you missed a day recording purchases. The truth is that most budgets fail because you haven’t given yourself a good enough reason to follow it.

A budget is easy to create and very hard to stick to consistently. The real reason why budgets fail is so simple that it may surprise you. We'll show you how to create a budget that won't fail you - yes, a budget that you can actually stick to consistently - just by taking a few simple steps. You'll even gain access to a FREE, 10 page printable toolkit!

Examples of Why Budgets Fail So Easily

When many people set-up a budget for the first time, they follow a simple template or pattern their budget on an example they have seen. This practice makes sense, but it isn’t fail-proof.

Part of the reason why budgets fail is the fact that many people simply copy budget parameters without considering their own realistic circumstances. For example, if you use the popular app Every Dollar to create a budget, the app guides you to create your budget based upon the following recommended percentages:

These categories and recommended percentages are definitely a great starting point when building a budget, but blindly following them without considering the specifics of your situation can doom your budget to fail.

Blindly following percentages is just one reason why budgets fail
Click to see larger version (Source: EveryDollar)

For example, maybe you aren’t big on recreational activities. Or maybe you work from home and don’t own a vehicle. In those cases, blindly allocating 5-15% of your total budgeted spending to those categories wouldn’t make realistic sense or add any value to your life. Failing to give each dollar a specific purpose in this manner is one example of why budgets fail.

A second example of common budget failure is setting unrealistic goals. For example, if you’re currently spending an average of $900 per month on groceries for two people, aiming to cut this spending down to $450 in one month isn’t very realistic. It would be much more sensible and achievable to gradually reduce the budget to $450 over the course of 3-4 months.

Similarly, a third reason why budgets fail so often lies in creating a budget that is too restrictive. When you create a budget, think of it less as a drill sergeant trying to inflict misery and more like a coach who is encouraging you to win. It’s much easier to follow a person, or in this case, a budget plan, when you know that it is leading you to where you’re trying to go.

Prevent Budget Failure By Creating a Values-Based Budget

If budgets fail because they blindly follow templates, set unrealistic goals, and tend to be too restrictive, how to create a budget to help you Take Back Control of Your Life and Money becomes clearer:

A successful budget is one which combines recommended percentages with your realistic circumstances and is designed to help you achieve the financial goals that you value the most.

If you’re going to create a budget that will succeed, you have to start with a vision of what financial success looks like to you! The best way to create this vision is by identifying your values.

Why are values the key to a successful budget? Your values are what are most important to you. When you identify your values, you realize the important reasons why you decided to create a budget in the first place.

Simply put, a budget without values sets empty, meaningless targets. If you don’t understand and feel the significance of your budget goals, you will not stay motivated to stick to your budget once the initial excitement wears off.

This is similar to filling a jar with coins for no specific reason.

Put another way: Values are the driving force for meaningful goals. Show me a significant goal, and I will point out the values that underpin the goal. Values are the reason that Michael Jordan became the greatest basketball player of all-time after getting cut from his high school team. His love for Competition and Accomplishment gave him all the fuel and motivation to stick to his goals, work hard, and become the best.

Again, the reason why budgets fail is because we haven’t given ourselves a good enough reason to follow them. Identifying your values and linking them to your budget solves the problem!

Stop Your Budget From Failing and Start Winning With Money Today!

I strongly believe that the reason why budgets fail is they focus too much on “how” to manage money responsibly and not enough on “why” it matters. A values-based budget can help you fix the problem.

If you’re ready to take the next step in fixing your budget problems by identifying your values, I’ve created a FREE printable resource to help you.

The MONEY VALUES TOOLKIT is designed to help you create a budget that is built on a foundation of your Values. It will help you

  • Discover your Purpose and Values
  • Review and improve your budget in light of your Values
  • Create Values-based goals to stay on track with your budget

This 10 page guide is a great value, and again, it is FREE. Simply use the form above to become a FinanceSuperhero subscriber and you’ll receive an e-mail with instructions to download your printable PDF toolkit.


What struggles keep you from sticking to your budget? In your opinion, what is the reason why budgets fail?