If anything is certain about Americans, it's that we love convenience.
These days, it seems like everything, from underwear to produce, comes in a subscription service. As long as you have a credit card and are willing to pay a little bit more, you can have anything you could ever want brought to your house on a monthly basis. But with all the options for subscription services out there, it can be hard to tell which are actually worth the up-charge. As a rule, subscription services should either save you money or provide a service that's worth the cost. Luckily, we've made it easy for you never to have to leave your couch again by compiling a list of the best and worst subscription services.
Best Subscription Services
Cost: $9.99/month, $5 if you're a student.
What you get: Access to just about any song you can imagine, the ability to make your own playlists, see what your friends are listening to, and discover new artists and songs via custom recommendations. Also, with Spotify Premium, you don't have to worry about annoying ads interrupting your listening experience. Plus, by paying a small monthly fee, your days of battling viruses from illegally downloaded music are behind you!
Cost: Anywhere from $11 to around $50 per order, depending on which package you choose.
What you get: You're not perfect, so why does your produce have to be? Approximately 20% of fruits and vegetables in the US never leave the farm just because they look a little different. Imperfect Produce buys that food and delivers it to your door for cheaper-than-grocery-store prices. You get to customize each box you receive so you never get anything you don't want, or pay for produce that will go bad before you have a chance to eat it. This subscription box is not only convenient and fiscally savvy, it also helps out farmers and limits wasted food!
Cost: $8-$15/month, depending on the number of screens.
What you get: Unlimited streaming of tons of movies and TV shows. Measured against other streaming services, we think Netflix has the most bang for your buck. With seemingly endless options, fast streaming speeds, and no pesky commercials; Netflix is a great deal.
What you get: If you're a frequent online shopper, you know how annoying delivery fees can be. With Amazon prime, you can get thousands of items shipped to your house with no extra shipping cost. There are also tons of great deals on Amazon that you can take advantage of without leaving the couch! Plus, your subscription comes with lots of great content available to stream at no extra cost.
What you get: If you love trying new beauty products but don't want to risk investing in a full size bottle of that expensive moisturizer, then birchbox could be your dream come true. With Birchbox, you get a variety of sample size beauty products delivered each month so you can decide which products you like without the monetary risk.
Worst Subscription Services
Cost: Usually around $15 a month, but depends on your cable package.
Why Its Not Worth it: If you already have Amazon Prime, and don't need to keep up to date with all of HBO's new releases, there's no need to buy into this pricey subscription. Amazon has a deal with HBO that allows Amazon Prime members to watch HBO shows that are no longer on the air. So if you're mostly interested in watching shows like The Sopranos or The Wire, you can do so in your Amazon Video app without shelling out an extra $15 a month for a service that has way less variety and much slower streaming than Netflix.
Cost: $9.99 a meal
Why It's Not Worth It: As far as meal kit delivery subscriptions go, this one is confusing, way pricier than grocery shopping, and actually pretty labor intensive. The absence of individual packaging or labeling for multiple recipes makes it difficult, especially when there are sometimes missing and duplicate ingredients.
Cost: $30+ a month
Why It's Not Worth It: This box sends you a monthly haul of useless items, like light up balls, bedazzled wine glasses, and skull shaped planters. While getting a surprise in the mail is fun, save your money for a subscription service that sends things you'll actually like.
Cost: $34.99+ a month
Why It's Not Worth It: This subscription box sends you things like pencil cases, dinosaur socks, and rainbow sticky notes. We're all for embracing your quirky side, but how many sparkly unicorn pins does a person really need? Skip the steep monthly price tag and head to your local Paper Source for all the cute little trinkets your heart desires.
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.