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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Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.
Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.
But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.
Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.
Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.
More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.
Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.
Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.
Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.
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When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.