10 Ways to Save Money on School Uniforms for Kids

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 public schools required students to wear uniforms as of the 2017-18 school year. These can be anything from identical outfits marked with the school’s name or logo to a basic color scheme, such as plain white shirts and tan pants.

According to 2011 research from the University of Nevada, Reno College of Education, a school uniform policy can have many benefits for students. It can make it easier to get ready for school, boost self-esteem, reduce bullying, and improve classroom discipline. But it has one big downside for parents: the cost. According to CostHelper, a school wardrobe of four or five uniforms can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000.

One reason uniforms often cost more than regular clothes is that parents have less choice about where to buy them. If you can only get your kids’ school wardrobes from the official school store, you must pay whatever that store charges. However, you can get around this problem with the right shopping strategies. The first tip to try: shopping secondhand.

Ways to Save With Secondhand School Uniforms

Clothes are one thing it nearly always pays to buy secondhand if you can. With school uniforms, that’s doubly true.

Since young children grow so fast, their outgrown uniforms can still have lots of life left in them. Naturally, these previously worn uniforms don’t look brand-new, but neither do most school clothes after a few weeks of wear. Secondhand school uniforms cost much less than new ones, and in some cases, they’re free.

1. Try Uniform Swaps

If you have two children attending the same school, the younger kid can wear the older one’s hand-me-downs. But if you have only one child or your kids go to different schools, you can end up with clothes in good condition and no one to hand them down to.

A uniform swap is a way to expand your hand-me-down family. By pooling resources with other parents, you can pass on your child’s outgrown uniforms to younger students at your school and receive uniforms from older students in turn.

Some schools hold official uniform exchanges. For example, at St. Catharine School in Ohio, you can trade in gently used school uniforms for larger sizes or pick up other people’s trade-ins at significantly reduced prices. Other schools, like St. Stephen’s Academy in Oregon, give parents points for their trade-ins, which they can use for purchases or donate.

If your child’s school doesn’t have an official uniform exchange, hold a clothing swap party of your own. Invite other parents over, lay out all your outgrown uniform items, and see who can use them.

If you don’t have the space to meet and exchange clothes in person, start a social media group where parents can post photos and descriptions of their kids’ outgrown clothes. When you find someone who has the size your child needs or needs the size you have to give, you can contact each other to arrange a pickup.

2. Shop at Thrift Stores

If you live in or near a large city with a large student population, there’s a good chance you can find outgrown school uniforms at local thrift stores. Check the stores closest to your child’s school to maximize your chances of finding them.

Even in smaller cities and towns, thrift stores are an excellent place to look for basic pieces that are often part of a school uniform. Dress shirts, solid-color polo shirts, and chino pants are likely to show up on their racks. You can’t count on finding the pieces you need in your child’s size, but if you do, they’ll be significantly cheaper than new clothes.

To find thrift stores in your area, do an Internet search on “thrift stores” or “thrift shops” with your town’s name or zip code. Also, check the websites of the largest store chains — such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village — to find their nearest locations.

3. Find Sellers Online

If you can’t find suitable secondhand clothes for your child’s uniform at local stores, try looking online. Start consulting your local Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace groups in early July, and look for new listings every other day or so. That gives you roughly two months to find all the pieces you need to build a complete school wardrobe for your child. Just be sure to contact sellers quickly when you find something you need so someone doesn’t beat you to it.

Another reliable source for secondhand uniforms online is eBay. You can create saved searches for each specific garment your child needs, such as “navy shorts size 8,” and receive daily emails of all new listings for your saved search. You can pick up pieces one at a time or — if you’re lucky — find a lot of uniform clothing all in the same size.


Ways to Save on New School Uniforms

The biggest downside of secondhand shopping is that you can’t be sure of finding what you need. If the start of the school year is approaching and you still don’t have a complete school wardrobe for your child, don’t panic. There are ways to buy new uniform-appropriate clothes and still keep costs down.

4. Buy the Minimum

For starters, don’t buy more of any component than you really need. Your child may need a clean shirt for school every day, but kids can usually get away with wearing the same skirt, pants, or sweater several days in a row. Jackets and ties can go even longer between cleanings.

How many pieces your child needs depends on how often you intend to do laundry. Mothers discussing their kids’ school wardrobes on Mumsnet generally say they include:

  • Five to 10 shirts
  • Two to five sweaters
  • Two to five skirts or pairs of pants or shorts

On top of that, you can add one or two school blazers and one or two dresses or jumpers if your uniform includes these pieces. And your child also needs at least one pair of school shoes and enough socks and underwear to last the week.

If you shop smart, you can put together this minimalist kids’ wardrobe for less than the $240 average parents reported spending on back-to-school clothes in a 2019 National Retail Federation survey. CostHelper says it’s possible to find pants and skirts for as little as $5 each, tops for as little as $3, and shoes starting at $15. That’s less than $100 for the whole wardrobe.

5. Visit Cheaper Stores

If your school’s uniform consists of basics like solid-color tops and pants, there’s no need to buy them at the official school store. Many major retail chains sell uniform-appropriate clothes for kids at quite reasonable prices. In fact, several retailers offer lines of kids’ clothes designed explicitly for this purpose, such as:

6. Shop Online

If stores in your area don’t carry the school uniform pieces you need at prices you like, try shopping online. Some online retailers specialize in school uniforms, and others have sections devoted to them. Good places to shop online include:

  • Amazon. The e-tail giant has an entire section called The School Uniform Shop. It provides links to uniform-appropriate garments from many popular brands, including Nautica, Izod, and Dockers. Alternatively, you can search for “school uniforms” to find apparel for girls and boys. Check out these Amazon savings tips for more ways to save.
  • French Toast. Online retailer French Toast deals in school uniforms for all ages, which you can search by school or gender. The site also offers two- and three-packs of identical shirts or pants for a discounted price per piece.
  • Lands’ End. The school uniform shop at Lands’ End offers sturdy clothing in all sizes, from toddler to adult. Clothes are covered by the brand’s unconditional lifetime guarantee. There’s even a selection of adaptive garments for kids with disabilities. This apparel combines easy-to-use magnetic closures with decorative buttons for a uniform look.
  • Lee Uniforms. For teens and young adults, the Lee Uniforms store on Amazon offers school- and work-friendly pieces. The selection is limited, but the prices are excellent.
  • SchoolUniforms.com. As its name implies, SchoolUniforms.com specializes in uniform basics, from blazers to plaid pleated skirts. Garments come in a range of sizes to fit children ages 3 and up, including plus sizes.

When shopping for uniforms online, you can save still more by using a mobile coupon app like Rakuten or Ibotta. If you prefer to shop from a computer, install a money-saving browser extension like Capital One Shopping to help you find great prices and available coupon codes.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

7. Wait for Sales

If your school has an official uniform store, call that store and see when it plans to offer discounts or promotions. In many cases, uniforms go on sale in October, after most parents have already bought their kids’ clothes for the year. You can save money on school uniforms by buying just enough pieces to get through September and waiting until October to stock up.

If the school uniform is a generic outfit available from many stores, keep an eye out for sales at all the stores in your area. Consider signing up for emails from your favorite local stores to let you know when uniform clothing goes on sale. Sometimes, these emails also provide coupons, which can boost your savings still more.

Timing your purchases can help at department stores too. Clothes often go on sale at the end of the season — for example, summer clothes in September or winter coats in March. If you plan ahead, you can save by buying school uniforms for next year during these end-of-season sales.

If you’re unsure when and where school uniforms are most likely to go on sale in your area, create a Google Alert for the term “school uniform sale” with your location or zip code. Whenever a new sale pops up, you’ll receive an email about it. You can also use the term “school uniform clearance” to learn about end-of-season clearance sales.

8. Check Out Clearance

Even when a department store isn’t having a sale, there’s usually a clearance rack you can check for marked-down clothing. Since school uniforms tend to be plain clothes without a lot of eye appeal, there are often at least a few pieces that don’t sell and end up on the clearance rack.

For example, the frugal-living bloggers at Life Your Way and Joyfully Thriving both report finding uniform pieces for less than $5 on the clearance racks at stores like Gap and Macy’s.

9. Buy Bigger Sizes

If your child is still growing, there’s a good chance the uniforms you buy now won’t fit by the end of the year. However, you can make them last as long as possible by sizing up.

Choosing clothes with an extra inch to spare in the legs and sleeves gives your kid room to grow into them. Some uniform pants and skirts come with adjustable waistbands, so they’ll accommodate your child’s growth in width as well as height.

And if you find a great price on a particular piece your child needs, you can buy next year’s sizes now. Assuming they plan to attend the same school for the foreseeable future, you know they’ll need the same uniform next year, so buying multiple sizes at once lets you get them all at the best possible price.

10. Buy to Last

If your child has stopped growing but still has a few more years of school to go, you can save money by choosing quality clothing that will last. These well-made pieces may cost more upfront than cheaper brands, but they pay off in the long run. A $50 blazer that wears out after one year costs $50 per year, but a $100 blazer that lasts for four years costs only $25 per year.

For example, clothes from Lands’ End come with a lifetime guarantee. If they don’t last your child until graduation (or they outgrow them), you can return them for a full refund. Clothing from Dickies, available at Walmart, is also guaranteed for its “expected life,” though they don’t define the term. Clothes from Target’s Cat & Jack line come with a one-year guarantee.

Another way to make school uniforms last as long as possible is to choose the darkest colors allowed. On light-colored clothes, minor spots or stains show up more vividly, making them unfit for school wear. Darker-colored clothing, such as maroon, navy, or forest green, hides these minor flaws.


Final Word

Saving on school uniforms doesn’t end when you’ve made your purchases for the year. If your kid’s uniforms become unwearable due to rips, stains, or lost buttons, you’ll have to replace them in a hurry — possibly at full price. To avoid this problem, handle school uniforms with care to make them last as long as possible.

Always follow the washing instructions and line dry or dry flat when possible to avoid wear and tear from the dryer. Treat stains promptly, repair rips, and replace buttons.

If your sewing skills are up to it, you can even get another year or two of life out of garments by letting down the cuffs or adjusting the waistband to fit your child’s larger size. Following all these steps reduces waste, so you can also pat yourself on the back for being green.

One final tip: Label all your kids’ school clothing with their names. When all the students in a school wear the same outfit, it’s easy for them to grab someone else’s sweater or jacket by mistake. Sewing in a name tag or writing on the care tag with a permanent marker increases the chances misplaced clothes will find their way home again.

Source: moneycrashers.com

12 Ways to Increase Rental Income From Your Vacation Home

Bought a vacation rental and wondering how to maximize your income from it?

First and foremost, shift into the mindset of an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry. You’re a businessperson now, and you need to think like one. In particular, focus on creating a strong product, marketing it, and building efficient business processes.

Ways to Increase Your Vacation Rental Income

Vacation rental properties rarely offer truly passive income. Even if you outsource property management, you still need to manage the manager. Instead, think of your vacation rental property as a side business you operate in addition to your full-time job.

Once you start approaching your vacation rental as a hospitality business, you can start optimizing that business to earn more revenue with less labor on your part.

1. Start With Strategic Finishes

After purchasing the property, your first project is putting it into marketable shape as quickly as possible. That includes any needed repairs, updates, and improvements. Don’t go overboard, but look for any obvious indicators of age in the property, including anything that looks dated or unattractive.

You should also be planning out your automation processes at this point, because they may impact your property updates. For example, you may decide to install a smart lock or key code lock on the front door (more on that later).

Think about any other smart home upgrades that may improve your marketing. Would guests feel more comfortable with a smart security system in place?

As you plan out your property’s finishes, keep resiliency in mind.

Aim to “tenant-proof” your property as much as possible, with scratch- and waterproof flooring such as luxury vinyl tile and door stoppers behind each door. Consider semi-gloss or glossy paint finishes to more easily wipe away scuffs, and use the same paint color throughout for easy touch-ups.

Your guests won’t be gentle with your property, so make it as indestructible as possible.

When your property repairs and updates are finished, it’s time to furnish and decorate it. You don’t need to buy furniture new; no guest expects to be the first person to have sat on the couch. But furniture needs to be tasteful and in good condition.

A word to the wise: Don’t decorate blandly. You are not operating a hotel, and one of the reasons guests choose to stay in a privately owned vacation home over a hotel is to get a more authentic experience. Tie in some local flavor and add a bit of your own personality.

Draw the line at political statements, though. I once stayed in an Airbnb filled with political posters and found them to be obnoxious and unprofessional.


2. Automate & Systematize Guests’ Stay

The less your guests must rely on you personally, the smoother their stay will be for both of you.

Find a way to automate guests’ check-in and checkout process, particularly their access to the unit. That could mean a smart door lock, a keypad lock, a lockbox, or keys left with a community office or doorman.

Note that smart door locks don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can buy the ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro for under $200, or go a little lower-tech with the AmazonBasics keypad lock for under $50.

Self-entry allows guests to arrive on their own schedule, rather than wasting both of your time in coordinating entry with you present.

But systematizing your renters’ stay doesn’t end at physical entry. You also need to plan for other frequent needs, such as gaining Wi-Fi access, and make them extremely intuitive and easy for your guests.

Create a concierge document that starts with bullets for the most common issues, such as the Wi-Fi network and password. You can then direct guests to longer explanations as needed. Consider a Google Document that you can both print physically for the unit and send a link digitally to guests before they arrive.

Automate this communication with guests. Create automated messages that go out to guests 48 hours before their arrival that include details like how to access the property, Wi-Fi information, and how to use any confusing appliances. Your concierge document can also include tips for local restaurants, attractions, and other entertainment.

As you systematize your vacation rental business, create policies for every contingency. That includes lost key policies and fees, late checkout procedures, pet policies and fees, your maid or cleaning service (which can be set up quickly through Handy.com), and backup contacts for times when you aren’t available.

In addition to operating a hospitality business, you also face standard landlord headaches like property repairs. Prepare for maintenance by building a network of contractors you can contact for immediate service, to minimize the risk of bad reviews and losing Airbnb guests over maintenance issues.


3. Perfect Your Pricing

One of the most fundamental building blocks for success as an Airbnb host is pricing.

To begin, ignore what long-term rental properties charge for monthly rents. Rather, look at them, but only to run a comparative cash flow analysis to determine which leasing model would generate more profit for your property.

Your competition as a vacation rental operator doesn’t include long-term rentals, but rather hotels and other comparable vacation units. Get a sense of what hotels and similar vacation rentals charge in your immediate area. Consider aiming for around 20% less on a nightly basis than nearby hotels.

Keep in mind that your pricing can and should rise as you establish yourself and your unit.

In the beginning, with few or no reviews, you’ll probably need to entice your first guests with bargain pricing. Once you establish legitimacy through reviews, you can raise your pricing to meet or slightly surpass nearby competitors. (More on building reviews shortly.)

Remember, pricing doesn’t end at your nightly rate. It also includes your cleaning fee, additional guest fees, pet fees, and any other fees you charge. By all means, charge a cleaning fee, but don’t use it as a backdoor gimmick to charge higher rates. Price it based on your actual cleaning fees, and keep your nightly rates transparent.


4. Incentivize Longer Stays

As with long-term rentals, the greatest labor and costs in managing short-term rentals come from turnovers. From cleaning to coordinating access with guests and answering their questions, it costs far more time and money to rent to 10 guests in a one-month period than to a single guest staying for an entire month.

What’s more, short bookings can actually cost you the more lucrative longer bookings. If someone rents your unit for one night, it prevents a prospective two-week guest from being able to book your unit for that block.

So, price accordingly. Charge a higher nightly rate for stays under a week, and then offer a discount for guests who stay at least seven days. Keep graduating that discount the longer they stay, up to a month.


5. Consider Pet-Friendly Policies — For a Price

Pet owners often have a hard time finding hotels and vacation rentals that accommodate their four-legged family members. That means a shortage of supply, which in turn creates an opportunity.

There’s certainly no shortage of demand. More than two-thirds of American households own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 survey by the American Pet Products Association.

Of course, pets cause more wear and tear on your rental property. That means you should charge extra for them to make it worth your while.

By accepting pets, you can not only collect more money on a nightly basis, but you can also attract more potential guests and achieve higher occupancy rates. And in the vacation rental business, profits come down to occupancy.

Young Woman Wearing Sweater Cuddling Pet Cat


6. Take a Multipronged Approach to Marketing

Putting together the perfect vacation rental listing is both an art and a science. Start your marketing with a killer rental listing.

First, hire a professional real estate photographer to take photos. It’s less expensive than you think, and it’s a one-time marketing expense that will continue paying off for years to come.

Photos should include several shots from different angles of each important room in the home. Pay particular attention to the kitchen, living spaces, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Show the photos to someone who has never been inside your property and ask them if they can visualize the layout and space.

Feature a few exterior shots as well, including the front of the property and any outdoor living spaces.

When filling out your listing profile, tick off each amenity, and select the bed sizes for each bedroom. Then in your written description, emphasize the property’s best features, and mention the most important amenities again.

If your location is a selling point, emphasize that as well. Include highlights like “Five-minute walk to the waterfront!” or “One block from the metro station!” Mention specific landmarks and tourist attractions nearby to boost your search rankings within vacation rental platforms — more on that momentarily.

Although Airbnb is the undisputed leader in the online vacation rental space, it is not the only player. Advertise your unit for rent on multiple platforms, including VRBO, Booking.com, and Craigslist. A previous player in this industry, HomeAway, was acquired by VRBO and merged in 2020.

But don’t stop there. Research ways you can market your vacation rental on social media, such as through local tourist groups on Facebook, or even paid Facebook ads.

The better your marketing reach, the higher your occupancy rate will be, which ultimately determines your bottom line.


7. Optimize for Search Rankings

Imagine your vacation rental is one of a hundred available in its neighborhood. A prospective guest logs into Airbnb and searches for units in that neighborhood — which ones does Airbnb display first, at the top of the page rather than buried at the end of that long list?

Vacation rental platforms have their own search algorithms, just like Google does. If you want your listings to appear first, you need to take pains to optimize for those algorithms.

First, listing platforms reward responsiveness. The faster you respond to inquiries, the higher the platforms will list your unit. Make it a priority to respond as quickly as possible, and if you can’t give prospects a precise answer immediately, at least reply back with a quick “I’ll check into that and follow up with you shortly.”

As with Google, click-through rate matters. That refers to the percent of users who see your listing title who actually click on it. So, boost your click-through rate by putting thought into your listing titles to make them irresistible. Your thumbnail photo also helps your click-through rate, so make it gorgeous.

Accept instant bookings, rather than requiring prospects to wait until you’ve manually reviewed them. Listing platforms include this as a search filter, so many prospects will never even see your listings if you don’t accept instant bookings.

Keep your calendar up to date. Airbnb rewards recency — the more recently your calendar was updated, the better.

Likewise, keep your listings up to date. Every two or three months, tweak your listings, perhaps to emphasize seasonal attractions in your area. This also makes a great time to review your listing for completeness within the listing platform, which also impacts your search rank.

“Completeness” refers to the percentage of available fields and selections that you’ve filled out. Even if you filled out every field before, they don’t remain static — listing platforms constantly add new features and options, and you need to stay current with them if you want your listings to appear before alternatives.

Be sure to mention local attractions in your listing description because some prospects search specifically for easy access to famous landmarks or other attractions. You want to make sure your listing appears front and center for those who do.

And, of course, the more positive ratings and reviews you have, the more platforms reward you with higher rankings.


8. Accrue Reviews ASAP

You can put together the best listing in the world, but if you have no reviews, guests will be reluctant to book with you.

Start with a simple two-pronged approach to scoring reviews. First, price your property competitively to beat your competition if you don’t have many reviews. Second, put together a guest follow-up strategy for securing reviews.

That strategy should include asking no fewer than three times for a review.

Mention it at the end of your checkout instructions message, then again in a post-checkout message thanking them for staying with you. Then leave a review for them as well, and message them to let them know you left a glowing review for them, and ask them if they would be willing to do the same if they enjoyed their stay.

Your goal is to reach 10 positive reviews as quickly as possible. When prospective guests see reviews in the double digits, they feel more confident in booking, and your occupancy rate will rise.


9. Create an Experience

As outlined above, you can and should automate your booking, check-in, and check-out processes as much as possible. Aim to make them so easy an 8-year-old could do it.

Send a series of messages out on an automated schedule. Spell out everything the guest needs to know about getting into your property and staying there comfortably.

Assemble a concierge document about how to use the various appliances in your unit, the best local restaurants, and standout local attractions. Mention both the famous nearby amenities they already know about and the insider scoop on local secrets.

For example: “Drop by the Bulldog for an iconic Amsterdam bar experience, but then walk over to Door 74, a tiny, hidden speakeasy with no signage and a Prohibition-era vibe.”

It’s those more unique guest experiences your renters will remember and rave about later both publicly in their reviews and privately to their friends.

Leave a bottle of wine or some other gesture that they wouldn’t receive at a hotel. You don’t need to spend much money on it, and half your guests won’t drink it anyway, but it makes a great first impression. Underneath it, leave a brief handwritten note welcoming them by name. And, of course, chocolates on the pillows don’t hurt either.

People remember the little things, the small touches that remind them why they chose an alternative to bland corporate hotels.

Bottle Of Wine Rose Red Woman Relaxing At Home Sofa Barefoot


10. Explore Co-Hosting

If you manage your own vacation rental, and other nearby units also serve as vacation rentals, start networking with the other neighboring owners. You can co-host for each other, or simply have one owner co-host for all the neighborhood units as a side hustle.

Co-hosts share property management responsibilities, such as communicating with guests, managing check-ins and checkouts, coordinating repairs, and more. See Airbnb’s explanation for a full list of responsibilities that co-hosts can perform. In compensation, the primary host can pay co-hosts a percentage of the nightly rate, a percentage of the cleaning fee, or both.

They can make an affordable and convenient way to outsource management, whether temporarily — for example, while you’re on vacation — or permanently. Or, if you live near the units yourself, co-hosting for neighboring vacation rentals offers an easy side gig to earn some extra money on other people’s properties.


11. Protect Yourself & Your Property

One way to protect your property is to physically make it damage-resistant, as mentioned above. But protection doesn’t end there.

Think carefully about the security deposit you charge. Charge as much as you think you can without scaring off guests.

Platforms such as Airbnb include some protections for hosts, and you should familiarize yourself with them. If you don’t use a platform and rent independently, look into other ways you can protect against damage, such as preauthorizing the guest’s card for an additional damage deposit, but not running the charge unless they cause damage.

But your guests aren’t the only people you need to worry about. If you buy the property with a family member, friend, or other partner, it inevitably causes conflict to one degree or another.

The most common disputes involve one partner wanting to use the property more often than the others, financial disputes over expenses, and disputes when one owner wants to sell and the others can’t afford to buy them out.

I’ve seen all of these disputes play out in my own family, and can attest firsthand to how vicious they can get — vicious enough to permanently poison relationships, even close family relationships.

Protect yourself by signing an agreement with your partners upon buying a property detailing exactly how you’ll split revenue, responsibilities, and access to the property, and spelling out the process you’ll follow if one partner wants to sell while others don’t.

A little foresight today can save a lot of stress and infighting tomorrow.

Further protect yourself with contingency plans in the event that laws or market conditions change.

Local regulation presents a real threat to vacation rental owners — cities like New York, San Francisco, and Santa Monica all but outlaw private properties being offered to short-term guests. Your city could change its regulations at any time, and you need a backup plan to protect against such seismic shifts.

Run the numbers to calculate how your property would create cash flow as a long-term rental, as one contingency plan. As another, look into leasing your property as a furnished corporate rental, for example, to travel nurses.

As a last resort, you can always sell the property, but it typically takes a few years for properties to appreciate enough to cover the closing costs from both the initial purchase and the eventual sale. But always have contingency plans in place, to protect against losses if conditions change.


12. Optimize Your Taxes

Vacation rental owners can benefit from both investment property tax breaks and small business tax breaks.

As a business owner, you can deduct expenses that you might otherwise have to itemize in order to take, allowing you to take the standard deduction while still deducting specific expenses. For example, you could potentially deduct for travel, home office, and charitable donations from your business, all while still taking the standard deduction. Just be careful not to get carried away and trigger an audit with the IRS.

Meanwhile, real estate investors get their own tax benefits. You can deduct costs from property management to maintenance, utilities to depreciation.

Beware, however, that a few cities — such as Santa Monica — require vacation rental owners to pay additional taxes. Make sure you include that expense when you run the cash flow numbers before you invest in a vacation rental in one of those cities.


Final Word

It’s a fun idea to own a vacation rental you can occasionally use yourself while earning some extra income.

But in many markets, it remains a competitive industry, and often property owners find themselves losing money at the end of the year without enough occupancy, particularly during slow seasons.

Always run conservative numbers when you calculate cash flow, and never lose sight of the fact that the property is an investment. Don’t get attached to any given property, or even to the idea. In real estate as well as stocks, emotion is the enemy of investing.

Even if the cash flow numbers work for a prospective vacation rental, run them for contingency plans such as using the property as a long-term rental. You never know when market conditions will change; look no further than the collapse of the travel industry in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic and the energetic rebound in 2021.

Source: moneycrashers.com

6 Ways to Reuse Items to Save Money and Reduce Waste

We live in a throwaway society. We wipe up spills with paper towels and wipe our noses with paper tissues we discard after a single use. We upgrade our computers and replace our cellphones nearly every year. Many of us even change our whole wardrobes every season, discarding old clothes that are in perfectly good shape because they’re “so last year.”

All this waste is costly, both for us and the environment. We could all stretch our dollars much further by using the same product many times rather than just once. And because we’d be buying less, we’d cut down on our use of energy and natural resources as well. So when you choose to reuse, you’re making your life greener and cheaper at the same time.

How to Reuse Items to Save Money and Reduce Waste

There are many ways to make reuse a part of your life. Some are simple, such as carrying a reusable shopping bag to the supermarket. Others take a bit more effort, such as shopping secondhand or using pallets for building material.

If you’re new to the idea of reuse, start with a few baby steps. Once you become comfortable with those, work your way up to the big stuff. As you become accustomed to the practice, you’ll discover even more ways to trim both household waste and your personal budget.

1. Ditch Disposable Products

For many people, using disposable products is just a matter of habit. They grab a disposable water bottle when leaving the house or purchase paper napkins at the grocery store.

In these cases, switching to reusable goods can feel awkward and unfamiliar at first. But if you give it a chance, before long, it becomes second nature. And once you’ve watched your trash can become lighter while your wallet stays heavier, you’ll never want to go back.

These are some examples, but there are many disposable household goods you can ditch forever.

Water Bottles

Drinking bottled water is a common and expensive habit. If you go through a $10 case of bottled water every week, that’s $520 per year for something you could get out of a tap for less than $1.

Invest in a $20 reusable water bottle instead, and it will pay for itself more than 25 times over in its first year of use. At the same time, you’ll keep more than 1,200 disposable plastic bottles out of the waste stream. And according to a report from the Pacific Institute, you’ll save more than 100 kilowatt-hours of energy.

The EcoVessel New Wave BPA-free plastic sports water bottle (available in 24- and 32-ounce volumes) is perfect for on-the-go sippers thanks to its durable straw lid design and ergonomic body.

Shopping Bags

Americans use billions of plastic shopping bags each year. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, New York state residents alone go through 23 billion plastic bags per year. That’s nearly one bag per person per day. Producing the plastic for all those bags contributes to climate change, and the bags themselves often end up as ocean waste. You can avoid contributing to this waste by carrying reusable bags.

And avoiding reusable grocery bags can sometimes save you money at the checkout. For instance, grocery stores like Aldi charge directly for shopping bags. Although the fee for each bag is modest, you can avoid it entirely by bringing your own. Other stores, such as Target, offer a small discount for each reusable bag you bring.

There are dozens of kinds to choose from, including canvas, nylon, and string grocery bags. There are even bags you can fold and tuck into a pocket or bag to ensure you always have one when you need it.

Dishes and Utensils

You probably use washable dishes, glasses, and silverware for your meals at home. But during the workday, you might not think twice about grabbing a paper coffee cup or plastic fork. And when you’re done eating or drinking, it goes right in the trash.

But there’s a cheaper and more eco-friendly alternative. Keep a mug, plate, and set of silverware at work to eat your takeout or leftovers in style, and just wash the dishes when you’re done. If you typically use one disposable plate, one paper cup, and one set of plastic utensils each workday, this tip can save you about $72 per year.

To-Go Containers

The large food portions at restaurants are more than many people can eat in one sitting. You know you can save as much as a dollar or two (for those who take their lunch to work) to upward of $10 (if you usually eat out).

The downside is that when you ask to take home your leftovers, the server usually brings you a giant Styrofoam clamshell that just goes straight into the trash after you eat. But by bringing a reusable container when you’re planning to eat out, you can avoid both food waste and packaging waste.

Napkins

A family of four that uses one paper napkin at every meal buys and discards more than 4,300 napkins per year, more than $515 worth. That same family could buy a dozen cloth napkins for $9 and reuse them for years. They’d save over $500 in the first year alone, produce less trash, and save trees.

Paper Towels

Paper towels are even more mainstream than paper napkins. According to Earth911, the average American spent $17.50 on them in 2017.

But many reusable products can take the place of paper towels. For less than most people pay per year for paper towels, you could get a dozen washable sponges or microfiber cleaning cloths you can reuse for months. Or you can make reusable cleaning rags from old socks and T-shirts for free.


2. Repair Instead of Replacing

When something around your house breaks, do you fix it or buy a new one? In many cases, the first choice is both cheaper and greener.

And if you directly compare the replacement versus repair cost for most things, it’s no contest.

Cars

If you own an old car that’s in and out of the repair shop all the time, it may seem cheaper to buy a new one than to keep paying for repairs. But according to Credit Karma, the average monthly payment on a car loan is $568, or $6,816 per year. So unless you’re paying that much every year to keep your old car on the road, it’s cheaper to keep repairing it.

But money isn’t everything. If your old car has become so unreliable you fear being stranded miles from home, replacing it could be a better choice. You can also replace an old gas-guzzler with a newer, more fuel-efficient model as a way to reduce air pollution and shrink your carbon footprint.

Computers

An unreliable computer can be just as frustrating as an unreliable car. But once again, replacing it isn’t always the only option. You can often cure a sluggish PC just by clearing away unnecessary system files, defragmenting the hard drive, or removing viruses. In many cases, it can cost you nothing at all.

Other computer upgrades cost money. For example, it costs about $90 to upgrade to a new solid-state hard drive or add 16 gigabytes of memory. But that’s still quite a bit less than the $650 or more you’d pay for a new desktop computer, and it produces less toxic electronic waste as well.

Furniture

If you have an old, scratched table or a chair with a worn-out cover, don’t give up on it. You can cover those scratches using a $5 bottle of scratch-cover polish instead of spending $200 or more on a new one. You can remove the seat on a dining chair and recover it using a staple gun and $5 worth of fabric, saving you the cost of an $80 replacement.

For more complicated furniture repairs, such as refinishing or reupholstering, you can hire a professional. But that may cost more than replacing the piece, so check prices before making your decision. Selling or donating your old furniture keeps it out of a landfill too.

Clothing

Clothing with minor damage, such as a ripped seam or a missing button, is easy to fix. You can purchase a $7 mini sewing kit with everything you need to make minor repairs: needles, thread, buttons, scissors, and pins.

If you have a more complex repair project or don’t know how to sew, you can find a tailor to do it for you. According to Thumbtack, simple repairs like replacing a zipper generally cost around $20, which is quite a bit less than replacing a winter coat or a nice pair of dress pants.

Shoes

Sometimes, it seems like the minute you get a new pair of shoes comfortably broken in, they wear out and you have to replace them. But a simple DIY shoe repair may be all it takes to keep those comfy shoes going. For example, scuff marks are easy to cover with a marker pen, while broken shoelaces and worn-out insoles are easy to replace for $10 or less.

For more complex jobs, such as replacing soles or heels, you can go to a shoe repair shop. But according to Vox, that kind of repair may cost $50 or more, so it’s only worth doing on quality shoes that cost significantly more than that to replace.


3. Shopping Secondhand

Sometimes, there’s just no way to repair something. But that doesn’t mean you need to buy a brand-new one. You just need one that’s new to you.

Pretty much anything you can buy is cheaper when you buy it used. The primary exceptions are antiques and collectibles, which gain value as they age.

But secondhand shopping doesn’t just save you money. It keeps perfectly usable goods out of the landfill and saves the resources and energy needed to make new ones.

And there are many places to shop secondhand.

Thrift Shops

You can find secondhand clothing, furniture, and household goods at thrift shops. Prices vary depending on the type of store.

Nonprofit thrift stores, such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and church basement shops, typically charge the least. For instance, at my local church thrift shop, most goods are $2 or less, but you have to watch out for damage, such as stains or missing buttons.

By contrast, consignment stores often focus on selling like-new clothes from high-end brands. Prices are usually more than you’d pay for new clothes at a department store but still much less than you’d pay for new designer-label clothes.

Yard Sales

You can find even bigger bargains at garage sales, also known as yard sales or tag sales. Yard sale shopping is very hit-and-miss, but on a lucky day, you can find real treasures at great prices.

You can pick up all kinds of things at garage sales, including books, games, movies, music, furniture, electronics, and clothing, all at prices well below retail. Kids items, such as clothes and toys, are prevalent since children often outgrow things that are still in good condition.

You can find yard sales in your area by checking local papers and sites like Garage Sales Tracker and Yard Sale Search.

eBay

This giant online auction site has just about anything you can think of for sale: art, music, collectibles, clothing, and even cars. That makes it the perfect place to look for obscure pieces you can’t find anywhere else.

But not everything sold via eBay is secondhand, and not everything is a bargain. To ensure you get a good deal, set a price limit — say, half what the purchase would cost in a store — and refuse to pay more than that.

Another problem is that you can’t see the merchandise in person to check for defects. The best you can do is read the listings very carefully and pass up anything you’re unsure about.

Swap.com

Despite its name, Swap.com is not a bartering website. Instead, it’s a consignment site where you can buy and sell clothing and several other items, like toys and books, in good condition. Prices are generally more than you’d pay at a nonprofit thrift store but less than you’d pay at a consignment shop, with most apparel and accessories priced between $4 and $50.

ThredUp

Another suitable site for buying and selling clothes online is ThredUp. Garments start as low as $4. You can also send your old clothes to ThredUp in exchange for cash or credit to spend on the site if they accept them.

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace

Craigslist is a marketplace where people in a local area can buy, sell, and swap goods and services. The for-sale section includes listings for just about any commodity you can imagine, including cars, clothes, appliances and electronics, and furniture.

Since anyone can post a listing, prices and product conditions vary widely. But when you shop through Craigslist, you often have a chance to check out the merchandise in person before you pay money for it. Most Craigslist sites also have a free section for giveaways and a section for yard sale listings.

Facebook Marketplace has a similar platform.

Reuse Centers

If you’re renovating your home, check your local reuse center before heading to the big-box home improvement retailer. These stores carry a wide variety of building materials, appliances, and furniture in good condition. Prices are usually no more than half the retail price and sometimes as low as 10% of retail.

Reuse centers are most commonly in or near large cities. You can check The Loading Dock and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore website to look for stores in your area.

Secondhand Specialty Stores

Many stores specialize in a particular kind of secondhand wares, such as books or music. Some stores, such as Half Price Books, offer a selection of used books and recordings alongside their new ones.


4. Swapping Goods

Swapping goods is an even bigger win-win than shopping secondhand. You can get rid of your unwanted stuff and pick up new stuff at the same time, with no money changing hands. So you get all the environmental perks of buying secondhand, and the price is unbeatable: absolutely free.

And you’re not limited to your friend group. There are plenty of places where you can swap goods with neighbors you don’t yet know.

Freecycle

The Freecycle Network is like a version of Craigslist where everything is free. Freecycling doesn’t require a direct swap for things of equal value. Instead, everyone posts listings for things they don’t want (or things they need).

For example, if you’re in the market for a new pair of ice skates, you can look for them on your local Freecycle group instead of hitting the store. And when you have something you no longer need, you can post it for someone else to take. You could get someone else’s too-small pair of skates for free and keep them and your unwanted goods out of the landfill at the same time.

Freecycle has listings for just about everything: clothes, books, furniture, electronics, and even plants. Some goods are in like-new condition, while others are completely broken but still useful for parts. To see if there’s a local Freecycle group in your area, visit Freecycle.org and type in your city and state.

Free Stores

Some larger cities have free stores and markets, which are like an in-person version of Freecycle. You can drop off unwanted pieces in good condition and help yourself to anything other people have left.

Most free stores (sometimes called “really really free markets”) don’t have permanent storefronts with regular hours. Instead, they’re open-air markets that occur on a particular day or large boxes where people can pick up and drop off items. To look for a free store near you, do a search on your town’s name followed by “free store” or “really really free market.”

Swap Shops and Swap Meets

Swap shops and swap meets are similar to free stores but with a twist: You have to give something to get something. It doesn’t matter what you bring or what it’s worth, as long as you donate something.

One type of swap meet is a clothing swap party. At these events, you and all your friends bring the clothes you no longer want and trade them with each other.

Online Swap Sites

You can also swap online at swapping websites. For example, Rehash is like an online clothing swap party for people all over the country. At PaperBack Swap, you can trade in paperback books you’ve read and get new titles in exchange.


5. Utilize the Sharing Economy

When you shop secondhand, you’re reusing old stuff someone else no longer needs. But there are also some things nearly everyone needs but almost no one needs every day.

For example, anyone with carpeting needs a vacuum cleaner, but most people only use it about once per week. So it would make a lot of sense if there were some way for a bunch of neighbors to have just one vacuum and take turns using it.

That’s what the sharing economy is all about. It lets just one item — a book, a car, or even a building — be enough for multiple people. There are many examples — some old and familiar, others more modern.

Public Libraries

Libraries aren’t just for books anymore. At many public libraries, you can also borrow audiobooks, music CDs, and DVDs of popular films and TV series. You can even read popular magazines instead of shelling out $5 or more to buy them off the rack.

Taking advantage of all these features can save you big bucks. For example, the average household with cable or satellite TV spends nearly $110 per month on it, according to Leichtman Research. If your library gives you enough entertainment choices to cancel your cable, you can save close to $1,320 per year.

Car Sharing

Let’s say you like to bike to work in good weather, but you prefer to drive on cold or rainy days. Instead of having a car that just sits in the driveway most of the time, you could join a car-sharing program, such as Turo or Zipcar.

Zipcar costs approximately $70 per year, plus a driving rate starting at $12.50 for each hour you use the car. If you made 10 three-hour trips per month, that would come to $4,570 per year. That’s less than half the $9,576 per year Car and Driver says it costs the average driver to buy and maintain a car.

Bike-Share Programs

If you use your car more often than your bike, you can keep the car and join a bike-share program instead. It gives you access to a whole fleet of bikes you can check out as needed.

For example, at Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., you can borrow a bike for 24 hours for only $8. Doing so twice per month comes to $192 per year, which is quite a bit less than the cost of most new bicycles. Plus, you don’t need to store the bike, which is handy if you live in a small apartment.

Cohousing

Many houses have rooms that sit unused most days. For example, perhaps you only need your laundry room once or twice per week, your formal dining room twice per month, and your guest bedroom even less frequently.

In a cohousing community, people can share these seldom-used spaces with others. Each person or family has a small private home, while a larger building or home has areas all residents can use. Living in a cohousing unit usually costs less than owning a separate house of your own with all the same amenities.

The exact amount you save with cohousing varies. According to the Foundation for Intentional Community, a survey of 200 cohousing residents found that each household saved between $200 and $2,000 per month. And in a 2018 Journal of Accountancy article, a retiree who downsized into cohousing estimated her savings at $10,000 per year.

Coworking

Just like homes, many office buildings have spaces workers don’t use regularly. Desks sit empty while people are on vacation, and employees only use conference rooms once per week.

Coworking spaces allow a bunch of freelancers or solo professionals to share one building. That way, they all save money on rent and amenities like coffee and Internet access. Calculations by ValuePenguin show that small businesses with fewer than 12 employees save an average of $2,700 per month by using a coworking space rather than leasing an office.

Community Gardens

It’s possible to share outdoor spaces as well. Community gardens are shared plots of land in a city where people join together to grow flowers and fresh vegetables. These sites turn unused and unsightly vacant lots into sources of fresh food.

Many community gardens are free to join, but even if there’s a membership fee, it may be much lower than the cost of owning a house with a yard of your own. And having many people share a single garden is a much more efficient use of land than spreading the same amount of garden space across multiple lots.

Specialty Sharing

In many cities, there are special “libraries” where people can share all kinds of goods. For example:

  • Tool-lending libraries make it easy to borrow home and garden tools you only need occasionally, such as an extension ladder. Having 10 neighbors share one ladder is a much more efficient use of resources than each one having a ladder they rarely use.
  • Toy-lending libraries let kids choose from a much wider variety of toys than they can keep in their rooms at home. Parents can swap toys when their kids get tired of them rather than throwing them away and buying new ones.
  • Seed exchanges allow gardeners to trade extra seeds and seedlings they don’t need for new ones they can use rather than discarding them.

6. Get Creative

Often, when you reuse something, you’re simply continuing to utilize it for the same purpose. For example, you take a cloth grocery bag on yet another trip to the store, upgrade an old computer, or donate a too-small sweater to a thrift shop so a smaller person can wear it.

But sometimes, an item can’t do its original job anymore. When that happens, there are two things you can do: throw it out or put it to a new use. For instance, an old Mac computer that can’t handle today’s software can become an aquarium, or a sweater with moth-eaten sleeves can be cut down to make a vest.

These are examples of creative reuse, also known as upcycling or repurposing. It can be one of the more complicated ways to reuse, but for people who love to let their imaginations run free, it’s also the most fun.

There are many creative ways to repurpose common household items, such as:

  • Mesh Bags. To give mesh onion bags a new life, string a shoelace through the top. This drip-dry storage bag can hold bath toys or corral small kitchen tools in the dishwasher. A rolled-up mesh bag, held together with a few stitches, makes a good scouring pad for pots and pans.
  • Milk Jugs. An empty milk jug also has lots of uses. You can cut off the top to make a storage bucket with a built-in handle. Cutting off the bottom at an angle creates a dustpan or a large scoop for pet food, kitty litter, or potting soil. Cutting off just the base makes a miniature greenhouse to protect your tender seedlings in the garden.
  • Blue Jeans. A pair of blue jeans that’s worn out at the knees still has lots of good, usable fabric. The simplest way to reuse it is to cut off the legs and make shorts. But with a little more sewing skill, you can turn the denim into a sturdy apron, a tote bag, a purse, or a set of potholders.
  • Canning Jars. The humble Mason jar has become a trendy decoration. These glass jars can store anything from candy to office supplies to leftover paint. At chic parties, they can contain cocktails, hold candles, and display flowers. Do a quick search on “Mason jar projects,” and you can see literally hundreds of other ideas.
  • Shipping Pallets. Typically, shipping pallets are used once and discarded. But for creative carpenters, they make an almost unlimited supply of free wood. At sites like 1001Pallets, you can find instructions for turning pallets into tables, chairs, wine racks, shelves, and just about everything else for the home.

That doesn’t mean you have to start saving all your trash so you can upcycle it. The point of creative reuse isn’t to avoid throwing stuff away. It’s to avoid buying new stuff by putting what you have to good use.

Once you get into the habit of reusing things, the whole world becomes your materials bin. Instead of running to the store when you need something, you start looking around to see what you already have.

For instance, if you need a hat rack, you might spot a big branch out in the yard and think, “Aha!” An hour later, the branch is stripped of bark and mounted on your wall, and you have a unique hat rack your friends will envy.


Final Word

The three R’s of the green lifestyle are “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Of these three, recycling tends to get the most attention. These days, we all know how to separate our trash and check the numbered logo on the bottom of a plastic bottle. And it’s easy to think recycling means we’re doing our bit to help the planet.

But reusing is much better than merely recycling. Yes, recycling a water or soda bottle is better than making a new one from scratch. But turning old bottles into new bottles still takes energy and produces pollution. Plus, it only works if people remember to “close the cycle” by buying recycled products.

But when you have a reusable bottle, you stop waste in its tracks. Any energy that went into making that bottle has already been used, and using it again doesn’t take a single watt more. When one reusable bottle can take the place of more than 1,200 disposable bottles every year, you save more energy — and more money — every time you use it.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Cities with Worst and Best Credit Scores

Having a high credit score is extremely important in today’s financial world and is used by dozens of industries to determine whether you’re a risk to them or not. Credit scores are checked for hiring, renting, buying, and even when dating. We all understand how important credit scores are and, while where you live isn’t necessarily going to affect your credit score, we’ve decided to put together a list of top 20 cities with the best credit scores and the worst credit scores below.

While it’s unlikely that any location will have a direct impact on your credit score, you may want to consider that in some cities the average household is more financially stable than in other cities. If we look at the city with the highest average credit score, for instance, Minneapolis-St. Paul has an average median income of almost $70,000/year where as a city like Shreveport with a much lower average credit score, has a median income of only $42,157. So, it’s very possible that the higher incomes directly affected the credit scores as card holders were more financial stable.

Cities with the best credit

Rank Metropolitan area State Average
VantageScore 3.0
Average number
of open credit cards
1 MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL MN 702 3.48
2 SIOUX FALLS (MITCHELL) SD 700 3.05
3 DULUTH-SUPERIOR MN, WI 697 3.19
4 FARGO-VALLEY CITY ND, MN 697 3.31
5 GREEN BAY-APPLETON WI 697 3.26
6 CEDAR RAPIDS-WTRLO-IWC-DUB IA 697 3.23
7 MADISON WI 694 3.23
8 BOSTON (MANCHESTER) MA, NH 694 3.60
9 LA CROSSE-EAU CLAIRE WI 692 3.13
10 BURLINGTON-PLATTSBURGH VT, NY, NH 691 3.06
11 LINCOLN – HASTINGS-KRNY NE 690 3.25
12 JOHNSTOWN-ALTOONA PA 689 3.30
13 SAN FRANCISCO-OAK-SAN JOSE CA 689 3.40
14 PEORIA-BLOOMINGTON IL 689 3.49
15 PITTSBURGH PA 688 3.65
16 PORTLAND-AUBURN ME, NH 687 3.08
17 HONOLULU HI 687 3.24
18 HARRISBURG-LNCSTR-LEB-YORK PA 685 3.50
19 ALBANY-SCHENECTADY-TROY NY 685 3.46
20 HARTFORD – NEW HAVEN CT 683 3.59

Cities with the worst credit

Rank Metropolitan area State Average
VantageScore 3.0
Average number
of open credit cards
1 HARLINGEN-WSLCO-BRNSVL-MCA TX 628 2.81
2 LAS VEGAS NV 628 3.03
3 JACKSON, MS MS 629 2.29
4 FLORENCE-MYRTLE BEACH SC 633 2.72
5 BAKERSFIELD CA 634 2.87
6 AUGUSTA GA, SC 635 2.66
7 COLUMBUS-TUPELO-WEST POINT MS, AL 635 2.38
8 SHREVEPORT LA, TX, AR, OK 635 2.34
9 SAVANNAH GA, SC 637 2.77
10 MEMPHIS TN 637 2.64
11 FRESNO-VISALIA CA 639 2.82
12 COLUMBUS, GA GA 639 2.67
13 MONROE-EL DORADO LA, AR 639 2.39
14 MACON GA 640 2.68
15 TYLER-LONGVIEW(LFKN-NCGD) TX 641 2.78
16 MONTGOMERY (SELMA) AL 641 2.70
17 TALLAHASSEE-THOMASVILLE FL, GA 642 2.54
18 CORPUS CHRISTI TX 642 2.75
19 EL PASO TX 644 2.99
20 AMARILLO TX 644 2.75

Credit score and open credit card data are from Experian. We analyzed 143 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Source: creditabsolute.com

15 Best Ways to Save Money on an RV Road Trip

According to the RV Industry Association, recreational vehicle vacations are cheaper than other types of vacation travel. Specifically, savings range from 21% to 64% for a four-person trip, whereas two-person trips can be 8% to 53% cheaper.

But expenses can rack up quickly, whether you’re taking a short RV trip with your family or enjoying the full-time RV lifestyle. Fuel expenses, campground fees, and rental costs alone can put your trip over budget if you aren’t careful.

If you want to save money on your RV trip, there are several travel tips that can cut costs while letting you travel comfortably and do plenty of sightseeing.

The Best Ways to Save Money on an RV Road Trip

Many RV travel money-saving methods involve trimming major costs like gas, food, and rental fees. Additionally, some saving tips are general guidelines you should follow since they help keep your trip low-cost.

In combination, these RV hacks ensure your next road trip is on budget without having to change your travel plans drastically.

1. Join RV Clubs

Joining an RV club is one of the best ways to save money on RV trips, even if you only RV two or three nights per year. RV clubs provide members with perks like discounts on various campgrounds and parks. Some clubs also offer deals at various hotels, mechanics, and insurance companies for members.

Several leading RV clubs you can join to score discounts include:

  • Boondockers Welcome. This RV club costs $50 per year and lets you find free off-the-grid camping spots from over 2,900 hosts worldwide. Boondockers Welcome also provides members with various discounts for services like RV mobile Internet and additional campgrounds.
  • Escapees RV Club. For $49.95 per year, you get 15% to 50% off at over 800 RV parks. Members also get discounts for certain RV mechanics, insurance, and roadside assistance.
  • Good Sam. Good Sam’s RV club costs $29 per year, making it one of the cheapest RV clubs. Members save 10% on 2,100 partner campgrounds and gas and diesel at Pilot Flying J gas stations. Members also save 15% on propane at Camping World and Gander RV & Outdoors in addition to enjoying merchandise discounts at these two retailers and other Good Sam partners.
  • Harvest Hosts. This RV club costs $99 per year and lets you camp for free at over 2,400 farms, breweries, wineries, and museums across North America.
  • Passport America. For $44 per year, Passport America lets you save 50% at over 1,450 campsites.

The cheap annual membership and significant campground and RV park savings make these clubs cost-effective. RV campsites generally cost $20 to $50 per night. Even if you RV once per year, getting 10% to 50% off campgrounds can cover your membership cost after two to three nights.

While planning your RV road trip, check various RV clubs to see if they have partner campgrounds along your route or plan your route based on your membership. RV clubs list campground partners on their websites so you can cross-reference their partners to find affordable camping spots as you drive.

If you’re a AAA member, you can also take advantage of several RV member discounts (which vary by AAA club) and add RV coverage to unlock perks like:

  • Free RV towing up to a certain number of miles, depending on your level of coverage
  • Flat tire service
  • Fuel delivery service
  • Vehicle locksmith credits
  • Free car rentals
  • Discounts on parts and accessories at partner auto parts stores

AAA also has other member benefits, depending on your level of coverage and location, and includes roadside assistance. Plus, members get discounts to partners like Carfax, Hertz, Shell, and various hotels.

Between possible AAA discounts and savings from an RV club, you can reliably save on campground costs and potential vehicle repairs and towing.

2. Travel Off-Season

RVing usually involves sightseeing in the cities you drive through. That means paying for extras like park passes, guided tours, and day passes to various attractions.

But you can save money by traveling off-season. Hotels, parks, and tourist attractions often have cheaper rates during nonpeak tourism season. For example, according to Visit Arizona, lower fall and winter rates for popular attractions include:

  • 40% off lodging for the Canyon de Chelly National Monument
  • 10% off hotels in Flagstaff
  • Lower hotel prices and a better touring experience of the Grand Canyon

Visiting Phoenix or Tucson in the summer can also save a lot of money since the intense heat wards off more vacationers, so accommodations and tours are less expensive.

Arizona is just one example, but the same concept applies in other cities, depending on when tourists typically visit.

3. Shop Around for Affordable RV Rentals

More than 11 million U.S. households own an RV, according to RV Industry Association data. But for new RV enthusiasts who don’t own their own recreational vehicle, renting is likely the only choice unless you can borrow an RV from someone you know.

But RV rentals from dealerships can easily cost hundreds of dollars per day if you opt for larger Class-A or Class-C motor homes. Thankfully, the sharing economy has propelled the rise of several Airbnb-style marketplaces where you can rent inexpensive RVs.

Some popular RV rental websites include Outdoorsy, Rvezy, and RVshare, though there are many other popular RV rental companies.

The most effective way to save money on an RV rental is to stick with smaller vehicles like camper vans, travel trailers, and Class-B motor homes. On person-to-person RV rental sites, you can usually rent Class-B motor homes for around $100 per day (or even less if you find a deal), and travel trailers can be as cheap as $50 per day.

It’s one of the most effective ways to save money on rental fees.

4. Save Money With RV Relocation Deals

RV dealerships and websites like Cruise America sometimes offer relocation deals. Relocation deals are essentially cheap one-way RV road trips. For example, you might find a relocation deal that asks you to transport an RV from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Seattle, Washington.

Many relocation deals cost $1 in rental fees or are significantly lower than paying the standard daily rate for the vehicle. Deals also often include a free daily mileage limit and reimburse you for gas. Some deals even throw in free extras like cooking and bedding kits or a meal stipend.

Several websites where RV dealers list relocation deals include:

The catch is that you have to reach the drop-off point by a specific date and time. That doesn’t allow for much sightseeing, and you can face late penalties and pay full price for any additional miles and time you spend on the road.

Some relocation deals let you extend the time you’re driving if you want to move at your own pace. But it’s uncommon, and extending your trip usually means paying full price for each additional day you drive. Plus, since you’re not driving the RV home, you have to find another way home, like booking a cheap flight or hopping on a train.

Ultimately, relocation deals are the cheapest way to take a speedy RV road trip. But if you want to travel slowly and create your own itinerary, it’s not the right travel choice.

5. Book Your RV Early

The last thing you want is to plan an incredible road trip only to find the available RV rentals are all more expensive than you thought. You also want to avoid not being able to rent an RV and having to drive to another city to pick up your rental.

Start researching RV rental options as early as possible and contact the dealership or RV owner to confirm availability for your travel dates. Booking earlier also helps you lock in lower pricing and gives you time to shop around for cheaper RVs. When you call an RV dealer, also clarify mileage limits and ask questions about what’s included in your rental.

6. Only Rent Add-Ons You Need

Buying your own camping supplies or tent is a significant upfront expense, so renting sometimes makes sense if you only road-trip once every few years. But if you’re a frequent RVer and camper, buying your own supplies makes sense. And they sell more than tent add-ons.

RV dealerships and rental marketplaces often let you rent basic personal supplies. For example, you can rent cooking and bedding kits that come with basic kitchen supplies and necessities like blankets and pillows. The kits are convenient, but they’re also a waste of money.

For example, a kitchen kit from Cruise America, a popular RV dealership, costs $110. Similarly, personal kits cost $60. If you rent four personal kits, that’s $240 alone in additional fees for your trip.

Instead of renting, prepare DIY RV kits at home. You can buy inexpensive kitchen and travel supplies from any dollar store. Similarly, bring blankets and sheets from home or purchase extras from Amazon. If you RV multiple times over the next few years, it could result in potentially hundreds of dollars in savings for very little effort.

You can also buy used camping gear on Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace to avoid paying full price. Or check Nextdoor to see if a neighbor can loan you some supplies or sell you their secondhand goods.

Other rental options you can skip if you plan ahead include:

  • Campaign chairs
  • Camper stoves
  • Bikes
  • Lawn games

7. RV Insurance Research

If you’re renting an RV, you usually pay a daily RV insurance fee alongside the daily rental price. But some companies let you choose how much coverage you have, which influences costs.

For example, Outdoorsy offers multiple levels of insurance for renters with deductibles depending on the value of the vehicle. Typically, deductibles range from $1,000 to $4,000 for physical damage and comprehensive and collision coverage.

Similarly, RVshare insurance plans start at around $10 per day for towable RVs with basic collision, weather, and theft coverage. Renters can also upgrade to have additional broken glass and falling object protection for towable RVs starting at $18 per day. Large motor home insurance starts at $20 per day for collision, weather, and theft coverage, but renters can upgrade for broken glass and falling object protection starting at $41 per day.

When researching RVs to rent, factor in the size of the vehicle and what deductible you’re comfortable with. An otherwise affordable RV trip can become a financial nightmare if you’re suddenly on the hook for a $4,000 deductible because of vehicle damage.

As for RV owners, finding affordable insurance is also essential. Popular RV insurance companies include National General and Progressive, so start your insurance search by using the online quote tools to compare premiums for your class of motor home.

Additionally, check your current auto and homeowners insurance provider to see if you can save by bundling motor home insurance with your existing policy. For example, Allstate and Nationwide offer insurance discounts for having multiple policies. Allstate also provides discounts for retirees, and Nationwide becomes cheaper if you pay your policy in full and remain accident-free for 36 months.

You can also get RV insurance and additional perks like extended roadside assistance if you’re a AAA member and insure your RV through AAA.

You shouldn’t skimp on RV insurance to save money if it means taking on a higher deductible than you can comfortably afford or risking being on the hook entirely if your RV suffers damages. But like any insurance policy, it pays to shop around and leverage discounts when it makes sense.

8. Plan Inexpensive Driving Routes

You’re always going to spend money on a road trip, but the route you take heavily influences how much you spend on things like gas and overnight stays.

One of the most crucial things to look for when planning is free or cheap campsites. Spending $20 per night versus $50 means hundreds of dollars in savings over your road trip. You still want to find pleasant campsites with electrical, sewage, and water access, if possible, but compare prices to locate the cheapest campsite in each area.

Other considerations you should have when planning an RV route include:

  • Points of interest along the route
  • Cheap gas station availability
  • Avoiding areas of congestion and toll roads

Factoring all this data into a trip that spans hundreds or thousands of miles isn’t simple. But you can use RV trip-planning tools to find affordable routes instead of manually researching routes.

RV Trip Wizard is one planning tool that has over 10 million data points for campgrounds, state parks, and points of interest. The planner also lets you estimate fuel and campground costs. It’s $49 per year, but considering how much time and money you save, it’s worth it.

RV clubs like Good Sam also let members use a trip-planning tool comparable to RV Trip Wizard. If you’re already a Good Sam’s member, it’s your best choice.

Finally, Roadtrippers has a free trip-planning tool that lets you create a simple route with five waypoints (overnight stops). It doesn’t let you save many points of interest, but the map still highlights campgrounds, parks, restaurants, and attractions along the way. If you want to save up to 150 points, have offline map access, and view live traffic, Roadtrippers Plus costs $29.99 per year.

If you don’t want to spend money, you can create your own road trip itinerary using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. RV Leaguers has a free RV itinerary template you can use to record the campgrounds you’re stopping at each night, daytime stops, campground costs, and points of interest to see.

Regardless of your trip-planning tool, account for mileage limits. Most RV rentals only let you drive a certain number of miles per day before charging mileage overages. Once you know how many miles you can drive per day, create your road trip plan and map out where you’re stopping each night to stay within your limit.

9. Book Free Campsites

Campsite expenses can derail an otherwise inexpensive RV trip if you book multiple sites. But one advantage of RV living is that you can set up camp for the night without much notice.

That flexibility means you can leverage free campgrounds along your route to avoid staying at more expensive parks. Websites like Free Campsites and FreeRoam have a directory of free campgrounds and parks, though the latter focuses on sites without hookups for water, electricity, or your sewage system.

Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maintains information on camping on public land, including info on permits and fees and tips for campsite selection. You can also search BLM partner site Recreation.gov for free spots along your road trip.

Similarly, you can search the National Forest Foundation’s website to find free public forests to camp in. Some forests require a national park pass from the National Park Service. The pass costs $80 per year, but there’s plenty of free land to camp on.

In general, if you’re road-tripping across a popular route, you can find free camping spots. Some Walmarts also allow free overnight parking if you have an RV. According to Walmart.com, you should contact store management to ensure the store allows overnight parking. You can find a specific store and phone number with Walmart’s store finder tool. Rest stations along highways are another free overnight RV option.

10. Try Boondocking

Boondocking refers to RVing without having hookups to water, electricity, or a sewage system. When you boondock, you’re usually camping overnight on free public land. But even staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot is technically boondocking.

Boondocking is generally free, so it’s an immediate way to save money on RV travel. In some cases, you must pay an overnight fee if you’re boondocking at a campground, but it’s still cheaper than staying at a campground where you hook up to an electrical, water, and sewage system.

Just remember to keep an eye on your gray water tank (water waste) and black water tank (regular waste) before boondocking. It’s illegal in most instances to dump gray or black water on the ground, so you need to find a dump station before boondocking if you’re close to full. Truck stops sometimes have dump stations, as do RV parks.

Being off-grid isn’t for everyone, and if you need a shower at the end of the day or want access to electricity, boondocking isn’t for you. But to save money and potentially enjoy more wilderness during your RV trip, boondocking is a frugal travel trick worth trying.

11. Save Money on Gas

One of your most significant RV expenses is fuel. While it has less of an impact on local RV camping or short drives, saving money on gas is a must if you’re planning a major road trip.

The simplest way to save on gas is to downsize. Class-A and Class-C motor homes consume more fuel than smaller vehicles like Class-B motor homes or camper vans. But even if you need a large RV, you can do things to reduce your overall weight and fuel consumption, such as avoid towing.

Smaller tricks also help cut fuel costs. For example, using less air conditioning, driving slower, and regularly emptying your waste tank reduce gas consumption.

You can also refuel at cheaper gas stations along your route. Apps that find low-priced gas include:

  • GetUpside. The GetUpside app lets you save $0.25 per gallon. The primary difference is that your savings don’t apply directly at the pump like with GasBuddy. Rather, you earn cash back that’s redeemable for PayPal cash and free gift cards. You can also earn cash back on groceries and restaurant purchases, which is useful for food shopping during your road trip.
  • GasBuddy. Like GetUpside, you can save up to $0.25 per gallon on gas by using GasBuddy’s gas card. Additionally, the free app helps you find cheap local gas stations along your route. GasBuddy also has a gas cost calculator so you can estimate your fuel costs while planning your trip.
  • Waze. Waze helps you save money on gas by highlighting traffic and accidents so you can avoid congested areas and unnecessary idling. The app also highlights tolls, police, and speed cameras to help you avoid toll fees or potential tickets. Additionally, Waze users can report local gas prices to help other members find cheap gas stations, and the entire app uses real-time feedback from users to help you drive more efficiently.

GasBuddy and GetUpside are the best apps for finding the cheapest gas and earning cash back for refueling. But you should always drive with Waze to avoid traffic, accidents, and road closures, provided you have unlimited data on your cell plan.

12. Watch Your Gas Mileage Limits (if Renting)

When you rent an RV, there’s usually a daily mileage limit you can drive. If you go over that limit, many rental companies charge around $0.35 per additional mile.

That means going 50 extra miles can cost an additional $17.50 in fees, plus gas. If you go several hundred miles over your limit during your trip, you’re looking at $100 or more in mileage fees.

13. Use a Cash-Back Credit Card

Gas rewards cards let you earn cash back at the pump, which is useful for expensive RV refuels. And if you open a card before your trip, you usually benefit from a welcome bonus of extra points for spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening a card.

And they’re not just useful for gas or RV trips. In addition to getting cash back on regular driving, such as your daily commute and running errands, many come with perks like cash back on groceries and dining, which can also lower the cost of both daily living and your RV trip.

Some popular gas rewards credit cards include:

  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card. Get 3% back on gas and transit costs and 6% cash back on groceries (up to $6,000) and dining plus cash back on everything else. This card also comes with a hefty six-month spending bonus and 20% cash back from Amazon for the first six months. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Read our American Express Blue Cash Preferred card review for more.
  • Citi Premier Card. This card lets you earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining, gas, groceries, and travel. You also get 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of becoming a cardholder, so it’s wise to open this card right before heading off on your road trip and spending on road trip preparations. The primary downside is that there’s a $95 annual fee. Read our Citi Premier card review for more.
  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card: Get 4 points per $1 spent on travel and gas plus 2 points per $1 spent on groceries and dining purchases. There’s also a 50,000-point bonus for spending $3,000 within your first four months, so open this card before your trip. This card waves the $95 annual fee for your first year. Read our U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Visa Signature card review for more.

Depending on your shopping habits, more specific gas credit cards you already have can also help you save during your road trip. For example, the Costco Anywhere Visa® card by Citi lets Costco members earn 4% cash back on gas on their first $7,000 in gas spending at Costco gas stations and other qualifying stations. You also earn 3% cash back on travel and restaurant purchases, which is useful for road trip dining or occasional hotel stays. Read our Costco Anywhere Visa card review for more details.

Similarly, the BP Visa credit card lets you save $0.10 per gallon at participating BP and Amoco gas stations. Cardholders also get 3% cash back on grocery store purchases, so it’s a well-rounded card to have on your road trip if your route passes numerous BP and Amoco gas stations.

As you plan your trip, think about how you can use your current credit cards to maximize savings for travel costs like fuel and food. If you don’t have a cash-back credit card, choose a card that helps you save on your road trip and regular purchasing habits. For example, there’s little point in getting the BP card just because there are savings opportunities along your route if you don’t have a BP or Amoco station near your home. Other cards can provide similar benefits.

14. Prepare Your Own Food and Drinks

One of the fastest ways to turn a cheap RV trip into an expensive vacation is to eat out for your meals. For example, daily restaurant spending for a family of four quickly adds up (prices approximate).

  • Breakfast at Dunkin’: $11.80 (two medium coffees, two apple juices, and four doughnuts)
  • Lunch at Subway: $21 (four 6-inch subs of the day plus drinks)
  • Dinner at Cracker Barrel: $50 (four daily dinner specials plus nonalcoholic drinks)

Total Cost: $83

Even if you make breakfast in your RV and occasionally cook lunches and dinner, eating out gets expensive quickly.

It’s easy to cook your own meals if your motor home comes with a kitchen. But even if you’re in a smaller vehicle without a kitchen, you can buy an affordable two-burner camping stove for under $80 on Amazon. You can also buy bundles of firewood for around $5 at most campgrounds or find dry kindling and logs in the woods and cook the old-fashioned way over an outdoor campfire.

When you’re set up to cook yourself, daily food costs for a family of four get much more budget-friendly.

  • Breakfast: $2 (two instant coffees with creamer, two juice boxes, and four packets of instant oatmeal)
  • Lunch: $8 (ham, lettuce, and cheese sandwiches with two water bottles and two juice boxes)
  • Dinner: $14 (pasta with sausages, a side Caesar salad, and fruit juice)

Total Cost: $24

The same premise applies to alcohol. For example, if you go out at night for drinks, you’re likely spending around $5 or $6 for domestic beer and $8 for import beer, depending on where you go. In contrast, a 24-pack of Heineken from Walmart costs around $27, or just over $1 per beer. That’s around 500% to 600% less than paying for drinks at a bar or restaurant.

Desserts and snacks are other areas to save on food. Rather than going to Dairy Queen and spending $18 on four medium Blizzards, buy ingredients for s’mores from the grocery store instead. A package of marshmallows, graham crackers, and a chocolate bar is around $7 at Walmart, and you can use the ingredients for several nights of snacking before running out.

By dining in, you can likely save 50% to 75% or more on food and drink costs for your RV trip. Additionally, if you use various grocery saving tricks like shopping with reward apps like Fetch Rewards or Ibotta, you can trim costs even more. Plus, if you’re traveling with kids, RV cooking is an excellent bonding and educational experience.

15. Save Money on Maintenance and Repairs

One way to derail a cheap RV trip is to let simple repairs force you off the road and into a mechanic’s shop. Like all vehicles, RVs inevitably experience wear and tear and need repairs. But that doesn’t mean you should spend a fortune.

If you’re an owner or rent frequently or long-term, learn how to maintain your vehicle properly to prevent damage. For example, you should apply RV roof sealant once per year to reduce the risk of leaks. Similarly, many RV generators suggest changing the oil every 100 to 150 hours (around four to six days) of usage.

DIY repairs also let you save money on your RV. Examples of DIY RV fixes include tasks like fixing clogs in your plumbing system with a plumbing snake, replacing a flat tire, or even break repair.

But stay within your comfort zone. Don’t tackle a problem if you don’t know what you’re doing since with certain tasks, such as electrical fixes, you risk worsening the situation and self-injury.

If you break down on the road, your only real option is to tow your RV to a local mechanic for repairs. That’s why having roadside assistance or complimentary towing with a company like AAA is beneficial. According to RVshare, it’s a smart move to shop around at RV mechanics if you encounter serious issues, so if possible, call several mechanics and get preliminary quotes before towing your RV.

But maintenance is still the best preventative measure, so a resource like “The RV Handbook” by Dave Solberg is a must-read for RV owners. If you don’t know how to do DIY repairs, take your RV to a local mechanic before departing to get an inspection and possible tune-up. That’s especially crucial for older vehicles and vehicles you haven’t serviced regularly.


Final Word

RV life isn’t for everyone, and for many, an all-inclusive vacation on a Caribbean beach probably sounds more fun than driving across the country, camping in the wilderness as you go.

But for RV enthusiasts, RVing can truly become a way of life. But it’s always important to stick to a travel budget and find ways to save on your vacation where you can.

At the very least, focus on the most impactful cost-cutting areas, like saving on food costs, gas, and campgrounds. As long as you can trim most of the fat from your RV travel costs, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the RV lifestyle without harming your finances.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Buying a Vacation Home as an Investment Rental Property – Pros & Cons

It sounds so sexy: Buy a vacation rental property to rent out for most of the year, and occasionally use it yourself just for fun.

And it can work out well — if you go into it with the mindset of operating a hospitality business. If you go into it starry-eyed, daydreaming about buying a second home and getting other people to pay for it, prepare for a rude awakening.

Managing a short-term rental property takes a lot of work. You can outsource that work to a property manager, but it will cost you. In fact, most new vacation rental owners are surprised by just how many expenses they incur as a landlord.

But owning vacation rentals comes with advantages too, beyond the “chic” factor. Here’s what you need to know before buying a short-term rental property.

Pros of Short-Term Rentals

Done right, short-term rentals can be profitable, tax-friendly, and downright fun investments.

As you start exploring the vacation rental industry, keep these advantages in mind, and aim to maximize them as much as possible.

1. Passive Income

Rental properties, whether leased short-term or long-term, make an excellent source of passive income. If you buy at the right price and manage them effectively, that is.

My friend Zack averages nearly $1,000 per month in cash flow from his Airbnb rental. It’s not in some fancy resort town either; it’s in downtown Baltimore. Originally he lived in it, then he moved out and converted it into a long-term rental. But he ran the numbers and discovered he could earn more each year operating it as an Airbnb rental.

You don’t have to buy an oceanfront bungalow or ski chalet to get into the vacation rental industry. Forget the image of being a vacation rental owner, and focus on the cash flow.

Because when you do your homework and learn the ropes, rental properties offer a time-tested strategy for earning passive income.

2. Appreciation

Rental properties don’t just provide ongoing cash flow. They also typically appreciate over time, raising your net worth and building equity with little effort required on your part.

Critics are quick to point out that appreciation is not guaranteed, and they’re absolutely right. But declining property values are rare over the long term, and it’s just as common for real estate values to leap upward in value faster than average as they are to appreciate slower.

Although it shouldn’t be your primary reason for buying a vacation home rental, appreciation usually provides additional profit when it comes time to sell. And even as your property rises in value, your renters pay down your mortgage, leaving an ever-expanding equity gap between what you owe and the property’s value.

3. Lower Risk of Rent Defaults & Evictions

Long-term tenants can be a nightmare. From not bothering to pay the rent to trashing your property, dealing with bad tenants often drives landlords to sell and never look back.

As a vacation rental owner, you collect the rent upfront. If their payment fails, so does their booking.

That means you don’t have to worry about landlord migraines like having to evict bad tenants.

There are a few exceptions. If your guests stay longer than a month or two, they may gain squatters’ rights, forcing you to formally evict them (rather than just calling the cops) if they refuse to vacate. But that kind of bad behavior proves blessedly rare in the vacation rental industry.

4. Ever-Improving Automation

You can automate a lot in today’s world, including most of your guest interactions and the check-in and check-out process.

For example, Airbnb lets you auto-approve bookings without manual oversight if you like. Or you can manually review guests’ profiles before approving them.

A few days before your guests’ arrival, you can schedule a template message with instructions for entry. The guests arrive, and they can access the property with a key code, hidden key box, smart lock, or whatever other automated entry systems you’ve implemented.

You can leave them a welcome packet on the coffee table with crucial details like the Wi-Fi password and which local cafe offers the best almond skim latte. Include instructions for where to leave the key when they check out and send an automated reminder message the night before.

You can then send a brief series of exit messages thanking them for their stay, and requesting they leave you a review —all going out automatically, or at least saved as template messages. All you need to do is send in the cleaners afterward, which can easily be done through Handy.com.

5. Tax Benefits

Rental properties of any tenancy duration come with some great tax deductions.

All relevant expenses are deductible of course, including mortgage interest. You can even deduct some paper expenses that don’t cost you cash, such as depreciation.

Best of all, those deductions come off your rental profits and don’t require you to itemize your deductions. You can take them on top of the standard deduction.

Owning a vacation rental property might even let you get away with writing off the occasional visit to it — purely to check in and do some maintenance, of course.

When you go to sell the property, you can avoid capital gains taxes on your profits by doing a 1031 exchange. There are a lot of ways to lower your tax bill as a real estate investor, but be sure to check with a tax professional first.

6. You Can Use the Property Yourself

It’s dangerous to mix business and pleasure. People tend to make emotional decisions and then twist together some dodgy logic to justify them. “This beach house in Naples? Don’t be silly, I’m not buying it for me. It’s an investment property!”

With that caveat in mind, you can occasionally use your short-term rental properties for yourself. Who wouldn’t love to own a vacation property?

Just make sure you buy based on cash flow first and foremost. If the property happens to be in a location you’d enjoy using yourself, well, that can be fun too.


Cons of Short-Term Rentals

For all of the perks, vacation rentals also come with their fair share of risks.

Most of the risks can be mitigated, but it takes some knowledge, work, and discipline on your part. Here’s what you need to be aware of when buying and managing vacation rental properties.

1. Risk of Poor Cash Flow

New landlords who don’t do their homework get a nasty surprise when they eventually realize just how many expenses they incur every year.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people say “Well, the rental income is $1,500, and the mortgage payment is only $1,000, so I’ll clear $500 a month.” That investor is about to lose their shirt.

Beyond the principle and interest payment on the mortgage, other landlord expenses include:

  • Property taxes
  • Property insurance
  • Vacancy rate
  • Property management fees
  • Repairs and maintenance costs
  • Cleaning costs (in the case of vacation rentals)
  • Furniture (in the case of vacation rentals)
  • Bookkeeping, accounting, administrative, and travel expenses

It adds up quickly. Additionally, vacation rental landlords suffer far higher vacancy rates than traditional landlords. Vacancy rates are uneven and subject to seasonality. The summer high season might see 90% occupancy rates, but what about the offseason?

Before buying a vacation rental property, sit down with a spreadsheet and a phone. Keep calling local property managers until you get accurate numbers for each of the expenses above, and fill them into your spreadsheet. Pay particular attention to the vacancy rate, collecting accurate numbers for every single month of the year.

Then, and only then, you can accurately forecast your average annual cash flow.

2. Risk of Regulatory & Tax Burdens

Not every city and state loves the vacation rental industry.

For that matter, the hotel industry hasn’t just politely moved aside to welcome the disruption caused by Airbnb and Vrbo. They’ve spent millions of dollars to lobby against home-grown vacation rental owners, largely on the local level, but The Hill reports that the industry spends millions in federal lobbying dollars as well.

In many markets, it’s worked. Some cities and states impose their own custom rules, regulations, and taxes on vacation property owners. For example, some cities and states require mom-and-pop vacation property owners to pay hotel or sales taxes. Others require them to get a business license.

Some places virtually outlaw Airbnb and mom-and-pop operators. Santa Monica, California, for example, wiped out 80% of the local Airbnb market through its combination of taxes and regulation, according to Forbes.

Before buying a vacation rental, do your due diligence on the local laws impacting vacation rental owners. It’s not enough to know the current laws — you also need to prepare for changing regulations in the future.

Protect against future regulation by running the numbers on the property as a long-term rental as well. You should always have a contingency plan ready before buying a real estate investment.

3. Risk of Damage

Renters can damage your property whether they stay one night or one year. It’s simply a risk of becoming a landlord.

One way landlords mitigate this risk is by collecting a security deposit. But as anyone who’s seen “Animal House” can attest, your renters can easily do more damage in a single night than the security deposit can cover.

Using platforms like Airbnb, you can also screen vacationers by reading prior hosts’ reviews of them. While this can help you spot a habitual damager, it’s hardly foolproof. It also requires you to either turn off Instabook or cancel on sketchy guests after they book, which creates an automated review on your property stating that you canceled a booking.

While you should collect a security deposit and check guests’ reviews, you should also set a generous budget for repair and maintenance expenses.

4. More Labor Than Long-Term Rentals

Even if you automate the check-in and check-out process, you can still expect more property management labor than a typical long-term rental property.

After all, turnovers are where landlords see most of their labor. And vacation rental properties see a lot of turnovers.

You can outsource this labor to a property management company if you like. Or you can do it yourself, in which case you should pay yourself for it just as you would pay a property manager. It’s a labor expense regardless of who’s doing the labor, and you should account for it.

5. Furnishing & Decorating

Long-term landlords don’t have to furnish or decorate their units. Airbnb hosts do.

That adds to your expenses, both initially and on an ongoing basis. Your guests will cause wear and tear on your furniture, and occasionally break the décor. So these costs need to be in your budget of expenses.

Of course, no one says you have to buy brand new furniture or art. Your guests certainly don’t expect to be the first people to sit on the couch or sleep in the bed. Furniture is one of the many things you should always buy secondhand, especially in the context of vacation rental properties.

You can even use some of your own furniture you’ve outgrown, giving it a second life.

Just make sure the furniture and décor are tasteful and cohesive. When in doubt, call up a friend with impeccable taste and ask their opinion for some free interior decorating insight.


Final Word

Short-term rental properties can make excellent sources of passive income, tax benefits, long-term appreciation, and the occasional getaway. But they can also cost you dearly if you fail to analyze the cash flow and regulatory requirements, or if you manage them poorly.

Be especially careful to avoid getting caught up in the idea of owning a vacation rental, and buying because you’re excited about it rather than because the cold, hard numbers make sense. This property is an investment first, and a vacation retreat for you second.

Keep in mind that renting the property by the night or week isn’t your only option. You can offer it as a seasonal, month-long, or corporate rental. This is something travel nurses look for, for example.

You can — and should — run the numbers on renting the property to long-term tenants as well, if only as a contingency plan in case the laws or market conditions change.

Run the numbers carefully, approach your rental properties like a business, and protect yourself vigilantly so you can create a fun side business offering low-cost, tax-friendly vacations.

Source: moneycrashers.com

6 Stocks to Buy as the Market Recovers From the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. Face masks became a way to express yourself, shopping online has become the norm for the masses, travel all but died, children experienced school at home rather than in classrooms, and adults are moving to working remotely with shocking speed.

Some of these adaptations will prove to be nothing more than short-term changes in behavior and trends. Others are here to stay.

The stock market, too, has been on a wild ride. Parts of the economy were closed, revenues for some companies all but ceased, and investors reacted with a selloff, sending stock prices plummeting in just about every sector except health care. While some stocks, especially tech stocks and a handful of meme stocks, have made nearly a full recovery, many sectors of the market continue to struggle.

There’s Good News Nearly Every Week

On the other hand, the novel coronavirus has also showcased the power of the human mind and our ingenuity in the face of a novel danger.

As the pandemic took hold and lockdowns were set in place, the world’s smartest minds immediately began working to develop vaccines and treatments with the potential to slow the spread of COVID-19. Working at a lightning pace, these scientists have done something never seen before.

In a matter of months, they went from nothing to drug candidates and clinical trials, and vaccines hit the market in less than a year. This is a process that normally takes years, often more than a decade.

As vaccines make their way into arms, the world is slowly getting back to normal. So, with a little luck, the crisis may be in the past faster than we once thought possible.

Pro tip: David and Tom Gardener are two of the best stock pickers. Their Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations have increased 563% compared to just 131.1% for the S&P 500. If you would have invested in Netflix when they first recommended the company, your investment would be up more than 21,000%. Learn more about Motley Fool Stock Advisor.


This Good News Creates Compelling Investment Opportunities

Sure, the past year was rough, but with vaccines being distributed and the world finding a state of normalcy, several compelling investing opportunities are being created. Today, consumers are starting to feel more comfortable going back to their daily routines.

And with comfort will come spending.

Consumers who have been stuck in their homes, unable to travel, visit friends and family, and enjoy comforts like movie theaters and restaurants, will soon be able to do these things. As such, a cooped-up population of consumers will be ready to, well, fly the coop.

As this happens, spending will increase, creating growing revenues and profits for the downtrodden industries hit hardest by the pandemic, which will provide exciting opportunities for investors to play the rebound.

Moreover, with the United States Federal Reserve — also known simply as the Fed — maintaining low interest rates and bond buying programs to ease the economic burden, resistance has all but disappeared from the market, leading to prices trending in the positive direction in one of the fastest recoveries in market history.

Of course, fast-paced markets are often riddled with volatility. So, choosing the right stocks to invest in, rather than blindly throwing money around, is crucial.


Stocks to Buy for a COVID-19 Stock Market Recovery

Although the stock market as a whole will likely see dramatic gains as the COVID-19 pandemic becomes a thing of the past, not all stocks are created equal. Even in the rally that’s likely ahead as a global recovery takes place, there will be companies that win and those that lose.

So, it’s just as important now to make the right moves in the market as it has ever been.

Nonetheless, making the right investments in today’s environment has the potential to be overwhelmingly lucrative. Below are a few names that you should consider as you look for stocks that are likely to benefit most from a COVID-19 recovery.

1. Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV)

The airline industry has been one of the hardest hit corners of the stock market, and for good reason. Consumers were told to stay home as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. You were told that the more you left your home, the more likely you were to come down with a deadly illness, and that travel should be limited to necessities and nothing more.

If you’re like the vast majority of Americans, traveling on an airplane, packed into a metal cylinder with hundreds of other passengers breathing recycled air, was simply out of the question.

With COVID-19 vaccines now available and widely used, consumers are going to be itching to get away from home and enjoy their vacations again. This has resulted in a boom in demand for air travel, making the battered airline stocks worth diving into. In fact, while it is one of the slowest to recover to date, Southwest Airlines has seen its share price climb from around $45 per share to more than $57 per share in the first five months of 2021.

In my humble opinion, when it comes to airlines, Southwest Airlines is the best pick due to the type of flights the company makes its money from. In 2019, before the coronavirus struck, 97% of Southwest Airlines’ revenue was generated through low-cost domestic flights.

These are the specific types of flights that will be in high demand as the COVID-19 pandemic fades away. College students will want to travel to see their parents and hometown friends, and families will want to travel to theme parks and other attractions. Couples will want to travel to the mountains for a romantic week away. The general consumer will want to get out, and when that happens, low-cost domestic flights will be in high demand.

According to Statista, Southwest Airlines is the third largest domestic airline by market share, with control of 17.4% of the market. The company is the second leading airline in the domestic flight sector of the U.S. market, behind only American Airlines with 19.3% of market share.

Historically, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have been the premier low-cost airline solutions, yet Southwest tends to be cheaper than American. Considering the current economic environment, travelers will likely be looking for the best deal at the lowest cost. As a result, Southwest Airlines may climb from #2 to #1 by market share through the COVID-19 recovery. As such, this is a stock that should not be ignored.

Pro tip: Before you add any stocks to your portfolio, make sure you’re choosing the best possible companies. Stock screeners like Stock Rover can help you narrow down the choices to companies that meet your individual requirements. Learn more about our favorite stock screeners.


2. Carnival Corporation (NYSE: CCL)

An investment in Carnival Corporation follows the same logic as an investment in Southwest Airlines. Carnival Corporation owns and manages Carnival Cruise Line, one of the largest cruise lines in the world.

According to ResearchGate, Carnival is the largest cruise line in the world by market share, serving a massive 42% of passengers and controlling more than 37% of global cruise revenue.

Like others in the travel industry, Carnival Corporation’s stock has seen a tremendous decline as a result of COVID-19. Unfortunately, by September 2020, the stock had given up more than 65% of its value.

2021 has been quite a bit better for the company, with share prices climbing from around $20 to nearly $30 from January to mid-June, but the stock has yet to find its way back to the record highs it experienced prior to the global health crisis.

These declines represent a massive opportunity.

The market seems to be pricing Carnival Corporation stock as though the cruise-line industry isn’t going to see a comeback for years to come. The stock is trading at just over three times its cash on hand and just a fraction of its book value. That’s a ridiculously low valuation for a company that controls the lion’s share of a multibillion-dollar market.

With vaccinations taking place at lightning pace, the virus may soon be under control. Although it may take a year or so for cruise lines to be booming again, Carnival is far more valuable than the market is giving it credit for.

Not to mention, with more than $6 billion in cash on hand and more than $50 billion in total assets, the company has a strong financial foundation that will allow it to make it through these hard times and thrive on the other side.

From a fundamental standpoint, Carnival Cruise Lines represents one of the largest opportunities in the travel industry as a whole. The stock controls a massive percentage of the cruise-line market, has plenty of cash on hand, and will likely benefit greatly as consumers begin to travel on the tailwinds of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a stock that’s worth strong consideration.


3. Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN)

Amazon.com has done incredibly well in the face of COVID-19. In fact, from January 2020 through May 2021, its stock price climbed by more than 60%. That’s a dramatic run for any company. In most cases, a move like that would scream “take profits.” However, we’re not talking about just any company.

Amazon is the leader in U.S. e-commerce. Many consumers didn’t feel comfortable shopping in brick-and-mortar stores during the COVID-19 crisis, so it actually gave the company a big boost in sales.

The company is also one of the leaders in cloud computing in the U.S. That has been overwhelmingly important to the ability of online companies to meet the incredible demand for bandwidth as consumers spend more time at home shopping on and surfing the web.

At the same time, cloud computing has seen incredible growth in demand as companies across the U.S. have moved out of the office and begun to have their employees work from home. Amazon has been a big winner in both the e-commerce and the cloud computing spaces.

But what happens when the major threat from the virus is in the past?

Many of the changes that have taken place as a result of the pandemic will pass along with the virus. However, other changes are here to stay. For example, before COVID-19 took hold, there was a major trend toward consumers shopping online more every day. In terms of e-commerce, COVID-19 didn’t create the trend; it sped it up.

Consumers who would not have otherwise been exposed to online shopping are buying everything online these days. That’s not likely to change, even if and when COVID-19 is eradicated. As such, online shopping trends are likely to continue.

Also, many people who are working from home as a result of the pandemic aren’t going back to the office when lockdowns are over. Several large companies have realized that remote employees come with great benefits. With employees working from home, overhead office costs are lower.

Moreover, when the Internet is the office, companies are no longer limited to local talent when hiring, greatly expanding the pool of potential candidates. As a result, many believe that remote working is the way of the future for several companies, with many big names already saying that some of their workforce will never go back to the office.

That bodes well for Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing solution.

Considering that both of the trends that are massive revenue drivers for Amazon are likely here to stay, the company and its investors have quite a bit to look forward to ahead. As such, Amazon stock is one to pay close attention to.


4. Clorox (NYSE: CLX)

There’s another trend the COVID-19 pandemic has likely changed for the long term — general habits around cleanliness. Ever since the virus started to circulate, you’ve been told to wash your hands, clean surfaces, wear a face mask, and be as clean as you possibly can.

It all makes sense. Face masks stop the spread of water droplets as you breathe, reducing your chances of infecting others if you’ve contracted the virus. General cleanliness kills the virus before it has the opportunity to infect you or your loved ones.

As a result, cleaning products have been flying off of the shelves for some time now. The demand for cleaning supplies is higher than ever before, and manufacturers are having a tough time keeping up.

Clorox is a consumer staples company that’s best known for its cleaning products. In fact, when you think of bleach, the company’s name is likely the first to come to mind. Of course, the pandemic has done well for the stock. From January through August, the stock grew by around 50% before growth began to taper off. Nonetheless, after a several months-long selloff, many argue that the stock is highly undervalued, representing a major opportunity.

If COVID-19 taught consumers anything, it’s the importance of cleanliness, both in terms of personal hygiene and for the home, office, and shared spaces. This is one of the changes that’s likely here to stay. Due to the virus, consumers are going to clean more often, leading to continued and increasing demand for cleaning products.

With Clorox being the leader in the space, the company is likely to see strong growth as consumers continue to clear the shelves of their branded cleaning supplies, suggesting that there’s plenty more room for growth in the stock ahead.


5. Home Depot (NYSE: HD)

This is the least obvious stock on the list, but it has earned its place in the lineup. COVID-19 has had an extreme impact on economic conditions within the United States. The last time this many Americans were out of work, the U.S. was in the depth of the Great Depression. It’s a tough time.

So, why would a building materials and tools store be a strong investment?

Well, it has to do with how tough economic times change monetary policy. In an effort to stimulate economic growth, the Fed has vowed to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future.

Low interest rates create the perfect lending environment. Consumers want to borrow money because it’s cheap to do so, and lenders want to hand money out because they’ve got plenty of cash, thanks to loosened economic policy. It’s a match made in heaven.

When interest rates are low, we see two important trends that will have a massive positive impact on Home Depot:

  1. Real Estate. When rates are low, it’s a great time to buy a new home. Mortgages at rates as low as 3% lead many people to build the homes of their dreams. Of course, when there’s a lot of building going on, Home Depot benefits from the sale of building supplies and tools.
  2. Remodels. Again, it’s cheap to borrow money when rates are low. Large remodeling projects that seemed out of reach are now becoming more affordable. Again, this bodes well for the construction material and tools powerhouse that is Home Depot.

Interest rates aren’t the only force driving construction demand. There are two other factors driven by the COVID-19 pandemic that bode well for Home Depot:

  1. People Are Relocating. With so many jobs moving to remote offices, people who were once tied to a specific region can now live wherever they’d like. This is leading to what could become a mass migration, ultimately leading to more homes being built.
  2. Furlough and Layoff Relocation. As the crisis flared up and governments in some areas maintained shutdowns, many people remained out of work. This has led to more relocation as many families look to new areas and the job opportunities that come with a potential relocation to cities where businesses have reopened.

All of this is likely going to continue for the foreseeable future. The Federal Reserve will keep rates low to promote economic recovery, continuing growth in new construction.

At the same time, relocation associated with the ability to move away from the office and job turnover are likely to continue as well. Company owners and employees alike are realizing major benefits of remote work and may choose to set up shop someplace new.

Considering Home Depot’s leadership in construction materials and tools, and the fact that demand for these products will likely continue to climb, the stock is one that should not be ignored.


6. Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ: ZOOM)

Zoom Video Communications is another company that got a major boost from the pandemic. The company offers video conferencing services that quickly became popular for two key reasons:

  • The Work-From-Home Trend. Although many companies have moved to a work-from-home setting, communication between management and employees and among colleagues is best done in a face-to-face setting. As a result, companies looked to video conferencing services to scratch that itch.
  • Family and Friends. For many, talking to family and friends on the phone just wasn’t enough during the shutdown. Although video conferencing doesn’t have the same appeal as human contact, it was the best option in a bad situation, leading many consumers to sign up for Zoom’s services.

While people are beginning to make physical contact with friends and family again, the crisis led many who live far away from each other to start using the platform, which is likely to continue. Moreover, companies who plan on maintaining the work-from-home environment have made video conferencing part of their day-to-day activities.

That bodes well for Zoom in the long-term.

As a result, the stock saw tremendous growth throughout 2020, and while those gains have tapered off a bit, the selloff is likely overblown. Investors who get in at today’s relatively low levels are likely getting a discount on tremendous future growth.


Final Word

COVID-19 has been a painful experience for everyone. It has changed the shape of our lives, and will have a lasting impact on how we see the world. However, this lasting impact will create several compelling investing opportunities in the short term and in the post-pandemic world.

As always, it’s important to do your research and understand the risk vs. reward profile of any investment you make. Just because the industry a company is in will benefit in the post-COVID-19 environment doesn’t mean that the company itself will be a winner. When choosing an investment, be clear, be educated, and be profitable. You can only be those three things with proper due diligence.

Disclosure: The author currently has no positions in any stock mentioned herein nor any intention to hold any positions within the next 72 hours. The views expressed are those of the author of the article and not necessarily those of other members of the Money Crashers team or Money Crashers as a whole. This article was written by Joshua Rodriguez, who shared his honest opinion of the companies mentioned. However, this article should not be viewed as a solicitation to purchase shares in any security and should only be used for entertainment and informational purposes. Investors should consult a financial advisor or do their own due diligence before making any investment decision.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Use Play to Teach Your Kids Lessons About Money

Kids are built for playing. It’s the one thing all children have in common across nations, cultures, and genders. If left to their own devices, a child can make a game of nearly anything in any situation. And parents can use that to their advantage to teach children about financial independence and money concepts like saving, budgeting, and using bank accounts.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Family Issues (via a Science Daily news release) found that kids who used experiential learning throughout their childhoods are far more confident in their money management skills as adults. Experiential learning simply means to learn by doing. Play is one form of experiential learning.

And there are many ways you can use play to teach your kids about money.

How to Use Play to Teach Your Kids About Money

Trying to figure out how to use play to teach your kids about money can be overwhelming. There are two primary categories of play you can use: structured play and unstructured play. Which you choose depends on the types of lessons you want to impart and what your kid is currently receptive to. But in general, it’s best to start intentionally with structured play.

Structured Play

Structured play is the easiest way to teach while playing. Structured play has a specific outcome or a goal. Your goal is to teach your child about money. So at the end of the play, your child should understand more about money than at the beginning of the play.

There are usually rules to the play. Board and video games, books, and videos are forms of structured play and are the easiest to use for teaching.

But if you set up an environment to encourage a particular outcome while playing, that’s also structured play.

For instance, you can give your kids a play kitchen and cash register with some play money in it. While playing, a child may set up a restaurant by playing with the cash register and faux or imaginary food. This type of creative structured play lets your child practice using money and business concepts.

Guided play is another form of structured play. It can be child-led free play during which you simply follow your child’s lead but ask stimulating questions that get your child thinking about money during the play, such as, “Now, why did you make me pay $0.25 for my carton of milk and $0.50 for my eggs?”

Your role in guided play is to support your child’s decisions and gently shape their behavior without taking over the play or showing them how to do it better.

Structured play is the best place to start because you’re actively teaching your child, either through direct guidance or by setting up the environment to encourage the kind of behavior you’re looking for.

You can use many different games to teach your kids about money. There are even apps. Or you can use your imagination and create your own games with household items or your child’s toys.

Board Games That Teach Kids About Money

With board games, you can be very casual about your teaching experience by working it into family game night. Or you can be obvious about your intentions and go with a game specifically designed to teach money management. The choice is yours.

Some regular family game night board games with the added benefit of introducing your kids to money are Monopoly and The Game of Life.

My family recently stumbled upon The Farming Game, and we love it. Think Monopoly but farming. Players start the game in debt and move through the 12 months of the year buying, investing, harvesting, and paying off debt. The goal is to be the first farmer to reach $250,000 in assets. Watch out, though. Sometimes, bad luck falls, and livestock or crops are destroyed.

If you prefer educational games, Cashflow 101 and Payday are also suitable investments.

Video Games That Teach Personal Finance

Video games are excellent tools for teaching your kids about financial concepts like work, earning money, saving money, and determining the value of goods. Kids don’t even realize they’re learning such vital lessons while playing. Non-board games that teach kids important money lessons include:

  • Animal Crossing. Animal Crossing is a Nintendo Switch game that teaches about economics and finances. Players live on an island with talking animals. They have to pay a mortgage, make investments, and build the island village.
  • Financial Football. Visa and the National Football League teamed up to teach kids about money management in this fun interactive game. Players move the ball down the field and score touchdowns by correctly answering financial questions covering a wide range of topics, from credit cards to scholarships to bankruptcy.
  • Farming Simulator. In this game, available for the Xbox, the Nintendo Switch, Windows, or the PS4, players run a farm. They need to use money management skills for farming-related expenses like buying equipment, hiring workers, and buying livestock.

Apps and Online Games That Teach Financial Literacy

There are countless free apps and online games that teach kids about money. But before checking into any of these, read our article on keeping your kids safe online.

These online games are so much fun your kids won’t even realize they are learning about money.

  • Renegade Buggies. In this game, players drive through cities in a buggy, collecting items on their shopping lists, grabbing coins and coupons.
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon. This game uses a fun amusement park to teach about supply and demand, budgeting, and risk-taking. You can get it for Windows, Mac OS, and Nintendo Switch or download the app for Android or iOS.
  • SimCity. SimCity games teach about economics and environmental issues. There are many different games to choose from. SimCity 4 (available for Mac OS and Windows) lets you build a realistic city. And the SimCity Limited Edition, created for the PC, lets you mold your city into a stronghold for a particular market, such as a casino town or manufacturing hub.
  • City Island 5. This sim game, available on Mac OS, Windows, Google Play, and iOS, makes you the mayor of a small island town.
  • PBS Kids CyberChase. This website provides tons of free online games, videos, and interactive activities that teach kids about money.

DIY Educational Games to Teach Money Concepts

You don’t always need video games and board games to teach your kids. You can create games at home with household supplies as well.

These games are easy to throw together and a lot of fun for both parents and kids.

  • Sorting Coins. Give your kids a pile of coins to sort by size or value. This activity introduces them to handling money and teaches the names and values of each coin.
  • Penny Race. Have a pile of pennies lying around? To introduce your children to handling money, challenge your kids to stack them as tall as they can in just a minute.
  • Collect $0.25. Grab some coins and a die. Taking turns, each player rolls the die and collects the number shown in coins. The first person to make $0.25 wins. The game teaches the value of each coin and the many different ways they can add up to a certain dollar amount. You can also play to a half dollar and a dollar.
  • How Much Does It Cost? This game is similar to “The Price is Right.” Present your kids with a variety of objects and have them guess how much they cost. For example, does a water bottle cost $1, $5, or $7? This game teaches kids the value of things.
  • Pay to Play. Use real or play money to determine how many times your child has to act out a specific challenge. For instance, have your child draw a bill out of a hat, identify the number on it, and then hop on one foot for that many times. So if they drew a $5 bill, they’d hop five times. Shake it up with various challenges or increase the difficulty by throwing in $20s, $50s, and $100s. This game shows your kids how much the bills are worth in a more fun, concrete way.
  • Puzzle It Out. Affix play money to a piece of cardboard. Cut the cardboard into puzzle shapes and let your child put the bills back together. This game will familiarize your child with money.
  • Pretty Cash. Break out the markers and paper, and let your children create their very own bills. They can then use these bills in other money games. Creating their own bills also teaches them the value of money since they have to assign their own values to each bill.
  • Open for Business. This game teaches kids about responsibility and how to earn money. Set up a store of things your kids love — snacks, treats, dollar store knickknacks, and even some bigger swag to encourage saving. Then, compensate them for their chores with play money. For example, pay $1 for making the bed and $2 for taking out the trash. At the end of the week, they can visit your store with their earnings or save for bigger-ticket merchandise.

Money-Related Music Videos

YouTube has a ton of videos that teach about money.

For example, these videos teach your kids how to identify coins and what their values are:

The Jackson Charitable Foundation launched an entire collection of Cha-Ching Money Smart Kids videos to teach children about money.

Montessori blog Carrots are Orange also has some fun money-themed preschool songs you can teach your kids. You sing the catchy lyrics to tunes your kids already know, such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Money-Themed Movies

Gather your kiddos for an educational family movie night, and they won’t even know they’re learning.

  • “Aladdin.” Aladdin, a street kid, finds himself in possession of a genie in a lamp. When given three wishes, he uses one of them to become a prince so he can marry his true love, Princess Jasmine. Things don’t go as planned, of course. This funny Disney classic teaches children never to let money change who they are or their relationships with others.
  • “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The Grinch hates how materialistic Christmas has become, so he steals all the gifts, food, and decorations. Cindy Lou, a little Who girl, shows the Grinch that Christmas has always been more than the dollars spent and that it begins in the heart, not at the store.
  • “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Charlie comes from nothing but wins a tour of the Chocolate Factory with four other kids, who come from money. These children are spoiled and naughty. They each lose the prize because they break the rules. Even when he thinks he’s lost, Charlie still does the right thing, teaching little ones that no prize is worth sacrificing your integrity.
  • “Toy Story 2.” A greedy toy collector kidnaps Woody, hoping to put the hero and his friends in a museum to be admired by children but never played with. Woody is thrilled he’s worth so much but quickly learns nothing is worth more than knowing who you are and serving your purpose in life.
  • “The Princess Bride.” This movie has two financial lessons. If your goal is to teach your children about understanding their risk tolerance (a key lesson to learn before opening a 401(k) or investing in general), pay attention to the poisoned wine scene. If your kids are younger, you can use Inigo’s pursuit of killing his father’s murderer to teach your children that it is always essential to have a bill-paying side job while following your passion.
  • “Up.” This Disney Pixar film teaches the importance of saving. Carl and Ellie dream of moving their house to a cliff overlooking Paradise Falls. They spend years saving for their dream but continuously need to dip into their savings to cover life’s expenses.
  • “Harry Potter.” Harry grows up in hand-me-downs from his cousin Dudley and lives in a cupboard under the stairs. He suddenly learns his parents left him a small fortune (and that he’s a wizard), but instead of spending it on a life of luxury, Harry takes only what he needs and continues to live a moderate lifestyle.
  • “The Hunger Games.” Katniss Everdeen lives in the most impoverished district of Panem and must fight for survival in the Hunger Games. As other tributes are rushing to collect things they mistakenly think will increase their chances of survival, Katniss relies instead on skill and instinct. You can use this movie to teach your children to rely on their own skills for financial stability rather than spending their money to collect things that aren’t going to further their financial goals at all.

Books That Teach Kids About Money

Books are an engaging way to teach little ones about money because you can ask questions about what’s happening and discuss the moral of the story.

There are loads of kids books about money, but you can start with these.

  • “Money Math.” In this quirky informational book by David A. Adler, the U.S. presidents introduce children to the bills and coins that bear their likenesses and teach the value of each.
  • “Rock, Brock and the Savings Shock.” Sheila Bair’s 2017 children’s book teaches your kids the value of saving money and investing. A loving grandpa doubles the money Brock saves each day, while Rock loses all his money.
  • “Bunny Money.” Rosemary Wells tells the tale of two bunnies who save enough money for the perfect birthday present for Grandma only to watch the money disappear as mishap after mishap requires them to fork it over.
  • “Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money.” In this timeless story about entrepreneurship from renowned children’s book writers Stan and Jan Berenstain, Brother Bear and Sister Bear sacrifice their relationships with friends and family in their pursuit of money.
  • “One Cent, Two Cent, Old Cent, New Cent.” Your kids will love Dr. Seuss’ fascinating, playful introduction to the history of money.
  • “The Go-Around Dollar.” Did you ever wonder where a dollar travels? Barbara Johnston Adams explores the meaning of its symbols and how long it stays in circulation.
  • “A Bike Like Sergio’s.” This heartfelt story by Maribeth Boelts teaches about economics and how not everyone can afford the same things. Ruben wants a bike just like Sergio’s, and Sergio notes that Ruben’s birthday is coming up, so he might get it. But Ruben knows the gifts he receives on his birthday are nothing like the gifts Sergio gets. Ruben gets his chance to buy a bike like Sergio’s when he finds a $100 bill, but at what cost?

Unstructured Play

After you’ve taught your kids some basic money concepts and have engaged them in various financial games, it’s time to step back and watch the magic happen through unstructured play.

Unstructured play is free play — there’s no purpose or goal. Children get to explore their environment and create their own games. There are no rules or limitations, and they can imagine whatever they want.

According to a 2018 study published in the journal Pediatrics, this type of play improves proficiency in areas like executive functioning (a set of mental skills involving memory, flexible thinking, and self-control), early math skills, peer relations, self-agency, and social development. When it involves peer groups, it also improves negotiation skills, cooperation, and problem-solving. It also helps teach your child cultural values, including your financial values.

Children use free play to practice the skills they’ve learned and model what they’ve seen in the world around them. If you witness your kids paying the bills while playing house or going to work at the ice cream store they just opened, you know they’ve taken your lessons from structured play and used them in unstructured play.

The Pediatrics study also notes the importance of the play remaining free from adult interference. Kids whose caregivers teach them to use toys don’t discover as much about the toys. But parents who let their children play without too much intrusion foster independent exploration and learning.

So if you choose to play with your child during unstructured play, follow your kid’s lead and play by their rules, even if you know there’s a better way to play. The goal is for your child to practice all they’ve learned in their own way.

If you don’t see your child weaving money and finances into play independently, it doesn’t mean they haven’t internalized those money management skills. Not all young kids are ready to play that way, and that’s OK.

But if you’re concerned, you can incorporate some adult-led play into free play. For example, if you’re playing house with your child, pretend to sit down and pay the bills. If your child tells you no, then stop paying the bills and follow your child’s lead. But if your child is interested and wants to pay the bills, you can let your child take over. If your child shows no interest one way or the other, keep paying the bills until you’re done.

If your child loves creative play, you can easily incorporate financial lessons while you’re playing house, business, or even cars (you have to pay for gas, after all). Because unstructured play has no rules other than those established by your kids, you have to get creative and think quickly. But the tips in these scenarios can prepare you to inject a little financial learning into your kids’ next little adventure.

Play Business

Kids play business naturally, even without adult guidance. They love to play store or restaurant. But playing business doesn’t have to stop there.

You can convert pretty much any toy they have into a business. For example:

  • Ice Cream Parlor. Grab the ice cream from your child’s toy kitchen or ice cream play dough to set up an ice cream shop. Ask them if you can place an order and pay for it with play money.
  • Doctor or Animal Hospital. When your kids are playing doctor or vet, ask them how much it would cost to bring your own stuffed animal or doll in for shots. Again, pay them with play money after the visit.
  • Car Wash or Gas Station. When your kids are playing cars, join in and pull your vehicle over to fill up with gas or get a car wash. You can also set up a “car wash” outside with bicycles, scooters, and trikes.
  • Family Farm. If your kids are playing farm, ask if you can haul the pigs to the market or buy the hay to feed the animals. Find out how much it costs, and ask your child for the play money to make the purchase.
  • Barbies. You can use Barbies and dolls to go shopping, plan a wedding, or buy a car. Use play money to buy Barbie’s clothes or pay for wedding necessities like flowers and the gown. You can even offer to sell Barbie her dream car.

Create Simulations

Some financial concepts are hard to grasp. But you can act them out using toys.

For example, you can teach your children about insurance by simulating toy car crashes or pretending toy buildings are burning down.

Or you can introduce your kids to medical insurance by playing doctor.

As you play, have discussions about the financial implications of these events. Just keep it age-appropriate. And use your parental judgment. If talking about burning buildings or car crashes would scare your child, don’t do it.

Play House

Playing house is easiest when you have more than one kid. Your children can choose who they want to be and what they do.

Does Dad go to work at the restaurant and Mom go to work at the ice cream shop? Does one or the other stay home with the kids?

Use stuffed animals or dolls for the kids if you don’t have enough children. Does someone need to drop them off at school or day care?

Act out a typical day, with the whole family rushing home again at the end of the day for bed.

Use play money to pay Mom and Dad for their day’s work. And don’t let them forget to pay the day care provider once they get their wages.


Using Play in the Real World

You don’t have to confine play to the home or park. When you’re running errands with your kids, try playing with them. It can help you teach them money skills and keep them entertained.

Ways to Play While Shopping

Playing with your kids while running errands teaches them financial concepts and keeps them occupied, making it easier for you to get your errands done. And there are many ways to incorporate play while shopping.

  • Enlist the Help of Your Kids. Before you head out, enlist your child’s help with clipping coupons and planning the grocery list. When you get to the store, have them compare and contrast brands, quantity, and prices. Ask them to help you find the best bang for your buck.
  • Challenge Them. See how many products on your list they can get with a certain amount of money. For example, if you give them $10, how many items can they cross off?
  • Encourage Them to Spend Their Own Money. If your children ask for a toy, tell them to use their own money to get it. Then show them how to pay for the toy at the cash register.
  • Quiz Them. While you’re shopping, quiz your kids on how much they think something costs as you put it into the cart. Kids often underestimate how much things are worth, and learning the actual price can be eye-opening.
  • Guess the Bill at the Till. How much does that cart of groceries cost? The person closest to the actual price gets to choose where you have lunch or which park you play at.

Turn Your Errands Into Field Trips

Wherever you go, turn the outing into a field trip. Try to tour as much of the business as you can with your kids.

For example, if you’re at the bank, talk with your kids about who the tellers are, where the money goes after you deposit it, and what the vault is for. Call ahead to ask for a tour if you have time. Many businesses are happy to oblige.

If you can’t get a live tour, finish the field trip with a virtual tour. You can find video tours on YouTube or just by searching the Internet for the business type, such as restaurants, laundromats, grocery stores, post offices, and salons, plus the words “virtual tour.”

Start a Coin Collection

There are many different types of coin collections. You can collect by date, mint, design, or denomination, just to name a few. For example, my son and his grandma collected state quarters.

As you collect coins, discuss the history behind our financial system and the currency. Don’t worry. It’s not as boring as you probably think.

For example, why is President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the dime? The story begins when Roosevelt contracted polio and began using a wheelchair as a result.

He started a foundation to try to raise money for the cause. At the time, popular singer Eddie Cantor jokingly asked people to send a dime to the White House in support of the organization — but the people took him seriously. Soon enough, despite the ongoing Great Depression, the White House was inundated with $0.10 donations.

The organization Roosevelt founded later changed its name to the March of Dimes. Interesting, right?

Study the history behind the president honored on each coin with your kids while building your collection. Some other questions to ask are: Why are some no longer in circulation, and what is the coin shortage all about?

Coin collecting teaches history, geography, math, and even politics. And as the dime proves, it can be very engaging.

Pay the Bills

While you’re paying the bills, encourage your child to do the same — only for pretend.

Set your child up next to you at the table or desk. Give them a pencil, some paper, some play money, and envelopes. Hand them a calculator and anything else you think they could play with, and let them mimic what you’re doing.

Ask for Cash

If your kids are anything like mine, they have plenty of toys. So encourage family and friends to give cash instead of toys for holidays and birthdays.

Cash teaches your kids how to manage, budget, give, and save money as they use it to buy things they want.


Final Word

Teaching our children good money habits is our job as parents. If we teach them basic money concepts at an early age, it’s easier for them to grasp more advanced financial concepts later, such as how to use credit cards, savings accounts, and debit cards.

And an easy, fun way to do that is by playing. Set aside some time each week to play with your child and teach them about money. There are many different ways to play, from board games to creative play. Choose something you enjoy, and have fun with it. When you play money games with your child, you’re providing financial education for life.

Source: moneycrashers.com