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Monthly Progress Report (#2)

I feel like it’s been ages since I got to really take a look at the progress I made! It’s only been a month but what can I say? I’m excited. I’ve been looking forward to this post since I wrote my initial progress report.

Even though, realistically, I didn’t make all that much progress towards my goals, I made some. And I’m going to celebrate any success no matter how big or small.

We’re now one whole month in, here’s the breakdown of my debt:

Mortgage: $149,600
Car Loan: $9,200
Student Loans: $4,700
Credit Cards: $3,200
Grand Total of Debt: $166,700

My student loan balances

Oh, yeah, let’s not forget the goof I made estimating the amount of money I would need for my home renovations!

Renovation fund requirement: $2,900
New Grand Total of Debt: $169,600

Last month that number was $170,900. Let me tell you, it feels dang good to change that 7 to a 6. I paid off $1,300 in a month. I honestly didn’t know if this number was going to go down much at all, but $1,300 is progress I can be proud of!

Now, let’s take a look at the savings side of things.

Savings account: $2,000
P2P Lending account: $300
Investment account: $100
Grand Total of Savings: $2,400

Admittedly, progress on the savings front wasn’t so great. I increased my savings $150 over the month. I can certainly do better than that but to tell you the truth, as my start date for renovations nears I’m focusing heavily on eliminating the renovation shortage. Hopefully once I clean up that mess I made, I can concentrate more efforts to bulking up my emergency fund.

Whatever you do, don’t do what I did and short yourself. Believe me, it’s just totally unnecessary stress. Stress that is now amplified because I made the first deposit on my renovations yesterday. Don’t get me wrong I’m super excited but I’m also super nervous I won’t be able to find $2,900 in my budget over the next several months.

I’m certainly hoping that February is another successful month. Overall, $1,500 went to improving my financial health during the month of January. Gosh, that feels so good to say! $1,500! If I needed any encouragement to stick to it, this post certainly gave me all the encouragement I needed and then some.

Debt, get ready, I’m coming for you.
Broke Dolly
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Earn 300 Shopkick Kicks for Signing Up for TJ Maxx Emails

Disclosure: This post may contain third party affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link within a post Broke Dolly may earn a small commission which helps support the blog and content (at no cost to you). Please check the disclosure and privacy policy pages for more details. Thank you so much for your kindness and support.

We finally made it to the weekend! To celebrate I have a short and sweet post to help you score some more cash online!

The other day I wrote about all the ways you can earn money with Shopkick then I opened up the app today (to watch some of those videos I told you about) and found a new way to earn kicks. Don’t you just love when things work out that way? Talk about a fun coincidence!

You can get 300 kicks, which works out to a little over $1, just for signing up for the TJ Maxx email list. Unfortunately, the offer is only valid for first time email subscribers, which I am definitely not. But if you are, the signup process is nice and easy! All you have to do is provide your name, email address, zip code and birthday.

After you submit your information all you have to do is wait 10 to 14 days to receive your kicks! You’ll also receive free shipping on your first order for signing up.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve neglected Shopkick somewhat over the past couple of years or if offers like these are just starting to get offered, but either way I like that they’re adding more ways to get kicks.

I’m hoping in the future they’ll offer something I’m actually eligible for.

But avoiding adding more tempting emails to my inbox is probably a safe bet for me.

I’ve been trying to unsubscribe to so many emails but I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe to some of my favorite stores. How else would I know about all the great sales?! Um, I might have a problem.

What’s the one mailing list you would never unsubscribe to? I think mine might be CB2 - I seldom order anything but I love looking at all the pretty things!
Broke Dolly
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10 Budget Friendly Valentine’s Day Ideas

Disclosure: This post may contain third party affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link within a post Broke Dolly may earn a small commission which helps support the blog and content (at no cost to you). Please check the disclosure and privacy policy pages for more details. Thank you so much for your kindness and support. 

If you know me, you know that I love holidays. Not all exactly equally, somehow Easter seems to get somewhat neglected and Halloween is overdone. Christmas is a month long extravaganza in my house and St. Patrick’s Day does nothing for me. 

Now that we’re nearing February I’m starting to think more and more about what I should get my boyfriend and my closest friends for Valentine’s Day. I know a lot of people aren’t big on the holiday but I like it. It celebrates love! It’s nice when you’re actually in love but I’ve spent a few solo and have no problem looking from the outside in or better yet, celebrating with friends. 

So whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s or Galentine’s (or both like me) you’re probably thinking about just how you should celebrate. And if you’re like me, how you should do so without breaking the bank!

What would I really like to get my boyfriend? Comedy show tickets. Pete Davidson and John Mulaney. Together. Close to home. Absolute perfection. But I was too slow on the purchase and every single show is sold out. Tickets on the secondary market are now selling for three times what the face value is. Ugh. 

Since I’m trying to save money and spend less, unless I get extremely lucky and added to the friends and family list (hey, no harm in hoping!) it looks like I’m going to need another option. But seriously, maybe I need to look into buying tickets in bulk and reselling them. Three times what you paid for them people?! What a racket. That would be one way to make some extra money and pay off my student loans. 

Ok, I promise I’m done sulking. And I also promise if I ever get into the ticket game, I’ll only sell my tickets for double of face value. Hey, I’m not greedy!

All jokes aside, I think tickets are awesome gifts. It’s something you can do together, it’s an experience. Especially awesome when both of you enjoy whatever you got tickets to. I luck out with sports since we’re both Mets and Jets fans (I know, how awful right?!) but our music tastes couldn’t be any more different. But I mean, I just don’t understand how someone doesn’t love obscure eighties music.

Remember, tickets are not always necessarily crazy expensive. Buy bleacher seats for sporting events or attend minor league games. If sports aren't your thing, find musicians or comedians who may not be at the top of their game anymore (or hasn’t blown up yet). This can be fun and nostalgic. Like remember that band you loved in high school? Yeah, they’re probably still touring and offering $30 tickets.

Don't like those ideas? Don’t worry I have some other ideas for an inexpensive Valentine’s!

1) Candy. Everyone loves candy and it’s pretty much synonymous with Valentine’s Day. Avoid grocery stores and pharmacies and head to discount retailers like Dollar General (or even your local dollar store) to save a little bit of money.

You can skip the dedicated Valentine’s section and get a little creative too - maybe your best friend hates orange starbursts or green skittles. Buy a few bags and a cute container and pick out the flavors they don’t like. As a bonus it shows just how much you’ve been paying attention.

2) Doughnuts. Get half a dozen doughnuts and write a cute message on the inside of the box. Sweet and inexpensive.

Valentine's Day Doughnuts
Valentine's Day doughnuts? Yes, please!
3) Care packages. Get yourself a big box and fill it with all the things your boyfriend loves. Focus on food and include all his favorite snacks. Focus on beer and include some old favorites and some new ones he might like to try. Or include some snacks and practical items like new gloves, pajamas or t-shirts.

4) Movie night boxes. Get a ceramic or plastic popcorn container and stuff it with all the best movie snacks like popcorn (obviously a necessity!), Twizzlers, Sno-Caps (remember Sno-Caps?!) and gummy bears with some DVDs for a movie night in, forgo the DVDs for a couple of gift cards for the local movie theater if you’d like to turn it into date night. You should probably buy your snacks there though, I hear the theater people prefer it that way.

5) Handmade gifts. I’m not crafty whatsoever, but if you are, know two things 1) I’m insanely jealous of you and 2) handmade gifts are amazing and thoughtful. Get yourself on Pinterest and start looking up ideas! Seriously, whenever someone gives me a handmade gift my heart melts.

It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, bake some heart shaped cookies (or any cookies for that matter). If baking isn’t your thing fill up a jar with 365 reasons of why you love them, what you appreciate about them, why they’re the best, etc. If you’ve been together for less than a year do it for the equivalent amount of days you’ve been dating (i.e. dating since January first, 45 reasons). Or just write the reasons down on a piece of paper. I refuse to believe there’s anyone out there who doesn’t love a love note.

6) Just a card. I think a card is all you need. Little disclaimer here, I’m a total sap that saves all my cards in a shoebox I occasionally dump out on my bedroom floor so I can admire all the cards I’ve received. Then I sit in my little card pile and read them over and over again. I know this is atypical behavior so maybe don’t put all your eggs in the card basket unless you have your own little weirdo in a card pile in her bedroom right now. Then definitely go with just a card and a thoughtful note. If not maybe go with a funny card.

7) Coupon books. Give the person you love a free pass on vacuuming or dishes. Or get romantic with it - free massages, specially planned dates, control over the remote control. Ok, maybe that last one isn’t so much romantic in the traditional sense but if someone willingly hands you a remote you know they love you. Especially if you’re going to subject them to a Paula Zahn marathon.

8) Make dinner. Make your person their favorite meal. Who doesn’t like being surprised with their favorite thing to eat? Especially if they don’t have it often, maybe it’s even kind of a pain to cook or you’re like me and have set your fair share of small(ish) oven fires and avoid the kitchen.

If you’re not much of a cook, pick up their favorite take out. If you're set on going out, breakfast and lunch are cheaper alternatives to dinner. Just make it a point to focus on each other. Seriously, put your phone down and talk to each other.

9) Spend time doing their favorite activity. You don’t have to do anything crazy, just take them to their favorite bookstore, go on a hike (or sleigh riding if you have some snow!) or play some video games on the couch together. Whatever floats their boat. Spend some time doing that thing together.

10) Pictures. Print out a couple of  the pictures you have of the two of you (I know you have about 400 to choose from) and put them in a frame. Get a frame for multiple pictures and add a quote or private joke in one of the slots.

Or find map points of important moments that coincide with your pictures, star the exact location and write what happened there like first date, first kiss, favorite spot, best cheesecake. It’s your map, mark out whatever you want.

Another alternative is to make a photo book using Shutterfly or Snapfish, which are offering 50% and 78%, respectively, off of photo books right now.  Now is probably a good time to tell I'm just as big of a sucker for photos as I am cards, my card box has more than a few snapshots in there.

Bonus idea - set up a scavenger hunt! How fun would it be to set up some clues and make a day of it? Go big and send them all over town to meaningful places and end up at the place of where you met.

As for what I'm going to do? I still haven't decided and Pete Davidson still hasn't sent me any comp tickets. But I'm leaning towards doughnuts, a care package of all the best candy and a super sappy card. What can I say? Sappy is what I do best!

No matter what you do, I'm sure it'll be great! Now get out there and have some fun. I hope you have a great Valentine's Day! Do you have any other great and inexpensive gift ideas?
Broke Dolly
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Earn Cash with Shopkick by Walking Into Stores. Seriously!

Disclosure: This post may contain third party affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link within a post Broke Dolly may earn a small commission which helps support the blog and content (at no cost to you). Please check the disclosure and privacy policy pages for more details. Thank you so much for your kindness and support. 

If you remember a little while back I wrote a post about how to make money online which included all of my favorite sites and apps that, you guessed it, you can use to make some extra money. Since I’ve been on a shopping kick lately, well since I’m always on a shopping kick, I figured I would start with a little Shopkick tutorial.

I just noticed the irony of the name. Clever, Shopkick, very clever.

I have been using Shopkick since 2013. In that time I have redeemed $95 worth of gift cards (turns out my redemption history is solely Target and TJ Maxx gift cards because I’m super predictable). So, no, I’m not getting rich off of Shopkick but I’m never going to complain about free money.

So how does it work? It’s simple! Really simple, I promise.

Shopkick pays you in kicks which can then later be redeemed for gift cards, cash through PayPal (which was just recently added in November and is my new favorite option!) and even products like a Vespa! You’ll need a lot of kicks (1.8 million!) to earn that Vespa but if you’re a frequent shopper I’m rooting for you! In the past I’ve also seen a KitchenAid mixer up for grabs, which I would recommend to anyone. I love my KitchenAid, especially around the time I bake 20 dozen Christmas cookies.

As for the gift cards, 500 kicks will hey you a $2 gift card, 1,250 kicks a $5 gift card, 2,500 kicks a $10 gift card, 6,250 a $25 gift card and in some cases 12,500 a $50 gift card. There are more expensive options such as 75,000 kicks for $300 at Tiffany’s and 62,500 for $250 at Tory Burch. Gift card amounts available vary by stores but there are a ton of options, from Fandango to Walmart.

 If you’re redeeming for cash, 1,300 kicks will get you $5, 2,550 $10 and 6,300 $25. I know the cash ends up being slightly more “expensive” but my plan will be to put it towards debt. And since I’m not always in the market for a gift card, since gift cards somehow make me justify spending more money, it’s a trade off I’m willing to make.

Now that we talked about what you can get let’s talk about how you can earn some kicks so you can get your gift cards (or your new Vespa!) 

There are a couple of ways to earn kicks:

1) Just by walking into stores! By far my most used feature of Shopkick. Just open up your app when you walk into participating stores. As of today, participating stores near me include: Walmart, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Target, American Eagle, Modell’s, Best Buy, Carter’s and Jockey.

Walk-in kicks usually range from 10 to 75, however sometimes one of the stores offers 150 - 200 kicks. Since I’m always going to a few of the above stores, every time I go shopping I earn kicks. In the past JC Penney and Macy’s also participated. HomeGoods disappeared for a while and came back so I’m hoping that there’s hope they may appear again in the future.

2) Scanning specific items. Stores that don’t even give walk-in kicks still allow you to scan items like Dollar General, ShopRite, CVS and Rite Aid.  The app will show you a specific item, once you find the item just scan the barcode and you’ll be rewarded with kicks. Most scans reward you ten to 35 kicks.

3) Watching short videos. Under the discover tab of the app you can watch short videos to earn kicks. The videos usually pay one to three kicks. The bonus is that the videos usually teach you something new about the app. Or at the very least you may discover a cool new product to try.

4) Scanning receipts. Remember that video you just watched promoting that fun new product? Good news! You can buy the product at a participating store and earn kicks for your purchase. If you select the little blue receipt logo next to your local grocery store you can see all the products that you may already buy or may want to try that will earn kicks.

5) Linking your credit card. If you link your card then make a purchase at a store with 1/$1 or 2/$1 next to it (remember to use your linked card!) you’ll earn 1 or 2 kicks per dollar you spend. It’s a nice passive way to earn kicks without even opening the app. Some stores even offer bonus kicks if you spend a certain amount. For example, TJ Maxx is offering 75 kicks if you spend $25, 200 kicks for $50 and 500 kicks for $100 in addition to 1 kick for every dollar you spend. But be careful, remember to run your debit card as credit or you won’t earn kicks. Also, Best Buy requires you to have the cashier scan a QR code from your phone before the purchase. None of the other stores near me required a QR code but it’s worth just checking before your purchase.

Another downside to the linked card feature is you can only link Visa and Mastercard cards. Major bummer for me since my most used card is my Discover card and I totally leave kicks on the table just because I forget I should make my purchases with my linked card. Hopefully in the future Discover and American Express cards will be compatible too.

Side note: you ever think how much stores must pay in credit card fees? I’m going to have to look it up now because I’m totally curious.

See how easy it is to earn some kicks? For me, it’s one of those apps I love because it’s something I do with little effort. Usually I earn all my kicks through walk-ins so all I have to do is remember to pull out my phone and open the app when I walk through the door (and have my Bluetooth turned on - that’s how the app knows you walked into the store).

Now if I can only remember to pay with my linked card I’ll be earning so many more kicks this year! And then redeeming them for PayPal cash to pay off some of that pesky debt. Ugh, I’m obsessed.
Broke Dolly
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How to Score a Good Deal at HomeGoods

I’m sitting in a waiting room waiting for my doctor’s appointment and all I can think about is when I get out of here I’m going straight to one of my favorite places on earth: HomeGoods! Heck, I even bought TJ Maxx stock because I love the store so much.

And God knows I’m not alone in my love for HomeGoods. I dream of the day when I get to go and the store isn’t packed.

If you love the store as much as I do (or even on a normal, healthy, don’t plan doctor’s appointments around your ability to go to HomeGoods, level) you’ll appreciate these tips on how to score a good deal at HomeGoods.

1) Know HomeGoods is always replenishing their shelves. I once asked a cashier if there was a specific day they receive new merchandise and she laughed. She went on to tell me they receive deliveries up to five times a week! That means new merchandise is constantly being rolled out. However, don’t expect employees to know what’s coming on a truck beforehand.

2) Check for clearance items. Now that we know there’s always something new awaiting us, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to always check out the clearance sections. If you’re looking to get a great deal look for the little red tags.

Clearance isles are usually marked clearly but sometimes the clearance section is tucked on end caps facing the walls of the store. Make sure to always do a quick loop of the perimeter to make sure you’re not missing anything!

One of the clearance sections at my local HomeGoods

3) Look for damaged items. Another key to scoring a discount is to make sure you always check for damage. If the item you’re interested in is unfortunately broken, ripped, stained, scratched, etc make sure to ask a manager for a discount. They’ll usually take 10% off with no hassle (although maybe not if the item is already on clearance). For majorly damaged goods, the manager may take up to 20% off.

The broken merchandise will always be my biggest gripe about HomeGoods. Nothing is worse than finding an item you love only to find that it’s broken. But sometimes it’s not so bad. Especially with furniture my first thought is can I fix this? Ok, I’ll admit, it’s more likely can my boyfriend or dad fix this? But I have to do all the painting. Neither can paint to save their lives. My point is, sometimes an item is easily salvageable with a little elbow grease. Other times, that nasty scratch can be turned to the wall.

I bought this metal and glass console table for $49, marked down from $100. Why was it marked down so much? It had a tiny chip on one of the corners. Not big enough to bother me at all. You can barely see it! And since the table was in my price range because of that chip - I'll deal.

My $49 table!

4) Don't forget about TJ Maxx & Marshalls. If your HomeGoods is anything like my local store, it’s wedged somewhere between a Marshalls and a TJ Maxx. I think I’ve lucked out to get all three in the same area but I often see at least one or the other near a HomeGoods.

A few years ago I was on the hunt for counter height stools for my kitchen island. I would always find something I liked but there would never be three of them. I needed three because two wouldn’t be enough and four would be too crowded. One day (probably about day 487 of the counter stool search) I happened to be in a different city and decided to check out HomeGoods. They had two of the stools that I loved but no third. I finally decided that two was going to have to do. I told you, I loved them and they were so reasonably priced!

Quick side note: I’ll be the first to admit that I have been shocked at some HomeGoods prices over the years. For every amazing deal I get there’s always an item I think they marked at $700 for a joke.

Ok, back to my stools. So I had two loaded up in the back of the car when I stopped at Marshalls. I wasn’t looking for it, I never in a million years would have expected to find a third but once I reached their home section I saw the lonely teal stool waiting to come home with me. I excitedly ran over and scooped it up but had to stop for a second on my way to the register. It was marked almost twice what the HomeGoods stools cost me! So off to find a manager I went. Once I found one she explained that some items come with little guidance and the store decides the price based on their other products. The manager marked the stool down to the HomeGoods price and I was on my way home with my impossible to find stools and a big ol’ grin on my face!

So two morals to my story: 1) If you find something you love at HomeGoods that needs a mate, is broken or was scooped up by someone else don’t be discouraged - just calmly drive yourself to the nearest TJ Maxx or Marshalls and check out what they have. 2) If that item is more expensive at the other store, it’s worth a shot mentioning it to the manager.

I told you my barstools were pretty cool!
Excuse the dark photos - my kitchen isn't so peach IRL

5) Know the markdown schedule
. I’ve often been curious about the markdown schedule. Just when does that item you’ve been covering go on sale? If you’re brave enough to walk away and press your luck the item will still be there when you return, that is. According to Apartment Therapy, HomeGoods marks down items every three months. How can you tell when your item is due for a markdown? There’s a date right on the price sticker! It’ll be formatted like 0119 for January 2019.

6) Skip HomeGoods on traditional sales weekends. One final bit of wisdom from me: don’t count on HomeGoods participating in any sort of sales. Even Black Friday is a bust. They’ll be open but they rely on their already discounted prices to be enough to bring shoppers in. I’ll admit even though I know they won’t be offering any special sale, I still drag my mom to HomeGoods year after year on our Black Friday outings. She just doesn’t get it but we always end up with a HomeGoods bag in the trunk.

Let me know what the best thing you’ve ever bought at HomeGoods was. I’m dying to know if anyone has had better luck talking a manager down on clearance prices!
Broke Dolly
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Choosing the Right Tax Software

Disclosure: This post may contain third party affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link within a post Broke Dolly may earn a small commission which helps support the blog and content (at no cost to you). Please check the disclosure and privacy policy pages for more details. Thank you so much for your kindness and support.

Confession time: I’ve always paid to have my taxes done by someone else. Not necessarily because I don’t think I can do them myself, I know I can. I’ve even taken a tax class!

So why haven’t I? I really don’t have a good excuse expect laziness. Needless to say, it’s expensive to pay a CPA for something you can do yourself just because you’re being lazy. It’s time for me to invest in some tax software and figure it out.

There are so many options for tax software it’s kind of crazy. Let’s start with the most logical place to start - the IRS offers Free File software for taxpayers with income below $66,000. Software is provided through the Free File Alliance, which is a consortium of twelve commercial tax preparation software providers. In case you're curious, like I was, the twelve are 1040Now Corp, Drake Enterprises, EZTaxReturn.com, FileYourTaxes.com, Free Tax Returns, H&R Block, Intuit, Liberty Tax, OnLine Taxes, TaxAct, TaxHawk and TaxSlayer.

Each software provider can set requirements to use their program so after answering some qualifying questions, such as income and state residency, they’ll let you know what your options are. The downside is you may not end up using the software you were hoping to use and some of the software’s functionality is diminished with Free File. The upside is it’s free and they open up the software two weeks earlier than the official start of tax season (January 28, 2019).

Unfortunately, I don’t qualify to use the Free File software so it’s on to looking at paid options for me. Since I refinanced my mortgage in 2018 I’m looking for something that’ll provide me with a little guidance on what might be deductible there as well as a good general support system in case I run into any issues.

The two I’m really going to focus on are TurboTax and H&R Block. And maybe TaxAct (which looks to be by far the cheapest after some quick research). I'm going to avoid the others that I've never heard of, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them but I'm sure I can find what I need while only researching three programs rather than researching all twelve in depth.


I’m going to start with the tax software I hear about most often - Intuit’s TurboTax. They even offer a free option if you meet certain criteria like you earn limited interest and dividend income and take the standard deduction. Since I live in New York and own my home, the standard deduction doesn’t make sense for me. Bye bye free version!

But I like Intuit because I’ve used QuickBooks in the past and I liked it. It did everything I needed it to do and it’s relatively simple. I’m hoping TurboTax shares those qualities.

One thing I like about TurboTax immediately is that their TurboTaxLive offers a CPA review of your return. It costs more money ($50 - $80 depending on which product you ultimately choose) but it may be worth it to ease my concerns. And it’s still a lot cheaper than my old ways! Even baby steps in the right direction still count.

If you enter a little bit of information about your needs TurboTax tells you the option it feels is best for you among their various packages - Free, Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed.

TurboTax Free we already discussed.

TurboTax Deluxe, which is priced at $39.99, is recommended if you’re looking to maximize your deductions.

TurboTax Premier, which is priced at $59.99, is recommended if you own rental property or have to report capital gains/losses.

And TurboTax Self-Employed is $89.99 for all of my self-employed friends. State returns are an additional $39.99.

I’ll sum up the things I like about TurboTax:

1) Offering of a CPA review
2) Guaranteed maximum refund - TurboTax searches for over 400 deductions and credits
3) Help with refinancing deductions (check on one of my biggest concerns!)
4) Automatic import of W-2 and investment info
5) A TurboTax Community forum
6) Audit support (but if you want representation it'll cost extra)
7) An accuracy guarantee - if the goof is on them they’ll eat the associated IRS fees

What I don’t like is the cost. It’s the most expensive option I saw.

H&R Block

Now onto H&R Block, another common name in tax prep. Right off the bat I notice some similarities, including a free version! At this point I’ve given up on filing my taxes for free, but if you have a simple return it’ll only help you! H&R Block offers tax pro help but it doesn’t mention anything about CPAs. And it’s going to cost you with a price tag of $119.99.

H&R Block has similar options as TurboTax - Free, Deluxe, Premium and Self-Employed. The prices are slightly more wallet friendly at $29.99, $49.99 and $79.99, respectively. Similar to TurboTax, you’ll want the Deluxe if you own a home or have other itemized deductions and the Premium in you have a rental or other investments. State returns are an additional $36.99.

Here’s what I like about H&R Block:

1) Guaranteed maximum refund
2) Easy import of tax documents
3) A Tax Help forum
4) Audit support (representation for a fee)
5) An accuracy guarantee
6) Physical locations - including one about a mile from home - just in case of emergency
7) A 5% bonus for loading your refund on an Amazon card. I would never use this in a million years because I’m not a huge Amazon shopper but the idea is pretty cool

What I don’t like is the absence of CPA help. It may be silly but a CPA can quell fears I have that a tax pro just can’t. Let's be honest, "tax pro" is pretty vague and when I looked up my local office none of the employees were listed as CPAs. Also I didn’t find mention of my refinancing deductions.


Ok, now the final contender! TaxAct made this list because it’s the lowest priced option of software programs I’ve heard of. I’m a sucker for familiarity.

TaxAct offers five products - Free, Basic (if you have dependents or college expenses), Deluxe (for homeowners), Premier (if you have investments or rental income) and Self-Employed. Prices are $9.95 for Basic, $29.95 for Deluxe, $34.95 for Premier (which also offers prioritized support) and $49.95 for Self-Employed.

I don’t see the point in going for the Basic when it seems like you could file with TurboTax and H&R Block for free. And the Deluxe is the same price as H&R Block’s Deluxe.

Having said that, here’s what I do like about TaxAct:

1) TaxAct offers a price lock guarantee. The above listed prices will not change as we get further into the thicket of tax season. The same cannot be said about TurboTax and H&R Block
2) TaxAct offers multiple gift card bonuses if you choose to upload your return to a gift card - they offer Home Depot if you’re looking to make home repairs and Carnival Cruise Line if you’re planning on a cruise vacation in 2019! There’s others too but my point is it’s not just Amazon
3) TaxAct is cheaper for the Premier and Self-Employed options
4) An accuracy guarantee

Overall, I’d love to pay less but I’m nervous to sacrifice quality to save a few dollars. Especially at this point in the game where I’m new to this whole filing my own taxes thing.

I’m going to choose TurboTax because of their ability to offer a CPA if I run into any trouble. TurboTax is also the only one that mentioned anything about refinancing deductions (or at least the only one I saw mention anything about refinancing deductions after poking around each website for a good half hour) and was rated easiest to use by Nerd Wallet.

If things go well I may consider switching to one of the less expensive options in the future. Have you tried any of these programs? Do you use one I didn’t consider? Let me know how you like it!
Broke Dolly
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20% of Millennials Expect to Die with Debt

What a busy couple of days I've had - on Saturday I went with my mother on a multi-state antique store trek so she could stock up for her Etsy business (which involved me waking up at five and spending eight hours in the car) and then yesterday my boyfriend and I went to the movies. I haven’t seen a movie in theaters in so long! But don’t worry, I used gift cards I’ve held on to for the past 5 years (read: gift cards I forgot about at the bottom of my purse) to purchase the tickets. So it wasn’t a really expensive outing.

Things are only going to get busier as I start my spring semester tomorrow (two classes down, eight to go until I have master’s #2!). So you'll have to forgive me if I miss a few days here and there! I promise I'll still try my best to stick to my every other day schedule.

Anyways, over the weekend when I was in the car on the aforementioned trek with my mother I stumbled across this depressing article. One in five millennials (those aged 18 to 34 or 37 depending on the study) expect to never be able to pay off their debt.

 I get that the struggle is real. As you already know I have a ton of debt and I know millennials have crushing student loan debt but c'mon, let’s not give up just yet.

We’re in our 20’s and 30’s (well, for the most part), we have our whole lives and careers ahead of us. I think that’s too dang young to just give in and give up on the idea of financial freedom. Besides, I don't want to think that I'm never going to pay my debt off! What happened to a little bit of optimism? It can’t hurt right?

So here’s the sad state of affairs the article brings up:

1) The average millennial has $36,000 in personal debt (all debt such as car loans, student loans, credit cards, personal loans, etc. Mortgages are excluded)

2) Over 60% of millennials say they don’t know if or when they’ll pay off their debt

3) 20% of millennials expect to die in debt

Also to keep piling it on, the recommended article on the bottom of my already bad news article: 60 percent of millennials don’t have enough money to cover a $1,000 emergency. Millennials aren’t the only ones struggling either, 52% of all Americans said they couldn’t cover the $1,000 emergency.

I have my fair share of personal debt - $21,100 as of my progress report. That’s a lot in my opinion. I would love to see this number in the four digit range. The article suggests having a plan to pay off your debt. As for me, I’m going to start small and focus on paying off the smaller balances I have first.

As for dying in debt. No, not if I can help it. Since my biggest expense should always be my mortgage, I have a set timeline for when I believe I should be debt free - 30 years. At the max. I plan on making extra payments because I want to be debt free. I’m pretty sure everyone does.

To put it simply, debt sucks and I want to be able to have a few good debt free years (maybe in the Florida sunshine!). I’m hoping that everyone else in my generation can achieve this goal too, I think we can if we put our minds to it.  We’re the most educated generation in history, let’s show ‘em what we got!

I also have enough (but barely) to cover a $1,000 emergency. I know I need to pad my savings account. One of my main focuses will be making sure I have an emergency fund. My goal is six months of expenses, but the article recommends at least three. Since I live in a somewhat economically depressed area and I have very specialized work experience I figure six months is a better idea for me.

Millennials, I know it’s hard. I’m in debt. I don’t know just when I can get out of it and the prospect of being nearing 60 when I write my last mortgage payment check is downright scary but I won’t give up on the idea that it’s eventually going to happen.

One day I will be debt free.

Please don’t give up on that idea for yourself. You can do it! And if you need a friend to do a no spend challenge with, I’m here!
Broke Dolly
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Is Robinhood For Real No Fee Investing & Free Stocks?

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Oh my goodness, I have been wanting to write about Robinhood since I discovered it.

Robinhood - the commission free investing platform - not the legendary green tight wearing fella who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. But he’s pretty dang cool too.

As you know one of my financial goals was to start investing a little bit in the stock market. I knew going into this that:

1) I would deposit a small amount of money (hopefully each month) and purchase only a few shares of stock each transaction

2) My balance would be very small

3) I wanted to choose the stock I was purchasing

I originally planned on using E*TRADE because, well frankly, it was the only online brokerage option I was even a little familiar with.

And remember the old talking baby commercials? Talk about effective advertising, I’m still talking about it.

I knew from the start I could only realistically deposit a little bit of cash to invest each month so my purchase orders would be limited to only a few shares at a time. When talking about $50-$100 a month, I knew commission fees of any kind were going to be a hit to my balance and a little counterintuitive to my goal of saving some money.

E*TRADE charges $6.95 per trade. So my $100 becomes $93 and my $50 becomes $43. Anywhere from 7-14% of my balance going to fees was a turn off for me. I knew I at least needed to find lower fees.

Honestly, I didn’t even know that commission free trades existed before doing some research. But I’m here to tell you they do! And they’re a thing of beauty! (Side note: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) charge fees on the sell side of things. You can read Robinhood’s explanation of these fees here.)

My next obstacle was to find an investment account without a minimum balance. What really shattered my E*TRADE and talking baby fantasies was that they required a minimum balance of $500. I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to take the money from my savings because I’m still working on that six month emergency cushion. I wanted to be adding additional money to my brokerage account while still working on my savings. Taking money from my savings felt a little like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

To be clear, I’m not bashing E*TRADE at all. It just wasn’t the right option for me and the style investing I saw feasible for myself at this point in time. E*TRADE is popular for a reason. And they do offer commission free trades with qualifying deposits. Do your research and pick the right account for you to open, it very well may be an E*TRADE account.

Finally, I knew I wanted variety. And I knew I wanted to be able to pick stocks I liked. You already know I have beef with Suze Orman for discouraging millennials from investing in stocks just because they like them. Well I’m certainly not taking that advice. I want to invest in companies I like (and preferably buy from too)!

Initially, I was interested in Acorns which automates investing small amounts for you via automatic transfers or rounding up your debit card purchases to even amounts and investing the difference. Acorns charges $1 a month (there are also $2 and $3 options but the $1 gets you a simple investment account  and would have been sufficient for my needs) and invests in a predetermined diversified portfolio. The portfolio is managed by a Nobel laureate, so that’s cool, but not exactly what I was looking for.

As you must have guessed by now, Robinhood was able to meet my three needs/wants. The sign up process was nice and simple, I entered my information, verified my email and waited for the verification deposit to show up in my checking account.

Total bonus, once I verified my bank account  and initiated my transfer ($100 to start) I was able to purchase stock immediately. So what was my first big purchase?

Two shares of TJ Maxx (TJX) stock for a total of $88.50. So far I’m up! I chose TJ Maxx for a few reasons:

1) The stock was one of the affordable ones I’ve been interested in

2) TJX pays a dividend which I plan to reinvest in more stock (one drawback of Robinhood for me was there is no automatic dividend reinvestment)

3) All the research I did leads me to think it’s a smart buy (Uber important! Please always do your research before investing in anything)

4) I love TJ Maxx stores. See? I really do believe in investing in companies you love.

Another fun thing about Robinhood? They give you free stock for signing up!


You can score a share of Apple or Microsoft for signing up. Robinhood chooses from the most popular companies on their platform and your free stock can be valued from $2.50 to $200.

As for me? Well, I didn’t fare that well.

By that I mean Apple stock well.

But I’m now the proud owner of one share of Zynga (ZNGA) stock (originally valued at $3.88).

What’s Zynga you ask? They’re the makers of FarmVille and some other online games, but FarmVille says it all really. I mean I’m still waiting on those bricks I requested from my Facebook friends back in 2008.

In all seriousness, after reading up on Zynga it seems like a pretty cool company.

Robinhood gives you the option to sell your free stock after it settles but I decided to hold on to it. It’s now in the $4+ territory, we’ll see where it goes. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even buy some more one day.

Another cool feature? Robinhood gives you free stock for inviting your friends. So please be a pal and use my share link if you’re thinking about creating an account. I promise to let you know what my free stock is. After all, I could definitely use some more shares of Zynga.

So far, I really like Robinhood. It offers all of the features I think I need in an investing app. Robinhood also offers ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies if that's your sort of thing.

For now, I plan on sticking with my straightforward "stocks I like" investment plan for the near future. I’m hoping I’ll be able to add a little every month and boost my stock holdings slowly but surely. Consistently making those transfers might be a challenge for me but I'm ready for it!

Is there any company you’re dying to invest in? Or have you had any success with small scale investing like mine? I’d love to hear about it!
Broke Dolly
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Are Financial Experts Really Experts & Should You Trust Them?

I am in no way, shape or form am expert on anything. Certainly, I’m no guru either. Who even calls themselves a guru? Yuck. Further, I don’t want to be. I enjoy the process of learning about things that interest me but I will never be arrogant enough to believe I don’t have a ton more to learn. In fact, I’m of the school of thought that you probably shouldn’t trust anyone that calls themselves an expert. Sure, they might know a lot about something, certainly more than most people. However, they don’t know everything. And I’m superstitious so I’m never going to discount the sheer importance of a little bit of luck.

For example, I do my research and buy a stock I believe has nothing but upwards potential based on all the things I learned about as my time as a finance student. If I like the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the earnings per share (EPS), the solid earnings outlook and the stockpiles of cash paid out as dividends I’ll invest in the company expecting others to appreciate these aspects and push the stock price up. We’ll even assume that my stock is rated a buy by nearly every analyst (i.e. expert) I could dig up. But then my company ends up having to deal with recalls or a lawsuit that appears to come out of the blue and my stock falls. I did the right thing, I checked my financial ratios and made a smart decision to invest. I even listened to the so called experts. Well, that just sucks. But I couldn’t see into the future and predict my bad luck. Unfortunately, past results will never guarantee future performance. Ask anyone who took a walloping in their 401k after the financial crisis - experts aren’t always right.

So just why am I on this rampage you ask? Stumbling across this article and then this one. Suze Orman, self professed financial guru recommends millennials don’t invest in companies that they like. She recommends exchange traded funds (ETFs) or index funds instead. It’s not bad advice - diversification is a good thing and ETFs provide it but I don’t see the point in telling someone to not invest in something they believe in. I’m not saying throw your money at everything you think is a good idea but start small and invest in companies you actually like after doing some research. Everyone needs to start somewhere. What’s the harm? I’m not saying invest every dollar you own in Starbucks because you love frappachinos (or Chipotle because you love burritos or Yum Brands because Taco Bell chalupas are amazing or Target because you love shopping there or Honda because you love your Civic, you get my point) but I see no harm in including them in your diversified portfolio. I just don’t like the idea of discouraging millennials (hello, millennial here!) in investing how they want to. I think it’s more important that a group scared of investing start investing. Besides, few actively managed funds actually outperform the S&P 500 anyways. I will give Suze credit where credit is due for recommending index funds as a safer alternative.

Now onto my utter amazement at Barbara Corcoran’s advice to just spend money. I like Barbara, I’m a huge fan of Shark Tank but my jaw hit the ground when I read - and I quote - '“I love to spend. Saving? You’re talking to the wrong gal,” she says. “I never saved in my life. I just have a lot of money now by accident, so I think saving is grossly overrated. I know it’s the prudent thing — that’s the gospel of anyone in finance. I just believe it’s not for everyone.”' Um, what? Let’s not tell people saving is overrated. Too many people already have that mindset. And, yeah, I like to spend money too but I don’t see how my shoe habit will somehow land me in a ton of money. More likely it’ll land me in a ton of debt. I guess it takes money to make money so if you spend your money on business opportunities, real estate or other investments her advice isn’t so bad.

Ok, now that I got all that out of my system, what I’m really trying to say is take all expert advice with a grain of salt. What may work for someone else may not work for you. And sometimes someone gets a lucky break. You’re probably not going to end up with a net worth like Suze’s or a real estate empire like Barbara’s but you can still manage your money well and have some fun while doing it.

And for the record, I think the best advice from the two articles above is 1) never buy a new car and 2) avoid credit card debt. Someone once told me a car is the worst investment you can make, the value drops quickly and you’ll never get out of it what you put into it. Remember a new car loses value as soon as you drive off the lot. But it’s probably something you need, so do your research and pick a used car that meets your needs. Now as for credit card debt, I get that sometimes it’s unavoidable. But the interest rates are just ridiculous. Try to pay off your credit card debt immediately. The money you save on interest can be used for something so much better.

See? I’m not saying there’s no such thing as good advice. Surely there is. It’s all about balance. Know what your goals are and don’t listen to everything someone says just because they’re a so called expert. No one knows your money situation like you do. You, my friend, are the expert.

Broke Dolly
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Can You Really Make Money Online? Yes! Here’s How..

I have a not-so-secret secret. I am always looking for new ways to pad my income and make a little extra money online. Here’s the roundup of the best sites and apps I’ve found to actually make some spare change. I’ll post more detailed entries on each but I thought it might be helpful to have a full list, so here it goes:

1) I love, love, love me some Swagbucks! There are a ton of different ways to earn Swagbucks from surveys to watching videos to signing up for actually helpful offers. Seriously, it’s not all stuff you’d never be interested in. For example, I knew I wanted to switch to Hulu after I canceled my cable and Swagbucks paid me $25 to use the link from their site. One Swagbuck is equivalent to one penny and you can cash out for gift cards or cash through PayPal.

2) CashCrate is similar to Swagbucks. You can earn money by completing surveys, watching videos or signing up for offers. You also get $0.03 a day just by checking in (there’s a $0.50 bonus if you check in every day for a month). CashCrate pays for each task you complete and once you earn $20 they’ll mail you a check.

3) Receipt Hog is an app that I’ve been using for quite some time. You take a picture of your receipts and earn money based on the amount you spent. Grocery stores, gas stations and stores like Wal-Mart and Target earn you coins. Other stores like TJ Maxx or restaurants earn you a chance to play “Hog Slots” and win more coins. Coins can be redeemed for an Amazon gift card, a Visa gift card or cash through PayPal.

4) Receipt Pal is similar to Receipt Hog. You scan your receipts and earn 100 points for every four receipts. Unlike Receipt Hog, Receipt Pal accepts any and all receipts for points. Points can be redeemed for gift cards but unfortunately not cash. I’m hoping they’ll eventually add PayPal as an option but I won’t complain about such an easy way to earn gift cards.

5) Shopkick is another app I’ve been using for quite a while. Download Shopkick, then open up the app when you walk into certain stores to receive kicks. You can also earn kicks by watching videos, scanning bar codes or shopping through the Shop Kick app. Kicks can be redeemed for products, gift cards and now cash through Pay Pal.

And just for good measure, I’m going to add the apps that I sell the stuff I no longer need that’s just sitting around the house:

6) Mercari is an online marketplace I use to sell anything and everything from clothing to household items. The minimum list price is $5 and the Mercari commission is 10%. Use my referral link to earn $10 just for signing up.

7) Similar to Mercari, Poshmark is the place to sell your old clothes. Poshmark charges $2.95 for all items sold under $15 and 20% for all sales $15 and over. Get $5 by using my referral link. Posh Mark is also a great place to update your wardrobe on the cheap.

That’s all I’m going to add for now because these are the seven tried and true websites and apps I have used and earned money through. I have an eighth I would love to add but I haven’t cashed out yet and I will not recommend it until I know they pay. Unfortunately I have downloaded apps promising money and not delivering (UGH!). By using the above sites and apps I'm hoping you will avoid all that frustration.

Do you have a favorite that I'm missing? Let me know in the comments, I'm always willing to add more to my list!
Broke Dolly
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Get the Inside Scoop on Macy’s Markdowns & Other Ways to Save

As you know I’m on my year long Christmas shopping binge. And I have the perfect idea for a January gift but I’m still not so sure about the price. What is my fabulous idea? Behold, the sweetest men’s dress shoe I’ve ever seen:

Freakin’ fabulous amirite?  I love them. And I know someone else who will love them too. My issue? $36.93 is still more than I want to pay. Do I think it’s a great price? Yes. Do I think I can do better? I hope so.

Besides I still have plenty of time to check off all the items on my Christmas  shopping list. Like eleven months worth of time. Quick side note - the IT guy at work laughed when I showed him my fabulous find which gave me pause. But only for a second because I think everyone should wear whatever shoes they like. And if you’re wearing pink shoes, I’m going to compliment you because I just know they’re awesome and you’re awesome for wearing them.

So since I’ve been in this should I or shouldn’t I pattern and frantically googling how Macy’s sales work I figured I would impart some of my newfound knowledge on you.

1) Know how the markdown schedule works. According to Rather-be-Shopping, Macy’s is pretty famous for starting their markdowns on Sunday and finishing up by Tuesday. Good news for this girl as were coming up on a fresh round of markdowns!

2) Pay attention to Last Act deals. Bad news is according to the Krazy Coupon Lady, Macy’s Last Act deals are only marked down once a month according to inventory. Ok, still not bad and maybe I’ll get lucky?

Last Act is one of my favorite things about Macy’s. Super discounted items that you actually want to purchase. I found a pair of Kate Spade heels I just love (multi-color glitter!!) at a Last Act rack in a Philadelphia Macy’s and it has since become some sort of addiction. Seriously, if you get one thing out of my blog, I’ll be happy knowing it’s the necessity of the Last Act sections at Macy’s. Go find them (there’s usually one in men’s, women’s, kid’s and housewares)! And then tell me what great deals you found.

3) Know how to decode clearance tags. With the name Last Act, maybe you’re thinking I’m crazy for hoping I’ll get a better deal? Nope! The Krazy Coupon Lady pulled through for me again with the wisdom that blue clearance price tags end with a three (such as my $36.93 shoes!) and are at the point of the second to last mark down. Final clearance price items are the ones with yellow tags ending in a six. Act fast on those guys!

Since my shoes (like how I’ve taken to calling them mine already even though I haven’t purchased them and will never wear them? They’re still my gift idea so I think it’s ok) are only on the second to last markdown and they still have them in every single size I think I’m going to be just fine waiting. And the $20-$30 territory looks oh so good. One more word of advice - all Last Act items will have blue or yellow tags. White tags are better deals than they first appear. If you see a white tag make sure to get a price check and watch out for a price ending in a three or six.

4) Don't forget a coupon. The downside to the Last Act section? As you can see in the above picture “coupon excluded” means no coupon codes will work. Total bummer. If your item isn’t coupon excluded always make sure to do a quick google search to see if you can find a coupon code. Or if you’re a hardcore online shopper and don’t have the time to always be googling coupon codes, install a coupon tool bar that’ll automatically do the work for you. I haven’t taken this step yet but if you have suggestions I’m always willing to do things that’ll save me money. I know, I’m a little surprised at my slacking too.

5) Utilize Macy's Money. If you’re addicted to Kohl’s Cash, know Macy’s offers Macy’s Money (I seriously didn’t know this was a thing two days ago) which is basically the same idea as Kohl's Cash. During the earning period you may have to buy online originally but Macy’s Money can be redeemed online or in store and combined with coupons. You can also earn and use Macy’s Money on Last Act items. Like Kohl’s Cash, Macy’s Money has a specific redemption period. But who cares? It’s free money! There’s no promo going on right now but they display the information on their website so it’s something to keep an eye on. Especially if you’re a frequent Macy’s shopper.

6) Don't be afraid to ask for a price adjustment. Macy’s also offers a price adjustment if the item you bought goes on sale within ten days of your purchase. If you bought an iPhone you have 14 days and if you bought another Apple product you have 30 days. All you have to do is call them up and they’ll refund you the difference between the original price you paid and the lower sale price. Just maybe I will purchase those shoes a little sooner after all.

Are you a big Macy's shopper? Do you have any other money saving tips for me?
Broke Dolly
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Let’s Talk About How You Can Make Money with Lending Club

Ok, let’s talk about one of the apps I use to save and make a little bit of money. I’ve probably been using Lending Club the longest so it appears to be a good place to start. Lending Club offers peer-to-peer (P2P) lending which means lenders, for lack of a better word, kick in $25 (or more if they’d like) to fund a borrower’s loan request. Borrowers can borrow money for everything from credit card refinancing to putting in a swimming pool and a bank (WebBank) deals with the hands on process of qualifying the borrower and servicing the loan.

Now that you have the basic gist of just what Lending Club is, I’ll tell you just how well I’ve fared. I started investing with Lending Club due to the urging of a former coworker. I had heard of P2P lending but never thought it was something for me. My main hangup was why would someone go the P2P route when they could just go to a bank? But that’s silly, the interest rates are better and there’s no reason not to look into P2P lending if you’re in need of a personal loan (full disclosure: even though I know the benefits,  all of my loans have always been the traditional route).

For months my coworker pestered me about it until he even offered to give me my first $25 to invest. I didn’t take him up on his offer but I did finally add $50 to my account in October 2011 and invest in my first two loans.

My first Lending Club statement

As you can see my initial investment was relatively safe and with that, lower paying. Lending Club grades their investments from A-E (when I first started investing the scale was A-G) with a further breakdown such as A1-A5. A1 is the safest and the lowest interest earner. The more risk you take -  the higher the probability your borrower won’t make payments - the higher your return will be. 

It’s important to note: you can lose money (and I have). These investments are not guaranteed in any way, shape or form. The way I looked at Lending Club money was as an expense. In other words, I considered that money gone. This isn’t a savings account, but because of the higher risk I was looking at a 7-8% return when my savings was paying .05%.

Some of my Lending Club loans

Now that I’ve probably scared you with all that risk talk I’ll tell you the good news. From October 2011 - October 2013 I invested $186 sporadically into my account and reinvested all the money I earned back through principal and interest payments. Today my account balance is $288 and I am currently investing in 18 loans. That’s right, I invested enough cash to buy about 7 loans but reinvesting it all more than doubled my loan holdings. Pretty cool if you ask me. I did invest my original money when money wasn’t as tight and as I said I never looked at it as a sure fire thing. 

The downside is it has taken five years to build up the balance but if I had been more proactive and invested more over that time frame my balance would hopefully be much larger.

As you can see from the above picture I’ve received a net annual return of 8.31% (sure beats the heck out of low yield savings accounts). I’ve also shifted to riskier investments as time has gone on. Since most of the money I’ve been using is from earned money I figured I could tolerate the risk. I’ve also been fairly successful with only one loan going belly up on me (a B1 rated loan no less!). Now that I said that I'm fairly certain I'll be updating you on my sudden string of losses shortly.

My charged off Lending Club loans so far

So what’re my Lending Club tips? Glad you asked. These are not mine. When I started investing I found an article (which I can no longer find but would love to link to if you can help a girl out) that offered the following tips.

1) Avoid borrowers in California. Apparently the default rates in the west coast state were the highest at one point in time. This could be no longer accurate but I still avoid Californians on Lending Club, in real life I find they’re excellent people - maybe just people I wouldn’t lend $20 to anymore.

2) Avoid renters. Lend to people that have a mortgage or own their home outright. I’m sure this has to do with stability. Renters are probably more likely to move to a different job or maybe it’s just the fact that homeowners are viewed as more responsible. I’m not making either argument, just speculation as to why this was on the original list.

3) Lend to borrowers who have more than 4 years at their current employer. Again, I’d imagine this is a stability thing. Sticking it out with the same employer for so long must lead to the assumption that they’re likely to stick around and get that paycheck a while longer.

I’ll add the following to this list:

4) Lend to borrowers with a credit score above 700. The higher the credit score the more comfortable I’ve been with loans. Don’t think this is fool proof - Lending Club offers E rated loans with borrowers with high credit scores but their metrics determine the probability of default is higher (think small business loans or borrowers with large amounts of credit card debt).

5) Keep loans small. I prefer to lend to someone who is asking for $5,000 compared to $15,000. Why? Because assuming a 9% interest rate the difference in payments is $318 over 36 months. An extra $300 some a month can be difficult to come up with in my experience so that leads me to be more comfortable with smaller payments. It may be psychological - smaller payments should be easier to make in my opinion so they’ll be less likely to fall short.

5.5) 36 months is preferable to 60. I'm going to call this tip 5.5 rather than 6 because I often break this rule. If I can find a loan meeting all my other criteria with a 60 month repayment schedule and one that doesn't meet all my criteria with a 36 month repayment schedule, I'm going for the 60 month option. I would prefer to only invest in 36 month loans and in the beginning I did, but somewhere along the line I started to choose some 60 month options and so far I haven't regretted it. 

The one thing that sticks out to me about the 60 months is just what happens when we hit the next recession? Since we don't exactly know when it'll be it seems like the probability of it happening five years out is greater than it happening in the next three years. But I'm no economist and I do remember my original article claiming the default rates were about even (Please, someone help me find that article!).

If you're curious about what other people have to say about Lending Club, check out this article for more investment strategies and this comprehensive beginner's guide.

For a more cautionary tale check out this article. He's probably not wrong about his advice to realize that sometimes people lie. But, yikes.

Obviously I'm totally small time with my $300 but it's something fun to do and I like that 1) I help someone accomplish some goal and 2) I earn an 8% return. I'll keep you updated on my progress as I go along and maybe one day I'll even add some more money into my account. Here's hoping!

Have any Lending Club tips? I'd love to hear them!
Broke Dolly
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