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Monthly Progress Report (#3)

It’s hard to believe I’ve officially made it through another month of blogging! And with that milestone comes another monthly progress report.

I didn’t do too shabby last month, unfortunately I know I didn’t do as hot this month. Nonetheless, I am still making some progress towards my New Year goals!

Now two months in, let’s take a look at my debt:

Mortgage: $149,400
Car Loan: $9,000
Student Loans: $4,650
Credit Cards: $3,600
Grand Total of Debt: $166,650

Ok, I need to explain myself on those credit cards a little bit. I paid 6 months of car insurance mid-February which was pretty pricey (like $900 pricey). I pay my car insurance this way for two reasons 1) there’s a discount if I pay for 6 months at a time (I don't pass up many discounts!) and 2) because I am paid bi-weekly it coincides nicely with the extra paycheck I get during the month after the payment is made. So although my credit card balances have appeared to go up substantially it’s not really the case. I get my extra paycheck tomorrow and will be applying it towards my balances to eliminate that nasty insurance tab.

My student loan balances

Unfortunately that whopper of a debt balance is going to get bigger because I didn’t calculate correctly the amount I would need for home renovations. Work doesn’t start until May but ultimately I’m probably going to end up taking out a loan to cover the extra. Therefore, more debt! Ugh.

Renovation fund requirement: $2,300
New Grand Total of Debt: $168,950

Since I totally thought this number was going to go up substantially from last month’s $169,600, please excuse me while I do a little happy dance! Last month I paid off $1,300 worth of debt, this month I paid off $650. I know it’s half as much but considering I started writing this post expecting the number to increase I’m pretty dang proud of myself. I did much better than I gave myself credit for especially considering the fact my credit cards are artificially inflated this month due to my car insurance.

Now onto the savings side.

Savings account: $2,000
P2P Lending account: $300
Investment account: $150
Grand Total of Savings: $2,450

My savings balances are still looking pretty bleak. I didn’t contribute anything to my savings account and I put a measly $50 into my investment account (last time I bought TJ Maxx, this time I bought two shares of Honda Motor Corporation).

I’m definitely not making the progress I would like to see with my savings but I’m hoping I’ll be able to change that once I straighten out my renovation fund mistake.

February wasn’t as great as January. I’m hoping that the extra paycheck in March will help me get straightened out. Unfortunately, a few days back I walked out and saw a GIANT scratch down my front fender that I will have to repair out of pocket. My dad estimates the cost to be around $400, which is definitely going to put a huge dent in my debt repayment and savings plans.

Scratched fender
My freshly scratched up fender
I know it doesn't look like much but that baby is DEEP!

And just because I have had to say this to my dad ten times today and Mike 47, I feel I should make it clear - I did not hit anything!

In the name of transparency, I’ve been known to back up into a few things like my parents’ mailbox and my dad’s car (only once!). But my trouble tends to be with backing up. My track record going forward remains spotless.

My best guess is my car started a fight with a particularly scrappy shopping cart and lost. It’s a total bummer and it’s the first time my car has ever had to be repaired like that. I’ve been lucky and only have had to deal with typical maintenance bills thus far.

Despite my car woes, I’m excited to see how March goes and I’m pretty proud to be $700 financially better off than I was last month.
Broke Dolly
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I’m Broke & Cheap but I Still Love to Gamble

Yeah, you read that right. I’m broke - obviously, I even started a blog about it. And I’m notoriously cheap. I buy everything with a reduced for quick sale sticker and am not above finding a new wardrobe at garage sales. But there’s something that is terribly out of whack with these characteristics  - I love to gamble. Not in the way that I need to call a hotline because I am definitely way too cheap for that. But office pools? Yep, take my $10, I’m sure Jessica is having that baby three days prior to her due date. The occasional rounds at the craps table? Yes please, we’re going to rock this table like we’re shooting a Vegas commercial.

Since I’m not smart enough to say no every time someone asks me to hit up a casino or buy a box in the Super Bowl pool, I figured I would do the next best thing - improve my odds of winning. It’s not like gamblers everywhere haven’t already tried this and I’m going to find out the secret, not at all. I’m just going to go in knowing what the heck my odds actually are and make a better decision based off of that. Really, that just means, avoid the sucker bets.

So let’s take a look at just what your odds of winning are for some of the most popular ways to lose money!

Super Bowl pool - 1 in 100. Since the squares are randomly assigned the odds that you’re square will be the winner is 1 in 100. After the numbers have been assigned your odds change. If you’re like me, you’ll end up with numbers like 8 and 4, but if you’re lucky you’ll end up with 7 and 0, the box most likely to win with a 13.16% probability. You can check out the odds of each score over at Sports Illustrated.

Mega Millions1 in 302.6 million.

Powerball - 1 in 292.2 million. Yikes, looks like I’m going to avoid lottery tickets from here on out.

Scratch-off ticketsAbout 1 in 4 for cheaper tickets. Meaning $1-$2 tickets, which account for 75% of sales. The good news is if you’re willing to buy a $20 ticket (which I am 100% not) your odds increase to about 1 in 2. Hey, you’re not winning the jackpot, but you’ll win something at least.

Let's take a closer look at the one and only scratcher I ever buy (I'm a creature of habit!), Loose Change. It's a $1 ticket with a max prize of $500. You scratch off six coins and win the prize if your coins add up to over a dollar. According to the New York State Lottery, the chance of winning that $500 prize is 1 in 49,440. Chance of winning my $1 back? 1 in 9.

You probably won’t be hitting it big with Mega Millions but you just might win something on those scratchers!

Moving on. Let’s take a look at your odds hitting it big in a casino.

Before we really get into all the good stuff, can I give you a few words of caution? Know what you're comfortable losing. When I gamble I look at it as money I’m going to spend. Like if I were going to go to a movie or a play. It’s money that I’m spending on entertainment. I definitely don’t expect to win.

One of the best ideas I’ve ever had is to always set a limit. If I say I’m only willing to spend $50, that’s it. There’s no going to the ATM for more money. Respect your limit. Know what you're comfortable losing.

As we go on, I'll try to give you some simple tips I've learned along the way so you can get more comfortable if you're unfamiliar with the game. If you want to learn in depth how to play any casino game before hitting the tables, a quick Google search will do the trick.

Slot Machines

Slots1 in 49.8 million. In all fairness, I’m not big on slots due to the fact that it’s a computer. And logically I have to think it’s a computer programmed to take my money, right? I mean the casinos stay in business somehow.

For table games we’re going to have to switch it up a bit, there are so many different ways to win and lose money and not all bets are created equal. We also have to talk about the house edge, or in non-gambler's terms, the percentage of your original bet the casino expects to take as profit. For example, if the house edge is 5% and you bet $100 - the casino expects to earn $5 profit.

I know what you're thinking - it's all so technical and intimidating to play table games as it is. Now I want you to understand complicated math as well, like it wasn’t bad enough to have to remember what a hard six really is. But don’t worry, it’s not all that bad. I just want you to go away remembering what games you’re more likely forking over your money to the house and which games you might have a shot with.

RouletteHouse edge of 5.26%. Roulette is a pretty straightforward table game. A roulette wheel has 38 potential spots for the ball to land - 0, double 0 and numbers 1-36. Quick note: as you can see in the above photo, the numbers are not sequential! So all odd numbers are not red, all even numbers are not black, etc.

Individual bets can be made on the 38 numbers, red or black, even or odd, dozens, high 18 or low 18 or columns. That sure seems like a lot. But what is important is your odds of winning! If you bet on a single number your odds are 2.63%. If you stick to even/odd, high 18/low 18 or red/black your odds increase to 46.37%. Of course if you hit it on the single number bet you hit it big: 35:1 compared to 1:1.

And please whatever you do DO NOT put all of your money on one bet. I repeat, do not put all of your money on one bet. Ever. Seriously. I don’t care how lucky you feel. I mean you totally can but no one is really impressed.

A few years back, I was at a roulette table when this young guy came up to the table and placed $1000 on the table. He made a big deal about how he was going to put all of his money on red, he was feeling lucky! His friends were just as excited as he was as the ball started going. Then the ball fell onto black. The hot shot just sat down with his head in his hands while all of his friends stood there awkwardly. Losing $1000 sure isn’t as fun as winning $1000. I was just shocked, in total disbelief of what I just saw. To make matters worse, some of the other people at the table were not so kind after he left. No one wants to be the running joke at a table.

And certainly, if you’re going to be devastated if you lose the bet you’re making don’t do it. No one wants to see you cry at the table. I think about that guy often, I just want to know if he’s ever done that again. My gut says no but sometimes people surprise me.

CrapsHouse edge of 1.35%. I LOVE craps. The game is seriously fun. And you’ll make some new friends at the craps table.

I know craps is intimidating. Not that long ago I stood and watched everyone else have the fun and wouldn’t join in. Then a 75-year-old gentleman named Wes taught me how to play craps in Atlantic City. He was patient with me and explained every bet and helped me win money. Then another boisterous man joined the table and started to make crazy bets. Wes was all of a sudden not happy and I learned a valuable craps lesson - acting like a show off is a surefire way to make your new craps friends unhappy. They have no problem showing you the game if you ask, they do have a problem with you acting like you know what you’re doing when you don’t.

Start at a low dollar table and be upfront you’re new to the game and go during a downtime - not when the table is packed (that might mean gambling in the middle of the day). The dealer will help you out too. They want you to play!

There are way too many bets to actually discuss at a craps table, so we’ll just stick with the ones most likely to get you positive results!

In order to get the best house edge (1.35%), you’ll have to bet on the don’t pass and don’t come bets. Which is basically betting against the guy (or gal) rolling the dice. So statistically better but kind of unexciting when the whole table is rooting against you. If you want to be a good sport, take a shot at the pass and come bets. You’ll make more friends and you’ll only have to deal with a house edge of 1.41%. Like the safest bets on the roulette table, the pass/don’t pass and come/don’t come bets all pay out 1:1.

As a general rule, stay away from the middle of the table where the house edge is skewed further out of your favor. The best house edge you'll get is 9%! Betting the 7 results in a house edge of 16.7% - the worst bet on the table and maybe even in the casino.

Blackjack - House edge of 1%. Turns out I’m not the only fan of gambling in my family. Actually, my uncle plays poker professionally. But one piece of advice that’ll stick with me is from my dad’s dad (after a particularly hard night at a roulette table) - “Roulette is a fools' game. Blackjack is the only game in the casino worth playing. The best odds are always at the Blackjack table.”

My dad’s dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye but I will always remember him telling me this. As it turns out, the man was right.

Blackjack is relatively simple compared to other table games and you only have one goal - beat the dealer. All you have to do is get closer to 21 than the dealer does without going over. Unlike poker, the other players at the table don’t matter.

Your overall probability of winning a hand is 42.43%.

There you have it! If you’re going to gamble (like I most definitely will) - gamble smart. Pay attention to the safe bets and the sucker bets and avoid the latter at all cost.

I’m ok with winning small, it’s still fun to play and win something! Believe me winning small is a much better feeling than losing big! Just ask my friend from the roulette table.

Have you ever bet it all on red? Did you win? Tell me about your big wins! Or if you have luck like mine, tell me all about the time you were up big and then lost it all!

One final thing - I feel like it would be irresponsible to post this without including this link to gambling helpline numbers by state. If you think you may have a problem, please reach out.
Broke Dolly
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Vintage Love: Newburgh Vintage Emporium

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. 

President’s Day weekend was a busy weekend. As you know, my mom and I were on the hunt for lounge chairs and we made quite a few stops along the way. One of those stops was to an old favorite - the Newburgh Vintage Emporium.

Located in Newburgh, NY, the Newburgh Vintage Emporium is over 11,000 square feet of antique, vintage and locally handmade goods offered by 50 different dealers. I love going to Newburgh Vintage, it’s true I love going to any place like it, but Newburgh Vintage is one of my favorites. Besides the fact that it’s close to home, the selection is amazing - they offer everything from old records to custom made furniture - and although 11,000 square feet is nothing to scoff at, it’s on the smaller range of antique malls I’ve vistited so as not to be overwhelming.

Quick side note: I was surprised how many lawn chairs and other patio furniture was out for sale in front of the store in the dead of winter. Even better, when I asked the price of an unmarked pair the gentleman helping me texted the dealer and heard back within a minute. Responsive sellers are the absolute best! Besides how impressed I was with the dealer, I have to say all of the staff was helpful and friendly.

Here’s a little virtual tour of all the amazing things you can find at the Newburgh Vintage Emporium:

Check out those awesome light fixtures! If only they were for sale! Just about everything else in the picture is though. Aren't those retro stools fabulous?

Unfortunately, I was too obsessed with the light fixtures I totally forgot to take a photo facing the other way so you could see just how much stuff Newburgh Vintage has! I’m new at this, next time I promise to be smarter with my picture taking!

These blue chairs are pretty cute  (and the same electric blue color as the stools above) but I’m in love with that yellow enamel pot marked “Made in Poland.” Of course I am. I’m pretty predictable. I didn’t buy it because it didn’t have a lid (and I just bought a smaller orange version the day before) but I seriously regret it now. I know it won’t be there when I go back. If you see something you love, you’ll have to act fast!

I have way too much hanging on my walls already, but how great is that toucan artwork? It’s simultaneously subtle and bold. The red N is a nice little detail too.

Alright, I’ll admit I took this photo originally because I liked the plastic camping gear. Not that I do much camping at all, or any camping for that matter. Then when I got home and started sorting through the pictures I took, I found the real gem in this photo - those butterfly stacking tables hiding out towards the back.

I’ve always been a huge fan of mid-century modern. I know I’m not unique in anyway because everyone is now a fan of MCM but I can’t help it. Look at all that great MCM furniture at Newburgh Vintage! That orange chair is really something! And that tile table is a real piece of art!

Yellow Toy Kitchen

Look what I found a few booths over, another mid-century dresser! But that’s not even the best thing in this photo! I love the wall mount. I’m not 100% sure what it even is. My best guess is a ram. But don’t rams have horns? Who knows. Full disclosure here, I do have a metallic deer head in my bedroom and multiple horns strewn about my house. None of it is from a real animal, I’m all for the friendly version of animal heads like that wooden ram (yeah, I’m most definitely going with ram) head.

And thank goodness I don’t have children because I had my lawn chairs in the back of the car and have no idea how I would have brought home their brand new kitchen! I absolutely will force my love of yellow on my future children. I mean, everyone likes yellow anyways, right?! I know that's not true. I might be solo here but the color seriously makes me happy!

Brass Tie Rack

Alright, moving on to more practical gifts. Mike almost got this tie rack. I mean the i in ties is a tie! Get it? Yeah, I didn’t think Mike would appreciate it as much as I did either. And my mom hates when I say things like this but I think it would have made a pretty good spray paint makeover candidate.

Books! I love books - old and new. But there's something about digging through old books that puts a smile on my face. I especially love when they have old inscriptions in them. On one hand, I'm disappointed that whomever the book was given to didn't keep such a personal gift (or their family or friends didn't keep it). On the other hand, it gives you a peek inside someone's life - a little glimpse at their story. Besides, how nice does a full bookshelf look? Yeah, I'm not giving up on paper books for a Kindle anytime soon!

This is one of those booths where I just love everything. Every. Single. Time. Whoever this dealer is, I should see if they’re interested in redecorating my house. Alright, so I don’t LOVE deer heads on the wall, but those lockers?! I’ve been desperately searching for a reason to purchase lockers beyond the fact that they’re dang cool looking. I suppose storage qualifies as a good reason. I’m also infatuated with the blue desk. The wide dark planks are just amazing.

Gold Bowling Pin

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me: I have a bowling pin collection. Why? Because I bought one for $1 at a yard sale a while back because I thought it was cool. Since then I have been gifted several more. I still think they’re cool. Especially when they’re a different color. This guy, an old wooden pin, was painted a glimmering gold. I don’t have a gold one but since I’ll probably get one as a gift eventually I didn’t buy it. Also, how awesome are old saw blades? I could get down with them for decor.

Hudson Valley Antiques Weekend

This weekend (starting today), the Newburgh Vintage Emporium and some three other area antique stores are hosting the “Hudson Valley Antiques Weekend.” There will be special discounts and a raffle! I’m not sure what the grand prize is but I’m excited to find out.

Do you have any exciting plans this weekend? You know where I’ll be - hopefully buying a yellow enamel pot that's still there! If you’re local,  I hope you’ll check it out too!
Broke Dolly
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On the Hunt for Lounge Chairs - in February

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. 

Everyone knows one of the best ways to save money is to buy in the off season. Like buying a parka in July or, in my case, lawn chairs in February.

When I first started looking I had no idea what I wanted. I’m pretty particular about what I like in general and I knew I’d know once I saw what I wanted.

Here was my wishlist (and let’s keep in mind people aren’t rushing to list lawn chairs in the winter - whatever they’re storing has probably already made the cut for next year).

1) Yellow - I love me some bright colors! Particularly yellow.

2) Sturdy - Let’s be real - it needs to hold whatever or whomever is thrown at it. I’m not light neither is my Newfie. We will probably both be in the chair at some point together.

3) Kinda big - I’m tall (like 5’11”ish), my boyfriend is 6’6”. Unfortunately no matter what his feet are dangling but he’s used to it, as long as he could be comfortable I didn’t care what it might look like.

4) A pair - I wanted at least two. I figure I can add on more later but two would be the best starting place.

Yellow Lloyd Flanders Lounge Chair
How great is this Lloyd Flanders lounge chair?

This all started when my mother found this Lloyd Flanders lounge chair on Facebook Marketplace.

I love Lloyd Loom chairs. They’re wicker - which I generally don’t like- but like a vinyl wicker. And they usually bounce - which I love. My grandmother always had a red one when I was growing up and my mom got me a green one as a present a few years back. They’re awesome. And my mom knew I would like the yellow.

I loved the chair. Unfortunately there was only one. There is a similar one listed on Facebook but the gentleman wouldn’t respond to me. Seriously people, if you sell something mark it sold or if you change your mind just take it down! Secondhand sales etiquette here! Formal class to follow. Just kidding, but seriously take it down if it's not for sale.

The chair was only $60 and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, my mother resells vintage items on Etsy. She and I drove four hours to pick up the chair. When we got there the man mentioned his wife repainted it - and repainted over the sticker! Pro tip: if you have old patio furniture with tags still on it - DO. NOT. PAINT.

In the end it didn’t matter my mother bought the chair for her and she is very happy. Don’t get me wrong, she’s definitely still upset the tag was painted over but she loves the chair. But she wouldn’t have sold it even if the chair was in perfect vintage condition. The chair is just dang cool. And super bouncy.

I was glad she was happy but I was still on the hunt for a pair. So my mother and I looked at pictures of available lounge chairs within a hundred mile radius on Offer Up and Facebook Marketplace for days. Our text convo is just strings of chair pictures. We were on a mission.

Here were some of the original favorites:

They’re a pretty unexciting brown but I liked the pattern of these guys on Offer Up. And I liked that there were additional chairs and little tables. The total price was $120 and they were only about an hour and a half away. Definitely would have been a total score! Unfortunately when I contacted the guy, he had sold them and forgot to take the listing down. Yeah, definitely seeing a pattern here with the sales etiquette. Maybe I do need to teach that class!

Now we’re talking with the color! I love the lime green! How fun and summery! These babies were practically brand new Telescope chairs. They were a little expensive at $150; the lady did say she would come down to $130 though. The major hiccup was they were over three hours away. I liked them but I didn’t love them.

I don’t know what it is about these chairs! They're none of the things I would have thought I wanted but I like them. I’m not sure what they’re made of. Maybe plastic? And I have no idea what the brand might be. But the shape is awesome. After looking at lawn chairs for days on end, they kind of all look the same. But not these chairs. Nope, these were different.  Better yet, they were priced at $30! Unfortunately, they were in Texas. Since I’m in New York, not realistic. Offer Up lets sellers ship but somehow I didn’t think $12 shipping was realistic either. I’ll just admire them from afar.

Then I stumbled across these chairs over on Chairish and knew what I was looking for. They’re from a company called Brown Jordan. My search immediately narrowed down to Brown Jordan. I was just hoping I would stumble across some nearby.

By nearby, I mean within a four hour drive. I figured I could convince my mother to travel with me up to four hours but any longer was total overkill. Four hours was probably totally overkill too but doable for the perfect chairs. If Mike had to take his truck, my radius was shrinking. For some reason Mike doesn't understand why I "love junk so much." As he puts it. Often. But he'd give me at least a two hour drive without too much grumbling.

Besides distance, one of my biggest stumbling blocks? Broken straps. Initially I thought my father - who is pretty handy and does most of my mother’s lawn chair repair work for Etsy (the man can weave those straps like a pro!)- would be able to fix a few broken straps.

Here's some of my dad's handiwork -
the red straps are original the green and white he replaced

After multiple YouTube videos we learned the straps on Brown Jordan chairs is actually just one continuous strap and tension is VERY important. My father’s advice? Perfect straps are a necessity. I was a little upset. Almost all of the ones I found had a broken strap or two. Don’t get me wrong, Brown Jordan chairs can definitely be refinished to look brand new (like the ones I originally fell in love with!) but I wasn’t sure about the cost and I didn’t want to spend hundreds refinishing them. At least not yet. In the future, after a couple of good years of use, I’m willing to look into it seriously. Maybe then I can get my yellow on (Brown Jordan did (and still does!) make yellow chairs. Unfortunately they’re dang near impossible to find). But right now, inexpensive and ready to be used come summer time were my two main sticking points.

Then it happened - I found the perfect chairs! My second color choice was definitely white. These were white and came with a rocker, four dining chairs and two little side tables for $200. Unfortunately, when I contacted the seller I learned she already sold the lounge chairs. The others were still available for $100. Good to know if I found white lounge chairs somewhere else but not what I was looking for. Next!

After a few more days of scouring the internet like a maniac I had three options. Three available options. Finally!

The first was a pair of hunter green chairs. My mom loved the green. But I was still hoping to maybe find a yellow one eventually and although some people love the green and yellow thing, I’m not one of them. One of the chairs also had a broken strap. They were a great deal at $80 but they were also three hours away.

The second option were two white lounges without arms! I loved them. They were a little less than two hours away and only $75. Unfortunately, multiple straps under the bottom area on each chair were broken. I did go see them and I even sat in them. I was very impressed how sturdy they still were with broken straps but ultimately, broken straps really just take away from the look. I knew my OCD would drive me crazy with no way to fix them in the near future.

The third option were two brown chairs and a small little table. Even better they were only fifteen minutes away from the white pair, so we checked them out on the same day. The set was $100 but the chairs didn’t actually match. The adjustable chaise was a little older and, as you can see, a little squarer. The other was not adjustable but did lean back. I call it the original zero gravity chair. It was pretty darn cool and the only one I found near me like that. The best part? All the straps were perfect!

Vintage Brown Jordan Lounge Chairs
My new (vintage) Brown Jordan lounge chairs!

My mother originally hated the brown color. When I sent her the picture she tried to steer me towards the white or the green. But once we were at the lady’s house, my mother sat in both chairs, stood up and told me to give the lady her money. My mother definitely made the decision easy. I was ok with the mismatch because I liked the one that tilted so much. Like I said, it's a really cool chair!

I’m the proud owner of two vintage Brown Jordan chairs and a cute little table and because I looked up and down I was able to keep myself well within my $200 budget. I couldn’t be happier! Now I just need the snow to melt so I can put them outside and enjoy them!

I know sometimes buying things online can be daunting but don’t give up! If you’re willing to scour websites for what you want you can find it! You might have to make some sacrifices and you might have to take a little bit of a road trip but that thing you love is out there!

What’s the best thing you’ve found online? Have you ever been crazy enough to hunt for patio furniture in the dead of winter? Or skis in the middle of summer? How'd you make out? Tell me about it!
Broke Dolly
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Want to Save Money? Ditch Cable

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. 

I’ll give you a little bit of backstory about how I’m a madwoman that enjoys paying hundreds for nothing. I moved into my house at the end of 2011. I didn’t have tv for months until finally I broke down and got DirecTV. It was dirt cheap to begin with because that’s how they get you! I was happily going along paying $30 a month for a while, then I was all of a sudden paying $180. So what did I do? I paid it. For a while.

And by a while I mean like two years. And then I called them and said hey, I’m going to switch unless you lower my bill. They told me they couldn’t do anything, and I switched to cable. I was able to get my internet and tv (and phone which I paid for without ever even owning a house phone) for the $180.

Once I called to cancel, DirecTV was more than willing to lower my bill. They had their shot and blew it, I was definitely switching. In fact three years later it still steams me!

Anyways, back to cable. I had cable for about two years when lo and behold, my payment amount increases to $250. We’ve already gone over the me being pretty cheap thing, so you can imagine I just about fell out of my chair when I opened the bill.

I immediately started looking for alternatives. DirecTV was out because I was still carrying that grudge against them. And honestly I think it’s crazy companies screw us over because it’s a hassle to switch. It irks me to say the least. And I’m not about to be apart of their nonsense.

Then it hit me. Why do I need to pay so much for live tv? I barely watch it. I spend most of my time on Netflix or Hulu and only used the cable for two things:

1) Mets and Jets games. Because a girl needs to watch her teams and suffer.

2) To watch ID (Investigation Discovery) before bed. I don’t know what it is but true crime is my favorite thing to fall asleep to. 

The true crime wasn’t an issue. The Netflix options may not be as good as ID but they would do. Same premise and besides, I’m only falling asleep to it anyways.

However, not being able to watch Mets or Jets games would be an issue. My boyfriend is also a fan of the same teams. We’re big fans. Not casual by any means and certainly not willing to give up access to games. I considered MLB.TV, because if I’m being honest the Mets are more important to me than the Jets (sorry Gang Green). If I had to ditch one, it’s the Jets. I mean they’re equally as bad for the most part but baseball has always been and will always be my great love. Good news (or bad) for me, Mike feels the same way.

MLB.TV starts at $91.99 a year. Not awful but it only solved one of my problems. Jets games would be a thing of the past. I was willing to do it but I wouldn’t do it without a fight. My next move was to see what else was out there. I had no idea going into all of this, but there are several alternatives to expensive cable packages.

Here are the alternatives options I found and considered:

Netflix - I love Netflix. It didn’t solve our sports problems but it does make up the majority of our tv watching. Besides old favorites like Friends, Netflix has a ton of original programming that’s just downright good. Full disclosure - we’re currently in the middle of a Grace & Frankie marathon and I’m in love with Netflix for making the show. I also strongly recommend Love Sick, American Vandal and 13 Reasons Why. All. So. Good. Best of all, Netflix starts at only $8.99 a month.

Hulu - If Netflix isn’t on in my house, it’s a safe bet Hulu is. Hulu is a great way to catch up on all the current shows that you might miss by saying goodbye to live tv. Additionally, Hulu offers originals such as the Handmaid's Tale and 11.22.63. A regular Hulu account is $7.99 a month. But, Hulu has a second option! Hulu offers live tv for $39.99 a month!

Hulu + Live TV included all of the sports channels that we had wanted and since we liked Hulu to begin with, we made the switch. Check out the available channels in your area here.

Amazon Prime Video - I’m not an Amazon Prime subscriber. I’m too cheap to pay for the membership since I don’t order much from Amazon. However, my dad is. And he raves about Amazon Prime Video. They have a good selection of old favorites and original content. I haven’t watched any of the original content but my dad has tried to push the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Z: The Beginning of Everything like crazy on me. But that’s because my dad knows me and the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has ties to my hometown which I would obviously dig and I’ve been slightly in love and most definitely fascinated with Fitzgerald since I was forced to read the Great Gatsby in eleventh grade. So even though I haven’t seen them yet, Amazon is pretty ok in my book. And since my dad gives his seal of approval - I know it’s a solid choice. At $119 a year, the price sure beats the heck out of cable too.

Crackle - I first heard about Crackle back in 2015 because I was spending a lot of time away from home and trying to entertain myself. Crackle is owned by Sony and is 100% free streaming. And let me tell you, my how the game has changed since I spent hours watching Blue Mountain State. There are some way better options on Crackle now days like the Bourne Ultimatum, Seinfeld and Superbad. Crackle is also now offering original content. I haven’t watched any of it yet but Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser is definitely on my to watch list.

Sling - Sling offers live tv at perhaps the best price. Sling offers two different packages at $25 a month so you can pick which one works best for you. Best of all, they include channels you might actually watch like ID, ESPN, HGTV and TBS. The upgraded package is $40 a month and gives you all of the available channels. The downside to Sling is a lack of sports channels. We wouldn’t be able to watch Mets games.

DirecTV Now - I know, I know. I said I wouldn’t ever go back but I did consider DirecTV’s live streaming service for a little while before I decided on Hulu + Live TV. DirecTV offers a few different packages (including ID!) ranging from $40-$75 per month. Even the most basic package comes with over 65 channels. And they offer the oh so important sports channels. Ultimately, my grudge and a sweet Swagbucks cash back offer swayed me to go with Hulu. But DirecTV Now does offer a DVR option which is nice.

If you want more options or you’re craving an in-depth review of each, check out TechHive’s review of all streaming services. Whatever you choose to do, I’m sure you’ll be happy with all the money you save by getting rid of that ginormous cable bill.

I know I made the right choice. For how little we watch live tv, I was certainly willing to make some sacrifices!

Have you considered switching over to just streaming options? Have you already? Are you happy you cut the cord or do you miss cable?
Broke Dolly
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How to Save Big at JC Penney

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. 

Oh, JC Penney. Your grandmother’s department store. Everyone’s grandmother’s department store. That’s now struggling to survive and avoid the same fate of Sear’s.

JC Penney has been a company I’ve followed for quite some time because I’m morbid and am just waiting for it’s impending demise.

Just kidding.

I’m actually rooting for them. They’re a mall staple. I even think they can turn it around. Or at least I thought they could. Now JCP stock is hovering around $1 and the future looks bleak. But the future has looked bleak from the start of the Great Recession - 11 years ago.

And it’s been interesting to watch. Somehow just when you think the company is done they do something crazy - like hire Apple retail guru Ron Johnson to revamp everything and change the breed of the department store. Then before they see results they give him the pink slip. Now it looks like Johnson had the right idea. Hindsight really is 20/20.

Besides just hoping they avoid retail doom, I like Penney’s (as everyone I know for some reason calls it. Maybe it’s an upstate NY thing? Or maybe we just like to make ish up?) I’ve gone through phases where I don’t like Penney’s and end up walking right by, but then I get drawn in again. Mostly for clothes. Because no matter what, they always have clothes that are just right and they’re usually on sale.

So let’s talk about getting a good deal at JC Penney. Because they’re more than willing to give you one and they need our help!

1) Know the markdown and sale schedules. According to my idol, the Krazy Coupon Lady, JCP marks down their merchandise on the first and third Fridays of each month. Weekends are typically when the biggest sales happen including “Super Saturday” sales and doorbusters.

Another big sale? JCP’s Black Friday sale. One thing I’m always looking for on Black Friday is new boots and Penney’s always comes through with a ton of $19.99 options.

2) Hit up the clearance racks. As always, check the clearance sections! An item that has reached final clearance will have a pink price tag. Like Macy’s Last Act sections, the clearance section is the best place to find a good deal. Unlike Macy’s Last Act items, Penney’s lets you use coupons on their clearance items.

My last JCP purchase

The last time I bought something at Penney's was last September. I purchased the two pairs of shoes above for $10.90. Both pairs were on clearance. Which was a good deal to begin with but then clearance items were an additional 50% off. I can't walk away from $5 shoes!

I know what you're thinking about those funky boat shoes - they're kind of hideous - but I will be super patriotic on the 4th! I love funky shoes. They were a perfect match for me.

Ironically, coupons was something Johnson wanted to do away with. Rather than markup the product and offer coupons, Johnson wanted to have a more transparent pricing strategy and start off by offering the lower price. It was a no nonsense idea, and honestly it was a good one.

Ah, but what is done is done. But don't worry there are a ton of ways to score those coupons!

3) Sign up for JCP Rewards. For every $200 spent you’ll get a $10 off any purchase reward. If you have a Penney’s card, you’ll earn rewards twice as fast, for every $100 spent you’ll get a $10 off any purchase reward. Full disclosure here: I absolutely hate store cards and would never recommend opening one.

4) Take the survey on the bottom of your receipt. Just about every store offers you something for telling them how they did, including JCP. The survey info will be on the bottom of your receipt. Just complete the online survey and you'll receive a 10% off coupon.

5) Check your local newspaper. There's nothing wrong with the old fashioned way to find coupons! Friday newspapers will often include a JCP circular with $10 off a $50 purchase or $15 off a $75 purchase coupons.

6) Join the mailing list. Sign up for emails to get a 25% off coupon. I totally get it if paper coupons aren’t your thing. They’re not mine either. But make sure to check for a coupon code before buying anything online or in the store. Penney’s is cool enough to even post their coupons on the main page of their website.

7) Don’t forget about price matching! JCP has “Our Lowest Price Guarantee,” meaning they’ll match a competitor’s price before you purchase or within 14 days of purchase. Or they’ll match their own online price. For the love, why do stores do that? Just give us the lower price, don’t screw us over for going to your brick and mortar store. Unfortunately, Sephora is not included in the price matching.

8) Know what to buy and what to avoid. One final bit of wisdom from the Krazy Coupon Lady, the best things to buy at Penney’s are linens, jackets, bras and boots. I told you I’ve gotten some great deals on boots from JCP in the past!

The worst things to buy? Specific brands like Nike, Converse, Colombia, Disney and Levi’s among others. Why? Because JCP excludes these brands from coupon use. You can see a full list of brands here.

What do you think about JCP? Are you a fan or do you walk right on by? Do you know of any other ways to score a good deal? I’d love to hear all about it!
Broke Dolly
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Goodbye Old Friend: the Death of CashCrate

About a month ago I wrote my post about how you can make money online. Included on that list was an old favorite of mine - CashCrate.

I’ve had a CashCrate account forever. I mean, years and years. It might have been the first rewards program I ever joined. Since then I’ve tried just about every app and website that rewards or pays for everything from traveling to watching tv. If I actually wrote out the list there would be a laughable amount of things companies have gathered information on me for.

I suppose I’m willing to give away all my secrets for the promise of a few gift cards.

Earlier this week, my mother called me with the sad news. CashCrate is closing up shop. Or in my mother’s words, “CashCrate is no more.” Since my mother has a tendency to overreact and embellish I thought maybe she had skipped over the details of revamping the site or something to that effect.

And yes, I recommended CashCrate to my mother. She also has a tendency to sign up for all of these apps and sites. I guess I had to have gotten it from somewhere. It certainly wasn’t from my father who greets our enthusiasm over these sites with an eye-roll. Surprisingly, my mother and I often differ in our opinion over just which one is the best but CashCrate has always been one we both consistently liked.

Unfortunately, my mother was right (I’m sure she’ll be glad to see that in writing!) When I logged into my CashCrate account I was greeted with a banner telling me it’s officially over. The company announced they will no longer be accepting new registrations and the program will close down completely on March 31st.

After years together (I gave you almost all of my twenties CashCrate!), CashCrate is recommending I find someone new to send me checks. They even compiled a list of their recommended replacements. Don’t get me wrong, I might be sad, but I will definitely be checking out that list.

A sneak peek at the replacement list

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t used CashCrate actively in quite some time. I haven’t completed an offer in forever and I can’t remember the last time I filled out a survey for them that actually credited. But I would still check in everyday for the $.03 they offered. They’d mail me a check when I reached $20 and I had no complaints.

I know, CashCrate really isn’t abandoning me. I abandoned it. I found another rewards site that had more options. Ironically, a rewards site that CashCrate paid me to sign up for - Swagbucks. Swagbucks just ended up offering more ways to make a little extra cash and eventually I stopped trying to earn seriously on CashCrate. But I never thought the option to go back would be gone. I am genuinely a little sad. And guilty. I was obviously part of the problem.

There is a slight silver lining here. CashCrate has partnered with SwagBucks! CashCrate members who are not already on Swagbucks can join through the link on CashCrate and earn $20 in Swagbuck bonuses. If you’re not a member of either site, it looks like using CashCrates signup link will earn you $15 in Swagbuck bonuses.

CashCrate's Swagbucks offer

And as you already know, I’m a fan of Swagbucks. Definitely join if you’re looking for a site that can give you a little extra income. Besides the fact that it really is a good site (CashCrate did me proud in their partnering up!), earning $15-$20 right off the bat is a nice perk!

So RIP CashCrate (2006-2019). 13 years was a good run. I wish you stuck around a little longer but I get it. I’ll always remember you fondly.

Is anyone else sad to see CashCrate go? Or did you abandon it for another site along the way like I did? What site do you use or will you use now?
Broke Dolly
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How to Turn Receipts Into Cash: Receipt Pal

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. 

A while back I wrote about all of the websites and apps I use to make money online. Then, I showed you how to make money by walking into stores with Shopkick.

Today, let’s talk about another one of my go-too apps: Receipt Pal. Receipt Pal is a great little way to earn some money for uploading receipts. And best of all, it’s really, really simple to use!

Receipt Pal gives you 100 points for every four receipts you upload. When you login to the app you’ll see your three “receipt cards” to be filled. Each card has four boxes and is worth 100 points once filled.

New cards are opened up every Sunday. If you completed all three cards the following week you will receive three new ones. If you were slacking and didn’t fill all three (or for some reason you don’t get twelve receipts somehow), you’ll get four cards. Depending on how many receipts you uploaded the previous week your fourth card may be partially full. What I mean by that is, if you uploaded 11 receipts the prior week and were only missing one for the third card, that third card will be your fourth card the next week and your receipts from last week will still be there. It's nice to not lose progress!

Of course, if you're like me 12 receipts is nothing. I'm sure I have that many randomly thrown in my bag right now.

The blue boxes with a little camera mean they’re open to upload a receipt. Once uploaded, the blue box will turn into the lighter green box with a timer - that means your receipt was successfully uploaded and is being processed. Once accepted, the box will turn into the darker green box with a check. Four checks on a card means 100 points!

One of my favorite things about Receipt Pal is all receipts are accepted! Whereas some receipt apps can be selective (for example, not accepting gas receipts), Receipt Pal will give you the same amount of points for all purchase amounts regardless of where you spent the money. A receipt, is a receipt, is a receipt, when it comes to this app!

Another benefit: link your email and you’ll receive credit for all online purchases. As you can see, I even received credit for my student loan payments!

Linking up your email provides one more benefit. Every receipt you upload gives you an entry into a weekly sweepstakes for $250. Receipt cards full? No problem, each receipt still gives you another entry into the sweepstakes. The drawing is every Monday. I wish you luck! I've been dying to win that $250 but unfortunately my luck isn't so hot.

Just be careful with the timer boxes. Just because you uploaded a receipt doesn’t mean Receipt Pal will accept it! A few words of caution:

1) Make sure your receipt image is clear and readable before you submit it. Blurry receipts are rejected.

2) Submit your receipts within three days of purchase. Older receipts will be rejected.

3) Make sure the store name and date is visible on your receipt upload. If not, you guessed it, the receipt will he rejected.

That’s it! Really, it is that simple!

Now that you know all about the how-to, let’s talk about the why.

Receipt Pal rewards aren’t too shabby. You know me, I’m a little upset they don’t offer cash that could go towards my debt but they do offer gift cards that I can use!

Redemption starts out at just 400 points (that’s only 16 receipts!) for a $1 Amazon gift card. 26,000 points will get you a $100 Amazon gift card but if that seems too daunting, there are options in between.

My most cashed out option? 7,500 points for a gift card to Home Depot or Target. Other options include Amazon (hm, I see a theme here), Lowe’s, Visa, Best Buy, WalMart, Regal Cinemas and iTunes.

I downloaded Receipt Pal back in 2014 and have since earned $225. That's $45 a year for minimal effort. Not too bad for just snapping a picture of my receipts!

How great is it to get free gift cards just for taking pictures of your receipts?! Do you use Receipt Pal? What do you think of it?  If not, do you use another receipt app I should try?
Broke Dolly
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FIRE? The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard of the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement. If you haven’t, let me fill you in quickly. FIRE encourages spending less (yay!) and saving move (like up to 70% of your salary more, yikes!) so you can grow your investment accounts and retire early by living off small withdrawals from said investment accounts. So basically the idea is like a 401k on speed.

Not to be confused with the unfortunate Fyre Festival. If you haven’t watched the documentary on Netflix - do it. You’ll probably feel a lot better about your own spending habits afterwards. Like how do these people have so much money to spend on concert tickets? I feel guilty after spending $100 on a piece of furniture I’ll be looking at for the next few decades. More power to them I guess. Maybe I’m just jealous.

I digress, back to the real topic.

Don’t get me wrong. The idea of FIRE is great. Everyone should strive for financial independence. And retiring early is a great goal. But when I think of retiring early I think 60, not 30.

How I envision retirement will look

Let's be real for a second. I’m going to be 30 in seven months. I wouldn’t dream of giving up my job and relying on my retirement savings that early. It’s absolutely nuts to me. I mean, assuming I live as long as my grandparents (hopefully anyways!), I’d be looking at making my savings last 57 years. What really puts that in perspective for me is that my grandparents were married 57 years before my grandfather died, he wouldn’t have worked a single day of their married life.

Another dilemma I see with FIRE is children. I’m 29 with no kids but the idea of having them someday makes me think I need to rev up for some serious earning during my 30s. Kids are expensive - like a quarter million dollars expensive. Knowing that, there’s no way I’m walking away from my day job just yet. And by that I mean until the youngest is graduated from college.

So I’m against the idea of retiring at 30 but there are some good things coming from the FIRE movement. It’s encouraging people to take a look at their finances and actually plan for retirement. Which is a great thing considering 31% of Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement. That’s an issue. I know it’s hard to think about the future. Especially when you’re young and it seems so far away but it’s silly not to. Even if you start out small, take the first step.

Need a few reasons to push you in the right direction? No problem, I got ‘em.

1) Employer matching. Your employer may match your contributions to a retirement account up to a certain percentage of your salary. Not contributing means you’re leaving free money on the table. Don’t do that. Take the money your employer is offering.

2) Compound interest. Compound interest means your money is making you money - you earn interest on interest you earned from your initial investment. I’m sure you’re saying to yourself but it’s not going to make much of a difference right? Wrong! Let me give you an example.

Say you’re planning on retiring at 65. If you and your employer each contribute $100 a month into your account (see, starting small!) from the time you’re 20 until the time you retire you would have contributed $54,000 and your employer would have contributed another $54,000 for a total of $108,000. Not bad! But assuming you earn 5% per year on your money (which is low considering the average stock market return is 10% but we’ll be conservative), your money would have grown to $407,000. Almost quadruple what you and your employer put in! And over seven times your own contributions!

If we assume all of the same conditions expect you waited ten years until you were 30 to start worrying about retirement, your contributions shrink to $42,000. Your employer matches your $42,000 and you’ll have $84,000. Compound interest makes that figure $228,000. You missed out on over $170,000. And it only would have cost you $50 a paycheck.

Believe me, I know $50 is $50 more than anyone but you’ll eventually get used to not having it. I promise, the pain is temporary, forgo the Starbucks trips and expensive dinners out for the greater good of retirement.

Moral of the story: open up your retirement account and contribute what you can, even if it’s not much. Even a little makes a difference. Seriously, stop reading this and fill out the forms.

3) Tax benefits. Contributions to a 401k or traditional IRA are pre-tax. Meaning you don’t pay tax on them until you retire. Since most people are in a higher tax bracket while they’re working, you’ll end up paying less tax on that money come retirement time.

But, retiring at 30 does sound pretty good doesn’t it? I mean, all the free time you’ll have! You can do all those things you’ve always wanted to do! Unfortunately, all the things I really want to do - like travel - cost money, but never mind that for now.

Let’s take a closer look at the FIRE method’s Five Steps to Financial Independence:

1) Change the way you think about money. As the article says, “money only matters if it helps you live a life you love.” Hey, I’m all for being happy. But I think retirement is a little bit misleading here. The FIRE method doesn’t necessarily consider retiring in the traditional sense. Retirement, in this case, is about feeling free and doing what you love. Which might just be your day job. But you’d be financially independent and not need that day job. Retirement might not be the best word but I get it, save money now so you can quit your boring day job and live on dividends while you write your travel blog. I can dig it.

2) Calculate what you need to retire. Ok, we’re sticking with this retire thing I guess. This is solid advice. No matter what age you’re planning on retiring make sure you have enough money to be able to withdraw what you’ll need.

3) Reduce expenses to ramp up savings. The article suggests cutting expenses in housing, transportation and food because the average American spends 70% of their income on these expenses. I mean, for good reason. We need to live somewhere, we need to get to work and, oh yeah, we should probably eat while we’re at it. But these expenses can definitely be trimmed. Make meals at home rather than eating out, get yourself a roommate or maybe skip the subway for a nice bike ride. I have no problem with the trimming of expenses, it’s a good idea. But saving the recommended 50% of my aftertax income would be a challenge.

4) Increase your income. The article recommends turning a hobby or skill into an additional revenue stream. In my experience hobbies tend to cost more money than they save but if you have a profitable hobby, I’m happy for you.

5) Invest aggressively. Someone young can weather some downturns in the market. But, investing aggressively could mean you lose a ton of money too. That’s why financial planners recommend your investments get more conservative as you near retirement. If you have a short timeline aggressive investments could help or hinder your retirement goals.

Overall, FIRE is all about spending less and saving more. Saving so much that you would be able to live off of it for the next 50 or so years.

If you want to see some of the ways FIRE has backfired on people, check out how these people adjusted to their failed FIRE plans.

Do I think FIRE is a horrible idea? Definitely not. I’m dying to be financially independent. That’s what all of this is all about. And I think anything that encourages that is important. People don’t talk about money or retirement enough, if FIRE gets some conversations started I think that’s awesome.

Will I be retiring at 30? Absolutely not. I like my day job and they pay me well to do something I enjoy. Could it be better? Of course. There are days that I’m ready to wring someone’s neck. As of now, those days are few and far between so I can stick it out. And while I’m working I’m going to strive to pay off all of my debt, contribute to my retirement savings (all savings for that matter) and prepare to spend money on whatever may pop up. Because life happens and sometimes it’s expensive.

What I would caution anyone planning to use FIRE is to please be prepared for the unexpected. Don’t cut it close, bulk up your savings and be ready for everything and anything you think might throw a wrench into your financial plans.
Broke Dolly
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