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    The Cheapest Week to Travel this Summer
    Did you know: The last week of August can have the lowest prices for summer air travel?

    Recent studies by Cheap Air and show that the final week before Labor Day is the cheapest time to fly to most destinations. During this time, tickets can be about $40 cheaper per person than in July. For a family of four, that's savings of $160!

    Also, book your flights around two months in advance if you want to get the best summer rates.

    And it gets even better. According to Orbitz, hotel prices are at their lowest the last week of August as well. Rooms average over $15 less per night than in July. For longer stays, those savings could really add up!

    So when it comes to summer travel, remember that the biggest savings come to those who wait!


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    International travel can be expensive, but the one cost many people forget about in the midst of scheduling flights and packing luggage is a travel insurance plan. Unless you have phenomenal health care coverage here in the U.S. that also guarantees a decent level of coverage while you're overseas, you may be required to purchase a supplemental travel insurance plan to use during your next trip abroad.

    If you're traveling with a tour company, then they can probably guide you through the ins and outs of travel insurance recommendations and requirements for your destination country. However, if you're planning your own trip and debating whether to buy travel insurance, then this guide is for you:

    What Travel Insurance Do I Need and How Much Will It Cost?

    The type of travel insurance you need depends on where you're traveling and which incidents you want to protection for. When searching for travel insurance online, you'll be asked to provide the following information:
    • Destination country
    • Length of your trip (date to date)
    • The cost of your trip (and whether you've completed payments on it)
    • Your country of citizenship (or residency, in some cases)
    • Your age
    • Additional travelers to be included in your plan and their ages
    All of these factors play a role in deciding what type of travel insurance coverage you will be offered and how much it will cost. Coverage availability and prices vary so widely that instead of providing you a ballpark figure, it's best to visit travel insurance comparison websites such as Insure My Trip or SquareMouth to personalize your options.

    Types of Coverage Available

    The most basic form of travel insurance is medical coverage, which will financially protect you against any costly health care costs incurred while you're overseas. There are both single trip and multi-trip options available.

    If you are traveling internationally more than once this year, the multi-trip option can help you save money instead of buying separate, single-trip plans for each trip. The single trip plans can cover you for up to 12 months, and coverage usually includes medical evacuation, trip cancellation, and accidental death expenses.

    Although there are now federal laws protecting folks with pre-existing conditions in the domestic health care industry, it's important to check for pre-existing condition waivers with your international travel insurance provider before purchasing a plan.

    Comprehensive travel insurance is also pretty popular. This type of coverage includes medical, dental, emergency evacuation, trip cancellation, baggage loss, 24-hour travel assistance, and accidental death coverage.

    Some plans are offered exclusively to business travelers, but there are several comprehensive travel plans offered to leisure travelers and families as well. Sometimes, a comprehensive family travel plan will include free coverage for children!

    Comprehensive is preferable to just medical coverage because it will cover some or all of the costs incurred by baggage loss or flight cancelations, in addition to trip cancelations for a number of reasons (e.g., you become seriously ill before departure, a family member passes away, etc.).

    Other forms of travel insurance coverage include major medical (better for long-term travelers seeking coverage for medical emergencies and regular wellness; not available online), medical evacuation (protects you in the event of serious illness or injury during your trip), and accidental death/dismemberment (covers the cost of getting you home safely).

    Which Countries Require Proof of Health Insurance?

    Before you finalize the details of your trip in hopes of relying solely on your domestic health care plan to cover you abroad, it's important to research which countries require insurance and ask your health insurance company if they cover you overseas. Even if you're one of the lucky few whose American health insurance provider offers some modicum of coverage in other countries, you likely won't have access to benefits such as emergency medical evacuation.

    This alone makes travel insurance an important consideration, and if your destination country requires proof of coverage, then you won't really have a choice but to acquire travel insurance before arriving.

    Some countries - such as Cuba - will make you buy health insurance right away if you arrive without proof of coverage. In rare cases, you could be denied entry for not having appropriate insurance coverage, though this usually correlates with other factors, such as having insufficient funds and/or visa problems upon arrival.

    According to Visitors Coverage, more and more countries are starting to require travel insurance for incoming foreigners. The current list includes: Schengen visa countries (don't confuse this with the European Union), Cuba, Russia, and United Arab Emirates.

    Countries generally require their foreign visitors to have travel insurance in order to protect themselves against tourists coming in, accruing medical debt, and leaving without paying. Even if travel insurance is recommended instead of required by your destination country, the peace-of-mind that comes with medical and trip coverage may be worth the comparatively small expense.

    Finding a Quality Travel Insurance Plan

    To find a travel insurance plan suitable for your trip, using the aforementioned comparison sites SquareMouth and Insure My Trip are key to getting the best coverage at a price right for you. There are hundreds of travel insurance providers online, but not all plans are created equally.

    Things to look closely at while browsing insurance plans include:
    • Customer reviews
    • Refund policies (usually there's a "review period")
    • A.M. Best rating (unaffiliated, third-party insurance ratings company with rigorous standards for providers)
    • "Cancel for Any Reason" coverage
    • Coverage minimums and limits for medical, emergency evacuation, trip delay/cancelation, and accidental death
    • Additional benefits (e.g., 24-hour emergency assistance, rental car protection add-on, identity theft protection, etc.)
    Although many countries do not require foreigners to come with travel insurance, it's still a good idea to have some level of coverage during your international travels. Although it may seem unlikely that you'll have to cancel your trip or that you'll experience any illness or injury while abroad, the old adage of "better safe than sorry" holds true here.

    Take a look at your options before departing. You may find that adding a travel insurance policy to your vacation budget is a small price to pay compared to the potential of massive medical bills later on if anything unfortunate happens.

    Have you ever purchased travel insurance? Is it worth your time and money?


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    Our Best Ever Hotel Tips
    If you travel often, you've probably noticed that hotel prices are rising all over the world. But luckily there are a few insider tricks that can help you save on your next stay.

    Hotel rates can fluctuate, and when sales do occur, they aren't always advertised openly. One clever way hotels keep their low rates hidden is by bundling rooms with airfares on travel sites like Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz.

    For example, a three-night flight and hotel package for two from Newark to Nassau, Bahamas can go for $2,090 on Expedia. Booking separately however, that same trip would cost over $4,000 -- that's nearly 50 percent more than the bundled rate.

    And what about booking last minute, like when you have a sudden change of plans? If you're looking to save money and avoid the scramble of 11th-hour reservations, check out HotelTonight.

    This app is great when you're in a pinch -- you can find international deals as late as 2 a.m. the night of your stay, at discounts of up to 70 percent. And don't forget that a lot of hotels will let you cancel your reservation as close as 24 hours before without a cancellation fee, although some major chains have started to adopt stricter policies. It pays to know the policy though, because in many cases, you can still cancel your reservation if a better deal comes along.

    Lastly, don't hesitate to call the hotel directly to book. The staff will often have access to prices not advertised online, so check the rates on the web before you contact them. One phone call just might save you an estimated 10 to 25 percent off the lowest online price.

    With a little digging and a bit of know-how, you can find a hotel that doesn't break your stride -- or your budget.

    Related: 9 hotel scams and annoying fees to watch out for


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    Late on rent? Can't fill your car with gas to get to work? Assuming all available funds and traditional sources of credit are tapped out, here are 25 ways to raise cash in a few days. Keep in mind, while all of these ideas are legal, some of them are not something we would encourage. From being an Amazon Mechanical Turk to banking your sperm we share DailyFinance's 25 ideas for raising cash in a hurry in order of the least to the most desperate.

    More from
    Top 4 mistakes CEOs make on Facebook
    Top 10 revenue-generating companies in the America
    Your old cars may be worth a lot of money now

    Now check out the best selling books on Amazon of 2016 so far:


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    Identity theft continues to increase, with millions of Americans becoming victims every year. Dealing with identity theft can be time-consuming and stressful. Many products and services charge a monthly fee and offer protection. But you don't need to pay to get higher levels of protection: there are now free credit monitoring services and you can handle resolution yourself. However, if you do decide to pay, make sure you focus on the most important product features. The best products offer daily credit monitoring from all three credit bureaus and a dedicated case worker to help resolve any crime, which can take countless hours.

    Account Monitoring

    86% of all identity theft in 2014 was account takeover. In an account takeover, a fraudster takes control of an existing bank account or credit card and starts spending. So long as you report the fraud promptly to your bank or credit card company, your liability is limited. On credit cards, your maximum legal liability is $50, but many credit cards offer $0 fraud liability as a product benefit.

    To protect yourself against account takeover, you need to monitor your transactions closely and report any suspicious transactions immediately.

    Fortunately, there are tools that can help notify you right away if there is a suspicious transaction on your account. Most banks and credit card companies will let you set up text or email alerts. The service is usually free, and you can usually decide when and how you want to be notified. You can learn how to set up text message alerts with most major banks here.

    If you don't sign up for alerts, make sure you read your statement every month. Pay close attention to any credit cards that you don't use and make sure you read any electronic statements that you receive. And make sure you call your bank as soon as you see a suspicious transaction.

    Credit Report Monitoring

    The most serious type of fraud is identity takeover. With identity takeover, someone steals your personal information, including your Social Security Number. The thief will then open a new account in your name. The best way to see if someone is opening an account in your name is to monitor your credit report. There are a few ways to do it.

    First, everyone is entitled to a free credit report from all three credit reporting agencies once a year. You can get your reports at If you discover that you have been a victim of identity theft, you will need to take a number of steps, including filling a police report. The government has created an excellent resource,, which should be your first stop. On this site, you will be able to create a recovery plan. But be prepared: it can take hours, days or even months until everything is resolved. The biggest cost to most identity theft victims is stress and time. Although the law protects your liability, it does not protect the amount of time it takes to ensure you have no liability.

    Checking your credit report once a year is good, but you should really monitor your report more often. CreditKarma, which is famous for its credit scores, also offers free credit monitoring with TransUnion. By monitoring your TransUnion report daily, you will greatly increase the likelihood of discovering identity theft as soon as it happens. The earlier you find out about the theft and deal with it, the less time it will take you to recover.

    If you want to monitor all three credit reports daily, you will need to pay. You can use a site like MagnifyMoney to compare the best solutions that charge a fee. For example, ProsperDaily charges $9.99 a month. With that fee, you are able to monitor all three bureaus daily and receive resolution services, which is explained below.

    Resolution Services

    Anyone who has suffered identity takeover understands how complicated the resolution process can become. Depending upon how many fraudulent accounts were opened in your name, it can take a very long time navigating multiple bureaucratic mazes to get your situation resolved. So long as you report identity theft, your legal liability is limited. However, you could be forced to spend hours dealing with banks, credit card companies, police departments and more to get the situation handled. The best resolution services provide you with a dedicated case worker. Typically, you will sign a power of attorney which enables the company to do all of the work on your behalf. Think of it as an insurance policy on your time. Although challenging, you could probably do all of this yourself. But if you don't want to spend the time, paying for a service could make a lot of sense.


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    Save on Summer Seafood
    Did you know: You can save on summer seafood if you avoid a few costly catches?

    While buying fresh is always ideal, unless you live by a major fishery, any "fresh" seafood you're buying has likely been frozen at some point.

    Check the label - if it says "previously frozen" or something similar, that same product can probably be found in the freezer aisle for 40 percent less. And while you're there, buying larger bags of shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams can also reel in similar savings.

    But if going frozen isn't your style, there are ways to spot the freshest fish. They should be displayed on a thick bed of ice, with clear eyes and healthy, bright red gills. Lastly, fillets shouldn't be overly soft, with no discoloration, darkening or dry edges.

    So look close and shop smart, and you'll be able to catch some great deals on summer seafood.


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    Interest rates are incredibly low, but they will not remain low forever. The Fed is threatening to increase rates later this year. If you are a saver with a lot of money in a bank account, higher rates couldn't come sooner. But if you are in debt, low interest rates are a great way to keep interest costs down and get out of debt faster. Almost all debt can be refinanced, and now is a great time to consider your options. Here are five types of debt that you should consider refinancing now.

    1. Mortgages

    Interest rates on mortgages remain low. For example, Wells Fargo is charging 3.625% on 30-year fixed rate mortgages, and only 3.00% on 15-year fixed rate mortgages. Many Americans have already taken advantage of low rates to refinance. But if you haven't taken advantage of the low rates, now is a good time to consider it.

    Just make sure you don't fall for a common trap. Far too many people just continue to refinance into yet another 30-year mortgage. While that might give you the lowest payment, you are actually extending the term and could end up paying more over time. Try to refinance into a 15-year term loan. Not only will you get an even lower interest rate, but you will be able to own your home that much faster.

    2. Student Loans

    After mortgages, student loans and Parent PLUS loans are some of the biggest financial burdens facing people today. But now you can actually refinance student loans to take advantage of lower interest rates. If you have private student loans, refinancing makes perfect sense. If you have federal loans, you should be careful before you proceed. When you refinance, you give up access to the federal government's income-driven protection plans.

    But if you want to refinance, you can find rates as low as 2.14% variable and 3.50% fixed. Use a site like MagnifyMoney to compare and get the lowest rate. You should feel comfortable shopping for the best rate: all credit inquiries in a single shopping period only count as one inquiry. You do not need to worry about the impact on your credit score.

    3. Auto Loans

    Many lenders offer the opportunity to refinance an auto loan. You might want to consider shopping at your local credit union. If you have good credit, you can find auto loan refinance rates as low as 1.49% at a credit union like PenFed. PenFed will refinance up to 100% and you should be able to apply online and get an instant decision.

    You can also shop for a loan at one of the many online lenders which have been created over the last few years. Use a site like NerdWallet to shop for the lowest interest rate.

    4. Credit Cards

    Credit card interest rates are high. The average credit card interest rate is 13.5%, according to the Federal Reserve. There are many ways that you can refinance and reduce the rate. The best way is to use a balance transfer. With a balance transfer, you can reduce the interest rate to 0% for up to two years, depending upon the offer. Shop for the best balance transfer rates here.

    In addition to balance transfer offers, you can also use personal loans and home equity loans to refinance your debt. If you decide to use your home equity, just make sure you pay enough to eliminate the debt in a few years. The biggest temptation and risk of a home equity line of credit is to pay only the minimum due and keep the debt for twenty or thirty years.

    5. Any Other Debt

    Interest rates are low, and now is the time to lock in low rates on any type or debt or obligation that you might have. For example, if you have medical bills consider applying for a low rate personal loan from your credit union or online. Eventually interest rates will increase. And you will kick yourself if your debt costs more as a result.


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    If you shop at Costco, you've likely heard the company ended its partnership with American Express. The switch to a Costco-branded Visa from Citibank, called the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, happens Monday, June 20, 2016. Here's what you need to know.

    TrueEarnings card will no longer work

    The TrueEarnings card and other Costco-branded American Express cards that you may have used get deactivated. You won't be able to use them anywhere. That includes such smartphone mobile wallets as Android Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay. If you want to make payments through these systems, you'll need to set up a different card. The Jawbone UP4, which can only be linked to one American Express card, won't allow any payments whatsoever and, for the time being, there is no way to associate it with another card. The device will still perform other functions like fitness tracking.

    What happens to my rewards, balances, and old card benefits?

    The last rewards notice you received was on your February 2016 billing. You can redeem it in person at any Costco in the U.S., including Puerto Rico. The expiration date is August 31, 2016, so be sure to do so while you still can. Any rewards you earned between that billing and June 19 gets transferred to the new Citibank Visa card you will get from Costco. Any balance gets transferred to the new card. As for benefits, those provided by American Express might be transferable to another American Express card. Some might continue for a period of time because you paid a premium. Check the American Express frequently-asked questions site for more information.

    Do I need to apply for the new Costco Citibank Visa?

    If you currently had the Costco American Express card, you should have received the Visa card automatically by early June. If you didn't, contact Costco. There is no additional credit check to receive the replacement card so there is no impact on your credit score.

    What is the interest rate, payment date, and annual cost?

    The information should have been mailed to you. If the mailed information listed the standard purchase annual percentage rate (APR) as 15.49 percent and you had a lower rate for new purchases with the American Express card, you keep the lower rate. Payment dates will either be the same or close, but check to be sure. And there is no annual cost beyond your Costco annual membership cost.

    What if I had automatic payments set up with the American Express card?

    If you have set up automatic payments with third parties, you'll need to contact them and update your payment card information.

    What are the cash back rewards?

    You get different rewards, depending on the type of spending:
    • Gas purchases, including those at Costco, get 4 percent a year up to the first $7,000. After that you get 1 percent.
    • Restaurant and eligible travel purchases offer 3 percent cash back.
    • All other purchases at Costco and get 2 percent.
    • Any other purchases received 1 percent.

    Does the Visa card act as my membership card?

    It does. You don't have to show an additional membership card when making a purchase.

    What other benefits do I get with the new card?

    The new card has many benefits, including extended warranties and worldwide car rental insurance. Check the site (link above) to learn more.


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    Maybe things were week to week for too long. Perhaps your company slashed pension benefits or the 401(k) plan didn't do too well. Retirement can seem a scary proposition if you're not rolling in dough, and few people are. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the median amount couples have saved for retirement is $5,000. At the 80th percentile, the total is $116,000. Even though the ages spanned from 32 to 61, that's not a lot of money. Although older couples tend to have more in savings, for those born between 1946 and 1951, average retirement savings in 2010 were $179,310. It's nothing to sneeze at, but not a nest egg to provide security and comfort. The site ranked the states and the District of Columbia on how financially good they were to retire in. They took the following factors into account:
    • taxes, including state sales, state taxes on Social Security benefits, and property taxes
    • living expenses, including average home listing price, median home value, and cost of living index
    • savings account and two-year CD account interest rates
    • average health insurance premiums, average Social Security benefits, and Medicare spending per capita
    According to the site, the top ten states for better retirement finances all were east of the Mississippi. The East has 8 of the top states when it comes to lower housing prices. Eastern states spend more per person on Medicare and average Social Security benefits tend to be higher in the east as well. Here are the top 10 states for smart financial retirement:
    1. Delaware
    2. Michigan
    3. Indiana
    4. Maryland
    5. Florida
    6. New Jersey
    7. Pennsylvania
    8. Mississippi
    9. Ohio
    10. Georgia
    Of course, the east/west dichotomy isn't a hard rule. Look at the worst states, according to GoBankingRates, and you'll see some eastern names (with the lowest ranking of 51 because the list includes 50 states and the District of Columbia).
    1. Nebraska
    2. Maine
    3. West Virginia
    4. Colorado
    5. Alaska
    6. New Mexico
    7. Montana
    8. North Dakota
    9. Vermont
    10. Hawaii
    The differences can be stark. Top average Social Security benefits were $1,452.47 in New Jersey. Compare that to $1,212.45 in Louisiana. At $ 11379.37, the District of Columbia had the highest Medicare spending per capita. The lowest of $6,941.74 was found in Hawaii. Mississippi's cost of living index was lowest (83.5); Hawaii (168.6) was the highest. All that said, you have to think carefully before deciding to relocate. Maybe higher Medicare spending meant an older population or more expensive care, and home value listing prices and values might not mean so much if your mortgage is already paid off. Be sure to check with your financial planner or advisor before making any significant changes.


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    Ways to Save Cash While Getting Around This Summer
    Did you know: You can cut your summer travel costs by cutting a little weight from your car?

    According to the EPA, for every 100 pounds you take out from your vehicle, you improve the fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent. So if you're paying about $2.50 per gallon, that's a savings of about 5 cents every gallon. That may not sound like much, but with smaller cars in particular, these savings can really add up.

    Start by popping your trunk. Are you really using those golf clubs? And what about all that soda? If you don't use it, lose it -- your trunk shouldn't double as storage.

    Next, don't overlook the roof of your car. Cargo boxes and roof racks can be handy, but they also add a lot of excess weight and wind resistance, and can cause your annual gas costs to go up by 25 percent. Whenever possible, remove those racks when you're not using them.

    So trim down your car and hit the open road -- you'll travel more this summer, while spending a lot less.


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    The Canadian company lululemon athletica, which sells high-end yoga and workout clothing, is no stranger to controversy. And a recent one involves a long-serving company director, responsible for helping oversee a company with struggling performance, whose background outside of lululemon is a bit mysterious.

    Company founder, former CEO, and largest shareholder Chip Wilson recently wrote an open letter to other stock owners. He claimed that Lululemon was underperforming such competitors as Nike and Under Armour. Part of the blame he set on "entrenched directors and management."

    One of those entrenched people is Rhoda Pitcher, a member of the board of directors who serves on compensation committee that sets the CEO's pay and who chairs of the nominating and governance committee. She position gives her a major influence on how the company operates. And, since 2005, she's been paid more than $1.7 million in cash and stock, according to SEC filings from lululemon.

    But as The Street's Real Money found, trying to verify her background and claimed qualifications and experience for her board position is a lot harder than it might sound.

    The biography that lululemon has for Pitcher on its website says that she's the managing partner of Rhoda M. Pitcher, Inc., "a management consulting firm providing services in organizational strategy and the building of executive capability to Fortune 500 corporations, institutions, start-ups and non-profits." In addition, it credits her with a Master's degree in "organization development" from University Associates.

    The U.S. Department of Education's database of accredited post-secondary institutions and programs doesn't have a listing for University Associates, suggesting that it would be an unaccredited school, not typically the type of academic credential greeted warmly in the world of corporate boards of publicly-held companies.

    Pitcher's firm doesn't appear to have a website or obvious way to reach it.

    The Real Money team was able to verify that the company is registered in Washington state by The Aguiar Group, which is based in the Seattle area, not far from Pitcher's last-known home address, in Bellevue, Wash., according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. In a phone call Friday, CEO Carmen Aguiar declined to comment on the status of Rhoda M. Pitcher Inc., saying that it is "confidential" information.

    The Aguiar Group lists itself as a CPA and consulting firm in Bellevue, Washington.

    According to Nell Minow, vice-chair of value Edge Advisors, which works with institutional investors on corporate governance issues, and an expert in corporate board evaluations, Pitcher's background is "shocking."

    "I've never seen anything like this," she told AOL Finance. "In the 80s and 90s there have been people on boards that I wouldn't consider fully qualified, but they had the basic credentials. What was astonishing in this case is that the credentials don't seem to exist at all."

    "It's incredibly bizarre that she's the chair of the nominating committee," Minow said. "What's she going to do? Vet herself?"

    Neither the Aguiar Group nor lululemon responded to requests for comment before publication.

    Controversy is not new to lululemon. In 2013, many consumers began to complain that the pricey pants were see-through under the right conditions.

    Founder Chip Wilson had at times made public remarks that brought negative attention to the company, like allegedly claiming that birth control caused a rise in the divorce rate or the implication that the see-through yoga pants problem was due to some women being overweight. He was also quoted in the past as allegedly saying that child labor "is that the single easiest way to spread wealth around the world is to have poor countries pull themselves out of poverty."


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    Stock Up on Summer Barbecue Foods This 4th of July
    Independence Day and summer BBQs go hand-in-hand, so it's no surprise that that the average American household spends nearly $70 on food and snacks during this time. Luckily, you can find some great food sales during the last week before the holiday! Here are a few good deals to check out.

    First, look for big discounts on meat. During the holiday, stores typically use meat as "loss-leaders" with the intent of luring people in to spend more on non-sale items. As a result, the prices of beef, chicken, turkey and pork can drop by as much as 50 percent during this time, so take advantage.

    You'll also see condiments at rock bottom prices. Costs for these can drop down to $1 or $2 a bottle.

    Still thirsty for more sales? Look for big markdowns on soda during the holiday. The 4th of July is one of the few times you'll see cans for as low as 25 cents, so stock up and save.

    And lastly, what's summer without a little ice cream? Luckily for us, July is National Ice Cream Month, so expect great deals and promotions throughout the entire month. You can even find some freebies at some popular ice cream parlors, so don't hesitate to ask in advance.

    Some of these deals are the best you'll see until Labor Day -- it'll pay to stock up on the less-perishable foods you'll use through the season.

    Related: Summer savings -- how to have fun without busting your budget


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    young man taking rest on the...
    Are you trying to earn free travel with frequent flier miles? There have never been more ways to earn miles. But getting the best deal can sometimes be confusing. Here are six ways to make sure you earn the most miles for your money.

    1. Switch to the right miles

    If you don't travel much, you probably shouldn't mess with airline miles and it might be time to switch. 2% cash back or travel rewards points you can use on any airline could be a better bet. Stick with airline miles if you want a big international trip, big sign up bonuses, or want to fly in first class. And if you do, consider a card that earns points you can transfer to several airline mile programs. For example, some cards let you transfer points into real miles with both United and Southwest Airlines. That will give you more options when you're ready to book your travel.

    2. Get the most from your spending

    Many travel rewards cards offer special bonuses for spending in certain categories like gas or dining. It can get confusing, but this tool at will rank travel rewards credit cards based on how many points they can earn from your monthly spending. Switching to a card with good bonuses in categories you use a lot could double your rewards.

    3. Maximize your online shopping

    It's easy to earn extra points shopping online. All of the big mileage programs have sites that let you earn points for shopping at online stores you were already planning on using. You could earn 2, 3, even 5x points per dollar with no additional charge to you. The online stores want your business, and in exchange for that they're willing to offer points on top of what your credit card offers while still giving you the same prices you'd pay without the miles. EVReward has a good directory of stores that offer extra points and miles.

    4. Stick to using your points for travel

    Using travel rewards points for things that aren't travel related, like gift cards, merchandise, and even food at the airport, usually gets you a lot less value than using them for actual travel. A good rule of thumb is to get at least $100 in value out of 10,000 points. If what you're using points for doesn't pass that test, it's not a great deal, and you should switch your focus to earning real cash rewards instead of travel rewards. One exception: magazine and newspaper subscriptions. Those can offer great value for 5,000 points or less.

    5. Don't pay the transfer fee

    Giving the gift of travel is great, but don't think you have to pay to transfer miles to do it. Most airlines let you use your miles to book a ticket in anyone's name, including relatives and friends. And most will let you book one way tickets for half the price of a round trip, so it's easy to help a friend who doesn't have quite enough miles for a full round trip. You can book one way, and they can book the other.

    6. Search creatively

    If you're not finding the flights you want with your miles, try breaking up the search into individual flights, one piece at a time. Also, make sure your search includes nearby airports, so for example if you live in Washington, D.C., double check that all 3 area airports are in your search.

    If you're headed to Europe, remember flights within Europe are often very cheap, so consider flying into a different city that has more award seats and buying a cheap ticket to your final destination. And remember to call and check flights too, since some airlines might not show up in an online search. Or, if you have a big balance of miles, consider using an award booking service that will do the searching and booking legwork for a fee.

    Best Travel Awards


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    I'm going to let you in on a little secret.


    Some of the best ways to build wealth have little to do with the stock market.

    "Um, honey, can you come in here a minute? A financial advisor just said that the stock market is a horrible way to invest!"

    I didn't say that. But you read between the lines, didn't you? While the stock market is a pretty sweet tool when you have money to invest, there are some steps that come before investing money.

    Like, say, having money in the first place! If you don't have money, you can't invest money.

    Too many financial advisors are all about helping out their already wealthy clients. It's time that a financial advisor (yours truly) told you about how to build a firm financial foundation which will probably represent a huge chunk of your overall wealth over time.

    So, let's do this thing. Here are some tips that most financial advisors won't tell you.

    1. Get your education on track.

    Really, your best money-making asset is you. And, unless you invest some time, energy, and/or money in your education, you probably won't be making much money over the course of your life.

    College is a great way to train for certain jobs, but it's not always the best option. There are numerous online resources that can help you learn a new skill that's valuable in the marketplace. For example, check out

    They have a bunch of online courses you can take, and they're usually much more affordable than anything you're going to find at a brick-and-mortar college. As you invest in your skill set, you'll find the confidence to seek out interesting, new jobs. And who knows, you just might be able to start your own business! Take calculated risks, says Grant Bledsoe, a certified financial planner in Portland and founder of

    Most people who become wealthy on their own do so because they're able to step outside their comfort zone. This might be starting a business, buying a rental property, or making a change in your career. If you can stomach the possibility of failure and keep your eyes open, the opportunities for building wealth are endless."

    2. Become an entrepreneur (or get a high-income job).

    That leads me to my next point. Becoming an entrepreneur was one of the best decisions I ever made. I've made well over one million dollars blogging (no joke), and I have a fantastic wealth management firm, Alliance Wealth Management. It can really pay to become an entrepreneur. But, you have to know what you're doing. That brings us full circle back to the importance of getting an education.

    But you know, I had a lot of help along the way. I was mentored by other financial professionals, and I sought out advice from those who knew what they were doing. Find a business or life coach to help you along! Remember: Investing money into a career or business will yield more wealth at a much faster rate than the stock market.

    "Of course you need to have a plan to convert your income into wealth," says Aaron Hatch, fee-only financial planer and Co-Founder of Woven Capital. If you make $1 million and spend $1 million, you'll never be truly wealthy."

    3. Pay off all your debt.

    When you pay off your debt, it's like a getting a guaranteed return on your investment. Seriously. If you don't have to pay 19% or whatever ridiculous percentage your credit cards are charging you for the privilege to borrow money, that's money you'll keep in your wallet instead of allowing it to go to the banks. Now, I'm not against credit cards.

    There are some great travel rewards credit cards out there, for example, and you should take advantage of them. But I am against overspending beyond your ability to pay off your credit cards every month. Don't go there. And when I say pay off all of your debt, pay off all of it. That includes your mortgage too.

    Why pay interest, even for something like your house if you don't have to? Your career and education should help you earn enough money to pay off your mortgage early.

    4. Find contentment.

    Are you buying a whole bunch of stuff you don't really need? If that's the case, maybe you're lacking in contentment. While budgeting can help you to save money, ultimately, you can justify too much spending in your budget if you don't have contentment to go alongside it.

    "Ask yourself how would you increase your net-worth faster?, says Humphrey Thomas Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and Founder of Thomas Divorce Advisors, LLC. Is it, by buying the biggest house you can afford with your given income? Or getting a smaller home thus smaller mortgage payment, but allow you to increase your contribution to your retirement account?"

    Reducing the financial burden on the families reduces the changes on possible divorces.

    Instead of focusing on what you don't have, focus on what you do have. What are you thankful for? Is it your family? Your house? Food on the table? There's so much to be thankful for.

    When you subject yourself to advertising, you're doing yourself a disservice. Sure, some advertising is unavoidable, but the stuff you can avoid, do. Advertising is powerful and will make you think you need something you really don't. The whole purpose of marketing is to make you think that you need something - regardless of whether you really do or really don't.

    5. Avoid stupid decisions.

    People make some stupid decisions. And to think that we're immune from making stupid decisions would be simply wrong. Everyone makes stupid decisions from time to time. The goal is to make less of them.

    If you get a chance, read my article on Forbes: 13 Financial Advisors Share The Worst Financial Mistakes They Have Ever Seen. These mistakes will have you scratching your head as to why people do such foolhardy things!

    Taylor Schulte, a San Diego financial planner and Founder of Define Financial offers, "We are our own worst enemy. We spend too much, save too little, buy high, sell low...the list goes on. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can start putting the pieces in place to avoid making costly mistakes again in the future. The good news about most financial mistakes we make, is that they usually have to do with something that's within our control."

    But you know what? They didn't just wake up one day and say to themselves, "I think I'm going to do something stupid today."

    Well, at least I'd assume they didn't! If they did, that's a whole other problem altogether. You see, mistakes are made blindly. They don't know they're making them. And that's the very thing we have to be careful about when we're going through our day. It's important to practice some wisdom in everyday living. While it's good to get started on new projects, give them some thought first.

    Ask yourself: "Does this new project or task have a high likelihood of success? What are the dangers? What are the rewards? Do I have enough time to dedicate to this?"

    Financial advisors too often focus solely on the investing piece of their clients' financial world. Talk with a financial advisor who cares, and be sure to look out for yourself at the same time. You care the most about your money. "The key to helping a client find their financial "Zen" is by considering the bigger picture beyond financial matters." Says Ronn Yaish, New Jersey Wealth advisor and Founder of Yaish Financial Services . Yaish learned this tenet from Eastern Medicine. "Instead of noticing a problem like a cold and putting out the fire by treating the symptom, Eastern Medicine tries to determine the source of the pain and then uses a rebalancing approach to bring a person back to wholeness."

    This philosophy helps to de-compartmentalize the advisor's focus from just dealing with dollars and cents. Individuals want to develop a relationship with a financial advisor who cares and tries to understand their whole self. Having said that, even when working with well intentioned professionals, 'the store should not be left unattended', be sure stay involved; ask questions, make sure to understand what and why things are being done.

    At the end of the day you should comfortable with the financial plan and the way it is being executed, since you care the most about your money.

    RELATED: Watch how to be financially fearless
    5 Ways to Be Financially Fearless


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    Should You Replace Your Grill This Summer?
    Did you know: When shopping for a grill this summer, the longer you wait, the more you'll save?

    It's true - according to DealNews, you'll find the steepest discounts in August and September. By Labor Day weekend, some retailers can cut costs by up to 70 percent as they try to clear their summer inventory to make room for Halloween and Christmas.

    And when you do make your purchase, look for a brand that has a burner warranty of at least 10 years. Each part of the grill has different coverage, and since burners are a commonly replaced piece, it'll pay off to know your warranty before you buy.

    Lastly, if you don't mind buying something slightly used, consider getting a floor model. With floor models you can negotiate for a better deal, and sometimes get up to 50 percent off the already discounted price. Just make sure you know the store's return policy before you buy.

    So remember, if you want to see some big savings this summer, consider getting that grill a little later.


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    Spend-Free Weekend
    Meet Jonesy and Brittany, a young Californian couple. This adventure-seeking twosome is planning to embark on the ultimate trip -- a two-month backpacking sojourn through South America -- next year, but there's one significant hitch. Thanks to their penchant for pricey weekend getaways, they can't seem to save up the $8,000 they estimate they'll need to make their dream vacation a reality.

    That is, until The Savings Experiment team proposes a potential fix: spend-free weekends. Can Jonesy and Brittany enjoy time off without paying a single dollar? Check out the video above to find out!


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    If TSA lines aren't enough, there's another summer travel delay to worry about. According to a recent study of Federal data, June and July are the worst months of the year for passport checkpoint waits returning to the U.S.

    Some airports have average wait times of over 30 minutes, and maximum wait times often top out at around an hour or more.

    But there are new ways around this and other airport delays that can save you aggravation.

    Get Mobile Passport Control. This is an app officially authorized by the Department of Customs and Border Protection, which lets you use special passport checkpoint lanes with no paperwork involved. This is the simplest, and sometimes most effective way to cut down on passport checkpoint waits. It's free, there's no advance registration needed, and everyone in your family can use it. Download it and you'll be able to skip the congested passport and customs lines at some of the busiest airports.

    If you fly a lot, consider Global Entry. Global Entry, a trusted traveler program, is more involved than Mobile Passport Control because it requires an in-person interview and a $100 application fee. The benefit is it gets you both priority at passport checkpoints and regular domestic security lines via TSA Pre Check. It's also available at more airports than Mobile Passport Control.

    Some credit cards will reimburse you the cost of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees. You probably don't want to get a card just to offset the fee, because most of the cards that offer the benefit have annual fees of their own. Better to pick a travel credit card based on your spending habits.

    Pay up for priority once. Some airlines let you pay a fee to get access to priority security and boarding lanes. And you can buy it right up until check-in via mobile apps, kiosks, or online checkin. So if you get to the airport, and lines look hopeless, the fee might help you make your flight.

    Become a SkyMiles member. Delta SkyMiles members get discounted membership to CLEAR, which is a private service that offers expedited biometric security clearance at several airports. Instead of paying $179 a year, SkyMiles members pay $99, and anyone can become a SkyMiles member for free.

    Try a different terminal. If lines are really bad at one terminal, consider another in the same airport. Many big airports let you clear security in a different terminal than the one you're departing. Some terminals are connected behind security, while others have shuttles running in between, If you're facing an hour plus wait at your terminal, it may be worth the walk to a terminal with little or no wait.

    RELATED: 9 of the best airports to kill time in


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    Now Is the Time to Save on a Summer Road Trip
    Summer's always a great time for a road trip, but with rising gas prices and the cost of other necessities, it can get expensive. Here are a few easy tips to help you plan your trip, and stretch your dollars.

    Before you hit the road, always give your car a good tune up to avoid breakdowns and increase gas mileage. Check all the fluids, inspect belts and hoses for cracks and excessive wear, and make sure your tires are aligned, properly inflated and have adequate tread.

    Food is expensive on the road, so always pack your own meals if possible. But if you have to dine out, always try to do lunch instead of dinner. Lunch menus are typically cheaper and if you stick with counter service only, you won't have to spend an extra 15 to 20 percent more on tips.

    If you're going to be driving cross-country, consider getting a AAA membership if you haven't got one already. The last thing you want is to be stranded in an unfamiliar place due to car trouble. With AAA you'll get roadside assistance, hotel discounts and even towing services, depending on your membership level. It's an investment, but it could potentially save you hundreds of dollars, not to mention precious time on your trip.

    Lastly, if you're going to be staying at hotels, try to book them at least 30 days in advance. Rates can fluctuate, and sales typically occur about one month before their high-traffic periods.

    These are just a few savings tips to get you started - with a little planning and preparation, you'll be hitting the open road, without the big spending.

    Related: 10 best U.S. cities for budget-friendly summer travel


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    picture of lovely girl with big piggy bank
    If you are looking to put extra money in your pocket this summer, consider switching to a better bank account, credit card or brokerage. Financial service companies are becoming increasingly generous in their race to attract new customers. Switching accounts usually doesn't take much time, and can be done online. If you do it right, you could easily make $350 or more and end up with a better financial deal in the long run.

    Just remember these two warnings:
    • Don't sign up for an account just because of an introductory bonus. While a bonus can be nice, you should remain focused on the long-term value of the product. The sign-on bonus is just the "cherry on top."
    • Don't change your spending behavior just to earn a sign-on bonus. If you cannot afford the spending thresholds required to earn a bonus, don't open the account.
    1. Switch Checking Accounts ($200 or more possible)

    Checking accounts are probably one of the most boring financial accounts out there. However, you could easily earn $200 of more by taking advantage of a bank account switching bonus. Financial site NerdWallet keeps an updated list of bonuses being paid by banks. The amount of the bonus and the rules vary by bank. But typically you will need to sign up for direct deposit in order to qualify.

    If you have been with your bank for a long time, now is a good time to consider switching to a better deal and getting a nice bonus in the process.

    2. Open A New Credit Card ($150 or more possible)

    It has never been easier to earn lucrative rewards on credit cards. 1.5% cash back has become the new 1%, and many cards are offering 2% or more depending upon the spending category and your behavior. If you are still earning a boring 1%, now might be the time to consider a change. You can search for the best cash back credit cards online at MagnifyMoney.

    In addition to earning a better cash back rate of return, many credit cards are also offering a lucrative sign-on bonus. You can easily find cards with a $150 sign-on bonus, so long as you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of the account.

    3. Open A New Brokerage Account ($200 or more possible)

    Do you have investment accounts? The cost of investing has never been lower, and online brokerages are willing to pay for your business. For example, if you moved a $25,000 IRA to E*Trade, you could get a $200 bonus. Depending upon how much money you moved, you could earn up to a $2,500 bonus.

    You should not change your investment strategy or pay higher on-going fees in order to get a short-term sign-on bonus. However, given how low trading fees have become, now is a good time to see if you can get a better on-going deal and be paid for the switch. You can see a list of the current brokerage account bonus offers on the finance blog InvestorJunkie.

    Earn Money Quickly

    You can open a checking account, credit card and brokerage account online quickly. And if you have been with your existing bank for a long time, now is a good time to see if you can get a better deal. Not only will be you better off in the long-run, but you could end up with some easy extra money this summer.

    Related: 12 ways to save money on food


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    Avoiding Hidden Fees at All-Inclusive Resorts
    Did you know: That "all-inclusive" vacation might not include as much as you think?

    While your flight, hotel, meals and ground transportation are typically covered, there can be some hidden fees.

    For example, resort menus are sometimes limited, so that lobster dinner may come with a hefty price tag. The same goes for extra activities and excursions, like jet-skiing. Even the fitness center and internet can be added expenses.

    Brochure pictures and descriptions can also be misleading, so don't always trust what you see. You might think terms like "beachfront" and "oceanfront" are the same thing, but "beachfront" can mean you only get a view of the sand... but no water.

    So how do you really know what you're paying for? It's easy. Just look for any asterisks in the promotion and review the fine print listed in the "terms and conditions."

    It also won't hurt call the hotel directly to make sure there aren't any extra "convenience fees" or renovations going on that will affect the quality of your stay. Doing these things can help you save as much as $30 per day on your final hotel bill.

    So remember these tips before you book that trip. You'll see that you can still find a great all-inclusive vacation -- without the premium price tag.


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