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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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    Tips to Make Your Swimsuit Last Longer
    A well-designed swimsuit can easily set you back $100 or more. With that kind of money being spent, how can you make sure it'll last you through the season? Here are a few easy ways to minimize wear and tear so you can keep swimming in style.

    When you hit the beach, sit on a towel -- rough surfaces can snag the material. Next, proper rinsing is also important for a swimsuit's longevity. Run your suit under fresh water as soon as possible so that bacteria has less time to set in. Over time, sunblock and your body's oils can weaken the fibers in your suit, so rinsing will help a lot.

    Avoid machine washing too, which can decrease your swimsuit's lifespan and cause pilling. When you do need to clean it, skip the laundry detergent and use a gentle cleanser, like castile soap or baby shampoo.

    When it comes to drying, don't wring it, don't hang it, and don't press it. Lay the suit out on a towel, roll the towel up and squeeze gently, then lay your swimsuit out to dry. Just remember to avoid drying in direct sunlight, which fades the color.

    Lastly, avoid flimsier fabrics like the polyester blends you might see. While they may be cheaper, they won't keep their shape as well as nylon and spandex, which can last much longer. But even these materials take about 24 hours to bounce back, so have a backup handy if possible.

    Now go out and enjoy the swim season, and keep that perfect suit in shape for many more years to come.

    Related: Handy beach items for under $20


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    Easy and Cheap Ways to Make Your Home More Secure
    Did you know: Home security doesn't always need to come with a hefty price tag?

    To make sure your home isn't a target for burglars, use inexpensive plug-in timers to operate your lights and appliances while you're away. Leaving a small desk radio on for 6 hours a day only costs about 22 cents per month.

    Also look into motion-detecting floodlights, which cost as little as $12. Just remember to put them in a high enough place so they can't be broken or dismantled easily.

    Lastly, remember the most common entry points for thieves -- the front, side and back doors, the first floor window, and the garage. Always keep these points locked and secure, and while you're at it, put up home security stickers in these spots too. You can find these for as low as $10 on eBay. Having a few displayed will make anyone think twice before breaking in.

    So remember, even if you don't have a big budget, there are some low-cost ways you can protect your home.


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    Super Saver Food: Rotisserie Chicken
    Looking to save time and money with your home-cooked meals? If so, rotisserie chicken just might be your greatest ally in the grocery store. Here are a few great ways this little bird can help you stretch your dollar.

    To start, rotisserie chicken is pre-cooked and seasoned, so the hard stuff is already taken care of. When you bring it home, all you have to do is separate the meat from the bones. Then, simply shred it or cube it, and mix it into your meals throughout the week.

    From tacos to stew, pasta salad to chopped salad, you can incorporate rotisserie chicken into just about anything. This not only saves you money, but after a long day, it also makes cooking your dinners much easier.

    Best of all, you can find cheap rotisserie chickens just about anywhere. A typical one can cost anywhere between $5 and $10, but if you shop at night, around the time when the deli section of your supermarket closes, you can find prices slashed by up to 50 percent. This is because if they don't sell it, they have to toss it.

    So when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, think chicken - this little bird can help you save big.

    Related: Staples all frugal cooks should have in their pantry


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    Vintage white 'HOTEL' sign leaning against dark wooden wall in lobby of ACE Hotel in Portland, Oregon.
    If you're facing sticker shock from your travel this summer, earning points and miles is a great way to save on next year's vacation. And while you might think airline miles are the best place to start, there are several ways hotel points can save you more with less hassle. They're worth a look if you've given up on airline miles, or of you're just getting started thinking about travel rewards.

    1. Finding rooms with points is easier than flights with miles.

    Hotels aren't as aggressive with blocking rooms from awards as airlines are. While there are some restrictions, most of the big programs let you book just about any standard room with points. If there's a room for sale with cash, you can book it with points, and don't have to pay double the points on popular days. It's a lot easier to score one hotel room in a good location for your family than 4 award seats on the same flight at a reasonable time.

    2. They're more flexible.

    Hotel rewards don't have change fees, and you can often cancel them right up until a day or so before you arrive, so you have lots of flexibility. Adding or deleting a night is just a quick phone call.

    And if you decide you're just not interested in hotel rewards, most hotel points can be transferred into real airline miles, though they'll get diluted some in the process.

    3. You can earn them more quickly.

    Many hotel credit cards let you earn bonuses in categories like dining and gas spending, while the big airline credit cards tend to only give you one mile per dollar spent on anything but tickets with the airline. So with the right card, you can earn miles a lot faster.

    If you want to compare the best hotel credit cards, this calculator at lets you see what the hotel points you earn from various cards mean in dollar rewards, so you can compare more easily.

    Several cards also throw in a free night each year, without having to use points.

    4. You can share them easily.

    Some of the big hotel programs let you share points with family for free or a small charge. So if your spouse has just enough points to top off your account to get a free night, you can combine your points. Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest let you do this free, while Marriott Rewards charges a small fee.

    Airlines charge you for this privilege, often hundreds of dollars, so the cost of combining miles is often more than buying a ticket in cash without miles.

    The downside to hotel points is they can be harder to compare than airline miles. A mile gets you pretty much the same thing at each of the big airlines. But with hotel programs, what a point means varies a lot more.

    If you're trying to pick a hotel points program, this tool lets you see a map of what hotels are available in a city, and exactly how many points they cost. It's a good way to get a sense of which hotel program has the most convenient hotels in places you want to visit.

    RELATED: 13 tips to get the best hotel rates


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    Man calculating his bills while his family are on the sofaWhen it comes to your finances, positive affirmations, a willingness to learn, and a good attitude are a plus. However, none of these attributes will help you grow your bank account unless you back them up with some action.

    To add to that, far too many people are plagued with bad financial habits as well. Whether it boils down to overspending, not being realistic, or not setting goals, it's much easier to bury your head in the sand than to make an uncomfortable change.

    6 Reasons You're Not Saving Money

    If you're not saving money, the first question to answer is "why?" If you're drawing a blank, here are six possible scenarios that might apply in your situation:

    You're wasting money haphazardly.

    If you're spending all you make or more each month, you should do your best to locate your "budget drains," says Peter Huminski, President and Wealth Advisor at Thorium Wealth Management.

    Wasteful spending can come in many different forms, and it's not the same for each person. For someone, weekly stops at the local mall might be a problem. For another, it might be an addiction to pricey electronics and gadgets.

    For a large percentage of people, however, it's food spending that's to blame for their money troubles. If you're heading out to a restaurant for lunch each day, for example, you could literally be eating your savings away.

    "Stop going to out to lunch at work and bring your own lunch," says Huminski. "If you have a job that is conducive to bringing your own lunch, you can save over $50 per week. That is $2,600 per year. If you do it for 10 years you would have saved over $26,000 and you will be healthier as well."

    You don't have any goals.

    According to financial planner Joseph Carbone, Jr. of Focus Planning Group, not having goals hurts more than people realize. When it comes to retirement planning, for example, people often contribute enough to get their company's 401(k) match to feel good, yet don't have a clue if their retirement savings will be enough. And the same can be true for any of their other savings goals, whether it's saving up the down payment for a house, saving for a new car, or simply building an emergency fund.

    If you're going to save towards a goal - and you should, Carbone suggests starting with the end in mind then working backwards. For example, after fiddling around with a retirement calculator and speaking with your financial advisor, you might figure you need $2 million dollars to retire. If you have thirty years left until you reach retirement age, you should determine how much you need to invest each month - and how much your investments need to earn along the way.

    "If you don't go through this simple task, you need not even bother to start working toward this kind of goal because you're setting yourself up to fail," says Carbone.

    You're not taking action.

    Often times, people honestly believe they are doing the best they can with their money. They think they're stashing plenty of money away. They think their savings account is growing. They think they're keeping up with their bills and avoiding debt.

    But at the end of the month, the situation doesn't look anything like they perceived it would. Despite having good intentions, too many otherwise capable people find themselves out of cash, behind on bills, or worse, spiraling into debt.

    Just like anything else in life, good intentions only get you so far when it comes to your money. If you feel positive about your situation but constantly fall behind, a lack of action is probably the culprit.

    "One way to manage this debilitating syndrome is to automate," says Ronn Yaish, New Jersey Wealth Advisor at Yaish Financial Services. If taking action is not your strong suit, you should set up and automate withdrawals to your savings accounts, contributions to your brokerage accounts, credit card payments, and all other monthly financial tasks. You should also sit down with your HR representative to hash out which financial moves can be automated through payroll, says Yaish.

    By taking action just one time, you can get the bulk of your finances humming along indefinitely.

    You can't tell yourself "no."

    The advertising industry exists to separate us from our money, and far too many of us fall for the pitch - hook, line, and sinker. We stand in line for days to get a new iPhone, often paying a week's salary or more to do so. We buy overpriced clothing, new cars with outrageous monthly payments, and pricey gadgets. And if we can't afford to pay in cash, we charge it.

    "Most people are not willing to postpone the instant gratification of spending now," says Charles C. Scott, founder of Pelleton Capital Management in Scottsdale, AZ. And far, far too many of us just don't know how to tell ourselves "no" to the things we want.

    "The enemy is Madison Avenue marketing which has won the war on being financially smart about your future and instead hammers home the pleasure of spending it all," says Scott.

    Learning to delay gratification, save for a goal, and prioritize your spending are hallmarks of real adulthood, yet it's not that common for American families to have these attributes.

    You're not making your finances a priority.

    As a financial advisor, I've seen this tragedy play out time and time again. Too many good people don't put their finances first and simply let the chips fall where they may. Sadly, letting your finances "happen naturally" is the worst way to get ahead, mostly because life happens, bills happen, and it's easy to get off track.

    To Clint Haynes, a Kansas City Financial Planner and founder of NextGen Wealth, this line of reasoning is on par with saying you don't have enough time. "Time can always be found, but rather what we are saying is that it's not a priority for us," says Haynes. "This is the exact same excuse as saying you can't afford to save any more. Extra savings can definitely be found in the budget, but it's just not a priority for most people."

    When you don't make your finances a priority, it's inevitable that your situation won't change much. If you really want to get ahead, you have to put your money first and take actionable steps to save, pay down debt, and invest.

    You're not using a budget or tracking your spending.

    Even high earners can benefit from keeping a watchful eye on their spending and keeping a monthly budget, but too many people feel they are above these tried and true methods for getting ahead.

    According to financial advisor Kenneth Feyers, this issue is commonplace among workers from all income groups.

    "Many high income earners are terrible savers," says Feyers. "They maximize their 401(k) but they don't put additional funds away."

    Since Feyers steers clear of the word "budget," he focuses on helping them create a spending and savings guide. "It's a guide because it helps people to make better spending decisions tied to their long term-goals," he says.

    And if you're not tracking your spending, chances are good you're wasting all sorts of cash each month. Josh Brein of Brein Wealth Management says he suggests his clients track their spending religiously for this reason.

    "I always recommend that my clients and friends track their spending just as much as they track their earnings," says Brein. "This way, you will always know exactly where you can cut a little bit of the fat out of your budget when you need to stash some cash away for a rainy day."

    Final Thoughts

    If you wish you were saving more money but fail to do so month after month, it's likely there is some disconnect between your thoughts and your actions. Meanwhile, it's possible there are some roadblocks standing in between you and your financial dreams - whether those hurdles are mental, physical, or spiritual.

    Want to get ahead but can't? Figuring out your "why" might be the only thing that can save you. Chances are, the power to change rests in your hands.

    RELATED: Secret ways to save money on Amazon

    Secret Ways to Save Money at Amazon


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    The Meal Planning Schedule That Will Save You Hundreds
    Meal planning -- we all have a general ideal of how it works, though a lot of us never bother to do it. But if you're looking to eat healthier and save money, it's one of the easiest things you can do.

    The most intimidating part of starting a meal plan can be planning it all out. So to keep things simple, plan just one meal a day in the beginning, like dinner.

    Next, look at your calendar for the week and take note of any events that may affect your mealtimes, like friends coming to town on Monday or a trip to the beach on Saturday. Put it all down in your schedule, because this will help determine how many meals you need and how much time you'll have for prep.

    The next step is to create a master recipe list with all ingredients listed. Be sure to note the serving sizes so you'll know how many meals to expect. Once you have a few ideas down, take a look at what ingredients you already have in your kitchen and cross those off the list. Whatever's left, you go shopping for.

    The final step is grocery shopping and meal prep. Since you'll be preparing your meals in batch, pick a day where you'll have the most time. Have all your containers ready to go and once you're done cooking, fill them up and put them in the fridge.

    Give these basic tips a try, and you'll see that the more meals you plan, the more money you'll save.

    Related: 5 foodie sites that can find you fine meals for less


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    How To Take Advantage of Shoulder Seasons
    Did you know: Booking your vacation in between high and low seasons can help you rake in the biggest savings?

    This timeframe is called the shoulder season, and it typically falls right before, or immediately after, the primetime vacation frenzy.

    According to travel analysts at Expedia, booking a U.S. beach vacation in September or October may reveal oceanside deals for up to 38 percent off peak travel rates.

    Looking to go someplace else? Luckily, it's always shoulder season somewhere. Europe and the Mediterranean can be hundreds of dollars cheaper in the fall, while skiing in the spring can slash resort prices by up to 50 percent.

    Timing is everything, so do your homework - but be careful not to book off-season. It's called "off" for a reason. No matter how low the price, bad weather and closed attractions don't equal a good time.

    So plan ahead, and find that sweet spot for your next destination. You might find that shoulder season can be the best time to save.


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    Quick Tricks That Will Rescue Your Ruined Clothing
    The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually. With that kind of money going out the door, you want your apparel to last. Luckily, with just a few common household items, you can save your threads for another season.

    To get rid of underarm stains on your white shirts, just take equal parts of hydrogen peroxide, water and baking soda and blend them in a cup. Apply this mix generously to the stain and let it sit overnight. The next day, just rinse off and throw it in the wash.

    Loose sunglasses aren't a good look when they're sitting crooked on your face. If you don't have a tiny screwdriver handy, an easy temporary fix is to put some clear nail polish on the hinge. Let it dry, and you can get back to looking cool again.

    Finally, a caught zipper doesn't always mean you're stuck with a problem. Grab a little lip balm, run it along the track on both sides, and watch it open right up.

    Give these simple tips a shot, and you can potentially save your favorite clothes -- and a few dollars in the process.

    Related: 10 cheap home fixes


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    If someone is going to make the biggest, most consequential retirement mistake possible, it's usually going to be this: neglecting to create a vision of what they want from their retirement.

    Not having a plan for retirement is like launching an interplanetary space shuttle without having any regard for its destination. You'll likely run out of fuel before you reach a reasonable destination.

    Have you ever taken a summer road trip? Sure you have. You pack meals (or bring enough money to eat out), get that oil change, bring enough clothes, and check off a bunch of to-dos before you actually hit the road. That's smart. You plan for vacations, why not plan for what could be your longest vacation of all: retirement!

    Who knows, your retirement could last 30 years or longer. You're going to need a lot of money saved to last you that long. Well, either that, or discover a missing inheritance just in time or have a money-making business or two.

    Don't be like so many people who reach retirement age to discover that Social Security benefits won't cut it and they have to dramatically reduce their lifestyle. That's a bummer.

    Instead, ask yourself two questions . . . .

    When Would You Like to Retire?

    The first question is probably the easiest to answer: "When would you like to retire?"

    It's commonly expected that people will want to retire in their 60s, but perhaps you should dig a little deeper and discover when you'd like to retire.

    You don't have to go with the flow. Instead, consider retiring early, perhaps in your 50s or 40s. Alternatively, you may never want to fully retire, and would just like enough supplemental income to help you live with only a small, part-time job.

    Truly, the choice is yours.

    Remember, however, that certain retirement accounts require you wait until a minimum age to withdraw funds. Additionally, there are penalties for taking Social Security benefits early. If you're going to retire early, remember that you may not have access to funds if you are depending on certain types of accounts. Talk with a well-qualified financial advisor to understand the limitations of retiring early.

    How Much Money Would You Like to Have?

    The second question is difficult to answer: "How much money would you like to have?"

    You might think the question is easy, but remember, your lifestyle and the cost of goods and services will probably be different in retirement.

    Choosing an arbitrarily high number might put significant strain on your lifestyle in your younger years. Choosing an arbitrarily low number might not get you all the way through your desired retirement years.

    You're going to need to do some homework to figure out how much money you'll need in retirement. Is it $1 million? $2 million? More? Less? Talk with a financial planner to consider all of the variables at play in figuring out how much money you'll need for retirement.

    One approach is to work backwards. Ask yourself: How much money would I like to have every year in retirement? $40,000? $50,000? Your financial advisor can work the numbers to figure out how much you'll need to save in order to raise your chances of being able to take your desired withdrawals in retirement.

    If you find yourself having difficulty answering these two questions, and you can't see that far down the road, you're certainly not alone. Instead, try asking yourself what your three-year goals are. What would you like to achieve financially in three years? Perhaps it's obtaining a new job, paying off all your debt, or selling a home with space you no longer need.

    If you can't envision your retirement right now, you have to start where you're at. Don't give up on creating a financial plan just because you don't know what you want your retirement to look like.

    It's best to start now. Be thinking about what you want your future to look like, even if you don't yet know what you want your retirement to look like. Over time, as you get closer to retirement, you'll discover what's important to you and will be able to more clearly envision your retirement.

    Don't make the mistake of never envisioning it, however. Too many people do that, and then their retirement is determined by chance instead of a plan. And oftentimes, when that happens, retirement doesn't look so pretty.

    I encourage you to sit down with a good financial planner to work out the details of your retirement. At the least, have them prepare a financial plan for you. It will be worth the effort. Believe me, once you have a plan in place, you'll be able to breathe easier knowing that you're on the right path toward a better future.

    RELATED: The 3 retirement mistakes made by baby boomers.

    3 Worst Investing Mistakes Boomers Can Make


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