Friday, March 25, 2016

105 Ways to Save Money

I wrote this for a freelance client who evidently changed her mind as she never paid for it, so I thought I would share it with you. She hired me via Freelancer but never deposited the money, and it looks like her blog hasn't had any action since then either. Luckily, I have a use for this list. Can you think of any additions?

1. Weatherproof your house. If money is tight, even simple things like rolling up a towel and placing it in front of leaky door thresholds or windowsills, can help.

2. Make sure you aren't running money down the drain. Make sure your toilets and faucets aren't leaking. 

3. Cut your own grass. Not only do you not have to pay the yard service, you also get exercise. 

4. Turn off lights when you leave a room. The monsters under the bed prefer it to be dark. 

5. Replace incandescent bulbs with high-efficiency LED or compact florescent bulbs.

6. Dress for the season, and adjust your thermostat accordingly. Long underwear in the winter means your house is comfortable at a lower temperature; wear shorts in the summer, and keep the air conditioning close to 80 degrees. 

7. Use vinegar and water as a multi-purpose cleaner. It's cheap and works well. 

8. Plant a garden. 

9. Make friends with someone who has a garden or fruit trees. 

10. If you don't need it, don't shop for it, either online or in stores--and turn off QVC. 

11. Give your time, not just your money. Many charities need volunteers as much as they need contributions. 

12. Garage sales and second hand stores are great sources of kids' clothes and toys.

13. Convince your mom that watching your kids is a privilege, not a chore.

14. Join a babysitting co-op, or start one. You get a night out, and your kids get friends to play with. 

15. Carpool to work. 

16. Call around to price insurance coverage. Another company may beat the price you are now paying; but don't cancel your old coverage until new coverage is in place.

17. See if you can get discounts for receiving your bills electronically. 

18. Increase insurance deductibles, but not to the point that you can’t afford them. 

19. Start (or have your kids start) college at the local community college. Not only do they cost less, but classes are taught by people whose job it is to teach these classes; not by graduate assistants.

20. Keep your tires properly inflated; not only does this save wear and tear on the tires, but gas as well. 

21. Learn to change your own oil -- or at least use coupons when you get your oil changed. 

22. Change your own air filter in your car. I mean this job is dead simple and does not even require tools. 

23. Sign up for your grocery store's loyalty card. 

24. Check the weekly ads for your favorite grocery store and/or drugstore. Plan your meals around items that are on sale.

25. Meal plan before you shop, make a grocery list and follow it.

26. If things you use regularly are on sale, buy enough to last six to eight weeks (the average sale cycle for grocery stores).

27. Make a price book to track prices of things you buy frequently.

28. Buy a crockpot. Slow cooking makes even the toughest meat tender, and being able to put dinner in the crockpot in the morning and come home to a cooked meal removes the temptation to drive through the fast food place.

29. Do batch or freezer cooking. It is not much harder to make lasagne or sloppy joes or chile for three meals than it is to make them for one. Double or triple recipes and freeze the extra. 

30. Make contributions; don’t buy fundraisers. When the kids bring chocolate or wrapping paper home from school know that the fundraising company probably makes as much as the school does. Send it back, along with check to the school--donation in lieu of fundraiser. 

31. Enter blog giveaways. You can use the prizes, sell them or give them as gifts. Living Well Mom has a list of giveaway link-ups. 

32. Try generics at the grocery store; if after trying them you don’t like them, you don’t have to buy them again, but at least give them a try.

33. Seek out low-priced extra-curricular activities for the kids. Start with your church, the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and community recreation departments. Karate lessons from our community department of recreation were one-quarter the cost of a private studio because our tax dollars were paying the utility bills and insurance premiums. 

34. Use your public library, not the bookstore.

35. If you really like to read and write, become a book blogger; you will have more free books than you can read.

36. Use your public library, not the Red Box. Most public libraries not only lend books, they lend DVDs as well.

37. Check out the children’s programs at your public library. 

38. If you live in an area with several local stations, drop your cable and buy an over-the-air antenna. 

39. Match your cellphone plan to your use--or better yet, match your use to a low-priced plan. 

40. If you must eat out, eat out at lunch when prices are lower.

41. Print drafts on the back of all that paper the kids bring home from school.

42. Use the draft mode on your printer to save ink.

43. If you have lots of carpet in your house, buy a steam cleaner. Not only will you save money in the long run over renting or paying a carpet cleaning service, you will have it handy to clean up small spills when they happen.

44. Make your own laundry detergent. Here is a recipe. 

45. Use a solar clothes dryer (clothes line) rather than the electric or gas model. 

46. Make sure the washer is full when you run it.

47. Wash in cold water.

48. Only run the dishwasher when it is full.

49. Keep your freezer full, even if it is with blocks of ice. A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one.

50. Keep wrapped snacks in the car to soothe the beasts in the back seat without resorting to the drive through.

51. Especially if you plan to have more than one child, use cloth diapers.

52. Match your device to its use. You can play Candy Crush just as well on a $99 Kindle Fire as on a $499 I-Pad. If you only use your computer to type and surf the web, you don’t need a $1,000 machine; a $300 one will work just fine.

53. Don’t buy mostly duplicative subscriptions. Amazon Prime provides free shipping, free movies and free music. If you have Prime, drop I-tunes, Pandora and Netflix.

54. Consider whether you really need to buy a new device; a used one may meet your needs.

55. Drive an older car, particularly if it is paid for. If the car isn’t worth much, you do not have to carry comprehensive or collision insurance.

56. Buy your cars used; look for an “old person’s car”--those uncool big American cars that were driven by an older person who did not drive much in the many years she owned it.

57. Drink water from the faucet--or if that does not work for you, water from gallon or five gallon jugs. Individual servings of water are expensive.

58. Don’t eat between meals. Most snacks are expensive, high in calories and low in nutrition. If you must snack, make sure it is on nutritious food.

59. Wash your hands regularly. Don’t laugh, being sick is expensive and the easiest way to reduce the incidence of illness is hand washing.

60. Color your own hair. If you skip the highlights and just go for an overall color, it is as easy as shampooing your hair.

61. Do your own nails. The nail salon is a luxury, not a necessity.

62. Eat naturally meatless meals--those featuring beans, or cheese rather than meat.

63. Use online banking to pay your bills; there are banks that do not charge for this, and you save the price of a stamp.

64. If your bank charges fees for your account, look into changing accounts or banks. There are no-fee options out there, especially at smaller banks. (I’m talking about account fees, not overdraft fees).

65. If your employer offers a flexible spending account for healthcare, use it. Estimate your healthcare (including dental) out-of-pocket expenses, subtract some for safety (because if you don’t use it you lose it) and put that money in your flex account so that you don’t pay taxes on the money.

66. Eat right and exercise regularly. While this doesn’t immediately translate into dollars in the bank, many healthcare expenses can be avoided by taking care of ourselves.

67. Use ceiling fans to make rooms feel cooler so you don’t have to spend as much on air conditioning.

68. If you are looking for a new home, keep all the costs in mind, not only the rent/mortgage but your commuting costs as well. If your family has a stay-at-home parent, the right neighborhood may make it possible to live with one car for even more savings.

69. If you are buying your teen a car, buy an older, larger car. The question isn’t whether your teen is going to wreck this car, it is when. 

70. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables, not those flown in from across the country or world.

71. Check the tax assessor’s value of your home. If home values have dropped in your area, it could be too high, and appealing could get you a lower tax bill.

72. If you like to knit, crochet, sew or otherwise make things, let friends and family know that you will make things for them if they provide the materials.

73. Ask to see the mis-tints or returns at the paint store. They can color-match to make more paint that color and choosing that paint will save you a few dollars on your first gallon.

74. Instead of going out with friends, invite them over for a themed pot-luck. 

75. Pay those credit card bills off every month and pay them on time.

76. Get a no-fee credit card.

77. If you have the discipline not to charge more than you can pay off, charge everything to a no-fee rewards card (I love my Discover Card). 

78. Make your vacation accommodations match your plans. If you “do Disney” by being there for the rope drop and not leaving until after the fireworks, do you really need a fancy hotel room?

79. Buy your Walt Disney World tickets from Undercover Tourist and save. 

80. If you need a rental car, check Hotwire.

81. When reserving a rental car (including when you use Hotwire) reserve the smallest car you could tolerate. When you arrive they will probably try to upgrade you. Hold your ground, insist on the car you reserved. If you are lucky they won’t have it and they will have to upgrade you at no additional cost. 

82. Save your “gray” water--water from bathing or handwashing--and use it to water plants.

83. Form a “lunch bunch” with co-workers; take turns bringing lunch for the whole group.

84. Brush and floss regularly; it’s the best way to reduce the chances of big dental bills.

85. Make friends with people who live simply; keeping up with them will save you money; keeping up with the Joneses will cost you.

86. If you are paying for a storage locker, empty it. There are few things worth paying monthly storage fees to keep. Sell the contents, give them away or throw them away.

87. Make your next vacation a “Staycation” and explore your hometown and nearby attractions through the eyes of a tourist, while sleeping in your own bed.

88. Learn to mend your clothes. Sewing on buttons and hemming is not difficult and does not require any equipment beyond a needle and thread. 

89. Watch those recurring charges on your credit card bill, and cancel services you don’t use. 

90. If you are paying for a service (like Netflix) research free alternatives (like Hulu). Depending on how often you use the service and how important it is to you, the free alternative may be just as good.

91. If you need software, consider free versions. Instead of Microsoft Office, consider Google Docs, Kingsoft WPS or Open Office. Instead of Photoshop, consider GIMP or 

92. Make your own chicken broth. When you eat chicken, gather the bones and throw them in the freezer. Once you have bones from two or three chickens, put cover them with water and put them on the stove until the water boils. You have now killed the germs left from whomever ate the chicken. Put the bones, the water and some onion, celery, parsley and other herbs in the crockpot and cook overnight on low.

93. Be aware of devices that use electricity even when they are off. These include many modern electronics like televisions and game systems. Plug them into power strips and before you go to bed, or leave home, turn the power strip off.

94. Use your primary care doctor whenever possible. Most insurance companies have lower co-pays if you see your primary care doctor than when you see a specialist. While it is tempting to self-refer to a specialist to avoid double co-pays, most of the time a primary care doctor can fix what ails you.

95. Don’t go to the emergency room; it is the most expensive place to get care. If you suspect a broken bone or a serious illness then you will have to go to the emergency room; if you are simply sick on a weekend or don’t want to have to miss work tomorrow, try the drugstore minute clinic or the urgent care center.

96. Consider high-deductible health insurance. Run the numbers on what your total healthcare bills would be (premiums, deductibles, co-pays) if you and your family never got sick, with the usual amount of sickness and with sicknesses that made you pay the maximum out-of-pocket. 

97. Consider all your health insurance options. Do your children qualify for CHIP? Would it be cheaper for you to cover your spouse, or for him to get his insurance at his job? Who should cover the kids? 

98. Don’t buy adult pajamas. Sleep in your underwear or in an old t shirt (or in nothing at all). 

99. Remind your kids that broken crayons work just fine.

100. When your doctor writes a prescription, remind her that cost is an issue and ask for generic. 

101. If you take medication regularly, (such as for blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, arthritis etc.) research the drug(s) you are taking and the cost thereof. Then research alternatives. If you find some that are substantially cheaper, ask your doctor about them at the next appointment. There may be a good reason he didn’t pick them--or maybe the detail rep for the expensive drug bought him lunch the day he wrote the prescription. You won’t know unless you ask. 

102. Why do you still have a landline phone? No good answer? Get rid of it, and the bill.

103. Call your phone/cable/internet provider and shop rates. 

104. Are you carrying a balance on a credit card? Can you get a lower interest rate elsewhere, like Prosper or Lending Club, or will another credit card give you interest-free balance transfers? If you have decent credit, shop around. 

105. Do your own taxes with online sofware from H&R Block, Tax Act or other providers. Unless your finances are far more complicated than most people’s these programs will work just fine, save you a trip to a tax preparer and save you money.
Disease Called Debt

Friday, March 18, 2016

Investing: Risk vs Reward

I was sitting in the kitchen at work one day when the discussion turned to the 401K plan.  Someone said she wanted her money in the lowest risk fund but she wasn't sure which one that was.  I told her there was no such thing, that the question was which risks was she willing to bear.  That was one of many discussions I've had with people over the years that have convinced me that there are a lot of people who consider the stock market to be just another version of the lottery--something that may make  you money, or may not and over which you have very little control.  I'm going to talk today about risk and reward in investing.

Risk is about possibilities.  Let's say you are paying all your bills every month, but you aren't saving anything for the future.  The risk, the possibility is that you won't have enough to live on in the future.  The reward for living this way is having more money to spend now.  If you know you carry the gene for Huntington's disease, which will kill you in your 40's and you are single with no kids, then the reward of living better now is worth the risk that you will outlive your money.  If you are in your 50's now, used to a high standard of living and have genes that indicate you are likely to live a long time, that risk/reward analysis is different.  Let's look at the risk/reward analysis on some investments:

Bank Accounts

Bank accounts are insured by the Federal government; if that insurance fails we all have lots of other problems, so when you put your money in the bank, it is safe, right?  Kind of.  If you put money in the bank it earns a very low rate of interest, and you have to pay taxes on that interest.  By the time you are done you are not keeping up with inflation.  While you have more dollars after years of saving, your purchasing power decreases.  The risk you bear with bank accounts is inflation risk.  However, your principal amount is safe, which means that bank accounts are good places for money you are going to need in the next few years.  You may lose a little purchasing power, but you know how many dollars you will have.


Bonds are pieces of paper (or computer entries) that say you lent money to someone.  They entitle you to repayment of that debt, plus interest.  There are two risks involved:  repayment risk and interest rate risk.  Repayment risk is what it sounds like--the risk that the issuing entity will not be able to repay the loan.  Loans are graded by the creditworthiness of the issuing entity.  US government bonds are considered the most secure; bonds of companies in turmoil, much less so.  Here is where the concept of risk and reward comes in.  If you had $1000 to invest, would you rather loan money to the US government or to a company that is in financial trouble?  If the bonds have the same interest rate, the choice is easy and that company in financial trouble would never be able to borrow money.  In order to induce you to take the risk and buy their bonds, that company in trouble has to offer more, they have to pay higher interest.  In return for taking the risk, you hope for the higher reward, and if the bonds are properly priced, you should get it.  Interest rate risk  is the risk that interest rates will change substantially during the term of your bond.  If you buy a bond today that pays 3% interest and then things change in the economy such that a similar bond could be bought that pays 6% interest, you are stuck with your 3% bond until it matures.  While you don't actually lose any money when interest rates rise, you do lose the opportunity to invest that money at a higher rate.  If you need to sell the bond and convert it to cash, you will lose money.   Conversely if interest rates fall, you continue getting your high rate until the bond matures.  If you need to sell it, you can command a higher price.  Bonds are called fixed income investments because the amount you can gain from them is fixed (absent a big move in interest rates).  Unfortunately, the downside to all except government bonds is that you can lose your entire investment.  With high quality bonds, that's not likely but it is a possibility.  The way to mitigate that risk is to diversify and not put all your money in one bond.

Bond Funds

Bond funds pool the money of many investors and buy many different bonds, thus mitigating the default risk.  Because the fund is always getting in new money and buying new bonds, the interest rate risk is also somewhat reduced.  However, bond funds go up and down in price daily, and the longer the term of the bonds in which the fund invests and the lower the quality of the bonds, the more the share price varies.  The risk of losing all your money in a bond fund is minimal, but if you have to sell shares when the price is down, you could suffer a loss.  On the other hand, bond funds pay interest regularly.  Over the long term, bond funds on average pay less than stock funds, but their interest payments and the fact that their share prices are generally more stable than stock funds make them a good counterpoint to stock funds in a portfolio.  In short, by putting money in bonds, you give up some of the upside, but some of the downside as well.  Because they under perform stock funds, putting too much money in bond funds at too young an age exposes you to the risk of not maximizing your investment potential.  That's why investment pros recommend investing heavily in stocks when you are young and in bonds when you are old.


When you buy shares of stock you buy part of a company.  If that company does well, you may be paid dividends, and/or the price of the stock will rise.  If the company does badly, you could lose everything.  On average, stocks out perform other investments and always have.  However, that average is made up of stocks that have flown and those that have crashed, as well as a bunch in the middle.  

Stock funds

Because stock funds invest in a large number of companies, the risk that one poorly performing stock will ruin you is reduced.  Of course, it also reduces the chance that one high flyer will make you rich.  Over time, a well-diversified stock portfolio has out performed any other asset.  If you choose not to invest in the stock market in some way, you are choosing to make less money than you could.  

Peer to Peer Lending

Most people's Prosper or Lending Club portfolios are like mutual funds--they have little pieces of a lot of investments, which reduces the downside when any one investment goes bad.  That is why both Prosper and Lending Club recommend a minimum investment of $2,500.  Any less than that and your returns are much more likely to be extremely high (if you get lucky and have less defaults than average) or extremely low (if you aren't lucky).  


Kickfurther has been an interesting study in risk vs reward.  At first, 1.5-2% per month offerings were common.  As the number of investors grew, it got to the point that you had to log on at 4:00 p.m. and not 4:01 to get in on offers.  Slowly the rates came down.  Then the defaults started to hit. As of this writing, about 80 Kickfurther offers have been paid back in full.  About 11 have been cancelled for non-payment.  Some of those have made some payments; some have not.  Even if you figure an average of 50% of those bad offers being recovered, in order to break even, investors need a return of over 16% per year on good offers, on a platform-wide basis, or investors need to learn to avoid the bad offers ahead of time.  Time will tell if that is possible.  In any case, as the offered interest has been going down, the size of offers has been going up, and investors aren't filling them.  Now we see rates creeping back up.  I enjoy writing about Kickfurther but at this point I can't tell you that the reward is adequate for the risk; as a matter of fact, right now, I don't think it is and I'm not adding more money to my account.  Unless the reward increases, I'm going to withdraw my money.  

Lottery Tickets

Since I started the post with a picture of a lottery ticket, I thought I'd take a minute to address them.  My office does a weekly lottery ticket pool.  I don't play.  Why?  Because I don' get $2.00 worth of amusement out of watching the lottery pick on TV.  Yes, someone will win eventually, and you can't win if you don't play, but any statistical analysis will tell you that the risk of losing is almost 100%.  If you can afford to waste a couple of dollars and it amuses you, go ahead and play, but it is amusement, not investment.  
Disease Called Debt

Friday, March 11, 2016

More Than Just Books: Things You Can Download From Your Public Library

I'm a baby boomer and when I grew up the library was a place for books, period.  Today's public library has so much more and so many people are so unaware of what is available.  I was with a group of people who had to stay in close proximity to the courthouse.  One of them had a very active two year old.  We were discussing where to go and what to do and the baby's mother told us to go ahead; she needed to find someplace for the little one.  I pointed to the library across the square and suggested it would be a good place and people looked at me like I had two heads.  I replied that while I had not been in that library, I'd bet it had a children's room with toys, room to run and of course, books.  If I needed someplace to take young kids in bad weather, the library was always at the top of the list.  The price was right and we almost always found someone with whom to play.  I couldn't believe that people didn't realize it was available.  I have come to realize over the years that few people realize all the services available at our public library, so this post is going to describe many of them.  While not every library will have the same services mine does, most will have many similar services.


Yes, the main product of most public libraries is still physical books that patrons can borrow.  However, patrons are not limited to the books purchased by their library; most libraries are part of state-wide inter-library loan programs.  While those programs may not make it possible for your to borrow the latest best seller right now, they do make it possible for readers to obtain copies of research material from university libraries or older books from libraries that still have copies.  Further, most libraries take requests and will consider purchasing books if there is demand for them.  

Besides physical books, our library has several sources of e-books.  Yours probably subscribes to many of the same services or ones similar to them.

  • 3M Cloud Library:  Offers e-books and audio books compatible with Android and iOS.  While they can be read via an app on the Kindle Fire, they are not compatible with non-fire Kindles.  They can be read on Nooks.
  • OverDrive:  Offers e-books, audio books and videos, and the ebooks are Kindle compatible.  The videos do not appear to be popular movies but rather are instructional or children's videos. The books are books that are popular today.
  • One Click Digital:  Offers audiobooks and a variety of books I recognize as being popular today.
  • Comics Plus:  Access to over 16,000 comics.  Unlike the services above, which allow a limited number of people to check out a book at one time, Comics Plus allows instant downloads.

  • TumbleBooks Library:  Aimed at children, this service uses flash and is for computer use.  
Most of these services work on a "check-out" basis.  Your library purchases a certain number of "copies" of the ebooks.  When you check on out, it is unavailable for other patrons; those who want it are put on a waiting list and notified once you "return" it.  

Books are not the only digital media available from the library--and did I tell you that you don't actually have to GO to the library to get them;  you can access them via  your computer using your library card.  Here are some other services offered by my library:

  • Freegal allows you to download music and music videos.  They have over nine million songs and you can download and keep them.  I'm not a music expert but there appear to be more "golden oldies" than hip new stars but I couldn't swear to it.
  • Hoopla provides TV shows, movies, books, audio books, and comic books.  They don't jump out at me as the latest thing, but movies and TV aren't my thing, so they could be.
  • Music Online:  This is a streaming service that seems more oriented toward classical music than popular.
  • Flipster:  Allows you to read many popular magazines online.  I just perused Money, Kiplingers Personal Finance, Good Housekeeping, Southern Living and Sports Illustrated. If you are paying for subscriptions from Kindle, this is a real money-saver.

  • Zinio:  While Flipster only allows magazines to be read online, Zinio allows you to download your favorites to your tablet.  While it may be a matter of the titles to which a library subscribes, for my library the number of titles availabe via Zinio did not seem as extensive as through Flipster, though Zinio claims that back issues are available as well as current ones. 
  •  My library has a subscription that allows me to access videos from  I don't know if I can access as many videos as through's paid program, but there is enough here to teach me quite a bit about a lot of topics. 

Besides these download services, my library subscribes to a variety of databases that can provide useful information.  I'll detail them soon.  

Does your library offer download services?  Have you used them?  What do you think of them?
Disease Called Debt

Friday, March 4, 2016

5 Ways to Invest Your Tax Refund

It is always tempting to take a windfall and spend it on something fun, but if you are approaching retirement (and all of us should consider ourselves to be in that boat--just with different finish lines) investing at least part of it is a smart money move.  Here are some options.

  1. Peer to Peer Lending:  If you have at least $2,500 dollars to invest, Peer to Peer Lending via Lending Club or Prosper offers returns between 5% and 8% annually, with decent, though not instant liquidity.  You can read my posts about Peer to Peer Lending here.  Statistics going back before the bear market/recession of 2008 show that less that 1% of people who have invested in at least 100 notes at $25 each have lost money.

  2. Kickfurther:  Kickfurther is a platform by which investors finance inventory for businesses by purchasing that inventory and returning it to the company to sell on consignment.  When the inventory sells, investors receive an agreed-upon return.  There are two risks.  The first is that the inventory doesn't sell.  If that happens, the investors can vote to repossess the inventory and try to sell it in some other way to recoup their investment.  The second is that the business will sell the inventory and then use the money to pay the rent, and not have enough to pay investors. The advantage of Kickfurther is that you can invest as little as $20, and most offers are for much less than a year, and once the repayment term starts, payments are supposed to be made monthly.  I've been investing in Kickfurther for about a year and at this point I would classify it as a relatively high risk/high return investment.  Click here to get $5.00 towards your first investment.

  3. Motif:  If you want to try the stock market, Motif is an interesting concept.  For one sales commission of $9.95 you can purchase one "motif" or group of stocks.  Motif has a wide selection of company-designed motifs, and it allows investors to design their own motifs and market them to other investors.  Most motifs have a theme, just as "Growing Dividends" or "Video Gaming" and the stocks in the motif reflect that theme.  I have written about Motif before.  If you invest via this link, we both get $100.

  4. Loyal3:  Another option, if you want to pick stocks, is Loyal3.  While they only offer the stocks of about seventy companies, all trades are commission-free, and you are allowed to buy fractional shares.  This means you can use Loyal3 not only to invest a substantial sum, but also to purchase a few dollars with of stock on a weekly or monthly basis.  I'm using Loyal3 to invest the money I save by not eating out at lunchtime.  Read about my investments.

  5. Mutual funds:  For people who don't really want to learn about the stock market or how to pick stocks, mutual funds allow you to outsource that job to either a professional or a computer.   With mutual funds, the money of many investors is pooled, and investments purchased.  If the investments increase in value, the price of the shares goes up; if the value of the investments falls, so does the share price.  While there are a lot of flavors of mutual funds they are basically divided into index funds, which purchase shares of stocks or bonds to mimic one of the indexes and actively managed funds which have a manager who, following the policies laid out for the fund regarding the types of investment it makes, buys and sells investments trying to beat the market as a whole.  Few succeed long-term.  All cost more than index funds.  One of the best place to get index funds or low-cost actively managed funds is Vanguard.

If you are investing adequately to meet your future goals, then spending a windfall on fun isn't necessarily a bad idea; however if you are behind on your retirement savings, you'll spend a lot more time wishing you had more money than you will spend at Disneyworld with your tax refund.

Disease Called Debt