Category Archives: $5, $10 and $20 TIPS

You’re Spending How Much on Coffee?!?!

My morning walk to the ValuePenguin office consists of some pump-up music and a Starbucks Grande Iced Coffee (if it’s a long day ahead, a Grande Iced Skinny Vanilla Latte). There’s nothing quite like a cup of joe to get my brain working. I’ve been addicted to caffeine for nearly three years now… and neither my body, nor my bank account has quite forgiven me.

I’ve been thinking about getting a Keurig, a Nespresso, or a drip coffeemaker. At first, I thought buying coffee everyday would be cheaper than a Nespresso, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Here are some interesting facts I learned about coffee expenses:

  • If you skipped Starbucks everyday for five months, you’d have enough money to buy a Nespresso VertuoLine ($299)
  • Single-serve coffee machines keep gaining popularity, and there’s definitely some good reasoning behind that
  • No matter what you do, it is always cheaper to take your coffee from home. The $1 difference between a Nespresso VertuoLine and a Starbucks coffee might not seem substantial, but over time, you’ll notice buying coffee outside the home drains your bank account

This is an infographic on how much money the average person is spending on coffee.

I started my calculations with some simple math. I calculated only the cost of brewing an average 10 oz cup of drip coffee, a 10 oz Keurig coffee, and a 9 oz VertuoLine coffee and compared that to the cost of buying a 10 oz small Dunkin Donuts Coffee and a 12 oz tall Starbucks coffee.

Because like many others, I dislike taking my coffee to-go in a travel mug (I tend to lose travel mugs), I also calculated the price of taking your brewed-at-home coffee to-go in a Dixie PerfecTouch Grab ‘N Go Paper Cup & Lid. I did the math for how much it would cost to take a drip coffee to-go, a Keurig coffee to-go, and Nespresso VertuoLine coffee to-go. I then calculated the cost of taking coffee to-go in a disposable cup for intervals from a week to 40 years. It’s amazing how much you save just by taking your coffee from home to-go in a disposable cup.

This data also shows that the coffee you buy in stores is grossly overpriced. The Dixie PerfecTough Grab ‘N Go Paper Cup & Lid costs 16 cents per cup, and it is also much sturdier than most cups you would buy at a café. If you look at the graphs, you’ll see that the price of brewing coffee is so cheap. Even brewing gourmet coffee like Starbucks ground beans is over $1 cheaper than buying it at Starbucks. If most cups cost approximately 20 cents, and brewing Starbucks French Roast Coffee costs 24 cents, the most you should be charged for a 10 oz cup of coffee is $1. As if this is any groundbreaking news, cafés are way overcharging you.

Honestly, I think most people buy coffee in stores because it’s easier to drink and then toss it away. While it’s not entirely environmentally friendly to always take your coffee from home to-go in a disposable cup, you’re still saving a ton of money. You’re always better off making coffee at home. Be sure to recycle!

Tax Day Meal Deals

Our friends at share some outstanding meal deals valid today only. Enjoy some cheap grub on Tax Day – you’ve earned it!

1. Gordon Biersch Pay only $10 for a GB Cheeseburger and handcrafted beer.

2. Ruby’s Diner Enjoy a classic Rubyburger, fries and Classic Shake for just $10.40 today.

3. Spaghetti Warehouse Buy one, get one free Incredible 15-Layer Lasagne, plus enjoy a free Chocolate ‘n Vanilla Cannoli dessert today.

4. Great American Cookies Get a free chocolate chip cookie with coupon.

5. Papa Murphy’s Get a large, 1-topping Fresh Pan pizza for just $10.40 today.

6. Arby’s Enjoy a free order of Curly Fries today with this coupon.

7. Bruegger’s Bagels Get a Big Bagel Bundle for just $10.40.

8. Glory Days Grill Enjoy 10% off your bill today.

9. Pollo Tropical Get 15% off any purchase today.

10. Schlotzsky’s Get a free sandwich today when you buy chips and a drink.

11. Krispy Kreme Present this offer and enjoy a free donut of your choice through April 18.

12. Smokey Bones Enjoy $5 off your purchase today only.

13. Smoothie King Get a 20 oz smoothie for just $2.99 today with coupon.

14. TCBY Enjoy BOGO through April 18 — buy one, get one of equal-or-lesser-value for free.

15. White Castle Get 15% off your purchase today.

Fun Dates Under $20

If you go on a typical dinner and movie outing even once per week, you’re probably shelling out hundreds of dollars per month unnecessarily. Heck, even a cheaper dinner at the likes of TGI Friday’s and two movie tickets is likely to set you back $50-60. Do that four times a month, and you’re talking $200 plus dollars! As Five Ten Twenty Club members know, if you’d socked that money away, instead, it could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by the end of your career.

Here are some fun date ideas under $20 my partner and I enjoy regularly. We use the money saved to pay down debt faster and invest.

Dessert Date

Sometimes, leaving the best part of the meal for the end isn’t as satisfying as making it the main course. Instead of paying for an entire meal at your favorite restaurant, just order dessert. Even at fine dining establishments, dessert prices are often low enough to enjoy for under $20.

Many cities even offer dessert-themed restaurants, such as Houston’s famed Chocolate Bar or NYC’s Spot Dessert Bar. Beautiful, gourmet desserts in fanciful surroundings average $5-8 each, and create every bit the romantic experience.

Still want a full meal? Check out our 6 Easy Hacks for Saving on Fine Dining.

Drive-In Movies, Matinees, and Art House Cinemas

Yes, drive-in movie cinemas still exist, and you’d be surprised by how charming (and low-cost) the experience can be. Enjoy the romance of yester-year for a fraction of traditional cinema costs. Search here for drive-in cinemas near you.

Don’t have any nearby? Then consider seeing a matinee or catching non-Hollywood fare at your nearest college or art house cinema; tickets for two typically average under $20.

Chuck E. Cheese, Dave & Buster’s, & Game Arcades

$20 buys you a whole lot of fun at game arcades. If videogames, Skee Ball, and whack-a-mole don’t get your date’s heart racing, you might do well to check their pulse. ‘Nuff said.

Museum Happy Hour Nights, Art Walks, and More

If culture is your thing, then you’re probably aware most major city museums offer extended evening hours (often at lower cost) one day per week. At Miami’s fabulous, newly-opened Perez Art Museum, you can visit for free until 8 P.M. on Thursdays. After viewing the Boteros and other fine art on display, enjoy a couple of glasses of wine at their gorgeous bay view bar. Take in the twinkling lights of South Beach and Fisher Island for under $20.

In Chicago, The Museum of Contemporary Arts offers members tickets to its First Friday music & arts bash for just $10 a pop. At The Art Institute of Chicago,  Illinois residents get free entry every Thursday until 8 P.M. (The museum is actually free for locals every weekday through February 12, making it a perfect winter date destination.)

When I lived in notoriously high-priced San Francisco, finding cheap date activities was a bit of a challenge, until I came across the cool events listings at Lectures, stand-up comedy, festivals, and more could often be had for free.


Do you have any favorite low-cost date or activity ideas? Share them in the comments section below or on our discussion board!








5 Fast and Frugal Recipes to Kickoff the Football Season

Football Party

Planning a tailgating party on a budget requires more than a few good shopping maneuvers in your playbook.

Assuming you’ll want to watch the game rather than be stuck in the kitchen, think ahead, says Paul Sidoriak of

“Most dishes can be prepared almost entirely in advance and finished before kickoff, often coming out better than if they were made completely on game day,” he says.

For example, boil and cook bratwursts ahead of time. “Then, on game day, re-heat in boiling beer and sauerkraut, and then finish on the grill,” Sidoriak says.

Here are 5 more suggestions for tailgating fare that’s worthy of a place on the grill:

“Sam Can” Chicken

Chef David Burke came up with this twist on beer can chicken, using the new canned Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

In a large bowl, prepare marinade of one cup soy sauce, a tablespoon chopped ginger, a tablespoon chopped garlic, a tablespoon ketchup, a teaspoon mustard, two tablespoons honey, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon.

Add a three- to five-pound chicken and marinate for two hours.

Get grill hot and open beer. Remove about a tablespoon of beer from the can. Put a few holes in the top of the can. Place your chicken right side up on the can, so that it sits up straight.

Place the beer-can chicken in the middle of the grill and let cook for about one hour or until it reaches the temperature of 165 degrees.

Grilled Hanger Steak with Bacon Chimichurri

Even tailgating is better with bacon.

This steak recipe uses bacon to spice up the accompanying sauce.

Honey BBQ Pulled Chicken

LSU Tigers and New Orleans Saints devotee Chef David Guas suggests preparing this chicken ahead of time and serving it cold on buttermilk biscuits.

But it’s just as tasty hot from the grill.

Potato Dippers

Served with a trio of sauces, these potato wedges cost less than $2 per serving to prepare.

Grilled Crab Cake

Make crab cakes on the grill instead of baking to pick up great flavors from the charcoal, Sidoriak says.

In a large bowl, combine one egg and a quarter cup each of Sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise. Whisk until smooth.

Fold in one can jumbo lump crab meat, taking care not to break up the crab.

In a separate bowl, mix together a half-cup Panko breadcrumbs and 12 crushed Ritz crackers. Sprinkle half the crumbs onto crab mixture and fold in.

Repeat with remaining crumbs.

Form cakes carefully and try not to over-handle. Bake at 350 until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

5 Fast and Frugal Recipes to Kickoff the Football Season” was provided by

Mint is a free personal finance tool that brings all your financial accounts together online or on your mobile device, automatically categorizes your transactions, and helps you set budgets so you can achieve your financial goals.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.

Found Money In Your Pocket? Here’s What to Do With It!

Photo taken by Marcos André. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo taken by Marcos André. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dontcha love finding forgotten cash in an old pair of pants? It doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but it’s one of those sweet and unexpected pleasures in a modern life full of credit cards, online banking and electronic reminders. Surprise! You’re $5 or $10 less poor (err richer) than you were a minute ago. ‘Here’s $20,’ Life says, ‘and have a nice day!”

Thanks, Life!

But what now? Do you just shove it into your purse or wallet and forget about it until its time to splurge on a candy bar or a magazine or some dinner you won’t remember later? Naaaah.

Let’s look at some money-smart things you could do with that bill to help get yourself started with better money habits.


It might be easy to think of that unexpected bill in your pocket as just throw-away cash to use on some little impulse purchase, but that bill is worth more than the $5, $10 or $20 printed on its front. If you instead deposited it into a high-yield savings account and kept it there, you’d realize that it could be worth a little more. In fact, in 20 years, at a high-yield savings account of 0.75% APY like those offered by ING’s Orange Bank and depending on inflation rates, that $5 could be almost $5.80, that $10 could be almost $11.50 and that $20 could be almost $23.25.

You may or may not be impressed by that, but that additional money might be better than if you had spent the bill and then been left with just $0 and a memory you’ll soon forget. Plus, you may find that you build a habit of saving small amounts until you’ve started saving really significant sums!


You’ve probably heard people talk about the stock market before—but outside of a retirement account that you probably don’t actively manage, you might not have ever bought or sold a stock before. Why not use that extra bill to start to learn a new skill—equity investing—and test the waters a bit by buying a few shares.

One easy way to start is to sign up for some online service like Sharebuilder that doesn’t require minimums to trade. Then just do a little bit of internet research until you find a company you like that has a shares that you can buy for less than $5, $10 or $20 each. Whether the stock’s price goes up or down does not have to matter at these small sums as long as you can use the experience to learn how stock markets work. And learning how stock markets work is very important because over the long-term, equities offer one of the best possible returns for your money. In fact, the average annual return on the market is about 9.3% over many years—or about 6.2% annually when adjusted for inflation.

(Keep in mind that we warned you earlier that the typical $7 trading fees charged by companies like Sharebuilder can really add up! But for what it’s worth, Sharebuilder also gives you $50 in free money when you make your first trade. Thus, it’s easy to start, but don’t get carried away with those fees. We’ll discuss a fee-free alternative next.)


There’s an old saying that in the long run, nobody can beat the market. That means that you shouldn’t put a lot of effort into picking one stock over another, because in the long run on average, you will have been better off just buying a tiny slice of the entire market instead of placing your bets on a few specific stocks that will make you money some years and lose you money in other years. Buying a tiny slice of the market can be achieved through buying ETFs, or exchange traded funds, that represent most or all of the stocks in the marketplace. They are a good bet, because on average, more stocks overall increase in value instead of decrease in value. By buying a slice of the whole market, you get to enjoy the benefit of the long-term average increase—without the hassle and worry of trying to parse the winners from the losers.

ETFs can also be very cheap to buy compared to full shares in specific companies, and you’ll find that many brokers like TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab and Fidelity don’t charge any fees at all for trades on certain ETFs—making them extra affordable and easy to access if you just have a few dollars that you want to start with.

Start smart-money habits today

Well, that was an unexpected list, huh? Take it to heart though, and remember that you can start to practice smart-money habits with any amount of money and a little enthusiasm. In fact, take a look at our Seven Days to Financial Fitness Plan and start your journey to a more comfortable life today.