7 Ways To Skip the Gym and Still Lose Weight

Mvelopes Losing WeightWhen you’re piecing together your budget and deciding which categories are draining your cash pool, take a closer look at your expensive gym membership. Gym memberships can range from $10-$100 (for specialty gyms like Crossfit) per month! If you’re serious about staying in shape but don’t want to deal with contracts, automatic payment withdrawals, or annual fees, check out what the Mvelopes Fitness experts have put together.

Staying fit doesn’t need to be expensive. All it takes is your motivation, sweat, and a little creativity. Below are the most effective ways to stay in shape, lose weight, and be healthy – and most of these won’t cost you a dime!

  1. Walk/Bike/Jog
    Duh! There is nothing new with these fitness tips, but they are also the most ignored free fitness activities. Considering that over 45% of gym patrons go to the gym to use treadmills (60% use cardio equipment in general), you could save your time and money by heading outside and walking/jogging on the sidewalk or designated trails.
  2. Fitness Apps
    Fitness apps, next to personal-finance apps, are some of the most popular in the app store. Some are great and others are a real bust. No matter what your fitness level, there are free fitness apps to plan, motivate, and track your workouts. For runners try MapMyRun (for bikers, MapMyRide). If you enjoy lifting weights, you can invest in inexpensive resistance bands or used dumbbells and complete any free workout on Fitness Buddy app, or MoveMeFit – a new fitness app that allows for free customized exercise plans regardless of experience or equipment!Mvelopes FitnessWant to keep your fitness and finances all in the same place? Download the Mvelopes app (available on iOS, Android, and Kindle) and start managing your budget and fitness from your phone or tablet!
  3. Fitness DVD’s
    You can beat the gym-membership madness by purchasing instructional fitness DVD’s and exercising on your time and in your own home. You could save even more money by buying used or older editions of your favorite routine because in the past 60 years, there has been very little change in fitness philosophy. Whether you’re into P90X, Insanity, Bikini Body, or Richard Simmons the principles are all the same.Pretty Woman Exercise In Front Of TV
  4. Health Insurance Subsidies
    Check your health insurance policy and your employee benefits – fitness memberships may be fully or partially reimbursed. Although these benefits often come with the caveat that you have to show up at the facility a minimum number of times during a certain period, this could be a great way to motivate yourself and save a lot of money.
  5. DIY Exercise Equipment
    Many people spend money on top of their gym membership fees to provide yoga and other exercise equipment like foam rollers, stretching bands, yoga blocks, stick massagers, and expensive ball massagers. According to Beret Kirkeby, a registered massage therapist and yoga instructor, most of these items can be obtained free from within your own home and the savings is significant. Try turning a men’s neck-tie into a yoga and stretching band, or substituting a frozen water bottle in place of your cold roller. These things add up!
  6. YouTube Videos
    With the ease of creating and uploading videos, there are thousands of free workouts and routines online that can take the place of those expensive gym classes you’ve been taking. Not sure what to search for? Try BeFit, Blogilates, BexLife, YogaSync, or Sarah Fit and get moving!Youtube Mvelopes Fitness
  7. Community Fitness and Exercise Adventures
    Be sure to take a look at your local rec center for upcoming fitness activities or outings. As the weather gets warmer, many centers will sponsor free outdoor exercise classes or workout groups. If not, get online and check out MeetUp.com to find other people in your area that have similar fitness goals and start an outdoor fitness group to motivate each other.Mvelopes Group Fitness


Your finances don’t have to suffer at the expense of your fitness goals and vice versa. Neglecting your health will inevitably affect your finances, and by making finances and fitness priorities in your life, you’ll find you obtain more of both! Good luck!

Tell us what you’re doing to stay fit on a budget! We’d love to share your ideas on our social media pages!


Special thanks to our Mvelopes Fitness experts! Beret Kirkeby, Camille Hugh, and Claire Elyse LaRoche

How to Create a DIY Vegetable Garden

Little SproutAs the childhood obesity rates rise, many families find themselves stuck in the excuse that healthy eating is expensive. Many families skip the produce aisles of the supermarket because they feel they simply cannot afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Although money doesn’t grow on trees, fresh produce does! Mvelopes’ gardening expert, Elizabeth Armstrong, suggests a DIY garden to help beat those produce prices. Here’s how:


First-time gardeners can do very well with planning. Gardening can be done in pots if you live in an area where the soil is sandy or rocky. A design may be created as a vacation retreat on a patio, up the side of the building, or trellised to create privacy or shade.

For those that choose to plant in the ground, the process may be expanded each year as experience increases. Measure your site and draw a design that may be straight lines, curvy or as a circular project. Draw out the size of each bed. Make sure you have water close to the garden.

Choose areas where you may want to plant fruit trees. Some fruit trees may need both a female and male plant for pollination. Note the mature size of trees so they fit within the space chosen.


Raised beds are the best design and easy on the back as you work. The beds must be no more than four feet across and about six to eight feet long. The four feet allows you to reach into the middle of the bed with ease. Two or more feet between beds work well. Place newspaper or cardboard along the path with wood chips as a mulch.

Build the beds to be about two or more feet high.  Use a material for the frame that will not release chemicals into the soil and last for a few years; such as rocks or cedar. Soil borne weeds may be a problem so it helps to place cardboard in the bottom of the bed. Add potting soil that is seed free. Fill the bed with soil. Add drip irrigation tubing down the middle of the beds to conserve water.


Seeds and planting kits can be purchased from any local nursery, farmer’s market, or even home-improvement centers. Choose vegetables and fruits that you know your family will consume. Any excess fruits or vegetables can be sold, canned, or given away as neighborhood gifts.

Choose your plants in relation to sun needs, seasonal growth habit (cool, warm), and companion planting. Companion planting includes growing tall sun loving plants with shade tolerant crops. A quick online search will help to find information on what plants grow well as neighbors and which plants do not do well when grown together.


You may create some of your own fertilizer by composting organic matter – which will also save you money. Kitchen waste, grass cuttings, leaves, and shredded small stems are examples of compost ingredients. You may find more information at the Environmental Protection Agency compost site.

Intermix flowers and herbs within the edible garden area. Choose flowers that attract beneficial insects to reduce pest problems. Stay away from chemical fertilizers and pesticides if possible since they may be taken up by the plants. Use mulch throughout the garden to cut down on weeds and water loss. Choose a mulch that will be complementary to neighboring plants. Cedar and pine will do well with acid loving plants.


Family HarvestIt is up to the produce, consumer, and the use of the fruit when deciding when to harvest your crops. Because it is not easy to describe the sweet sugary taste of a raw ear of corn freshly picked from the plant, it is best to read the recommendations for each particular crop as to when is the best time to harvest.

Some produce will continue to ripen after picked; such as tomatoes. The nutritional value begins to degrade quickly in others; such as corn. Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes may stay in the ground for a while for periodic harvesting.

My best practice is to create a recipe for your daily meal and then stroll out to the garden to get the ingredients. Garden to table reduces the need to refrigerate or store your delicacies.


As it approaches the end of a plants life, planting of the next succession of crops, or the growing season comes to the end, a whole new party begins with preserving nature’s blessing for winter meals.

An at-home garden does require more work than simply picking your produce from a barrel at the market, but the rewards (saved money) and memories you will make with your family will last much longer than your garden.

Have fun and savor the flavor of fresh foods.

Excited about saving more money? Have a summer trip planned? Mvelopes can get you there! Download the FREE Mvelopes App and begin saving today! 

About Elizabeth Armstrong: Elizabeth received a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture, a Master’s degree in Botany and a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Arkansas. She is an avid gardener and has taught Environmental Science for over five years. Dr. Armstrong can be contacted for more sustainable living tips via her website.


10 Free (or Cheap) Date-Night Ideas

Written by guest blogger, Sarah Nichols

10 free or cheap date night ideasSaving money and chipping away at debt are important investments we make into our financial security. One investment that is often overlooked during this time, however, is the investment into our relationships. Whether you are dating or married, spending time with your significant other is equally as important. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can break the budget faster than a night out on the town.

Thankfully, having a tight budget does not mean that you have to sacrifice having a great date night. Here are 10 fun, free or cheap date night ideas that almost anyone would enjoy!

  1. Build a campfire and make S’mores together while enjoying the great outdoors.
  1. It doesn’t matter how long you have been married or dating – there is always more to learn about the other person. Print out a list of interesting questions like these, or purchase a used copy of “4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone and enjoy great conversation over a cup of tea or coffee.
  1. Find a local park that neither of you have been to and go exploring.
  1. Go geocaching. Geocaching is like a free treasure hunt using GPS. You can go online to geocaching.com to get the coordinates for hidden geocaches near you. When you find a geocache, you can sign the log book and oftentimes you leave a small trinket or item in exchange for one that someone else has left before you. The adventure is in the hunt and the memories made together will be priceless!
  1. Pull up some dancing tutorials on YouTube and have a fun time learning a new dance together.Dancing Date Night
  1. Give each other a couple of dollars each and go to a grocery store. Have each person pick out a mystery ingredient with their money, but don’t show each other what you purchased. Go home and reveal the mystery ingredients to each other and then come up with a creative dessert that incorporates both ingredients. Cook it together!
  1. Drive somewhere with a good view and away from light pollution. Watch the sunset and then lay out a blanket and go star gazing. Print out a map of the sky and see what constellations you can identify.
  1. Meander through a book store. See who can find the book with the craziest title. Flip through the books in the travel section and talk about where you would go on your dream vacation.
  1. Find a list of local events and try something new. Oftentimes there are free concerts, poetry readings, or even plays put on by the local high school or community college.
  1. Challenge each other to a night in with your favorite board game or card game.

Whatever you do, remember that the best date nights are in the memories made, not in the money spent. Have fun saving those dollars while also investing in your relationship. For additional money-saving tips, try Mvelopes – it’s completely FREE.

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About Sarah: Sarah is absolutely passionate about many things, including serving alongside her husband in youth ministry, raising her children, natural health, saving money, abundant living, chocolate, and living a life marked by joy! Sarah and her husband have been using Mvelopes for over two years. Sarah blogs at Simple Life Abundant Life where she encourages people to live simple and abundant lives.


Mvelopes Tip: How to Instantly Increase Your Income

Wealthy LivingSeventy-five percent of those reading this post will receive or have already received a tax refund for the 2014 tax year. Being that the average tax refund is around $2800,  that’s an additional $233 a month of income you may be missing out on.

Those who decide to pay more taxes on a monthly basis in order to receive a refund do it because they know they would otherwise spend that money. Taxes can be a good way to ensure that you don’t spend that extra money on frivolous items. The only problem with this logic is that you’re letting the government keep your money – interest free!

In fact, the best tax refund is no refund at all. You could give yourself a raise by simply adjusting your tax withholding and designating that $200 a month to eliminating debt, saving for your rainy-day fund, or letting it build interest in a savings account.

If you’re interested in increasing your take-home money, here are a few things to think about:

Your Withholdings.
Consider adjusting your tax withholding so that your yearly refund is only a few hundred dollars, and not a few thousand. Use this additional sum of money every month to pay down your debt. Once you eliminate that bill, apply this amount to the next bill in line.

Direct Deposit.
If you’re afraid adjusting your tax withholding because you may spend that extra income, ask your employer to set up a direct deposit account so that those funds are automatically deposited into a separate account. Use this extra money to build your emergency or rainy-day fund.

Tax Calculator.
Not sure about how much money you should be withholding? Try using this simple tax calculator to optimize your tax withholding.

Tax Calculator

If you did receive a refund this year, we’d love to hear what you plan to do with it! Comment below and tell us your plans!

Interested in using some of your refund to eliminate outstanding debt or late payments? Receive a FREE financial analysis with your FREE Mvelopes account.


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What Millennials Don’t Know About Money

MillennialsThe Millennial generation  have grown up with a vastly different lifestyle than their parents, and the gap between them and their grandparents makes their lifestyle seem unfathomable. After all, Millennials grew up in a world with internet, cell phones, and iPods.

It is safe to say that the Millennial generation has had infinite amounts of information readily available to them and are quickly becoming the smartest generation in history, but according to new research from the Principal Financial Group, there is still one topic Millennials haven’t mastered – money!

When it comes to comparing different generations and their financial practices, the Millennial generation takes the cake in terms of debt and a lack of budgeting know-how. However, it’s not as though the Millennial generation doesn’t understand the need for financial security. In fact, 70% of Millennials state financial security as their top goal and roughly 63% of Millennials started saving for retirement before the age of 25.

So what’s the problem? Not even a third of Millennials are actually saving at least 10% of their salary for retirement and experts are saying, “That just won’t cut it.”

Jerry Patterson, senior vice president of retirement and investor services at The Principal, says “… just as important as saving early is saving enough…” There is a disconnect or a misunderstanding from Millennials regarding what it costs to maintain the lifestyle that they are currently living. That may be because many Millennials live beyond their means.

Saving is important

Millennials see large expenses, especially student loans and other debt, as primary obstacles to saving anything for retirement. Saving for retirement competes with many big-budget items for Millennials. So how are Millennials spending their money?

A study from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants shows that over three quarters of Millennials  spend money on clothes, cars and technological gadgets and they are calling these purchases, “basic expenses.” Millennials are driven to obtain or maintain lifestyles similar to their peers, and around half of them have to use a credit card to pay for basic daily necessities such as food and utilities. Over 25% of Millennials have late payments or are dealing with bill collectors, thus influencing credit scores, interest rates, and most of all their ability to save.

It is important to remember though, that these spending habits are just habits and bad habits can be broken. Millennials need to change the way they see debt and “basic expenses.” Credit card and student loan debt has become so frequent and normalized that it has been become generally accepted and even considered necessary – but this isn’t the case. Cell phones, cable subscriptions, and designer clothing should not be considered basic expenses, but luxuries.

“Keeping up with the Jones'” has never been a wise financially strategy, and the sooner Millennials learn that, the better off they will be.

How much money should you be spending on your expenses? Find out the national averages and expert recommendations by using the Mvelopes mobile app free for 30 days.

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11 Signs You Have A Shopping Addiction

Written by guest blogger, Chenell Tull

ShopperGirlWith all of the clever marketing you see on billboards, the internet, TV commercials, and even on your Pandora playlist, it’s easy to get sucked into spending money. But some people take this way too far and end up broke because they can’t quit their mall addiction. Are you one of them?

Here are 11 signs you might be a shopaholic:

1. You go to the mall, or shop online when you’re bored, anxious, sad, or stressed out.
When life gets tough, you want new stuff. The mall is your best friend when you’re going through a rough time. There is always something there that can cheer you up.

2. There are clothes in your closet that still have the tags attached.
You are going shopping so often that there are quite a few articles of clothing you don’t even get the chance to use. Yet, somehow there never seems to be anything you want to wear.

3. You have lied about or hidden purchases from your significant other/housemates.
Do you have hiding places around the house where you can quickly discard of recently purchased items before your significant other gets home? They don’t need to know – ignorance is bliss, right? Hiding purchases from your spouse can be likened to cheating on them. It is also one of the many causes of divorce in the U.S..

4. Most of the time, you go shopping alone.
Shopping by yourself leaves no room for judgment from friends and family. It also leaves no limit on the amount of time you can spend looking around. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone tag along, but most of the time you’d rather not have to worry about being criticized for spending so much. Being alone means that no one has to know about your little binge-session – except yourself.

5. You feel a sense of euphoria while you are shopping, but that feeling soon fades leaving you wanting more.
Once you make that purchase and get to your car, those feelings of euphoria start to turn into regret, embarrassment and guilt. You know you shouldn’t be doing this, but it just feels so good in the moment. While you’re at the mall you get to be someone else, and your credit cards help finance your addiction.

6. You justify unneeded purchases because you’re getting credit card reward points.
Maybe those credit card points ended up getting you a free flight to Mexico. If you calculate how much money you spent to get those points, you would soon realize that just buying the plane ticket outright would have saved you thousands of dollars in the first place. It’s like paying  for a root-canal just to get a free toothbrush.

Credit Points7. There never seems to be enough money to pay the bills.
When the bills come in the mail, you get stressed out – sometimes you don’t even want to open them. While going to the mall may be relieve some of your current stress, it can end up causing you ten times more guilt because you now have no way to pay the bill.

8. You and your spouse frequently have arguments over money.
While it may not always seem to lead back to your compulsive buying, it usually is related. You fight, then you get upset, and where do you go? The mall.

9. You end up donating a ton of clothes every few months because your closet gets so full.Donating clothes and money to the poor is a very noble thing to do. But when you’re donating a ton of stuff every few months simply because you have no room left in your closet, there is likely a problem.

10. You have multiple store credit cards and use them regularly.
Macy’s, Kohl’s, Target, and New York & Company all reside in your wallet – they give you discounts so you save money! But, they also give you an excuse to go shopping and spend more money. Get real, you are spending more by having them in the first place.

Big Sale11. A sale to you means it’s time to go shopping, even if you were just there yesterday.
Needed another excuse to head the mall? “One Day Sale”, “Early Bird Pricing”, and “Limited Time Offer” all mean “Calling all shopaholics, we miss you and want you to come spend all your money here!”

If you can relate to at least, you may want to try and get help to curb your addiction. Try leaving your credit cards at home and only bring a limited amount of cash with you. You know, that same amount you put in your Mvelopes for shopping.

Find productive ways to spend your time that don’t involve going to the mall – go for a run, take your dog on a walk, or read your favorite book. Most importantly – always take a friend of family member with you when you go. Friends don’t let friends blow their savings.

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About Chenell: Chenell runs Bright Cents, a personal finance blog that aims to help people eliminate their debt, especially student loans. Chenell, herself, is a recent user of Mvelopes and has eliminated over $22,000 in debt. You can find her on Twitter or via email at Chenell [at] BrightCents.com. 

Creative Ways to Teach Children About Money Management

Teaching Kids Wise Money ManagementIf you’re a parent, you can probably remember the day your child was born. Remember your baby swaddled and passed around to grandparents and family members as they each gushed over what a miracle your baby is? Perhaps some even said, “Oh, he has your nose,” or “She is going to look beautiful like her Mom!” The truth is, your children will take a lot from you, and not just your good looks. But if you’re anything like 60% of Americans without an emergency savings fund, you may not want your financial wisdom to be one of those things they take after you!

Many parents wait to teach their children about financial management when they get their first job, before they go off to school, or when they get married. However, the best time to teach wise money management is long before your children make any money for themselves.

  1. EARNING an Allowance; Not GIVING an Allowance

From the time they are youngsters relying on you for just about everything, parents tend to condition their children towards a paradigm that there is such a thing as a “free lunch.” However, we know better. It is important that children learn the value of work and responsibility. This can be accomplished by setting aside extra chores or duties (outside of those regularly assigned) that children may perform and earn some sort of “allowance.”

The allowance your children earn doesn’t need to be a cash allowance. In fact, you’ll find other incentives that your children may find far more valuable than cash. Rewarding your toddler with a sweet treat for helping pair socks out of the laundry will teach the value of earning an income. Older children may value an outing with Mom or Dad in exchange for helping to weed the flower bed, mowing the lawn, or washing windows.

  1. Family Financial Game Night

Family TimeTalking about your finances with your neighbor might be inappropriate or uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be with your children. An occasional Family Game Night can be held using pretend money (Monopoly money). Deal each child an amount that is equal to the monthly household income.

Explain to your children all of the many budget items that exist for the household and ask children to give back and account for each of these items. As the children begin paying back the money that will be used for rent/mortgage, car, cell phones, food etc. the message will become abundantly clear where the family’s money comes from, and how far it goes.

According to experts, children who grasp these financial principles have a heightened sense of responsibility, and you may even experience a decline in the shouted exclamation, “Please! I want that, I want that!”

  1. Start Saving Towards Something

A popular study was performed with children being offered one small reward (often a marshmallow) immediately, or they could choose to wait 15 minutes for two small rewards. What the study found was that the children willing to wait for their reward tended to experience better life outcomes as measured by SAT scores, body-mass index, and other measures.

There are so many scenarios in which giving your children what they want, immediately, is by far the easiest option – but it may not be the right option. You can reverse the trend of instant gratification by starting a simple wish list of items, toys, or treats that your children, “want.” Then set up a savings tally or chart for each itTeaching Childrenem that the children can work towards. You may even find that by the time the child has earned enough for the item, it is no longer of interest.

Do you have older children with summer jobs? Have your older children create a Free Mvelopes account and help them set up a budget of their own – your time invested will return dividends!

Once again, it is important that children develop a foundation of wise money-management principles that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Your children look to you for a majority of these life lessons. Perhaps the most impact-full lesson you could ever teach is not something you say, but something you do. Be an example to your children and show them the importance of saving for a rainy day, working hard, and remaining dedicated – they may just thank you some day.


Help us get creative, Mvelopes’ users! What are some of your parenting methods that help your kids learn the value of work and money?



A First-Time Home-Buyer’s Survival Guide

Written by guest contributor, Valerie Cascione
How to buy your first homeThere is no shortage of bad home-buying experiences out there, but buying your first home should be a time of excitement and represent a time of renewal – not a living nightmare. For first-time home-buyers, there is already a lot to think about, so as you look for your dream home, keep in mind these tips for keeping the process the way it was supposed to be – and not a nightmare.

Find a real estate agent who you trust.
Home buying is not only a huge financial commitment, but also an emotional one. It’s critical that the agent you chose is both skilled, dedicated and a good fit with your personality. A good agent will also have your best interests in mind and will give  you honest feedback regarding your home-buying decisions.

Know that there’s no “right” time to buy, just as there’s no “perfect” time to sell.
If you find a home now, don’t try to second-guess interest rates or the housing market by waiting longer — you risk losing out on the home of your dreams. The housing market usually doesn’t change fast enough to make that much difference in price, and a good home won’t stay on the market long.

Don’t ask for too many opinions.
Have you ever heard the adage, “Too many chefs spoil the soup?” Well, there will always be naysayers and cynics quick to give you their opinion, but too many ideas from too many people will make it much harder to make a decision. Focus on the needs and wants of your family and the people who will be living in the home.

Accept that no house is ever perfect.
The location may be perfect but the yard smaller than you had hoped. The kitchen may be perfect, but the bathrooms need updating. Make a list of your top priorities and focus on what’s most important to you and let the minor ones go.

Don’t try to over-negotiate.
Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price or by refusing to budge on your offer may cost you the home you love. If a home is priced well, make a reasonable offer or you risk insulting the seller. Negotiation is give and take.

Definitely get a home inspection.
Buyers should find and hire their own inspector. When you make your offer, make sure the seller is aware that your offer is contingent on the house passing inspection.

Make sure you are pre-approved for a loan.
Don’t wait until you’ve found a home to get approved for a mortgage, a seller won’t even entertain your offer without it or proof of funds. A pre-approval will also give ample warning if your finances are not stable enough to afford a mortgage.
First-Time Home-Buyer

Budget for maintenance and repair costs.
Even if you buy a new home, there will be costs. Don’t leave yourself short, and be sure to budget for the forgotten costs of new furniture, appliances, or upgrades.

Buying a home, especially for the first time, is a big financial commitment, but it also yields big benefits. Accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will probably pass. Don’t lose sight of why you wanted to buy a home and what made you fall in love with the property you purchased.

Have a home-buying tip that will benefit other Mvelopes users? Comment below and Tell Us Your Story!

Having trouble getting qualified for a loan? Check out Mvelopes Premier Resources for Help!

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*About the author: Valerie Cascione is a licensed real-estate agent in New York.*

BREAKING: Does Your State Pass The Financial Literacy Test?

Customer with basket while shoppingWhen it comes to financial literacy, I am sure we could all use a little tutoring. However, according to recent research, where you live may have a big impact on your own financial literacy.

See the map below and find where your state falls in order of the most financially literate people in the America – and the least!

Financial Literacy Map


How Each State Was Scored

The research used several different factors to determine which states were more savvy than others, including:

 – Percentage of people who spend more than they make
 – Percentage of people with a rainy day fund
 – Percentage of people paying only minimum payments on credit cards
 – Percentage of “unbanked households”

Other educational factors were included as well, like:

 – High school dropout rate
 – Percentage of people with a Bachelor’s degree or higher
 – Number of libraries per capita

Now What?

Shocked at where you land? Reverse the trend and get a higher grade by developing and living by a budget (only two in five Americans use a budget).

Comment below and tell us what grade did your state receive! Do you think it is an accurate grade?

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