Last-Minute Gifts: Amazon Gift Card Discounts including Starbucks, Whole Foods, Boston Market, Hotels.com, Free Holiday Tins, Etc.

Look for Amazon to offer up lots of discounted gift cards and/or bonus stuff with gift cards for procrastinators, most guaranteed to arrive by Christmas. Click, click, done. Some of these deals are good enough for self-gifting.

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Up to 20% off Various Retailer Gift Cards. These go in and out of stock and the retailers vary. They had Whole Foods but that sold out quickly (may go in and out, waitlist was available for me). Right now I see Boston Market, Coldstone, Hotels.com, and Famous Footwear.

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Get $5 Amazon promo credit if you buy $50 in Starbucks gift cards. Applies to digital gift cards only. Use promo code COFFEE. You should see details under “Special offers and product promotions”.

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Free Snowflake Gift Tin with Amazon Gift Card. Make your gift card stand out and feel more substantial with a free tin. Also available in Snowman tin, Santa tin, Holiday Pop-Up box, and red ornament tin.

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Free Limited Edition Gund Teddy Bear with Amazon Gift Card. Posted about this earlier, looks like the minimum is still $100 for now.

I’ll keep updating this post as I’m sure Amazon will roll out some more deals later.

Gyft Promo Code: $5 off $50 Lowe’s Gift Gard

gyft0Gyft just sent me an e-mail that you can get $5 off a $50 Lowe’s gift card with promo code holiDIY, good for existing customers. Offer ends 12/25/17 at 11:59pm ET or while supplies last. The terms say that the promo code can be redeemed 5 times per household/account while supplies last. So technically this could be $25 off $250 in Lowe’s gift cards.

You could stack this promo with this 11% off Lowe’s mail-in rebate (may need to scroll down to 2nd page). This rebate offer is only valid at specific Lowe’s locations (scroll down to last page).

Here are some other gift card deals from Gyft:

  • Get $5 off a $40 Chef’d Gift Card with promo code CHEFHAT. Offer ends 12/31/17 at 11:59pm ET or while supplies last. Promo code can be redeemed 2 times per household/account while supplies last.
  • Buy a $25 Domino’s Gift Card and get an extra $5 card with promo code PIECEFUL. Offer ends 12/31/17 at 11:59pm ET or while supplies last. Promo code can be redeemed 2 times per household/account while supplies last.

Amazon Coupon Code: $5 off $15+ of Print Books

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New book coupon code. Amazon has $5 off $15+ of print book purchases with promo code BOOKGIFT17. Can be one book or multiple. Offer expires at 11:59pm Pacific 12/14/17. Must be sold by Amazon.com.

tribeferrisHere are some popular recent books that are on my reading list:

Here are some suggestions for those looking to gift a financially-related book:

This would also be a good coupon to discount a cookbook gift or a bunch of under-$3 children’s books in the same cart.

Ally Bank 11-Month No Penalty CD at 1.60% APY for $25k+, 18-Month CD 1.75% APY

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Updated. Ally Bank raised the rate on their 11-month No Penalty CD. Here are the new interest rates under their tiered structure:

  • 1.60% APY at $25,000 minimum opening deposit
  • 1.35% APY at $5,000 minimum deposit
  • 1.15% APY at no minimum deposit.

The 11-month No Penalty CD is unique in that while the 1.60% APY rate is locked in at deposit, you can still withdraw your principal and interest without penalty at any time (well, you do have to wait at least 6 days from the deposit date). In other words, your interest rate can never go down, but you can still jump ship if rates rise or if there is a better promo elsewhere.

If you have an existing No Penalty CD, this means you may consider closing it and then opening up a new one at a higher rate. You will have to withdraw everything at once – there are not partial withdrawals. If you have an Ally savings or checking account, you can close the old CD, see the deposit in your savings/checking, and open up a new CD all in minutes online. (Note that savings accounts are limited to 6 withdrawals per month, so us checking if you have it.) You will be extending the term out another 11 months, but since you can also close it at any time it isn’t much of a concern.

Added: You can use my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much additional interest you’d earn if you switched over.

1.60% APY for $25k+ is higher than nearly all other liquid savings account rates. Some are close, though. You may also prefer the liquidity of savings account, but the rates on savings accounts can change at any time. It is also interesting to compare with their 12-month CD at 1.65% APY and 18-month CD at 1.75% APY. Is it worth the higher interest rate and longer guaranteed period to be locked in?

Another competitive option to consider is the CIT Bank 11-Month No Penalty CD, which is currently at 1.55% APY but with a lower $1,000 minimum deposit. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Ally increased their top rate from 1.50% to 1.60% APY, just edging out CIT Bank. Hopefully this ongoing competition ends up benefiting savers.

Ally No Penalty CDs can be a great companion to the Ally Bank Online Savings and Interest Checking accounts, which are my primary bank accounts.

Rates as of 12/10/17.

Navy Federal Credit Union CD Special: 2.25% APY for 15 Months w/ Add-On

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Navy Federal Credit Union (membership now limited primarily to those with military affiliation) announced their year-end limited-time Special Certificates:

  • 15-month Certificate at 2.25% APY. Open with $50 minimum. Make additional deposits anytime (up to $50,000 max).
  • 32-Month IRA Certificate at 2.75% APY. IRA & ESA only. Open with $50 minimum. Make additional deposits anytime (up to $250,000 max).

Thanks to the folks who sent this in. In case you were curious, last year’s December 2016 specials were 2% APY for 17 Months + $150 bonus for new IRAs.

These are competitive rates with flexible features. The “add-on” feature lets you deposit additional funds at any time and get the same rate. Since this is combined with a very low minimum of $50, there is very little risk. Open now while you can with $50. If the rate is good later on when you have more funds available (perhaps another CD matures), add more money. If a better rate comes up elsewhere, just let it quietly mature and go back into your savings account for the next special.

You probably won’t want to break this early, as certificates with a term greater than one year have an early withdrawal penalty of 180 days of interest (or all the interest earned so far, whichever is less). At least you can break it if it’s a true emergency. You may also notice their Special EasyStart Certificate at 3% APY, but there is a $3,000 maximum balance and it also requires direct deposit and checking.

Membership. The membership eligibility for NavyFed includes Active Duty members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, members of the Army and Air National Guard, Delayed Entry Program (DEP), DoD Officer Candidate/ROTC, DoD Reservists, and Veterans, retirees and annuitants. There was previously a quiet way for the general public to join, but that window has since been closed. The good news is that NavyFed now accepts all military veterans.

Navy Federal Credit Union has solid bank and loan products, including checking accounts with ATM rebates, competitive mortgage rates, and limited-time 0% balance transfer promotions. Readers have commented on their excellent customer service and the fact that they often keep and service the mortgages and other loans they originate.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® Review: 60,000 Miles Limited-Time Offer

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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, from our partner Citi, is running a limited-time offer on their co-branded American Airlines credit cards.  Here are the updated card highlights:

  • For a limited time, earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*

Note the following language for the personal card. Basically, to get the personal card bonus, you can’t have had the personal card opened or closed within the last 24 months. Having the business version is okay.

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

To clarify, you can have one of both the consumer version of this card and the CitiBusiness® version designed for businesses under your name. The bonuses are also separate. You can get one consumer bonus every 24 months, and you can also get one business bonus every 24 months.

The annnual fee is $95, waived for the first 12 months.

American Airlines MileSAAver awards are still 25,000 miles for a round-trip ticket within the contiguous 48 states. If the trip is less than 500 miles, then it is only 15,000 miles roundtrip within the contiguous 48 states. Under-500 miles routes include Las Vegas to/from Los Angeles, Charleston to/from Miami, New York to/from Washington DC, Philadelphia to Boston, and many others.

This card also makes you eligible for Reduced Mileage Awards, where you save up to 7,500 miles on roundtrip MileSAAver® awards to select destinations on American Airlines operated flights. Combine this with the 10% rebate on redeemed AAdvantage miles, and you can stretch your miles a lot further.

Bottom-line. 60,000 bonus American miles can be worth a lot in airfare, depending on how you use them. Due to the 24-month waiting periods, it is best to apply during a limited-time offer such as now. Plus, the annual fee is waived during the first year.  As with most of these co-branded cards, a lot of the ongoing value comes when you fly on American and utilize the free first checked bag benefit ($50 per person, roundtrip) and also when you redeem miles for award flights.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

Wyndham Rewards Visa Card: 45,000 Point Bonus (Worth 3 Free Hotel Nights)

wyndhamfeeThis Wyndham Rewards Visa Card special link (annual fee version) is currently offering a limited-time sign-up bonus of 45,000 Wyndham Rewards points. This is enough points to be redeemed for 3 award nights at nearly any Wyndham property with no blackout dates. (The standard offer is usually 30,000 points.) You earn 30,000 bonus points after your first purchase, plus an additional 15,000 bonus points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. There is a $75 annual fee that is not waived. Here are the other card highlights:

  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eligible purchases for every participating hotel stay, Wyndham Vacation Rental North America properties, and on-property spend and maintenance fees at Wyndham timeshare properties.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on eligible gas, utility and grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®).
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on purchases everywhere else, (excluding Wyndham timeshare downpayments).
  • Automatic upgrade to Wyndham Rewards Platinum status (early check-in, 3,000 annual points bonus, Avis/Budget rental car upgrades).
  • Earn 6,000 bonus points annually after your account anniversary every year. (Together with Platinum status, that is a total of 9,000 annual bonus points.)
  • No foreign transaction fees

In 2015, Wyndham Rewards changed to a simple, flat redemption schedule. A “Go Free” award is 15,000 points for a free night (per bedroom) at any all particpating properties under the Wyndham umbrella. This includes over 7,000 hotels worldwide – from Days Inn motels to Wyndham Grand hotels. Award covers room rate and taxes. This includes rooms at their top-tier hotels and all-inclusive resorts. You simply need to find a “standard” room that is available, as there are no blackout dates. The alternative is their “Go Fast” award (Cash + Points option) which can also be a good value.

Here are just a few quick possibilities:

Wyndham points expiration. Note that their system is different in that your points only have a finite lifespan, even if you maintain the required activity. For example, earning points via this credit card will only reset the 18-month inactivity clock. You should get the exact date in your online account page.

Wyndham rewards will expire 48 months after they are first deposited into your account unless your account is canceled sooner due to inactivity. An account is considered inactive if no account activity has taken place over an 18-month period.

Bottom line. The sign-up bonus of 45,000 Wyndham Rewards points can be redeemed for 3 free nights at a variety of locations around the US and even worldwide. Your value will depend on your specific redemption. If I can get $200 value out of each night (including taxes), minus the $75 annual fee, the net bonus value is still over $500. I appreciate the flexibility of this program, in terms of the flat redemption rate, no blackout dates, and the large number of hotels available.

Free Limited-Edition Gund Teddy Bear with $100 Amazon Gift Card

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Each holiday season, Amazon teams up with Gund to create a limited-edition teddy bear. Gund is known for their quality stuffed animals and they do everything from Elmo to Curious George to Boo the Dog.

Amazon Prime customers can now get a free 10″ 2017 Gund Teddy Bear with the purchase of $100 Amazon gift card. It’s a nice little bonus that you can either give together or separate the gift card and give the teddy bear to a child. (You could also just do it and collect cute bears.) If it goes out of stock, it is also available in $150, $200, and $250 gift cards. You can also check back later as they usually come back in stock a few times. However they do eventually sell out every year.

Not Prime yet? In addition to the Amazon Prime 30-Day free trial, there is also Amazon Family which includes the 30-day free trial Amazon Prime plus 20% off diapers and special discounts. Amazon Prime Student includes a 6-month free trial + 50% off afterward.

Stack another 5% back on Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime, you can get 5% back at Amazon.com all year long with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. Discover it card also has Amazon.com as a 5% cashback category for Q4 2017.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – December 2017

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Short-term interest rates are rising. Don’t let a megabank pay you nothing for your idle cash. Here is my monthly roundup of the best safe rates available, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. You could also use this information to make a bank CD ladder to replace bonds. I focus on rates that are nationally available to everyone (not restricted to certain geographic areas or specific groups). Rates checked as of 12/1/17.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge brick-and-mortar banks rarely offer good yields, there are many online savings accounts offering competitive rates clustered around 1.1%-1.3% APY. Keep in mind that with savings accounts, the interest rates can change at any time.

  • Top rates: Incredible Bank at 1.55% APY (minimum $25,000). DollarSavingsDirect, SalemFiveDirect, and Redneck Bank/All America Bank (max balance $35k) all paying 1.50% APY.
  • More rates from banks with solid history of competitive rates: CIT Bank at 1.35% APY up to $250k. Get an additional $100 bonus if you keep $100k there for 3 months. Synchrony Bank and GS Bank are also at 1.30% APY.
  • I’ve experienced the “bait-and-switch” of moving to a new savings account only to have the rate lowered quickly afterward. Until the rate difference is huge, I’m sticking with a Ally Bank Savings + Checking combo due to their history of competitive rates (including CDs), 1-day interbank transfers, and overall user experience. (I will jump on CDs as the rate is locked in.) I also like the free overdraft transfers from savings that let’s me keep my checking balance at a minimum. Ally Savings is at 1.25% APY.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, you should know that money market and short-term Treasury rates have been rising. It may be worth the effort to move your idle cash into a higher-yielding money market fund or ultrashort-term bond ETF. The following bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but if you want to keep “standby money” in your brokerage account and have cheap/free commissions, it may be worth a look.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 1.20% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 1.07%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 1.71% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 1.82% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is 1 year.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 1.59% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 1.68% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months. More info here.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
I am often asked what to do with a big wad of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My standard advice is to keep things simple. If not a savings account, then put it in a short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • CIT Bank 11-Month No-Penalty CD is at 1.55% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit and no withdrawal penalty seven days or later after funds have been received. The lack of early withdrawal penalty means that your interest rate can never go down for 11 months, but you can always jump ship if rates rise. You can even jump ship to another 11-month CD (details).
  • Ally Bank No-Penalty 11-Month CD is paying 1.50% APY for $25,000+ balances and 1.25% APY for $5,000+ balances. If you want a full-featured bank with checking/savings/etc.
  • GS Bank has a 12-month CD is at 1.65% APY with a low $500 minimum. For sizeable balances, Advancial Federal Credit Union has a 6-month CD at 1.75% APY ($50k min) and a 12-month CD at 1.90% APY ($50k min). If you don’t otherwise qualify, you can join with a $5 fee to Connex Professional Network and maintaining $5 in a Share savings account.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2017 and April 2018 will earn a 2.58% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. At the very minimum, the total yield after 12 months will be 1.29% with additional upside potential. More info here.
  • In mid-April 2018, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). The other catch is that these good features may be killed off without much notice. My NetSpend card now only has an eligible balance up to $1,000.

  • Insight Card is one of the best remaining cards with 5% APY on up to $5,000 as of this writing. Fees to avoid include the $1 per purchase fee, $2.50 for each ATM withdrawal, and the $3.95 inactivity fee if there is no activity within 90 days. If you can navigate it carefully (basically only use ACH transfers and keep up your activity regularly) you can still end up with more interest than other options. Earning 4% extra interest on $5,000 is $200 a year.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with some risk. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Rates can also drop quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. But the rates can be high while they last.

  • Consumers Credit Union offers up to 4.59% APY on up to a $20k balance, although getting 3.09% APY on a $10k balance has a much shorter list of requirements. The 4.59% APY requires you to apply for a credit card through them (other credit cards offer $500+ in sign-up bonuses). Keep your 12 debit purchases small as well, as for every $500 in monthly purchases you may be losing out on 2% cashback (or $10 a month after-tax). Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • Note: Northpointe Bank, mentioned previously, no longer has their Rewards Checking account on their website and is not accepting new applications. Unclear how long existing accountholders will be grandfathered. That’s just how it goes with these types of accounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
You might have larger balances, either because you are using CDs instead of bonds or you simply want a large cash cushion. Buying finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider a custom CD ladder of different maturity lengths such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account.

  • Advancial Federal Credit Union (see above) has their 18-month CD at 2.01% APY ($50k min) and a 24-month CD at 2.10% APY ($50k min). The early withdrawal penalty is 180 days of interest.
  • Ally Bank has a 5-year CD at 2.25% APY (no minimum) with a relatively short 150-day early withdrawal penalty and no credit union membership hoops. For example, if you closed this CD after 18-months you’d still get an 1.64% effective APY even after accounting for the penalty.
  • Hanscom Federal Credit Union is offering a 4-year Share Certificate at 2.50% APY (180-day early withdrawal penalty) if you also have Premier Checking (no monthly fee if you keep $6,000 in total balances or $2,000 in checking). HFCU also offers a 3% APY CU Thrive “starter” savings account with balance caps. HFCU membership is open to active/retired military or anyone who makes a one-time $35 donation to the Nashua River Watershed Association.
  • Mountain America Credit Union has a 5-year Term Deposit CD at 2.80% APY ($500 minimum) with a 365-day early withdrawal penalty. They also offer the same rate on a “Term Deposit Plus” certificate which allows you to add more money later, but also requires a monthly $10 auto-deposit. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization American Consumer Council for a one-time $5 fee.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer the same FDIC-insurance. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 2.65% APY (Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.) Unfortunately, current long-term CD rates do not rise much higher even as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.
  • How about two decades!? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). You could view as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. Too long for me.

All rates were checked as of 12/1/17.


Premier High Yield Savings

Target 10% Off Gift Cards on Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

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Back for 2017. Target will offer 10% off Target Gift Cards on Sunday, December 3rd, 2017 only. You are limited to $300 face value of Target gift cards in physical stores and also another $300 face value online. Basically, you’d save $30 if you buy $300 in gift cards. Additional details:

  • Limit one transaction up to $300 in Target GiftCards on Target.com. Quantities are limited.
  • Target GiftCards purchased on Sunday, December 3rd may be not be redeemed until Monday, December 4th at 10am Central.

In case you were wondering:

Offer does not include Target Visa Gift Cards, Target MasterCard Gift Cards, Target American Express Gift Cards and gift cards issued by other retailers. Offer excludes reloads of previously purchased Target GiftCards, Target GiftCards given in exchange for electronic or prepaid trade-ins, Target GiftCards provided for merchandise returns, Merchandise Return Cards and Target GiftCards provided as free promotional card with qualifying purchase.

Discover it card has Target as a 5% cashback category for Q4 2017. Although it probably won’t work, you could also try to stack REDcard 5% and cashback portal savings online. (REDcard is supposed to exclude gift cards, and most cashback portals say that gift cards won’t count, but you could still try the discounts with nothing to lose. Some people report success.) Many offer new customers bonuses, including eBates ($10 bonus), TopCashBack (bonus varies, but often has best rates), and BeFrugal ($10 bonus). I have cashed out of all of these before.

Buy It Nice or Buy It Twice: Kitchen Tools and Cookware (Extended Edition)

rubber200 (Added some items.) When buying kitchen items, I am firmly in the “pay for quality” camp. Reader Chris sent in the following question (edited for clarity):

I read in your website about cast iron pans and KitchenAid mixers. I want to buy a small home and have nothing. What are some must-have kitchen items that will last a long time and be used most often? So they are an “investment”.

For me, it all started when filling out our wedding registry (now 13 years ago, ack!). Getting married meant I had to stop buying Hungry Man frozen dinners and really learn to cook at home. This led me to develop an appreciation for well-made kitchen items. When you “go cheap” on certain things, you not only have to replace it down the road, but you also feel a bit of annoyance and regret every time you use the inferior tool. In the words of Marie Kondo, owning high-quality tools “bring me joy”.

Here’s (an extended) list of high-quality items that are used weekly if not daily in my kitchen. I am not a professional chef, just someone who cooks at home often enough to suffer from cheap stuff. Some cost a few bucks. Some cost hundreds.

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Rubbermaid Premier Food Storage Containers
Cooking at home means lots of leftovers. One of the best decisions we made was to throw away the mishmash of cheap containers and lids to start fresh with these Rubbermaid Premier storage containers (not the other Rubbermaid types). They are thicker, sturdier, and have leakproof lids. They don’t stain or retain odors. They are a good example of designing something to be high-quality and reusable instead of cheap and disposable. They changed up the lid design recently but the grey lids are backward compatible with the original red lids. Warning: You might start out with a 30-piece set but it will include a lot of smaller containers. Add more of the larger ones specifically.

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Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
With over 8,000 reviews (!) and a 4.5 out of 5 star average rating, I know I’m not the only fan of these heavy-duty beasts. Great for searing and pan-frying, oven-safe, no worrying about scratches or dings. They will outlive you. Got a rusty one? They are easy to resurrect; here’s a quick video on how to season your cast iron.

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Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
I cook multiple times a week with our Staub and Le Creuset enameled cast-iron dutch ovens. Cast iron isn’t a lot of maintenance, but you do have to keep it dry after each use to prevent rusting (and seasoning it again takes time). With enameling, you can just wash and leave it wet. The dutch oven shape also makes it perfect for braises, stews, and soups. (They also look nicer at dinner parties.) They do run $200-$300 but spread out over 30+ years of use it’s not that bad. But I’ll be honest, I don’t know how much better they are than this Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven which regularly runs under $80.

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KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer
We’ve used this machine regularly without any issues for over 10 years across multiple apartments, studios, and houses. We use it to beat eggs and knead dough for pizza, pasta, cookies, and bread. I don’t know what kind of motor is inside, but it is durable. The bowl has some small dings and there is a little rust on the exterior but nothing that prevents good operation. I notice a ton of different versions now, but I think the Artisan is the classic version. Pick a color you like because you’ll be stuck with it for a while…

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All-Clad Stainless Steel Fry or Saute Pan
I first heard about this brand when they kept winning comparisons by America’s Test Kitchen. However, they are quite expensive. Now, you don’t need All-Clad everything, but do I think a large stainless steel fry pan or saute pan from All-Clad is an important kitchen addition that will pretty much last you forever. (I’d skip the non-stick All-Clad and go with T-Fal for best non-stick value.) My advice is to keep your eyes open because they do rotate on sale. Right now the saute pan is on sale for $99, but at other times you can get the fry pans on sale.

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Nordic Ware Aluminum Commercial Sheet Pan
It’s big, thick, and aluminum so it won’t rust. I must have roasted vegetables hundreds of times on this thing. Only about $10 and much better than whatever cheap, thin stuff is at sold at the grocery store. Buy 2 now so they stack and save space.

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Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater
The classic Microplane. I remember thinking it was expensive when I bought it over a decade ago, but I’ve never had to replace it since. Considering how many little thin holes this thing has, I have no idea how it hasn’t rusted away in over 10 years. This thing still works great to shave fine curls of parmesan and zest lemons and limes.

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Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler
These may not last forever, but they have lasted a lot longer than my previous peelers and I’m still on my first one. (I also have a serrated version that I don’t use as often.) I bought these after seeing them recommended by America’s Test Kitchen and they peel much more easily and comfortably. Note: I see some Amazon reviews that say “I love my old Kuhn Rikon peeler but this one I just bought from Amazon is horrible.” My thought? Counterfeits. I would only buy these “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com”, even if it costs a few cents more. You’re still getting the best peeler out there for under 5 bucks.

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Wusthof Classic Knifes
I remember wondering if Wusthof and Henckels were worth the price as I zapped them onto our wedding registry. Then someone actually bought us a set of Wusthof Classic knives and we proceeded to use them nearly every day for over a decade. They have been professionally sharpened a couple of times (less often than recommended), but they still work perfectly with no chips or rust spots. I bought a $40 Asian cleaver from a shop in Chinatown a couple years ago, and it only lasted a few months before large rust spots appeared. My mom told me I didn’t treat it right. Probably. I told her I’d rather spend $80 on a knife and have it last decades even after not treating it right. So I bought this one.

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J.A. Henckels Steak Knife Set
We also got a set of Henckels steak knives as a wedding gift. They’ve also lasted over a decade as our family’s only set of steak knives. They still cut great. Yes, they cost about double the price of the AmazonBasics steak knives set, but I wonder if I’ll ever have to buy steak knives again.

zyliss

ZYLISS Lock N’ Lift Can Opener
I’ve probably gone through 5 different can openers in the last 5 years. I guess I open a lot of cans? I’ve bought the cheap and popular one, but it rusted quite quickly. I’ve bought the battery-powered ones, but they got wet and stopped working. I liked the smooth edge opener, but two of them became dull and unusable after under 6 months. If I could go back, I would just buy this ZYLISS Lock N’ Lift Can Opener. Most of it is plastic, so it hasn’t shown rust yet. It’s got a good grip and is easy to use.

zeroll

Zeroll 1020 Original Ice Cream Scoop
Didn’t see this coming, huh? This is the best ice cream scoop, period. Once you try it, you will wonder why all the other ice cream scoops in the world are so bad in comparison. If you walk into an ice cream shop, this is probably the brand that they use. It has conductive fluid that makes it easier to get through rock-hard ice cream. It creates the perfect ball shape for placing on cones. The 2-ounce size makes a small/medium-sized ball, but other sizes are available. Why not own the best ice cream scoop in the world for about $15?

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things. There are also many other items I on my wish list that I haven’t bought yet. What high-quality kitchen items would you consider a good “investment”?

H&R Block Desktop Tax Software 2017: Fed + State $20 (11/29 Only)

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The benefit of “old-school” desktop tax software is that it doesn’t require your Social Security Number and financial details to be stored in the cloud. Here’s a limited-time deal on H&R Block Tax Software 2017 (download or physical CD).

Amazon has H&R Block Deluxe Federal + State for $19.99. Federal only is $14, and Premium is $30. Premium & Business is $37. This is the Deal of the Day for 11/29 only, and is within $1-$2 of the lowest prices ever from last year. If it is out of stock, you can still buy it and lock in the price. If you miss it, it will probably come back again as H&R Block likes to do these flash discounts every so often.

H&R Block Deluxe includes guidance for stock gains and losses, home mortgage interest deduction, and other itemized deductions. Compare that against TurboTax Deluxe Download which makes you upgrade to TurboTax Premier to get guidance for stock sales and dividends. H&R Block Premium includes rental properties and self-employment.

Keep in mind that for these products 5 Federal e-Files are included but State e-File is extra ($19.95 per state). I would personally just print the (usually shorter) state return out and snail mail it in if you don’t have a free State e-File option.