MONEY freebies

Free Backpacks, Free Slurpees, Free Bowling All Coming Soon

girls at bowling alley
Sally and Richard Greenhill—Alamy

Take advantage of the flurry of freebies.

This Saturday, August 1, marks the beginning of a busy period for giveaways. Here are five freebies coming up in the very near future, including free backpacks, Slurpees, and games of bowling. Best of all, unlike, say, the deals offered recently for National Chicken Wing Day, there is no purchased required for any of the giveaway promotions below.

Free Backpacks & School Supplies
From noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 1, some 400 participating TCC Verizon Wireless locations around the country will give away backpacks and school supplies per child in the store, while supplies last. Verizon plans on giving out 100,000 backpacks nationally, each with a notebook, folder, pencil case, ruler, and glue stick inside.

Free Fanta Slurpees
7-Eleven is hosting a special FREEkends (short for Free Weekends) promotion throughout August, in which the freebies are available only to members of its 7Rewards loyalty program who use the company’s mobile app. Every Saturday and Sunday in August, qualifying customers can show their smartphones to get a different freebie, starting with a free medium-size Fanta Slurpee on August 1-2. Free Starburst gum and Snickers and Butterginers bars are being given out later in the month.

Free Smoothies
The Juice It Up! raw juice bar chain, which has roughly 80 locations nationwide, is hosting a smoothie giveaway on the morning of Tuesday, August 4. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., all customers are welcomed to a complimentary small Strawberry Wave or California Cooler smoothie.

Free Root Beer Floats
Thursday, August 6, has been declared National Rootbeer Float Day—at least by A&W restaurants, which are giving away one free rootbeer float per customer from 2 p.m. until closing. No purchase is required, though restaurants will be collecting donations for the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps military veterans who have suffered service-related injuries or illnesses.

Free Bowling
Saturday, August 8, is National Bowling Day, when bowling alleys all over the country welcome visitors to a free game of bowling from 10 a.m. to noon. Bowling alleys host drink specials, contests, and prizes that stretch throughout the rest of the day.

MONEY Shopping

10 Things Millennials Buy Far More Often Than Everyone Else

For real, snakes?

Roughly a year ago, we at MONEY rounded up a fun list of 10 things millennials won’t spend money on—at least not to the same degree as older generations. Cars, cable TV, and Costco were all on the list, as were houses. A freshly released Pew Research Center study indicates that a larger-than-expected percentage of young people are still living with their parents rather than moving out and perhaps buying a place of their own.

Yes, millennials are stingy when it comes to spending in certain categories. Yet even as they aren’t following in the footsteps of their consumer forebears in terms of embracing big-ticket items like houses and cars, millennials spend far more freely on certain other items compared to older generations. Here are 10 things they buy more often—sometimes a lot more often—than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, including a few big surprises.

  • Gas Station Food

    Customers line up for their free Slurpees in a 7-Eleven store in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    Millennials have been referred to as the grab-and-go generation, with 29% saying that they often purchase food and drink while on the run, compared with 19% of consumers overall. You might think that Chipotle or perhaps Starbucks would be the biggest beneficiary of this habit. But according to the NPD Group, Gen Y restaurant visits are actually on the decline, particularly among older millennials who are more likely to have families. What’s more, in terms of drawing millennial food and beverage visits, the fast-casual segment is handily beaten by an under-the-radar retail category: the gas station.

    Whereas fast-casual accounted for 6.1% of millennial food and beverage stops in 2014, NPD researchers point out that 11.4% of such visits took place at convenience stores like 7-Eleven, Wawa, Cumberland Farms, and Sheetz, where the hot to-go offerings include salads, wraps, healthy(ish) sandwiches, pizza, and wings alongside old standards like hot dogs and microwaveable burritos. Some even have espresso and smoothie bars, which is probably news to most older folks. “If you’re 50 or over, you still think the convenience store is primarily a gas station,” the NPD Group’s Harry Balzer explained to USA Today.

  • Same-Day Delivery

    FedEx Same Day delivery truck
    courtesy FedEx

    Patience is not exactly a virtue among consumers who grew up with smartphones and social media. Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow sums up this mindset as “I want what I want, when I want it,” and points to a Shop.org survey indicating that millennials have been twice as likely as other generations to pay extra for same-day delivery of online purchases.

    Earlier this year, the New York Times took note of a surge in same-day delivery, in particular among services supplying alcohol directly to the customer’s door. “It has not hurt that millennials, who are used to ordering food for delivery on their smartphones, have come of legal drinking age,” the Times noted.

  • Hot Sauce

    Sriracha bottles on shelf
    Patti McConville—Alamy

    Sriracha is everywhere. It is spicing up potato chips and croutons, adding some extra kick to Heinz ketchup, and offering a strange twist at Pizza Hut. Heck, it’s even in beer. And the overwhelming reason Sriracha is ubiquitous is that it’s evolved into the go-to condiment of the all-important millennial demographic. More than half of American households now have hot sauce on hand. Sriracha specifically is stocked in 9% of them—and in 16% of households headed by someone under age 35.

    The hot sauce craze has translated to a constantly changing roster of ultra-spicy items on fast food menus. Part of the reason that millennials prefer spicier foods is that they were exposed to different tastes at fairly young ages. “Millennials like hot, spicy foods because of their experience with more ethnic foods, like Hispanic and Asian,” said Kelly Weikel, senior consumer research manager at Technomic.

  • Snakes

    snake collar
    Luca Gavagna—Getty Images/iStockphoto

    This past spring, an odd extension for Google Chrome was desisnged to allow users to sub the phrase “snake people” in the place of “millennials” on screens. It was a fun goof that now seems like ancient history. But it turns out that millennials really are snake people, in the sense that they have more interest than other generations in buying and keeping snakes—and all reptiles—as pets.

    “This age group, 15-35 years old, is the generation that is most active in reptile keeping and searching for related material online,” Keith Morris, national sales manager for the reptile product site ZooMed.com, told Pet Age last summer. Data collected by Pet Age also indicates millennials are more willing to splurge on their pets with luxuries like custom beds: 76% said they’d be likely to splurge on pets rather than themselves, compared with just 50% of Baby Boomers. Yet another survey indicated that millennials are far more interested than Boomers and Gen Xers in pet healthcare as a job benefit. So the big takeaway is: Millennials really love pets in all shapes, sizes, and species.

  • Athleisure

    Yoga Pants
    Kirsten Dayton—Alamy

    The demographic that overwhelmingly gets the credit for yoga pants replacing jeans as the mainstream go-to casual bottom of choice (and even coming to be seen as legitimate work clothes at the office) is of course the millennial generation. Yoga pants, hoodies, sweatpants, and other leggings are lumped into the “athleisure” or “leisurewear” clothing category, which has been most warmly embraced by millennials—and in turn inspired retailers ranging from Ann Taylor to the Gap to Dick’s Sporting Goods to ramp up their selections of women’s exercise wear that’s not necessarily for exercise.

    “When I look at athleisure bottom business—the yoga pant, sweat pant, sweat short—it has displaced the jean business one to one,” NPD Group retail analyst Marshal Cohen said recently. Sales of such clothing rose 13% during a recent 12-month span, and now represent roughly 17% of the entire clothing market, according to the market research firm. “For every jean we are not selling or used to sell we are selling an athleisure bottom. It has become as important to the market as denim would be.”

    Side note: Yoga pants aren’t the only skin-tight garment getting a boost from millennials. During the 12-month period that ended in May, spending on women’s tights was up 24% among millennials, who now account for 45% of all sales in the category.

  • Organic Food

    Organic produce sections in The Whole Foods Market in Willowbrook, Illinois
    Jeff Haynes—AFP/Getty Images

    According to a Gallup poll conducted last summer, 45% of Americans actively seek out organic foods to include in their diets. Millennials are a lot more likely than average to feel that it’s important to go organic, however, so the preferences of younger consumers skew the overall average up. Whereas only 33% of Americans age 65 and older actively try to include organic foods in their diets, 53% of Americans ages 18 to 29 do so.

  • Tattoos & Piercings

    Millennial with the words "Hustle" and "Money" tattooed on each leg using his iPhone
    Petri Artturi Asikainen—Getty Images

    It’s been estimated that 20% of Americans—and nearly 40% of millennials—have at least one tattoo. Surveys conducted for Pew Research several years ago indicated that about 30% of millennials had piercings somewhere other than their ears, which is six times higher than older Americans.

    Despite the growing acceptance of tattoos simply by way of them becoming mainstream, millennials remain somewhat cautious about getting one because it could hurt their chances of being hired. Or at least they’re careful when deciding the placement of a tattoo. In a recent University of Tampa poll, 86% of students said that having a visible tattoo would hurt one’s chances of getting a job. It’s understandable, then, that 70% of millennial workers with tattoos say they hide their ink from the boss.

  • Energy Drinks

    Monster brand energy drinks on sale in a convenience store in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    American parents, likely exhausted by nighttime feedings, hectic schedules, and such, understandably feel the need to resort to energy drinks. A recent Mintel survey shows that 58% of U.S. households with children consume Red Bull, Monster, or other energy drinks, compared to just 27% of households without kids.

    Meanwhile, millennials are even more likely than parents in general to throw back energy drinks: 64% of millennials consume them regularly, and 29% of older millennials (ages 27 to 37, who are more likely to be parents themselves) say they’ve increased the number of energy drinks they consume in recent months.

  • Donations at the Cash Register

    signing electronic bill at register
    Juan Monino—Getty Images

    Some shoppers feel annoyed and put on the spot when a store clerk asks if they’d like to make a charitable donation while ringing up a purchase at the cash register. This isn’t the case with the typical millennial, however.

    According to a report from the consultancy firm the Good Scout Group, of all generations “Gen Y likes being asked to give to charity at the register the most.” What’s more, millennials say that they donate at store cash registers more often than any other generation, and they also felt “most positively about charities and retailers once they gave.”

  • Craft Booze

    Growlers on a table outside Faction Beer Brewery, Alameda, California
    Silicon Valley Stock—Alamy

    More so than other generations, millennials have demonstrated a distaste for mass-market beers and spirits—and a preference for the pricier small-batch booze. In one survey, 43% of millennials say craft beer tastes better than mainstream brews, compared to less than one-third of Baby Boomers. As millennials have grown up and more and more have crossed the age of 21, craft beer sales have soared at the same time that mass-market brands like Budweiser and Miller have suffered. A Nielsen poll showed that 15% of millennials’ beer money goes to the craft segment, which is impressive considering the limited buying power of this college-age demographic. By comparison, craft brews account for less than 10% of money spent on beer by Gen X and Baby Boomers.

    Millennials are also given an outsize share of the credit for the boom in craft spirits over household brands handled by the big distributors. As with craft beer, researchers say that millennials like craft liquors partly because it’s easier to connect to the back story of the beverages, and there’s an air of “inclusive exclusivity” and uniqueness about them. For that matter, millennials seem to care more in general about liquor brands. In one survey, 64% of millennials said that including the brand of spirit in a menu cocktail description was important or very important, compared to 55% of Gen Xers and 50% of Baby Boomers who felt that way.

MONEY Insurance

Bad Credit Can Be Worse Than a DUI for Raising Auto Insurance Rates

Highway sign with DUI crossed out saying "You Can't Afford It"
Richard Klotz—Getty Images/iStockphoto

Insurers swear their rates make total sense.

Your credit score is a number that indicates how likely you are to pay off debts, from credit card bills to mortgages and beyond. The number is based on one’s credit history, and understandably, these scores are used regularly by banks and landlords as a way of determining whether it’s a good idea to give an individual a loan, or an apartment lease.

Increasingly, and somewhat puzzlingly, credit scores are also being consulted by employers to help them figure out who to hire, and by insurers that set premium rates based partially on the scores. Auto insurance companies began using the scores in the mid-1990s, and it’s now commonplace for them to help determine rates. Only California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts have laws banning the use of credit scores as a factor for establishing car insurance rates.

What in the world does one’s credit history have to do with the likelihood of, say, getting into a car accident? The web insurer esurance admits on its site that using credit scores to determine auto insurance is “controversial.” But it claims that doing so is legitimate nonetheless:

While the reasons why are less than crystal clear, research shows that credit scores can accurately predict accident potential. Statistical analysis shows that those with higher credit scores tend to get into fewer accidents and cost insurance companies less than their lower-scoring counterparts.

While insurers acknowledge that credit scores play a role in whether premium rates are high, low, or somewhere in between, it’s largely impossible to tell how big the impact is. That’s why Consumer Reports decided it was worthwhile to launch an investigation and try to get to the bottom of this. “Over the past 15 years, insurers have made pricing considerably more complicated and confusing,” the report states. Because insurers aren’t exactly forthcoming in explaining how they come up with rates (shocking!), Consumer Reports researchers analyzed more than two billion auto insurance price quotes from 700 companies for hypothetical drivers all over the country.

The results, published in the September 2015 issue, are particularly alarming for drivers with poor credit scores—and even for those with scores that are good rather than excellent. “Our single drivers who had merely good scores paid $68 to $526 more per year, on average, than similar drivers with the best scores, depending on the state they called home,” the report states. Nationwide, drivers with good scores paid an average of $214 more annually than their neighbors with the best credit scores.

The impact of one’s driving and credit history on insurance varies widely from state to state. In Florida, for instance, a single adult driver with a clean record pays $3,826 annually for auto insruance, on average, if he has poor credit, or $2,417 more than a driver with a clean record with excellent credit ($1,409). Meanwhile, a driver with merely good credit would pay $1,721 annually, or $312 more than his counterpart with a top credit score.

Astonishingly, at times a poor credit score seems to have a larger influence on auto insurance rates than a drunk-driving conviction—which, one would think, is surely a strong indicator of the likelihood of getting into car accidents. In Florida, a driver with excellent credit and a DUI would pay an average of $2,274 per year for auto insurance, or $1,552 more than the driver with a clean record but a bad credit score.

Apparently, in the eyes of some insurers, the failure to pay off credit card bills is a worse offense than drunk driving.

MONEY Customer Service

Here Are the Customer Service Practices You Hate the Most

150729_EM_WorstCustomerService
Getty Images

Too often, customer service is indifferent, incompetent, or both.

The good news from the new Consumer Reports survey about customer service is that overall it seems to be getting … less bad. The survey’s findings, published in the September 2015 issue, indicate that consumers are less likely to be irritated by customer service than they were in 2011, when a similar poll was taken.

That doesn’t mean consumers are happy with the state of customer service. Far from it. “Many companies today are simply awful at resolving customer problems,” Scott Broetzmann, president of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, told Consumer Reports. “Customers spend valuable time and invest considerable effort—and get little in return.”

Here are the practices and behaviors that get customers most annoyed:

• 75% say they’re “highly annoyed” when they can’t get a live person on the phone to help with a problem; in 2011, meanwhile, 71% of those polled by CR said they were “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn’t reach a live customer service rep over the phone.

• 75% are highly annoyed by rude or condescending employees.

• 74% have been driven batty by disconnected phone calls placed to customer service lines.

• 70% are highly upset by being transferred to a different customer service agent—who also can’t help or is just plain wrong.

Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) are also aggravated by companies that don’t make it easy to find their customer service phone numbers, while two-thirds of consumers say they’re annoyed by long wait times, phone trees that require callers to press multiple buttons, and the need to repeat one’s personal information over and over.

MORE: 10 Funniest & Most Creative Consumer Complaints Ever
Customer Service Hell

MONEY Food & Drink

5 Great Things That Beer Does for America

Assembly Line Worker in Brewery
Cavan Images—Alamy

Hey beer: Thanks! Love, America.

The 2015 edition of “Beer Serves America,” a report prepared for the Beer Institute lobbying group, has just been released to highlight all of the wonderful things that beer does for you. Or rather, what the beer industry does for all of us, including employing millions of people and generating billions in economic output.

Here are five factoids from the report demonstrating how much brewers and the beer industry do for America, based on 2014 data:

5,825: Increase in number of Americans who worked in breweries in 2014 vs. 2012.

49,570: Number of Americans directly employed by brewers and beer importers.

1.75 million: Total number of jobs generated by America’s beer industry, including farmers, distributors, wholesalers, and bar and restaurant workers; researchers estimate that each brewery job generates approximately 34 additional full-time jobs.

$48.5 billion: Tax revenues generated from beer sales and beer workers.

$252.6 billion: Estimated economic output of the entire beer industry in America, representing 1.5% of U.S. GDP.

As impressive as the data seems, it’s worth noting that the figures aren’t necessarily all on the rise. The overall economic output contributed by beer last year is up only slightly from 2012, when it was estimated at $246.6 billion, according to a previous Beer Institute report. Because GDP was lower in 2012, beer contributed a higher percentage (1.6%) of the country’s economic output that year. What’s more, the Beer Institute reported that the industry generated more than two million jobs and contributed $49.2 billion in taxes in 2012, meaning that there was actually a decline in both categories by 2014.

Overall, beer sales in the U.S. have been flat or down slightly over the past several years. The general trend has seen mass-market brands like Budweiser flag, while craft beer sales have soared, with the net result being just a 0.5% increase in beer sales in 2014.

The Beer Institute report acknowledged “a dramatic shift away from less expensive products to more expensive local and ‘craft’ beers in bars and restaurants.” Yet instead of praising small brewers and the craft segment for their success, the report curiously passes onto them some of the blame for the drop in beer-related employment: “Consumers purchase smaller volumes of these higher priced beers than they do of less expensive domestic light lagers and pilsners, suggesting that fewer employees are required to serve beer in a given bar or tavern.”

Meanwhile, a report also released this week by the Brewers Association, which represents craft brewers’ interests, points out just how quickly the craft brewing market continues to grow—and how many people it directly employs.

“As of June 30, 2015, 3,739 breweries were operating in the U.S, an increase of 699 breweries over the same time period of the previous year,” the report states. “Additionally, there were 1,755 breweries in planning. Craft brewers currently employ an estimated 115,469 full-time and part-time workers, many of which are manufacturing jobs, contributing significantly to the U.S. economy.”

MONEY deals

Best Chicken Wings Deals for National Chicken Wing Day

Chicken wings on plate in restaurant
Getty Images—iStock

Cheap—sometimes free—wings are up for grabs on Wednesday.

It’s time yet again for another totally made-up holiday that can benefit you in the form of cheap food. Wednesday, July 29, is being celebrated as National Chicken Wing Day, and naturally there is no shortage of pubs and wing houses happy to oblige with special deals on wings.

Here are the best offers from restaurants with multiple locations around the country:

Black Angus Steakhouse: The National Chicken Wing Day deal, announced to those who signed up for this 45-location chain’s promotional emails, is $9 for a dozen wings and a 16-ounce draft beer.

Beef O’Brady’s: Order 10 wings, get an extra five for free; order 20 wings, get an extra 10 for free; and so on.

East Coast Wings: Get six free wings with every adult entrée purchase on Wednesday.

Glory Days Grill: This sports bar restaurant with franchises in Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia is hosting a special of $5 for a half-dozen wings, any style.

Hooters: An all-you-can-eat wing deal is priced at $12.99 for boneless, $14.99 for traditional bone-in wings.

Hurricane Grill & Wings: All-you-can-eat wings for $12.99.

Ker’s Winghouse: Buy 10 wings, get five free at this wing specialty restaurant with roughly two dozen locations in Florida.

Wings-N-Things: Buy one traditional wing meal with a drink on Wednesday, and a second meal (with drink) is free at this wing chain clustered around San Diego.

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MONEY Internet

Verizon Internet Customers Can Now Watch HBO Without a Pay TV Package

HBO Now is now available if you have Verizon broadband.

On Tuesday, HBO and Verizon announced a new partnership allowing Verizon broadband customers to sign up for the Internet-only HBO Now service, starting immediately.

TV fans had begged HBO for years to introduce a streaming service that didn’t require the usual pay TV subscription. The TV giant finally obliged by launching HBO Now in April, at a price of $14.99 per month. At the beginning, however, HBO Now was available exclusively on Apple TV and Optimum.

Verizon broadband customers now have access to HBO Now too. Free 30-day trials of HBO Now are currently available via verizon.com/hbonow. After the introductory period ends, subscribers would pay $14.99 per month to keep the Internet-only service, which offers instant access to the usual HBO content, including series like “Game of Thrones” and hundreds of movies and sports and comedy specials.

For the time being, only Verizon’s broadband customers—Fios or otherwise—have access to HBO Now. Verizon says that eventually HBO Now will be open to 100+ million Verizon Wireless customers as well, though it hasn’t been announced when that option will be available.

MORE: Get Ready for Your Internet Bill to Soar
7 Streaming TV Packages That Will Let You Cut the Cord for Good

MONEY Autos

The Hot New Luxury Car Isn’t a Car at All

The 2015 Ford F-150
courtesy Ford The 2015 Ford F-150 starts at around $26,000, though a new Limited model will soon debut for more than double that.

Upscale pickup trucks listed at $50,000+ are hot sellers

The blue-collar, middle-class, mid-priced pickup truck still exists. But it’s becoming more the exception than the rule.

In June, the average price paid for a new Ford F-series truck—the best-selling vehicle in America for more than three decades—topped $44,000, an increase of $3,600 over last year.

That’s the average price per transaction, mind you. As the Wall Street Journal noted, many Ford trucks are priced well above average, and a new Ford F-150 Limited model will hit the market later this year with a sticker price above $60,000, “a larger starting price than a Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle.”

The fancy new Ford pickup will have “fiddleback eucalyptus” wood trim and massaging seats, among other features. What’s perhaps more surprising than the fact that such amenities are available with what has traditionally been the vehicle of choice in blue-collar Middle America is that the high price point for Ford’s pickups is hardly an anomaly.

In 2011, 29% of heavy-duty Ram pickup trucks sold for $50,000 or more, up from 22% the year before. The Laramie Limited trim Ram 3500 truck starts at roughly $55,000, and has an MSRP over $70,000 once all the extras are added in.

Data collected by The Wall Street Journal indicate that the average transaction prices in 2015 for the Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 are all above $40,000, and 22% of pickup trucks are selling for more than $50,000. That’s up from just 9% of pickups being purchased for $50,000 or more in 2010.

What’s more, the average prices for the pickups mentioned above are up roughly 50% compared to the typical prices paid for these models as recently as 2005.

Rising pickup prices, as well as pickups and SUVs accounting for a larger percentage of overall sales, have pushed overall average new car transaction prices upward. In June, the average new vehicle purchase price was $33,340, according to Kelley Blue Book. That’s an increase of 2.5% over the same month in 2014. The average price paid in June for a Ford, mind you, was up 4.6%, thanks partly to an increase in those pricey pickup purchases.

As for why so many drivers are interested in trucks that cost more than a Mercedes or Lexus, some auto experts see the luxury pickup as the perfect option for well-heeled but down-to-earth business owners who want to splurge and show off while staying true to their roots. “These are successful blue-collar entrepreneurs,” John Krafcik, president of the car-buying site TrueCar.com, told The Wall Street Journal. “There is a lot of social status and manufacturers have found a way to tap into it.”

MONEY online shopping

It’ll Probably Be Years Before You’re Forced to Pay Online Sales Tax

man using credit card to make online payment on laptop
Martin Barraud—Getty Images

For that matter, you might never have to pay up.

Two separate bills working their way through Congress could theoretically close the loophole that allows consumers to skip out on paying sales tax on purchases from e-retailers located in different states. Even so, in all likelihood online shoppers won’t be forced into paying sales tax anytime soon.

Over the years, e-retailers and the consumers who shop online to avoid sales taxes have been accused of having a “free ride.” For the most part, the laws stipulate that online sellers must charge sales tax only when the merchant has a physical presence in the state where the purchase is taking place. The net result is that a consumer in state X might not have to automatically pay sales tax when he makes a purchase from an e-retailer based in state Y.

The scenario gives an unfair advantage to the e-retailer over local brick-and-mortar retailers, which obviously have to collect local sales tax. Consumers are supposed to keep track of their online purchases and pay the appropriate sales tax when filing their income taxes, but the number of individuals who do so is approximately … zero. (Well, it’s close to zero anyway.)

Amazon, all-powerful online entity that it is, has come under fire in particular for not universally collecting sales tax on purchases, and it has made agreements with states on a case-by-case basis to charge the appropriate taxes.

Even as the vast majority of Americans now pay sales tax on Amazon purchases regardless of where they live, there are still many e-retailers that aren’t required to collect sales tax on out-of-state purchases. If either the Remote Transaction Parity Act or the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015 become law, this loophole would be closed and states could start requiring nearly all sellers to collect sales tax.

Yet, as InternetRetailer.com reported, it’s not looking likely that either of the bills will pass in the near future. What’s more, if and when either does manage to become law, in order to allow time for e-retailers to tweak their operations to be in line with new regulations, there will be a delay of at least 12 months before sellers will have to collect sales tax. E-retailers will also be given a reprieve from charging sales tax during the peak winter holiday shopping season in the first year after either bill becomes law.

The upshot for consumers is that even if one of these bills suddenly catches fire in Congress and surprisingly passes soon, “2017 would be the first holiday season it could take effect,” InternetRetailer.com states. Remember, that’s only if one of these bills passes. If neither does, then many online shoppers can continue enjoying their free ride indefinitely.

MONEY housing

U.S. Homeownership Drops To Its Lowest Level Since 1967

aerial view of neighborhood
Jake Wyman—Getty Images/Aurora Creative

The last time homeownership levels were this low, LBJ was president.

Data released by the Census Bureau on Tuesday reveal that the U.S. homeownership rate stood at 63.4% for the second quarter of 2015. The rate is down slightly compared to the first quarter (63.7%), and it represents the lowest level of homeownership in America since 1967. If the homeownership rate drops just a few more tenths of a percentage point, it would reach a new all-time low since the government began tracking such data in 1965 and the rate was a flat 63%.

In fact, some housing experts say it’s fairly likely the homeownership rate will continue to fall and will indeed hit a record low in the near future. “We may have another percentage point to go before we see a bottom” in terms of the homeownership rate, Mark Vitner, senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities, told Bloomberg. “We’re still suffering the effects of the housing collapse and the financial crisis.”

The bull market and an improving jobs picture would seem to bring with it rising homeownership levels. Yet as a recent Harvard study pointed out, many would-be homeowners—particularly younger ones, in their 20s, 30s, and 40s—are still struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Wages have been stagnant for the middle class, and many households are cautious about jumping into homeownership in the face of hefty student loan debt and memories of being burned in the housing crash. Rising home prices don’t help ownership levels either.

All combined, these forces are conspiring to make renting seem like the wiser option over buying lately.

For the sake of comparison, the 50-year average for homeownership in the U.S. is 65.3%. The rate rose through the 1970s and early 1980s, before dipping to around 64% or slightly under in the late ’80s and early ’90s, a period marked by economic downturn in much of the world—and a recession that lasted eight months in the U.S.

Fueled by easy credit, a booming economy, and boundless optimism, the homeownership rate soared in the late ’90s and early ’00s, nearly hitting 70%. The 69.2% homeownership rate of 2004 is currently the all-time high. Based on how things have been going, it very well could remain as the record high for years or even decades to come.

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