You've seen the commercials or driven past one of many car lots in your town and there it is: that new, shiny car you want. You imagine yourself in it, how cool you'll look driving it and how you will be the envy (and chauffeur) of all of your friends. Yes, having a car is all about independence, freedom and access, but acquiring a car is not only about looking cool. You have to take into consideration necessities like gas, maintenance and insurance.

My first car, a black 2002 Dodge Avenger coupe, was being sold at a local auction, and I was hoping for a good deal. The sticker price was $5000. However, I was able to negotiate the price to around $3800 including all fees. I put down $1000 and financed the rest over a 3-year period. Here's how I did it!

Price/Maintenance (and additional fees) - The car's price can help you to budget for maintenance costs. The more expensive the car, the more expensive its parts (i.e. Mercedes vs. Nissan). Before I purchased my car, I factored my expenses into my monthly budget: car payment, gas, insurance, savings, rent, etc., which helped me determine what I could afford. I also did my research using websites like kbb.com, which tells you the car's value, based on mileage and other factors, and price comparisons on cars.com to ensure I would pay a fair price.

Insurance - You need it before you can drive the car off the lot. The amount of insurance you will pay depends on factors such as age, the type of car and its price and repair costs.

You shouldn't choose an insurance company based on the lowest premium, but on what the policy covers should something happen to you, your passengers and/or the car. I was under 25 at the time (rates for drivers under 25 are high because they're at a higher risk for accidents), and my grandparents offered to put me on their policy. To help with costs, I took a six hour defensive driving course which took ten percent off my grandparent's insurance premium.

Gas/MPG - The amount of miles that you can drive on one gallon per highway miles. This is important when factoring in gas, which you may need to fill up on regularly (depending on how often you drive).

Safety - How safe is this car? How well did it match up amongst other vehicles in its class? Does it have all the safety features that you need to feel secure?

Credit Score - To be able to finance 100 percent ($0 down) or one percent, with a low interest rate, your credit score should be at least 650 or higher.

Job Stability - Remember, If you lose your job you are still responsible for paying the monthly payment.

Down Payment -You want to make sure that your down payment is at least a $1000 or ten percent of the asking price. Anything less won't make a dent in your monthly payments. For every $1,000 that is financed, you pay $17 to $29 toward your monthly payment.

The Purchase - Utilize resources that can help you with bargaining, auto loan terminology, numbers and getting the best deal possible.

I loved this car! I kept it for one year then traded it in for something newer. It got me from A to Z and everywhere in between. I traveled up and down the East Coast and enjoyed every minute of it. May your new purchase take you places and give you experiences that you will remember for a lifetime.

Happy Shopping and travel safely!

Photo by Frankieleon via cc

Well, you did it. You've graduated and been accepted to your dream college. So now what? Even though you have the whole summer ahead of you to get ready for this next chapter, getting ready to go away for school does require some planning ahead.

For me, living in a dorm was sort of like one awesome extended sleepover. Unfortunately, it also costs a heck of a lot more than I expected just to move into my dorm room in the first place. If you're heading off to college for the first time, make sure to plan accordingly. You'll need a bunch of new stuff, and it's going to cost you some money.

Bedding
Thinking of raiding your parents' linen closet instead of buying new bedding? Think again. Most college dorm beds require extra-long sheets--the type your folks aren't likely to have. Taking stuff like pillows and blankets from home isn't a great idea either. If you haul it all away to college, it won’t be there when you come home to visit, and lugging a comforter back and forth just isn't going to work. Your best bet is to buy new bedding, and you can expect to spend at least $75 for a basic set.

Entertainment
Sure, you'll probably spend a fair amount of time studying and going out with friends, but you'll still want some basic entertainment in the comfort of your dorm room. This means there's a good chance you'll need to buy a TV, and probably a DVD player to go along with it. These days, you can score a DVD player for as little as $30-40, but a decent TV might cost you $400 or more.

Food
Your room and board fees should cover a basic meal plan, but what happens when you get hungry at 3:00 in the morning during an all-night study session? Midnight (or post-midnight) munchies are common among college students, and to indulge your craving, you'll need to invest in a mini fridge. Some schools have these available for rent, but that might cost you almost as much as buying your own. Most models start around $65. Throw in a microwave, and you're looking at over $100 to ensure a steady supply of food and snacks.

A New Laptop
The laptop you used throughout high school--you know, the one whose battery dies after 12 minutes--probably isn't going to cut it once you get to college. You're going to have notes to type up during class and papers to write, so you'll need a reliable laptop from the start. While you can go cheaper, the average laptop will run you about $600. Throw in a printer, and you're looking at another $100.

New Clothing
You'll need to invest in a new wardrobe if you're going away to school in a different area of the country. If you're headed for a warmer climate, you'll need to stock up on shorts and, if you're lucky, beachwear. On the other hand, if your school is known for its harsh (or in my case, extended) winters, you'll need to purchase snow boots, warm clothing and a serious supply of gloves.

A Car
Some colleges don't allow freshmen to have cars on campus, but if yours does, and there's no public transportation in town, you may be tempted to buy one. Even a used vehicle can cost several thousand dollars, so be sure to have a decent chunk of money on hand before you go car shopping.

Preparing for college can be stressful on many levels, but try not to let the cost of everything wreck what should otherwise be an exciting summer. Budget accordingly, and with any luck, you'll get all the stuff you need to start off on the right foot.

Photo by Yujean Park via cc.

Even in situations where you sort of expect it, getting laid off can be a major sucker punch right to the gut. In fact, some people say getting laid off is worse than getting fired for cause -- because while getting sacked for poor performance isn't great for one's career, at least it sort of makes the whole dismissal thing justifiable. A layoff, however, is a totally different beast, and a cruel one at that. Getting laid off can hurt even more because you didn't do anything to deserve it, and in those first few jobless weeks, adjusting to your new reality can be a tricky mental process. Here are some tips to get you through it.

Do:

  • File for unemployment benefits immediately
  • Review your severance agreement, and make sure you understand its terms
  • Consult an attorney if circumstances surrounding your layoff seem shady or if the terms of your severance agreement seem ambiguous or unfairly skewed in your company's favor
  • Get dressed every day, even if you're not planning to leave the house
  • Leave the house (fresh air will do you good)
  • Reach out to contacts both recent and old
  • Tell your friends what happened (they'll want to offer moral support)
  • Dust off your résumé and put it out there
  • Drown your sorrows in ice cream if that's what you need to make it through
  • Get away for a few days if you can afford to because a change of scenery will help clear your head

Don't:

  • Take it personally (sometimes layoffs happen to good, hard-working people)
  • Sign your severance agreement without fully understanding its terms
  • Underestimate the power of staying positive
  • Ignore former coworkers who reach out
  • Keep the news to yourself; you never know who may know of a job opportunity
  • Badmouth your old company on social media
  • Lie about what happened during interviews
  • Pretend your bills don't exist (calculate your severance and unemployment benefits and rework your budget accordingly)
  • Spend your days doing nothing but watching TV; use this time productively
  • Stop showering

While getting laid off is a tough blow on many levels, it could also be a great opportunity to start fresh with a new company. Use your time off to research job openings on search engines specifically designed for open positions like indeed.com and monster.com. Take the time to utilize other free, online options to help boost your resume or online portfolio; it will only help you to put your best foot forward once you find a job you're qualified for.

Before you know it, you'll be gainfully employed once again, and your layoff will be nothing but a distant, albeit unpleasant, memory.

Photo by Lauren Mitchell via cc.

You can't put your finger on it, but things in the workplace just don't seem right. Rumors are flying, and several of your coworkers have hinted that they're worried about their jobs. Is a layoff in your future? If so, you're not alone. Between 2009 and 2014, about 20 percent of the workforce was laid off--almost 30 million people in total.

Getting laid off doesn't mean you're doing a bad job, or that your boss doesn't consider you valuable. Sometimes even top performers find themselves on the unwanted end of a dismissal letter, and often, it's a matter of finances and logistics more so than anything else.

If you're concerned that a layoff may be in your future, here are some signs to look out for:

Big projects are being paused or scrapped. Whether it's your project or that of another team, if your company is suddenly putting the brakes on major initiatives, it could mean that layoffs are imminent.

Your budget has been cut. It's one thing if you're being asked to be more mindful of project costs. But if your budget is suddenly slashed, it could indicate that your company is looking to make some unwanted changes.

Your responsibilities are being shifted to other employees. It could be that teams are changing, or that your boss is trying to free up your time to allow you to focus on new initiatives. But if it seems like you're systematically being stripped of your usual tasks, it could mean that your position is on its way to being eliminated.

Your meeting calendar has suddenly lightened up. You used to dread all those weekly meetings, but suddenly your schedule is suspiciously wide open. It could be a sign that you're on your way out.

You're asked to write up a job description and/or train coworkers on what you do. It could be that your boss knows how much you do and wants backup in case you're unexpectedly out sick or decide to go on vacation. But it could also signal an impending layoff.

Your manager is being distant and evasive. You used to be able to speak openly with your boss, but suddenly he or she can't seem to look you in the eye or give you a straight answer about anything pertaining to scheduling or long-term projects. It could mean that your manager knows something you don't (and feels bad about it too).

Of course, just because some--or all--of these things are happening at your workplace doesn't mean you're about to be let go. Budget cuts or halted projects, for example, could be a simple matter of shifting priorities within your organization. But if you're worried about a layoff, take these steps:

  • Provided that it's legal to do so, save copies of company files or documents you've worked on so that you have a record of your accomplishments.
  • Get personal contact information for colleagues with whom you'd like to stay in touch.
  • Request a copy of your most recent performance review for your records.
  • Update your resume so that it's ready in case you need to start sending it out.
  • Refresh your LinkedIn profile. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, create one. Yesterday.

Remember, getting laid off is by no means the same thing as getting fired. While it's hard not to take it personally, if it does happen, try to leave on the best possible terms. You never know who might be willing to help you land a new job or serve as a reference, so be sure to exit gracefully and respectfully.

Stay tuned for the dos and don'ts if you get the ax.

Photo by Daniel Scully via cc.

You worked your tail off, clocking in long hours and answering more 2 a.m. emails than you'd like to remember. Your last performance review was outstanding, and coworkers are constantly singing your praises. But when a higher position opened up--one for which you were most certainly in the running--your company opted to offer it to someone else. Now you're bitter about it, and understandably so.

Being passed over for a promotion you thought you deserved is a tough thing to shake off. And while slacking off or taking some retaliatory sick days following the announcement may seem like appropriate actions to take, your best bet is to remain professional in the face of disappointment.

Here are a few specific things you should do:

Express Your Displeasure, but Do so Respectfully
If you have a good relationship with your boss, request a meeting to discuss the situation at hand. Be honest and explain why you felt you deserved that promotion. Don't be accusatory or confrontational, as that will only put your boss on the defensive. Instead, ask for specific reasons why you ultimately weren't chosen for the role so that you can work to address them and perhaps come out ahead the next time a higher position opens up.

Seek Advice From Trusted Coworkers
Being passed over for a promotion can be a real blow to your confidence. Talk it out with colleagues you trust and ask for their input. While your boss is probably in the best position to provide insight as to what went on behind the scenes, it never hurts to solicit your coworkers' opinions on the matter. Even if you can't do much with the information, it may help you feel better about the situation. Don't, however, badmouth the person who got the role you wanted. You never know who might spill the beans.

Improve Your Skills
The decision to promote a colleague in your place could be an annoying matter of office politics. Or, it could mean that the coworker in question really is better qualified. To increase your chances of getting promoted the next time an opportunity arises, work on your skills--all of them. Keep in mind that as you climb the ladder, interpersonal relationships become all the more important. So if you work in IT and are an expert coder but have a reputation of being blunt and unfriendly, take steps to communicate better with those around you.

Support the Person Who Did Get the Job
It's not easy being a gracious loser, but it's the right thing to do in a professional environment. The last thing you want to do is get on the bad side of a person higher up than you on the chain. Offer your congratulations after the announcement is made, and reaffirm your ongoing commitment to your team, even if you're secretly plotting your exit strategy.

Update Your Resume
Just because your company opted not to promote you doesn't mean you can't score a similar position in another organization. If you truly feel that your company's decision was completely unfair and unjustifiable, start shopping around for a better opportunity. But if you do land an interview, don't point to your lack of promotion as your primary reason for leaving. You'll come off as resentful and possibly immature.

Losing out on a promotion can be a real blow to your ego, but try not to let it get you down. Keep doing the great job you've been doing, and with any luck, the next time around the stars will align in your favor.

Photo by Marc Brüneke via cc

The stock market is complicated. Most people only invest through their 401k or IRA retirement plans. It takes a person obsessed with money, or at least numbers, to truly enjoy watching the stock market. From afar it's just a bunch of meaningless graphs and charts, but there's a lot more to it than that.

What Is Wall Street?
A stock exchange is a marketplace for companies to sell shares of their stock to investors who wish to buy it. This is why it's called the stock market. When you purchase a stock, you're investing money in them with the expectation that they will turn a profit with the money you gave them. The two largest stock exchanges (the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ) are located on a street in New York City called Wall Street, which has become a ubiquitous term to describe any stock market.

The NYSE and NASDAQ stock exchanges are basically the Wal-Mart or Amazon of stocks. Indices such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average or Standard & Poor's 500 are tracking certain industry segments within those exchanges. Investing in these companies is typically the smart long-term investment strategy, though investment firms like Fidelity often further segment these companies to provide simple investments.

Penny Stocks Are the Minor Leagues of Wall Street
Companies not listed on the major stock exchanges can still be publically traded. There's nothing to stop me or you from investing in any company we wish--we just have to accept the higher risk associated with these stocks. It's called a penny stock because it can be purchased for under $5 a share as opposed to a company like Apple, which ended trading at $129 at the time of this writing.

Apple is valued at $129 per share because they have a market value of approximately $700 billion. You can invest in the company resting assured it won't just disappear with your money. We mostly know what to expect from Apple's leadership, as they make decisions under intense media scrutiny. A penny stock company, however, is an unknown business that can easily disappear tomorrow, leaving investors empty handed.

Why Choose Penny Stocks
There are two groups of people who typically invest in penny stocks. Some people are speculative traders who love moving investments around multiple times per day to take advantage of second-by-second market fluctuations for a quick profit.

When guessed correctly, a penny stock pump-and-dump investment can multiply 100 times (meaning your initial $1 investment is now worth $100). Losses can happen at any given moment, however, so speculative traders often spend days sifting through numbers and looking for patterns. Speculative trading is tightly regulated due to the risk of fraud.

The others are the naïve investors who get fast-talked by high pressure financial advisors. This is the basis of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Teams of phone salesmen were fed a script and pressured people to move their retirement investments from the safe stock exchanges of Diagon Alley to the shady penny-stock markets of Knockturn Alley.

Understanding the risk of penny stocks, if you still want to take the risk, drop the penny stock terminology and start searching for Over-the-Counter markets. OTC markets like the OTC Bulletin Board offer a wide variety of these risky stock investments. Like any other form of gambling, the possibility exists to either make a huge profit or lose your shirt. Just learn from Jordan Belfort’s mistake and don’t get greedy, or the Feds will come knocking.

Photo by Sigfrid Lundberg via cc

The great thing about traveling on your own or with friends is that you don't have to worry about your parents calling the shots. When you go away without your folks, you won't have to deal with mandatory sibling bonding or countless dorky family photo shoots along the way. Instead, you'll be able to kick back, relax and stick to your own agenda.

On the other hand, there's a major benefit to traveling with your parents: not having to pay. Vacationing on your own means covering all the costs involved, and if this is the first trip you're funding without outside help, you'll need to plan accordingly. Here's what your first vacation budget should include:

Transportation
Will you be flying? Driving? Renting a car? Transportation may be your single biggest expense, so you'll need to account for every aspect of getting around. If, for example, you're flying to another city where you don't need a car to see the sights, you'll still need a way to get to and from the airport. And if you're driving to your destination, you'll need to budget for gas, tolls and parking fees.

Lodging
Whether you'll be staying at a nice resort or an inexpensive motel, your lodging costs may not be limited to the nightly rate you're quoted at booking. Most hotels charge for things like Internet and laundry service. Also keep in mind that it's customary to tip hotel staff, especially housekeeping and bellhops, so include a line item in your budget for gratuities.

Entertainment and Activities
You're not going on vacation just to sit around and do nothing. As you create your budget, think about the specific activities you want to do while you're away. If you're visiting a city, be sure to include things like museum visits and theater tickets. If your trip is more adventure-based, factor in the cost of activities like zip lining and river rafting. Even if you're planning a beach vacation that's purely relaxing in nature, you may incur fees for water sports or lounge chair rentals.

Food
Even if you stick to fast food and diners, the cost of eating while on vacation can be considerable. This especially holds true if you're heading for a "foodie destination," where eating at local restaurants is an integral part of the experience.

Travel Insurance
Though you can technically do without it, travel insurance offers protection against unexpected hiccups, from flight delays to medical care while you're away. Travel insurance typically costs about four to 10 percent of your prepaid expenses (such as flight and hotel) but can save you a considerable amount of money in the event of a missed connection or stolen luggage.

Stuff You'll Need for Your Trip
You may need to stock up on supplies depending on the type of trip you're taking. If you'll be skiing for a week and don't have heavy-duty gloves and a face mask, you'll need to purchase some gear to avoid frostbite. Headed someplace tropical? You'll need plenty of sunscreen, and perhaps some additional beachwear. And don't forget to buy a suitcase that's easy to maneuver. You don't want to be lugging a beat-up duffel bag through airport security.

Souvenirs
You deserve a memento from your travels. Though small souvenirs like t-shirts and key chains aren't particularly pricey, if you're buying stuff to give out back home, the cost can really add up.

Planning and saving for your first parent-free vacation takes work. The reward? Getting to travel on your own terms and knowing that this time around, you really earned it.

Photo by Davejdoe via cc

It was 104 degrees in Boise that day, a sweltering heat made even more sweltering by the black smoke rising steadily from under the hood of my 2000 VW Beetle. As I stood on the side of the highway waiting for the tow truck, I had some unexpected time to reflect on my recent life choices--most obviously the mistakes I made in buying my first car.

I really thought I knew everything. I'd researched the type of car I wanted: One with good gas mileage, an acceptable safety record and a small enough profile for city driving. I wanted to buy used off of Craigslist because dealer prices were out of my range. I enlisted the help of a friend who worked at a Toyota dealer. I assumed that since he sold cars he knew a good deal when he saw it. Oh, the mistakes I made.

Mistake #1
I had my friend test drive the cars since I wanted to save time. I took him at his word that this VW was great. The first time I actually DID drive it, the engine sputtered, bounced and made a growling noise, like a dying cat was sitting on the engine.

Mistake #2
I didn't trust my skepticism. The seller told me his wife was begging him not to get rid of the Beetle, so he had to hurry before she convinced him to change his mind. My cynical side was telling me "likely story" but I quickly overruled it. I had decided I was buying a car that day.

Mistake #3
I didn't have the car checked out by a mechanic. Let's face it: It looked sad even sitting there in the driveway. The headlights were about to plop out of the hood, and if a car had ever been hit with an ugly stick, this was it. I didn't want to hurt my friend's feelings by bringing in a third party to take a second look. Did I mention my friend had no mechanical experience?

Mistake #4
I shopped solely based on price: Cars that were significantly under my budget. Unfortunately, I spent an additional $1,000 fixing this car after I bought it just so it would pass emissions. Then, a month later, it ended up dying on me anyway.

Mistake #5
I drove it against my better judgment. That summer day, I noticed that the car was overheating, so I put water in the radiator and went on my way. The mechanic (yes, I finally went to one!), told me there was a leak in an engine valve that had been there for a long time. That's a pretty good reason to want to unload a car quickly, I thought to myself. Much more convincing than the wife story.

With the car totaled, I had to go through the whole purchase process again. This time, I really did my diligence. I allowed myself several weeks to buy a car and test drove lots of vehicles--myself. If something didn't feel right--or look right--I was perfectly happy to walk away. I also increased my price range to a realistic price. Luckily, I had money leftover after the initial debacle.

I brought a different person with me for this second scouting adventure. This was a new friend I met who was--you guessed it--a mechanic. He looked over the cars with a fine-tooth comb and was not afraid to tell the sellers they were charging too much. I also requested all of the maintenance and repair records of every vehicle I seriously considered. If the seller didn't agree to supply them, time to bounce. I never agreed to write checks on the spot or to bring money with me. Instead, I told sellers I needed time to go home and think about it. Again, if that was not okay, it was time to walk away.

All in all, it took me two months to find my next car, one that I've happily owned now for about three years. So far, it has only needed one repair--a new alternator--and has never left me stranded on the side of the road--except for that one time when I ran out of gas.

Photo by Ray T via cc.

You've got great experience, and your skill set has only improved over time. Perhaps you've even won an award or two. There's just one glaring problem with your resume: that gap in employment.

Though you wouldn't be the first person whose resume has a gap, yours could raise a red flag for employers. Here's how to present your gap in the best possible light:

If You Chose to Take a Break From the Workforce
Whether you took time off to travel, stay home with a baby, or simply reassess your career and priorities, be sure to explain that your decision to take a break was both calculated and responsible. If, for example, you held a job for three years, saved your money, and then took six months off to backpack through Europe, you can present your gap as a major accomplishment that you worked hard to achieve.

If You Took Time Off Due to Personal Health or Family Issues
Though you don't have to go into too many details, you should make it clear that your employment gap is there for a reason. There's a difference between taking time off to bum around at home and taking time off to recover from an illness or help care for an ailing family member, and a good employer will understand that. If your gap was the result of an unfortunate personal situation, try not to come off as bitter or resentful about it. Instead, present the facts, and, if possible, highlight the ways you've become a stronger, more capable person as a result.

If You Were Laid Off From Your Last Job
Don't hide the fact that you were let go. If your company downsized or restructured and your job was eliminated in the process, that's really all you need to say. You don't need to get into the details of whether your dismissal was unjust, nor do you need to overemphasize the fact that your stellar performance had nothing to do with your discharge. Most hiring managers understand the way layoffs work, and if you come across as defensive about your job elimination, it may lead your potential employer to wonder if perhaps there was, indeed, a reason why you were let go in particular. On the other hand, if you present your job elimination in a matter-of-fact, unapologetic fashion, you'll come across as honest and self-assured.

If You Left Your Last Job Voluntarily
Explain the reasons why you chose to leave your job, and make it clear that the decision came from you. However, don't badmouth your former employer or go into detail about how miserable you were at your last company. Instead, explain that your motives for leaving were career-focused and goal-oriented. For example, if you left because your old boss was constantly asking you to do menial tasks for which you were grossly overqualified, don't say that during an interview. Instead, tell your potential employer that your last company just wasn't a good fit, and that your job responsibilities didn't end up aligning with the career path you had in mind.

One Final Thing
When discussing a gap in employment, own it. Don't try to dismiss it or cover it up. If you give a potential employer the impression that you're trying to hide your temporary break from the workforce, or that you're embarrassed by it, you may hurt your chances of getting hired. Be confident in the way you present your employment history, and you just might wind up spinning that gap as a positive thing after all.

Photo by Flazingo Photos via cc

Investing can seem like a complicated and mysterious beast. How are we supposed to make sense of all of the jibber-jabbery jargon and numbers? Company-matching 401ks, Roth IRAs maxed out at $5,500 annually, $3,000 minimum investments, $8.95 fees for every trade, any time you trade and many more mind-boggling figures.

Prices like that make investing intimidating to anyone remotely interested in putting their money to work. Fortunately, three companies are taking advantage of new technologies by releasing apps and services that make investing a lot friendlier to people with a bit of pocket change, enabling us all to do something a little different it than letting our money gather lint in our sock drawers.

Just how much easier are these companies making it? Of the following three listed below, the highest minimum balance required is only $250. As far as introducing us to investing, one app is completely passive, meaning you don't need to do anything but set it and forget it. Another asks that you know a little bit about the company you want to invest in, and the last is variable - you can do as much or as little research as you like. No time needed, to as much time as you want. Prices range from (almost) free to $250. Sounds good, right?

Today's Top Three Investing Apps

Acorns (no minimum $ needed): Acorns is an app that rolls over the change from any purchases you make into an investing account. Say you buy a used book that's $4.85; $.15 gets rolled up, and every time your rollups add up to $5, an investment is made in a diversified portfolio, meaning a combination of stocks, bonds and short-term investments. You can pick between several different assortments, depending on how long you'd like to invest for, and how much risk you'll tolerate. Acorns will then make projections for your portfolio with best and worst case scenarios over a span of time. Though there are small fees and they are higher proportionately than they would be for large investment firms. Acorns allow you access to investing in great funds that no other company does.

Robinhood (minimum $ needed: the cost of a single share of stock): Their motto: “Stop paying up to $10 for every trade.” That means if you only want to buy a share of a company worth $10, you don’t have to pay an additional fee on top of that, thus simplifying the math and the process of buying stocks. What's more, the company is open about how they make money and about how technology makes their non-existent trading fees possible. They also have no minimum deposit, which when compared to the $500 minimum for both E*Trade and Scottrade, and $1000 for Schwab, it makes Robinhood a great beginner's option into the world of stock trading.

Motif Investing (minimum $ needed: $250): Motif is a way of packaging up to 30 companies together, called a concept, and you only get charged $9.95 for the entire transaction instead of the 30 trading fees you would be charged at other brokerages. Concepts can be trends (like tablets, wearable tech, and healthcare), a trading strategy (buying when stocks take a dip) or a retirement focus with an accompanying timeline. This allows you to invest in what you know, whether that is a certain industry, a place in the world or companies that are socially responsible. Motifs is both professionally built and generated by the community, so they all come with extensive history, user ratings and feedback.

These apps are a great, low-risk place to start for those interested in dipping their toes into the (not so scary) investing tide pool.

 Photo by Pictures of Money via cc