As many unemployed Americans have found, putting food on the table without a regular paycheck can be a challenge, which is why so many of them have come to rely on food stamps.
But what about their pets? There is no federal program to help feed dogs, cats or other animals kept as household pets, but one enterprising entrepreneur has stepped in to fill the void by creating Pet Food Stamps, as The Wall Street Journal reports.
Started by Marc Okon in February, the program is available to people who are already on government assistance. Okon said he was inspired to start the program after a friend in his old New York City neighborhood fell on hard times.
"She told me she sometimes fed her cat before herself," the newspaper quotes Okon as saying.
Regardless of the reasons -- job loss, home foreclosure or health problems -- the need is real. Though some 47 million Americans receive food stamps, the benefit cannot be used to purchase pet food, which frequently results in pet owners having to give up their cherished animals.
As Okon told the Journal, "Millions of pets are surrendered to shelters each year and euthanized because their owners can't afford to feed them."
Okon says his small nonprofit, which employs about a dozen people, has received more applications for aid than it can readily process. As CBS News reports, the organization has received more than to 160,000 applications from needy families across the country.
The program is a lifeline for pet owners such as Marissa Jenkins. The Salem, Ore.-resident considers her 6-year-old Dachshund, Olivia, a part of the family.
"She's a kid to us," says Jenkins, a new mother whose husband lost his job in December. Jenkins is grateful for the help she's received from Pet Food Stamps and told CBS News that once the couple is back on their feet, they will donate to the program to help other needy families feed their pets.
11 Easy and Great Ways to Save Money in 2013
Owners of Hungry Pets Can Now Turn to Pet Food Stamps
With the prospect of higher taxes and federal budget cuts looming on Dec. 31, here are 11 easy ways you can save money and/or put a few extra dollars back in your pocket in 2013.
I'm a realist and I understand that debt arises from unforeseen circumstances for many Americans. What people should do, though, is take a good look at their credit card statements and focus on paying down their highest-interest account(s), even if it means making smaller payments on lower-interest credit cards. For instance, retail chain J.C. Penney's credit card currently carries an APR of 26.99%. If I were a revolving-credit cardholder, I'd be focusing every dollar I had on paying this off ASAP! You'll find similar high-rate cards throughout the department store sector.
Do you enjoy it when you get a big fat refund in April? So does the government, because they don't have to pay you a cent in interest on the money you overpaid them by failing to properly gauge your tax status. Too many Americans overpay on their taxes during the course of the year, cheating themselves out of money they could be using each month to pay down debt or invest to generate some profit. While it's impossible to predict exactly what you'll make in the course of a year, sit down and determine what your rough tax implications are now to ensure you don't grossly overpay in 2013.
There are nearly 2,000 companies on the major U.S. stock exchanges paying out dividends in some form; how many do you have in your portfolio? Dividends aren't free money (they're taxed at 15%, and that rate will probably be higher next year), but they offer a way for corporations to share their profits with shareholders. Not only do you get the potential for share price appreciation, but stable names like Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson have increased their payouts for 50 consecutive years!
Still scared of the volatility of holding individual stocks? No problem. Buy a corporate or municipal bond instead. ExxonMobil bonds carry a AAA rating (one of only four stocks to carry that pristine stamp of approval) and their yield will vastly outpace the current inflation rate. If you really, really have a penchant for avoiding individualized stocks, you can often search out tax-free municipal bonds in your state.
Want to get a nice tax deduction today while investing for your future? Then consider maximizing your 401(k) contribution each year (assuming your company offers one) and maxing out your IRA contribution. Many corporations match part of your contributions to 401(k)s -- that's free money -- and Roth IRAs allow users' money to grow tax-free until they reach the distribution age of 59½ years. Contributions to both are tax deductible.
Still paying checking fees for your bank account? Well, stop it. Between the emergence of local credit unions that rarely charge account fees and the option offered by most large banks to avoid checking fees by simply signing up for direct deposit, there are easy ways you to get around paying a $5 to $7 monthly charge for "holding your cash."
Did you know that you can customize your health care plan to your needs? Most Americans don't, and simply accept that their HMO has written their plan in stone for them. Certain plans offer patients lower co-pays for drugs that they will regularly use, so it pays to do a little research. In addition, the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will soon open up a market of health solutions to Americans, giving us more freedom of choice, as well as lower costs.
One of the easiest ways to save a dollar at a time is to buy generic whenever you can. With prescription drugs, this isn't always possible, but with everyday items at the supermarket like cereal, batteries and meat, it can make quite a difference. With no brand-name premium or middleman to deal with, grocery stores can offer store-brand merchandise far cheaper.
I may trash travel website Orbitz from a financial perspective, but I am an avid user of the site for my travel plans. Without question, I save thousands of dollars annually on travel because of online travel sites like Orbitz, compared to what I'd pay booking a vacation directly through an airline or hotel.So before you book that next trip, check your favorite online travel sites for deals and be willing to travel during non-peak times, when rates are considerably lower.
If you'd like to keep more of your cash now, you can do so by becoming a do-it-yourselfer. This means everything from doing the little things like eating at home more and making your own coffee in the morning to heavy-duty projects like painting the house yourself instead of hiring a professional. I can tell you for a fact that I spend in the neighborhood of $1,300 annually at Starbucks, and I could probably shave $1,000 off my annual expenses if I were to make my own coffee at home.
Finally, while this may sound counterintuitive, donate to those less fortunate than you if at all possible. Donations are tax-deductible, so they help put more money in your pocket come tax time by reducing your taxable income. And whether it's for the poor, the sick, or another cause altogether, your donations make a difference in the lives of others.
There is absolutely no question that Coca-Cola has been great to long-term shareholders, but the company faces some new threats to its continued market dominance. We've recently compiled a premium research report containing everything you need to know about Coca-Cola. If you own or are considering owning shares in the company, you'll want to click here now and get started!