Archive for September, 2019


Apps can be a time saver and great addition to your savings approach, but always do your homework.

There may be no quick fix to digging out of debt or saving for that next big purchase, but there can be an overwhelming number of tech options that claim to help you meet your goal. So how do you pick the right one?

Operation Homefront Caseworker Tonya Cooper, an accredited financial counselor, agrees that apps can be a big help. There are just a couple words of caution, however.

First, users must determine for themselves if they are O.K. with the kind of information apps gather and request. For example, store apps like target Cartwheel can give great discounts and coupons at the store but it also logs all that information.

Second, keep to your list when it comes to coupon apps, or even the old-fashioned paper version. “When it comes to coupons, I never advocate buying something just because it has a coupon unless you were going to buy it anyway because you can actually end up spending more money,” she said.

And finally, do some research. Read reviews. Look at trusted sources that regularly put out “best of” lists relating to finances, like Forbes.com and Consumer Reports.

To help get you started, here are some finance-related apps that repeatedly make it to the top of the list. Keep in mind, Operation Homefront is not endorsing any particular app, we are just giving some examples. Some other places to look include Forbes, NerdWallet, and Cnet.

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Mint is one of the most well-known budget apps available. After linking to your bank accounts, credit cards and loans, Mint helps create budgets, track your money, and includes your credit score. The app also suggests budgets and shows what the user can save in various categories like “food and entertainment.”

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One of the drawbacks of YNAB is it’s only free for a 34-day trial. After that, it costs $84 a year. But that price gets you software that works on all devices, not just your phone. It’s also one of the most robust budgeting apps. The app tells you to give every dollar a job, know your expenses, pick a goal, adjust to stay within budget (just in case you overspend in a category), and “age your money,” which means you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.

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A rebate app, ibotta will give you money back for things you buy. A user can even scan a receipt and see if the app gives anything back on the items listed. The rebates are in the form of a credit in the app. This is one of those apps that Tonya advises needs to be used with caution. Only buy items you planned to buy anyway.

Store Loyalty Programs

Many stores—department stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, etc.—have long tried to lure customers by rewarding loyalty. If you know you regularly go to one store, check out whether the store has a loyalty program.

Please feel free to share your money saving tips in the comments. Have an idea for this blog series?  Send your suggestions to socialnet@operationhomefront.org.

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U.S. Bank and Operation Homefront partnered to donate a mortgage-free home to Mark and Cynthia Porter. In a guest blog, U.S. Bank tells us more about the Porters, their new home, and why Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront (HOTH) program was a natural fit for a partnership.


U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Porter originally moved with his wife Cynthia to Southern California for an engineering job that he expected to be the last chapter of his civilian career.

Nearly a decade later, though, he was feeling trapped by the ever-increasing cost of living.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to retire,” said Mark.

The couple desired to move to Henderson, Nevada, where Cynthia’s daughter lived with her family. However, all the senior housing communities they found had wait lists of two or three years.

“Then, while just scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post about Operation Homefront,” said Cynthia. “When I clicked and saw that they had a home available in Henderson, I was speechless.”

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The Porters are the latest participants in Operation Homefront’s “Homes on the Homefront” program in which the nonprofit collaborates with partners to donate mortgage-free homes to veterans in need. U.S. Bank was a natural partner as the bank has a similar program, “Housing Opportunities after Military Engagement” (H.O.M.E.), through which it has donated 18 homes to veterans since 2013.

“We are overwhelmed with emotions and thankful beyond words,” said Mark. “You have no idea of the blessing it is for something like this to come along. This is our forever home – this is it.”

“It is a privilege to be able to give back to those who have given so much to our country,” said U.S. Bank Las Vegas Market President Clark Wood. “On behalf of our 550 employees in and around Las Vegas, I would like to welcome Mark and Cynthia to their new home and community.”

In addition to H.O.M.E., U.S. Bank has national home repair and car donation programs for veterans in need as well. In fact, last week the bank donated a vehicle to medically retired U.S. Army veteran Jared Stacey and his family (coincidentally, also in Las Vegas).1568733823680.jpg

Located just several miles away from family, the one-bedroom plus den, two-bathroom home is part of a senior living community. When talking through the home specs, Mark made a special note of the garage and his plans to put in a work bench.

“I’ve always been a tinkerer,” he smiled.
He said he has been taking things apart and putting them back together for as long as he can remember. And other than the family lawn mower when he was a kid, he has always been able to put them back together.

His natural mind for mechanics, interest in airplanes and family legacy of military service led Mark to enlist in the Air Force out of high school in 1975. He went on serve 17 years, primarily in mechanical roles, including an assignment to a NATO base in Germany from 1978 to 1981 to teach technicians how to properly equip airplanes for missions.

“With NATO, our motto was ‘to guard freedom,’” he said. “It was a no-nonsense job and an experience that really created a sense of responsibility that made us grow up fast.”
Mark grew into leadership roles in the years that followed, spending time as an instructor for new airplane technicians in the Air Force. In that position, he developed a training course for missile launchers that not only earned him an achievement medal but is also still used today.


After retiring from the Air Force in 1992, Mark enrolled at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri, to study computer-aided design. Upon graduation, he went on to work as an engineer at a print manufacturing firm for more than a decade. It was during that time that he met Cynthia.

Now that the couple has moved from California to Nevada and Mark is able to retire, Cynthia said they are excited to revisit an activity that they enjoyed on their first date – bird watching.

This week, however, their new yard was full of much more than birds. The pair was welcomed into their home by dozens of family members, friends, neighbors and leaders from U.S. Bank and Operation Homefront at a key ceremony on Sept. 12. 1568733827391.jpg

Mark is already getting to know fellow veterans in the community through the American Legion. Although having served during three distinct eras in terms of conflict – Vietnam, Cold and Gulf – he speaks most about the brotherhood that bonds together those who have served.

“I love being around these guys, just playing darts at the Legion,” he said. “Once you take the oath, you share a sense of duty and your lives are forever changed.”

Thinking back, Mark described the day he took that oath as one of the most emotional events in his life.

Accepting the keys to his forever home in a forever community, he added, is another one.
Written by Pat Swanson of U.S. Bank. From left to right in the featured photo above, U.S. Bank employees Hans Getty, Len McMorrow, Morris Jackson II, Jenny Palmberg and Clark Wood are pictured with Cynthia and Mark Porter in the middle. Visit proudtoserve.usbank.com to learn more about how the bank supports veterans as employees, customers and in the community.


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Response to our 2019 Back-to-School® Brigade program was phenomenal. Read about how we are making a difference in the lives of military families, all thanks to our partners, volunteers and supporters like you:

Nearly 30 minutes before the start of Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School® Brigade (BTSB) event in San Antonio, a line of families started at the gym doors inside a local YMCA and snaked all the way out of the building.

Meanwhile, an army of volunteers, Operation Homefront employees and partners like Chobani and H-E-B made the necessary last-minute checks. The face painters were ready, the photo booth filled with props and more than 500 backpacks were stacked and ready to go.

The San Antonio event, which provided 500 backpacks, was one of nearly 100 BTSB events held across the nation throughout the summer. With the help of our corporate partners, donors and legions of volunteers, the events were estimated to provide over 40,000 kids with backpacks.


Volunteers from H-E-B helped make the day special for military families. Operation Homefront is proud to partner with H-E-B for BTSB as well as our Holiday Meal for Military program.


We were excited to host the team from Chobani at our San Antonio BTSB event. Chobani is donating $500,000 to help provide food for veterans and their families via Operation Homefront, and also matching donations—up to an additional $250,000!

Once the doors opened, the families filed through the gymnasium, gathering information on various resources from all the different booths and of course picking out a purple, pink, or clear backpack before leaving with smiling faces.

Good times!



The San Antonio event, which provided 500 backpacks, was one of nearly 100 BTSB events held across the nation throughout the summer. With the help of our corporate partners, donors and legions of volunteers, the events were estimated to provide over 40,000 kids with backpacks.

Sailor Natalie Larenas attended the event for the first time, bringing her two sons, one in fourth grade and the other a freshman in high school.

“I had no idea there would be so much stuff here,” she said. “There was a lot of things the kids could learn about, like PTSD and education resources.”

Having been in the Navy for the past 14 years, Natalie said she appreciates that there are donors who give to Operation Homefront to help military families.

“Thank you!” Natalie said. “The families who serve sacrifice a lot and when there is something like this, we feel appreciated. It’s really nice. I really appreciate this, especially with three kids. I get emotional because I have served so many years and sacrificed time, just being away from my family. That’s why this is so nice. It tells me that we are appreciated too.”

From L-R, clockwise: An OH volunteer and service member at the BTSB event in Colorado Springs, CO; OH CEO John Pray (second from left) volunteers at the BTSB event in Clarksville, TN; A soldier fills a backpack at the BTSB event at Camp Murray, Tacoma, WA; A boy gets his face painted at the BTSB event in Clarksville, TN.

Since BTSB began in 2008, more than 375,000 military children have been provided with backpacks filled with supplies, helping them have the tools they need to succeed for the school year. You can see photos from our events on our Flickr page.

Operation Homefront Program Coordinator Rebekah Reyes said the Alamo City event could not have happened without the volunteers and partners. “I want to thank all of our donors and our volunteers who came out to support”,” Rebekah said. “(At the event), we had about 150 volunteers help us from the set up to clean up. They really helped make the event run smoothly.”

Team work makes the dream work.

Cathy Toyoda was one of those volunteers. She’s been volunteering with Operation Homefront for more than two years, currently in the donations department but has helped at several BTSB events.

“You know, military families, most of them, are on a tight budget, and buying school supplies is very costly,” she said. “It’s wonderful that people donate to this (Back-to-School Brigade) event by giving all the school supplies and the back packs and it’s really wonderful to give them away to people who need them.”

Cathy Toyoda has been volunteering with Operation Homefront for more than two years. It’s wonderful that people donate to this (Back-to-School Brigade) event.”

Talia Farrell was at BTSB for the first time. She and her husband Troy, who is in the Air Force, brought their two kids, Jordan and Jayda, in kindergarten and third grade respectively. She said the kids had a great time and the family was surprised at all the goodies. She hopes to return in the future.

This was Talia’s family’s first time at BTSB. This is beyond our wildest dreams. We truly appreciate it. This is something we all benefit from and it’s very, very necessary.”

“This is a great opportunity for military families,” Talia said. “This is beyond our wildest dreams. We truly appreciate it. This is something we all benefit from and it’s very, very necessary.

Back-to-School Brigade 2019 has concluded, but we have many more opportunities for military families in the coming months. Keep an eye on our events page for when registrations open.  If you would like to get involved as a volunteer, this page has everything you need to get started,

Chobani has been an incredible supporter of Operation Homefront’s mission. Chobani is donating $500,000 to help provide food for veterans and their families. And for every dollar you donate, Chobani will match your donation—up to an additional $250,000.

Finally, a special thanks to our national sponsors, Dollar Tree and SAIC, for their ongoing support of Back-to-School Brigade and many other Operation Homefront programs.

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