Peripheral Vision at #FinCon16

THIS is why the work of the #FinCon community is important.

On the night after the night I got back from #FinCon16, I’m all but forced to take a look at everything that happened. As last year, it was a whirlwind. I got closer with the good friends and clients (who are really also friends) that I met last year. I met new amazing people that I learned so much from, many of whom I’m hoping to work with in the future. I was forced to evaluate my priorities and overall mission as I sat through sessions.

It’s an amazing place to be, although I will admit there were a couple of times that the environment made me feel uncomfortable. Part of that was due to introversion. The other part—well, we’re starting #FeministFinCon to work on addressing that. Check us on Twitter.

But one of the biggest things I took away from this week surprisingly came not from the conference itself, but from the people on the peripheral.

Talking about Money is Important, Wanted and Needed

I can’t tell you how many times I got asked what the heck we were doing in San Diego by people on the outside. By people who worked at the venues we were paying patronage to. By Uber drivers. By people that were at the same venue as us to hear a French DJ.

These conversations affirmed to me in my moments of questioning that what we’re doing is important. Not only because it feeds our kids, but also because money conversations are needed and affect people’s lives in deep and meaningful ways each and every day.

Moving to Better Your Family

I talked to two people on the peripheral who had moved to San Diego to give their family a better life. One had left the rough streets of Chicago to give his kids a healthy environment. I got to see videos of his teens playing trampoline basketball and doing all kinds of other fun stuff that wouldn’t have been available in his own hometown. Mobility was necessary for their family’s happiness, safety and economic stability.

I talked to another man who also moved to benefit his family. He had grown up in a gang-ridden neighborhood of NYC in the 90s. Gang-ridden neighborhoods in Pittsburgh in the 90s were a rough thing—I can only imagine the reality of an even bigger city.

Moving to San Diego, where people were friendlier and there were less issues, also gave them economic stability and access to opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Being a Qualified Woman

Another conversation revolved around a woman whose best friend was hired by the same employer as she was at the same time. She had qualifications like experience and a much more robust education, but her pretty, white friend got hired on at the same position for a higher salary despite these disparities in qualification.

“Was she paid more because she was pretty and white?” I was asked. I was asked because I told them I run a blog about women’s finances and enjoy exploring social equity.

I don’t know anything about this situation other than what I’ve been told, but unfortunately, my gut feeling is yes. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Black women are among the most highly educated demographic in our nation, yet they are not compensated accordingly.

The Disparaged are Muted

I also had an amazing conversation with a historical writer about how the voices of the dominated are often silenced, even when their ideas are far more valuable than those of the oppressing culture. He saw this in his own locale, where the Santa Ana winds come in and dry everything up, making fire a frequent and destructive occurrence.

He then told me about a famous man, I cannot remember who, who built a home there in the 1940s. He wanted to build it out of adobe, because these structures fare much better in the fires, but had to commission an artisan from out-of-state to build. He couldn’t find anyone locally that remembered the craft well enough to execute his plans, despite the fact that this type of building was originally native to the region.

I didn’t see too many buildings made from adobe during my stay. But after that I started looking for them.

The Under-Served Don’t Trust the Financial Industry

I had another conversation where my motives were questioned because I wrote in the financial space. I must be abusive. I must be taking advantage of people. When I started talking about my own journey and my mission to help others overcome poverty and social inequality, the conversation softened. I was promised an email, because I want to hear the story of this college student really and truly. If you’re reading, I’m truly hoping you’ll keep to that promise.

I don’t blame people for not trusting the financial industry, though. Even though I don’t consider myself a part of it, I do work with it. I’ve seen people shut out of it. I’ve seen people taken advantage of. But there are so many good companies out there, and a lot of great startups acting as alternatives, that I think it’s important we recognize this hurt as we frame our narrative. There are good things going on, but we can’t pretend everything is or has always been hunky-dory for everyone. Otherwise we lose our credibility and alienate people with justified concerns.

What Taking on Peripheral Vision Taught Me at FinCon

Talking to these people and hearing their stories encouraged me. There were times during the conference where my confidence waned. Is money truly the most important message I could be bringing to the masses? But knowing that these conversations are wanted, needed and important to others outside of our community was enough to sustain me.

What we are doing is important, and it’s important that we keep on doing it.


Stay tuned. I’ll have a whole separate post about the fun we had gallivanting around San Diego tourist-style.

5 Things You Can Do to Boost Your Salary

I didn't realize that I had so much of the power needed to boost my own salary.

When it comes to salary, there is almost always going to be a bias.

Sometimes, the bias might be due to unfair treatment and sometimes it might be due to poor salary negotiation.

I interviewed two college candidates for an engineer position in my company.

Both did well, and my team had gauged them to be at the same level.

Both of them told me what they were looking for in terms of salary, and obviously, one told me a number few thousand dollars lower than the other.

I could have hired them both for what they asked for.

However, it didn’t agree with my moral compass and I hired them both at the same pay.

This is not what every hiring manager would do.

If I had hired them both for what they had asked for, whose mistake do you think it is?

Here is what Linda Babcock, author of Women Don’t Ask has to say:

“Women don’t ask. They don’t ask for raises and promotions and better job opportunities. They don’t ask for recognition for the work they do. In other words, women are much less likely than men to use negotiation to get what they want.”

While this might not be true for every woman, it sure does apply to a vast majority of women in the workforce today.

When it comes to career and salary negotiations, you can either play the victim card, or be the captain of your ship.

The choice is totally in your hands.

If you play the victim card, you are not going to get much further.

I have always been the captain of my ship and it has helped me overcome barriers and do well for myself.

In this post, I share things that I have learned that have helped me in my career growth, salary raises, and promotions. While what I share is gender neutral, I would encourage women to consider what has worked for me over the years.


#1 Thou Shalt Ask

The first and foremost thing to do in any job is to let your supervisor know what your career aspirations are. The moment you earn their trust you should let them know your desire for promotion and get their feedback on where your career is headed.

If you get clear guidance, then it is a good sign.

It certainly needs to be followed through both by you and your boss – you meeting your boss’s expectations in terms of work and your boss promoting you to the next level when you meet the expectations for the next level up at the agreed upon time.

If you are perceived to be worthy, then you will get clear guidance. If not, you will get a vague response, which means you are chances of getting promoted are most likely slim.

I have had a lot of people report to me over the years. Only a hand few have come up and asked for a promotion or their desire to go to the next level.

These were the ambitious ones – guess who got promoted?

Of course, whoever got promoted was deserving.

Did I promote people who didn’t ask me? Of course, I did.

What am I trying to say – the likelihood of you being promoted is much higher if you are proactive about it.

What do they say – Crying babies get milk and squeaky wheels get greased. So it is with promotions and raises.


#2 Believe In Yourself and Be Diligent

Sarah (my wife) often asks me – why do you act so confident?

It is not pride or arrogance. People who know me personally would second that.

Here is what I tell Sarah – “If I don’t believe in myself, then nobody else ever will.”

I couldn’t emphasize this truth more.

When I was an engineer, I believed I was the best! I became a manager in four years instead of eight years that it typically took in my company.

I believed I was the best.

You know what – you belief affects your behavior and the quality of work you put out.

You don’t need to outsmart your peers, but you sure can outwork them.

My promotion to the manager position was mainly due to the quality of work and me outworking my peers.

If there was a crisis, the boss man would come to me first – the reason was simple. He believed in the quality of my work and he couldn’t find more diligence.

Many supervisors have told me “You are the best and that is why I am asking for your help.”


#3 Eyes Everywhere

Whether you believe it or not, people above you are always watching what you are doing.

I was hired to be a senior manager in another positon in my company with no interview.

The director of the division had seen my work and hired me.

Honestly, I was shocked.

I didn’t know him though I had seen him a few times in meetings. However, he seemed to know all about me.

If you are good at what you do, you will get noticed.


#4 Know Your Worth

When you go to a store, you see every item has a price tag.

Similarly, we all kind of have an invisible salary tag that we wear so to speak.

This is what we believe we are worth.

Knowing the average salary for your profession is a good starting point and a good frame of reference.

What do you believe you are worth?

I want you to close your eyes, ponder, and then write on a piece of paper what you truly believe your salary ought to be.

You can’t lie to yourself.

If you believe you are getting paid more than what you are worth, then you are at a good place.

Be thankful!

If you believe you are underpaid, or grossly underpaid, then what are you waiting for?

Do you need someone to come kick you in the rear and tell you to go look for a better job opportunity?

Go on and look for a better opportunity and prove to yourself that you are worth what you believe to be!

About two and a half years back, I believed I was grossly underpaid.

I was frustrated and asking didn’t work.

My boss’s response was something along the lines of “You are really good at what you do, you are underpaid, and I can’t do anything to fix it given the current circumstances of the company.”

This is typical in a stagnated large corporation. I had heard this for twelve months and had had enough.

I started looking for a better opportunity and landed on a new position with 40% more pay.

From being grossly underpaid, I went to being thankful.

When it comes to salary / promotion, you are 100% in charge of your destiny.

It is not your boss’s responsibility or someone else’s. It truly comes down to you.


#5 Salary Negotiation

Okay, you are attending an interview and it is going well. During the interview, this question is most likely to come up – what are your salary expectations?

The best thing to do is to say that you are “open”. Let the hiring manager or HR come up with the first offer.

Always remember, the person who makes the first offer is at a weaker point of negotiation.

If you speak first, you lose. You will never know what the hiring manager may have offered.

Once you receive the offer, you can always ask for more if you don’t like what is being offered or not take the position if you are low-balled.

This strategy has worked well for me every single time.


What has worked for you to boost your salary? I would love to hear your feedback.


Author Bio: K. Michael Srinivasan, author of personal finance blog Stretch A Dime, where he writes about Personal Finance, Investing, and Frugal Living. He is the author of the book “High School Money Hacks”.

How to Get a Credit Card in Spite of Bad Credit or No Credit


For many people, credit card offers arrive in the mail several times a week. This is a sign of having good credit – financial institutions and credit card companies want to take advantage of your established reliability and earn your business.

What if you have bad credit or no credit? Regardless of how you’ve come into this situation – and it can be for many things that are completely out of your control – you can still take charge to establish or rebuild your credit while utilizing the many advantages of a credit card.

Where to start? First off, before you open any credit card account, you should ask yourself a few things about it. What are you using it for – to start a credit profile with the credit bureaus, everyday spending, paying bills, making a large purchase, etc.? What is your personal monthly budget? Are you looking to make regular payments and do you want to pay the card off each month?

Those answers are important. They help establish the guidelines for choosing a card. Keep in mind that while many cards offer unique rewards such as travel miles and cash back, that may not necessarily be an option if you’re trying to rebuild your credit. If you get a card with a reward program, consider it a bonus, but most likely you’ll want to make that far lower on your priority list.

Now that you know your limits, let’s look at ways to get a credit card and boost your credit. One of the easiest types of credit products to get in these circumstances is a secured credit card. Secured credit cards are essentially credit cards with credit limits established by an amount you deposit up front with the financial institution. This deposit is held as collateral. Essentially, the financial institution is able to give you a credit card at zero risk to them. For example, if you put in a deposit of $500, that is your credit limit.

Two things to be aware of for these types of accounts – 1) interest rates can vary greatly and penalties for late payments are on the high side; and 2) the minimum payment rules may cause higher than average monthly payment amounts. So be sure to do your research ahead of time.

Be sure to include your local credit union in your search as many credit unions offer these types of accounts and are there to support your efforts to rebuild your credit at lower finance charge interest rates and fee costs. If you can afford the deposit and know you can make at least the minimum monthly payments – if not the entire balance – then you’re on your way to rebuilding your credit.

Another option for rebuilding credit is something called a secured credit-builder loan, often offered by credit unions. These can also be known by promotional titles such as “fresh-start loans” or “re-start loans.” The idea behind this is simple: you apply for a small loan, which is then put into a restricted savings account.

Once you finish paying back the loan, you receive access to the savings account. It’s essentially like putting away a little bit of money each month – and each month, the credit union will report your activity to the credit bureaus, so your score will gradually build. Of course, if you miss payments, that will be reported as well, so be sure to make those payments on time.

As your credit score rebuilds, you’ll start to get offers in the mail (eventually, too many offers). As your choices open up, you should sign up for a new card with the best interest rate and a minimum payment schedule that you can manage. In addition, you may even begin to pick and choose between rewards programs, thus making the credit cards work for you instead of vice versa. The key traits to compare and contrast are interest rate, annual fee, rewards program, sign-up bonuses and late penalties. This is all explained in the fine print, so try to get through all of the verbiage even though it can be a difficult read – and if you have questions, call the card’s customer service line.

Keep in mind that in order to keep your credit strong, the same principles apply with a nice lower interest card as they would for a secured credit card or a credit-builder loan: make your minimum payments, make them on time and try to take care of the entire balance whenever possible.

Ultimately, the most important part of rebuilding your credit is staying sensible and disciplined. Credit cards can provide enormous sense of spending freedom, but without proper self-restraint, that freedom becomes purely an illusion. And, the result for mismanaging your debt could put you back to where you started – with a poor credit score. However, if you make good on your financial commitments – pay on time and keep the balance below 50% of your credit limit – you will build a strong credit score and open up more options for your future.

About the Author

Jennifer Kerry is Vice President, Credit Card Services, for CO-OP Financial Services a Rancho Cucamonga, California-based provider of financial technology to credit unions.


Keep Your Investments Zen

Whoa, these are amazing tips. Investing is simpler than I thought!

Today’s post is contributed by Pauline of

When it comes to investing, I have made all the mistakes in the book. I have sold too early, kept losing positions for too long, seen my profits eaten by fees, and generally been pretty emotional about the whole thing. And you know what? It has rarely worked. And when it has, it was not enough to make up for the money lost exiting a good trade too early.

As a matter of fact, do you know whose investing portfolios perform best? The ones belonging to people who don’t even remember they have a trading account. According to Business Insider, most people act irrationally, just like me. It is human. You see a stock dipping, you envision the next recession, you sell in a hurry, and sell low. You see it climbing again, you want to be part of the rally, you end up buying back at a higher price than what you had initially bought for. It’s supposed to be the other way around: when others cry, you should buy.

We all want to be the next Warren Buffet, but even he says that won’t happen. Here is an extract from the letter Buffett sent in 2014 to the Berkshire Hattaway stockholders (page 19):

Investors, of course, can, by their own behavior, make stock ownership highly risky. And many do. Active trading, attempts to “time” market movements, inadequate diversification, the payment of high and unnecessary fees to managers and advisors, and the use of borrowed money can destroy the decent returns that a life-long owner of equities would otherwise enjoy. (…)

The commission of the investment sins listed above is not limited to “the little guy.” Huge institutional investors, viewed as a group, have long underperformed the unsophisticated index-fund investor who simply sits tight for decades.

So let’s all learn from the best, shall we? Here are 7 steps to keep your investments zen.

  1. Take full advantage of your company match.

A company match to your pension fund is basically free money. You don’t pass up on free money. So if you are going to do one thing, it is investing in your RRSP or 401k to get the full company match. That’s an instant 100% return on your money. Even Warren can’t beat that.

  1. Max out tax-free and tax-deferred accounts

The next thing you want to do is prevent the tax man from touching your nest egg. In order to do so, you need to put your money on a tax-free or tax-deferred account. Yes, you will still pay taxes on the tax-deferred plans, but the money will have compounded for a few decades, tax free, in the meantime.

  1. Forget the money exists

If you contribute to your pension plan and invest your money month after month, it will be taken from your paycheck and you won’t notice it is missing. If you contribute $100, your paycheck will be reduced by $75 or so, depending on your tax bracket. If your company matches that $100, you will have invested $200 for $75 out of pocket. And because your paycheck will be $75 smaller every single month, after a while you will consider the adjusted net income the new normal. Good. Leave the money there. It’s not yours. It belongs to your future self. The one who doesn’t want to mop floors or greet people at Walmart when she is 70.

  1. Invest in low cost index funds

Buffett said it, and he knows his stuff. Don’t get lost in a sea of obscure offers promising high returns in exchange for high maintenance fees. Go boring, go indexes.

  1. Invest regularly

Slowly but surely, increase your positions every month. Dollar cost averaging is not as good as buying low, but since you can’t predict low, that’s better than trying to guess. Time is on your side, so no need to freak out over every market dip. Just keep on investing.

  1. Only invest money you don’t need

There are heavy penalties if you try to withdraw from your retirement account, and it will be even worse if the markets are low. So don’t be greedy, and just invest the sums you can afford not to touch for a decade or two.

  1. Let time do the rest

It will take time, and a lot of it, for your nest egg to grow. But once the snowball gets rolling, it gets bigger every year. As you reach retirement, your contributions will be minimal compared to the organic growth of your compounded money.

Investing $300 every month ($150 out of your gross paycheck, $150 company match, a $112.5 loss of net income if you are in the 25% tax bracket) for 30 years at 8% will generate just shy of $700,000 for retirement. All for foregoing $115 from your paycheck every month and letting time take care of things!

Becoming a great investor takes years of studying the markets, trial and error, and sleepless nights obsessing over positions. Just be a Zen investor instead.


Affordable Carpal Tunnel Relief

I didn't know "affordable" and "carpal tunnel relief" went together!

Once upon a time when I was expecting one of my children, I woke up with pins and needles in my fingers. I thought I had just had my hand up under my pillow at a weird angle. After a few minutes it went away.

The next day, the pins and needles took a little longer to go away.

The next day, when I woke up, I couldn’t even feel my hand.

I called my doctor, who informed me it was carpal tunnel and that I should get a brace. I didn’t have a whole lot of money back in those days, so I thought I’d suffer through.

Then the numbness started lasting so long that I couldn’t drive my car to my internship. I was late a couple of times, but luckily I worked with professionals who respected me enough to not let a temporary health problem affect how they viewed my character.

Rewind twenty years.

I’m with my mom and my sibling at her physical therapist’s office. I call it an office, but it looked like what I imagine Google’s employee gym must look like—open concept, modernly designed and full of good-looking people stretching.

That day was a big day. She had carpal tunnel and was finally getting her braces. She tried on a few different models before deciding. She got home, slept in them and found true relief.

Fast forward back to miserable, pregnant Femme.

Twenty years later, those braces were still around. They were strappy. The Velcro had gotten ratty. But my mother rarely needed them anymore, so she lent them to me.

They weren’t pretty anymore, but they worked reasonably well. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night anymore with searing pain. While I still had to get out of bed early to let my hands “wake up,” I didn’t have to wait quite as long before being physically able to drive my car.

Those things came from a fancy physical therapy office, so I assumed they must be crazy expensive.

I’ve been lucky enough that my carpal tunnel went away a little bit into the postpartum period, but I was a little bit worried because, like a lot of people in the modern workforce, I spend a lot of time typing on the computer. Which is not ideal for wrist health.

Affordable Carpal Tunnel Relief

Just recently I heard of Vive Health. They offered to send me a wrist brace, just like my mother’s except from the 21st century. Even though I don’t currently struggle with the carpal tunnel, I had to try it out. What did wrist braces that weren’t twenty years old feel like?


I don’t have to be careful of the metal pushing through the worn out side. I don’t have to readjust the Velcro straps every time I take it on or off. In fact, it’s more like a wrap, and the outside face of it is smooth as heck yet still acts as the loop part of of the Velcro, so you can adjust it to whatever hand/wrist size you’ve got.

Like this:


And it’s only $14.99. If I had known about this back then, I might not have taken the twenty-year-old brace.

You get to save even more.

If you’re in the throes of a bout of carpal tunnel, you don’t even have to pay $14.99. You can save an additional 20% by using code GET20.





*I have been compensated for this post and received free product. Regardless, all opinions are 100% honest and my own.*

3 Steps to Become a Financially Independent Woman

This is amazing for those who lost a partner or are going through a divorce. We really can be financially independent women!

If you think money is all about numbers and dollar signs, you’re kidding yourself. No, we know that money is a very emotional thing, and those emotions play a larger role in dictating how we deal with the numbers than our mad math skills.

For women, this problem can seem amplified. We live in a culture where we’re told we’re more emotional than men, and that we’re not as good at math. After living with those stereotypes for so long, we sometimes start to believe them. We sometimes start to lose faith in ourselves.

Then, if we come up against a situation in our lives that would legitimately be emotional for any human being, such as a divorce or the loss of a partner, it’s devastating. Maybe we’ve dodged money until this point, believing it wasn’t something we could excel at, but now life has pushed us into the deep end of the swimming pool without floaties.

You may remember a few months back when my colleague, Yulin Lee, shared her thoughts on this exact topic. After working with so many women in these situations, she’s realized there’s a real need for broader connection and encouragement, along with advice for actionable steps. That’s why she’s put together a free webinar addressing some of the most common concerns she’s seen as a personal finance coach.

The webinar will address the following issues:

  1. Unfreeze from fear & paralysis to move forward by finding a new money identity.

  2. Discover the essential financial figures to become self-empowered to create a better future.

  3. Design a new financial life based on true life values, without the burden of fear.

If you find yourself in this situation, I highly encourage you to register today. If you know someone who may be in this situation, I highly encourage you to share this with them. Yulin and I have talked at length about these struggles, and she gets it. She gets it with compassion, and she gets it with solid, actionable financial sense.

Sessions start on Monday, so don’t delay!

You can do this. You’ve got me and Yulin cheering for you all the way.



*This post contains affiliate links. The webinar is free and does not cost you a dime.*

Conquer Your Finances–for Less

This Conquer Your Finances course looks awesome! Totally doing it this month while it's on mega sale.

We’re all at different points in our financial journeys. Some of us are focused on earning more income. Others are paying off tons of debt. Some have no clue where to even begin.

All of that is okay. The first step to fixing a problem is realizing that you have one. After your epiphany, though, you need to step it up. You need to educate yourself so you can get into action and make things better.

My fellow personal finance blogger, Liz from Friday Night Shenanigans, has been there herself. Drowning in student loan debt, she educated herself and got into action. In two short years, she’s paid off all of her credit card debt, one of her student loans and 60% of her car loan–totaling over $20,000 in debt payoff.

Liz is also awesome in other areas of personal finance. Back when I was running The Frugality Challenge, Liz was our winningest competitor. She’s got frugality, DIY-ing, side hustling and saving for big goals down.

She couldn’t keep all this knowledge to herself, though. She wanted to disseminate and share. So she made a course to help the masses: Conquer Your Finances.

You may remember that we did a webinar a little over a month ago on the debt payoff aspect of the course. But that’s certainly not all it covers. There are also modules on:

  • Organizing your finances and getting a clear picture of where they currently stand
  • Saving money
  • Student loan hacks
  • Budgeting
  • Retirement accounts
  • Practiced frugality
  • Earning more income

What I love about Conquer Your Finances is that Liz doesn’t just tell you how to do each of these things–she gives you outside tools, actionable advice and super fancy yet easy-to-use worksheets to help you meet your goals. The amount of original and useful content is truly worth the course’s normal cost of $97.

But there’s a sale!

In honor of Liz’s birthday, she’s temporarily reduced the price to $29. That’s like WTH savings. To get in on the great price, just use promo code BIRTHDAY2016. If $29 is a lot for you, you can also get on a payment plan using code BIRTHDAY29 at checkout.

I’m super pumped to see Femme Frugality readers conquer their finances. Let me know how your journey is going!



*This post contains affiliate links.*

Savings When Building a Candy Table

Hey, party people! I’m in the midst of planning a birthday party, myself, so I was thrilled to have Wendy Dessler write this piece up on saving while entertaining! Whether you’re using a candy table at a birthday party, a wedding or some other social event, you’re going to want to check out these tips.

Are you planning a Candy Table as a dessert table or cake alternative for your wedding or party? This is a great idea and one that is catching on everywhere. While creating a candy buffet is sometimes very costly, it does not have to be! We have compiled a list of wonderful candy buffet ideas that will allow you a unique and yummy experience and save you money.

How Much Candy? A Skillful way to save.       

The general rule of thumb when figuring how much candy you need is 4-8 ounces per guest. However, using slightly smaller favor bags or boxes seamlessly reduces the candy people will take. This is a great idea (and an unnoticed way to cut corners) if your party is mostly adults, such as a wedding reception.

Another way to reduce the candy people will take is to place smaller scoops in the jars. Also consider taller jars with smaller openings, providing tongs for your guests.

Placing a nicely worded sign on the candy buffet makes the message clear in a tasteful way. It should read, “Enjoy one bag”. Enough said.


If you intend to include perishable candy such as chocolate for a candy buffet in June, order it in March. This will ensure, you will not have to pay for rush shipping to get your chocolate before it melts.

Storing chocolate

Store chocolate in a dark place with no light. Keep it tightly wrapped in an airtight container (it will absorb odors). Keep the temperature at 65-68 degrees. In these conditions, dark chocolate will last a year and milk or white chocolate will last six months. If you must freeze chocolate, wrap it tightly and place in the refrigerator for a full 24 hours before placing it in the freezer. When removing it, reverse the process.


Creating your candy buffet

Use larger, bulkier candies to take up space on the table. Cotton candy, large gummies, taffy, candy corn, marshmallows, and gumballs are inexpensive, colorful, and require a lot of space. Speak to your favorite bulk candy provider for wonderful tips on how to have a great buffet on a budget.

Be unique and add some salt! Salty snacks are a natural with sweets. Pretzels, popcorn, and Triscuits add bulk and contrast to your buffet.


Of course, your containers should be clear. Larger, taller containers go toward the back of the table. Short, wide-mouth containers are in the middle. Trays with specialty candies are in the front. Use dishes or boxes to make the containers higher or lower. Use your bulky candy to fill in any open spaces.


Creative table coverings, ribbons, and lace can create a beautiful table. Consider hanging long ribbons of your color theme behind the table, making a backdrop.

Main focus

Make one candy your focal point. Maybe it is a chocolate fountain or a designer treat. This allows you to buy those supplies in bulk, saving even more money.

With a little planning and creativity, you will create the candy table of your dreams, and one your guests will always remember.

How to Shop for Dental Insurance

Shopping for dental insurance can be a little trickier than selecting medical insurance because there are a few more things to consider. Generally speaking, medical coverage is comprehensive, meaning that if you have a cold, a broken bone or require surgery, everything or nearly everything is covered. When it comes to dental insurance, there are maximum coverages to consider, deductibles, and deciding on a plan that provides you adequate coverage for your needs. As you begin to shop around, there are a few things to keep in mind before making a selection.

The Monthly Premium Is Important

The monthly premium is one of the most important things to consider when you shop around. You want something affordable, but not too affordable. The cheapest plan may look the best on paper but can leave you hanging when it comes to actual benefits and coverage. Most dental insurance is partial coverage, meaning it covers the basics like cleanings and X-rays, but you will have to pay a portion for root canals, fillings, and other work. Make sure you’re paying an adequate monthly premium for the services that you’ll be getting.

Is Your Dentist Covered?

There are few things worse than having a dentist that’s out of your insurance’s network. You may be able to get dental work insurance covered after jumping through a lot of hoops, but it’s not worth the hassle. Ensure that your dentist is not only in the insurance’s network, but also fully participates in the plan. It’s also a good idea to find out what the actual cost is for seeing a dentist out-of-network, should you or a family member ever have an emergency.

Is There A Maximum Benefit?

Many dental insurance plans have a maximum benefit each year, even those that claim “full coverage.” If you anticipate a lot of dental work or have a young family with children that may need work, it’s best to choose a plan with a higher maximum benefit. This may cost in terms of a monthly premium, but will be worth it in the long run.

The Bottom Line

It’s a good idea to always read the fine print when shopping for dental insurance. The most important things to look for include a reasonable monthly premium, a high maximum benefit (or no ceiling) and the assurance that your dentist is in-network. Also, ensure that any procedures you are considering are covered. Don’t settle on a dental plan until you find one that completely meets your needs.

*This post is brought to you and contributed by Stevie Clapton.*

Eloping in DC: the East Coast’s Vegas

Eloping in DC looks way easier (and cheaper!) than making a trip to Vegas! Who knew?

When you think of eloping, odds are your brain will conjure up images of an Elvis impersonator in a white chapel surrounded by casinos and desert. In other words, you’re picturing Las Vegas.

Getting married in Vegas is easy. But for those of us on the East coast, it’s quite a haul, and we do have other options much closer to us.

The best option?

Eloping in DC.

There are quite a few reasons our nation’s capital is the perfect place to say, “I do,” without blowing your budget. Here are a few of them:

The turnaround is quick on marriage licenses.

As long as you bring all the necessary paperwork, documentation and money to pay appropriate fees, you can get your marriage license the same day you apply. Let’s say you left Pittsburgh at eight in the morning. You’d get to Washington, DC sometime between noon and 1P, fill out and submit your paperwork, and have a proper license potentially before 2P. Depending on the type of marriage you opt for, you could be legally bound minutes later.

Wondering how?

Self-uniting marriages are permitted.

Essentially, a self-uniting marriage is one where you don’t have an officiant. That means that not only do you not have to pay clergy fees, but you can also literally marry yourself, taking whatever vows to whatever God (or no god) that you prefer.

Want to learn more? Check out the US states that allow self-uniting marriages.

While many states that allow self-uniting marriage require the participation and signatures of witnesses, DC has no such mandate. It can literally be just the two of you. You can get your license, sign it and be done in minutes. (Just be sure to check the box below “Officiant Name.”)

It makes for beautiful wedding photos.

Even if you’re eloping at the last second and don’t have a fancy white dress or tux, you’re likely still going to want photos to remember your big day. There’s only one spot in the courthouse where you’re allowed to take them (and I hear it’s not that great of a backdrop,) but luckily, there are a myriad of places in the district that present memorable scenery. Think national monuments and the various parks and green spaces.

Also, you don’t HAVE to get married in the courthouse. You can take your self-uniting license and get married wherever, or meet your officiant at the location of your choice.

Eloping in DC doesn’t require a plane ticket for East coast-ers.

DC is a pretty central location for almost all the states on the East coast. While it’s true that it’s a further drive from Bangor than it is from Philly, it’s still a lot more doable of a drive than heading across the country.

Because today more people are eloping for time and convenience’s sake rather than to escape the family, it also means that your guest list won’t be as limited by airfare if you do indeed want other people there. Just arrange a carpool!

Still want to get married by a fake Elvis in polyester? More power to you! Just be sure to save while you’re in the city of sin.

This post idea was submitted by a Femme Frugality reader. Have a topic you want to see on the blog? Share in the comments below!



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