Free Summer Family Fun in #Pittsburgh

I am beyond ready for summer this year.  Every year we make a summer bucket list.  Every year we overestimate how many weeks we have until school starts again.  But we’re not letting that stop us.  We’ll dream big, play hard, and not stress out if items on a fun list don’t get crossed off.  And we’ll do it all on a budget.

Here are the top three FREE family summer fun items on our agenda for 2015:

3 Ways to Have Free Family Fun in Pittsburgh This Summer

1. Spray Parks

The City of Pittsburgh has six official spray parks, and we’re excited to hit them up.  On hot summer days, they’re a great excuse to drag yourself out of the comfort of your air conditioned home without paying for pool admission.  They are open May 30 and 31, but the real season begins on June 9.  After that, they’re open until September.

2. Knob Hill Park

3 Ways to Have Free Family Fun in Pittsburgh This Summer

This isn’t technically in the city, but it’s my favorite playground ever.  It wins the kids’ vote, too.  Located in Warrendale just south of Cranberry Twp, Knob Hill Park’s castle playground has no shortage of things to do.  The little ones can climb, swing, play in the sand box, and engage in all types of pretend play.  Mom’s favorite part?  It’s fenced in.  So if you’re only one parent with a bunch of kids, you don’t have to stress about chasing all of them around solo:  just guard the drawbridge.

3. The Posner Center

A part of CMU’s campus, the Posner Center is an interesting museum that flies low on the radar.  The Posner family left their rare book and art collection to be made available to the public.  You can visit the collection between 1-4pm Monday through Friday.  To top it all off, there’s a really cool art installation on the roof.  Numbers adorn a huge bench in the middle of a labyrinth.  I’m not sure if their arrangement has any meaning, but my little mathematician may just figure it out.


What are your favorite free ways to have summer fun?

Career and Motherhood with #NorthwoodForMoms

Is there such a thing as "striking balance" between career and motherhood?  Is there a secret to not overexerting yourself in all of your roles?  Join the conversation.

Motherhood has turned out to be nothing like I expected.  Don’t get me wrong; there is immense joy and love, and having my children has been the most important thing I have done or will ever do.  The fact that I have been able to bring these special souls into this world is a privilege I’m not sure I am deserving of.

And that’s where it gets messy.  Messy like my house.  Messy with my schedule.  Messy with those initial sleepless nights, and messy with my inner battle to be a good mother while fulfilling myself in my own individuality.

I am not alone.   The other night, I was honored to attend an event at Northwood Realty with some of the most powerful women in the Pittsburgh blogging sphere.  We were all mothers.  We all work.  Some of the women were able to work solely through their blogs.  Some of us choose to continue to work outside the home.  Some of the women were Northwood agents.  We all had a respect for those who choose and are able to stay at home.  Northwood For Moms was an event where we could sit down and parse all of that out.

The Conversation.  The Inspiration.

We met at Northwood’s beautiful office in Seven Fields.  We had small break out sessions where we chatted in small groups led by one of the Northwood hosts.  Then we all came together to have a group conversation centered around career and motherhood.

As a total introvert, I loved the small group sessions.  I learned so much about these women and how they deal with the day-to-day.  How I can deal with the day-to-day.  One of the agents has built her business to a level where her husband can stay home for a while, even though he makes an income that would support them without her working outside the home.  One of them is supporting her two children, one of them with severe disabilities, on her own as a single mother.  Another rocked my world with a brand of feminism that I can get down with:  her kids need to see and respect that women work, so while she appreciates the flexibility her agency gives her as a mother, she doesn’t turn down big opportunities simply because she has a family.

The large group session was amazing, too.  I sat and listened, not wanting to interrupt the amazing advice that was being poured out.  (Oddly enough, I’m 100% fine speaking in front of large groups of people; but large group discussions?  I’m a little more reserved.)

My favorite quote of the night came from Muffy from Brown Mama’s:


She hit me right in the chakra.  She talked about how we shouldn’t overexert ourselves.  How we really should focus on who we are and what we are doing in the moment.  Because when we take on so much that we get overwhelmed, not only does our quality of work as a mother, writer, or career woman go down, but we’re denying ourselves the joy of being our full and best selves in that instant.

One of the guests brought up that she loved that the antiquated idea of women being able to find balance was receding.  Which sparked a lively, respectful debate, as apparently the idea hasn’t been retired on all fronts.  I, too, think that the idea of striking a balance isn’t the goal. I prefer the concept shared by one of Denise LaRosa’s guests on the Mom Talk that there is no such thing as balance, but there is such a thing as rhythm.

The idea of balance and having it all seems to insinuate that the goal is becoming the perfect Suzy Homemaker, successful and powerful in your career, and still have time to socialize and put on the perfect amount of lipstick for every outing.  One thing I’ve learned since becoming a mother is that if I want to make more money, I have to take more time away from my kids.  If I want to spend more time with my kids, I have to sacrifice some income.  (Not that’s it’s ever not 100% worth it.)  And, as one of the agents sagely pointed out, when my business is doing well, my laundry is piling up at an alarming rate.  If my house is perfectly clean, it probably means my hands haven’t been as busy in my career.

So often as women we’re expected to be perfect at all of these things.  Whether these expectations are put upon us by the oligarchy or by each other is irrelevant.  The permission to be imperfect, or even reject one of these life goals entirely (for example, I never wear lipstick, and I’m not Suzy homemaker,) is true liberation.  The open admission of struggle is difficult, but freeing.  The acceptance of it allows us to love ourselves fully, and be that me of the moment, without the nagging voice in the back of our heads telling us we have to do more and be better to meet some arbitrary image of the “perfect” 20th/21st century woman.


I don’t want this conversation to be over.  How do you feel about “balance” as a woman in our times?  Did Muffy’s words impact you as much as they did me?



*I have been compensated for my time at this event and the writing of this post.  Regardless, all opinions are 100% my own and 100% honest.*

Should We Get Another Laptop?

I think we need better time management.  He thinks we need another computer.  One option is free, the other costs hundreds.  We need your opinion!

The husband and I don’t have too many major money disagreements.  We each trust and respect each other’s control over our respective financial resources, and work together as a team towards common goals.  (With a family, that’s most of our goals, anyways.)  So I don’t think I’ve ever had a post along the lines of “she says/he says.”

That’s changing today.  Because our lives have changed.  He’s a full-time student, who has found out that he generally thrives in on-line courses.  They fit his schedule and he can usually work ahead or catch up depending on the craziness going on in our lives.  I’ve been doing this blogging/freelance writing thing, and as he’s in class and at work less, I have not been able to get the bulk of my work done when he’s not home.

That leaves us competing for computer time.  Not in a mean-spirited way; we both respect the tasks the other has to complete.  But it’s challenging to be home together (a rare occurrence,) and watch the other one internet away, while we’re running through all the tasks we have to get done once the other is finally off.

My solution is better time management, and/or a written schedule.  His solution is getting another computer or laptop.

My solution costs nothing.  His solution costs hundreds of dollars.

He doesn’t think my solution is possible.  I don’t think his solution is financially justifiable.

It’s odd, because when we grew up, having even one computer in your home was such a luxury.  Then having a computer with the internet was a big deal.  By the time I graduated high school, it was pretty much commonplace, at least in middle-class homes.

So having two computers in one house seem ludicrous to me.  It’s insane!  Remember when we lived without the net?  We survived!  We thrived.  We got bored and creative and contemplative and lived without our contacts constantly connected to our hips.  Children grew up learning to talk to people rather than texting or emailing, and books were displayed on pages, not screens.

But our world has changed.  His schooling is possible because of technology.  My writing is possible because of technology.  And both are becoming a necessary part of our lives.  I’m not sure that’s the best thing for us as human beings, but it is the reality we live in, and mostly enjoy.

I see his point.  I’ve come up with a compromise to wait until the end of summer when our cash flow is a little better.  It’s a compromise he hasn’t concretely agreed to.

So I’m posing this question to you, readers:  should we get another computer, or is the concept overly indulgent?  Do you have any creative solutions that would solve our problems without forking out the cold, hard cash?  If you and your partner both work virtually, do you have two computers to allow you to get your work done?

First world problems, first world problems.  This one is one I’m very aware is a luxury to have.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and Shoeaholic No More*

The Affordable Pandora Alternative: Soufeel

soufeel promo code

I’m not all about spending a lot of money on jewelry.  I like it, and wear it when I don’t have a toddler with me that threatens to rip open my ear lobes or strangle me with a necklace.  But there are women in my family who love it.  They wear their favorite pieces everywhere they go.  So when Christmas, birthdays, or Mother’s Day rolls around, finding the right gift is easy, but costly.

This Mother’s Day Soufeel offered to send me a charm bracelet for an honest review.  (My reviews are always 100% honest and 100% my own.)  I got something for one of the grandmas, and it impressed everyone.  Soufeel sells bracelets and charms to go along with them at a reasonable price.  They fit on Pandora or Chamilia bracelets.  So if someone you know has a Pandora bracelet, but the beads are crazy expensive, you can still impress and please at a lower price.

Get affordable charms for your Pandora bracelet.  Plus get an extra 5% off.

I did have some concerns before the bracelet arrived.  Here’s how they were each resolved:

  • Quality of Metal.  After my cadmium kerfuffle, I was a bit concerned about what kind of metal was going to be used in the jewelry.  Turns out it’s 925 sterling silver, so that worked out great for me.
  • Shipping.  I’m always a little hesitant about ordering things from China.  Shipping can take a really long time, or extra taxes can be tacked on along the way depending on which countries the parcel passes through.  My experience with the shipping process with Soufeel was great.  It only took a week and a half to get here (the order was placed on a Friday; I’d say that’s decent for traveling around the world,) and I discovered that when you place an order of $50+, the shipping is free.  World-wide.
  • What if I hate it?  I do and have turned down item reviews before because once the item arrived, it was not  up to par.  We all loved the Mother’s Day charm bracelet.  But if we had ordered it the traditional way, and hadn’t loved it, there is a 365 day return/exchange policy.

Super pretty bracelet.  Reasonable price.  And an affordable alternative to something that is pretty luxe.  If you’re shopping charm bracelets, I’d definitely recommend them.  They have charms for pretty much every occasion.  Like if the lady you’re shopping for has a favorite dog.  Seriously.

If you are in the market for quality, specialty charms, you can use the Femme Frugality exclusive code, B5off, to get 5% off of your Soufeel order.

Family Ties and Monetary Advantages

In your family, are you a giver or a taker when it comes to helping out with household expenses? Join me in making a resolve to be more of the former.
We’ve had a rough week with cars.  The rear brakes on one of them were really, really bad.  (We didn’t know how bad until we took it in.)  On the same car, a nail had punctured the tire.  After we got that one all taken care of, the new-to-us one had a domino-effect catastrophe.  The hazard light button popped off (no joke,) which meant the hazards couldn’t be turned off.  At least not by us.  We tried for over two hours.  So they were on all night until we could get someone to look at it, which we knew would inevitably lead to a dead battery.  The next morning we went to put the key in to see if it would start.  It, unsurprisingly, did not.  What was surprising was that the key wouldn’t come back out of the ignition.

I wanted to scream.

Luckily, we have a mechanic in the family.  We’ve had to utilize his services more than I’d care to admit.  And he has saved us so much money.  We still pay him for his labor (at a rate that’s unfairly discounted.)  And for the parts, which he also gets extremely discounted because of the nature of his profession.  When I pay him, I try to pay more than he asks for because I know darn well that he’s probably saved us cumulatively thousands of dollars over the years.  (I can’t profess to know if my husband does the same, but even if we both do, it’s still not equivalent to what he should be making off of our automotive misfortunes.)

He does it because we’re family.  And he’s a good guy.  For both we’re eternally grateful.

This nightmare of a week has gotten me to thinking about what I offer my family.  Other than love and the privilege of being able to brag that they’re related to me. (Which of course, I’m being sarcastic about.)  Does our relationship pay off monetarily?

It shouldn’t have to.  That’s not what love and family is about.  But all the generosity of our mechanic relative makes me want it to.  Embarrassingly enough, I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t.  My specialized profession can offer them nothing of service.  Grandparents watch our kids for free when we need a sitter.  There’s all these things I want to do for everyone, but I find that my time (and toddlers) constrain me.

I’ve also come to the realization that that excuse is BS.  We make time for the things we value in life.  And I haven’t been valuing contributing to my extended family.  It’s got to stop.

I need to make time to go over and help out family members when they need it.  I could possibly take a cousin for a sleepover so the family doesn’t have to pay for a sitter to get out.  While the husband does pseudo-regularly take family members who don’t have a car to the grocery store, we could do this more often or for more things they need access to.  I could allocate a portion of the ridiculous amount we’ve been saving for a house to help family members out when they’re struggling.

Because saving for a house is our goal.  But we’re not doing it alone.  The mechanic is saving us money to throw at savings via auto repairs.  The grandparents are giving us free sitting.  My sibling often takes me out to lunch just so I can have a couple hours of grown-up time without “work” being the excuse that gets me out of the house.

I’m a bit disgusted about the amount of taking I’ve been doing.  The minuscule amount of giving back I found when I really sat down and analyzed it was shocking.  While saving for a home is important to us, so are the amazing people we’re lucky enough to be related to.  I can take time away from additional work to pull my weight more.  I can put up with a slight delay of our timeline for buying a house if it means getting someone out of a financial conundrum once in a while.

I have a great village.  But I need to reciprocate.

How does contributing to your community (whether it be a family, neighborhood, circle of friends, or some formal organization) compete with your individual goals?  Are you pulling your weight or is there more you can do?  

Failure = Opportunity

Failure can really just be an opportunity to do something greater.  But failure in and of itself has no power.  The real power lies in how we use it.

We already know that failure is really the first step to building new neural pathways in our brain.  But that doesn’t always make the taste of defeat easy to swallow.  So much of life is what we decide to do with it.  When you come up against failure, you have the opportunity to give up in resignation, to give up looking for inspiration, or to fix what you did wrong and push onward towards success.  The latter two are what we’re going to focus on today, because the first one is the easiest, but most destructive choice to make.

We meet failure in all areas of our lives if we are truly living.  Love.  Friendships.  Work.   Money.  But how we greet failure is so instrumental in deciding how and if we enjoy life.  Don’t deny yourself the initial emotions that come when hit a brick wall or you feel like you’re shattering to pieces.  They’re real and they’re important.  But after you’ve allowed yourself to feel them, pick yourself up and move on productively, because your failure can actually open the door to opportunity.

Failure Opportunity in Business

You have what you think is a great product.  You think you’re providing a great service.  But when push comes to shove, sales just haven’t been high enough to justify continuing down the same path.

That feeling sucks.  You’ve poured a lot of your life, time, and possibly financial resources into your business.  But the next step you take can help you make that leap from failure to success.  After you’ve felt that sucky feeling, sit down and really evaluate why you failed.  If no one wanted your product, do more intense market research before launching your next big idea.  Look at feedback from your customers or potential customers.  Look at what they didn’t like, but more importantly read between the lines to see what they were actually looking for.  Maybe your business just needs tweaked to meet their needs.  Or maybe you have to start from scratch to create an entirely new product that does, in fact, solve their problems.  Interact, evaluate, and move on.  Your failure may just inspire another project that changes the course of your life.

Failure Opportunity in the Stock Market

Guess what?  Sometimes the stock market fails, falling on a short term basis.  That short term can seem very long to those who have their future income tied up in it, but it does not last.  Allow yourself to bemoan how much you’re losing in your 401k, but then look at all the opportunity that surrounds you.  All the stocks are on sale!  If you are able to buy when things are cheap, long-term you’re likely to see some serious gains.  (Note that timing the market is darn near impossible.  But when we go through major recessions like the one in 2008, there is plenty of opportunity out there for investors, and the price tag is marked down.)

Failure Opportunity in Career

When you work hard towards a career, you’ve likely invested years upon years in perfecting your craft.  Sometimes the answer is to just work harder and get better.  But sometimes, the wrong person chooses to get into the wrong thing.  If you’re one of these people, you might hit a point where turning around is a good idea.  I’m not saying to quit and give up on your dreams.  However, if you hit a point where you clearly realize this is not the right thing for you, it might be a blessing in disguise.

For example, I started out in a major completely different than what my career path ended up being.  It was projected to be very high paying, but in all honesty I wasn’t 100% loving my classes when financial aid (or lack there of) forced me to cut my studies short.  I was a college drop out and felt completely defeated.  I looked at more affordable schooling options, and discovered a major not offered by bigger, more expensive universities in my area.  That career path ended up being not only the one I pursued, but the one that allows me to wake up everyday genuinely looking forward to going to work.

Maybe you’ve already graduated college, been working in your field, and just got plain laid off.  This could be your opportunity to work for a better company.  This could be your opportunity to hit the reset button and start in a new field.  It’s tragic that it happened, but it could end up being the greatest thing that ever happened if you look at it as an opportunity to get what you want out of your next job rather than the death of your career.

Failure Opportunity in Personal Finance

Hit rock bottom with your finances?  Not all is lost.  It’s hard to get out of debt.  It’s hard to balance a too-small budget.  It’s hard to reconcile the cold,  hard numbers that we, for some reason, allow to dictate our perception of our value to society.  But going through the process does something amazing.  It forces us to look at what we truly value in life.  It forces us to be disciplined, committed, and innovative.  It gives us real life skills that translate into other areas of our life.  We can use our newly learned discipline in our careers.  We can become more committed in our relationships, romantic or platonic.  We can become innovative in our art, businesses, or approaches toward other problems we encounter of a less fiscal nature.  After we realize what’s really important to us, we can more consciously make decisions on how we allocate our money and time.  We can make decisions on how we want to live our lives as opposed to unconsciously living the life that someone else is trying to sell us.


Failure can’t defeat us.  Failure can’t set us on a new, exhilarating course.  Failure can’t propel us towards success.  Because failure is really powerless.  We are the ones in the driver’s seat.  And we get to decide how we will use the tool that is failure in our own lives.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt*

Need Inspiration? Try This.

A cheap and easy way to find inspiration for all aspects of your life, from finances to relationships, work to spiritual.

At some point in our lives, we all get stuck.  We get stuck with our money.  We get stuck in our careers.  We get stuck in our relationships.  We get so stuck in the doldrums of day-to-day life that we lose time for the metaphysical thinking that can make life so interesting.

My go-to cure for this is change.  But not everyone embraces change with the open-armed enthusiasm that I do.  And as I grow older and responsibilities start layer themselves on me thicker and thicker, the ability to initiate big, radical, exciting changes is my life is limited.

So I resort to my runner-up cure.  And that is keeping a quote journal.  There are so many people that live, and have lived, that are way smarter than I am.  They’ve thought so many thoughts.  Done so many great things.  And while only a fraction of them have gone down in recorded history, that fraction creates large enough of a pool for us to draw immense wisdom.

How do you start a quote journal for those times when you need inspiration?  Just get a notebook. Or some type of notebook app for your phone.  And then carry it with you everywhere.  Your purse. Your car. Wherever.  Then every time you see something that speaks to you, write it down.  Even if you think you won’t be able to apply it this second.  There will be times when you feel like you’ve got everything in your life under control.  Keep recording these bits of wisdom.  Because as surely as today is going great, there will be days in the future where you’re feeling drained, worn down, or just plain uninspired.

You may need quotes to support you when you’re feeling down.  You may need them when you’re making sacrifices so you can get your financial game together.  You may need them when you hit a rough patch in a relationship or a hard day at work.  If you’re a writer,  you may need them to draw from when you hit a block a few months down the line.

One thing that’s helped me in acquiring inspiration through other’s words has been reading.  It’s why I still love reading fiction.  Just because a story didn’t really happen doesn’t mean the lessons imparted by the author don’t hold weight in our everyday lives.

Another thing that helps is discussing life with others.  Maintain friendships.  Meet new people.  Because you just may be amazed how many smart, inspirational people are still living today, and they’re living in the circles right around you.  A good part of my journals have been filled with advice from friends.  It’s funny how if someone knows you well enough, the words they give you today will apply to situations you encounter all throughout your life.

Need some help getting your journal started?  Here are a few quotes that have filled my well of inspiration in times when I needed it most:

Keeping a book of quotations is a low-cost way to replenish your inspiration wells when you're feeling down on money, writing, work. relationships, or life.

Keeping a book of quotations is a low-cost way to replenish your inspiration wells when you're feeling down on money, writing, work. relationships, or life.

if you always do what you've always done you'll always get what you've always got


Do you keep a quote journal?  What words have inspired you?

20% off Flight Trampoline Park Pittsburgh

20% off Flight Trampoline Park Pittsburgh

I was an aspiring architect/city planner as a small child.  I drew up neighborhood plans with streets named after all my friends and designed dream houses.  One of these houses (mine, of course,) had a basement full of trampolines, wall to wall.  It was going to be the funnest basement ever.

I took an architecture course in high school.  Turns out it wasn’t for me.  But guess what?  Someone else had that trampoline idea, and they actually made it happen.  (And not just in a basement.  It’s a whole park open to the public with admission.)  The coolest part is that while there’s definitely stuff for small kids with big dreams, there’s also ample opportunity for teens and full-grown adults to get in on the fun.  While it’s technically in Bridgeville, Flight Trampoline Park Pittsburgh looks pretty awesome.  Check it out:

 “Our facility is open to all ages, and we have a myriad of different types of Open Jump to facilitate all needs! There is Kid Flight for the youthful and small! Special needs night weekly! We offer fundraisers for the growing small business or organization! Family night weekly! And, perhaps our most exciting night, Club Flight the most awesome teen scene there is. We have laser lights, disco balls, glow in the dark dodgeball, glow sticks, black lights, and so much more. It is the supreme teen hang out spot!”

Super special deal for you all, too!  Femme Frugality readers get 20% off.  Just click here.  Have a great time!


Selena Gomez and Entitlement

Lessons learned about entitlement through a Selena Gomez Character

Source Original image by Lunchbox LP. Image has been cropped. Accessible under Creative Commons License.

I dodged it as long as I could.  I tried to keep my kids from ever discovering Barney.  It was a show I enjoyed as a small child, but one I haven’t been able to stand ever since.  But it happened.  It was discovered.  The first episode we watched I thought, “Hey, that kind of looks like Selena Gomez!” It turns out it was.  Apparently she was on regularly after my Barney-viewing days had ended.  I know nothing about her except that she doesn’t like talking about Justin Bieber.  And now, that she was on Barney.

In the very first skit we watched, Selena Gomez acted out the part of the fisherman’s wife in their rendition of the old Grimm’s fairytale.  I couldn’t find the Barney version on Youtube, so here’s essentially the same thing.  Only the Barney version had Selena’s character cheerfully learning her lesson at the end:

This got me to thinking.  Obviously the wife is a greedy soul.  We don’t want to emulate or be like her.  This seems very black and white when we’re kids.  People who are happy with what they have are the best kinds of people, while the people who are always wanting more are demonized for good reason.

But let’s be real here.  How many of us grew up to be like the fisherman’s wife?  Getting angry at society or life or other people for holding us back, despite how hard we were working?  Despite what we deserved?  Despite the fact that if we looked hard enough, we would have realized we already had a castle?

And at what point did that happen?  Does all the planning and preparing that culturally starts happening in our mid to late twenties turn us into greedy jerk faces?  Or does it happen when we’re younger?  When we’re teens?  And we start comparing our have nots to others haves with the most intensity we will throughout our entire lives?

I need to come clean; there are moments I find myself acting like the fisherman’s wife.  There are times I am not grateful.  Where I want more.  Where I forget to explore the cavernous rooms of my metaphorical castle.  Where I realize I need to work less, because I already don’t allot enough time to everything I’m lucky enough to have.

Something else I need to come clean about?  I’m falling back in love with Barney.  It’s amazing how kids will do that to you.

The Digital Envelope Budget with Kaiku

We created a digital envelope system for one month using Kaiku.  Did it help?

Six different color choices!

Prepaid cards get a bad rap.  With good reason.  Most of them come with crazy fees, and can be inconvenient to use.

I was recently given a chance to review Kaiku Visa® Prepaid Card, and I’m happy to report that I found it to be different.  There aren’t any activation fees, and the monthly maintenance fee is lower than that of most checking accounts: $3.  

I want to take a minute to review why you might want to use a prepaid card.  For a lot of people a checking account will bear more interest.  But that interest is so infinitesimal that there’s a lot of other contributing factors that may make a prepaid card like Kaiku the way to go.

Why You’d Want to Use the Kaiku Prepaid Card

  • You can’t get a bank account.  Life happens.  Unfortunately.  If your credit takes a hard enough hit and your income is sufficiently low, banks won’t take you on as a client.  Even for a basic checking account.  This makes it extremely hard to access any funds that are coming your way.  The number one group of people I’ve seen with this issue is those who are disabled.  You don’t have to be old for this to happen to you.  Most of the people I’ve known dealing with disability have had it come on at a young age.  And then you’re unexpectedly out of work.  Your income is gone.  Eventually you start receiving assistance or social security, but when those checks come in, you don’t have anywhere to deposit them.  Cashing them is expensive.  Instead, you can have them direct deposited onto your Kaiku Card.  For $0.
  • Your kid is out of your house, but not out of your wallet.  If you’re providing a monthly budget/allowance to a child while they’re away at college, doing so can be quite the task.  Giving them your credit card is nine times out of ten going to be a very, very bad idea.  If they’re far away, odds are that they have a different bank, so co-signing on an account to have access in order to deposit funds is not all that convenient.  (Though this is getting a little easier with the internet.)  Kaiku could make the whole process really simple.  You get the account in your name so you can transfer money from your own bank account, then get an additional card (no extra fee—it’s still just $3/month!) so they can access the money in the account wherever they are.  The beauty of a prepaid card is that when the money is gone, it’s gone.  There’s no overdraft fees.  There’s no overspending on a credit card with astronomical interest rates.  When the money runs out, it simply won’t let you use it anymore.
  • You want to use the envelope system, but aren’t so analog.  I’ve thought about using the envelope system before, but I don’t run into cash that often.  So  using a digital envelope system really appeals to me.  That’s actually what I did in the process of this review.  Let’s get to it.

Using The Digital Envelope Budget With Kaiku

We ended up using the Kaiku card for our grocery budget.  We rarely overspend in any area of our budget, but I wanted to see if this envelope theory worked.  I wanted to see if it could keep me from spending as much as I usually do.

It worked!  I typically have somewhere around $60 leftover in my grocery budget at the end of the month (which I then apply to the next month.)  In April, I had $178 leftover at the end of the month.  That’s a huge difference.  While I couldn’t feel the money or physically see it going away, I could log into the Kaiku app and see those numbers going down.  It made me want to keep them as high as possible every time I was in the grocery store.  If I kept it up for another couple months, there’s a “Funds-ometer” that would tell me how my spending compared to the past 60 days.  It’s super user-friendly and the graphics are well done, making looking at your money anything but boring.

If we do continue, I think we’ll need to get another card for the same account.  It’s free, plus the husband and I wouldn’t be juggling the “grocery shopping card” every time the other one is going to the store.

You could only use this for one budget area, though.  If you wanted to digitally envelope everything, it would be $3/month for each “envelope” or budget area, as you can’t split the funds within one account.

Putting Money on and Taking Money Off

Using the card is super easy.  I transferred money onto the card from my bank account.  You can also do direct deposit for paychecks (or things like Social Security/Disability as outlined above.)

There is a simple picture upload feature for depositing paper checks within the app, but I ended up not using it.  It costs a minimum of $5/check, or 1% for printed checks and 4% for handwritten checks.  I don’t get a lot of paper checks anymore, but the few I happened upon while I was doing the review were so small they weren’t worth the fee.

You can deposit cash at ReadyLink or Moneygram locations.  The app brings up all of the ones close to you.  There were several close to me, but I didn’t have any cash to deposit!  I’m turning into quite the digital girl.  You may be able to deposit the cash for free, especially if you’re using ReadyLink, but some retailers do charge a fee.  If you do see a lot of cash in your day-to-day, I’d check out the cash loading locator, and call the locations convenient to you before deciding for sure to open up a card.  I doubt the fees would be inhibiting, but if you’re working a job where you get paid in tips it might add up.

If you’re super digital, like I apparently am, getting money onto the card should be no issue and end up costing you nothing.  If you run into a lot of paper, run the numbers first.

Getting money off the card is a breeze.  You just establish a pin and use it like a debit card.  It is through Visa, so I think you’d have a hard time finding a place that doesn’t accept it.

If you do need cash, there’s 55,000+ surcharge free ATMs within their network.  Those can be brought up on the app or using this locator, too.  There’s one literally two blocks from my house, so that was a non-issue.  Convenient, even!

Another cool feature is that you can send money to friends who also have a Kaiku card directly within the app.  I am Kaiku-friendless at the moment, but I have a feeling that’s going to change as people start hearing about them.  When you go out for dinner, instead of splitting the tab you can just send your half to your friend through the app.  Instantly.


Overall, I had a really positive experience.  The visual and always having the app with me made me more conscious about my food spending decisions.  Getting money off the card was always free and simple. If you’re in a position where you get paid with a lot of paper checks, or all of the ReadyLink/Moneygrams in your area charge too-high fees to deposit cash, this may not be the best option for you.  But if you’re trying to get one area of your budget under control, keep a college student’s spending in line, or just flat out can’t get a bank account, I found this to be a great system to use if you’re using direct deposit or doing everything on the deposit end through digital transfers.



*I received compensation for my time and the writing of this post.  Regardless, opinions are 100% mine and 100% honest.*

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