Around the World in 80 Books

 

Today I’m super excited to announce that I’m joining a fun challenge posed by my friend Savvy Working Gal.  It’s called travel the world in books. Basically you read books from around the world, setting your own goals and benchmarks along the way:

“The Goal

Travel the world in books, of course! Expand your horizons and read books set in or written by authors from countries other than the one you live in. Visit as many different countries in books as you wish. 

The “Rules”

And the “rules” are simply this…YOU choose your own adventure! These are your goals but you can change them any time. “

My Goals

I want to read 80 books from around the world. (Like Around the World in 80 Days.) I’m not setting any firm time deadlines for myself. I love to read, but it’s a leisure I fit in around everything else.  Sometimes I’ll move along more quickly, and other times a book will probably take me a while. This is for fun; it’s not a job.

I’m counting books from different cultures.  Within my own country, I could read a book from a cultural subset to which I don’t belong, like the Deaf community. Similarly, I could read multiple books from one country if they are written by or from the point of view of a different cultural subsets.

I’m going to do this frugally.

My goal is to spend less than $20 on the 80 books.  I’ll keep a tally.  I plan to do this by:

  • Getting free ebooks.
  • Paying off my library fees, and then borrowing books from the library. (I won’t count the fees towards the $20, unless I incur them as a result of the challenge.)
  • I sometimes get books as gifts.
  • Winning books in giveaways.  I’ll show you one below!

My running tally so far: $0.

 My Shelf So Far

If you’re interested in seeing my reads on a map, I’ll be updating this one every time I finish a book!  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

If you’re reading in email, go to the website to be able to see which books I’m reading.

Country: England.

Status: Read!

Review: I read the free Amazon version. There were several paragraphs repeated throughout. It was good for the type of book it was. I expected it to talk more about Arthur, but aside from the beginning he was a secondary character. Tristram and Isolt was the fastest and favorite part. (Hate reading?  You can catch a different version of their story in the movie, Tristan And Isolde.  Stars one of my favorites, James Franco.) Lancelot and Guinevere’s relationship was extremely PG.  But the whole thing was still enough to make me want to visit Merlin’s Cave like Budget Loving Military Wife.

Country: Turkey.

Status: Reading.

This one I actually got as a birthday gift…perfect timing, right?  I’m going to wait to review books until I’m all the way through with them.

Country: Israel. I think. Maybe Palestine/Gaza strip. I’ll have to read it to find out.

Status: In queue.

I won this one from a giveaway on Mom’s Small Victories associated with the challenge!

 

So that’s three books, three countries.  I’ve got 77 more to go! Any suggestions?

Ask Femme Anything: #FrugalFINCONFiesta

fiesta   I’m not going to Fin Con.  Obviously. For those of you who have no idea what the heck that is, it’s a conference for people who write about finances.  A ton of great bloggers are going, but there are a ton who aren’t, too.  I’m joining up with some of the best who stayed home for an unprecedented event, created by Debt Debs.

It’s a live blogging event for all those staying home.  What that means is that I’ll be updating this post between now and tomorrow night to answer ANY question you may have for me.  Just leave it in the comments, and I’ll answer!  (And let me ask that we keep things PG-13.)

I’ll start off with an example to get things rolling.

Femme, why aren’t you going to FinCon this year?  Or any year past? I’d love to go.  I hope to go in the future.  But it kind of falls at a bad time of year for me and the day job.  Even if I could swing it, I’ve got young kids at home, and the husband has a pretty demanding schedule in the fall, too, so we’d need baby-sitters galore in order to make it work.  Plus, travel is expensive.  This year it’s in New Orleans, and we’ve already busted our travel budget with our pseudo-lavish honeymoon and a family trip in 2014.  Anything beyond a car trip is out of the question, and I’m saving my rewards points for other purposes.  Add to that the actual ticket prices.  Around $500.  Too much money.

I’m sure the benefits you get out of going are worth it.  But if I went, I’d also miss out on this Fiesta, and that would be pretty lame. NOTE TO FINCON PLANNERS: Pittsburgh is an amazing city!  The President thought it was cool enough to have the G20 here.  If you need more selling on why you should host it here in 2015, I’m your girl.

Kirsten asks: What is the hardest thing about blogging for you? What is the easiest?

The hardest part lately is finding the time. I’ve started dropping tasks that don’t produce anything of value, and outsourcing some things is probably in the near future. Also, coding.

The easiest is content. I love writing, and have post drafts and ideas waiting. Sometimes they get pushed back a lot because there is so much that needs to be said immediately. Like the Pittsburgh airport post. It was scheduled for May, but I don’t think it actually went live till August.

Brian asks: How will you teach your kids about money?

I plan to give them a lot of responsibility, and let them make mistakes at home where it is easier to learn lessons.  They’ll get an allowance once they’re old enough, and I’ll encourage savings while leaving the final decision of allocation to them.  I love visual methods, like this one.

As they get even older, I’ll start explaining to them what the heck I’m doing about things like saving for retirement, saving for their college, and paying off any loans we may or may not have.  As college approaches, we’ll get real about what mom and dad can pay, and I’ll teach them how to apply for grants and scholarships as they start making those major decisions, encouraging them to stay as far away from student loans as possible.

Brandy asks: I’ve never been to Pittsburgh. What is your favorite thing to do there?

This is such a hard question.  Over the course of my life, there have been different favorite things about the city.  When I was a high school student, I loved hanging out at North Park or the Point (where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio; it’s downtown, and the former home to Fort Pitt which was pretty important back in revolutionary times.  Now it’s a gorgeous park with a gorgeous fountain.)  Summer break brought festivals of all kinds, and I’d head downtown with my friends for every one of them.

As an adult with a slightly larger budget, I love going to baseball games at PNC Park. (Of course, there’s the Steelers and Penguins, too, but those guys are out of my budget.)  I also can’t get enough of the Cultural District, where we have the most Broadway shows in the world, second only to NYC (obvs.) I love our museums galore with discounts galore. I love living so close to Mt. Washington with one of the best city views in the world.  I love that although you are more dependent on a college degree than in most locations, we have an overall affordable economy.

Ultimately, my decision to come back “home” for keeps was the fact that Pittsburgh has a lot of culture with an extremely high level of safety for a city of its size.

Tre asks: What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

The first answer is both obligatory and sincere:  my children.

If I were to limit my answer to only blogging, I’d say it’s being able to connect with people who my writing has helped.  Whether they’ve found out about inaccuracies on their credit report, or found the best marriage license for their ideals/budget, it’s kind of amazing to hear that they figured these things out because of something they’ve read here on the blog.

Jean asks:  What one book or site has been the biggest help for your blogging?

I really can’t say it was one book or site.  It really has been a conglomeration of great bloggers willing to reach out a hand and help along the way.  Reading stuff is great, and has helped me a lot, but it’s the people that have helped answer my questions and grow behind the scenes that have really given me the biggest boost.  I’d list them all, but I’m pretty sure it would include at least half of the PF blogosphere.  Know we have a great community.  Be willing to reach out for help when you need it.

May asks: Why personal finance?

I was pretty broke when I started? Haha.  I’ve always been obsessed with maintaining good finances, but sometimes life gets in the way.  Circumstances had me in a weird spot with my money, and I was forced to get really creative.  I started blabbing all these amazing, creative ways to my friends, most of whom didn’t care at all.  So I started blogging hoping I could at least help somebody out there.

Deb asks: Why do you blog anonymously and who of your family and friends know about your blog?

There are four or five reasons I blog anonymously. The one I’m most comfortable sharing is that I’m painfully self-critical. Having everyone I know read what I write would probably paralyze me to the point I wouldn’t write anymore.

That being said, my husband blabs about my blog to everyone he knows. Most people just say, “What? She makes money doing that? That’s cool.” And never ask about the URL or anything. Still make me blush. My immediate family all know. My sibling has written a review for me. My mom loaned me the money to go self-hosted because she believes in me more than I believe in myself. The blog earned enough to pay her back in the first two weeks. And I have a few friends that have been reading since I first started and shared some posts on Facebook. I hadn’t yet decided on my anonymity at that point.

KK asks: What has been your biggest financial “mistake” and what did you learn from it? 

I get flack every time I say this, but having a joint account with my first husband was probably my biggest mistake. From it I learned that you can love and trust, but you’ve got to be practical and protect yourself, too.

Also, my first lesson in personal finance left a pretty huge impression.

Tennille asks: How do you plan to celebrate once you become debt free?

I actually am debt free. My husband is carrying a small amount of consumer debt that we’re chunking away at, but not too worried about as it’s on a 0% interest credit card at the moment. It’ll be paid off long before the promotional rate expires. He also has a car loan, but it’s not something we stress about. We’d much rather pay a small car payment than have a beater that needed to go in for repairs every month. The only debt I’ve ever had is a car loan, and I paid that off about 18 months ago. We live within our means, so we don’t really have too much to worry about as far as debt. We would like to increase our income, and I guess that will be something to celebrate. But mostly in full bank accounts, not so much in epic partying.

Melissa asks if we will stay in Pittsburgh after our kids are grown?

We’ve actually talked about this, too, Melissa! The only thing that could make me say no is the winters. They’re not even usually that dramatic, but the city does not plow its roads. The suburbs do. And last year was a bit better under our new mayor. But overall, if I’m not skiing, I’m not a big fan of the cold.

The first beach we ever went to together was Virginia Beach. The husband said he wanted to set up a beach shop there when we retired. And live by the sea. In reality, all of his family lives here, as does my immediate. I think that’s enough to stop him from pursuing that dream.

Another factor is where our kids end up. If they stay here (I’m finding out through genealogy that parts of his family have been here since at least 1800,) we will stay here, too.

I think what will end up happening is we will become snowbirds. Have a home here to rent out to the plentiful grad students in the winter, and make for sunny shores when the weather starts to get colder. Only after we retire, though. I had kids pseudo young, and want to stay at my company till I retire. There will be a few years in between.

We will see, though. We still have a lot of time and many other goals to reach before that happens.

Frankly Frugal asks: What would you do if you lost your wedding ring?

File an insurance claim!  This actually happened to me once in my previous marriage.  I got really torn up about it.  Now I realize a ring is just a ring.  While the thing it symbolizes is important to me, the ring itself can be replaced.

Here’s some wisdom from experience, though: if the economy ever tanks, go get your ring appraised as the price of precious metals probably just shot through the roof.  I didn’t, so I got reimbursed for the price my ex bought it at when the economy was still booming rather than what it was actually worth.  Lost almost $800.

Questions are closed!  Thanks for making this such a fun party!  Feel free to ask in the comments below, but I will not be adding anymore to this post.

Also, check out all the other cool peeps participating in the fiesta below Deb’s rules!

Something to Read, Something to Win, & Something for Free

Today is a hodgepodge of awesome stuff for you guys.  Hope you enjoy!

Engaged and in Pittsburgh?

And have nothing to do tonight?  Register for A Magic Moment Engagement Party at Jergels in Wexford.  Tickets were $40, but now the event is free if you use promo code FREE when you’re checking out.  Here’s what the night will include for you and your hunny:

  • Entry into 100′s of dollars in guest prizes & gift baskets.
  • Chance to meet our celebrity guest couple from TLC Four Wedding’s.
  • Chance to meet some of the best wedding professionals in the area, plus exclusive specials & savings to this party only!
  • Admission to Jergel’s afterwards to continue your party with family & friends.
  • Plus… appetizers, cake, music & dancing all in honor of your engagement!

Savings for Wedding Attendees

I realize I’ve kind of skimped out for those of you who attend weddings rather than get married. And that’s not cool.  I recently read this great article on saving for wedding attendees.  It includes some ideas I’ve never come across before.  Thought I’d pass it on: Here Comes the Bride, There Goes Your Budget?

Honeymoon Accommodations for free?  Or Just $500 Towards a Hotel for Anyone.

Travel Pony is turning 1 year old!  And to celebrate they’re giving away a $500 credit to use towards any hotel reservation on their site. If you enter, you get three entries for telling them Femme Frugality sent you.  (Plus, it helps me out, too.) You can enter here by Monday the 22nd.

On top of that, if you sign up using this link, you’ll get a $35 credit, too.  No winning necessary. I also get a smaller credit when you book through that link, but my main objective here is to pass on the savings to you.  They’re having massive sales this week on top of all that for the birthday celebration.  Yesterday you could get up to 53% off.  No joke.

If you want to see why they’re so awesome, check out my post from a couple of weeks ago here.

Get Excited.

Since I’m not going to FinCon (which is essentially a money-writers’ conference for all you non-bloggers out there,) I’ll be doing my first live blog over the weekend as a part of DebtDebs’ initiative.  It starts on Friday morning here on Femme Frugality.  It’s new.  It’s terrifying for me.  And it’ll be amazing.

 

“I don’t know if they’re ready for this.” A mother’s first attempt at organized sports.

girls playing soccer

The first day of soccer practice.  It all started so well.  Yo Gabba Gabba doll in one hand.  Crayon in the other.  My kid definitely wasn’t going to be touching the ball with their hands.

We even checked in and changed into our new, purple soccer shirt without incident.  Kiddo ran out onto the field and started dribbling the soccer ball around like it was nothing.  This kid is athletic.  This kid is agile.  This kid loves to run.

But then the “organized” part of organized sports began.  The coach called all the kids onto the field to sit around in a circle.  Everyone obeyed.  Except mine.  Mine ran in the other direction.  The amazing assistant coach tried to coax them back over.  He is a saint.  As I dragged them kicking and screaming back over to the soccer ball, back over to the other, obedient 3-5 year olds, he kept trying.

As the coach was teaching the others to dribble the ball like a dog on a leash, and then letting the dog loose as they kicked as hard as they could, mine was running off the field to observe a run-off grate.  As the assistant coach tried to show mine how much fun it could be to kick a ball into a net, mine was crying because mommy wouldn’t let them run off to the playground.

The thought came into my head.  It was a fear I had, one that I had hoped would be wrong. “I don’t know if they’re ready for this.”

My child does not excel at organized.  We used to go to the library every week for circle time.  We pretend that we don’t go anymore because I graduated college and got a job and he went to school and we got too busy and… But the reality is that we gave up.  Kiddo stopped sitting and listening to stories at all.  They would sit for the art activity at the end, but we weren’t even making it that far.  After someone else would refuse to let my kid steal their shaky egg during music time, mine would scream so bad we’d have to go out into the hallway.

We tried to go back.  Rinse and repeat.  We’re in the hallway again.  “If we go back in there, you can’t scream.  Your other option is to go home.  Do you want to stay or go home?”

“Go.”

A single word answer that killed all hope.  They weren’t having fun.  We definitely weren’t having fun.  So we stopped going to the library.  (For story time anyways.  We still go to occasionally print out papers and rack up some late fees on some books.)

This was turning out to be the library all over again.  But I couldn’t let it be.  If I didn’t make them stay, if I didn’t make  them participate, even if they didn’t want to, we weren’t going to learn this whole organized thing.  And organized is a large part of functioning in society at any age level.

The practice part of practice was over.  Now it was game time.  I sat my child down on the sidelines.  I held them tight in my lap despite their struggles.  I told them, “Look at the other kids on the field having fun.  You can go have fun with the other kids on the field.  Or you can sit here with mommy.”

There was screaming for 20 minutes.  At least I think it was 20 minutes.  Time was a medium that my brain wasn’t able to process in those moments.  But there was progress.  Kiddo would leave my lap, but instead of running away, they’d throw their tantrum on the grass next to me.  The next thing I knew they were standing, screaming, on the wrong side of the goal.  But still in the goal!  Cries turned to blubbering as the other kids got close, trying to kick the ball into the net, as mine whimpered and observed.  They came back to me, still screaming, but at least they didn’t go at full sprint to that enticing run-off drain.

I heard another parent say as their daughter dribbled the ball down the field, “Wow, she’s really doing it!”  I was so happy for them.  Truly, I was.  It was what I had hoped I’d be saying about my child that day.  But in all honesty, that would have been a miracle.

Sports aren’t about miracles.  They’re about hard work.  Sure, maybe that hard work can manifest itself in something that seems miraculous.  But it’s the training and practice that makes things happen.  It’s also about teamwork.  It’s about that assistant coach who isn’t giving up on my child.  It’s about the coach who is focusing on the whole of the team, because my tantrum-throwing bundle of joy isn’t the only one there; other kids came to learn and grow, too, and the way they work together to handle all the different situations they have going on is a great example of teamwork to the youth they’re working with.

We made progress last week.  But we still have some work to do.  I think it’s possible.  I’m not expecting miracles.  But I am expecting improvements.

 

I’ll be posting updates halfway through and at the conclusion of the season.  My child’s wonderful coaches work with Jump Start Sports.  They have a ton of different programs across a ton of different sports in PA, OH, MI and NC.  My child received free enrollment because I’m writing about their experience.  I feel like this is pretty obvious, but I still have to let  you know:  the free enrollment doesn’t effect my honest opinion and what I’m writing on this blog.  All of this is 100% true, down to every last temper tantrum.

 

Financially Savvy Saturdays Fifty-Fifth Edition

So…this is confusing.  I’ve been spending the past few weeks telling you about how I’m not hosting #finsavsat anymore, and then here I am today.  

Let me explain:  this week I’m co-hosting with the fabulous new host, brokeGIRLrich! This is a one week thing, so while you won’t be able to find the party here every week, you will be able to find it on her blog every week.  There’s been a few improvements made, so make sure to check on the rules even if you’re a vet!  My favorite is that you can subscribe to get an email every time the party goes live.

Also, you guys weren’t lying when you said it was really hard to pick a favorite post.  Anyways…on to the party!

 

Welcome to Financially Savvy Saturdays, the savviest personal finance blog hop on the planet, created specifically for personal finance writers! We welcome all things money here. Whether you’ve written anything from early retirement to how to invest in armadillios, you’re invited to link-up. If it ties into personal finance, we want to read it!

Financially Savvy Saturdays

Tweet about it. You can use #finsavsat when tweeting about the party!

Concerns about SEO? Recently many bloggers have decided to stop participating in events such as Carnivals. If you’re worried about how participating in this link-up could effect your SEO, I’d encourage you to check out this article.

Feature of the Week

As this week’s co-host, I have selected my favorite post from last week’s blog hop. This week’s feature is What Will My Social Security Be? by Nearly Retired.

 

What Will My Social Security Be?

Click on the image to read this week’s featured post!

If you submit a post, you could be featured in next week’s party!

We do have a couple of rules for participation. Those who don’t follow the rules will have their link taken down.

1. Your post must be written in the past seven days, related to personal finance and not be solely a giveaway.

2. Be sure to include a link to one of your hosts by copying and pasting the html in one of the boxes below into your linked up post. You have the option of the button or a text link.

3. Follow your hosts. You can follow brokeGIRLrich on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, OR by subscribing to her RSS feed. Also, you can follow Femme Frugality on Twitter OR Google+.

4. Comment on at least one post before and after you that have joined the party.

5. HAVE FUN!

Please copy and paste this button into the post you link up:

brokeGIRLrich

OR copy and paste this code for a text link:

 <em>*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on <a href="http://brokegirlrich.com/?p=1604" rel="nofollow">brokeGIRLrich</a> and <a href="http://wp.me/p3TJm1-BF" rel="nofollow">Femme Frugality</a>*</em>




How Safe is Your Job?

Please welcome my fellow blogger Brent, who wrote this awesome piece on the importance of emergency funds; especially in today’s job market.  He also has a pretty rad giveaway going on.  Be sure the read the whole article to get the deets.  (Also, I can attest to Heinz laying people off, even at the Pittsburgh HQ. Some have been able to negotiate their way into staying or even receiving raises, but some have just flat out lost their jobs since the buyout. So how safe is your job?)

 

You feel the blood run from your face.

Your stomach tightens into a knot that would make make any boy scout proud.

You’re seeing your boss’ lips move, but you can’t hear any of the words coming out of his/her mouth.

All you can hear, over and over again, are the words you just heard: “We’re letting you go.”

You don’t know if you’re dreaming or if this is reality.

You think to yourself, “There’s no way they’re actually letting me go, I’ve been working extremely hard here for 7 years and have done nothing wrong.”

Your snap back to the conversation with your boss asking you, “Are you okay?”

Although you manage you mumble, “Yeah, I’ll be fine,” you know it’s actually the furthest thing from the truth.

As you start to pack up your dimly lit, windowless cubicle you start to think about all those times you told yourself you were going to start your emergency fund after you bought your new TV, your new iPhone or that family vacation to Hawaii.

Now it’s too late. You’re staring down the long barrel of unemployment with nothing more than the two weeks of severeness you received as your parting gift.

Sounds dramatic, but this is the exact scenario that many people are going through these days even as the stock markets are hitting record highs and corporate profits are setting new high water marks.

In Canada, where I was born, there are long established institutions that are laying people off left right and center. Companies like:

  • Bank of Montreal: 1,000 layoffs
  • BlackBerry: 4,500 layoffs
  • Heinz: 740 layoffs
  • Potash Corp.: 1,045 layoffs
  • Encana: 800 layoffs
  • Big Lots: 1,600 layoffs
  • Canada Post: 6,000+ layoffs
  • and many more

What makes it worse that new jobs are being created at the slowest pace, excluding the great recession, since 2001. In 2013, new jobs were being created at half the pace of 2012 with an average of less than 13,000 new jobs created every month.

I can hear a lot of you right now saying, “Yeah, but my job’s not at risk.” Maybe you’re right. But, maybe you’re wrong. Either way, wouldn’t it make sense to finally get started on that emergency fund and figure out how to start a side hustle?

There are many economist and personal finance bloggers that are predicting that these full time jobs will never come back. They are being replaced with part time positions or contract labor. In fact, of the 21,600 new jobs created in Canada in November 2013, less than 10% of them were full time jobs.

I’m not trying to scare you into making today the day you start to get your financial house in order so you can survive a layoff.

I’m trying to petrify you so you have no other choice but to start today.

The first step in solidifying your personal finances is creating a budget and tracing your expenses each and every month.

This sounds boring, pointless and way less fun than a Breaking Bad marathon on Netflix, and the fact that only 32% of Americans keep a budget probably means that it is boring and no fun.

Truth be told, many people will tell you that keeping a budget is liberating and has helped them stop stressing about their money. They finally, for the first time in their lives, know where every dollar is supposed to go and where every dollar is actually going.

There are lots of great ways to keep and track your budget. There are also lots of terrible ways that are ineffective and complicated.

A great way to budget is to follow the four rules set by You Need A Budget (YNAB). They are:

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Save for a rainy day
  3. Roll with the punches
  4. Live on last month’s income

These four simple rules have helped countless people just like you finally become budgeters, or YNABers as they call themselves. The median YNABer net worth increases by $200.00 after just one money and by a whopping $3,300.00 after just nine months.

One of my favorite things about YNAB, besides how great of a budgeting tool it is, is that it’s accessible on your computer, tablet and smartphone meaning you can keep track of your income and expenses anywhere you go.

It also doesn’t automatically sync with your bank accounts, which not only removes any security concern, but it also gives you the hands on intimacy with your budget that you need to make it work.

YNAB sells for $60.00 and is worth every penny but luckily for you, I’m giving away 10 copies of YNAB (total value of $600.00) if you take action today. Click here and enter to win the budgeting software YNAB so you can gain total control over your money.

Click here to win a copy of YNAB budgeting software

What do you think? Is your job safe? Have you ever been laid off before? What did you do? Please leave me a comment below. Thanks!

Brent’s a world record holder, inventor, engineer, entrepreneur, world traveler & eternal optimist. You can read more of his writing about personal finance, entrepreneurship and travel hacking at VOSA.com.

 

Favorite Free Online Shopping App: Buy Happy

shopping bag

Have you ever spent too much time analyzing your online purchase?  Searching the web to see if you were really getting the best price?

I’m guessing the answer’s yes since you’re here reading a frugality blog.  I have, too.  Let me tell you, that’s time I wish I could have gotten back.  At some point you have to ask yourself if the time you’re spending finding a better deal is actually worth the savings.

Unless you have the Buy Happy App.  It’s kind of amazing.  It’s an app works on your browser (Chrome, Safari, or Firefox,) to make sure that every time you check out, you’re getting the best price.  You may remember the whole Philosophy lotion birthday gift debacle.  Eventually, my husband purchased it from Amazon, which was the only place he could find what I actually wanted.

This was in our pre-Buy Happy days.  I got curious, so I went back to Amazon to see if he got the best price.  It was still at the same price that he originally purchased.  I clicked, “Add to Cart.”  And Buy Happy gave me this news:

buy happy

Click here to view the image if you are viewing via e-mail.

And it was good!  He had found the cheapest price on the web.  (Which was awesome because we couldn’t find it in stores.)

In our newbie Buy Happy days, we were also in the market for some kids’ shin guards for my child’s new soccer season.  Since we have a pretty awful time when we take our clan into a physical store, we decided to scope out what was available on the internet first.  And this happened when I went to put the shin guards to the cart:

buy happy

Again, click here if viewing in email.

Amazing!  Buy Happy notified us before we could even log in to Dick’s that Sports Authority had it cheaper.  With zero effort on my part, we had found a better deal.  (In all fairness to Dick’s we had to look at a few different shin guards before this happened.)

Biggest Buy Happy Savings Application

I’m super excited to use this all the time, but especially on Cyber Monday this year.  I’ve gotten more and more averse to going into stores for Black Friday sales.  But I find that a lot of times on Cyber Monday I spend HOURS trying to make sure I’m getting the absolute best deal.  I’m thinking my holiday shopping will take minutes this time around.  The holidays are busy anyways, so I’m glad I’ll be able to spend more of that time with my family as opposed to endlessly browsing the web.

What about my personal information?

One of the first questions I had when I downloaded the app was concerning my privacy.  I was all about the savings, but didn’t want to add another layer of vulnerability that comes with entering all of my data online.  They sent me this, which explains which data they collect and which they don’t.  It’s a really short, easy read (mostly images with captioned explanations,) but let me sum it up for you:

When you click “Continue Purchase” (like in the Philosophy image) or “Get Better Price” (like in the shin guard image,) Buy Happy stores whether you clicked, or simply exited.  That’s it. It does not store passwords, credit card numbers, or any other personal information.

Give Happy

Another cool thing Buy Happy has done is team up with a bunch of non-profits for a project called “Give Happy.”  When you download the app through one of these non-profits, every time you make one of those everyday purchases, they donate some money to that organization.

The list of Give Happy partners isn’t completed yet, so if you want your non-profit involved you can get in touch with Brett at Buy Happy at his email:  brett {at} buyhappy {dot} co.

Get the App and Start Saving

Want to start saving?  Or start saving without the headache of scouring the net for the lowest price?  You can download the browser extension here.  Super simple.  Super savings.

 

Buy Happy has compensated me for this post.  Regardless, all opinions and experiences are 100% my own and 100% honest.  I don’t recommend things to my readers that I wouldn’t use myself.

What is a Family Savings Account?

family savings accountA Family Savings Account, or FSA, is a great way for Pennsylvanian families to build up a nice little nest egg. Community non-profits work with low-income families to build a savings plan.  Once you’ve met your goal, the organization will meet your savings dollar for dollar up to $2,000.  So even though you’ve only saved 2k, you can walk away with 4k.  (Be proud of yourself for that 2k.  It’s not easy.)

How do I qualify?

In order to qualify, your income level must be at 80% of the area median income level or less.  The most recent numbers available to me for Pittsburgh make that $52,100 or less for a family of four, and $44,700 if you’re closer to Philadelphia.  (The numbers will change based on your locale; take these as ballpark numbers not gospel.)

Despite the name of the account, you can be an individual and still qualify.

How long do I have to save the money?

Generally you have 2 years to save the money, but depending on the contract you sign you may have 12 or 36 months, as well.  You must save an average of at least $10/week or $40 a month.

What can I use the money for?

What you use the money for depends on the options that are available at the agency you end up working with.  Most of the time the funds are used for:

  • Purchase of a home.
  • Purchase of a used/new vehicle to get you to work or school.
  • Making repairs to your current home.
  • Starting a new business or expanding a current one.
  • Educational costs for you or a dependent.

Do I have to do anything other than save the money?

Yes.  Some organizations will require you to come to an orientation.  But all require you to attend classes they provide on financial literacy.  (There’s no way this could be a bad thing.  Financial education is always a great idea, and will only help you reach financial independence quicker.)

Should I have any other concerns?

Yes.  If you receive food stamp benefits in Pennsylvania, you are only allowed to have up to $5,000 in assets before losing those benefits.  (This excludes one car and your home if you own one.)  As much as I hate to advocate against savings, you really need to sit down with the organization that is providing your Family Savings Account and figure out a game plan in case the combined savings and match of $4k will prevent you and your children from eating.  Don’t completely abandon the idea of savings, but go in and talk with someone about the reality of your situation before signing any contracts.

Where can I get a Family Savings Account?

In Pittsburgh, ACTION-Housing, Inc. offers them.  The YWCA used to, but I cannot confirm that their program is still in operation.  (Call them to check.  They may not immediately pick up, but are good about returning voice mails.  Even if their FSA program isn’t still open, they do have a myriad of other programs that may be able to help you in your situation, enabling you to allocate more of your own funds towards your positive financial goals.)

In other areas of the state, including other areas in Western PA, I’d check with my local branch of the United Way.  If they don’t offer a program directly, they will most likely be able to put you in touch with a local organization that does.  If that does not work, it may be worth the headache of getting in touch with someone at your local welfare office.

Do other states offer anything like this?

Yes.  The state of Indiana offers a similar program called Individual Development Accounts (or IDAs.)  Click here for more information.

The Positives of FSAs

Family Savings Accounts can be a major boon to people who are trying to get out of poverty.  Yes, there is the matching, but the accountability provided by working with one of these organizations makes you more likely to keep on track.  The financial education classes are a wonderful bonus that we could use across all economic classes, regardless of income.  (A lot of those nice, middle-class neighborhoods are financed through some serious and debilitating debt due to lack of financial responsibility.)

But the biggest positive to FSAs is that they can help the large majority of those on welfare who desperately want to become independent, but have found themselves running in circles in their effort to escape poverty.

Saturdays are Super

We did it!  We made it through our first calendar week of September!  I’ve been trying to follow Jessi’s whole “mommy gets up early, everybody has a better day” rule, and on the days I’ve done it, it’s been working.  Going to bed earlier has been an adjustment.  Learning to let enough be enough is difficult, but getting everything set for the day before anyone wakes up has averted so much drama and so many tantrums.

 

Looking for #finsavsat?

FSS-heiti TC

Financially Savvy Saturdays has moved!  You can now find it on brokeGIRLrich, where Mel hosts with a rotating co-host.

Six Words

Last month, I was honored to be included in Eli of Coach Daddy’s 6 word challenge.  Ernest Hemingway once said that any story can be summed up in six words. (Example:  He wrote phenomenal stories. Killed himself.  Sorry, Ernest, but I was limited to only six.)  Every month Eli holds a challenge asking readers and bloggers to submit their six word stories around a certain theme.

Last month’s theme was “What will your legacy be?”  And there were funny, moving, and always introspective submissions.  Check mine out.  I’m #38.  And let him know if you want to participate next month.

Also go if you love storm troopers.

Win Something

Brent over at VOSA is holding a pretty cool giveaway!  Click here to see how you could win your very own copy of You Need a Budget to use on all of your techy tech devices.  If you’ve never used You Need a Budget before, check out Abby’s synopsis of it when I interviewed her on the blog.

Happy Saturday, everyone!!!

 

 

 

Disney Childhood Memories

Today we have a post from my fabulous, fellow-Pittsburgh blogger: Kate!  Her blog, Thriftburgher, covers everything from fashion, the thrifty life, nostalgia, and lifestyle, among other things.  Kate’s contribution is the first part of a series of readers’ Disney childhood memories, or just Disney vacation experiences in general.  Want to contribute, too?  Shoot me an email.

 

Hi, I’m Kate, from Thriftburgher.

I decided to write this guest post because A.) I coincidently scanned these photos into my computer from the oblivion that is my parents’ house when Femme Frugality made a call for Disney-related posts, and B.) I have great memories of those trips.

WheelchairSally@Disneyworld

MickeyMouse@Disneyworld

My family was never rich, by any standards, but I have some great and interesting memories of going to Disneyworld as a child. Twice. I even went a third time, for a high school band trip.

But first, you’re probably wondering, what’s up with the wheelchair?

My parents had been hyping me up for months about this trip. It was a big Christmas present for me. I was bragging to all of my classmates in the second grade. Fate would have it that I caught the flu a day or two before my family was scheduled to fly to Orlando.

I had a fever of 101 or so. I went to my family doctor, and he said I should still go, as long as I kept hydrated and was pumped full of Tylenol. My mom was being extra cautious with the wheelchair.

It actually turned out well for me, because when you’re being pushed around in a wheelchair at a major amusement park, it’s an automatic ticket to the front of every ride line. I think parents and kids alike were thinking I cheated the system when I was wheeled up to a ride, and I would jump out of my chair and anxiously run over, no help needed. Part of that was being an excited 7-year-old at Disneyworld. The other part was being loopy and nutty on Tylenol the whole time. Haha.

My parents bought me an autograph book, too, so all of the Disney characters could sign. It quickly became an obsession, with other kids mobbing poor characters for a scribble in a notebook that I have no idea where it is now.

FirstPlaneTicketFinal

The other memorable part of that trip was that it was my first time on an airplane.

My mom saved the ticket stubs from that trip, and it was awesome discovering it. I used my Photoshop expertise to blot out a few personal things on the ticket, but that’s it, for the most part, in all of it’s glory.

I still remember the plane ride back. I insisted I wear a plastic Minnie Mouse hat home. (It looked just like this.) The snout probably stuck out six inches. And the eyelashes were exaggerated and cartoonish and stuck out, too. No one had to guess where I was coming from.

Four years later, my family went to Disneyworld once again. This time, my younger sister, Ashley, was old enough to go and enjoy it. And instead of making a winter escape in December, we made the trip in July, during the hot, muggy summer months. This is an experience I have more memories about, since I was a little older and I wasn’t sick during the trip.

SisterlyLove@Disneyworld

Goofy@Disneyworld

During that trip, we visited all four parks, and had went camping in our family pop-up trailer in order to save some money. I believe Disneyworld had their own campground, where the characters walked around, but we could only stay for a few nights. The rest of the time was spent at some generic campground, probably a KOA. We also visited Universal Studios and Gatorland during that trip.

Now that I’m an adult, newly married, and someday imagine having a family of my own, I hope this is an experience I can share. Next time I visit, I hope to:

Appreciate Epcot more.
I always found Epcot to be boring as a kid, but now, I think it would be great for children to learn about cultures from all over the world. It kind of makes me think of the Nationality Rooms, at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

Go during a cooler month.
I’ve always hated hot, humid weather. Besides, Florida is hot all year long. Why not go in the winter to escape the dreadful cold taking hold in the north?

Enjoy the experience, not the material possessions.
This is hard to tell a kid, obviously, but the Disneyworld parks are already larger than life. What difference would another t-shirt or stuffed animal make? Meanwhile, the memories are forever.

One last thing, that isn’t Disney-related: I want to visit Harry Potter World! Someday. :)

Thank you, Kate,  for sharing your Disney childhood memories!  Love the nationality rooms at Pitt, by the way, and Epcot!  If anyone is thinking about booking their own Disney trip sometime soon, request a quote from Laura. (That’s an affiliate link.) She can hook you up with the best deals on Disney World, DisneyLand, cruises, and other vacation options.  She can even help you get to Harry Potter World!

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