Author Archives: femmefrugality

What Financial Health Means to Me #FinHealthMatters

A lot of times when we write about money, we pretend that our income will look like this:

While we may hope our money looks like this over our lifetime, that isn't reality.

But just as the aging process doesn’t always go the way we want it to, studies show that for most American families, income doesn’t go up in a straight line at a 40 degree angle. For many of us, our income journeys will look more like this:

The reality of money is that it doesn't come in at a consistent clip. Build resilience.

It’s not a convenient truth. But it’s a reality the vast majority of us face. You can’t always count on a raise. You can’t always count on a lateral move that pays more. Heck, if the Recession taught us anything, it’s that you can’t always count on having a job or a home six months down the line.

But there are some things you can do to straighten your line out a little bit. You might not have a steady, increasing source of income, but there are financial habits you can build that will help you not throw up in your mouth as you ride the ups and downs of a lifetime of income fluctuation.

Build Resilience Through Savings

I’ve been through some pretty crazy ups and downs in my financial life. I’ve been unemployed. I’ve lived in poverty. I’ve had great jobs that I loved, and even a great job that paid well.

But nothing is static. It’s true in life, and it’s true for your money.

To build resilience during those times of trial, you need to sock money away while things are good. Avoid lifestyle creep, and instead invest in your emergency fund and retirement accounts.

I know this is a good idea because I once had to live for five months without work after an involuntary cross-country move. Fortunately, I had built up a five-figure emergency fund by living frugally while I had a (comparatively but not really) fat paycheck.

Being unemployed didn’t feel good, but it felt a heck of a lot better than it could have because I knew I could pay my bills while I looked for work.

Maintain a Side Hustle

A few years ago, there was a regional shortage of work in my unionized field. Because I didn’t yet have crow’s feet, I was on the bottom of the employment register, and lost nearly all my income as the primary breadwinner for my family.

Luckily, I had this side hustle going on called blogging. I used all that extra time I had gained from not working my 9-5 to build up my business to the point where it could sustain my family, and even exceeded the max income I could have earned in the career I classically trained for.

I was blogging for a few years before I was at a point where all this was possible. Because I was able to work in my off hours to build up a side source of income, I was able to avoid financial stress and jump as cleanly as possible into a new form of employment.

Keep a side hustle going, even if your income flow is making you happy right now. You never know when you’re going to need it.

Love how she parses out how to deal with financial reality through resiliency.

Humble Yourself

When I had my oldest child, things were not going well financially. Neither my husband nor I had a degree, and our income was extremely stunted.

To this point, we hadn’t asked for help. There were literally times where we chose between the electricity bill and food. Between sporadic stints of employer-sponsored insurance, we didn’t get to go to the doctor. We didn’t get to go to the dentist. We lived on this suspended hope that everything would be okay–someday.

When I found out I was expecting, I checked my pride real quick. I realized that I was responsible for another life, and that I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed consistent health insurance. I needed food. I needed help.

So I got it. Applying for benefits was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done, and in retrospect, I can’t believe it took me so long to do it. Those programs helped me get on my feet and facilitated our upward mobility so much faster. Because of that help, I now pull in a decent income, paying it back both through those taxes everyone complains about and charitable giving.

But I couldn’t have gotten to “good” without asking for help to get out of the “bad.”

Get humble. Get what you need to make things better. Don’t sit in squalor because of imposed cultural shame.

Remember: It will get better.

You know how earlier we said that nothing was static?

It seemed like a bummer because I was telling you the good times don’t last.

Well, guess what? It works the other way, too.

When things are bad, they don’t stay bad forever. Things will eventually get better, especially if you’re working hard towards your goals. It might take a while, but you can fend off (situational) depression by knowing that no matter how low things seem right now, there’s a high point around the corner. Start taking action today to reach it.

Should I Buy Auto Insurance on My Rental Car?

Shoot! I didn't realize I was already covered! Will definitely be reconsidering buying extra insurance the next time I rent a car.

Getting ready to purchase auto insurance on that rental?

Hold your horses.

I totally get that you don’t want to be held liable should the worst happen. After all, you’re renting a car for convenience or vacation—the last thing you want to do is worry about the unknown.

But you also don’t want to spend more money than you have to. If you are purchasing an auto rental on a credit card, you may already have coverage. You may also have coverage if you carry a regular auto policy.

Don’t automatically agree to paying yet another premium. First, call up your credit card and insurance companies to see what you already have.

Auto Insurance Offered Through Your Credit Card

If you are paying for your rental with a credit card, you may already have coverage. These policies most often cover damages caused by collision and theft.

Let’s look at PenFed’s Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card. As long as you paid for the rental entirely with this card and only had authorized drivers per your rental agreement operating the vehicle, coverage includes:

  • Physical damage to the vehicle
  • Theft of the vehicle
  • Towing charges as long as they’re reasonable
  • Valid loss-of-use charges imposed and substantiated by the auto rental company

If you’re renting domestically, coverage only applies to vehicles rented 15 days or less. If you’re out of the country, it applies to rentals of 31 days or less.

Not all vehicles are covered. For example, if you wanted to roll around in a Ferrari, you wouldn’t qualify for coverage. The same goes if you sign a rental agreement for any luxe vehicle or a van, motorcycle, moped, open-bed vehicle, or antique auto.

These exceptions are pretty standard across card companies, but it’s always a good idea to give your benefits administrator a quick ring before signing to make sure your specific make and model will be eligible for coverage.

The only thing you have to do to accept coverage is definitively decline the insurance the rental agency is offering you. In writing.

Your Own Auto Insurance

If you have auto insurance, the following areas will generally be covered by your own policy:

  • Liability to others’ property in case of property damage
  • Liability for others’ medical bills in case of a crash
  • Medical expenses for you and others in your vehicle

This is a good time to review your coverage limits. If they’re too low, up them.

If you carry a renter’s or homeowner’s policy, your personal effects will typically be covered in case of theft—even though you’re not at home, and even though you’re in a rental car.

Your auto policy should also cover damages due to collision or theft, but if you have a deductible the policy on your credit card should help make up the difference. You’ll either have no out-of-pocket costs or be reimbursed for expenses in those two areas.

What Insurance Should You Buy from a Rental Agency?

If you do not have your own auto insurance policy, it’s wise to purchase the liability coverage from the rental agency, even if you have collision and theft covered via your credit card.

If you and everyone in your car carry health insurance, you can probably skip the medical coverage—unless someone knows they have an astronomical deductible or low coverage limits.

If you don’t carry homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, get on that. You should have it anyways. But if you don’t currently have a policy and you’re traveling with belongings you’d be remiss without, it’s not a bad idea to sign on for the personal effects coverage, too.

 

 

This post is in collaboration with PenFed Credit Union. The views expressed in the article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pentagon Federal Credit Union. PenFed Credit Union is an Equal Housing Lender and is federally insured by the NCUA.

What’s My Best Path to Wedding Savings?

I got nontraditional bride which sounds about right. Great, unique savings tips for your wedding!

We have something different lined up for hump day this week.

Femme, by different do you mean amazingly fun?

YES, I DO!

We’re in the thick of wedding season, and while my three-year wedding anniversary has come and gone, I still get a lot of inquiries on my wedding posts. So many, in fact, that I’m lucky enough to create new content around it every once in a while.

Today, I thought it would be fun to put together a little quiz to see which kind of bride you are (or were,) including tips on how you, specifically, can save money on the big day and make smarter spending decisions.

I’m including all the results and resources below, giving you a way to view additional content if you’re not 100% happy with your results.

Here’s your task:

  1. Take the super fabulous awesome quiz.
  2. Read your results and get your free resources.
  3. Come back and let me know if you think your results were a good match or not by leaving a comment.

Men, you can do this, too. It’s aimed at brides because this is primarily a women’s finance blog, but there aren’t any questions about dresses or corsets. I promise you’ll be fine.

Ready….go!

Make your own quizzes here.

The Eloping Bride

Want to find out the best ways to save money as an eloping bride? Check out this quiz.

You want your big day to be about you and your partners’ lovenothing else. And we think that’s beautiful. A nice side effect is that you’ll run into a lot less planning stress. And need a lot less money.

RESOURCE: Save money on airfare by getting married quickly at the East Coast’s Vegas.

The Destination Wedding Bride

Want to find out the best ways to save money on your destination wedding? Check out this quiz.

You only plan on doing this once, and you want to do it right. You want to get married to the (wo)man of your dreams, and you want to do it at a place of your choosing.

If you have a destination wedding, you’ll have to consider your family members’ ability to travel, both through the lens of health and finances.

Get a Destination Wedding & Honeymoon for Free

Destination weddings aren’t as expensive as you’d think they might be. In fact, places like Sandals give them away for free routinely.

No, you don’t have to enter a contest.

No, you don’t have to give up your first-born.

All you have to do is book three nights at one of their resorts, and then you get a free wedding including venue, flowers, and cake. You have to pay for the officiant and the processing of paperwork, but everything else is taken care of.

Then, if you have family members coming in, you get your room for free when you bring guests. The number required is different for different times of year. September 1 through Christmas your room is free when you have at least five guest rooms booked. January 2 through August 31 you have to have eleven guest rooms booked, and then yours is free.

Free wedding. Free all-inclusive honeymoon. Pretty sweet deal.

Here’s the resorts where you can get married:

  • Jamaica
  • Bahamas
  • Antigua
  • St. Lucia
  • Grenada
  • Barbados

You can learn more about the deal here.

The Nontraditional Bride

Want to save money as a nontraditional bride? Check out this quiz.

You buck the norms at every turn, so why should your wedding day be any different? You know that the most impactful way to cut your costs is to limit your guest list, so you only invite who’s really important. Your venue choice is likely to be outside the norm, and you dress however the heck you want–even when you’re walking down the aisle.

RESOURCE: Get married without an officiant–not even a judge. Just the two of you professing your love and commitment to one another.

The Modern Chic Bride

Want to save money as a modern chic bride? Check out this quiz.

You and your partner love and respect each other in every aspect of life: as lovers, as friends; professionally and spiritually. Your big day will represent that deep mutual admiration with class from the dress to the venue.

Class can get expensive, though. Don’t be afraid to get outside of metropolis areas when searching for your venue to save some cash, and remember that everything is negotiable.

RESOURCE: Cut your catering costs with these veteran tips.

The DIY Bride

Want to save money as a DIY bride? Check out this quiz.

You are a bride on a mission, and that mission is SAVINGS. You’re willing to craft, call in favors, and even borrow your sister’s wedding dress in order to make your big day happen. You’re smart for doing so, as you’ll be able to use all that extra money for other financial goals like buying a house or starting a family.

Just be sure to run your numbers before you start that next DIY project. Surprisingly, sometimes paying someone else ends up being cheaper than doing it yourself.

RESOURCE: Make your own free, printable place cards for the reception.

The Traditional Bride

Want to save money as a traditional bride? Check out this quiz.

Decorum and tradition are important to you. Your partner may have asked for your hand, and you plan on getting married in a church (or other place of worship.) Your reception may or may not be opulent, but there will definitely be a three-course meal and dancing.

Following tradition, your parents may be paying for some part of your wedding, though you’re likely making a big fiscal contribution. This is your big day, and a big day for them. While that may make planning a little heated at times, in the end, you’ll figure out a way to make it beautiful for everyone involved.

RESOURCE: Why You Shouldn’t Set and Forget Your Wedding Ring Insurance

The Country Club Bride

Smart ways to use your money when you're planning an expensive wedding.

You’ve been planning this day since you were a little girl, and mom and dad did not disappoint. They’re following the tradition of paying for your wedding, and you are all lucky enough that they have the means to do so in a big way.

A great way to thank them is to point out different ways they can be smart with their purchases–and assure them you won’t mind that they’re cutting dollars out of the budget.

RESOURCE: Leverage Your Honeymoon with Your Wedding Spending

 

How to Get Out of Paying Your Security Deposit

Um, this is freaking amazing. This company helps you move into your new place without the huge security deposit---lifesaver!

When we moved into the place we’re living now, we had to have just shy of $2,500 on hand. That included first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit.

That’s an insane amount of money when you’re making just above minimum wage—which we were. We’re fortunate that our income has gone up since then, but even still, security deposits are one of the big expenses that have made staying put rather than moving a better financial choice for us over the past few years. Even if we get our full security deposit back, rent inflation has gotten a little crazy lately, which means the deposit refund wouldn’t cover the security deposit at our hypothetical new place.

Get Out of Paying Your Security Deposit

What if you could eliminate that security deposit? It seems like a dream, but in an era of progressive financial products, it’s not.

Jetty, an insurance company that serves city-dwellers like us, has this really cool product called Passport Deposit. Essentially, you’re buying a surety bond through Jetty. You purchase this bond for 17.5% of the cost of your security deposit. Then, you don’t have to pay your security deposit up front.

Your landlord is the recipient, and carries no risk. Jetty is literally insuring that you won’t trash the place. If you do, you’ll have to pay for damages. So don’t mess your place up.

If we were to move right now, we’d likely be looking at a place with a minimum monthly rent of $1,100. That means our security deposit would also likely be $1,100.

Yikes.

We could save for that for sure. But to be honest, it’s preferable for me to not have to pay that much upfront.

With Jetty, we’d only have to pay $192.50. We wouldn’t get that money back, but we could take the other $907.50 and invest it. Assuming a 6% annual return, we’d have made that $192.50 back and then some by 2020. Within 11 years, we would have more than doubled our initial investment.

That’s way better than throwing it all at a security deposit that will lie dormant for the duration of your rental period.

If you don’t have the $1,100 upfront, to invest or give to the landlord, Jetty’s Passport Deposit can be a lifeline. While I don’t advocate for living outside your means, the reality is that the rental market is wreaking havoc on American families. We frequently like to think about housing from a buyer/seller perspective, but since the bubble burst in 2008, renters have been paying a steep price.

If you can afford the rent, are a responsible tenant and just don’t have the extra money for the security deposit, this product can help you get into your place with a lot less stress.

When You Don’t Meet Income Requirements

The last time we moved, we were lucky that our landlord didn’t set income requirements. Like I said, we were making just above minimum wage.

We’ve never missed a month, by the way. Even in hard economic times.

A lot of other landlords did, though, and it disqualified us from moving to those locations. We aren’t talking about luxe high rises with amazing city vista views, either. We’re talking about basic, affordable housing.

The only place I could find where we made 3x-4x the monthly rent every month had a blanket hanging in the stairwell, separating us from our future neighbors, and a busted up stove. When I asked the potential landlord about replacing it so we could do things like cook, he said, “Well, that’s expensive.”

Yeah.

Let’s take our $1,100 per month place as an example again. With kids in Pittsburgh, one of the most stable housing markets in the country, we’re talking about some pretty basic housing. It likely won’t be in a blighted neighborhood, but it’s not going to be in a super ritzy part of the city, either.

To make 3x-4x monthly rent, you’d have to be pulling in $3,300 to $4,400 per month. Fifty percent of families in this country make under $68,000 per year. While people at the top of the $0-$68,000 income range would have no issue meeting those standards, those in the middle of the pack would. And do.

That’s why Jetty also has Passport Lease. If you don’t meet income requirements, you typically will need a cosigner. The standards for that cosigner are typically higher, requiring that they make 8x-10x your monthly rent.

With Passport Lease, you don’t need a cosigner. You can move in without meeting the income requirement for a one-time fee of 5%-10% of your annual rent on a 12-month lease. On the $1,100 place, that would be $660-$1320.

While it’s not ideal to have to pay an extra fee, it is worth it if Passport Lease can get you and your family into a safe and healthy home.

Be a Responsible Renter

Only move into a place if you know you’ll be able to pay the rent on time each and every month. Cover yourself with renters insurance—which is insanely affordable and covers you in times of disaster, theft or liability. Take care of the place while you live there.

If you do all of these things and the barrier to entry is still just too high, look to Jetty’s Passport. It’s an innovative new product that can help you get your foot in the door.

 

This post is brought to you by Jetty Insurance, who has recently expanded into the Pittsburgh region.

Using Cashback Rewards for Travel

I can't believe I never thought of this---you don't have to use "travel" rewards to get free travel. You can use cashback rewards instead!

I’ve been doing a good bit of traveling this year. My itinerary includes a litany of states and at least two foreign countries.

But I kind of hate spending money.

That means I’ve been doing a good bit of signing up for credit card bonuses to offset the costs. It’s funny—if you do a lot of this over a one-year period, you start to run out of well-known cards to apply for.

Not too long ago, I had hit up all of the big, flexible bonuses that you can use as a credit statement against travel costs. I may apply for these cards again in the future, but I don’t like to take too much advantage and there wasn’t enough time to “churn,” anyways.

So I started looking at alternatives. I started looking at cards with smaller bonus rewards—but also lower spending limits. That was a total win.

Then I got to thinking that I should probably look at straight cashback cards, too. If all I was getting was a statement credit, the cash rewards would still allow me to pay for travel. In fact, if I wanted it to pay for something else, like a park ticket, that wouldn’t normally be counted as a travel expense, I totally could with a cash rewards card.

So I got to looking.

Thinking about using credit cards for rewards? Stop now and read this first!

Using Cash Rewards Cards for Travel

I liked what I found. There are a lot of options out there with decent rewards and relatively low minimum spends. That’s good for people like me who have started to max out the options with heavy-hitting bonuses due to wanting so much free stuff. By the way, yes, I have a great credit score.

But it’s also good for people who don’t have as much income and therefore can’t afford to take on $3,000 spends over the course of 60 or 90 days.

Let’s look at how this works:

PenFed just came out with the brand spankin’ new Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card. With it, you earn 1.5 cents back for every dollar you spend on purchases—regardless of where you spend it.

That alone is a big deal as a lot of cash back cards offer rotating categories. They often reward you with a high point value within a certain category, but lower points on everything else. The kicker is that those categories tend to change every quarter, and you typically have to manually register or call in if you want the inflated bonus.

A lot to keep on top of. It makes 1.5 cents per dollar back every single time you spend pretty attractive.

On top of that 1.5% back, this card also currently offers a $100 bonus when you spend $1,500 on it within 90 days of opening your account. By the time you’ve spent enough to earn the incentive, you’ll receive $122.50 total. One hundred for the bonus and $22.50 per the 1.5% cash back.

This statement credit can negate any purchase on the card—including park tickets!

Earn More by Becoming a Member

With this particular card, there’s a further incentive if you want to earn even more cash back on every purchase. If you have either a military affiliation or a PenFed Access America Checking Account—which is a fabulous idea anyways and can easily be attained without military service—your cash back rate will jump up to 2%.

That means by the time you reached the minimum spend for the bonus, you’d have $130 total instead of $122.50.

It also means that if you spend an average of $500 per month on your card, your cash back rewards will add up to $120/year rather than the $90/year that you’d receive at the 1.5% rate.

How Cash Back Rewards are Helping Me

I’m pretty sure we’re going to get next-to-free park tickets thanks to using this method. I’m glad I didn’t just throw my hands up in the air and declare there were no other options left.

I also love that while cash back cards can help the travelers out there, they can help add value to people’s lives even if they have financial priorities that don’t include hopping on a plane.

But they only add value if you use them correctly. Please remember to charge responsibly.

*This post is in collaboration with PenFed Credit Union.*

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