Author Archives: femmefrugality

Why Study Abroad is More Than a Vacation

Definitely want to make sure my daughter does her study abroad term right so she can reap these career benefits.

By Lauren Davidson, a freelance writer specializing in personal finance

Students are constantly offered chances to sign up for study abroad experiences. In fact, these days many colleges allow students from other schools to sign up for their study abroad trips, with pre-approved credit transfers to their own school. This has increased the availability of locations and programs for students to choose from when deciding on a study abroad trip.

Common concern for students include price, amount of financial aid available, and whether study abroad trips are valuable investments in their futures or just glorified vacation plans. After all, studying abroad is by no means cheap. Most trips range from around $2,000 to $7,000 depending on where you go. This is a sizeable amount of money, requiring you to find additional funding. I recommend trying to find some specific study abroad grants or scholarships before turning to student loans to pay for your trip.

Although it’s true that there are some programs that put more emphasis on the “fun” than on the “fundamentals,” most study abroad programs are serious about putting students to work to earn their credits, all while simultaneously providing them with an enjoyable cross-cultural experience.

From a student’s perspective, it’s important to find the right program which will provide both an enjoyable time and a learning experience. Booking the right types of programs will add luster to your resume in today’s increasingly global economy by adding skills and experiences that employers value.

Use study abroad as a chance to learn or improve upon your second language skills.

England is a popular study abroad destination in part because visiting and studying in a country where the citizens don’t speak English as a first language is daunting to many American students. However, this means a lost chance to learn or improve in a second (or third!) language. The longer your study abroad program runs, the more benefit you will get from immersing yourself into a foreign language.

To get the full immersion experience, request to be placed with a host family instead of a dorm room, if possible. Living alongside natural speakers will aid you in increasing fluency. If you have some sufficiency in a second language, even if you took classes back in high school, this is an excellent opportunity to beef up your conversational skills.

Listing on your resume that you took Mandarin in high school isn’t likely to lift the eyebrows of employers, but if you combine that with a half-summer in China then your claim of fluency just became much more impressive. For students who have not taken classes in a foreign language, it is still very much worth considering a program in a non-English speaking country.

It’s been proven that the fastest way to learn a new language is full immersion. Even slight conversational skills in a foreign language can be a very valuable skill set when job hunting. Employers are much more likely to take into consideration your knowledge of a foreign language if you have actually spent significant time in the country.

Choosing research programs abroad can expose you to new learning methodologies.

No matter the country or program that you choose, taking part in research programs abroad are an excellent chance to learn methods that aren’t being employed in your home university, or even in the United States. There are dozens of study abroad programs that give American students the chance to engage in research alongside students in the program country and this unparalleled chance to engage in cross-cultural research projects is viewed in high esteem by potential employers. These experiences can highlight a student’s ability to work across cultural boundaries, as well, which is another attribute that employers consistently rate highly.

Studying abroad makes students appear well-rounded to employers.

Studying abroad is a chance for students to step outside of their comfort zone, no matter what they choose to study or where they choose to go. Those that travel or live in another country are often viewed as more well-rounded than those that have never left the U.S. because of the diversity of experiences that traveling brings.

While it’s important to remember that study abroad trips are not simply an excuse to go on an extended vacation—most programs represent research opportunities and have significant credit hours included—simply the fact that someone has spent significant time in another country can put their resume to the top of the list.

Of course, this benefit is somewhat dependent upon the type of job. For example, many large U.S. law firms have foreign departments, especially in Asia. For a student hoping to one day live and work in another country after graduation, prior experience abroad can help them to land the job of their dreams.

Should I Hire Employees or Contractors?

Definitely had this question when my small business started to grow--should I hire an employee or a contractor?

Women-owned businesses are growing disproportionately to small businesses in the rest of the economy.

These businesses tend to start out as an entity of one. But when you experience growth, you need to get more hands on deck to handle the workload.

At this point, you’re faced with a question: do I hire employees, or do I contract it out?

Hiring Employees

Hiring employees means establishing loyalty and priority, but those things come at a cost.

Cons

  • You’ll have to pay payroll taxes.
  • In all likelihood, you’ll have to pay for healthcare.
  • To be competitive, you may have to offer a retirement plan.
  • Once you get big enough, you’ll have to hire someone to manage all those people.
  • Unless you have a completely remote staff, you’ll have to rent a bigger space.

Pros

It’s not all bad, though. There are some added benefits of having a staff that’s W-2’d:

  • All those benefits mean people are likely to stick around longer.
  • Less competing priorities.
  • More ability to delegate without renegotiating contracts.
  • Though you may need a manager or have to become one yourself, your team will be far easier to coordinate than a group of freelancers.

Hiring employees? Be sure you follow this 12-step process to keep everything legit.

Contractors

I operate primarily as a contractor. When I’ve needed assistance in my business, I’ve hired contractors rather than full- or part-time employees. While there’s good things about us, there are some undeniable hangups, as well.

Cons

  • Because there are no benefits, contractors don’t have as many scruples hopping from one job to the next. In fact, you probably aren’t your contractor’s only client.
  • Because you aren’t their only client, you may not always be priority #1. While I always try to make each of my clients feel like priority #1 and have been able to maintain some decently long relationships because of it, the fact remains that in order to pay the bills you almost always have to have more than one project going.
  • It’s difficult to coordinate contractors. They’re not all required to be in the same place at the same time for meetings, so communication may get fractured across different aspects of your project.
  • If you add tasks to a contractor’s workload, expect a conversation about contract renegotiations.

Pros

  • Contractors are cheap–even if you pay them more than you would a typical employee. No payroll taxes. No obligation for healthcare. No one’s expecting a 401(k) nonetheless a match.
  • Contractors tend to be extremely self-motivated. While coordinating between different aspects of a project may be difficult, once you sic them on a task they’ll likely require less management than a group of employees.
  • Contractors are much more likely to work remotely, reducing your overhead costs for rented space.
  • If you run into a budgeting problem, you can cut a contractor–or their hours–within the legal scope of your contract. This makes trimming costs easier when things are lean, and because you know they probably have other things going on in the background, you don’t necessarily have to feel like you’re putting them out of house and home (in most cases.)

The Best Way to Retain Workers

Once you’ve found good help,  you want to keep it, whether it’s coming from an employee or a contractor. The best ways to do this are to be fair in your compensation, flexible in your workplace structure and kind even in those teachable moments.

No matter who you hire, we’re all human beings, and the respect that breeds loyalty is a two-way street.

How have you handled new hires as your business grows?

 

How to Save Money as a Motorcyclist

Interesting trend--motorcyclists shouldn't try to save money on safety gear, but should try to save it on "the look" and financial products.

Did you know that May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month?

Neither did I until a couple of weeks ago. Essentially, auto drivers need to be aware there are motorcyclists on the road. They’re more difficult to see, and far more vulnerable to injury in case of an accident.

Motorcyclists, for their part, are reminded to follow the rules of the road, including keeping a safe distance from other vehicles.

I have a few motorcycle enthusiasts in my life, and they were kind enough to let me pick their brains on the subject. How do you save money? Which products are worth the spend?

A funny pattern emerged. The one place everyone agreed you should splurge is safety gear. Everything else is negotiable.

How Motorcycle Enthusiasts Can Save Money

Areas of saving included non-tangibles. With such a “cool” hobby, it’s easy to get caught up in the ego of it all—but that’s not necessarily the best financial move. I was also told it’s also very uncool to spend more money than you have to on financial products. I concurred.

You don’t need brand name.

I repeatedly heard that that brand name doesn’t always equate to high quality. Sometimes the sticker price reflects popularity—which is fine if the product lives up to your expectations. But sometimes you’re just paying for a name.

If you’re buying brand name, make sure the current product lives up to its established reputation. Research product quality rather than name recognition.

Scooters are cool. Just ask Macklemore.

I was advised that for budget shoppers, scooters are great. They can easily be had for under $1,000, get phenomenal mileage (think 100 MPG phenomenal,) and maintenance is cheap because you’re driving a comparatively small vehicle.

Shop around for the best rate on financing.

You should be as enthusiastic about your interest rate as you are about your hog. Lower interest rates can save you a ton of money over the course of your loan.

I typically like to look at credit unions when I’m looking at financing. Overall they offer lower rates, and because they’re so community oriented, you get treated like a person rather than a number.

Many credit unions are regional, but my favorite national recommendation is PenFed Credit Union. Applying online for membership is easy, and their rates on motorcycle financing just happen to be fantastic.

Shop around for the best rate on insurance.

Just like car insurance, be sure to shop around for multiple quotes so you know you’re getting the best rate. You should also make sure to ask about any discounts the company may offer—some of them are so far out there that they’ll surprise you!

Where to Splurge: Motorcycle Safety

Because you are so vulnerable on a bike, you never, ever want to skimp on safety products. Be sure to buy quality and look for industry-approved products.

Here’s what to look for in a helmet.

Your brain is so important that the Federal government has set regulations to protect it. When you buy a Department of Transportation (D.O.T.)-approved helmet, you know you’re getting something that meets at least the minimum safety standard. Don’t hit the road with an inferior product. Your life depends on it.

Protect your phalanges.

When you’re on a motorcycle, you want to remember to protect your feet with good boots, but you also want to remember to protect your hands with quality gloves. Some of them even have metal plating over the knuckles and wrist in case of a crash. Because life would be a heck of a lot harder without full use of your fingers.

No pleather.

When you’re shopping for a jacket, get the real thing: a thick, leather jacket. This is the clothing item that’s going to be protecting your torso, and along with it, your internal organs.

You need to see the sign(s).

One area that may be easy to forget is eye protection, but a good pair of safety glasses or goggles is critical. Not only do they protect your eyes, but if you have an inferior pair that slip or in any other way limit visibility while you’re out on the road, you’re more likely to get into an accident.

Spend on Safety, Save on Financial Products and Ego

It will always be worth it to spend money on quality safety gear when you’re a motorcycle enthusiast. It can be a lifesaving purchase—literally.

You don’t have to spend more on financing or insurance, though. And if you shop smart and are willing to step away from brand names, you can save a ton of money while still enjoying the sport.

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

Father’s Day Gift Guide Under $20

On a budget, but still want to get dad something he'll love? Check out this Father's Day Gift Guide where everything is under $20.

Father’s Day is just around the corner, and while it’s good to celebrate Dad, buying gifts should always be done within your budget. I’m not encouraging you to be chinsy. If you can afford something very expensive that would add value to his life, go for it. But if your budget is a little tighter, know that you’re not alone and that you can still get the father in your life something he’ll appreciate without draining  your bank account.

Here’s a Father’s Day Gift Guide for some inspiration. Keeping in mind that budgets may be tight, everything is under $20.

 MLB Watches

MLB San Diego Padres Men's Spirit Watch

Because this is ‘Murica and we love baseball.

Price: The majority of teams cost $19.99. For some weird reason, a few teams cost $24.99, like our beloved Pirates.

Where to get it: Bed Bath & Beyond

Pour and Shoot Mug

Pour and Shoot MugPerfect for all the Dads out there who are photographers–amateur all the way to professional. Help bring their day “into focus” with this clever coffee mug.

Price: $17.99

Where to get it: ModCloth

 

3-in-1 Soap for Men

Soap for Men - Cedar and CitrusSimplify his grooming routine with this 3-in-1 soap. It serves as shampoo, body wash and shaving “cream,” if you will. It’s all natural and smells manly.

Price: $6.95

Where to get it:  Thrive Market. This is a membership site, which is how their prices are so crazy low, but you get a free, 30-day trial to start so you can get this at the lower price without risk.

The Heroic Adventures of Super Dad Planner/Notebook

Super Dad Day Planner, Notebook, or Address BookTotally customizable with your own pic and <3(child’s name). Sure to make any dad feel good, and either document his journey or keep track of his Super Dad schedule.

Price: Starts at $16.00

Where to get it: Minted

Portable Lap Desk

Portable Lap Desk with Wrist Pad in Silver/BlackDid you know that using a laptop actively receiving a WiFi signal causes a decrease in sperm mobility and can even cause the sperm to no longer be viable? Well, now you do. If dad wants to be a dad again, or even just doesn’t want his computer messing with his reproductive parts, one way to cut back on the damage is using a lap desk. This one’s built for ergonomics FTW.

Price: $19.99

Where to get it: Bed Bath & Beyond

What Mon Mari Frugality Will Be Getting

Every year, we go with experiences for Father’s Day. The kids make some type of craft that costs us $0, and then we spend the day together. One year when I was not capable of leaving the house, he went on a Ducky Tour of the city with his offspring. Another year we all went to the zoo where dads get in for free on Father’s Day.

As our kids get older, this is getting admittedly more expensive. While we used to just have to pay for me or sometimes me and the husband to get in, now my kids are above the age where they get in everywhere for free. So we’re not in the $20 range anymore.

But if you would rather spend time together than give a gift, remember that spending time together can be the greatest gift. And there’s tons of ways to do that on the cheap.

Top 4 Reasons You May Need a Travel Credit Card

Huh. I didn't know credit cards were so much more secure for travel.

Using a credit card is a convenient and reliable means of payment if you’d like to travel overseas. You can book hotel rooms, buy tickets, rent a car, and pay in restaurants and stores.

In addition, if you take a credit card on your journeys you do not need to worry about:

  • Declaring cash at customs. There is no need to report the line of credit in your pocket when you travel with a credit card.
  • Safer than carrying cash. If your cash is stolen and you don’t have another form of payment on you, you’ll be stuck with no access to money for the rest of your trip. Cash has no protections, while credit cards do provide liability protections.
  • The safety of your funds. If the card is lost or stolen, it will be frozen when you report it. Liability measures provide much stronger protection for credit cards versus debit cards.

You need to pay attention to the best points credit cards for travelers if you want to select the most appropriate one.

Everything you need to know to get the maximum benefit from using a credit card

When traveling, remember that not all cards are accepted everywhere. Note that some European countries accept only “chip” cards, which provide the highest level of payment security. Make sure you know your accompanying PIN. Many American retailers only require a signature, so you might not be familiar. and that within Europe, some brands aren’t accepted at all. Such cards provide the highest level of payment security.

It’s also wise to carry an additional credit card in case you lose your main card, or in case it the issuer freezes it, mistakenly thinking your travels abroad are an indication of fraud. It’s convenient to carry cards of two payment systems (e.g. MasterCard Gold as the main, Visa Classic as additional). Moreover, Gold and Platinum class cards provide medical insurance for traveling abroad. Be sure to check your card’s policy before disembarking.

To avoid additional costs associated with currency conversion, it would be better for you to open an account in euros or US dollars depending on the region you are going to visit.

How to protect yourself from fraudulent transactions

To protect yourself from fraudulent transactions, take advantage of any SMS service your card issuer may provide. It will allow you to get all the information about the transactions associated with your account in real time.

If you become a victim of fraud, and realize it in real time, call your financial institution right away. If you don’t realize it until you read your statement, call them as soon as you are aware. You should follow up by writing a letter to your financial institution. You will be asked to specify the date of the suspicious transaction, the number in the system of payment as well as the code of the terminal. All this data can be found in your SMS or card statement. The financial institution will in turn consider all of this information, investigate, and determine the way of compensation.

There’s much more to learn about protection from credit card fraud. The FTC goes into greater detail here.

Other useful tips

Before going on a trip, find out whether the use of credit cards is widespread in your destination country. Countries like Finland are paradise for tourists in this regard. Even in a small town you can pay for a purchase using a credit card.

However, in some countries it is much more convenient to pay in cash. For example, it will be difficult to impossible to use a credit card in rural Egypt. In the Czech Republic, cards are accepted in large shopping malls and hotels. However, in small cafes and restaurants it would be better to pay in cash.

 

This article is brought to you and contributed by George Wolfson.

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