Author Archives: femmefrugality

Around the World in 80 Books: Canada

Welcome to the next installment in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge! It’s exactly what it sounds like: I’m trying to read 80 books from 80 different countries/cultures around the world, and to add a frugal spin, I’m trying to do it all for under $20.

Here’s my running tally so far:
$0- Library books: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Spain, Nigeria, New Zealand, China
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan, Autism in the USA
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Grand Total: $6.73

Today’s book also came from the library, so we get to keep that total where it is.

Gold star.


The Dog Who Wouldn't Be

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My Canada book, recommended by Messy Money, has been on my list since the beginning. I thought it would be a children’s book–a classic, for sure, but written for a young audience. Much like Because of Winn-Dixie.

I was so convinced of this that when I picked it up from the library, I decided to start reading it with my child at bedtime. It’s not particularly thick, so we’d read until they passed out every single night. Bedtime had a new lure of excitement as we’d wonder what would happen in the “dog book” tonight.

As we read, I realized that while Mowat was a child in the story, it wasn’t necessarily a book written for children. I had almost no reservations reading it to my kid, but we did have to stop a lot to explain what happened.

Mowat writes about even the most mundane things with such poetry that he made me care about things I don’t normally care about. Like attempting to sail a boat down a “creek” created by sewage drain off. Or washing a dog. Or, to be honest, hunting.

The book itself is akin to a Laura Ingalls Wilder tome, except Mowat doesn’t seem to mind if his robust vocabulary shows–even if it’s challenging to the reader. Set largely in depression-era Saskatoon, it chronicles his childhood and family relationships through the lens of the life of the dog who accompanied him for much of it.

At the end, somewhat predictably but still sadly and in an unexpected way, the dog dies.

This was the part I was worried the most about with my child. After all, we lost a family pet ourselves less than a year ago.

Far from being devastated, they rolled over and asked me, “What pet is Farley going to get next?”

The kid wanted a sequel.

I’m not sure if I need to review mortality with my kiddos or if a loss young in life calloused them. Or, perhaps, the memory of the loss is there, but they’re so young that the memory of the actual companion has faded–and with it, the visceral part of the grief.

Regardless, we absolutely loved this book. Its style was unexpected and endeared me to Mowat’s writing. He’s definitely one of the authors I’ll be coming back to after this challenge is over.

Also, since it was a memoir of sorts, it counted towards this month’s Adulting Read.

On Deck A Brief History of Seven Killings

I so badly wanted to have this one done and review this month, but, alas, I have about 200 pages left. You’ll just have to wait until March to hear about Jamaica!

Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:
Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg recommended by Savvy Working Gal
Philippines: May Day Eve and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin recommended by Guiltless Reader
Iceland: Scarcity in Excess by Arna Mathiesen & Thomas Forget
Sudan: The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih recommended by Kate Wilson
Ethiopia: The God Who Begat a Jakal by Nega Mezlekia recommended by Based On a True Story
French Antilles: Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde recommended by Based on A True Story
Suriname: The Free Negress Elisabeth by Cynthia McLeod recommended by Based On A True Story
Costa Rica: The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica
France: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr recommended by Our Next Life
Germany: In the Garden of Beasts or Devil in the White City by Erik Larson recommended by Emi from AIP Around the World
Haiti: All Souls Rising by Madison Smartt Bell recommended by Tre from House of Tre
Jamaica: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James recommended by Jana of Jana Says
South Africa: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton recommended by Emily from The John & Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing
Australia: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson recommended by Aaron from When Life Gives You Lemons, Add Vodka
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Mali: Monique and the Mango Rains recommended by Rebecca from Stapler Confessions
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland

Behavioral vs Economic Rationality

NOVA: Mind Over Money
I was watching this PBS special called Mind Over Money the other night. year. Yes, it’s still applicable.

It was about the economy. And how everyday people’s spending habits factor into economics itself.  It focused a lot on the stock market, but it was really interesting on a smaller scale, too.

PBS’ Mind Over Money Overview

The show presented two different views on economics:  rational economics and behavioral economics. Rational economics is the system we’ve been using for a while…at least 50 years. You could also say we’ve been using it since the days of Adam Smith.

It assumes that before anyone buys anything, they weigh the outcome of their purchase carefully. Quality, utility, and desire are all factored into these crazy long and complicated equations subconsciously in our heads, meaning we always think about how long the product will last, how useful it will be to us, and how much we really want it vs. need it.

This economic rationality theology assumes that we are all rational spenders. Always. Economics as we know it depends on it.

Behavioral economics says that the populous is mostly made up of emotional spenders.  Things like competition, want to be of a higher social class than we actually are, and the desire for immediate gratification factor into our decisions when we buy.

In this model, there are some rational spenders, but the majority of the market is made up of emotional spenders via the behavioral rationality model.

The documentary  talks about how back in the day (like up until 25 years ago,)  the people on the floor of the stock exchange would be yelling, screaming, and competing. These professionals would more often be emotional spenders than the people who work there today.

With the internet and programs that allow us  to major in the pseudo-new field of economics, more of these professionals do research using complex equations which they learned in school while studying economic rationality than in the past.

That means that the people who handle stocks today are more rational spenders than their predecessors.

The film comments on how that effect(s)/(ed) the stock market in recent years. I’m not going to get into that aspect of it. I took one economics class in college that I pretty much slept through.

Not proud.

But I’m not going to pretend like I know it all now just because I watched one PBS special.

What I would like to get into is a reflection on my own spending habits. I’d also like to invite you to join me.

Do we operate from a place of behavioral or economic rationality?

I tend to believe more in the behavioral model than economic rationality.

I also feel like I am one of the few who is anal-retentive about my money. I want to know where every penny is going. If I see a really cute dress, I don’t just buy it. I look around the whole rest of the mall and then decide if it’s still something I need.

If it is, is it worth the money I’d have to fork over to pay for it?

Most usually it’s not. That being said, I have a very western/American sickness. I get this huge high from buying new stuff. Every once in a while, I give in to the behavioral model.

When I say once in a while I mean like once a  year–maybe.

But when I do, I get so happy. I feel like it should bother me. I know it’s wrong. But in that moment, I don’t even care that I’m being an emotional consumer. It feels too good to care.

Typically, when I participate in this indulgence, I later experience buyers’ remorse. It’s been rare few occasions when the spending guilt didn’t lead me to return the items I didn’t truly need.

That being said, I know I’m one of the few that waits to remove tags from my emotionally-charged retail purchases, and one of the fewer who actually returns them within return policy windows.

I truly believe that’s why the stock market is doing well, today, in 2017. The uncertainty of our country’s future has so many people stressed TF out that they’re engaging in emotional spending–providing a temporary boost to retail profits.

Am I an emotional or rational spender?

My spending profile:  Rational consumer with the extremely rare emotional shopping trip thrown in. Typically resolved by buyers’ remorse.
Your spending profile:  ?????

I’d love to hear your answer in the comments! Remember that Femme Frugality is a judgement-free platform. Whatever your answer, we’re interested in exploring your why–without condemning you in any way, shape or form.



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Three Ways to Lower Car Insurance Rates

These are great tips! I'm about to go get on the phone to lower my car insurance rates!

Wondering how to lower your car insurance rates? If you drive a car, auto insurance is a necessary bill, but it can eat into a good chunk of your budget. The good news is that you can probably pay less than what you are today.

Here are three ways to lower your car insurance rates so you can save some of that premium money for something a lot more fun:

1. Compare Insurance Companies

Compare auto insurance companies to score lower rates.

Every few years, call and compare rates. Kind of like lowering your credit card debt, if you know what competitors are offering, you may be able to use it as a type of bargaining chip.

Before you call a competitor, make sure you know exactly what your current car insurance covers, how much they’ll pay out for each type of coverage and how much your deductible is for each type of coverage. You do this because when you call to get compare rates, you want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

When you’re getting a quote, you’ll want to make sure you ask not only what the premium is, but also how many times a year you pay that premium.

The last time I called the company with a lizard for their mascot, they gave me a great quote on a premium.  It really was tons cheaper than any of the other companies I called.  But I was going to have to pay it three times a year versus the twice per year frequency other insurers provided.

I did the math and found that rather than saving 15% or more, I would actually be forfeiting 15% or more per year if I chose them as my insurer.

When you’re comparing in an attempt to lower your car insurance rates, don’t forget that most  companies give customer loyalty discounts.  If you’ve had a policy with them for ten years, for example, you’ll be saving money. This means that while it’s good to shop around, you should also ask your current provider how long you have until you reach your next loyalty discount–and how much it will be.

Related Post: 10 Car Insurance Discounts You Should Ask For

2.  Trim your hedges

Check ou these three ways to lower car insurance rates.

Insurance is all about hedging risks against possible bad outcomes. While I wouldn’t recommend state minimum insurance as a way to lower your car insurance rates, you probably don’t need all the whistles and bells the insurance company will try to sell you–or already has.

For example, if you already have an amazing health insurance plan, you may not need gold star medical coverage on your auto insurance. Have a car that’s worth $1,200? You probably shouldn’t be paying for $50,000 worth of collision/comprehensive coverage on your vehicle.

Coverage for other people’s vehicles is something you’ll want to hedge against. You never know when you’re going to get into a fender bender with a Lamborghini.

I recently lowered some coverage and started saving $35/month.  The amount of hedges you’re comfortable with trimming is completely up to you.

3.  Bundle Packages

ways to lower car insurance rates

Most companies that provide auto coverage also cover other things like homes, renters, life, or valuable personal property insurance. Bundling these packages can sometimes make your premium lower.

For example, if you pay $4/month for valuable personal property, but the discount for bundling is $19/month, you’ve actually reduced your overall premiums by $15/month, and you’re getting coverage on other areas of your life.


Have you ever lowered your car insurance rates? Share your experiences in the comments!

Tours of Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms

So cool that this exists! Frugal tours at Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms in Pittsburgh

The door to the Africa room.

Pittsburgh really is an amazing city. It’s beautiful. It’s safe. It’s green.

And it has culture.

A few months ago, we were doing something in the the city’s eastern neighborhoods when we drove by the Cathedral of Learning. My littlest was in awe.

For those of you not familiar with the city, the Cathedral of Learning is a towering, gothic work of architecture that functions as a home for classrooms and admin offices for the University of Pittsburgh. The university is one of the oldest in the country, but it saw one of its biggest booms of growth after WWI.

There was suddenly a shortage of classrooms for all the new students, and there wasn’t a lot of space to build new facilities. To solve the problem, they built up rather than out. The result was a 535-foot tall building–the tallest educational building in the world until Moscow State University built their Main Building in the 1950’s. Today the Cathedral is still holding its own as number two.

cathedral of learning nationality room israeli mosaic

Floor mosaic in the Israel room.

Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms

My child was impressed by its height and intricate design, but the Cathedral of Learning hides other treasures inside its walls. Aside from massive study areas that make you feel like you’re at Hogwarts, it also has the Nationality Rooms.

These rooms have been donated to Pitt by ethnic communities in the tri-state area. (That’s western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia.) Some came right around the time of the Cathedral of Learning’s construction. Others are still being built. (Right now, Iran’s room is under construction and the Finnish community is raising funds to make their designs into reality.)

While many of these rooms hold art, artifacts and straight history, the Nationality Rooms are not mini museums. They are, with few exceptions, functioning classrooms.

I told my child about these rooms and all the cultures they could explore inside that dizzyingly tall, cool-looking building. And they wanted to go. Badly.

This week, we finally made it happen. Luckily for us, visiting the Cathedral of Learning’s Nationality Rooms just happens to be insanely frugal.

cathedral of learning nationality room india

The India room.

Cathedral of Learning: Hours and Tours

There are a few different ways you can tour the Nationality Rooms. The first is with an actual guide. In order to do this, you have to have ten or more people and schedule your visit ahead of time.

You can also tour the rooms with an audio guide. You take the headset with you and can learn about each room as you go.

For either of these options, you pay $4 per adult and $2 per kid aged 6-18.

We just walked in and asked if we could look around. While a guided tour may be awesome, my children weren’t ready for all that. They were happy to give us a map of the first and third floor–which is where the Nationality Rooms live–and let us go on our merry way for free.

Related Post: Free Tours of The Allegheny Observatory at the University of Pittsburgh

cathedral of learning nationality rooms france


The Cathedral of Learning is open for tours from 9a to 2:30p Monday through Saturday and 11a to 2:30p on Sundays. If you want to just go look around like we did the rooms are open until 4p.

Because these are functioning classrooms, it’s best to go on a weekend. We didn’t, and we missed seeing about 50% of them because there was a class or recitation in session.

While there’s some we’re excited to go back for, we weren’t disappointed at all by our trip. Fifty percent is still a lot. We saw Israel, Africa, Poland, India, France, Greece, Syria, Armenia and more.

Some of the larger rooms had buttons you could press to get part of the audio tour, but what my kids seemed to enjoy most was sitting in all the different kinds of chairs. Age-appropriate cultural exposure, I suppose. And we were lucky enough to be able to give it to them without leaving our own city–or dropping big bucks.

For more information about the Nationality Rooms straight from the University of Pittsburgh, click here.


Overcoming Financial Obstacles as a Black Woman

Today I am so happy to welcome Chonce Maddox of My Debt Epiphany for our next installment of the Intersectional Women’s Finances Series. Today Chonce will share with us her experiences with finances as a black woman in America, including overcoming generational poverty and combating the wage gap–twice.

As a black woman in America, there are so many financial obstacles. Love how she overcame so many!

Growing up I was always told that I had to work twice as hard and be twice as good in order to be successful.

As a black woman in America, I learned about racism, stereotypes, and this nation’s horrific past as I aged.

I never thought much about how being a black woman affects my finances until I started becoming more conscious about improving my financial situation.

Getting Hit Double Time By The Wage Gap

The gender wage gap is something I used to pretend didn’t exist. When I entered the workforce, I didn’t like to talk about money or earnings as I thought it was unprofessional.

When I got a job, I didn’t negotiate or even question my starting rate because I didn’t want to be seen as greedy or unappreciative of the opportunity.

Then I read this statistic and realized that there’s a minority wage gap as well:

According to a study conducted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), black women made 63% for what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2015. This means that it can take a black woman nearly 8 extra months to be paid what the average white man earns.

When I landed my first job out of college, I started out earning $28,000 per year. I was the only woman in the office. Even though I liked my boss and he seemed fair, I couldn’t bring myself to ask my white male coworkers what they were earning to see if I was being compensated fairly.

Instead, I made sure I spoke up for myself and earned my worth. Each year, my boss gave each employee an annual review and offered a pay raise.

I made sure I came prepared to negotiate a higher hourly rate each year.

As the popular saying goes, ask and you shall receive. Over the course of their careers, women lose out on $500,000 simply due to their failure to ask for a raise.

Statistically speaking, men are usually better with money than women. But I believe that’s because some women lack financial confidence which can make negotiating and earning more difficult.

Note from Femme: Many of the financial planners I know confirm that their male clients tend to be more tuned in to investment strategies and building wealth than their female clients. It’s also interesting to note that we, as a culture, may be perpetuating this cyclical lack of financial confidence by the way we discuss these matters with our daughters.

What Would Be At Stake If I Settle For Low Wages

The gender and racial pay gap is messed up no doubt. But I know I can’t sit around not doing anything about it. I choose to speak up, back up my claims, and demand what I’m worth.

Now that I work for myself, I have the freedom to charge clients whatever I want. Sometimes, it feels super awkward to ask for a raise or raise my rates, but I know it’s the right thing to do as the cost of living and inflation goes up every year.

It was also a mindset shift I had to make. I knew that if I didn’t start earning more, I would never break out of generational poverty.

My parents grew up in the inner city. Their parents didn’t have any wealth and couldn’t afford to send them to college so they didn’t go.

My parents did a great job raising me as best as they could. But they worked blue collar jobs and couldn’t afford to financially fund a college education for my sisters and me as well.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a full free ride to college but some savings would have been helpful. Instead, I knew I’d have to take out student loans. I was fine with it and knew it was necessary if I wanted to take a different approach to getting ahead.

For minority groups with low wages, I feel like so much is at stake. For starters, it’s harder to save and invest when you aren’t earning as much as a man or someone as a different race.

If you choose to go to college, you’ll likely have to take out student loans and it will be harder to pay them back upon graduation due to your low wages.

Having low wages and taking longer to build wealth will really slow things down in terms of getting your nest egg in order and leaving something behind for your children to build on.

Just look at how the average African-American household’s net worth compares to other races.

More Stress, More Work

In terms of black culture, it’s common for women to juggle household tasks, raise children, and maintain a full-time job (if not 2 jobs).

Both my mother and mother-in-law work two jobs. I did, too, at one point. This is not specific to African Americans alone or even women for that matter, but it is more likely.

According to research from the National Institutes of Health, historically, the labor force participation of Black women has been higher and more stable than that of White women.

This doesn’t mean that black women are earning more, but it can mean more stress. According to the study, black women have not reached economic equity with other ethnic/gender groups and tend to be more stressed as a result of the burden.

As a former single mom, I can relate to that stress. However, knowing these statistics and deciding to do something about it is what has allowed me to propel forward.

I know I’m at a disadvantage and the odds are stacked up against me. There’s the gender and race wage gap along with discrimination in the workplace.

However, I believe that there is more than one way to reach success. If I can’t get in by the front door, I’ll try the back door or the window. There are still many career-fields and opportunities for black women to succeed and improve their finances and I hope to explore more of them.


Chonce is a personal finance blogger and freelance writer who enjoys sharing debt stories (as she and her husband work their way out of $40,000 in debt) along with talking about saving, budgeting, conscious spending and improving your financial house. In her spare time,she enjoys working out, playing sports with her son, cooking, and thrifting.

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