Category Archives: Family Finance

Free Services & Experiences for Military Families

These are some huge freebies for military families. Busch Gardens, anyone?

I grew up in a military family. Then I grew up and was in another military family. There are some fun things about the culture: you get to travel (AKA moving every few years,) you learn to establish deep friendships quickly and you get discounts just about everywhere you go.

Then there are more serious things. You have to move every few years—you get no say in the matter. You put up with weird spousal schedules as duties rotate.

You say goodbye to family and friends when they deploy, always trying to squelch the seed of fear that sits in your belly, because you’ve known and loved people who haven’t returned, but you cannot allow that seed to grow. Its far-reaching vines would consume you, and right now you need to be strong.

Today I want to remember all those serious things. I want to remember all the sacrifices that military families are currently making. I don’t know if I could do it again, but I’m so grateful that they are.

In that spirit of gratitude, I’m going to do what I do best: find free stuff. The below experiences and services are 100% free to active-duty military and their families. Go out there and have fun. And stash all the money you’ll be saving in your TSP!

Free Tax Filing

I know, I know. I’m a little late on this one. But you can get your taxes filed for free on base every year. Just keep in mind that being a tax preparer is often a seasonally-assigned duty—make sure the supervisor checks your preparer’s numbers!

PenFed Credit Union Membership

PenFed is a national credit union that has a field of membership open to active-duty miliary (and retired) families to join. They offer great rates, and stand behind their commitment to the military, not only through their programs and financial services, but also through their charitable arm The PenFed Foundation – which offers programs for the military like The Military Heroes Fund, The Asset Recovery Kit (ARK) and the Dream Makers Program.

Join today.

Free YMCA Membership

Active duty military members and their families get free membership at the local Y. To join, request an eligibility form from Military OneSource.

Free Wedding Dress

If you or your spouse-to-be has been deployed in the past five years, or has a deployment around the corner, you’ll want to head to a Brides Across America exhibition. At these events, active duty women or soon-to-be military spouses are given free wedding dresses for the big day.

This year there are still events scheduled in Colorado and Florida. There were also events in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Virginia in 2017.

Want to show your appreciation to military families? Donate a dress here.

Free Family Portrait

Sometimes you aren’t home very long before you’re gone again. Those moments are precious, and so are the memories that go along with them. Operation: Love Reunited is a network of photographers spread across the country who provide their services to military families for free.

If you’re a photographer and want to join their ranks, you can do so here.

Free Entrance to National Parks

The National Park Service and Federal Recreational Lands do not charge active-duty military for annual passes.  Just show your military ID at any of these sites and they will issue you one for free.

If you’re not in the military, you can get into National Parks for free on designated days. Find out when they are.

Free Access to Select NJ Beaches

Apparently you have to have a badge to go to the beach in New Jersey. Fortunately for military families, these badges are issued to you for free in many, though not all, municipalities.

Free Admission to George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum

Located in Dallas, Texas, active-duty military and up to five of their family members get free admission to this unique museum.

Free Admission to MoMA

Active-duty military members and their families get into this iconic museum for free. All the time.

Free Admission to the San Diego Zoo

My biggest regret about my trip to San Diego last fall is that I missed the zoo. Military families don’t have to, though. Active-duty members get in for free, and if you talk to your MWR on base before you leave, they may be able to get you heavily discounted tickets for the rest of your family, too.

Free Admission to Amazing Theme Parks

Under the Waves for Honor program, active-duty military families can go to the following theme parks for free, as long as they register online before they go:

  • Sea World—San Antonio, San Diego and Orlando locations only.
  • Busch Gardens—Tampa & Williamsburg locations only.
  • Sesame Place—This is a Sesame Street theme park outside of Philly.

Vet Tix

Vet Tix is a platform where people donate tickets to various concerts and events to have them claimed (for free) by active-duty military and veterans. You can check out the current selection here.

 

*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.*

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.

LEGO® Brick Fest Live! Promo Code

Nice! Promo code to save on LEGO Brickfest Live! tickets in Pittsburgh.

A little over a year ago, we went to LEGO® Kidsfest. It was awesome. The event was insanely fun, the venue and staff were amazing.

The only not-so-awesome thing about it was that it was in Harrisburg. Driveable, for sure. And worth the miles. But it was a trek.

This year, I’m excited to let you all know that LEGO Brick Fest Live! is coming to Pittsburgh, and we have a promo code to help you save some money on your tickets.

Promo code to save money on LEGO Brick Fest Live! Tickets

What is there to do at Brick Fest?

There will be a ton of fun things going on at Brick Fest Live! this year. When we attended the LEGO event last year, we realized it was as much fun for us as it was for the kids. Brick Fest Live! looks to be in the same vein.

The Brick Show Experience

Meet popular YouTube LEGO show hosts from The Brick Show and be featured on in an upcoming video.

Brick Fest Derby

Build and race your custom built LEGO derby car down one of our 35-foot long timed tracks!

Collaborative Building Activities

Contribute to large-scale mystery floor mosaic.

Inspiration Stations

Add to existing LEGO cities and make them your own by building custom creations.

Video Game Arena

Have a favorite LEGO video game? Come challenge your family or make new friends in the Brick Fest Gaming Arena playing your favorite LEGO title head to head.

Mini Golf

A miniature golf course built to inspire! Take your game to the next level on the Brick-Links.

Brick Fest Theater Trivia & Entertainment

Participate in LEGO trivia all while taking a break from what will be an overwhelming amount of awesome!

Mosaics

Using a colorful variety of LEGO bricks, build a piece of art to proudly display for other attendees.

Shopping

Find new, vintage, rare, and custom LEGO sets and merchandise from one of the many merchants in attendance.

Get discounted tickets to LEGO Brick Fest Live!

LEGO Brick Fest Live! Pittsburgh: Time and Place

Luckily, yinzers don’t have to go far to enjoy the LEGO festivities this year. The event starts July 15 at 9a and ends on July 16 at 6p. It will be held at the Monroeville Convention Center.

LEGO Brick Fest Live! Promo Code

When you purchase your tickets, be sure to use the promo code USFGTHREE to save $3 off your tickets.

 

How to Make Poké Ball Cupcakes

Such cute Poke Ball cupcakes! You can even bake a pokemon inside--I choose Ponyta!

This winter, we had a birthday party for one of my kiddos. It was a great time. We went to an indoor bouncy place, got a lot of energy out, played with friends and ate some amazing cupcakes.

How do I know they’re amazing? When I asked the birthday child what their favorite part of the day was, they sat and thought for a second before saying, “The cupcakes.”

Just so you don’t think I’m tooting my own horn, Grandma made these. Our oven was unfortunately broken at the time, so I bought all the materials and passed my vision along to her. But in the end, the delicious and good-looking cupcakes were 100% done by her.

I should have known she’d pull it off. I grew up with Little Mermaid and Snow White cakes that looked like they were ordered from a bakery. They weren’t. Grandma’s just got that baking magic.

Not only did they end up being the favorite part of the day, but they ended up being the most frugal, too.

How do you throw a frugal birthday party in the winter?

That’s not a rhetorical subheading. I really, truly want to hear some comments on this one, because I have no idea.

We live in a small apartment with no yard. Even though this winter was pretty warm in Pittsburgh, it’s unpredictable enough to not plan an outdoor party at a park or something like that at the beginning or end of the season.

And all the indoor places are expensive.

I knew it was going to be costly to go to the bouncy kingdom, but their package looked cheaper than other kid-friendly spaces I could find. Then I got hit with a much larger bill than I was expecting because of overpriced add-ons suggested the day of. Mental math was not my friend that day.

I digress.

We were talking about our super frugal, super awesome Poké Ball cupcakes.

How to Make Pokémon Cupcakes

Here's how to make Poke Ball cupcakes for a Pokemon birthday party.

Making Pokémon cupcakes is actually a lot simpler than you may think. You only need to buy six things–assuming you’ve got a muffin tin at home.

Poké Ball Cupcake Ingredients

The cake mix and frosting should be cheap enough–especially if you shop sales and use coupons.

The sprinkles, pearl candies and cupcake liners all feature affordable options. You may have to buy two packs of the first two items–especially if you’re making two dozen–but one order of cupcake liners is more than enough.

The icing will probably be the most expensive part, but you can cut costs by buying a tiny tube.

Poké Ball Cupcake Directions

Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to start working your own baking magic.

  1. Bake cupcakes as directed on the box, using red cupcake liners. Let them cool.
  2. Ice with white frosting.
  3. Dump your red sprinkles out into a bowl. Dip half of each frosted cupcake into the sprinkles.
  4. Use the black icing to draw a line diving the red an white halves of the cupcake.
  5. In the middle, put a relatively large dot of black icing.
  6. Gently push a pearl candy into that black dot.

Simple! And fun.

We also thought about baking a small Pokémon toy in the center like a King’s Cake, but that was going to get expensive. If money’s no object or you find a great place to buy cheap Pokémon toys, I think it could be super fun to find one inside your Poké Ball!

Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be hosting a series of Monday articles that focus on the financial challenges and triumphs that people with autism face and achieve. When they are children, these things also tend to affect their family’s finances, as well.

I didn't know there were so many ways to get children with autism on Medicaid! This state-by-state guide is incredibly helpful!

When you’re raising a child with autism, the largest expense you shoulder is healthcare. You learn that “healthcare” isn’t just doctor’s visits and the occasional dramatic visit to the ER. It’s therapy. Adaptive equipment. Communication devices. And more.

None of it’s cheap, and if you don’t have a good healthcare plan, a lot of it’s not going to be covered.

Even if you do have a good healthcare plan, some benefits will still not be covered. In many states, the most comprehensive way to get your child the services and equipment they need is through Medicaid, and many states allow disabled children access to Medicaid even if their parents’ income exceeds eligibility limits.

Want to find out how to shelter some of your savings from asset tests? Check out ABLE accounts.

Medicaid Coverage Saves Everyone Money

Medicaid coverage keeps kids out of institutions. Until the 1980’s, one of the only ways to get children with complex needs the services they required was through an institution. Whether a parent wanted to part with their child or not, they were often forced to.

This was also extremely expensive. Providing a child Medicaid benefits so they are able to live and thrive at home is far less costly than having them live in an intermediate care facility or nursing home.

Luckily, things have changed, but not all states are equal. Today we’ll be looking at Medicaid coverage options for children with autism across all fifty states–and Washington, D.C.

Before we get started, there’s some vocab I want to review.

State Plan

“State Plan” simply refers to the Medicaid coverage that anyone gets if they apply for benefits with their state. Eligibility is dependent on income limits–not disability or lack thereof.

ABA Therapy

ABA therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, is the most proven method for successful early intervention for children with autism. There’s just one problem: it’s insanely expensive.

Until recently, most insurers denied the evidence in favor of this therapy. Some still do because of its cost. But most states have enacted laws recognizing, and forcing insurers to recognize, it as an evidence-based therapy.

That doesn’t mean all states provide coverage. There was a mandate issued by the Federal government in 2014 that arguably required its coverage under Medicaid, but some states have interpreted this mandate differently.

I want to take a minute here to acknowledge that not everyone is behind ABA–even within the autism community. There are some autistic adults who are opposed to ABA therapy when it’s practiced with extreme rigor. However, there is also a general acknowledgement that there are ethical and non-ethical ways to practice ABA from the autistic perspective. You can get both sides of the argument here.

Level of Care

Required “level of care” indicates where a child would have been cared for prior to our culture’s shift towards keeping autistic children with their families. There are three levels commonly recognized in most states. In order from least “severe” to most “severe,” where “severity” means more healthcare is needed:

  • Intermediate Care Facility– Many parents may be surprised to learn that their child would have been institutionalized not so long ago. This level of care can, in some cases, be equivalent to the child who goes to outpatient therapy several times a week and has behavioral therapists in their home or community setting.
  • Nursing Home– This level of care would require skilled nursing/medical care on a regular basis. Today, you may have a nurse come into your child’s home and/or school to help provide these services.
  • Hospital– This level of care is required when you need more than a nurse. There may be monitoring of a condition or simply more advanced care needed on a regular basis.

In this guide, the lowest level of care required is listed. For example, if a state lists the required level of care as an intermediate facility, that will typically mean that those at a nursing home or hospital level of care are eligible, too.

Conversely, if the listed level of care is “nursing home,” those who are at an intermediate care facility level of care would not qualify for the listed program.

Waiver

A Medicaid waiver is simply a program that grants specific services to those who do not typically qualify for the State Plan. There are also waivers that provide services in addition to and including what’s available on the State Plan.

Wait List

You may notice that for most states, there is no reference to the wait list. This is done for two reasons.

  1. Medicaid programs are in flux at the moment. A wait list–or even a waiver–could change suddenly. It’s information we don’t have the capacity to update continuously.
  2. We want you to get in touch with the agencies that provide these waivers. Even if the wait list is too long for your child, state agencies may know of other programs or community organizations that could help in your unique situation.

Download Your Free Copy of Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In an attempt to make this guide thorough for all 50 states plus D.C., it is much longer than typical Femme Frugality content–11,000+ words. As such, we’ve turned it into a PDF for your browsing convenience. You’ll be able to find your state in our table of contents and easily jump to the appropriate page to get the information you need.

>>Click here to get your free copy of the PDF<<

 

 

This information in the above PDF is accurate to the best of our research as of April 24, 2017. It will be reviewed and updated annually. Intensive research was performed for each state program. The majority of states had a governmental agency or independent advocacy group provide information regarding their programs.

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