Author Archives: femmefrugality

How I Got Divorced with Kids for $800

Man and woman sitting at a table at an outdoor restaurant, unhappily having an intense discussion. White text reads "How I got divorced for $800 with kids! femmefrugality.com"

Okay, guys.

This is it.

This is the one where I confirm what you suspected last summer.

The marriage to the man I’ve been in a committed relationship with since before I started writing is over.

I’m divorced.

Don’t send me condolences! This is really a positive thing in my life. It’s a change that needed to happen for way too long. It’s a process I dragged out over the course of many years in the name of trying to save things.

And, yes, it’s something that messed with my head, kept me up crying many nights and was a horrible thing to go through.

But I did get through it. I just didn’t feel like sharing that part of my life in real-time. Now I’m in a place where being divorced feels like a relief and permission to start a new chapter of my life.

I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next chapter. I have very few concrete personal goals, though I have been making forward progress as I figure out what I want out of life.

It’s scary sometimes.

But it’s also exhilarating.

How I Got Divorced for $800 with Children

Before I get into the numbers, I want to disclose a couple of things. The first is that my ex agreed to every last thing I wanted. And I only wanted things for the children.

We’re not squabbling over financials. We didn’t own any joint property and neither of us owns any real estate.

Those things in and of themselves made this process dramatically cheaper than it could have been.

The Lawyer

If we had simply been filing a no-contest divorce, I may have taken a stab at filing the paperwork myself.

But we weren’t. There were kids involved. And it was really important to me that the paperwork surrounding that issue was rock solid legally.

So I hired a lawyer.

I began shopping by calling around to different lawyers in the county. None would give me an initial consultation for free, and many of them wanted retainers around $3,000 at the conclusion of that initial meeting.

That was not going to fly with me. I’m not a fan of paying professionals before they’ve worked to establish a professional relationship with me. Sit down with me. See if you can help me. And if you can, THEN I’ll pay you money.

I kept looking and found this lawyer who runs their business completely via USPS. You mail in the divorce paperwork and any additional information for an agreement along with payment, and they file the divorce for you.

In Pennsylvania, you can file for divorce in any county. Which can save you big bucks. So even though this lawyer was local, the filing fees were not. They were lower than what you’d pay in Allegheny County.

You have to mail back and forth a few times, but because we had not been living under the same roof for more than a year (there is no such thing as legal separation in Pennsylvania), the entire process took one month and four days.

I was holding my breath the entire time with Mx. Lawyer-I-found-on-the-internet. I really hoped I wasn’t getting scammed. I had done my research on them, but still. I was consciously taking on risk to save thousands of dollars.

Luckily for me, the lawyer was legit. I’m officially divorced. If anyone in PA is interested in using the same lawyer, get in touch and I’ll be happy to send over the information. Just keep in mind that you and your spouse must agree 100% on everything as they only file no-contest divorces.

Altogether, the costs came out to about $800, including a legal agreement about all things children.

The Costs of Staying Together

But of course, that wasn’t the only cost we incurred. Ironically enough, most of my expenses came not from the divorce, but from trying to save things.

I really don’t want to get into all the details. But I do want to say that if you, too, are trying to save a marriage or any type of relationship, set rational money boundaries at the very beginning of your attempt at heroism.

For example:

  • If this living arrangement is costing us more than $X,XXX/month, I’m not going to delay finding another living situation.
  • If we cannot communicate about anything nonetheless money, how am I going to conduct my own finances independently and perhaps sometimes in spite of the desire to “help” the other person?
  • At what point can we not afford to protect our kids from the bad news anymore?
  • This whole process is going to suck. How am I going to cope economically if I hit or trigger a period of less-than-awesome mental health?

Those are examples. I definitely lived through some of those, but others I’ve watched friends and family go through before. Some of them assume a large amount of privilege and autonomy on the part of each spouse–especially when the spouse is female.

I found these costs to be the most expensive part of the divorce, though it is important to remember I lucked out with the no-contest divorce and crazy affordable lawyer.

Emotional Labor

Both of us did emotional labor through this entire process. I think each one of us would argue that the other hasn’t done a successful job in their pursuit.

That’s been the hardest part of this whole process. I have faith in myself that I can fix my money. But getting through this entire thing emotionally has been a nightmare.

It would have been hard if nothing else bad was happening in our lives. But, of course, there were other bad things.

It would have been hard if I had a mindless desk job where all I had to do was show up for 8 hours everyday and close the Facebook tab when the boss made their rounds. But, of course, I don’t.

It would have been hard if we didn’t have children together. But we do and for that I am eternally grateful, despite the deepened wounds that come with the fact at this particular juncture in time.

Yes, trying to stay together cost me money.

No, I didn’t have to pay very much in legal fees.

But at the end of the day, I am reminded once again that in life, money is hardly the thing that matters most.

4 Tips to Drive More Traffic to Your Trade Show Booth

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Many people milling around a crowded Honda booth at a trade show in a warehouse.

It’s tempting to rely on your show organizer alone to drive all the traffic to your trade show booth, but in reality nothing happens until you make it happen. It takes a lot of planning, innovative thinking, and flawless execution on your part to get more footfalls to your booth, says an expert at Trade Show Display, a leading NYC banner printing company.

The usual tactics of giving away free pens and t-shirts or handing out of fliers by booth babes no longer work. So how can you make your trade show booth stand out in the crowd and attract more foot traffic? Here are four useful tips.

1. Contact your prospects ahead of time

Seven out of every 10 attendees make a list of the stores they want to visit before visiting a trade show, says a recent study by Center for Exhibition Industry Research. That’s exactly why you should find a way to reach out to your prospects days before the event. For instance, you can collect the names and contact details of all the registered attendees from your event organizer and contact them via email or direct mail. Make your email copy persuasive without making it too sound too aggressive or salesy. Use images of New York banners to make it look visually attractive.

2. Start a contest

Another good idea would be to encourage potential attendees to participate in a contest that starts online and ends on the event day at your trade show booth. Make sure that you offer exciting prizes for the winners and some innovative freebies for every participant. That way, you can create buzz and drive more traffic to your store.

3. Launch a new product

Trade shows are a great place to launch a new product or make an announcement of an upcoming product. If possible, bring the new product to your booth and allow people to touch, feel and operate it. That way, you can pique their interest in your product and brand. But before you do that, make sure your booth is well designed and have enough space for product demonstration. You can use vinyl & mesh banner printing or retractable banner printing services to show your products in a good light.

4. Make your booth functional and attractive-looking

Irrespective of the size of your booth, you can make it look neat and eye catching. All it takes is a little innovative thinking. And designing an attractive trade show booth doesn’t have to be time consuming. Thanks to same day banner printing services, now you can custom design your trade show displays really fast. Identify the focal point of your booth and place your most crucial message right there, so people can notice it on a quick glance. Also, make sure there’s enough free space for free movements inside your booth. If necessary, seek professional help for banner designing from a reputable banner printing company in NYC.

Choosing the right booth staff is also important. Ideally your booth staff should have in-depth product knowledge, experience in face-to-face marketing, good attitude and a pleasing personality.

Of Unions, Benefits and Steamfitters: #Pittsburgh Event

This post is in collaboration with Steamfitters Local 449.

Welder dressed in orange working on a huge, green pipe. Text reads, "Benefits of Unions: Pension, Healthcare, Truly Equal Pay, Opportunity for career and salary growth. Steamfitters449 on femmefrugality.com"

I’m a huge proponent of education. Sometimes that means college.

Sometimes that means trade school.

We need to remember that one is not superior to the other. In fact, if you’re measuring ROI over the course of your career, there’s a decent argument for trade school being the smarter decision.

CASE STUDY!!!!

Career Training Without the Student Loans via Steamfitters Local 449

Steamfitters Local 449 is a union here in the Pittsburgh region representing those who make, install and service piping systems. This includes occupations such as welders and your HVAC-R service person.

How do you learn these skills?

Through free career training.

Steamfitters Local 449 works with the United Association and the Mechanical Contractors Association to provide this free education at its training center in Harmony, PA.

After that union members pay a marginal amount into the apprenticeship fund for each hour they work, which continues the cycle of free education.

This frees you to use the money you’re bringing in while you’re training to do things like live in safe housing, afford groceries and plan for your financial future–things that are much harder to do if you’re spending your younger working years burdened by student loans.

Getting Paid to Learn

The first step in the training process will be uncompensated. But if you can make it through that initial training, the rewards are worth it.

The initial training for those interested in building trades is an 18-week course that runs in the daytime teaching you how to weld. If you’re more interested in the HVAC-R side of things, your initial training will only be 8 weeks.

If you complete this step successfully, you’ll be taken on as an apprentice. Apprentices currently start at $18.25/hour plus health benefits. If you make it through that first, probationary year, you’ll be eligible for a pay bump of  10% and gain access to Steamfitters’ retirement vehicles.

Keep doing well and you’ll continue to earn those 10% pay bumps each year throughout your five-year apprenticeship.

Live a Middle-Class Life

When you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you’ll start earning journeyman’s pay. That’s currently $41/hour or $82,000/year if you work fifty 40-hour work weeks. Nick Kappas, Director of Marketing at Steamfitters Local 449, notes that after you add in benefits like health insurance and access to retirement vehicles, the effective hourly pay jumps to about $65/hour.

Either way, that’s enough to live a solidly middle-class lifestyle in the Pittsburgh region. And you won’t have to worry about your first ten years of pay going to service student loan debt.

If you’d like to make even more money, journeyman status isn’t the end of the line. Steamfitters Local 449 offers further training, enabling you to become a working foreman, general foreman, area foreman, superintendent, diagnostician, estimator, scheduler and more.

Each of these positions include a pay bump up from the journeyman status, allow you to bring in an even higher income.

How the heck does a pension work?

A major benefit to union positions is access to a pension. Pensions are defined benefit plans, which means you’ll easily be able to figure out how much money you’ll be pulling in once you’re retired.

For example, Kappas says that a journeyman currently working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year will pull in $160/month in retirement for each service year they complete.

If you decided to stay at the journeyman position over a 35-year career, you’d be collecting $5,600/month–or $67,200/year–in retirement.

If you extend your career five more  years remaining at journeyman status, your retirement benefits would jump up to $76,800/year.

Closing the Pay Gap

Want to know who doesn’t face a gender pay gap?

Union members.

When everyone’s salary is public knowledge, it’s kind of hard to screw people over based on their gender.

Not only does joining a union eliminate your chance of facing a gender pay gap, but women are considered valuable assets at Steamfitters Local 449. Our cultural conditioning finally finds a place where it’s an asset as Kappas notes a phenomenon that Sam Paxson has previously put forth as a reason for hiring and retaining women:

“When we’re looking at trouble shooting, women tend to be a very valuable asset to us. They’re more patient and creative in finding solutions.”

He also says that these are assets that serve these union members at all levels, including welding and higher-paying administrative positions.

We as women also tend to be more concerned about long-term financial security, so we see the value that union benefits such as healthcare and defined benefit plans provide to us and our families–whether we’re working on a job site or doing the equally important work of managing the home front.

Learn More Live

If you’re curious and want to learn more about this career path, you’re in luck! Steamfitters Local 449 is holding its annual Expo up at its training center in Harmony.

It looks a long way from the city mileage wise, but as someone who has made every possible Pittsburgh commute over my adult life, I promise you that 279/79 is way easy to deal with as it has the least congestion, an HOV lane and is a legitimate highway where you can drive fast.

Yes, I’m looking at you, 51. You’re the reason I will never again willingly commute to the South Hills.

The Expo will be happening on May 23, 2019 from 12p to 8p, and will allow you to explore the field, ask questions of union reps and those currently working in the job position you’d eventually like to secure, and even learn through three continuing education courses.

If you, your child or your partner are interested in a career path that won’t end in dramatic debt you can never shake off, I’d highly encourage you to check it out. There is more than one way to secure upward economic mobility.

5 Ways to Save on Travel This Spring

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I’ve got a special treat for you–a post from my long-time fellow personal finance blogger Greg of Club Thrifty! Greg and his wife Holly are always impressing me with the amazing trips they take with the whole family, and I’m excited he’ll be sharing some of their travel tips with us today!

Green airplane icon. Beneath that it reads "5 ways to save on Spring Travel femmefrugality.com" Beneath is a picture of a dark-haired girl walking towards a cherry blossom tree. Her coat is the same shade of pink as the flowers.

Spring is officially here! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and people are itching to get away after the drudgery of winter.

Most people would travel more if they could afford it, but alas, globe-trotting (or even interstate travel) isn’t always easy on the wallet. Even so, I believe that seeing the world is something worth building into your budget, if at all possible.

If you’re like a lot of people, that might be easier said than done. Even if you’re in a great place financially, it can be hard to find extra money to indulge your travel whims. Just thinking about the cost of airfare and accommodations can make that trip you’ve been daydreaming about feel out of reach.

The good news is, travel doesn’t always have to be as expensive as you think. I’ve been traveling the world since before anyone would think I could afford to, and let me tell you, there’s always a trick to save a few bucks. And if you know what you’re doing, “a few bucks” can translate into hundreds of dollars.

These five tips will help you cut your spring and summer travel expenses down to size.

Use Credit Card Rewards

I find people tend to be quite divided on the topic of credit card rewards. Either they’re obsessed with them or they couldn’t be bothered. Can you guess which one I am?

If you have the discipline to use credit responsibly, you should be using a rewards credit card for 95% of your purchases. Preauthorized bills like phone, power, and gym membership? Credit card! Expenses like gas, groceries, eating out, and clothing? Credit card! A $1 soft drink at the corner store? Yup, that goes on the credit card, too.

Essentially, you should be using a rewards card for absolutely everything you can. Why? Because you earn points or cash back (I prefer points) on every single dollar you spend, and that really adds up. After a year of using a credit card for all your purchases, you’ll probably have enough points to cover the cost of a domestic flight.

If you don’t currently have a credit card that offers travel rewards, you need to do something about that! The best cards come with generous signup bonuses you can unlock when you meet a minimum spending requirement. True, some have annual fees, but if you use your card for all your purchases, the value of the rewards will outweigh the cost.

Don’t believe me? My family and I have literally saved thousands on travel using credit card rewards like Chase Ultimate Rewards points. There’s no reason you can’t, too.

Look for a Sightseeing Pass

Just like some people don’t bother with credit card rewards, even savvy travelers overlook the value of sightseeing passes.

When you’re planning on hitting a lot of the major tourist attractions in a big city, two things are usually true: It’s probably going to be expensive, and there’s a way to do it for less. If used appropriately, some sightseeing passes can cut your expenses in half.

All-inclusive sightseeing passes charge a fixed fee for unlimited single entry to a bunch of attractions for a certain number of (usually consecutive) days. So basically, the more you do, the more you save. You can also get passes that grant you access to a set number of attractions for a discounted price.

No matter the type, many passes also offer fast track entry to certain attractions, saving you time on top of money. Who wouldn’t be into that?

If you want to save money on your sightseeing costs this spring and summer, I highly recommend checking out the sightseeing passes available for your destination. Again, I’ve got real-world experience to back up my claims: We’ve used several different passes over the years, including this attractions pass in London that helped us save well over $100 USD during our first visit.

Book Last Minute

It isn’t generally the case with flights, but you can score some sweet deals on hotels by booking at the last minute.

Obviously, if you’ve booked a flight and are heading to your destination regardless, you probably don’t want to risk not having a place to stay. So, here’s what you do: Book a hotel with free cancellation but keep your eyes open for cheaper last-minute deals. If luck is on your side, you can cancel your booking with no penalty and head to the cheaper digs.

Expedia, Booking.com, and hotel websites usually allow you to reserve a hotel with free cancellation, and Priceline and Hotel Tonight are good sites for scoping out last-minute bargains.

Be Flexible

You can save a significant amount on travel if you’re a bit flexible with your dates and destination.

Maybe you know you want to visit Germany but would be equally excited to see Poland or Hungary. Perhaps you’re craving a beach getaway but aren’t picky where it’s located as long as there’s sunshine and sand. If you’re not married to a particular week, even better.

When you have flexibility, you can let price be the deciding factor. Use tools like Google Flights to search for the cheapest dates and destinations within a given time frame; then, choose the one that checks the most boxes for you. If you know you want to get away for a week in June, just plug that in and see where and when the deals are.

You’ll also want to make sure you subscribe to airline newsletters so you know when one of your many bucket list destinations goes on sale.

Consider Driving or Taking the Train

If you’re traveling relatively nearby, you might want to look into driving or taking the train instead of flying.

It might not work if time is limited, but if you can spare some extra travel time, a road trip can bring a whole new element of adventure to your plans. If you’re traveling with friends or family, it’s almost certainly cheaper to pile into one vehicle and make the drive than it is to buy multiple airline tickets.

Alternatively, taking a train can be more comfortable and less expensive than flying (but faster than driving). Plus, you get to take in the scenery along the way.

Final Thoughts

Travel is worth the money, but why spend more than you have to? I hope these tips gave you some ideas on how to do more for less this spring and summer.

Do you have any trips on the horizon? Let’s hear about your thrifty travel plans!

Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. He is the co-owner of the popular blog Club Thrifty, where he teaches others how to spend less and travel more.

4 European Destinations for Your Summer Vacation

Today’s post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Prepping for summer holidays but feeling a little uninspired? Well, there’s no better time to start thinking about it. This little guide should inspire you to visit some of the most beautiful places on Earth. Each has its own unique charm that you have to experience yourself to understand properly.

Enjoy reading more about these wonderful places!

Cote d’Azur, FranceLighthouse sitting on the end of an ithmus in the middle of a huge expanse of blue water.

The Cote d’Azur or the French Riviera as it is known in other parts of the world is the perfect place for a Summer getaway — that’s why it is first on our list. It has endless coastline on the Mediterranean Sea that runs all the way from Italy through France and then onto Spain. It has some of the best beaches that you could imagine with clean and refreshing waters.

Some of the beaches are incredibly famous, such as Antibes and Cannes, but the beauty of the beaches also extends to the more secluded ones that dot the coastline. You quite literally have  choices from crowded to totally secluded and everything in between

As well as beaches you have some pretty incredible cities and towns, too, like Nice, Marseilles and Saint-Tropez.

Lake Como, ItalyItalian village nestled into a hillside on the banks of Lake Cuomo

If you have ever been to Italy before you have probably heard of the majestic Lake Como. It is one of the most magical, romantic and beautiful lakes on the entire planet. It is actually the third largest in Italy and it has many corners to explore.

The lake has long been the home of aristocrats and the wealthy for many hundreds of years. This trend continues today, however the lake has become so famous for its beauty that many people of all socioeconomic classes visit each year.

The best way to experience it is to head out on the boat and explore each corner. There are beautiful houses, villas, mountains, castles and museums to explore. The museums are particularly interesting as they are housed in some of the most beautiful buildings you’ve ever seen. Villa Carlotta is a great example of this with its stunning art collection from the likes of Canova, Thorvaldsen, Migliara and Hayez.

Berlin, GermanyLarge, pillared stone gate with sun shining through from the back. Located in Germany.

Those who visit Berlin always find themselves wanting to come back and explore some more. Berlin is huge and it is one of those places that you could compare to London or New York in terms of things to do and see. Even the locals are always discovering something new.

Berlin has so much history and has some of the best museums around. The Pergamon Museum is particularly interesting with a complete reconstruction of an altar from the ancient Greek city of Pergamon. It is truly something you have to see! Other museums that are great to visit are the Jewish Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Many of the tourist attractions in the city focus on the Second World War and provide a well-documented perspective of what happened in Berlin during the conflict. It’s amazing to look at some of the buildings to still see holes from bullets!

Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona with a bright blue sky and a few wisps of clouds.

Barcelona has it all when it comes to a holiday destination. It has beaches, beautiful weather, great food and drink, history and beauty.

The city is one of the most loved destinations in Europe because the Catalan people know how to live well and enjoy life. You can roam the city streets and see some of the most incredible architecture from the likes of Antoni Gaudi, such as the dream-like Parc Guell or the unique spires of the Sagrada Familia.

The food is amazing too, especially the tapas that the locals love to eat. Tapas are small dishes that are the equivalent of Spanish street food. They are often eaten in a small tapas “bar” and are usually accompanied by a glass of wine or sangria. My favourites are Patatas bravas, Aioli with bread or Gambas (sauteed prawns with sauce).