Author Archives: femmefrugality

Free Entrance to National Parks in 2023

This is incredibly useful and is going to save me some money! It tells you how to get into national parks for free--in the US and Canada.

Over four hundred of America’s national parks are free everyday.  But nearly 125 of them aren’t.  Luckily, the park system does offer free days, so you can go enjoy our beautiful country while remaining completely and totally frugal.

National Park Free Entrance Days for 2019

Prior to 2018, there were weeks-worth of free National Park Days. But in the years since, the number has been cut down to just five days.  If you want to visit on a free entrance day, you’re going to have to plan a little more carefully.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Fees will be waived on January 16, 2023 in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

First Day of National Park Week

Before 2018, there were five free days in the month of April recognizing National Park Week. Ever since, though, you only get in for free on the first day of the celebration. This year, that date is April 22, 2023.

Great American Outdoors Act Day

To celebrate the 2020 passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, you’ll be able to gain free admission to parks on August 4, 2023.

National Public Lands Day

Admission will be free on September 23, 2023 in honor of National Public Lands Day.

Veterans Day

You can get into national parks for free in celebration of Veterans Day on November 11, 2023.

Which National Parks require an entrance fee?

I’ve been lucky to travel a good bit in my time. National parks always bring such a sense of awe and wonder. It’s one thing to wander around in the woods in your backyard. It’s a completely different thing to spend time in pristine, protected wilderness.

Some of my favorite national parks that will be waiving their fees on free days are:

There’s a ton of others, too. I was surprised to find the ones in my own back yard that I never knew existed. To find some near you, you can check out the National Park Service’s website.

Free Entry to National Parks Year Round

If you fall into any of the following demographics, you can get a free national park pass. You only need one per vehicle to get into the park, so if anyone in your family falls into one of these categories, you could theoretically get the entire clan in for free.

  • You are a US citizen with a documented disability.
  • You are a 4th grader. Eligibility starts on your first day of fourth grade and ends on your first day of fifth grade.
  • You are a member of the military or a military dependent.
  • You are a federal lands volunteer with at least 250 hours under your belt.

You can learn more about each of these programs here.

Not-Free Annual Pass

Depending on how often you visit national parks, it might make sense to invest in an annual pass. there are different prices for different parts of the population.

Annual Pass – $80

This is the pass for the vast majority of the populace. You’ll have to pay an $80 annual fee, and you can get it if you are:

  • An American citizen between the ages of 16 — 62.
  • An international visitor.

If you’re just visiting one park that has a per-car fee, this pass might not save you money. But if you’re doing multiple entries or visiting multiple parks, it might keep some cash in your wallet.

Senior Annual Pass – $20

If you’re age 62 or over, you can get the annual pass for just $20 — which is far more likely to save you money over the $80/year option.

Senior Lifetime Pass – $80

Want the senior pass to last beyond this year? You can pay $80 once and hold it for the rest of your life, which is a pretty great deal. You can only get this pass if you’re age 62 or older.

Getting into Canadian National Parks for Free

The first way to get into Canadian national parks for free is via a Canoo mobile app. This method is reserved for those who have become Canadian citizens in the past year, or immigrated to Canada in the past year.

The second way to get into Canadian National Parks for free is to be young! Anyone under 17 years of age can get into national parks for free all the time. Find out more about the youth program here.

We’d love to hear about your national park experiences! Tell us about them in the comments section.

How I’m Fighting Inflation

As of writing, the latest inflation numbers put us at 7.1%.

That’s down from the pandemic peak of 9.1% in June of 2022.

When I first started this blog, we were three-and-a-half years out from the initial start of the Great Recession.

Frugality was all the rage. A lot of the Millennial ‘influencers’ you see around got their start writing about how the heck to scrimp by under the adverse circumstances of our youth.

I’m not thrilled that we’re here again. It was always inevitable that we would end up back here eventually, but the circumstances this time are pretty frustrating.

Woman punching towards the camera with pink hand wraps on. Fist is in focus. Woman's face isn't.

How I’ve Been Combating Inflation

As inflation has risen, I’ve changed up the ways I do things to try to assert power over what could very quickly spiral into budgetary devastation.

So here’s what I’ve been doing. I hope it inspires you to pursue creative ways to give yourself some wiggle room, too.

 

Went the Summer with no AC in my car: $750

Right in time for summer, the AC went out in my car.

I was hoping it would be a simple fix. But after taking it to the mechanic, I learned it wasn’t.

There were cracks and canisters and labor — the price of which had recently gone up thanks to rising inflation.

Going through with the fix would cost me $750.

I decided to keep that money in my bank account instead.

My hair resented me for it.

But I didn’t really care.

IT WAS $750.

 

Took advantage of checking account bonuses: $700

I had a few payments come in from new clients this year. Before I got those initial ACH deposits, I researched bank account bonuses.

Good checking account bonuses are a few to several hundred dollars. The requirements to earn the bonus tend to come with:

  • ACH deposit requirements. Occasionally you’ll run into one that lets you do transfers to qualify, but it’s not as common for checking accounts.
  • Debit card transaction requirements. Not all bonuses comes with these, but when they do, you’re usually getting something like $2 for each debit card transaction.
  • Time requirements. Usually these deposits or transactions have to happen within 30, 60, or 90 days of opening the account.

I also did one savings account this way. Even with Fed rate hikes, I’m still likely to earn more money through a high savings account signup bonus than I am through interest — even with rates above 3%. I ended up getting the high rates and the bonus, so that was a win.

This worked with the way I have my money allocated. Yours may look different.

 

Lowered my internet bill: $360/year

I filled out the super easy application for the Affordable Connectivity Program and started saving $30/month on my internet bill.

Legit! It took less than 48 hours to apply — and that was over a weekend.

You can qualify for this program based on income. And income limits are higher than you may think.

But income is not the only way to qualify. Check out all the ways you can qualify to start getting $30+ off your internet bill, too, with the Affordable Connectivity Program.

PRO TIP: On top of the ACP, make sure you’re negotiating your internet bill every time your contract renews. It’ll save you even more money.

 

Went through my online subscriptions with a fine-tooth comb: $360/year (so far)

It is super important to go through your checking account and credit card statements every month for so many reasons.

One of those reasons is to make sure you’re cancelling any auto-renew subscriptions you’re not actually actively using.

A lot of times we forget about these subscriptions while the company keeps billing us in the background. But staying aware of all your charges is a great way to remind yourself where you can cut expenses.

This was especially important to me since the pandemic started. In 2020 and 2021, I had allowed myself to spend a little bit more on these subscriptions. After all, we weren’t really spending money on entertainment elsewhere.

 

Taken advantage of free Covid tests through insurance: At least $800

We still take COVID-19 seriously in our house, so we go through a lot of tests. Especially on those occasions where we decide it is safe to socialize with others.

We get our Covid tests free through insurance. I have no idea if or for how long this will continue. But for now, you can get up to 8 tests per month for free through private insurance, and 2 through Medicaid.

 

Booked Travel on Points: $1,000+

2022 was the first time I had traveled since before the pandemic. I had a lot of travel credits through various programs. Some of them could be renewed by making a purchase I was going to anyways through the reward program’s shopping portal.

Others were expiring for various reasons. So I used them. On work trips. On family trips.

And they saved me oodles of money. I got far more than $1,000-worth of accommodations for $0.

 

I am almost winning this battle against inflation.

If I take the numbers I was paying before the pandemic and account for inflation, it costs about $4,250 more to run my household on a bare-bones budget than it did back then.

The math is imperfect here. But that’s a very rough, probably underestimate.

My inflation-fighting measures saved me at least $4,000 last year. Though there is one trip I might not have taken if I hadn’t had expiring travel points on hand. So take that for what it’s worth.

Overall, I got pretty darn close to neutralizing inflation in 2022.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like I’m getting KO’d by it every single day.

 

How are you fighting inflation?

Let me know in the comments! Or, join me in the discussion on Instagram under #inflationchallenge.

 

 

How to Recycle Old Candle Wax into New Candles

RECYCLING CANDLES

This happens to me a lot.  I have old candles that I love that end up burning weird so that there’s a lot of actual wax left, but not enough wick to burn it.   In the past I’ve just sadly thrown them away.  NEVER AGAIN!

Here’s how I upcycle all that old wax into new candles. These can be for personal use, or serve as really easy, home-made gifts.

You will need

Materials:

  • Double broiler, two pots of similar size, or a tin can.
  • Wax from old candles.
  • Wicks (I get my wicks from Michaels).
  • Container for new candle.
  • Pencil or popsicle stick.

STEP ONE: Gather old wax.

This round’s victim was my Chocolate Aunt Sadie’s candle.  Burned in the past mostly around Valentine’s day, it would have me salivating within seconds.

Aunt Sadie's Chocolate CandleThe first step is to get a spoon and chip the wax out of your container.  The metal circle that holds the wick in the bottom will probably be stuck.  Just use a spoon to pull it out from the bottom once you get there.  Then break up the wax into meltable, even chunks.  I was going to reuse the container, but mine ended up looking like this:

Unusable

So it was off to the recycle store with that mess.

STEP TWO: Set wick.

I had a couple of votive containers I have been using over the years.  I originally got them at the dollar store.  So I just used a couple of them as my new candle containers.  Before I melted the wax, I prepped the containers by lining up the wick to the bottom center, and wrapping the wick around a pencil that would hold it in place while I poured:

prepping wick

 

STEP THREE: Melt wax.

Then I actually melted the wax.  You could use a double broiler, but I have nothing that fancy.  I just filled a pot with a couple of inches of water, brought it to a boil, and then stuck a tin can with the wax chunks in it so it would melt without ruining my pot.  I bent the can so that when I poured the wax out it would act as a spout.

IMAG1277NOTE: Be mindful and careful when burning the wax! Do not leave it unattended.

STEP FOUR: Pour candle.

After the wax was melted, I poured it into two of my containers, almost as full as I wanted them.  I then let them cool completely (which took overnight in my case, but will vary with the original candle you used.)  Then I melted down a little bit of the wax I had saved to top them off so they would burn right.  I let that cool, trimmed the wick, and I was done!

homemade candle

I got two new candles out of something I would have previously thrown away.  I’m keeping one, and I haven’t decided yet whether to keep the other or gift it.  I was surprised at how easy the entire process was:  the longest part was waiting for the first cooling.

I’m never throwing another candle away again.

Favorite Hotel Off I-95: River and Twine

Wooden sign lit up at night, nestled amongst shrubbery. White text on sign reads 'River and Twine Nestle in and Untwine' Text in corner of image read 'Best Hotel off I-95. femmefrugality.com' River and Twine is located in Rocky Mount, NC

Out of all the highways I’ve traversed in my life, I-95 is probably the one with which I’m the most well acquainted. As someone who has spent most of their life on the East Coast, it’s rare that I’ll take a big road trip without hitting it at least once.

This year we took one road trip in particular that took us down hundreds upon hundreds of miles of I-95. We were driving from Pennsylvania to Florida, and it was going to take two days.

Usually, when I book this route, I find a hotel somewhere around Fayetteville, NC or Santee, SC. This time was a little bit of a different story.

Why I did things differently.

I’m back to traveling again, but I’m still being careful with coronavirus.

Catching it sounds like a great way to ruin a trip, and I’m not eager to roll the dice with Long COVID complications for my family or the people around us.

Part of my COVID travel precautions include booking properties with windows that open, as good ventilation is one of the best ways to prevent an infection is the first place.

You’d think that would be an easy feat, but it’s not. If a hotel was built in the recent past, its windows likely don’t open at all.

I had a particularly hard time finding one on I-95 that would be even marginally close to the ‘halfway’ point. I spent countless hours browsing  Open My Hotel Window and calling individual properties up and down the corridor.

Finding a property took a lot of extra work for this specific trip. But I’m kind of glad it did.

Because this little sojourn led me to my new favorite hotel off of I-95. It’s an experience I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Here’s where to stay in North Carolina off of I-95.

Pines and trees with yellow fall leaves lining a gravel road in Rocky Mount, NC.

Believe it or not, the property I found wasn’t in a bigger town like Fayetteville. For a minute I even thought I might book a place in Lumberton, but that didn’t work out.

No, ultimately my favorite hotel off I-95 ended up being a bit further north in Rocky Mount.

Favorite Hotel off I-95: River and Twine

Bed cozied into loft nook. Walls and ceilings are wood panel. Sheets are pulled back over a hand-knitted quilt. Window next to the bed with thick blinds.

My favorite hotel off I-95 ended up not being a hotel at all. Instead, it was a tiny-house community that’s specifically built to be a hotel alternative.

River and Twine hosts a handful of clusters of tiny homes, each gathered around a fire pit. Each unit is freestanding, and there are combination garbage/recycle bins located all around the well-kept landscape.

When I booked it, I was a little unsure of the location. It’s just 10 minutes off the highway, which is great. But the pictures made me wonder just how rural an area it was. I enjoy backcountry camping as much as the next person, but I wasn’t trying to pack my own mess kit or cook over the fire for this particular trip.

I need not have worried. When we got there, the parking lot was literally shared with an enclave of fancier-than-fast-food restaurants, sites of historical note, and shopping establishments. Next door and lining the street was residential housing.

It was far enough removed from those things to be a quiet, restful property. But it was also conveniently located enough that I was able to get us breakfast the next morning without gathering kindling.

Inside the tiny houses of River and Twine

Inside a tiny home at River and Twine, looking up at the loft.Inside, the tiny houses of River and Twine are pretty much the exact same size as a room you’d get at a hotel. They’re longer and skinnier and taller, but at the end of the day it felt like the same square footage and accommodated the same number of people.

They also had the same amenities as a hotel. Our room had:

  • Mini fridge.
  • Kitchen sink.
  • Miniature shampoos, soaps and conditioners.
  • Towels and full linens.
  • A cubby to store your luggage and clothes.
  • A table and chairs.
  • Delightful coffee.

The bathroom didn’t have a bathtub — just a stand-alone shower. But that was the only real difference.

The bed situation was where it got even more fun. The room we booked was the equivalent of a hotel room with two full beds.

One bed was up in a loft. There were lights and windows in the loft space so you could control the environment somewhat separately from the ‘downstairs’ if you wanted to.

The ladder up to the loft was sturdy, but if you have mobility issues or a fear of heights, there’s no downside to staying in the ‘downstairs.’

When you first walk in, you’ll notice a fouton. Don’t let the (usually true) stereotypes fool you. This full-size fold out is thick and comfortable just like a nice bed would be.

The people at River and Twine

Picture taken from loft at River and Twine while watching TV.

Our stay was quiet — no rowdy fellow tiny-house stayers. No audible disruptions from the businesses nearby.

It’s actually self check-in, so we didn’t deal with anyone at all while we were staying on the property. And I kind of liked that. We saw other guests going about their business, but no one was intrusive, which was nice. Because as much as we like making friends, we were really just there to get a good night’s sleep.

As far as the people who operate River and Twine, they went out of their way to follow up with me the day-of to ensure a frictionless check-in process. I appreciated it because getting an email is one thing, but talking to a human being is another layer of assurance that this leg of the trip will go well.

Is River and Twine a good value?

Cluster of tiny houses of different colors surrounding a fire pit surrounded by adirondack chairs. In the foreground is a young tree with red leaves and in the background an inflatable snowman.The rate I paid to stay at River and Twine was comparable to what I’d pay for a hotel room of a similar quality. I did book during shoulder season, so bear in mind that hotel prices always fluctuate depending on the season — whether the rooms are tiny houses or traditionally stacked together like condominiums.

Plus, with a hotel room, you don’t get the same unique experience provided by River and Twine.

I also maximized my stay by using rewards programs. Right now, you can, too.

How to book River and Twine

I found River and Twine on Hotels.com. I like using Hotels.com because they have consistently competitive rates. Sometimes I’ll even find a super great rate by using their Secret Prices feature.

They also have a rewards program. You get a virtual stamp card, and for each night you book using the site, you’ll earn a stamp.  After ten stamps, you get a free night.

Currently, they’re running a sale where members can save 30% or more on hotel bookings made by Dec. 24, 2022.

But they’re always running some type of great deal for their members. For example, when I booked this hotel, they had a promotion that gave me 20% off and two stamps for every single night booked. I am ridiculously close to that free night reward thanks to it.

Membership is free, and you can get started here.

 

 

The Feminist Financial Roundup

About four years ago, The Feminist Financial Handbook hit the shelves at a bookstore near you. A lot has happened in the time since!

In the upcoming months, we’ll be doing check-ins with some of the women featured in the book. You’ll be able to catch up with the careers, lives, and money wins and losses of people like Nicole Lynn Perry, Heather Watkins, and more.

 

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Ahead of this series, I wanted to give everyone a chance to read the book who hasn’t. So today, we’ll be covering a bunch of reviews and roundups where you can learn more about The Feminist Financial handbook, and where you can catch a big sale on your purchase.

Get The Feminist Financial Handbook for Less

Black Friday and its related sales start EARLY anymore, friends.

And this week, you’ll be able to catch one of the best early holiday sales on Amazon.

 

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Last week, The Feminist Financial Handbook was 12% off on Amazon. We’re expecting a similar discount — or an even bigger one! — sometime over the next two days. This would be a great time to make your purchase to catch up on the stories of these amazing women.

UPDATE: The sale just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter! The initial Early Black Friday sale has come and gone, but in the time since Amazon’s started some even better ones. You can now get The Feminist Financial Handbook for 16% off!

It’s also a great time to make a purchase to gift to someone over the holidays.

 

New Sale Direct from Publisher

Announced just this week, the publisher — Mango — is having a huge holiday sale!

If you buy direct from Mango, The Feminist Financial Handbook is 30% off. That’s even cheaper than Amazon!

 

The Feminist Financial Roundup

 

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Over the years, The Feminist Financial Handbook has been featured in some pretty fun reviews and roundups. If you’re looking for more background on the book to inform your purchase, be sure to check these out!

Bitches Get Riches

“Here is an example of how to say ‘Something is wrong,’ while simultaneously doing something about it. The whole premise of the book is ‘certain people are oppressed, but let’s help them find their power with the following financial tools.’ It belies the feminist=victim simplification. For the author is definitely a feminist (who knew?), and she’s using her financial skills to lift up both her own life and the lives of others who find themselves in dire financial straits because of prejudice…

It’s a huge departure in the best way. Instead of simply describing how financial systems work, The Feminist Financial Handbook details how social systems work within a financial framework: how they’re broken, how they’re disproportionately built for certain kinds of people and not others, and how to work within and around the system to beat the game.”

-Piggy of Bitches Get Riches, Bitchtastic Book Review: The Feminist Financial Handbook

 

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Money for the Mamas

“I have absolutely viewed people’s hardships through my own lens. So, needless to say, this book was a much-needed total wake-up call for me. I say it was hard for me, but I know facing my own prejudices isn’t nearly as hard as those who have lived under this system that keeps people down. This book humbled me, and it will absolutely change how I help people navigate their finances.

One of the key differences of this book is that it’s very tactical in its help (which most finance books focus on strategies). Tactical help is much more actionable and immediately beneficial, as strategies are long-term benefits.”

-Kari of Money for the Mamas, 15 Best Finance Books for Women

Other awesome authors on this list:

  • Jean Chatsky
  • Lauren Greutman
  • Patrice Washington
  • Kumiko Love
@serraisabella The Feminist Financial Handbook by Brynne Conroy #womenauthors #womenwriters #WomenOwnedBusiness #womensappreciation #womensappreciationmonth #womanartists #financialbooks ♬ Chopin Nocturne No. 2 Piano Mono – moshimo sound design

Clever Girl Finance

“We live in a society controlled by whoever can pay. Brynne argues that women can create a more fair world by building their own wealth.

It draws from stories of women of varying races, sexual orientations, abilities, and financial situations. Brynne provides motivation and resources to achieve personal success.”

-Ashlee Sang of Clever Girl Finance, The 15 Best Financial Literacy Books for Women

Other amazing authors on this list:

  • Vicki Robin
  • Jen Sincero
  • Beth Kobliner

 

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Review at Smart Money Mamas

“If you’re a woman who has never felt like a personal finance book was talking to you, or if you’re feeling weighed down by society or life’s difficulties, Brynne’s book is your chance to get advice from a perspective you know well. I want to be clear, though, that any woman can gain knowledge from this book, even if you’re feeling like a financial rockstar and just want to learn how to acknowledge where you’ve benefitted and better support other women.”

-Chelsea of Smart Money Mamas, The Feminist Financial Handbook: A Must-Read New Book

Review at The Plutus Foundation

“This book does more than attempt to bring understanding of differentiated circumstances and the resulting specific advice for women and other marginalized identities to the reader. Brynne nails down a number of inherent systemic problems, legacy issues with society and barriers that certain members grapple with but will never affect others, and shows how they apply to the quest for individualistic (with the individual being the important unit of a mostly-capitalistic economical society) financial freedom.

But importantly, she shakes off the idea of societal victimization and offers practical advice for navigating finances in spite of the kyriarchy — which, by the way, is a word I needed to look up even though I knew the Latin etymology, so don’t be ashamed if you do, too.”

-Harlan Landes of The Plutus Foundation, The Feminist Financial Handbook

 

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Maggie Germano

“Any book with the words “financial feminist” in the title is going to catch my eye. Add someone as great as Brynne Conroy and you have a winner…

In this book, Brynne dives into the financial issues that disproportionately affect women in our society. But you won’t walk away feeling hopeless because she gives you actionable steps to achieve financial success in your own life.”

-Maggie Germano, 5 Books That Make Personal Finance More Accessible

Other fantastic authors on this list:

  • Erin Lowry
  • Kristen Wong
  • Alexa Von Tobel

 

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Women Who Money

“Brynne Conroy has written a personal finance book like no other.

The Feminist Financial Handbook doesn’t tell you how to get rich quick or put you down for your money choices.

Her handbook provides valuable information, action steps, and resources to help you make changes in your personal and financial life.

More importantly, the personal stories and concepts she shares in the book will help you better understand the experience of others – and that’s priceless.”

-Vicki of Women Who Money, The Feminist Financial Handbook [Book Review]

 

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Your Dream

Why is personal finance a feminist issue? I’ve read a bunch of finance 101 type books aimed at women, but the ‘The Feminist Financial Handbook’ by Brynne Conroy was the first of them that answered this question by walking the reader through a diverse array of rarely-heard perspectives on the issue.”

-Mallika Sen of Your Dream Blog, Book Review: The Feminist Financial Handbook

 

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Pretty Progressive

“Sometimes the best way to stick it to the man is by doing well for yourself. There’s just one problem: it’s hard to do well for yourself when systemic oppression has placed innumerable hurdles between you and your aspirations. The Feminist Financial Handbook provides real motivation and resources for real women who may be struggling―not only those who have already accumulated wealth.

In this book, author Brynne Conroy provides actionable tips for women in business to overcome these obstacles without dulling the visceral experience of the real-life struggles women face as they try to master their money management and their lives.”

-Pretty Progressive, 14 Clever Feminist Books To Read For Women In The Business World

Plano Public Library

“Author Brynne Conroy shares practical advice on saving, financial planning and more while delving into issues that disproportionately affect women, like the wage gap or the long road to economic recovery after experiencing domestic violence.”

-Plano Public Library, Financial Literacy: Latest Added to the Collection

Other great authors on this list:

  • Tiffany Aliche
  • Michelle Singletary
  • Bola Sokunbi

 

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Roundup on This Book, That Book

“Because women’s experiences don’t exist in a vacuum relegated to their gender, the handbook explores financial issues with anecdotes and perspectives of women of different races, sexual orientations and abilities.”

-This Book, That Book, Celebrate Financial Literacy Month With These Awesome Personal Finance Guides