Author Archives: femmefrugality

Best Financial Content for Underserved Communities

On Friday, the 13th Annual Plutus Awards happened in Orlando Florida, hosted by David & John of Debt Free Guys. The Plutus Awards honors creators in the independent financial media.

Some of you may remember that the podcast Joyce and I run, Mom Autism Money, was nominated for two awards this year: Best New Personal Finance Podcast and Best Financial Content for Underserved Communities.

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Thank you to all of you who helped nominate us! I have some news for you…

WE WON!

Best Financial Content for Underserved Communities

Mom Autism Money won the award for Best Financial Content for Underserved Communities, presented by Queer Money Podcast.

We were floored. We had hoped to get nominated, and were thrilled when that happened.

To learn that we won was next level.

Mom Autism Money

Mom Autism Money centers financial education for parents of Autistic children. Part of the reason we created the podcast is because there is so little navigable personal finance information for disabled people and their families.

If we — as personal finance writers who have both been in this space for over ten years — had questions, we knew most other parents needed access to this information, too.

We feel so lucky to be able to contribute this super niche financial literacy content to the community, and the community’s support in return means everything.

That said, we were up against some pretty phenomenal competition. Part of the reason it was so unexpected to win was because the creators in this category have all accomplished amazing things while serving their communities.

Today, I want to encourage you to check them ALL out.

 

Dasha of The Broke Black Girl

Brand: The Broke Black Girl
Centers: Women of Color, particularly African-American Women.
Award info: Best Debt Freedom Content for her Instagram

 

Jeff of Homo Money

 

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Brand: Homo Money
Centers: The LGBT+ Community
Award info: Best New Personal Finance Blog presented by Wallet Hacks

 

Berna of Hey Berna

Brand: Hey Berna (particularly on IG)
Centers: Women of Color
Award info: Most Entertaining Personal Finance Creator at the 12th Annual Plutus Awards

 

Yanely of Miss Be Helpful

 

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Brand: Miss Be Helpful
Centers: Gen Z & Latino Communities

 

Tiffany of Money Talk with Tiff

Brand: Money Talk with Tiff
Centers: The Black Community

 

Jannese of Yo Quiero Dinero

Brand: Yo Quiero Dinero
Centers: Latinx & POC communities
Award info: Podcast of the Year presented by Capital Group
Best Entrepreneurship or Side Hustle Content presented by Wallet Hacks

 

Best New Personal Finance Podcast: Rich by Intention


In the Best New Personal Finance Podcast category presented by Steve Stewart, the winner was Rich by Intention! We were so happy to see them win. Anjie & RJ consistently pump out new episodes with ever-interesting and accomplished guests.

Be sure to check out all of their fantastic work!

Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Hacks

woman with dark hair against a dark background in red robe and graduation garb dabbing with her degreeI dunno if you’ve heard, but the Biden-Harris White House announced some student loan forgiveness this week!

Today we’re going to look at who’s eligible, some hacks and highlights that aren’t getting enough attention, and some common misconceptions about this new program.

Who qualifies for student loan forgiveness?

You qualify for student loan forgiveness if you’re a single tax filer and you make less than $125,000.

If you file as married or head of household, you can make up to $250,000 as a household and still qualify.

Single moms: Pay attention. You likely qualify for the $250,000 income limit.

DID.

YOU.

SEE.

THAT.

You don’t have to be married to qualify for the $250,000 income limit. You qualify for this increased cap if you file as head of household.

This is pretty amazing, as it appears to mean that many single moms (and dads!) can qualify with a higher individual salary. As long as they’re filing head-of-household.

It could also help families who may have other nontraditional family structures.

Do I qualify if I have private student loans?

No. This program only applies to those with federal student loan debt.

How much loan can I get forgiven?

This program gives you $10,000 in forgiveness if you did not receive a Pell grant while in college. It gives you $20,000 in forgiveness if you did receive a Pell grant in college.

Do I get a refund if I owe less than ten grand?

Nah.

If you owe $9,000, you won’t get a $1,000 refund. You’ll just get $9,000 forgiven.

And if you qualify for $20,000 forgiveness?

You’ll still only get $9,000 forgiven. No refunds.

Though there is a hack if you’ve made any payments during the pandemic. Read on, dear reader. We’ll cover it in-depth in just a minute.

Why do Pell grant recipients get more forgiveness?

Pell grants are awarded based on income. That means the recipients have an economic disadvantage compared to non-Pell grant recipients. Essentially, their starting line is further back. They have to do more to achieve just as much as their non-Pell-grant-receiving peers.

While Pell grants can cover the entire cost of most community colleges, they do not come close to covering the costs of your average bachelors-degree-granting school. State schools tend to have a much smaller gap in funding than private schools, but your mileage may vary depending on institutional financial aid opportunities.

That means even if you receive a Pell grant, you’re probably going to have to take out student loans. In fact, you might be more likely to take out student loans because you’re less likely to have financial backing from your family.

Because you don’t have financial backing, you’re more likely to need a job or other means of putting food on the table. You might not only be working to feed yourself; you could be a nontraditional student who has to feed others, or you might be a traditional student who still needs to send some money home to help your family.

This extra stress makes it less likely that you’ll graduate school with a degree.

Which means there’s a disproportionate amount of Pell grant receipients out there with student debt and nothing to show for it. Without a degree, your income potential is stunted. Not only do you have debt and no degree — you also have to pay off that debt on less income.

So Pell grant recipients get more forgiveness. Deservedly.

How do I find out if I got a Pell grant?

Unless you were a nontraditional student, this all likely happened when you were 17. You probably filled out the FAFSA using your parents’ income information.

And let’s be real: You probably didn’t fill out that FAFSA. It was probably your parents handling the paperwork. You might not even remember if you got a Pell grant.

Luckily, it’s real easy to figure out if you got a Pell grant. Just visit StudentAid.gov. Then, click on ‘My Aid.’

There will be graphs and data that pop up showing any loan balance, along with where your aid came from. If you got a Pell grant, it’ll show up here.

How do I claim my student loan forgiveness?

For a lucky few, you won’t have to do anything. If the Department of Education (ED) has all your ‘pertinent’ information, including income information, it should be applied automatically.

But ED is also saying that if you’re ‘unsure’ if ED has your income information, you better assume the process won’t be automatic.

Also, if you’re very sure they don’t have your income information, you need to know that an application will be necessary.

How can I get an application?

Right now, you can’t. The application hasn’t gone live yet.

ED is fervently encouraging people to sign up for its Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates subscription. This is where they’ll be sending out information as soon as the application is available.

When will I actually get my student loan forgiveness?

Good question. We don’t actually know yet. We only know that the application will be available sometime before December 31, 2022.

I paid off my student loans during the pandemic and now I’m pissed.

Ohmigosh I have such good news for you.

If you made any payments on federal student loans during the pandemic (which is still happening, to help you understand the timing,) you can reclaim it.

This was a rule that preexisted Biden’s forgiveness announcement, and turns out to open up a nice little hack: Request a refund of your pandemic payments, get your money back, and watch your balance go up from $0. Then have the $10,000/$20,000 forgiveness wipe out the debt again.

Here’s how to request a refund of your federal student loan payments made during the pandemic.

HINT: It requires getting in touch with your student loan servicer. There is paperwork involved. Be prepared.

Be prepared for a bumpy ride with student loan repayment refunds and forgiveness.

Even before the forgiveness announcement, there were some reported back logs in these refund requests.

And we’re not totally sure when, exactly, forgiveness will be applied.

That means there is a potential scenario where forgiveness is applied before you get your refund. This could be a bad thing if the government doesn’t come back and try to give you forgiveness again after the refund is applied.

Let’s hypothetically say you got a $10,000 refund, but it wasn’t awarded to you until months down the line, after the government had already checked to see if they owed you forgiveness. Then, they don’t come back and try to apply forgiveness to your account a second time. It could end up looking like you still owe $10,000 when repayments start up again.

Fingers crossed that they’re already working on a mechanism to remedy this potential scenario.

But the two programs weren’t released in tandem. And it’s the government. So I’m skeptical.

If you go this route, at some point, you might have to advocate to get any remaining balance forgiven. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It just means be prepared — both mentally and in terms of your paperwork.

Other announcements that aren’t forgiveness

There were a bunch of other important bits of student loan news that came out alongside the official forgiveness announcement. Let’s look into them.

The changes to IBR aren’t real yet.

Ten thousand to twenty thousand in forgiveness is very, very real.

But in the same document, the Biden-Harris administration included some proposals for reform to the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program.

Those are not yet real.

They’re just proposals. Just something the White House wants to see happen.

So even though the proposals are pretty rad, I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about them. Because they’ll probably change at least a little bit over the coming months as they go through the public comment process.

Student loan payments are coming back. For real this time. Maybe.

The White House swears this is the final extension of the student loan payment moratorium.  For real this time. Pinky promise.

You do not have to start making payments on September 1 anymore. The new expiration date is December 31, 2022, which means payments will resume in January.

To be fair, they have said this is ‘the last time’ before. But this time they may actually mean it. Because Biden is using the resumption of repayments as an argument that this plan is inflation-neutral.

Oh, boy. Here we go.

Does student loan forgiveness cause inflation?

No.

Inflation happens when there are too many people willing to pay top dollar for too few goods.

One of the ways inflation can get worse is if people have too much discretionary spending.

For student loan forgiveness to have any chance of making inflation worse over the next couple years, we would have to assume people were currently making student loan payments.

But they haven’t been. For two and a half years.

People aren’t magically going to get $500 extra in their pocket every month now. Their budget is just going to stay the same.

Any damage that would be caused by the ‘extra’ discretionary income already happened way back in 2020.

Let’s say you don’t qualify for forgiveness. You’ll have to start making payments in January. That’s $500 less you have to spend per month. The White House is arguing that this will actually help combat inflation, offsetting any potential ‘problems’ with forgiveness.

There could be an argument that forgiveness would contribute to inflation over the long-term, as it does cause a deficit compared to the money the government would have had if it had taken it from low- to middle-income private citizens via student loan repayments.

By the same token, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 added a massive long-term deficit to the American government while cutting taxes for only the wealthiest Americans.

Please note: I am not an economist. Here’s where you can find a real economist.

That sweet PSLF deal is changing.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is an amazing yet frustrating program that allows you to have your federal student loan debt forgiven after ten years of on-time minimum payments — but only if you have the right job, the right type of loan, and were on the right repayment plan.

A lot of people were horrified when the first round of applicants in 2017 found out that they did not, in fact, qualify because they had been on the wrong repayment plan or had the wrong type of loan.

They had been banking on this program as they planned out and made career moves over the past 10 years.

For that reason, during the pandemic the government said you could temporarily change your eligibility by:

  • Applying to get past late payments or payments that were less than the minimum due counted towards PSLF.
  • Consolidating your loans into the right type of loan to qualify for PSLF, then get past payments under the old loan structure counted towards your 120 minimum payments.
  • Applying to get payments that were made under the wrong payment plans counted towards PSLF.

You can apply for this phenomenal program here. And do it quick because as a part of the forgiveness announcement, the Biden administration announced the end date for this program.

You have to get your application in no later than October 31, 2022.

This is extra important with payments restarting in January, and because not everyone will have all of their debt wiped out by the $10,000/$20,000 in forgiveness.

Understanding 87%


Eighty-seven percent of this forgiveness will be going to individuals who make under $75,000/year.

Let’s break down what that means.

It does not mean that 87% of the people who get forgiveness will be making under $75,000/year. Part of the reason such a large percentage of the forgiveness is going to this demographic is because Pell grant recipients are more likely (though not assuredly) to be lower-income earners. Because of all the reasons we outlined above.

And Pell grant recipients get double the forgiveness.

Another reason for this framing is that it’s accounting for individual income, so a household could presumably make between $75,000 and $250,000 per year, but the person who is getting their loan forgiven contributes less than $75,000 of the total household income. That person would still be included in the 87% the way the numbers are framed.

But we also can’t ignore that a huge reason that so much forgiveness is going to this demographic is that more than half of American households make less than $75,000/year total.

According to the Census Bureau, median household income was $67,521 in 2020, the last year for which data is currently available. That means 50% of households made between zero and $67,521, and the other half made between $67,521 and infinity.

Part of the reason so much forgiveness is going to lower-income households is because such a large portion of our population has to live on less.

Income inequality is visceral American problem.

Even when you’ve got some college education at your back.

 

Celebrating 11 Years with 11 Good Things

Image of a woman celebrating her birthday by herself with cupcakes and a party hat. Text reads 'Celebrating 11 years with 11 happy things femmefrugality.com'This summer, Femme Frugality turns 11 years old.

This past year?

It’s not been my favorite.

That’s an understatement. And I know a lot of you are right there with me.

One of the things that helps me get through times like these is practicing gratitude. Even when the world is a steaming hot pile of garbage.

So today, at the conclusion of a particularly difficult year and what I hope is the dawn of a much, much better one, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of the good things that happened between the summers of 2021 and 2022.

Some of these things are Femme Frugality adjacent. Some of them are totally unrelated wins and accomplishments of my peers in the PF space.

All of them have brought me great joy. I hope they bring a smile to your face, too.

1. Mom Autism Money launched & nominated for awards.

Joyce Marrero and I launched a podcast! Mom Autism Money has a pretty self-explanatory name: We talk about personal finance for parents of kids on the spectrum.

We’ve gotten to speak with some pretty amazing guests, and have covered topics you don’t often hear talked about in the personal finance space, like:

  • ABLE accounts.
  • Supplemental needs trusts.
  • Medicaid access.
  • How to successfully apply for SSI.
  • Guardianship vs supported decision-making.
  • And the list goes on.

Here’s where you can check out the full episode archive.

Bonus on top of getting to do something we love that’s making a difference?

Mom Autism Money was just announced as a finalist for two Plutus Awards!

  • Best New Personal Finance Podcast.
  • Best Personal Finance Content for Underserved Communities.

This in and of itself is an honor enough. But if you’d like, you can also nominate us for the People’s Choice Award. You can also nominate anyone else from this post.

We’ll be launching Season 3 sometime this Fall, so it’s worth subscribing now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you listen to podcasts. That way you’ll automatically be updated when we start releasing new episodes.

2. Shalese Heard is winning.

This year I was introduced to a new-to-me content creator, Shalese Heard, AKA the Autistic Travel Goddess. And I’m so glad I was.

Shalese primarily covers travel content. But within that, there’s a whole lot of personal finance content. Because what better way to help you travel the world than establishing some financial freedom for yourself?

Shalese has used tons of creative and outside-the-box ways to fund her travels, which we did discuss a good bit on an episode of Mom Autism Money.

She’s had a TON of wins this past year, from speaking at huge conferences to launching new courses. Be sure to keep up with the latest from Shalese on Instagram and YouTube.

3. Pauline got her CFP.

shorter woman with brown hair and black shirt standing net to taller woman with black cowboy hat black shirt and pink hoodie. both women wearing white lanyards and smiling

Pauline and me in Dallas back in 2017. I need to get better about taking pictures with people when we spend time together!

My good friend Pauline from Reach Financial Independence spent much of the first part of the pandemic studying away to earn her CFP. And in December, she got it!

Pauline is now using her CFP to work with active duty military members, and doing some charity work on the side.

Pauline is one of the most money-savvy people I know. She’s found incredible ways to use her finances to explore the globe, and has made sure to also use her wealth to support others in all of her communities along the way.

She’s a wonderful, compassionate person, a personal finance genius, and someone you’re always glad to see succeed.

4. Nicole Lynn Perry continued to change the world in new capacities.


I had an opportunity to chat with Nicole Lynn Perry this year. You probably remember Nicole’s story from The Feminist Financial Handbook. At the time the book was published, she had just secured a job at Amazon. Which was great.

But in the time since, even better things have come her way. Nicole has been working as a paralegal and mitigation specialist for the Lavender Rights Project out of Seattle. This year, her advocacy work and insights have been featured in many major publications, like the Washington Post.

I continue to be impressed by and grateful for all of the change she makes in the world — whether it was her work back in Texas or in her new role in Seattle.

If you’re an editor or writer and want to get in touch with Nicole for like media features, I’d be happy to put you in touch.

5. Rebecca Neale received the Nery Arrano Award.

I have so much respect for Rebecca not only because she’s a talented, skilled attorney, but also because of her phenomenal character as a human being.

This year, the head of Bedford Family Lawyer received the Nery Arrano award for pro bono work from the Women’s Bar Foundation of Massachusetts.

I have witnessed Rebecca dedicate so much of her career to survivors of domestic violence. I have seen her raise her voice to bring awareness to economic abuse, which almost always accompanies these cases.

It is so nice to see someone who does so much good being honored for their work.

Rebecca shares some super negotiation tips for women in The Feminist Financial Handbook.

6. Cashing Out was published.

I met Kiersten Saunders of Rich & Regular in the Spring of 2019, and her perspective on FIRE (financial independence/retire early) blew my mind. I was instantly impressed and wanted to learn ALL THE THINGS from her.

Her approach to FI wasn’t about hustling away your 30s and giving up all the luxuries, but rather about leveraging corporate systems — and then walking away from them — in order to buy back more of your life for yourself. It was also about decidedly making these goals less exclusively white.

This year, she and her husband Julien released the book Cashing Out, which covers all those topics and more. The book teaches you how to quit your job within 15 years without burning yourself out along the way.

They’ve been featured on Good Morning America, Marketwatch, and had a super successful book tour. (More dates may be added — keep up here so you don’t miss one in a city near you!)

I am so happy to see Julien and Kiersten get so much attention for their phenomenal work, and happy for all of us that we get to learn from them with this new tome.

7. Stacked hit the shelves.

 

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Another great book that came out this year?

Stacked by Emily Guy Birken and Joe Saul-Sehy!

I reviewed the book earlier this year here on Femme Frugality, but here’s the synopsis:

It’s a funny, engaging way to learn about personal finance, especially if you’re new to the investing side of the equation. It takes complex topics and breaks them down in a way that will actually keep you turning the pages rather than falling asleep. Hilarious analogies and pop culture references abound!

Emily and Joe have had a lot of success with this book, and you LOVE to see it.

In fact, both Stacked and Cashing Out are both finalists for Best New Personal Personal Finance Book from the Plutus Awards.

8. Jackie Cummings Koski was featured on Rachael Ray.

And about a million other exciting places, like CNBC and Black Enterprise.

Jackie‘s story, which she generously shared in The Feminist Financial Handbook, is so inspiring. It shows how you don’t necessarily have to be a millionaire to become a millionaire. You can retire early without sacrificing ALL the things, even if you make an average income.

One of her long-term goals has been taking the time to focus on giving back with her knowledge, and it’s been really cool to see her achieve this in such big ways over the past year!

Be sure not to miss her on Rachael Ray.

9. J$ is back!

 

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After some time away, J$ is back and blogging at Budgets are Sexy!

And he and Nate have already brought back the Giving Cards!

I know I’m not the only one who missed J in his absence. He’s done so much to further the accessibility of financial literacy education. He also does so much to give back to the community. If you think the stuff he posts on his blog is kind, you would be so impressed by the goodness he shares with the world when no one is looking. And by the fact that he never mentions it.

Having him back is cause for rejoice.

10. Shanté became a screenwriter for PBS.

Last Fall, Shanté’s music video was featured at the Plutus Awards!

And her artistic vision and successes didn’t end there. This year, she became a screenwriter for the PBS show Two Cents. Check it out here! New episodes are forthcoming.

Joyce and I were lucky to sit down with Shanté for an episode of Mom Autism Money this year, too. She’s such a brilliant educator, able to break down even the most super complex financial topics and turn them into digestible lessons. If you aren’t already a member of her Financial Common Cents community, you’ll want to change that fast.

11. Personal finance and public policy intersected at Plutus Voices Philly.

I was honored to speak at Plutus Voices Philly this year alongside the brilliant Courtney Richardson.

We talked about the different ways public policy and personal finance intersect. We touched on some pretty deep and important topics, and I’m hoping to have a video for you all soon.

I have been taking extra care with COVID, so this trip was something that was carefully considered and planned out. I encourage you to be COVID safe, too. For others, if not for yourself.

It was so nice to see old friends again after so long. Especially such compassionate and inspiring ones like Harlan of the Plutus Foundation, Miranda of the Plutus Foundation and the Freelance Writer Academy (<— for any of you looking to break into that field), and Jason Vitug of Phroogal, the YOLO book, and various other financial literacy projects.

It was also really great to meet new people in real life, like Courtney. Who, have I mentioned? Is absolutely brilliant across so many domains. I have learned so much from her, especially in recent months, and I’d highly recommend following along so you can learn from her, too.

I found out that Jason is coming out with another book soon, so be sure to follow him to stay on top of that news!

What good things have happened to you this year?

Obviously, more than 11 happy things happened in the world of personal finance this year. Whether you’re a writer, media producer, or just an individual who paid off the last of their debt this year, I want to hear all about it!

Leave your win or someone else’s win that brought you joy in the comments. Or @ me on social media.

The world can feel so tenuous lately. Let’s point out the things that are definitively celebratory.

Not to ignore the bad. But to give ourselves one, brief moment to recognize the good.

Living with COVID: Travel Edition

This post is written relative to COVID only. I am still processing MPV.masked woman pushing a suitcase outside

In 2019, I traveled a lot. I was out there taking advantage of every airline mile, 10th night free offer, and Airbnb credit available.

And I’m so glad I did. In retrospect, those experiences helped shore my wanderlust as I mournfully sat in my house for the next two years, never venturing very far outside the borders of my own state.

I put traveling on hold. And with it, I also put travel content on hold. I didn’t want to encourage anyone to engage in behavior that could end up hurting or potentially even killing anyone else. I did not want to encourage the spread, even if that meant losing some of my profit.

My Instagram feed dried up, as it mostly features my travel pictures and savings tips. I stopped writing about my latest trip to Japan in the middle of the story. The budget travel hacks you used to find here by and large stopped being produced.

But today, I guess all of that changes.

Why I Started Traveling Again in 2022

In 2022, I started traveling again.

There were a multitude of reasons.

During this pandemic, I’ve lost many people. Some to COVID. Some to a lack of care or sub-par care created by an overwhelmed medical system.

At the tail end of 2021 in particular, our family lost several members of an entire generation. From all branches of our family tree. To be honest, I’m still processing all the loss.

This Spring, my cousin was getting married. They were throwing an extremely COVID-conscious wedding, with large portions of it outside or in a building where the front was open to the outdoors. They stressed the importance of vaccinations and testing.

They weren’t pretending COVID wasn’t happening, so they were able to effectively address it and create as safe an environment as possible.

While not everyone in attendance would be living to the same standards I’ve had to keep, this setting felt manageable.

At the time I planned the trip, I still imagined COVID to be a relatively seasonal virus by region, a theory that is now debunked by the data of summer of 2022. I thought it may be one of the lowest times of year in terms of community spread.

CDC Map for the dates of july 29, 2022-august 4, 2022 showing that community transmission levels are in the 'high' or 'red' zone in 94.17% of counties in the United States

I wanted to see my family, especially after all of our shared grief. Especially to celebrate such a wonderful couple.

So I made plans to go.

I had also booked a speaking gig in Philly for the summer of 2022 almost a year prior, when I thought for sure this would all be over (or at least better managed via public health measures.)

I brought my kids to Philly, too, to appreciate the more touristy parts of Old City.

How I Traveled with COVID-19 Safety Precautions

I cannot tell you that the precautions we took eliminated all risk of spreading COVID. I cannot tell you by inherent nature of being on the road, we were able to be as careful as we are at home.

I cannot tell you that setting up safety measures eliminates all risks, or that I don’t constantly question myself whether or not this is something I should or should not be doing.

What I can tell you is that by taking these measures, we used layered mitigations to make amazing experiences more possible. I’ve done it three times now, and well over a month later, I’m happy to say that none of us caught COVID on these trips.

Now, there’s nothing to say on the fourth trip we wouldn’t. My anecdotal experiences do not diminish the prolific evasiveness of this virus. Even if you do everything ‘right’ there’s no way to 100% protect yourself.

But we did what we could to protect ourselves, and did our best to protect everyone around us, too.

Here’s what actually implementing layered mitigations looked like for us.

We only went places we could drive.

 

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Why we did it: My heart broke when masking and testing measures were removed for air travel. The masking was particularly problematic because it also extended to public transit mandates across the country.

Buses and trolleys people use to go to work and the grocery store and the pharmacy everyday.

Not just airplanes.

I’m not saying I won’t get on a plane in the future under the right circumstances. But as I was planning these particular trips at this particular point in time, I decided that anywhere we went, we’d go by car.

On top of that, even though driving a car isn’t great for the environment, the harm is way less than burning jet fuel.

And I’d like the summers to not get any hotter, please.

How we did it: I’m lucky that my work schedule allowed me to drive two days to get to the wedding. And Philadelphia is only one day away by car. We’d be able to have fun and fulfilling trips without having to take on the additional risks of air travel.

We timed our boosters.

 

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Why we did it: Our vaccines, while life-saving for most, are not perfect.

Break-through infections are increasingly normal.

While the vaccine does dramatically increase your odds of staying out of the hospital, not everyone will be on the lucky side of those odds. At least tens of thousands of vaccinated people have died and are still dying from this virus.

And whether you’re vaccinated or not, you can get Long COVID. Long COVID occurs in up to 49% of people who are infected, and all too often follows a ‘mild’ or asymptomatic case.

Vaccines are an important mitigation strategy. But they are not a mitigation strategy to be used in isolation.

Vaccine efficacy also falls off after a period of time — dramatically so between 3 and 6 months from your last dose. Which is why boosters are necessary.

How we did it: Before we took our trips, we made sure everyone was up-to-date on their boosters in the past three months.

Everyone had to have their most recent booster shot at least two weeks before we left on the trip, as that’s how long the boosters take to kick in at full force.

We booked hotels with windows that opened.


Why we did it: Ventilation is a key element of layered mitigation. When the air is flowing, it makes it harder for an airborne virus to spread. You’re removing many of those viral particles from the room.

How we did it: We kept ventilation in mind as we were booking hotels. For one of the Philly trips, we stayed at Independence Park Hotel. It’s a really well-kept hotel with great staff, and was in such a great location in the heart of Old City.

But not all rooms in the hotel have windows that open.

We called immediately after booking to ensure the room we were staying in would. Zero issues.

When I was driving to the wedding, I made sure the hotel I stayed at after the first day of driving had windows that opened, too.

For the rest of the stays, I booked private apartments on Airbnb with windows that opened.

I’ve gotta say, the whole Airbnb experience has gone downhill since I started using them years ago, and I don’t know how often I’ll be using them in the future. But I had some credits in my pocket, and the ventilation situation was ideal.

If we do any road trips in the future, I might get my own HEPA air cleaner to bring along. But that wasn’t something I was overly familiar with prior to these trips.

We kept those windows open for at least 15 minutes before removing our masks.

 

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Why we did it: Real-life cases in both Hong Kong and New Zealand have shown us that even just opening your hotel room door can let the virus in, lingering in the air for a while and causing infection.

How we did it: We had a rule in our hotel room: Every time we entered the room, we immediately opened the window and waited at least 15 minutes before taking our masks off.

We did as much outdoors as possible.

 

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Why we did it: Covid can spread outside. But it’s much harder for it to do so.

How we did it: During these warmer months in the north, there’s no shortage of things to do outdoors. So we planned our adventures accordingly, going indoors as little as possible.

Here are just some of the fun outside things we did:

  • Attend an outdoor wedding ceremony.
  • Paddle boats.
  • Historic tours of Philadelphia. (NPS has an app so you don’t really need to pay for a tour guide unless you want to.)
  • Various outdoor memorials, parks, fountains and river walks.
  • Festivals at lower-traffic times of day.
  • Super fun playgrounds in the city.

We did mask outdoors if an area was particularly crowded.

We masked with N95s.

Why we did it: We did not take our masks off indoors other than our hotel room.

Not to eat.

Not to drink.

Not just for a picture.

Not when people were mocking us.

Not when an employee at the establishment told us we ‘didn’t need to do that anymore.’

Because the coronavirus doesn’t care about all that. If it’s in the air, it can infect you regardless of which activity you’re participating in.

We might not like it, but that’s how science works.

How we did it: That’s not to say we didn’t go indoors at all. When we did, we tried to keep it under 5 minutes. In all cases, whether or not we could meet those time constraints, our N95 masks did not come off inside.

Even when I spoke at Plutus Voices, I kept my mask on the whole time. It was a relatively small event that will eventually be shared online, and the venue was also really awesome and opened the windows to improve ventilation without us even asking.

We ate outside or in our hotel room with the window open.

 

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Why we did it: For all the same reasons listed above.

How we did it: Of course, we did have to eat!

Sometimes we ate outside if the restaurant had a setup that kept us reasonably socially distanced.

Our hotel let me bring our complimentary breakfast up to the room so we could eat by ourselves with the window open.

We also used take out and delivery the same way. Since the pandemic started, almost all restaurants now have a take out option. So it’s not like your dining options are limited. You can eat food from almost anywhere without having to sit in their indoor dining room.

Tested before events.

How we did it: Wedding?

COVID test first.

Plutus Voices?

COVID test first.

Before we went anywhere indoors where we could potentially infect others, we took an at-home COVID test, which you can get free through insurance.

Covid-19 at-home test showing a single-line negative result

Why we did it: At-home testing is another imperfect measure on its own. COVID can take several days to show up on one of these tests, and some strains show up more reliably than others.

PCR testing is much more accurate. It can take several days to get results back, though.

Overall, the at-home tests catch enough asymptomatic cases that they’re still worth taking. If it shows up positive, you can prevent yourself from going to the event and infecting others.

These tests also can catch some symptomatic cases, but they can miss them, too. If you have symptoms and test negative with an at-home test, assume you’re positive anyways. Air on the side of caution for the sake of everyone else around you.

Did any of these pandemic safety measures help us save money?

 

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Heck, yes!

The COVID tests were free, and we use N95s back home, too, so arguably our total additional cost of combatting COVID while on vacation was $0.

In fact, following our safety protocol actually lowered costs, as a lot of the outdoor activities we engaged in were either free or very low cost, while still providing immense joy.

Inside more often comes with an admission fee.

5 Business Ideas for Travelers

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

woman wearing a mask sitting on the train watching out the window

Travel can lead to a memorable, adventurous life full of great events, activities, and acquaintances. But before you hop on a jet plane, you need to focus on the financial side to support your desired lifestyle.

Sure, travel can be cheap. In fact, you barely need much money to see the world.

But you need some financial stability to live comfortably, save, and take last-minute adventures. You need a solid business idea to support your dreams of traveling.

Fortunately, today people have plenty of options when it comes to remote jobs and international business activities. We have come up with five top business ideas that any traveler can try during their adventures. See what idea fits your life-work balance, skills, and travel ambitions.

NOTE: We are still living in a pandemic. Make sure you are following strict public health measures and think about the effects your travels have on others before visiting another part of the globe.

Event planner

Do you like to bring order to chaos? Do you have good organizational skills? Do you enjoy creating unforgettable experiences for absolute strangers?

Well, if the answers to these questions are “Yes!” then the travel event planning business may be just the thing for you.

This job is almost the same as any event planning gig. But this way, you help people organize their events abroad. You will help clients have their spectacular wedding days, flawless business weekends, or team-building weeks abroad. You get to deal with all the preparations, bookings, tickets, etc.

Moreover, a job requirement will be to those locations to make last-minute arrangements on the spot. Not a bad work ‘requirement’ to enjoy, is it?

Photographer

A photography business is tightly interconnected with travel experiences. Many photographers start traveling to pursue their drive for unique photos. Capturing rare scenes and breath-taking portraits and landscapes is all they think about.

Building a business based on your passion for photography and travel seems like a logical next step. You can create a great portfolio as a travel photographer and get paid by periodicals, websites, or private clients to take pictures of certain places and events. You can also have your own shows and exhibitions to sell your photos to a larger audience.

Travel agency/consultant

An adventurous, active traveler can use their knowledge of the world and the travel industry to their advantage. Tap into all your experience to become a travel consultant or even start your own travel agency.

There are only a few simple requirements to run a business like that. First, you should make sure you know the laws and regulations of your home country about starting a travel agency or becoming a partner in one.

Next, you need good communication skills, travel experience, and the desire to help people have the best vacations of their lives. Traveling is a basic requirement when running such a business. So, it’s a win-win situation.

Graphic Design

There are a ton of different ways start and run your graphic design business. First, of course, you need to become an expert in the field yourself. On average, it will require at least one to two years to complete basic design courses and build enough skills and experience in the field.

But even during this training period, you can work with clients, expand your portfolio, and build your professional network.

Overall, a graphic designer needs their own website or strong profile on freelance platforms to start their business. The rest will depend on your abilities, client base, and ambition. But this type of business will definitely allow you to travel the world. You just need a good laptop and Internet connection to complete your work.

Interpreter

As long as we have different cultures and languages around the world, we will need professional interpreters.

You’ll need to build a client base, work long hours (sometimes fitting different time zones,) perfect your language skills in narrow topics, search for your niche, etc. But all your hard work can really pay off in the end.

You can stay home and work with local agencies as an interpreter, or you can build a business as a traveling interpreter. Then you can offer your services to people and companies that do business abroad. A lot of these setups allow you to travel at the employers’ expense, do your job, and see new places.

Alternatively, you can use your language skills to translate documents at your home office after you become a certified translator. The remote work means you can travel whenever you want.

Final considerations

Finding remote work that allows you to travel isn’t as difficult as it used to be. The true challenge here is to find the work you are skilled at doing and feel passionate about.

Choose an area where you find the most joy and fulfillment. You can try freelancing, programming, or even becoming one of those unemployed professors who write academic texts for students for a living. (Just make sure you don’t employ your skills at a shady site, like Unemployed Professors.)

Overall, it’s totally possible to build a business where you’re completely remote and on the road with working hours that don’t feel like a chore.