Author Archives: femmefrugality

The Past 10 Years of Femme’s Entrepreneurial Graveyard

This past September, I went to DC for a major conference I attend (almost) every year called FinCon. It was the first time I had attended since the release of The Feminist Financial Handbook and the podcast appearances I made as a part of promotion. I was up for a few different awards. I was presenting on a panel.

I had just gotten my hair dyed by a professional for the first time. The greys were starting to show.

It was in this atmosphere that I hopped on an elevator. I wasn’t expecting anyone to recognize me. They usually don’t. I wrote anonymously for a very long time, and am still reticent to put my picture on things. Though you don’t have to look very hard to find it anymore.

I don’t usually mind that people have trouble placing me at first sight. In fact, at this conference, there were moments I was hoping this relative anonymity would hold. I had been having health problems and at certain moments during the conference that showed in my appearance.

But I got onto that elevator, and so did another young woman. She looked shy and almost afraid to talk. When she did the words came spilling out of her mouth. She had read my book and loved it and bid me farewell when the elevator jerked to a stop at my floor by congratulating me on all my success.

I smiled and thanked her, but when those elevator doors closed behind me I stopped in my tracks.

What had just happened?

The Relativity of Success

I didn’t feel very successful. Over the past few years, I had left a career field I loved, though it was not a decision I wanted to make. I was so grateful for this side hustle I had going on with writing, and for the self-same conference that had helped me locate streams of income exactly when I needed my hustle to turn into a full-fledged business.

My marriage had fallen apart. I had come to the realization that in my adult life, I had been so focused on surviving that I had never really taken the time to figure out who the hell I was independent of my responsibilities.

My emotional landscape was not feeling very successful.

But as I stood there, frozen outside the elevator bank like a weirdo, I tried to look for what she saw. I saw a book that was getting great feedback. One that — at least on some scale — achieved what it had set out to do: Start conversations that will hopefully contribute in some small way to cultural change.

I had toured a little for the book, both via podcasts and via some awesome independent bookstores I highly suggest you check out. Thanks to an amazing colleague, I had some great business opportunities open up independent of authorship.

I was launching a new professional initiative — one that I’ve been stewing on for a few years. It was getting positive feedback off the bat.

I even saw some things she didn’t see. Some behind-the-scenes work that is often even more rewarding than the stuff that gets public accolades.

Make no mistake: I am small scale, and my ego is even smaller. I have imposter syndrome at every turn, like most of us do. I am perpetually grateful and amazed that anyone cares what I have to say about anything.

What I should have said.

She was not the only person to approach me in this manner. In retrospect I wish I had hugged every one of them and told them not to be nervous. That I had gone back to my room to have a panic attack at one point during the conference because it is amazing, but also incredibly overstimulating and overwhelming. We were in the same boat.

That the success they saw was only one part of the picture, and that I was sorry if I had become so opaque that I was presenting a social media dream life.

But in the moment, I felt equally as awkward and not worthy of their attention and frankly I’m still just shocked any time people remember my face, which I worked so hard to hide for years.

My Entrepreneurial Graveyard: 2010-2020

Everyone’s been posting then vs. now pictures from 10 years ago. They’ve been reflecting on what’s happened to them in the past decade. Where they — and frankly, we all — might go in the next ten years.

In drafting up end-of-the-year post ideas, I decided to show you my entrepreneurial graveyard for the past ten years. Technically, I’ve only been doing this since 2011, so I guess it’s the past nine-ish.

I do this because behind every success in our lives, there are ten failures. I feel like this is either something that I’ve learned from my ventures into entrepreneurship, or it is a core value I hold that has helped me function in the entrepreneurial world.

I do this to hopefully present a little less opaque of a picture. And to show you that in this next decade, if three of the things you try don’t work out, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re pursuing some type of success.

Remember that success in one sector of your life does not necessarily permeate to all areas of your life. You could be killing it at work but falling apart at home. Similarly, your personal life could be rich and fulfilling, but you struggle with income.

We’re all somewhere on that incredibly variable spectrum. Remember that, and try not to place others above or below you (she says to herself.) This isn’t a race with a definitive finish line. It’s an infinite experience.

And money is only part of it.

#FinSavSat

Early in my blogging years, I percolated the community extremely heavily. Back then, it was how you built a blog.

And I loved it.

Early on, my bloggy friend Michelle taught me about cross-pollination. I don’t know if she even knows that. It’s something she taught me by example.

We would all read, think about and comment on each other’s content religiously. You could even use the comment section to find new bloggers.

I suppose there is an element of this today, but back then, this was a much larger part of the picture.

Anyways, in Michelle’s comment section, I would find beauty bloggers. That’s not really my thing, but they were such lovely people and I learned a bit about how to put on makeup!

Eventually, she explained that she loved personal finance, but with the amount of time she put into her blog (which was incredible — I’ve never known anyone to work so diligently with the hours she had available to her,) she needed to mix it up sometimes.

I started doing the same thing with mom blogs. As a new mother, and a relatively young mother, it was hard sometimes to do all the things and feel all the feelings and wonder if you were the only one going through it.

Blogs changed that for me, allowed me to build deep friendships across verticals, and allowed me to build IRL relationships with other bloggers here in my hometown of Pittsburgh back when I was the only PF blogger in the region of whom I was aware.

I digress…

ANYWAYS.

One of the awesome things I saw on mom blogs was the way they were building community. One of the most prolific tools I saw for doing this was link-ups.

Do you guys remember those things?

Once a week, everyone would come around and share a post via a linky tool. Then, you were supposed to comment on a couple other people’s shared posts.

I decided to start one for the PF community. I had awesome support from a handful of other women who helped me launch Financially Savvy Saturdays, or #FinSavSat, and a community was born. I ran it for about a year, and then handed over the reigns to the fantastic Mel of brokeGIRLrich who ran it up until very recently.

It was never monetized. After a while, people started having SEO concerns with link-ups after some algorithm changes, often because they were not written properly from an HTML perspective. As a result, participation eventually plateaued.

The point is, from a business numbers perspective, it was an unprofitable venture. If you want to label that a failure, you totally could.

But what it did do was build a bit of a tighter-knit community. When I went to my first FinCon, I had people to talk to. We were already interacting on a weekly basis. On top of the personal relationships, I discovered cool money tricks to apply to my own personal finances that I would have never read had I not been browsing the shares.

Another thing I gained was a deep sense of gratitude for Mel beyond the joy I got from reading her content. She was a rockstar for carrying it on and did us all a great service.

The Frugality Challenge

After I came home from that first FinCon, I was motivated. I was energized. I had so many ideas and I implemented half of them at once. Of those, about half were successful. The other half kind of fizzled off.

The most successful of those that fizzled off was The Frugality Challenge. My income had gone up, and I was feeling kind of guilty that I wasn’t spending as much time on frugality as I used to. I’ve since learned to let go of that guilt in select circumstances where it doesn’t serve me, but that’s a whole other thing.

I started the #FrugalityChallenge on Twitter to get myself back on track and build community.

It was really taking off there for a minute. So much so that it caught the attention of a young brand in the space, Tiller.

We wanted to start rewarding the winner of the challenge each month with a gift card. In order to do so, though, I felt like I needed a better method than a Twitter hashtag to accurately track points and be fair. So we switched over to Facebook where we could log everything extremely accurately in a group.

When we switched platforms, participation didn’t fall off at first, but growth did. The hashtag was popping up organically on Twitter and converting new participants in that way. It just wasn’t the same on Facebook.

Eventually, we closed up shop. We had killer competitions while it was in operation, though. And it helped me get in touch with my frugal roots.

That Tiller company? They continue to have a great product, and have grown to a point where years later, we were able to resume our relationship in a new capacity. Today, they’re one of my favorite freelance writing clients.

The Shut Down Project

During the latest government shutdown, people were suffering. It was ridiculous.

I kept hearing about all these people trying to get by without a paycheck, trying to decide if they could even continue working in government moving forward. Trying to figure out how to recover from a crisis they were still in the midst of with no end in sight.

I knew several people who had relayed these stories to me about friends or family members. People from within the PF community.

I gathered some colleagues together to source some cash to help alleviate their economic struggle in some small way. That part went okay.

But at the end of the day, it was hard to get recipients to come forward to gather the cash. It’s complicated as a government employee, and there were bureaucratic lines that were harder to navigate than I anticipated.

HBU?

What have been some of your “failures” over the past decade, and what have you taken from them to create successes?

How to Reach Your Savings Goals in 2020

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

Woman with short brown hair holding tiny white Christmas lights up to her face and shoulders, covered in a blue knit sweater.
Photo by Clay Banks

Ready to finally reach those saving goals that you’ve been aiming for over the last few years?

With the new year just around the corner, everyone is thinking about resolutions and strategies that they can use to change their life for the better. However, while it’s always a good idea to eat healthier and get more exercise, one of the best changes you can make to your usual routine is learning how to spend your money better.

After all, what would you do if your car suddenly broke down tomorrow? Would you take out a personal loan, struggle to find credit, or have emergency savings that you can use? Here are a few ways that you can start to turn things around in 2020.

Have a Target

The most important thing you can do when you want to make a change to your finances in 2020, is have a target. Don’t just tell yourself that you want to save more money. Although that technically is a kind of goal, it’s way too vague. You need something more precise if you want to make a real difference this year.

What do you want to be able to celebrate by the time the next new year rolls around? Maybe you want to have enough cash aside so that you can put a down payment on a new home. Maybe you want to go on a family vacation to some far-off, distant land.

There’s no wrong answer.

Track Your Spending

If you want to put more of your cash towards your future, then you also need to know where your money is going now. Think about where your dollars are going each day. Maybe you’re spending a fortune on fuel for a run-down old car, or perhaps you’re constantly paying for subscriptions to television resources that you don’t use.

Tracking your spending will help you to pinpoint the areas that you can cut costs in, so that you can start making a real difference to your finances. You might even find some opportunities to reduce costs that you never thought about before.

Banish High-Interest Debts

When you start looking at where your money is going each month, there’s a good chance that you’ll see some payments to debt companies in the mix. You might have some loans from places like MoneyWorld that you need to manage, or credit card debts. If that’s the case, take a look at the kind of interest rates that you’re paying, and see whether you can reduce the costs by consolidating your loans.

Consolidating your existing debts into something less expensive can be a good way to keep costs low. The less you have to spend on interest, the more you have to put away towards your savings at the end of each month.

Make Saving Automatic

Why not make saving cash in 2020 an easier process? One of the main problems that people have with saving these days, is that they forget to put money into their savings account after they’re finished paying for all their debts and other bills.

However, if you turn saving into an automatic process, then you’re less likely to forget about it. At the end of each month, arrange for an amount of cash to transfer into your savings account. This will mean that you don’t have to remember to make a deposit.

Additionally, if your money is automatically coming out of your current account and into your savings account each month, you’ll be less likely to spend it. As soon as you check your bank statement, the money you would have spent will already be gone.

Use the 24-Hour Rule

Are you a victim of impulse buying? It’s easy to get that way these days. Purchasing things online and offline is easier than ever thanks to things like one-click purchasing. To reduce your risk of buyer’s remorse, go to all your favorite websites online and remove your personal details from them. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to go and find your credit and debit cards whenever you want to make a purchase.

This will help you to stick to the rules that you set for yourself about how long you need to leave before making a purchase. For instance, most experts recommend giving yourself 24 hours to think about any significant purchase of more than about $20. You can reduce that cap if you need to, as well.

Making Accommodations Affordable in Japan

At the beginning of this year, I had no concrete plans to travel except to DC for FinCon.

As I look back, I pause for a moment of gratitude. I was a little ping pong ball this year, bouncing all over the place. Getting work done and catching up with some of those people who have meant so much to me over the years.

In 2019, I visited:

  • New York City
  • Toronto
  • The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon
  • Bar Harbor, Maine
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Japan

I promise I’ll cover all of these trips, as they were all made pretty frugally. But today I want to spend some time on the accommodation situation in Japan.

Affordable Accommodations in Japan

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you’re probably worried about the cost of accommodations–especially if you’re staying in one of the big cities.

While it’s true that Japan can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. While I did stay with my friend for three nights (I was there for her wedding!) most of the time I was away I was able to score low-cost accommodations without even feeling like they were low-cost to begin with.

Tokyo Hotel

Sliding door with woman's lips on it, between her teeth insider her mouth it says "Play on Moxy Tokyo moxy"

I booked my flight through miles, and apparently getting from Pittsburgh to the Western side of Japan is darn near impossible via rewards. So both times I have gone, I ended up flying into Tokyo.

This time, I decided to take a little time in Tokyo before the wedding to catch up on sleep and adjust to all the shifts that come with traveling to the other side of the planet.

I managed to get out a little, too, between naps. Those adventures are currently being logged on Instagram, but I’ll write about them here, too, in the near future.

I had points built up through the Marriott Bonvoy program. The Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho was affordable, available and in a great location, so I booked. I had enough points that I was able to get half of my nights in Tokyo for free.

If you don’t do the rewards points thing through specific hotel chains, another method I use to get free nights is booking through Hotels.com. Your tenth night is free, regardless of the hotel chain you use. You can book the Moxy here. I’d also recommend this method because they have killer discount prices.

Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho

My stay here was great. The room I booked was small; while I had two twins, there was only about a foot between the end of the bed and the wall.

This is Tokyo, though, and the layout of the room was so smart that the size wasn’t even noticeable. There are collapsible tables, chairs, luggage racks and more hung along the wall in the entrance way. The shower room in the bathroom is a good size, allows for American- or Japanese-style showers, and even has a stool if you need to sit down.

The decor was adorable and trendy. This place markets itself as a party hotel, though I largely stayed during the week so everything was pretty quiet. I met a lot of other gaijin guests in town for different world events; there was no shortage of socialization opportunities. It just might be louder on the weekends.

The location is perfect, too. Walkable from the Kinshicho station–even with luggage in tow–you can easily get to everything in the Sumida City neighborhood. Probably the biggest attraction is the Skytree, which is the second tallest structure in the world. But that really is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you’re travelling using the JR Rail Pass, the proximity of the station makes it easy to get everywhere else, too. I used it as a jumping off point for Odaiba, Roppongi Hills, Nakano and Shibuya, but also spent time exploring the neighborhood itself.

Airbnb in Hiroshima & Kyoto

Airbnb is one of my favorite ways to travel on a budget. Not only is it often more affordable than a hotel, but you also usually get a better travel experience, too.

Affordable Private Apartment in Hiroshima

After the wedding, I headed to Hiroshima for one night. It is something I highly recommend everyone do if they have the opportunity to visit Japan. I’ll write about the transformational experience soon, but right now I’ll just cover accommodations.

While I was in Hiroshima, I booked a private apartment. It was the best experience. I had access to laundry so I could prep my clothes for the next leg of the trip. The bed was like sleeping on a cloud — a true rarity in the land of the rising sun. I had privacy and space and slipped into sleep easier than I have in years.

My host was amazing, too. He knew I was staying for just one night, and sent over this guide prior to my stay to help me maximize my time and money while I was in town. It was incredible.

The room itself cost about $70, which was cheaper than a cheap hotel. On top of that, I had enough Airbnb credits to get more than 50% off.

If you want to use the same method, you can sign up for Airbnb as a new member and get $55 in credit towards your first stay. Then, when you refer your friends you’ll get more credit when they complete their first stay.

Hostel Kyoto Gion

As a solo traveler, I have booked hostels in the past. I’ve found that the fears I had in the past are overblown, and that being a safe traveler in a hostel is easier than you’d think. In fact, it can be good to have other people there to notice your presence or absence when you’re in a big city by yourself.

When I went to Kyoto, I also booked on Airbnb. The last time I was in Kyoto I missed one of the key attractions: Gion. The older-feeling part of the city (so much relativity here) known for its geisha.

Much to my delight, I found the Hostel Kyoto Gion. It would have been under $100 to book for 3 nights had I not had had enough Airbnb credit to cover the stay 100% free.

I was a little nervous about it being a co-ed hostel, but I figured if there was anywhere to give it a shot, it was the ultra-safe Japan. I felt 100% safe the entire time. Most of the co-ed people staying there were couples in two separate beds, mixed in with one pair of male friends and a few other female solo travelers.

There were cameras. I never felt unsafe, but it’s always nice to have that little extra layer of assurance there — to know that there is accountability even in an ultra-safe environment. Each bed was spacious and had curtains and outlets and a light and earplugs so you could have complete privacy.

Perhaps the best part of this stay, though, was the hosts. My Japanese is not great, though I have studied it through my local library sporadically in preparation for my trips. While my hosts’ English was limited, it was way better than my Japanese and they were so adept at using interpretive technology that communication was not only never a problem, but so warm and sincere that at times you forgot you were in a hostel rather than doing a home stay.

I mean, on top of free coffee, printed travel guides and local tips from the hosts themselves, I was offered a meal in the spur of the moment one day. We talked about my kids and the host ended up buying them their favorite souvenir from Japan: Japanese candy. I know one of them ended up taking another guest to some type of festival when she asked about things to do.

Oh, and for the first time ever? I got the bottom bunk.

It was my best hostel experience yet, and it was 100% free thanks to those Airbnb credits. Here’s where you can get started with yours.

Affordable Narita Hotel

I did end up staying at a hotel in Narita my last night. It was near the airport and there was a free bus and because of a combination of the booking platform and points, it was crazy cheap.

But they tried to nickle and dime you for everything once you’re there. No free breakfast. No water bottles waiting for you in your room. Literally the only dirty carpets and hotel bathrooms I’ve ever seen in Japan. The shower room was in with the toilet without any separation between the two.

So I wouldn’t highly recommend this particular place.

But I would recommend finding a place near the airport for your last night if you’re flying out of Narita. It’s not close to Tokyo — depending on where you’re staying it can be an hour or two ride by train. By staying near the airport that last night, you have a way easier commute when your flight does take off. Plus, if you do a hotel, most of them have free shuttles.

Have you ever been to Japan? How did you manage the costs of accommodations?

Coffee Mugs for Christmas

This post is in collaboration with Etsy.

I was raised in a religion where you couldn’t drink coffee. It was a matter of faith.

By the time I parted ways from the religion of my youth, I had grown to be quite a full-grown adult. I had never developed a taste for coffee. Only tried it once. Black. I wasn’t excited for round two.

But I’m a single mom in my 30s. The lack of a caffeine rush in the morning was becoming a problem. So I gave it another shot. My friends taught me how to load up a cup of drip with sugar and creamer. I’ve eased myself down to a point where I can almost drink a cup of black coffee now, but still prefer a little sweetener.

My life is so much better for it. It’s my favorite drink. Something that can boost my mood for a minute without being bad for me.

Don’t get me wrong; coffee has not helped me get it all together. I still look a hot mess when I get my kids onto the bus. But at least I’m smiling when I do it now.

For the love of coffee mugs.

Another thing that has progressively added joy to my life since I integrated a coffee addiction into my daily routine is coffee mugs. From witty to empowering to serendipitous, coffee mugs in and of themselves have brought me so much happiness over the past year or two.

Like this gift from one of my best friends when I moved into my own place and was way short on things like dishes:

Or when I was going through a moment of absolute self-loathing over the summer, and was comforted by another one of my best friend’s coffee mugs which was just laying around when I happened to visit:

^The mug is in the second picture. And while we couldn’t figure out where she got it, you can get a pretty darn close replica here.

Coffee mugs, like the coffee itself, have brought little shots of joy to my day. It’s something I never thought I would need in my life. I know it seems melodramatic, but for someone who always looks forward to big goals and achievements, discovering one of those “little things” in life feels like you’re the first one to lay hands on the holy grail.

Coffee Mugs for Christmas

Since coffee mugs have been bringing me so much joy lately, I figured I’d round up some for you guys, too. Stuff you might like as a reader of the blog.

I also figure that if you’re shopping on a budget, a coffee mug may not be at the top of your giftee’s list. But bought properly, it can be an affordable way to deliver them a little shot of joy every morning.

Empowered Women Empower Women Coffee Mug

Empowered women empower women.

It’s a saying that’s been everywhere this year. At Statement. At the Mamas Talk Money Summit. It’s one I’ve reflected upon a lot in 2019, and has guided some of my actions.

If you weren’t at Statement or the summit, I’m loving this version from FemmeNouvelle on Etsy.

Beyonce Mug

mug on table against neutral blue and brown background. mug full of coffee and says 'always be gracious, best revenge is your paper'

Queen Bey.

You can find her in Japan.

You can find her in my income goal charts.

She is ubiquitous, and with good cause. Always encouraging women to take control over their own money, Beyonce is money goals all day.

Featured mug is from TwoFingersCreations on Etsy.

I Make Money Moves Coffee Mug

Coffee mug sitting on a wooden floor with the words "i make money moves" printed on it.

Oh, Cardi B. She has also inspired my income goal charts. I’ve been sitting on a post idea about her. It goes pretty deep. Maybe it will be my New Year’s Resolution to go there.

This mug can be found from MochaDesignStudio on Etsy.

Patriarchy Coffee Mug

Thrown and  hand painted mug with the words "Patriarchy rhymes with BULLSHIT" hand-etcched on the side.

DancingPigPot’s Etsy shop is full of fun mugs that look like you’d drink mead out of them. But we’ll keep it at coffee for now.

Saw this one and thought of you all.

Seahorses Against Gender Roles Coffee Mug

Black coffee mugs seahorses against gender roles

Seahorses are monogamous, mate for life, and have daddy carry the babies until they’re ready to be born. Yes, they’re awesome, and you can adopt one here.

Celebrate with a mug from StrictlyBusinessMugs on Etsy.

Carry Yourself With the Confidence of a Mediocre White Man Coffee Mug

white coffee mug with black words printed on it looking like cross stitch: "Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man

The most popular item on last year’s Very Feminist Gift Guide was a poster with this same saying on it: “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.”

I come bearing good news! You can find it on this coffee mug from saltyforprintables on Etsy.

May Your Coffee Be Stronger Than Your Toddler Mug

I mean, this is why I got into coffee. Children, and the caffeine addiction requirement that seems to come along with them. You can pick up this mug via CabokieCreations on Etsy.

Favorite mugs? Leave your vote in the comments!

Ms. Frizzle Comes to The Burgh: Holiday Ticket Giveaway!

This post is brought to you in partnership with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Who else grew up with Ms. Frizzle and her class on PBS — ironically right around when you got home from school?

All kids love the idea of baking soda volcanoes and raising caterpillars into butterflies. But I distinctly remember the Magic School Bus traveling into the human blood stream, rocketing out toward Pluto and submerging deep into the sea.

I was fortunate to have mostly wonderful teachers as I made my way through K-12. But I definitely learned a lot of extra cool stuff about science through watching that show and reading those books. I did real well on that portion of the ACT.

Thanks, Ms. Frizzle.

Next Gen Magic School Bus Lovers

Netflix just happens to have the Magic School Bus available, along with their own revamp. I’ve gotten to watch (and read) some of my classic faves with my own kids. I’ve gotten to enjoy the new series with them for the first time.

It’s a cool thing.

I’m super excited because now we’re going to enjoy the Magic School Bus experience in a whole new medium: theater.

The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System comes to Pittsburgh

Okay, remember the episode where they’re hurtling towards Pluto?

This is it! On stage!

This is such a great classic to bring to the stage and everyone in our house is super psyched for it.

There are nine different showings at various venues in Southwestern Pennsylvania starting January 5, 2020 through January 12, 2020. Here are the details.

Holiday Ticket Giveaway!

Such great news, right?!

We’re giving away four (4) tickets to The Magic School Bus show. The giveaway starts today and runs through 11:59p on December 19, 2019. The goal is to have the winner be able to deliver the news to their family as a gift on whatever winter holiday they celebrate!

You’ll be able to select the date/time/location of your choice should you win. Enter using the widget below, and keep in mind that you can come back to claim many of them everyday for extra entries!

Happy holidays, and best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway