Category Archives: Family Finance

Father’s Day Gifts for Sports Fans Under $20

Father’s Day is just around the corner! And I’ve got a great roundup of Father’s Day gifts for sports fans for you!

While it’s good to celebrate Dad, buying gifts should always be done within your budget. I’m not encouraging you to be a cheapskate — if you can afford something very expensive that would add value to his life, go for it.

But if your budget is a little tighter, know that you’re not alone and that you can still get the father in your life something he’ll appreciate without draining  your bank account.

Here’s a Father’s Day Gift Guide for some inspiration. Keeping in mind that budgets may be tight, everything is under $20. And everything is sports-themed.

 MLB Watches

MLB San Diego Padres Men's Spirit Watch

Price: $19.99 – $24.99, depending on team.
Where to get it: Bed Bath & Beyond

Our perception of time has undergone a wild makeover in 2020. Help Dad keep track with this affordable watch from Bed Bath & Beyond. Featured here is San Diego‘s watch, but you can pick his favorite team.

Michael Jordan Motivational Poster

Price: $5.72
Where to get it: TrayFivePrints

If you didn’t spend five straight Sundays — including Mother’s Day — watching The Last Dance, go back and binge watch it now.

We could all use a little bit of this particular Michael Jordan energy in our lives right now. A lot of our own weaknesses are exposed in this moment of uncertainty and strife. I’m not talking about physical or monetary status right now. That’s mostly out of your control in the current climate.

But if we take this moment to reflect on our own characters, we can turn some of those flaws we have into strengths. Your money and your health can be taken from you. But your character cannot.

Father’s Day Golf Tees

Price: $9.98
Where to get it: XcaliburInk

Golf is supposed to be the safest sport to engage in right now — if social distancing is properly practiced. If Dad is choosing to visit the links, these tees will make his day!

Hockey Stick BBQ Spatula & Bottle Opener

Price: $14.99
Where to get it: Requipd

Requipd is a cool Etsy shop that takes hockey sticks and turns them into tools — primarily for grilling out. With its hockey stick handle, this spatula also serves as a bottle opener.

Greatest Plays Mug

Price: $15.00
Where to get it: PlaybookProducts

These mugs feature the four best plays from MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL teams. You can also pick from soccer teams and many college sports teams. PlaybookProducts also has slate coasters, poster and iPhone cases featuring some of the best plays of all time.

Featured here is the play that gave the Steelers one for the other thumb in ’09. Right before this play happened, I was sitting in a ‘Steelers Nation’ Bar packed full of Cardinals fans screaming at them bout our 4th quarter stats. I knew we had it, even though we were down.

AND WE DID.

I’m obsessed with Pittsburgh sports. But it’s really just an example. Whoever your team is, PlaybookProducts has a coaster set that features their best.

Pandemic Money Hacks

As I find money tips that may help through this crisis, I’m sharing them in batches. You can find Batch 1 here.

Here’s what we’ve got in store for Batch 2:

You won’t lose unemployment if your employer illegally reopens in PA.

Governor Wolf.

Through this crisis, he has allowed public health and science to inform his decisions, and as a result, saved countless lives.

He has offered Pennsylvanians the opportunity to do the right thing voluntarily, but has also held businesses accountable when they openly flout the emergency orders put in place to protect the health of our citizens, our healthcare systems and our communities.

And now, he’s out there protecting your unemployment benefits.

Human lives over short-term profit.

Here is the full statement from the governor. Please read it knowing it comes from a twice-democratically-elected governor in a very purple state, regardless of the skewed images you might see on social media.

Basically, about half the state had restrictions partially lifted last week. But that’s not how people here were treating it.

More important to the people of Pennsylvania, that’s not how some employers wanted to treat it. There was this very real, lingering question:

If an employer opens up in an area where it’s been deemed unsafe to work, will you lose your unemployment by refusing to go back into a potentially unsafe environment?

Because maybe, just maybe, you’re not willing to die or kill your grandma for your employer?

The answer is, ‘No,’ according to Wolf’s statement.

At the time of writing this piece, in the state of Pennsylvania, if your business or locality is violating state orders by opening prematurely, you are completely within your bounds to refuse to go in to work. If you stay home, you will continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

This is a huge relief for anyone worried about their own health, or the health of the communities in which they live.

It’s a huge relief for the average person struggling economically through this mess as their employers attempt use them as pawns to manipulate financial benefit programs like PPP.

Mortgage Forbearance

If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, or are a renter who would like to know what your landlord’s options might be before you approach them about a late rent payment, it’s going to be really helpful to understand the mortgage forbearance rules out there right now.

You can find some perspective from Justine at Live with Plum. As she notes, forbearance is not forgiveness; you’re still going to need a plan to pay this off.

If you’re a renter, you’ll want to check the Batch 1 tips to find out why it’s so vitally important to understand your landlord’s options.

Virtual Therapy

This is not a money hack per se. But for all the other moms of special needs kiddos out there, I see you. You’re not invisible, even though I know we sometimes feel that way right now.

I know what little work you may have left is threatened by the hours you now have to spend serving as an untrained and uncompensated educator, therapist and entire social network to your child. The systems that did not do enough to support our children before have now all but evaporated. It’s not your fault.

This is hard.

In our house, we only really were able to start effective teletherapy for some of our services very recently. We are in a position of privilege to even be able to do that.

What has worked for us is engaging the kiddo by screen sharing a video of one of their favorite shows. Then, every once in a while, we’ll take a break to quickly work on one of the therapeutic goals.

We’ve been able to increase the amount of time we spend on the therapy exercises and decrease the amount of time we spend on videos as each week goes on. It’s far from getting back to a functional lifestyle, but it has been forward progress.

Start Looking at Summer Food Programs Now

Even if you didn’t qualify for or rely on the school lunch program before COVID-19, you might now.

At least in Western Pennsylvania, most school districts are distributing food via a basic signup list, waiving income eligibility limits to make sure all the kids have food.

This eliminates a lot of the paperwork barriers that often impede people from getting the benefits they need, and reduces social shaming.

If you’ve never dealt with the school lunch program before, you may not have thought about the summer yet. Luckily, there are summer meal programs across the country funded by the USDA.

Ask your school district about summer meals now. These meals are sometimes administered by community nonprofits and recreational organizations rather than in schools.

But during the pandemic, things have undoubtedly changed.

The USDA provides a searchable map so you can find local sites. But at least here in Western PA, the map is telling me to do the same thing: Contact your school directly.

Traditionally, admission to these summer meal programs required a separate application. In this time of crisis, so much of your eligibility and access is going to depend on decisions made at the local level.

Get in touch with your district to make sure your kids have enough food over the summer. Make your plan now.

Because believe it or not, we’re almost halfway through May.

Survivalist Father’s Day Gifts Under $50

Everything in 2020 is marked by the corona virus. From our daily schedules down to our hobbies, nothing is free from the justified anxiety we all feel on an near persistent basis.

One way to work through that anxiety is to prepare. If the dad in your life has recently started showing an interest in survivalist gear, this post is for you.

The thing about prepping is it can be expensive. And right now, all of our wallets are at least a bit thinner than they were a few months ago.

That’s why every Father’s Day gift in this guide has been chosen for value — providing Dad with a lot of utility even if you’re on a budget.

Wingman® Multi-Tool

Wingman�

Price: $49.95
Where to get it: Leatherman

Usually the Wingman is $59.95, but this best-selling multi-tool is currently on sale. It’s perfect for someone who wants a tool box that fits in their pocket as it includes 14 tools:

  • Spring-action needle nose pliers.
  • Wire stripper.
  • Spring-action regular pliers.
  • Can opener.
  • Spring-action wire cutters.
  • Wood/metal file.
  • Spring-action scissors.
  • 420HC combo knife.
  • Package opener.
  • Ruler.
  • Bottle opener.
  • Phillips screwdriver.
  • Medium screwdriver.
  • Small screwdriver.

The Wingman can also be customized. You can add text, an image or pattern on either handle or blade.

Survivalist Candle Beeswax

Price: $9.50/lb
Where to get it: HungryBearFarms

If Dad needs a hobby through quarantine — whether imposed by the government or common sense — candle making is one that’s key to many survivalists. Typically, survivalists are making candles with the aim of replacing electric light sources.

When you do this, you want to ensure the candle will burn both cleanly and for a long period of time. The two best waxes to achieve this are soy wax and beeswax. Beeswax actually burns longer, but it is slightly more difficult to work with because it takes so long to melt and therefore form.

But Dad has time to perfect the art of beeswax candle making. That’s kind of the point.

And he’ll appreciate that you did your research.

HungryBearFarms is an Etsy shop. I love Etsy because each and every shop you buy from is an individual small business. In these trying times, it’s nice know the money you spend on your purchase is going to the little guy supporting their family.

I did my research on this one and found you the lowest price per pound on Etsy as I could. They got great reviews, too.

Square Candle Wicks

Price: $2.89/5 yards (Price per yard goes down as the quantity goes up)
Where to get it: BuyBrittique

Also integral to candle making — and also from an Esty shop — is a square wick. A square wick burns the longest, making it the best option for survivalist candles. Bear in mind this particular item has a zinc core in addition to the square braid.

Rugged Rechargeable 400L LED Lantern

Coleman Rugged Rechargeable 400L LED Lantern

Price: $49.99
Where to get it: via Coleman

If you’re ever without electricity, candles will serve you for the long-term. But a great, battery-powered lantern is a better alternative for as long as you have batteries, if only because it’s not a fire hazard.

This LED lantern from Coleman fits the bill and then some. You won’t even need actual batteries; this lantern is chargeable via USB.

CHOETECH 24W Solar Charger

Price: $49.99
Where to get it: CHOETECH

It’s great that the Coleman charges via USB, but if you’re in an off-the-grid situation, where are you supposed to plug it in?

Solar battery chargers are a great solution for this. Generally speaking, the more money you invest in your solar charger, the more quickly it will charge when you set it out in the sun. Then, you can plug in your devices, whether that’s your lantern or cell phone or iPad.

This one from CHOETECH gets rave reviews for the price range. It’s compact, charges relatively quickly for the price point and is compatible all kinds of devices.

Seychelle Water Filtration Bottle

Price: $29.99
Where to get it: Wise Company

When you’re hiking or otherwise spending time out in the wild, it’s a good idea to have a filtered water bottle. They’re also great to have around in a time of disaster.

This one from Wise Company is 28 oz, filters up to 100 gallons and removes:

  • Aesthetic contaminants.
  • Chemicals.
  • Dissolved solids.

It also removes 99.9999% of bacteria and 90% of fluoride.

Quarantine Mother’s Day Gifts for Grandma

This post is collaboration with Etsy. Please note that any references to ‘quarantine,’ or ‘stay-at-home’ or anything of the like are colloquial only in their usage — not medical or referring to any legal orders.

My mom is a huge part of my life. We live local to each other. She usually sees the kids at least once a week if not more. Her generosity with childcare is what has made my career possible.

We miss her. And not just for babysitting purposes. She’s one of the most generous, loving people I know. To not be in her presence is punishment.

Gifts for Grandma During Social Isolation

I feel like this Mother’s Day is going to be hard for a lot of reasons for a lot of different people. In an effort to make the experience a little more meaningful, I’ve partnered with Etsy to feature a bunch of great Mother’s Day Gifts for Grandmas during Social Isolation.

Each gift comes from a different Etsy maker, each with an independent small business you’ll be supporting should you purchase their product.

Some of the gifts involve spending some extra time together via technology. Because we all know time is the gift she wants most.

Not all of the gifts are frugal. For this particular list, I was really looking for gifts that seem like they would help as everyone’s missing each other.

But I have put them in order of price lowest to highest. That way if you don’t want to be tempted, you can stop scrolling when the price gets higher than your budget.

I Miss Your Face Candle

Price: $10.99
Where to buy: VintageCreated
UPDATE: VintageCreated is sold out! She has a ton more cute candles which I still recommend checking out, but if you’re looking for ‘Miss Your Face’ specifically, here’s an alt from RusticSugarCreekCo!

This has definitely been a text I’ve both seen and sent a myriad of times since the stay-at-home orders went into effect. On top of circumstance-appropriate messaging for Grandma this mother’s day, I’m in love with this particular candle shop for the scent options:

  • White Birch Vanilla
  • Lemon & Mint Leaf
  • Vanilla Chai Latte
  • Lavender Blackberry
  • Pink Peony
  • Strawberry Lemonade

You can also get unscented if you so desire.

But did you see there’s Strawberry Lemonade?!

Grandma Shark Stemless Wine Glass

Price: $13.99
Where to buy: Momstir
UPDATE: You all loved this one so much Momstir is out! Very comparable alternative is available from Eugenie2.

Grandma Shark!

Wine can bring this whole leaving-the-house-is-dangerous thing a little more levity. If your mom’s into the grapes, consider pairing this stemless wine glass with a bottle of her favorite.

Bonus points if you schedule a Skype session after the kids are in bed. Feel free to BYOB and catch up with mom.

Love You to the Moon and Back Coffee Mug

Price: $17.00
Where to buy: PuffPaperCo

If grandma is living far away even when we’re not all staying inside, check out this super sweet coffee mug that allows you to share the love across state lines. Maybe you could even do Mother’s Day breakfast together via Hangouts?

Nana Apron

Price: $22.00
Where to buy: MonsMomtique
UPDATE: She’s sold out for the moment! You can get a similar set from ImprintandImpress in pink — just request the names be changed!

These aprons are customizable, so you can put in ‘Grandma,’ ‘Nana,’ ‘Mor Mor’ or whatever you call your family matriarch.

For this one, you could pair it with a cooking lesson! Coordinate with Nana ahead of time to make sure you have all the ingredients, and then your kids and mom can cook together via FaceTime!

Grandma Hug Pillow

Price: $29.00
Where to buy: OhRosieMyPosie
UPDATE: You guys bought OhRosieMyPosie OUT!!! I’m glad you loved this one. Luckily, you can find pretty much the same pillow — identical poem and all — at FirandNeedle!

This feels like something the ladies at church would have made at Enrichment Night when I was a kid. That is to say, it’s adorable and wholesome.

And in this time when Grandma can’t hug your littles, it can serve as some type of substitute.

Personalized Night Light Blue Tooth Speaker

Price: $48.36
Where to buy: GiftsJourney

Okay, imagine sending Grandma a night light in your children’s image. If your mom’s anything like mine, she LOVES that kind of next-level photo gift.

Now imagine doing that, but the nightlight is also a blue tooth speaker. Have your kid send a Spotify or YouTube playlist that makes them think of her, and she can find your child’s company in the music!

The fun thing about this is that your child can update the music at anytime. As long as Grandma keeps the nightlight, it’s a gift that can keep on giving.

If you have multiple children, you can get them all in one photo on one nightlight.

Fleece Photo Blanket for Grandma

Price: $80.25
Where to buy: PersonalizeItFreeNY

Speaking of next-level photo gifts…

While Grandma can’t cuddle the grandkids, she can cuddle up with this fleece. Again, grandmas are always loving on those photos, and it’s a great way to remind her the little ones miss her — especially right now.

Long-Distance Grandma Love Lamps

Price: $152.00
Where to buy: FriendshipLamps

Okay, these lamps are really cool.

You keep one. You send the other to your mom.

Then, when your kids miss her or are thinking about her, they tap the lamp.

In grandma’s house, the light will lamp up, letting her know your child is thinking of her.

It works visa versa, too!

These lamps have been really popular with long-distance couples and besties recently, but with everyone on quarantine, they would light up your mom’s day, too.

Career Resources for Autistic Youth

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be running a series of Wednesday articles in April that focuses on the financial challenges and triumphs Autistic people face and achieve.

girl with glasses reading a comic book, lying down in between the shelves of the library. Beneath this blue and black text reads "Career Resources for Autistic Youth femmefrugality.com"

If you have a child on the spectrum, you have one child on the spectrum. Your kiddo’s needs are completely different than the child next to them–even if the other child is on the spectrum, too.

With that in mind, today we’re going to be reviewing a governmental department which has resources to help those with disabilities–including autism–get the resources they need to start their careers off on the right foot. Your child does not have to have communication issues or visually-obvious accommodations in order to qualify for services.

If you are Autistic and American, you can benefit greatly from these services directly. Though I am writing to parents in this article, I do not mean to talk around you. But parents have a responsibility to figure these things out for their minor children, and I’m hoping that everyone has access to these services as young as possible.

However, the programs run by this department can help you throughout your life even beyond the days of youth.

State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies

The federal government provides funding to state vocational rehabilitation agencies for a number of purposes. They aid both employers and job seekers to build inclusive workplaces, and go the extra mile to make sure training is available to those with medical needs.

Their aim is to help the disabled secure meaningful employment that highlights their skills, talents and interests. Their job is to remove barriers that may stand in their way of securing such employment, such as lack of guidance, lack of funding or lack of awareness and knowledge on the part of the employer.

For all you libertarians in the audience, I see you. And here’s something important to know:

It costs less to provide these services than it does to take care of an unemployed person. It costs less to take care of an unemployed person in their own home than it does in an institution built to accommodate those with disabilities. Reagan himself made policy changes for the disabled for this very reason, notably via Medicaid expansion.

Rather than railing on government spending in this arena, we should all be lauding it. It not only lowers societal costs; more importantly, these programs serve to bridge the gap between the oppressed and the ill-fitted places of employment our societal disablism has created.

*steps off anticipatory soapbox*

All right. Let’s get down to business and check out the resources available to those with medical-need at large–including Autistic individuals.

Career Prep in Middle and High School

As a disabled student, your child has access to certain career-focused programs in middle and high school. The age at which your state starts attending IEP meetings to facilitate these opportunities through Individualized Plans for Employment (IPEs) may vary depending on which state you live in. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your state vocational rehabilitation agency as your child transitions from elementary to middle school–or around age 12.

Even if they are not eligible for services just yet, staff can make you aware of the programs that exist in your state, and make you aware of the earliest age at which your child qualifies for specific services.

States have some autonomy, so programs may vary. But here are some examples of services that may be available to your child as they move through middle and high school:

  • Career exploration, in which you identify your skills and interests to apply to the following opportunities:
  • Facilitation of guest speakers relevant to your field(s) of interest.
  • Information about relevant career fairs.
  • Workplace tours and visits.
  • Summer employment opportunities.
  • Job shadowing.
  • One-on-one mentoring.
  • Information regarding relevant volunteer opportunities in the area.
  • Direct employment programs during the latter years of high school.
  • Education about your rights in post-secondary educational settings and the workplace, along with coaching for self-advocacy.
  • Information and access to job-specific education opportunities, including but not limited to vo tech schools and community colleges.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. And not every opportunity will exist in every area of the country. But working with your state vocational rehabilitation agency will help you find as many of the doors that are open to your child as possible.

Funding for College, University or Trade School

No matter your child’s (or your own) age, there is a specific program across states that allows for funding of higher education. Some states, like Pennsylvania, will only offer funding up to the average cost of community college, the reasoning being that the Office of Vocation Rehabilitation works in tandem with the state school system and community colleges to provide adequate services and accommodations to disabled students. You don’t necessarily have to go to a state school, but the amount vocational rehabilitation funding will be capped at that community college level.

Other states may pay full tuition even through grad school pending the availability of funds. Regardless of how much money you or your child is eligible for, you should take measures to get in touch with your state’s Vocational Rehabilitative Services agency. Any money for college is good money for college!

Note that for this program, you do not necessarily have to prove SSI disability qualification. As an individual on the spectrum, your child will qualify as disabled through SSI, but the SSI rigamarole is not something you’ll have to go through for this particular program.

After 21. Now what?

Vocational Rehabilitative Services which provide educational funding don’t have an age requirement. But so much else does when your child turns 21. Insurance requirements and coverages change, IEPs and the state school system are no longer required to execute the next step in your child’s growth, and if your child isn’t on the path to a traditional college education, it can be difficult to find support services which help them live a functional, meaningful life–even if they exist.

That’s where your state vocational rehabilitation agency can help. Well, sometimes. There are programs available which offer meaningful employment and social opportunities to those with communication and sensory needs dramatically divergent from the neurotypical population society has traditionally accommodated.

The hitch is your state has to choose to allocate their funding towards these programs.

Even if your state does not directly offer these types of specialized employment opportunities, your state vocational rehabilitative agency may be able to point you to other community organizations which do.

And if they can’t? They will have other programs established. The first step to learning more about them is contacting your state vocational rehabilitation agency. They’ll sit down and work with your child to create a plan to get closer to meaningful employment.

Additional Resources for Parents of Autistic Children

Getting resources and planning with your child for their future is definitely a long game. There are so many steps in the process. It’s legitimately a lucky miracle if you know some of these programs exist at all.

As you’re going through the process, here are some resources that can help make you and your child aware of their rights, services available to them, and the best available ways to pursue their dreams. Here are a few. If readers know of any more, they are highly encouraged to share them in the comments and I’ll add them to this list!