Category Archives: Money Management

What Traditional Retirement Can Look Like

This post is brought to you by Providence Point.

traditional retirement

We talk a lot about retirement on personal finance blogs. We talk about how important saving is from a young age. We talk about what FIRE looks like for those with high incomes early in their careers.

But what we don’t often talk about is what traditional retirement looks like. For those who have to or choose to work their whole lives, who may not want to move away from their grandchildren in order to lower their cost of living. This is where the vast majority of people will end up.

I’m not going to lie: if you don’t save and/or are unable to save because of income restraints, retirement can look a lot like poverty. Many times, they’re one in the same.

But I don’t want to go down that dark path today. Today, I want to show you what traditional retirement can look like if you save money throughout your career. I want to show you beautiful surroundings, vibrant social lives and what it looks like to progressively add more healthcare to your wellness regimen.

Providence Point

This fall, I had the opportunity to tour Providence Point here in Western Pennsylvania. As I drove through the gate, I was immediately impressed. Initially, it just looks like a really nice neighborhood with single-floor, patio home condos. The grounds are well kept. The sidewalks meander across relatively flat roads (which is a big deal for us here in Appalachia.)

First, I got to tour one of these condos. Appropriately, it was number 412. For those of you not from Western PA, one of our major area codes in this region is 412.

providence point

It was absolutely gorgeous. It’s probably a bit bigger than the place I currently rent, and it had two bedrooms, high ceilings, a massive garage, first-floor washer/dryer and walk-in closets. Honestly, I love the place I’m living now, but if housing was the only thing Providence Point offered, I’d be making a step up if I moved there.

As you age, you can opt to move into a smaller apartment closer to the main hub of Providence Point, or even into special areas of the retirement complex where they have more medical care.

Social Life

There was so much to do here! While I was there I got to see the chapel, the state-of-the-art gym and pool where personal trainers work 1:1 with residents, the billiards room, a fun lounge bar, the bank, the art studio, the wood shop, a mini movie theater, the library and several of the five dining experiences on campus.

On top of living here–with all these social activities on campus everyday–the community also plans outings on a regular basis.

I remember one time when I was a little younger, my aunt was complaining about the cost of attending so many of her friends’ weddings. Everyone was getting married.

walk for alzheimers

In the book we talk about how important it is to have meaningful work in our lives. I got to witness some of it shown here at Providence Point.

“When you get to be my age, everyone’s having funerals,” my grandma said, looking off into the distance with her arms folded.

She’s old world low-key. All my grandparents were.

The point is that these social experiences are important. As you get older, there’s less people of your own generation. It can get become difficult to find people to connect with. When those social connections are missing, our health literally suffers. Those necessary social experiences are abundant at retirement communities like Providence Point.

Aging Into Care

We all like to think we’ll be completely independent forever, but the reality is that we age. Our health declines. Our bodies start failing us.

At Providence Point, they explained their process to me–you live independently in the patio house condo as long as you can, but when you need more long-term healthcare, they have the facilities and professionals available to help you get the care you need without having to go through the stress of locating a nursing home, moving to said nursing home, potentially selling your house, etc.

Everything’s taken care of–including you.

Cost

Of course, staying in a nice place like Providence Point costs money. That’s why all us personal finance bloggers are so gun-ho about starting to save early on. Yes, it’s super nice if you can retire in your 30s and travel the world, but even if you work a normal-length career, you’re going to need money to facilitate quality accommodations and care as you age.

That money can help you stay close to your grandchildren. It can help you not be a burden on your adult children. It can help put a roof over your head in a nice community with other people who truly “get” your life experiences. It can get you healthcare and entertainment.

So how much is it to get into Providence Point?

couches

First, you need to know how it works. You start by proving your are financially stable by providing information about your assets.

The minimum initial amount you’ll need to get in to Providence Point is $250,000. Though the place I viewed–412–required a $750,000 deposit. From there, monthly rates vary. If you opt for an apartment, potential monthly bills start at $2,386, while the patio home condos start at $5,387.

That number might seem crazy high, but it’s not just rent. That number includes all your utilities, cable, meals, landscaping, every-other-week housekeeping, local transport through a community-based bus system, access to all the amenities, spa services, underground parking for those who opt for an apartment, and healthcare services.

There are different levels of plans, some of which allow you to get 50% of your money refunded, some which allow you to get 90% of your money refunded, and some which allow for no refunds at all.

That’s pretty much everything you need for $64,644/year if you get a patio home like 412. It’s the services you need at each stage in the aging process. It’s access to social connections which may be difficult to find elsewhere. It’s having the ability to hold onto your independence as long as you can, and then avoiding a whole lot of stress when you finally do need more help.

TLDR: Start saving for retirement. For a lot of people, places like Providence Point may seem like an unobtainable goal. But it’s within your reach if you start saving early and often.

 

 

Applying for Health Insurance as Domestic Violence Survivor

Note: This post may contain triggers for those who have been in abusive relationships or been through sexual assault.

The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To highlight the issues that victims face physically, emotionally and economically, Femme Frugality will be discussing the issue every Friday. Except this Friday, I got the post up late. My apologies.

We will explore these issues through a mix of stories, conversations and factual articles. To help raise awareness, please use the hashtag #DVAM when sharing these articles.

I didn't know domestic violence qualified you for a special enrollment period! So glad so many states have expanded Medicaid Expansion for exactly this reason.

There’s a lot of financial rebuilding to do after you’ve escaped an abusive relationship. Just some of the things you may have to worry about are:

  • Repairing your credit report.
  • Finding employment.
  • Building savings.
  • Paying for any necessary occupational education.
  • Applying for benefits which may help you get reestablished.

All of these things are important, and necessity may dictate that you handle them all immediately.

However, you’re also going to be dealing with some other pretty serious stuff after you leave. First, you’ll need to work with a professional to make sure you are safe.

But even after you have that basic need covered, you’ll likely be battling the after effects of psychological, emotional and/or verbal abuse, which can escalate as far as PTSD and can prevent you from doing seemingly simple things like paying the bills, filling out the welfare application or holding down a job even if you’re extremely well-qualified for your position.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure you have mental healthcare services. Healthcare itself can be cost-prohibitive, though, so today we’re going to look at some ways you can get your hands on health insurance as a first step to getting your financial life back on track.

Getting Health Insurance after Escaping Domestic Violence

In the States, you are required to carry health insurance. If you don’t, you’ll have to pay a tax penalty–though that penalty is eliminated starting in the 2019 tax year.

But you don’t want to dodge a tax penalty. You actually want healthcare services. Usually, you can only apply for health insurance through the marketplace during open enrollment, which is November 1 through December 15 this year.

However, when you leave a domestic violence situation you qualify for an exemption, and can apply for coverage right away even if it’s the day after open enrollment closed.

You may have lost your health insurance when you left your abuser. You may not have had it in the first place, or you may have had to leave the employer who provided you with your insurance thanks to the abuse.

If you’re low-income or living at 138% of the Federal Poverty Line, you will qualify for free Medicaid coverage free of premiums or deductibles in most states which have adopted Medicaid Expansion. A handful of these states have wonky Medicaid Expansion laws which may prevent you from qualifying for Medicaid thanks to adjusted income limitations or may require you to pay small premiums or deductibles.

Some states have not expanded Medicaid at all, though, so you may not qualify for this free or close-to-free coverage even if you are living below the poverty line. Instead, you’ll have to pay for an ACA Marketplace plan which will be subsidized based on your income level. States that have not adopted Medicaid Expansion are:

  • Texas
  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas
  • Wyoming
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Florida

Virginia’s Medicaid Expansion will kick in on January 1, 2019, and Maine was supposed to have expanded by now, but the governor has been illegally blocking implementation.

What if I don’t qualify?

If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, you should still apply for it through the marketplace anyways. This will allow you to purchase a marketplace plan.

If you really, truly feel like you can’t afford your health insurance off the marketplace–even with subsidies–there are a couple of other options.

First, you could forgo health insurance and seek mental health care elsewhere. Your local domestic violence shelter is a good place to seek out these services. You may not be able to get a bed as many of these shelters are frequently full, but many times they can connect you with mental health care.

I don’t like the idea of you forgoing health insurance. Even though the tax penalty is going away, it’s still a risky gamble to go without it. You may find yourself needing healthcare outside of mental health services, and if you’re caught without health insurance, that could mean financial ruin via medical debt.

Another option is to go through a Healthcare Sharing Ministry. You pay a smaller monthly fee, and then the group will use the pooled fees to cover your medical expenses when needed. There are a few problems with this method:

  • These groups are religious, and I’ve only seen them among Christians. So you’ll either have to be a believer or feel okay lying about your faith or lack thereof. Not a problem for many in this country, but it is an obstacle for some.
  • Many of these groups do not want you to have a preexisting condition. If you do, you may not qualify for membership. As a survivor, your mental health care needs are likely to be considered a preexisting condition. (Hooray if you find a group who lets you in, though!)
  • You are not guaranteed coverage. Some groups are really great about covering everything, but not all health care situations will be covered depending on the group’s bylaws. You still might run into the same problem as filing claims with an insurance company, except these ministries are not as highly regulated.

Access to Care

Getting access to quality health insurance in the United States is still a difficult task, though it has gotten easier in the years since the ACA passed. The good news is that because you are a domestic violence survivor, you will actually have an easier time getting a policy thanks to the open enrollment exemption. That doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to get coverage, but it does mean  you should have a slightly easier time than the general population as a whole.

You may want to call around to different therapists who will accept your insurance at the same time as you are applying for it. In many parts of the country, mental health is understaffed. It’s not unheard of to end up on a wait list. The sooner you can get on that list, the better.

 

Related Domestic Abuse Content

To learn more about domestic violence or abuse, or to find more ways to get help, check out other articles in this series:

medicaid domestic abuse

Applying for Health Insurance as Domestic Violence Survivor

As a domestic violence survivor, you qualify for a special enrollment period at any time of year thanks to the ACA. Apply on the marketplace today.

domestic violence advocate

The Intersection of Islamophobia and Domestic Violence

Nour Naas shares her important story and perspective on domestic violence and how marginalized groups face additional barriers when it comes to reporting.

supreme court

Economic Effects of Sexual Assault: A Case Study via Dr. Ford

What can we learn about the economic plight of sexual assault and domestic violence survivors from Dr. Ford's testimony? As it turns out, a lot.

Domestic abuse can take many forms, including child abuse and economica abuse. This is Dr. Burke's story of overcoming identity theft as a survivor.

Economic Abuse: Silent Epidemic of Abused Children

Survivors of childhood abuse encounter unique challenges, even in the realm of economic abuse. Read Dr. Kenisha Burke's story of overcoming identity theft.

The Silver Lining Behind My Debt

There is a lot of stigma around debt. There is a lot of stigma around domestic abuse. But debt is a useful tool that can help you become a survivor.

8 Signs You May Be in an Abusive Relationship

Many abuse victims don't realize their relationship is unhealthy until it is too late. Here are red flags to watch for from a domestic violence survivor.

LGBTQ+ Intimate Partner Violence

Unique Economic Obstacles for LGBTQ+ IPV Survivors

While intimate partner violence happens at a comparable rate in the LGBTQ+ community, survivors face additional financial barriers.

long term effects of ptsd

The Long-Term Financial Effects of PTSD

PTSD affects combat veterans and survivors of domestic abuse alike. Learn what it can do to your finances, and what you can do about it.

Getting Help: LGBTQ+ Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic violence does happen in the LGBTQ+ community. Here's how to get help if you need it, and how society can better help survivors.

You could be the victim of financial abuse even if you're the primary breadwinner.

Financial Abuse: My Partner Nearly Drained Me Dry

Financial abuse doesn't just happen when a partner tries to limit your income; it can also happen when they try to take over the money you're bringing in.

8 Ways to Help Loved Ones in Abusive Relationships

Having a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship is hard. This article gives you tips to help from a domestic violence survivor.

Feeling trapped in a relationship because of money

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is something many go through, but not all recognize it even as it's happening. Read on to learn how to identify this type of abuse.

Here's where you can find money to leave an abusive relationship.

I Have No Money: Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Leaving an abusive relationship is difficult, complex and nuanced. One major hurdle is finances. Lessen that problem with these resources and grants.

The Feminist Financial Handbook: Get it Today

This is truly a unique personal finance book. I feel like she's writing just for me. Definitely learned a lot!

Today is the day, guys! The Feminist Financial Handbook  officially launched this morning, and I’m so excited.

Writing this book took a lot of hours. I knew it would be a big effort before I took it on, but I never could have anticipated how rewarding the process would be.

The Women Who Shared Their Stories

First, I got to sit down and interview a bunch of amazing women who helped this book come to life with their lived experience and expertise. Check them out:

financial adventure

Story from Joyce

Praise for The Feminist Financial Handbook

As a part of the publishing process, I had to get some reviews on the work once the manuscript was together. Honestly, there’s a reason I started this blog anonymously, and as I sent the manuscript out, I was wishing I could have published it anonymously, too.

It’s not that I wasn’t proud of the work. I just wish the work could stand on its own. I always feel so weird marketing myself.

But I held my breath and sent it out, anyways. I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback. If you’re wondering if this book is for you, check out these reviews to get a better idea:

“You can always find books geared toward helping women to improve their financial lives. Some are condescending mansplanations of finance, couched as an important help to us little ladies and our emotional lady-brains. Some offer pink-jacketed rah-rah enthusiasm claiming to help the modern woman have it all! Some are deep dives into the real financial difficulties and challenges facing specific groups of women. But none of them look at finance from an intersectional feminist perspective―until now.

In every chapter, Brynne offers both actionable steps and hope for individual women who want to make their lives and their finances better. She offers suggestions for how to fight the unfair system while also working within the system. That means everyone who reads this book will put it down knowing ways to work for both a better world as a whole and a better life as an individual.”

-Emily Guy Birken, bestselling author of End Financial Stress Now

It’s so different–money is a piece, but there are so many other important topics being discussed that aren’t normally talked about.”

-Candice, owner of Young Yet Wise

“The Feminist Financial Handbook is a unicorn among finance books – one that endeavors to recontextualize sensible financial basics within an acknowledgment of the myriad forms of oppression within our society. I wholeheartedly applaud Brynne Conroy in her efforts to transform both the role of the finance information world as it exists and the inequalities of the world. Brava!”

– Becca Anderson, author of The Book of Awesome Women

“Great job describing the challenges faced by marginalized folks in our society. I learned quite a bit, which isn’t common for your more ‘typical’ money book.”

“In The Feminist Financial Handbook, Brynne Conroy provides women with a comprehensive guide to living a wealthier life that contains actionable advice while not sugarcoating real issues that impact women such as the gender pay gap and the impact of divorce. This book is a valuable read.”

-David Carlson author of Hustle Away Debt-

“One of the leading voices in personal finance, Brynne Conroy perfectly sums up what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. Money affects every part of our lives ― from the way we dress to how we can support ourselves and our families ― and Conroy does a perfect job of highlighting how the pay gap, discrimination, and the motherhood penalty affect women’s money differently. This is the perfect book for the modern woman looking to understand her finances on a societal level (and how to fight back.)”

-Tori Dunlap, Editor at Tomorrow Ideas

“Too often, we forget that women have very unique financial needs. The Feminist Financial Handbook remedies this problem nicely by tackling issues modern women face when planning for a secure financial future. If you’re a woman struggling with the reality of money in the patriarchy, this book can help you break free and live your best financial life.”

Miranda Marquit, money expert, financial journalist, and political activist-

“Conroy has done her research and given a platform to the rich and diverse experiences of womanhood and our relationship to money. This truly is the feminist financial handbook for the new wave of intersectional feminism.”

-Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together

“Conroy goes beyond blanket, modern-day notions of #girlboss to not only explore, but redefine what financial well-being means to different people. Meticulously researched and forward thinking, contemporary feminism, which includes ableism and non-traditional populations, The Feminist Financial Handbook not only serves as a practical guide, but as a platform of empowerment to the oppressed and underserved. ”

-Jackie Lam, owner of Hey Freelancer

womens personal finance women at work

Story from a Her Money Matters listener

In the past week, this book has been featured on HuffPost LIFE, in a Her Money Matters podcast interview, and as a top pick for finance books for beginners.

Now it’s your turn.

Of course, I’m so thrilled to hear my peers enjoyed the read. But now it’s your turn.

This book has a chance (though hardly a guarantee) of becoming an Amazon Bestseller. If you’re thinking about buying it, I’d urge you to do so today. It gives the book a better chance of reaching that elite status.

If you’re into it, leave a review on Amazon as that’s one of the biggest factors in getting this important information out to a wider audience. I know there’s stuff in this book that can help other people, so I’d like to get it in front of as many of them as possible.

If you read it and there’s anything you’d like to discuss with me, please leave a comment here on the blog or shoot me an email! I wrote this booking hoping it would spark discussion. As long as your thoughts are made known respectfully, I’m excited to start having those discussions. Thank you to all who made this tome possible.

Get the book here.

number one amazon new release womens money

 

 

How a $1,000 Emergency Fund Can Help You Pay Off Debt

Today’s post is contributed by Ashley at Budgets Made Easy. She teaches people how to budget, save money, and pay off debt in order to build long-term wealth. Ashley was able to pay off $45,000 in 17 months. Now she helps people budget their money so they can pay off their debt. You can follow her on Facebook.

I wouldn't have thought this would be a good way to get out of debt, but now I'm totally building up this mini emergency fund.

Having a small $1,000 emergency fund is the first step in building long-term wealth. It is the first step to changing your financial habits and stop using debt so you can build wealth and give generously.

Imagine all the things you could do once you are debt-free. How much more you could give back to your community? Where would you travel and what you could do for your family?

It all starts with $1,000 emergency fund.

Why You Need a $1,000 Emergency Fund

Emergencies will happen

A $1,000 emergency fund will not solve all your problems, but it is a start. It will keep you from having to use credit cards or debt when something unplanned comes up.

Think about the last time you had an emergency. How much was it? Chances are that it was less than $1,000. Most things can be covered with $1000.

This is especially helpful when you are just starting your budget. It will take a little time to save up for specific things. If something comes up before you have saved for it, you have your small emergency fund.

It’s important to only use this fund for emergencies. Once you get other funds saved up, it will be easier not to use it for things you just forgot about.

Avoid Debt

A small emergency fund will help keep you from using credit cards when something unplanned comes up. When you want to build wealth, you must stop using debt. But there are times where an emergency may be more than $1,000.

However, you can find other ways to get the cash above the $1,000 or as a last resort, use debt. If you have to use debt, at least it’s a smaller amount than you would have used without the emergency fund.

Spend Less

If you have cash and you know you don’t want to use debt, you will find a way to save money. It is harder to spend cash. You actually spend 15-20% less with cash than with a credit card. There is a reason that companies give you rewards on credit cards. They know you will spend more with a card.

If something comes up, you can negotiate better with cash. We had to replace our HVAC system this year and saved several hundred dollars by offering cash. A lot of small businesses will give you a discount for using cash. It saves them fees from the credit card companies. They also don’t have to worry about credit card disputes.

It also gives you power by saying, “I only have this amount–take it or leave it”. Some places will try to pressure you to use debt because they get a kick back from the lender. However, stand your ground and push for the best deal for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a cash discount! Even at major retailers, some can and will negotiate.

You may be thinking, “That’s all great, but how do I save $1,000?”

Here are some tips for saving money quickly. Remember our, goal is to get $1,000 saved and pay off our debt as quickly as possible. I was able to pay off $45,000 in 17 months! I did this while working as a police officer. It is possible to be debt-free and do it fast.

Make a Budget

The first step in saving money quickly is to do a budget. I have even put together a step-by-step guide to help you do it. When you make a budget, you will feel like you got a raise!

Making a budget is the foundation for your finances. Everything starts with a budget. It will help keep you organized, save money, and spend less.

Cut Expenses

The next thing to do is see where you can cut expenses. Make a list of all your expenses and categorize them by needs and wants. Now really think about this.

Cable is not a need. Starbucks is not a need.

Food and clothing are needs (within reason.) Transportation costs are needs.

You can cut back things slowly so that you are successful. It’s hard to quit something completely all at once.

Call your providers, like cell phone and cable, and negotiate a different package or price. Call around and get new quotes for insurance.

Cancel things you don’t use, like subscriptions and gym memberships.

Cut back on eating out and start sticking to a food budget. When I did my first zero-based budget, I realized we were spending $1,200 a month on food and eating out. We were spending nearly $300 every time I went to the grocery store. I now meal plan and have groceries down to $600 for a family of 5. This includes household items and dog food.

Sell, Sell, Sell!

Start selling everything! You would be surprised at the stuff people will buy. You can even check out dumpsters in nice areas or free stuff on Craigslist to resell. You can literally get items for free and turn around and sell them without any effort.

Sell things you aren’t using. If you haven’t used, worn, or thought about something in 6 months, sell it.

We sold a ton of stuff when paying off our debt. I even sold my living room decor and lamps! It looked like we just moved in but I didn’t care. I wanted the debt gone and fast.

Focus on one thing at a time

When I saved my $1,000, I only focused on that. So, no paying extra on debt–I only paid the minimum payment.

You don’t want to stretch yourself too thin. You also want to do this quickly. If you have money going in a hundred different directions, it’s hard to gain traction.

You can also adjust your tax withholdings. Check out the IRS withholding calculator to see what you should adjust it to. I would check it a couple times a year just in case you need to make another adjustment.

What’s next?

Once you have your $1,000 emergency fund, you need to make a promise to yourself to no longer use debt. This is extremely important for your long-term wealth building.

The next step is paying off all your debt except the mortgage. The small emergency fund is only for getting you through paying off your debt as fast as you can. If you continue to use debt, you won’t be able to move forward in the process. You won’t be able to be debt-free.

Once you are consumer debt-free, then you build a 3-6 month emergency fund. The small emergency fund is just to get your through paying off debt.

In conclusion

A small $1000 emergency fund is the start to paying off debt and building wealth. It is possible to be debt-free; you just have to figure out how to get there as fast as possible. Emergencies will happen and the more prepared you are, the less of an emergency they will be.

There are few true emergencies in life. Most things are just unplanned events. Your car will get a flat tire. It will break down at some point. Your house will need to be maintained and things will have to be replaced.

The more you are prepared for these things the more they become an inconvenience instead of an emergency. Plus, if you have planned for them, the less stressed you will be.

When you are less stressed about it, you’re more likely to make a better decision, and you’ll have more time to shop around. When you are stressed, you are more likely to rush into a decision.

 

Things I’ve Bought Because of Social Media

These purchases have added value to my life, but my frugal self is torn because I wouldn't have ever made them without the influence of social media advertising.

I’m a fairly tight-fisted person when it comes to my money. It takes a lot for me to make a purchase, and a lot of times even when I do, I get serious buyer’s remorse and make a return. Even one of my passions–travelling—typically comes with steep discounts and cheapy tricks.

I’ve noticed, however, that even someone like me can be susceptible to algorithms and social media advertising. I’m not 100% sure that I hate that fact. As I reflect back on the purchases I’ve made because of social media, they’re all things I don’t regret buying. But the fact remains that I probably wouldn’t have purchased them without the social media exposure.

I bought it because I saw it on Pinterest.

The very first purchase I made because of social media happened a couple years ago, not too long after Lemonade came out. I was on Pinterest, and a paid ad popped up in my feed. I don’t even remember which site I purchased from, but it was one of those flash sale sites where the item was only going to be available for a couple of days.

This is what I saw (and ended up purchasing):

beyonce inspired tank lemonade

Yeah, I’m in my 30s and bought a graphic tank. I could lie to you and say it’s the only one I own, but I don’t want to deceive you guys.

I knew in that moment that I was falling victim to a few different sales techniques. First, Pinterest’s algorithm was obviously onto the fact that I’m into Beyonce. They probably also know I’m into reading as I belong to a group board for my Around the World in 80 Books challenge.

Also, by running a flash sale, the company forced me to violate my own wait-and-see-if-I-actually-want-it-or-if-I’m-just-getting-caught-up-in-the-moment rule. Well, they didn’t force me. But they did encourage me and I gave in.

The thing is, despite knowing I fell victim to these sales techniques, I have zero regrets about this purchase. It’s one of my favorite articles of clothing, and it’s gotten a lot of use. Per-wear pricing is down into the pennies now.

I bought it because I saw it on Instagram.

On Instagram, I’m apparently very prone to influencer marketing. I have a ton of stuff bookmarked because I want to buy it, but in this case I am following my wait-and-see rule.

But there is one influencer that has gotten me to purchase not once, but twice, over the past few months. Her name is Natalie Benci, and she works in local media here in Pittsburgh. She’s always off doing something awesome, and I’ve done a couple awesome things I only knew about because I follow her.

For example, she convinced me to pay extra for a special exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center:

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Thank you to @nataliebenci for bringing @nathansawaya ‘s exhibit at the @carnegiescictr to my attention! We had so much fun at #artofthebrick yesterday–extra loved the #pittsburgh three sisters tribute! . . We went for less by using our ACCESS card. Remember that if anyone in your family is disabled, a foster child, or receiving SNAP or other state benefits, they and up to four family members can get into tons of museums in the PGH area for crazy cheap. Honestly, the Science Center is the most expensive with ACCESS in my experience, especially with the added cost for this exhibit. But I’ll be posting more of our summer discount adventures soon! #disabled #disabledkids #fosterkids #fosterfamilies #welfare #pittstagram #daburgh #goldentriangle #familyoutings #adventureswithkids #savemoney #cheapfun #cityofchampions #yinz #cityofbridges #familyadventures #pgh #412 #pittsburghgram #instaburgh #northshore

A post shared by Femme Frugality (@femmefrugality) on

Honestly, me and my kids were making some summer rounds to each of the various museums in the area, anyways. But The Art of the Brick was an exhibit you had to pay extra to view (though, as I mention in the post, we did get a discount because of the ACCESS card.)

I might have balked if I had not seen Natalie’s endorsement and experience at the exhibit. Paying extra is something I rarely do at the Science Center.

But it was so worth it. For me and the kids.

Then, there was the time she posted this, and I subsequently became obsessed with GRAMs Pittsburgh:

 

Most of my jewelry looks like it could come from someplace like GRAMs, so I immediately started following them on Instagram, too.

When a birthday rolled around, they had been in my feed enough that I knew they had something that would make a perfect gift. So I went into the store in person and purchased it. I dorkily mentioned I followed them on Instagram, and they surprised me with a social media discount!

I don’t regret spending money on either of these purchases AT ALL, but again, they’re both things I likely wouldn’t have purchased without the influence of social media.

I bought it because I saw it on Twitter.

For my birthday, I got a gift card to Sephora. It was my first time shopping there, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they carry foundations that are the same price as the stuff I usually buy.

While I was in there, I remembered this tweet:

 

Because I’m so cheap with my makeup, my eyeliner is always smudging or fading or whatever. I asked if the girl at Sephora if they carried this on a whim, and they did. She grabbed it for me. It was $20–a little more than double what I usually spend on my eyeliner.

But guys. I accidentally fell asleep in it last night and it hasn’t smudged even a little. It’s way easier to apply than the stuff I usually buy, and at this point, I’m pretty sure it’s worth it.

But there’s no way in hell I would have ever spent $20 on eyeliner without being exposed to this viral tweet.

Torn

Then there are the times I’ve bought something because I’ve seen it on a blog. That’s a different realm of social media as far as I’m concerned, and most of the bloggers I follow I now know well enough personally that it’s just not the same as being prompted to purchase from a random social media post.

I’m really torn on how I feel about this. On one hand, I don’t regret any of my purchases even one iota. Which is weird for a hyper-financially-conscious woman who almost always gets buyer’s remorse. These have been good purchases if I’m measuring by the amount of emotional distress vs enjoyment they’ve brought me.

But at the same time, I’ve spent money on things I wouldn’t have without the susceptibility social media brings. In the early 2000s, no like medium would have existed to convince me to make these purchases.

The question is this: even though I am happy with the purchases, I’m spending money because I’m being advertised to. Does that expose a weakness in my financial discipline, or is social media doing me a service by exposing me to products and experiences that add value to my life?

I want to hear your thoughts on this one. Because as I sit here, I’m still undecided.