Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to Buy Wedding Jewelry

Great insider tips for the best time of year to buy wedding jewelry!

It happened right before Thanksgiving.  I got a card in the mail from a jeweler that had somehow found out I was getting married.  Come in to the store and we’ll give you some free earrings, no purchase necessary.  All I had to do was come in between Black Friday and Christmas.

So I did.  Of course.  While I was there, I figured I might as well look at wedding bands as I hadn’t yet gotten one for the fiance.  He hadn’t gotten his ring size yet, but the jeweler showed me the selection and told me I should definitely buy before Christmas.

She told me during the holidays jewelers freeze their prices, regardless of how gold or silver performs in the stock market, and then they put on all these fabulous sales.  After the holidays the sales stop, and they resume pricing their products based on the current value of gold/silver, etc.

I walked out with a coupon, but ended up not going back because the prices were far outside of my budget.  This is my second go around with the whole marriage thing.  The last time I got married was before the housing bubble burst and the price of precious metals comparatively skyrocketed.  So what I had been expecting to spend versus the reality I had just been confronted with had really hit home.

About halfway through the crazy holiday shopping season, we were out as a family at the mall buying the gifts that we still needed to fill in.  We stopped at a different jeweler to get him sized.  He saw some rings he liked, and the prices here were a lot more affordable.

I asked the woman waiting on us if what the other jeweler had told me was true:  would prices go up after Christmas?  Was this really the best time of year to buy?

She told me yes, and confessed that they would continue to have 40% off sales, but that it wouldn’t be on as wide of an array of products and that they would resume following the stock market when pricing their products.

We looked around the mall a bit, and found that the jeweler we had started with had the best prices for their selection.  So we headed back.  I handed the girl at the counter the business card of the woman I had been talking to before; I wanted to talk to her again so she could get the sale she had earned.

She took the card from me, put it under the desk, and started to show me Tungsten rings.  She was talking the fiance into it, too, despite my vocal protests that I didn’t want to spend that much money on a ring that (in my opinion, which may be completely wrong,) is a fad.  On top of that you can’t resize it.  I wanted gold or silver, and I wanted it in my price range.

She refused to show us the rings I asked to see, and lost a sale.

Time went on.  It was the night before Christmas Eve and I was freaking out because I was going to miss the best time of year to get these sales.  So I went on-line, fully intending to price compare and find a store that had a good selection for when I went in person on the morrow.

Of all places, I found it on Sears website.  A ring almost exactly like one he had seen and liked in a “real” metal, and in my price range.  And it was a comfort-fit, which is a bonus the fiance won’t even understand, but he’ll unknowingly appreciate it.

It said it wasn’t available in store because it was shipped by the original jeweler directly.  I checked out the original jeweler, and they had the ring for less on their website. Plus I found a coupon code for 5% off (which can be huge when you’re spending hundreds,) and free shipping.

I held my breath as I pressed the “Complete Purchase” button. I had gone mad. I was purchasing jewelry on-line based off an internet picture, and then having it shipped to my house hoping the mailman wouldn’t just leave it out on the street.

But I did it anyways. I was not going to have to go out on Christmas Eve.

So a few days ago it came.  All my fears were laid to rest.  It was exactly like the pictures.  (Though I can’t take a good one.)  The post office actually left me a note requesting that I pick it up rather than leaving it in the mailbox or on the street.

I couldn’t be more surprised that I didn’t hit a snag or problem. It’s at least as beautiful as the pieces we saw at all those other stores, and so much more affordable.

If you’re comparing pictures online, it’s a good idea to look at sites like James Allen. They provide a 360 degree view of their products, so its easier to see what you’re getting than with simple 2D pictures.

Since I had already seen pretty much the same exact men’s ring before, it made it easier for me to create a mental composite from 2D. Had I not, or if I had been shopping for an engagement ring with a diamond, the 360 degree view would have been something I mandated from my online jeweler.

I did some price comparison after the holidays.  I didn’t save any money by freaking out on Christmas Eve.  I didn’t spend more, either, though.  Prices on the products I was looking at were pretty  much the same.

I did some research independent of jewelry store salespeople and found that the best time of year for jewelry spans pretty wide:  October to February.  (Valentine’s Day anyone?)  So I did well.  I just didn’t need to stress quite so much about my timeline.

Brick & Mortar vs Online Retailers

Since this article went live in January of 2014, there have been several articles floating about the web citing summer as the best time of year to buy wedding jewelry. I’d like to present some context to that argument in a 2017 update.

The first thing to note is that at brick and mortar retailers, this may be true. Shopping online, though, can save you anywhere up to 50% over these in-person retailers–no matter the time of year.

When I asked Oded Edelman, Co-Founder and CEO of James Allen, about the difference, he explained it in this way:

“We take a consumer-focused approach to our promotions in order to make the experience as positive as we can during key times throughout the year. Our research has shown that the majority of engagements happen in the four months between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.”

“Typically brick and mortar retailers have entirely different cost structures thanks to holding inventory, overhead costs, etc,” he continues. “Their operations structures as well as their marketing tactics are very different, which may lead to higher costs for the end consumer.”

This means the biggest sales at online retailers, at least at consumer-oriented businesses like Edelman’s, do indeed happen between October and February.

 

A Very Feminist Gift Guide

This post is in collaboration with Etsy.

This is so awesome. Definitely loading up my Chirstmas shopping list with a lot of these frugal feminist gift ideas!

The holidays are just around the corner! In fact, today’s Cyber Monday, which means you can grab some great deals–like this one on an AncestryDNA kit.

While you should definitely check out the deals today, I wanted to put together a gift guide that could last beyond the clickiest holiday all year. So today we’ll be looking at some gifts for the feminist in your life–all for $25 or under

I’ll give you a nudge to check out the book in the side bar for starters, but after that you’ve done that, here are some more great gifts at a great price.

Immigration Teewe are all illegal on stolen land

Price: $18.95

Personally, I’m mostly super white. My family was among the huddled masses that sought refuge in this country, and it’s something I’ve always been grateful for and proud of. While America has never initially loved its immigrants, I was raised in an America that was proud of its status as a melting pot.

But the fact that my family thought this was a safe and good country to come to hinged upon the fact that the white people who had come before them had robbed and slaughtered this land’s native people. Throughout our history our country has denied its native people so many rights, including the right of citizenship on its southern border. As people native to this continent attempt to come here seeking asylum from violence and persecution, we need to remember that we are all illegal on stolen lands.

This shirt from Ava Rose Apparel reminds us of just that.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Mug

ruth bader ginsburg gift

Price: $9.59

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Pioneer. Women’s advocate. Dissenter at large. With this gift from She Mugs, your feminist can start her morning with caffeine and a reflection: What would Ruth Bader Ginsburg do?

In This House We Believe…In this house we believe black lives matter love is love science is real feminism is for everyone no human is illegal kindness is everything

Price: $7.00

Seriously considering downloading this printable from littlegoldpixel for the walls of my own home. It makes me more than a bit sad that these ideals aren’t standard across American homes. Because of that, though, I want to make sure they’re reinforced with my own children. Odds are, your feminist holds these values, too:

  • Black lives matter.
  • Love is love.
  • Science is real.
  • Feminism is for everyone.
  • No human is illegal.
  • Kindness is everything.

The Fearless Girl

The Fearless Girl Statue

Price: $5.95

It could be because I’m a huge money nerd, but I find the Fearless Girl statue so powerful. Although it may have been placed by State Street Global Advisors in an attempt to distract from a lawsuit they had going on regarding pay inequities among its female and black employees, it’s also true that when women sit in the highest levels of financial corporations, the companies perform better. Even if there is a hint of irony, the statue stands for equal pay and representation, even in the face of great discrimination.

You can gift this powerful message via this photo from Modern Memory Art.

Beyonce iPhone Case

beyonce iphone case

Price: $7.99

Icon and legend Beyonce used her album Lemonade to feature the poetry of black women, express righteous anger and then an altruistic capacity for forgiveness, reinforce that black lives matter and that we need to do something about it culturally, and that women–especially women of color–have the power to economically take charge of their own lives despite facing a myriad of oppressions.

Celebrate all that goodness with this clear iPhone case from PipeszCases as you’re shopping this holiday season.

Frida Kahlo ClockFrida Kahlo Clock

Price: $17.00

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who explored so many intersections. From gender to race to colonialism to socioeconomic class, she covered all the bases in truly powerful ways. This clock from RachelClock memorializes her with a line of her poetry:

“Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly!”

Narrative of Sojourner TruthNarrative of Sojourner Truth

Price: $7.99

If you’ve got a reader on your hands, you’ll seriously want to consider ordering the Narrative of Sojourner Truth from AffordableBooks. Truth was arguably America’s first intersectional feminist, and the pages of her narrative cover her years as a slave, an abolitionist and a feminist.

Michelle Obama Side Eye Pingrl trbl michelle obama pin

Price: $4.00

When I asked Twitter about putting together a feminist gift guide, Veronika from Debts to Riches recommended vinyl pins from GRL TRBL. I immediately started falling in love with the self-described “kitschy” feminist products by Afro-Latinx artist Emerald Pellot. When I came across this Michelle Obama side eye pin, I knew I had found my favorite to feature. Obama is a hero in so many ways, but her obvious disapproval at the last presidential inauguration was everything. She expressed what so many of us were feeling while somehow still remaining classy as hell.

Indigenous Women Teeindigenous women resisting colonialism tee

Price: $25.00

Colonialism and patriarchy often go hand in hand, and there is no shortage of strong women who have resisted at every turn. This tee from NalgonaPositiveShop celebrates a few of these heroes:

  • Malalai of Maiwand. Not only did Malalai lead forces against British troops in Afghanistan in the 1800s, but she did it as a teenager.
  • Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana. When white people came to colonize Zimbabwe, this spiritual leader also became a political leader of the resistance.
  • Haunani-Kay Trask. As Americans, we often conveniently forget that we are still practicing colonialism. Trask is a Hawaiian woman who continues to fight for her people’s culture and autonomy.
  • Teresa Magbanua. When the Spanish and Americans came to the Philippines, this school teacher made the shift to military leader. Because women can truly be bad-a.
  • Tarenorerer. A lot of us know about the current oppression of the LGBTQIA+ community in Tasmania, but the truth is that oppression in this region stretches back even farther and has its roots in British colonialism. Tarenorerer was an indigenous women who led a guerilla band in revolt against the invasion.
  • Rani Abbakka Chowta. Chowta was a Toluva queen who successfully fought off the Portuguese for over 40 years, protecting her people’s autonomy.

Confidence Poster

carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man

Price: $14.99

When society tells you you’re not worth as much–whether that be via your pay or because of how you measure up to the real way society largely defines value for women: looks–you start to internalize it. When you don’t have to live up to those standards, e.g. you’re a white man, you inherently have a lot more confidence. This poster from Murkantile Designs reminds us that we, too, can be confident with a dash of humor.

Ancestry Deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend 2018


ancestry deals

Hey, everyone! There were quite a few of you interested in the Ancestry DNA kit when I wrote about it last week, so I just wanted to let you know that there’s a sale going on this weekend. It really is the best one they have all year, and this year the discount is even steeper than last. You can get 50% off AncestryDNA Nov 22-26. This offer unfortunately can’t be combined with the free shipping offer (which you can get by using code FREESHIPDNA.)

Fifty percent off is the steepest discount I have ever seen for AncestryDNA. If you’ve been thinking about trying it for a while, now is the time to do it at just $49.

I’ll be writing about my experiences with their other services for genealogy soon. (Spoiler alert! They were super positive!) But these deals only last until Monday, so if you want to get a jump start, you can get an Ancestry.com subscription for 50% off through Cyber Monday.

For the purpose of the sale, these prices will be available 12am Eastern time starting 22 Nov and go through 11:59 pm Eastern on 26 November. That means all the West Coasters can actually score them starting at 9pm Pacific time on Thanksgiving and ending 8:59 pm Pacific on Cyber Monday.

Hope this helps! Happy Black Friday!

Update on Ancestry Deals

Cyber Monday has come and gone, and so have the biggest deals.

However, if you’re still shopping for the holidays, you can get 20% off Ancestry gift subscriptions here and/or 40% AncestryDNA here.

I’ve been tracking this sale for years, and these are the steepest discounts I’ve ever seen Ancestry offer. By shopping now, you are getting a great deal: AncestryDNA for just $59. As a point of reference, $59 has been the Black Friday price in years past.

If you buy a kit and feel comfortable, please come back and share your story in the comments! We’ve had a lot of interesting reader AncestryDNA stories, and would love to hear yours, too.

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.

 

 

How I Scored Two Free Flights to Japan

This post is in collaboration with PenFed Credit Union. All opinions are 100% honest and my own. PenFed is federally insured by NCUA.

I've looked into traveling to Japan, and these tickets would normally cost me about $2,500. She managed to get them for free. Mad frugal blogger respect.

I’ve been writing a lot about my recent trip to Japan lately. We’ve covered how I got my accommodations for fifteen days for a grand total of $387.50. We’ve talked about all of the breathtaking beauty the country has available for free.

But I don’t think I’ve told you guys yet about how I actually got to Japan. At least not in detail.

I flew myself and my sibling from my home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Tokyo for free. And not free as in, ‘I only paid fees!’ I mean free as in I didn’t have to pay for those, either.

How We Flew to Japan for Free

This was a long process that took place over many years. I was saving up miles for emergency situations, but also I had this trip in the back of my mind. The way I did it was I picked one specific airline, opened up credit cards which awarded me with miles for that airline, and then earned the bonuses. Whenever I travelled for business or took a trip just for fun, I made sure to use that same airline, and doubled my miles by using one of their branded cards to pay.

That resulted in a large stockpile of miles, which I then used to book a flight to Tokyo. I really wanted to fly first or business class because after our initial layover, it was a thirteen-hour flight. But when I went to book, they didn’t have any awards seats available in business class for the dates I wanted to travel.

It turned out okay. Because I was the one “paying,” my sibling took the middle seat on all the flights. I got a neck pillow which was the best $20 investment ever. And even in economy seating, the number of free movies and games to play on the seatback kept me entertained during the periods when I wasn’t trying to awkwardly position my laptop.

Would business class have been better?

Absolutely.

But economy wasn’t as big of a nightmare as I thought it would be, and now I still have a ton of miles leftover for whatever my next sojourn may be.

When I booked my flight, I used my miles, but I used a different credit card to pay the fees. This card allows me to use each point as a penny when I redeem against travel purchases. I earn two points for every dollar spent. I had enough points built up to completely cancel out the $100 in fees for the two tickets.

How You Can Get Started on Your Next Free Flight

When I first started my travel hacking journey, I chose to hone in on one airline. It worked out fine, but I did have a little trouble finding flight availability. I’ve actually thought about taking this trip prior to the cherry blossom season of 2018, but I guess it’s a popular route and my travel dates weren’t flexible enough.

If you want more flexibility with your travel dates and rewards redemption, you’re probably going to want to look at a credit card that accrues points which are redeemable against travel purchases—regardless of the airline. A great one that just recently came out is the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card.

A lot of rewards cards will waive the annual fee for the first twelve months, but then you have to pay a fee every year after that just to keep the card open. With the cards I have, that fee has been anywhere between $79-$95, but it can be much higher.

The Pathfinder card doesn’t have an annual fee. At all. Even after the first year.

When you sign up for the card, you have three months to spend $2,500. If you meet this minimum spend, you will be rewarded with 25,000 bonus points.

You earn 1.5 points on every purchase, and 3 points on all travel-related purchases. If you’re a member of the military or have a PenFed Access America Checking Account, you’ll earn 4 points on all travel-related expenses.

Let’s say in those first three months you don’t spend any money on travel, but you do meet that $2,500 minimum spend right on the nose. You’d earn 1.5 points for each dollar spent, giving you 3,750. Add in the 25,000 point signup bonus, and you have 28,750 within three, short months.

You must redeem your points within the PenFed rewards portal. However, within the portal you can book with your choice of eleven different airlines:

  • American Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • JetBlue Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Allegiant Air
  • Virgin America

The Points Guy estimates that each point earned is worth 0.85 to 0.90 cents when you redeem for airline travel. That means your 28,750 points are potentially worth $258.75 towards your next flight. Not a bad start!

Like I said, this was a trip years in the making, but I’m glad I got started with rewards points and miles when I did. The timing ended up being perfect as we visited Japan at one of the most beautiful times of year during one of the years when I needed to see beauty most.

 

Have you ever used rewards points to book a free flight? Tell us your story in the comments!