Category Archives: Family Finance

If you’re paying for health insurance anyways, make sure you’re getting the most for your money. Here are five surprising things your health insurance may cover.  Plans and coverage vary, but it’s worth investigating to find out.

Quarantine Mother’s Day Gifts for Grandma

This post is collaboration with Etsy and LazerDesigns. 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 missed her over the past year. 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

My mom is newly physically back in my life again thanks to the vaccines and her clients’ flexibility in allowing her to continue working remotely.

But I know that is not the case for everyone. If you can’t see your mom again this year for Mother’s Day, here are some great Mother’s Day Gifts for Grandmas during Social Isolation.

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

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

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 away from each other, 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,’ ‘Meemaw,’ ‘Mormor’ 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: $27.00+
Where to buy: OhRosieMyPosie

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.

We actually got this for my mom last year, and she loved it. It made her cry! She did, indeed, hug it to feel closer to her grandkids throughout the past year.

Personalized Cooking Conversions Cutting Board

Bamboo cutting board, light on the outside darker wood on the inside. Cooking coversions etched into the bamboo, along with the radius for different pie crust or bread dough radiuses. Inside the circles is etched "Kathy's Kitchen" -- a personalization which can be customized to your name.

Price: $37.00
Where to buy: LazerDesigns

One thing we’ve all been experimenting with more over the past year?

Cooking.

And baking.

This cutting board encourages Mom’s culinary efforts, even listing common cooking conversions on the side so she won’t have to Google it while her hands are covered in flour or cooking juices.

It’s made from bamboo, and you can customize the text in the middle of the board.

Fleece Photo Blanket for Grandma

Price: $60.50+
Where to buy: PersonalizeItFreeNY

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: $164.00
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.

If you liked this post, check out these quarantine birthday celebration ideas!

Mother’s Day Cards That Fight Domestic Violence

NOTE: If you are experiencing domestic violence, you can seek advice by calling TheHotline.org at 1-800-799-7233. They can help you get a safety plan together, access community resources and learn more about internet safety as someone may be monitoring your usage.

greeting card with vague black outline of a big person hugging a child. Each individual has a red heart over their chest.

Domestic violence in the US is heartbreakingly yet unsurprisingly even worse during the pandemic. People are trapped with their abusers for longer periods of time, unable to safely access resources — and that was no easy task prior to social distancing.

These community resources that those experiencing IPV depend on are grossly underfunded. A lot of times, even if you are able to safely reach out for help, they may not have enough space in the shelter or funding available to get you to safety.

If you’ve thought about donating before, this is a really good time to support these organizations, as they’re facing complex challenges in meeting the needs of our communities.

Mother’s Day Cards to Support Women’s Shelter

Here in my hometown of Pittsburgh, All Hands On Deck is kicking off 2021 with a Mother’s Day Card Drive. Nine local artists designed all 15 cards, which are available for $6/each.

All of the proceeds will go to the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

So if you’re buying your mom a fancy greeting card anyways, why not have the profits go to a good cause?

When you purchase a card from the AllHandsPGH Etsy shop, it will be printed at the PGH Print Shop in Etna. All cards will be mailed by May 3rd, to ensure it gets there for Mother’s Day on the 9th.

Whether you’re from the Burgh or not, I hope you’ll consider swapping out that grocery-store greeting card for one of these personalizable options that supports our women’s shelter!

Here are just some of the designs:

gretting card featuring one of the three sisters bridges in pittsburgh, shot from an angle where you can see a small part of downtown in the background. In the foreground are pink spring flower blossoms.^^^Get this card here^^^

 

Yellow print says 'WOW MOM' on a blue background. Hand-drawn flower on front is orange, pink and yellow.^^^Get this card here^^^

 

Fifties-style drawing of a mother holding her young child. Text reads 'Everyone loves a Pittsburgh mom"^^^Get this card here^^^

 

Pink card with purple letters that reads 'Thank you for putting up with my shit' A drawing of poop is featured on the card.^^^Get this card here^^^

 

greeting card with painting of a woman in a headwrap and red dress. Background is green, pink, blue, orange and yellow in abstract patterns.^^^Get this card here^^^

 

greeting card with vague black outline of a big person hugging a child. Each individual has a red heart over their chest.^^^Get this card here^^^

 

Greeting card with a grid of light red hearts on a dark red background. Black outline of a rose printed over top, with the words "Mom Beauty & Power" printed below.^^^Get this card here^^^

 

Greeting card with a picture of a woman kneading bread in an 1800s kitchen. Above, text reads "To my mother who loves me, one disappointing look at a time," Below, text reads "Happy Mother's Day!"^^^Get this card here^^^

 

Pittsburgh skyline shot from the Monongahela side just below the Point. Gateway Clipper is traveling toward the Point under the Fort Pitt Bridge.^^^Get this card here^^^

 

greeting card with painting of a woman tenderly holding the skull of an alien skeleton that appears to be alive between her hands.^^^Get this card here^^^

More about All Hands on Deck

From the people behind the org:

Last fall, with the help of Bar Marco and Public Print House, All Hands on Deck held three outdoor artist markets in the Strip District with the intention of safely bringing together artists and vendors to sell their work, while collectively raising money for local nonprofits that support Pittsburgh artists.
 
From just these three events in our inaugural year, we were able to raise a total of $2,181 which was split between Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid, the Afro American Music Institute, and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

 

 

4 Stats About Women & Money at Work

This post is brought to you and contributed by Casey Musarra. Casey is a reformed sports journalist tackling a new game of financial services writing. Previous bylines include Newsday and Philly.com. Mike Francesa once called her a ‘great girl.’

dollar bills sitting on a white backgroud. some of the bills are folded in half.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 82 times: there’s a big ol’ pay gap in the United States.

As of the most recent Census data, women still are earning just 82 cents for every dollar men earn.

But it’s not all bad news for women in the workplace. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, females have outnumbered males in college enrollment every year since 1991. In turn, this means women can earn more money than men at a younger age.

Here’s the 4-1-1 on women and money at work.

The more educated sex

While women have long dominated the college-educated, that hasn’t been reflected in the workplace until recently. Remember when women used to go to college to find a husband? (Gag.) Me neither.

In the first quarter of 2019, the number of women with at least a bachelor’s degree (29.5 million) surpassed the number of men with at least a bachelor’s degree (29.3m,) according to Pew Research.

While women tend to begin their careers making more than men, the pay gap soon hits—and grows larger as workers age. The pay gap used to be widest among lower-paying jobs but is now largest among higher-paying jobs. Only 336—or just under 12%—of the world’s billionaires in 2019 were women.

Meanwhile, women were 17 times more likely than men in 2019 to work in an industry that doesn’t pay a living wage, according to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Despite typically having lower incomes and possibly dealing with more student loans, women tend to be better at managing debt than men. Overall, women have better credit scores than men, which can put them in a better position to qualify for opportunities to consolidate said debt. A low-interest personal loan for debt consolidation can help streamline your debt into a single payment, making life a little bit easier as you continue trying to shatter glass ceilings.

The gender and racial pay gap

The wage gap doesn’t end at gender—it’s even wider for women of color.

According to an analysis of the Census data by the National Women’s Law Center, Latina women faced the biggest wage gap in 2019, earning 55 cents, to every dollar white men earned. Native American women earned 60 cents, and Black women and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander women earned 63 cents.

Asian women had the smallest pay gap, earning 87 cents on the dollar that white men earned, a drop of three cents from 2018. And white women earned 79 cents on the dollar that white men earned.

The undervaluation of domestic work

Domestic workers are highly undervalued in the United States, and the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated this even further. Marginalized women make up the large majority of domestic workers.

According to the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, more than 90% of domestic workers—the majority of whom are women houseworkers—lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 by the end of March 2020. More than 3/4 of these workers said their earnings were the main source of income in their households. In other words, they’re the breadwinners and often single mothers.

On top of that, women carry out about 2 1/2 times more unpaid household and/or care work than men, according to a UN Women report. And nearly 2 million women left the work force because of COVID-19. This is an issue that 50 prominent women, including Tarana Burke, Julianne Moore, and Amy Schumer, are pushing the Biden Administration to rectify with the Marshall Plan for Moms.

How COVID-19 affected women at work

While many jobs have started to come back—the unemployment rate was down to 6.3% in January—they’ve rebounded more for men than women.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly job report from December—the first month of job loss since May—showed a net loss of 140,000 jobs, all of which were women’s jobs. Women lost 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000 jobs.

But hey, look on the bright side? The gender wage gap is expected to close by 2070.

Sure, you’ll probably be retired, or maybe even dead. But the gap is projected to close. Eventually.

Literacy, Disability and Schools: Navigating Your Way Through the Process as a Parent

This post is in collaboration with BetterHelp.

Stack of children's books underneath a cup full of colored pencils. On the cup, there is a space for blackboard writing where it says 'READ'

When a teacher brings up literacy as a concern for your child, they may also bring up any number of learning disabilities.

There might be a million thoughts racing through your head when you get the news. You might wonder how this will impact your child. What their educational experience will look like. You might even start worrying about covering the costs.

Here are some of the things you can expect along the way. Hopefully being aware of them can help you ease any panic you may be feeling.

Reacting to diagnosis as a parent.

As you navigate the path of figuring out what’s going on, remember that the diagnosis of a disability is not a loss or a reason to mourn. It’s simply an opportunity to get your child the resources they need.

Acting in accordance can prevent you from inadvertently damaging your child’s self-esteem.

Learning disabilities that can affect reading.

If your child is having trouble with reading, there are a lot of potential reasons why. Here are some common diagnoses you may explore with your child’s school. This list is not all-inclusive.

Dyslexia

When a child has dyslexia, they have trouble with decoding written language. Figuring out how different combinations of letters make different sounds and carry different meanings is more difficult when you have dyslexia.

Students with dyslexia often benefit from having their teachers and/or therapists build lesson plans around the students’ individual needs.

Oral/Written Learning Disorders

If you child has an oral/written learning disorder, you and your child’s teachers have likely noticed that along with reading skills, spoken language skills are also behind.

Those with oral/written learning disorders can have trouble processing word meaning much like dyslexia. In addition, they may struggle with understanding and/or forming their own sentences.

If your child is diagnosed with an oral/written learning disorder, you may also want to get them tested for dyspraxia or apraxia. Both can make it difficult to use the oral motor skills necessary for speech, and may exist independent of or concurrently with oral/written learning disorders.

ADHD

If your child is having trouble focusing in school, that can definitely affect their ability to learn in that setting. Often when this happens, ADHD is brought up as a potential diagnosis.

Children who have ADHD may be hyperactive, inattentive, or oscillate between the two. ADHD is not considered a learning disorder, technically, but is a disability covered by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Convergence Insufficiency

According to the Mayo Clinic, convergence insufficiency is often mistaken for a learning disability rather than the eye disorder that it is. Convergence is the ability to focus both eyes on one item — particularly when that item is close to your face like a book would be.

One eye focuses on the words, but it requires more work for your child to focus the other eye. This can make it difficult to read. Because your child is putting so much energy into focusing their eyes, they may sometimes be able to ‘pass’ as far as reading aloud goes, but then have trouble retaining the information they just read.

They may also get headaches or simply tire out from putting in so much extra effort.

To eliminate this as a possibility would require testing from an optometrist.

Do schools have to cover the cost of testing?

In most situations, yes. Under the IDEA, public schools must provide an evaluation of the potential disability via a multi-disciplinary team.

You are allowed to pay for outside testing, which you can submit to the school. Just make sure your motivations for getting outside testing are based on serving your child’s best needs.

Private schools may not be subject to the same evaluation requirements.

Do schools have to cover the cost of treatment?

As long as the disability affects the child’s education, yes, public schools are required to provide treatment. This may look like reading or speech/language therapy. It could also mean providing accommodations like additional time to complete tests or reading assignments.

Charter schools are public schools, and they’re technically not allowed to discourage your student’s attendance. However, some administrators may argue that the charter school is not the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for your child given their disability.

Know that you hold a lot of power as the parent, and don’t have to heed administrators or teachers who are trying to bully your kid out of their school. This is important to remember even if you child is not in a charter school.

Private schools are different. They cannot deny your child admission based on their disability. However, whether or not your child will be accommodated depends on how they ended up in private school.

If you opted to enroll them, the private school doesn’t technically have to provide accommodations. If a public agency placed your child in a private school, accommodations are expected.

Treatment outside of school.

There may be services your child requires that are not related to their education. You’d hope to see the school district provide the services anyways, as any number of things can affect a child’s ability to focus and learn.

For example, let’s say your child is diagnosed with convergence insufficiency. They may have things they want to discuss with a mental health therapist. Maybe the inability to retain information at school has damaged their self-esteem, or they simply need to discuss all the extra effort and mental exhaustion it takes to keep up in the classroom.

You would hope a therapist or counselor would be made available by the school, but you might find yourself seeking outside assistance.

Alternatively, an oral-motor disability may affect your child’s food selection along with their literacy, but a school might put you through a years-long argument over food therapy. The argument would be around whether nutrition affected a student’s ability to learn.

These outside services can be expensive. In some states, they’re simply unobtainable if you don’t have the right health insurance or income source. In others, the fact that your child has been diagnosed with a disability will automatically qualify them for Medicaid coverage, regardless of your household income level.

How To Make Your Own Sensory Toys For Autistic Kids And Early Learners

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

Girl in butterfly costume staring out the window at the snow. Text reads "Make Your Own Sensory Toys" "femmefrugality.com"

Whether you are a parent of an Autistic child or an early learner then you no doubt are in the market for some sensory toys. Previously, Femme Frugality showed you how to make a sensory bottle, which has helped a lot of parents calm their distracted child.

There are so many more types of sensory toys, though. You may want to make some yourself if you were inspired already to make the bottle. Of course, if you don’t have the ambition or time, then feel free to pick up some school supplies value bundles that include some sensory toys.

Here are just a few ideas of some sensory tools you can make yourself at home after you’ve checked out the sensory bottle.

Fidget toys

Just about anybody can enjoy the benefits of a fidget toy. The repetitive motor movements they require are a good way to help somebody focus and calm down when feeling anxiety.

For an Autistic child, the rhythm allows the brain to filter out any outside sensory information. Noises, lights and similar stimuli can cause an anxious child to have an episode.

When making a fidget toy, make sure that it has a few factors that make it useful during one of these episodes.

For instance, if it can respond to a movement the child has then it will help them to focus. A balloon filled with sensory sand that will squish in their hand in a rhythm works very well.

Another example is a string of beads, sort of like a rosary or prayer beads. These can also work well. When they feel fidgety, moving a bead across the string one after the other offers up a rhythm that allows them to block out stimuli from outside.

Weighted items

When a child’s system is overwhelmed with stimulation, a weighted item can be like a strong hug that allows them to calm themselves on their own.

A very popular tool is a weighted blanket that offers deep pressure stimulation. A good one provides even and gentle pressure that helps to create a sense of calm and safety. This is a tool to be used before a child starts getting overwhelmed and spiraling out of control with emotions and fear.

Since these blankets can be quite expensive, you can start out by trying one you make yourself to see if it works for your child. If you have an afghan or a thick quilt, you can fold it into fourths and then lay it over your child. See how they respond to it and then buy an actual weighted blanket.

Weighted stuffed animals also have a similar effect when placed on a child’s lap. Take a stuffed animal and open it up. Then fill the inside with things like sand, poly pellets or even some rice. When the child has it sit on their lap it will also feel like getting a big hug.

ASMR Soap Balls

Another way to calm the body is by stimulating the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR.) A popular way to do that right now is through ASMR soap balls.

To make soap balls, grate a soap bar or soap loaf. Glycerin soap tends to work best. After you’ve grated the soap, gather up a handful at a time. Spray it a few times with a water bottle, then mold it into a ball shape.

Allow the soap balls to dry for a few days. Then they’ll be ready for your child to squeeze in their hands. As the soap ball crumbles, it will make a crunching sound which initiates the ASMR.