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.

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

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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.

 

5 Surprising Things Health Insurance Covers

Okay, I'm definitely checking my policy to see if my health insurance covers formula or a hot tub. The third one on this list is pretty amazing, too!

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 coverages vary, but it’s worth investigating to find out.

Some state's Medicaid programs cover diapers for kids with disabilities.
Does Medicaid cover diapers?

Having a child over age three who is not potty trained can be taxing, both emotionally and fiscally.  If your child has a disability or learning delay, you could get your diapers for free.

Depending on your state, Medicaid will cover diapers in this situation. If your child falls into one of those categories, odds are you already have some version of Medicaid–if you live in a state that chooses to support its disabled children through Medicaid.

When I say disability I of course mean things along the lines of children with Autism or Down’s Syndrome, but “learning delays” is a much broader term.  Perhaps your child has delays with fine or gross motor skills, or they aren’t talking or communicating at a level that is “normal” yet. Both of these things can lead to serious problems with getting your kiddo on the potty every time.

Talk to your doctor at your child’s three year check up, and ask them to write a prescription. Even if you don’t have Medicaid, some private insurers will still offer this benefit.

Does your health insurance or Medicaid cover gym membership?

Does my insurer cover a gym membership?

Your health insurer wants you to be healthy.  Healthy people don’t file as many claims. And the less claims insurers have to pay out, the more money they can keep in their pockets.

As a result, many insurers cover gym memberships in one way or another. Some work with specific gyms to give you a discount or even a free membership, while others will offer your a set amount in reimbursement.

If your insurer doesn’t cover gym memberships, that doesn’t mean you can’t get fit. Trying working out at home or going to reasonably priced gyms like 24 Hour Fitness. If you want to try them out, you can get a free pass here.

Does Medicaid pay for gym membership?

If you have Medicaid, gym membership may be covered depending on which state you live in. Most states do not offer it as a benefit, but a handful ran experiments with behavior incentives funded by federal grants in the 2010’s.

It’s not just your state’s Medicaid laws that come into play. Some Medicaid plans extend this benefit even if the state does not require it. Many of these programs are run in partnership with the YWCA/YMCA and other like community organizations.

Call your Medicaid provider. They’ll be able to tell you if it’s a covered benefit or available as part of an auxiliary rewards program.

Is massage therapy covered by health insurance?

Are massages covered by health insurance?

Are you in desperate need of a massage?

Well, you may be able to get that covered, too. Especially if you have chronic back pain, were in an accident, or see a chiropractor/physical therapist regularly. If you have pain, talk to your physician about it.  If you can get a prescription from any of these medical specialists for massages, insurers will often cover the therapy.

Don’t know where to find a masseuse in your area? Use Spafinder Wellness 365’s search tool.

Insurance will sometimes pay for a hot tub if you have a medical need for it.

Wait–hot tubs are covered by insurance?!

WHAAAAAAAT?!?!  

I know.  It’s crazy good news.

Here’s the thing: To get a hot tub covered by insurance, you have to have an actual medical need for it. Like injury. Spine problems. Etc. If you do, asking your doctor if s/he thinks hot tub therapy would help certainly doesn’t hurt.

If they do think it would be beneficial to your situation, make sure they write a script. From there, call your insurance company.  If you’ve got the Rx, and your policy doesn’t specifically state that a hot tub isn’t covered, it should count as a qualifying piece of durable medical equipment (DME). Durable medical equipment is covered on many plans.

If it’s not, and you still really want and can afford that hot tub, take the prescription with you when you buy it.  That will eliminate the sales tax.

Plus, if insurance doesn’t cover the hot tub, it could be tax-deductible as a medical expense.  So is the electric you’ll use to run it.

Be very careful here, though. If you’re throwing hot tub parties or your family is using it, you could run into some serious trouble if you get audited.  

Buying a hot tub sans insurance company? Just because it’s tax deductible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t score a great deal. Make sure to check out sites like Groupon before making your purchase.

Does Medicaid cover hot tubs?

In most states, yes. That’s assuming that the hot tub is prescribed as a necessary piece of durable medical equipment by your doctor. And it doesn’t mean your insurer will make the process easy.

Some states have restrictions on qualifying DME, though restrictive policies can — in some cases — be litigated.

Does Medicare cover hot tubs?

Yes, if you have Medicare Part B coverage. There are several caveats to get coverage, though.

First, your doctor must deem a hot tub medically necessary and write you a prescription. Your doctor must participate in Medicare, though we’re assuming that’s already the case.

Then, you have to find a manufacturer who also works with Medicare.

You may still have to pay for 20% of the cost, and plan deductibles apply.

Check out the states that require insurance to provide prescription formulas.

Are there any instances of insurance covering formula?

Yes. If your child needs a prescription formula, such as Alimentium or Nurtamigen, it may be covered.

Usually these coverages are in the form of reimbursement, and usually your health insurance company will give you the run around–even if prescription formula is clearly covered in your policy.

Stay strong. This stuff is expensive. It’s worth saving your receipts not giving up. You pay for that benefit, and you deserve to have them fulfill their end of the bargain.

If you live in one of the following states, there is legislation dictating that your insurance cover these prescription formulas, regardless of if they want to or not:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Illinois
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Arizona
  • South Dakota
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island

Get more details about each state’s specific legislation here.  Knowing your rights within the law can be a powerful tool to speeding up the process.

Another option for families in states which do not mandate this coverage is to look into your local Women, Infants, and Children program.

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.

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: $3.95/10 feet
Where to get it: AllThingsHoney

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.

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.