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

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

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

Gifts for Grandma During Social Isolation

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

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

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

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

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

I Miss Your Face Candle

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

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

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

You can also get unscented if you so desire.

But did you see there’s Strawberry Lemonade?!

Grandma Shark Stemless Wine Glass

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

Grandma Shark!

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

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

Love You to the Moon and Back Coffee Mug

Price: $17.00
Where to buy: PuffPaperCo

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

Nana Apron

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

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

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

Grandma Hug Pillow

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

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

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

Personalized Night Light Blue Tooth Speaker

Price: $48.36
Where to buy: GiftsJourney

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

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

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

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

Fleece Photo Blanket for Grandma

Price: $80.25
Where to buy: PersonalizeItFreeNY

Speaking of next-level photo gifts…

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

Long-Distance Grandma Love Lamps

Price: $152.00
Where to buy: FriendshipLamps

Okay, these lamps are really cool.

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

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

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

It works visa versa, too!

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

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

Career Resources for Autistic Youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies

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

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

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

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

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

*steps off anticipatory soapbox*

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

Career Prep in Middle and High School

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

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

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

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

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

Funding for College, University or Trade School

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

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

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

After 21. Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources for Parents of Autistic Children

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

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

Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be hosting a series of Wednesday articles that focus on the financial challenges and triumphs that people with autism face and achieve. When they are children, these things also tend to affect their family’s finances, as well.

Pinning for my nephew. They don't have Medicaid coverge in his state and it's really hard because of the services he needs with autism. Maybe another state could help them out better.

When you’re raising an autistic child, the largest expense you shoulder is healthcare. You learn that “healthcare” isn’t just doctor’s visits and the occasional dramatic visit to the ER. It’s therapy. Adaptive equipment. Communication devices. And more.

None of it’s cheap, and if you don’t have a good healthcare plan, a lot of it’s not going to be covered.

Even if you do have a good healthcare plan, some benefits will still not be covered. In many states, the most comprehensive way to get your child the services and equipment they need is through Medicaid, and many states allow disabled children access to Medicaid even if their parents’ income exceeds eligibility limits.

Want to find out how to shelter some of your savings from asset tests? Check out ABLE accounts.

Medicaid Coverage Saves Everyone Money

Medicaid coverage keeps kids out of institutions. Until the 1980’s, one of the only ways to get children with complex needs the services they required was through an institution. Whether a parent wanted to part with their child or not, they were often forced to.

This was also extremely expensive. Providing a child Medicaid benefits so they are able to live and thrive at home is far less costly than having them live in an intermediate care facility or nursing home.

Luckily, things have changed, but not all states are equal. Today we’ll be looking at Medicaid coverage options for children with autism across all fifty states–and Washington, D.C.

Before we get started, let’s review some vocab.

What is the State Plan?

“State Plan” simply refers to the Medicaid coverage that anyone gets if they apply for benefits with their state. Eligibility is dependent on income limits–not disability or lack thereof.

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, is the most proven method for successful early intervention for children with autism. There’s just one problem: it’s insanely expensive.

Until recently, most insurers denied the evidence in favor of this therapy. Some still do because of its cost. But most states have enacted laws recognizing, and forcing insurers to recognize, it as an evidence-based therapy.

That doesn’t mean all states provide coverage. In 2014, the Federal government issued a mandate that arguably requires its coverage under Medicaid, but some states have interpreted this mandate differently.

I want to take a minute here to acknowledge that not everyone is behind ABA–even within the autistic community. There are some autistic adults who are opposed to ABA therapy when it’s practiced with extreme rigor. However, there is also a general acknowledgement that there are ethical and non-ethical ways to practice ABA from the autistic perspective. You can get both sides of the argument here.

What is Level of Care?

Required “level of care” indicates where a child would have been cared for prior to our culture’s shift towards keeping autistic children with their families. In most states, three levels are commonly recognized. In order from the least care needed to the most:

  • Intermediate Care Facility– Many parents may be surprised to learn that their child would have been institutionalized not so long ago. This level of care can, in some cases, be equivalent to the child who goes to outpatient therapy several times a week and has behavioral therapists in their home or community setting.
  • Nursing Home– This level of care would require skilled nursing/medical care on a regular basis. Today, you may have a nurse come into your child’s home and/or school to help provide these services.
  • Hospital– This level of care is required when you need more than a nurse. There may be monitoring of a condition or simply more advanced care needed on a regular basis.

In this guide, the lowest level of care required is listed. For example, if a state lists the required level of care as an intermediate facility, that will typically mean that those at a nursing home or hospital level of care are eligible, too.

Conversely, if the listed level of care is “nursing home,” those who are at an intermediate care facility level of care would not qualify for the listed program.

What is a waiver?

A Medicaid waiver is simply a program that grants specific services to those who do not typically qualify for the State Plan. There are also waivers that provide services in addition to and including what’s available on the State Plan.

Wait List

You may notice that for most states, there is no reference to the wait list. This is done for two reasons.

  1. Medicaid programs are in flux at the moment. A wait list–or even a waiver–could change suddenly. It’s information we don’t have the capacity to update continuously.
  2. We want you to get in touch with the agencies that provide these waivers. Even if the wait list is too long for your child, state agencies may know of other programs or community organizations that could help in your unique situation.

Download Your Free Copy of Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In an attempt to make this guide thorough for all 50 states plus D.C., it is much longer than typical Femme Frugality content — 11,000+ words. As such, we’ve turned it into a PDF for your browsing convenience. You’ll be able to find your state in our table of contents and easily jump to the appropriate page to get the information you need.

>>Click here to get your free copy of the PDF<<

This information in the above PDF is accurate to the best of our research as of April 15, 2020. It will be reviewed and updated annually. Intensive research was performed for each state program. The majority of states had a governmental agency or independent advocacy group provide information regarding their programs.

Shopping for Life Insurance the Right Way

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

Life insurance can be confusing. It’s something you only do a couple of times. Because of this, it’s important to know how to do it correctly. Here’s everything you need to know about shopping for life insurance the right way. This not only makes the process easier, but it also helps to cut back on costs.

Work with an independent insurance agent.

There are two types of insurance agents: Those that work for a specific company and those who work independently. As you might be able to imagine, one that works for a specific company will be selling you a product with their company because they want you to choose their company. This is true whether or not the policy is the best choice for your needs.

An independent agent works individually and will give you a lot more options. As long as they’re operating ethically and not based on who offers the highest commission, they aren’t going to persuade you into choosing a specific company. They will help you find what’s best. This will save you money and you will get the best policy too.

Buy life insurance as soon as possible.

Now, life insurance is a big decision, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly. At the same time, you don’t want to wait too long. Life insurance costs increase as you age. Plus, your overall health status has an impact on the cost of your life insurance. As you age, you are more likely to develop a health issue. To save money, it’s a good idea to get life insurance as you can. Ideally, this would be when you’re young and before you develop any health issues.

Get term life insurance.

For the majority of people, term life insurance is the best option. It lasts for a specific term, such as 15 or 20 years. Many people choose to get a term for the amount of time they have kids relying on their income. Once your kids move out, you no longer need life insurance. You could also get a policy for the duration of your mortgage.

Whole life insurance ends up costing more and provides coverage beyond when you actually need it. The term makes a lot more sense for most people.

Take the medical exam.

When you are shopping for life insurance, you will find that most of the options require a medical exam. This shows the insurance company whether it’s risky to insure you. Depending on your health status, your quote may go up or down. You will also see a no exam option. This might sound convenient, but it actually costs you more money.

The insurance company has to guess how big of a risk it is to insure you. Because of this, rates are higher with no exam life insurance. If you have a health issue that would prevent you from getting insurance anyway, then it makes sense to go with no exam life insurance. But many people will benefit from going through with the exam and get a quote.

Life insurance is important for everyone with dependents.

Getting life insurance is an important part of protecting yourself and your family. There are many different life insurance options out there, so it’s a good idea to follow these guidelines. You will get the insurance you need and you will save money too.

Comparable Worth and Early Childhood Education

a bunch of toys lined up with a color scheme of green, orange blue and white.

Last Spring, I attended an event called Statement. The first day, a bunch of us money writers listened to panel after interesting panel, each taking on a different aspect of working within our field as women.

One of the panels in particular delved into economic inequality. The idea of comparable worth was brought up. It’s an argument that was made in the 80s that essentially says we should compensate those working in female-dominated fields the same as those working in male-dominated fields.

So many excuses for the gender wage gap hinge on the fact that women tend to enter lower-paying fields than men. While we this is true, there are two contingencies we must consider alongside this argument:

  1. Even when we norm out for these differences in career choices, women still face a discriminatory pay gap.
  2. Why the hell do we pay those working in female-dominated fields less in the first place?

Historical Cultural Norms and the Gender Pay Gap

number one amazon new release womens money

I made an argument for comparable worth in The Feminist Financial Handbook, which was published the October before I attended Statement. From Chapter VII: The Elephant in the Womb. Full sourcing available in the book:

It is true that women tend to go into less lucrative fields. Jobs in fields like education and domestic work pay far less than opportunities available in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM.) It is also true that we have a cultural tendency to encourage our daughters towards these lower-paying fields, failing to nurture and praise talents that could one day be used in the higher-paying fields. We tend to do the opposite with our sons.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that you shouldn’t encourage your daughter towards STEM professions. If that is where their interests and talents lie, or it’s not and they simply want to get money out of their career rather than passion, I personally think it’s a good idea. I would say the same for our sons.

However, I also think we need to look at this issue on a deeper level. Why do fields like education and domestic work pay less? I’d argue that it’s less about the importance of the work and more about inherited cultural norms we don’t even think to question.

Teachers, for example, are in high demand in many parts of the United States. The profession requires a quality education, and skills beyond content knowledge. You have to actually be able to apply the concepts you learned about in school to your work and interactions with human beings. Those human beings will grow up to be taxpayers and hopefully innovators, pushing our societies to what we hope will be higher planes of moral and material comfort. We all want our children to have a better life than we did, and a huge part of making that happen is getting a good education from skilled teachers.

Yet, this profession notoriously pays low wages. Over the past year, there have been multiple teacher strikes across the country, often in some of the lowest-paid regions.

Another example is domestic work. In America, more than 90% of workers in this labor-intensive field are female, and immigrant populations are disproportionately represented. Keeping in mind that many workers in this industry have employers who illegally pay under the table—presumably at lower-than-legal wages–and therefore do not have their wages reported to the government, the average weekly wage of domestic workers in private households in the fourth quarter of 2017 was $398.72. Adding insult to injury, female domestic workers are often subjected to physical, sexual, emotional and/or verbal abuse within the households where they work .

Compare this to a field involving manual labor where men typically work: construction. Here, the average American weekly pay in that fourth quarter of 2017 was $977.99/week. That comes out to about $24.45/hour if you assume a 40-hour work week, and you may have benefits and protections as an employee, especially if you’re in a union. I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture—this field has its problems, too. In particular, opioid addiction tends to be high, but that is another issue for another day.

The average domestic worker gets paid less than half that of the average construction worker, and neither job is great for your body long-term. One field is dominated by women, and the other by men.

When we look back on our liberation as women, we have to think about the work we used to do for free. Domestic labor and raising children was the work of women—and our society and cultural norms dictated that we did it all for free. Education was one of the first fields where women were able to find some equal footing, but again, the compensation in this field tends to be low. Men, on the other hand, had their value assessed by their ability to bring in an income and provide for their family.

So which is more true: women gravitate towards fields that pay less, or we as a society value the fields that women are traditionally encouraged towards at a lower dollar amount?

It’s probably a little bit of both. But when we recognize that the field has been devalued because of the gender that’s dominated it rather than the actual value of the work, we can take steps towards fixing the system rather than placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of young women as they choose their career paths.

Comparable Worth in the Real World

The gender pay gap doesn’t just affect womxn. It affects our entire society. I loved this thread by Piggy from Bitches Get Riches explaining how this plays out when it comes to child care decisions, and the fact that those actually doing the hard, on-the-ground work are often compensated pitifully despite the mind-boggling costs.

The Twitter Thread on the Pay Gap and Comparable Worth

 

Comparable Worth in the Early Childhood Education

So the wage gap is a problem, forcing parents to make hard decisions about child care vs career before baby even arrives.

But because of rising rent across the country and the fact that when you’re taking care of infants and young children, you need a seriously low adult-to-child ratio to do things legally and safely, the money parents are paying rarely trickles down into the pockets of the people actually taking care of their kids in the form of larger salaries. Childcare workers still routinely make less than $10/hour, with the average right above the double-digit mark.

What if we cut daycare and early childhood education centers tax breaks and offered them lucrative incentives to move into our neighborhoods and communities like we do for oil and gas companies? Or automakers?

Is it because historically, women have taken care of children for free? So paying them anything at all is a generosity in our collective, societal eyes? While male-dominated fields like oil, gas and the world of vehicle production tend to either pay well or offer fantastic long-term benefits to W-2 employees? While the companies at large receive not just subsidies, but incentives, from both state and local governments?

Like Piggy, I don’t have any concrete, actionable answers, but I do think these are questions we should be asking. Because we sure as hell need the solutions. We’re not going to find them by telling moms their only choice is to stay home and sacrifice their economic independence.