Category Archives: Money Management

Favorite Money Journals for 2021

This post is in collaboration with Etsy. Much of Etsy is marked 60% off for Cyber Week Sales. Some of the below products are included in the sale.

Red text reading "Favorite 2021 Money Journals" being circled in black. Below, a pink notebook with a Black woman in business attire and sunglasses holding stacks of cash. Text on notebookos reads '2021 The Year of the Comeup'

We’ve all learned a lot about ourselves this year.

If one of the things you’ve learned is that your money’s a mess, don’t worry.

You’re not alone.

There are lots of tools out there to help you get back on track financially. Today, we’re going to look at money journals. Whether you want to rewrite your mental narrative around finances or track your debt payoff journey, there’s a money journal option for you.

Given tactfully to the right person, these money journals can also make great gifts or stocking stuffers.

Money Journals to Unravel Bad Financial Habits

We like to think of personal finance as neat little columns full of numbers. Numbers we’re fully in control of.

But in reality? The stories we tell ourselves about money are far more likely to dictate our behaviors than the numbers. Some of these stories we might be totally aware of. Others, we might have subconsciously absorbed from our parents, culture or personal interactions with the world around us.

Understanding these stories can help you change your behavior. Eradicate bad habits. Build healthy ones.

Here are some money journals that can help you unravel your money stories.

Year of the Come Up Money Journal

Text reads "2021 The Year of the Come Up". Below text is featured a cartoon image of a Black woman, wearing business attire and sunglasses, holding stacks of cash.

I love this energy.  This journal from CopperandBrassPaper has amazing cover art and is a blank notebook inside.

That’s not a bad thing. Sometimes money feelings need space to work themselves out. In fact, a blank notebook is the perfect thing to pair with the work of Eugenié George.

The Money Journal Financial Planner

Two copies of 'The Money Journal', one spiral, a darker cover is bound. Sitting on a white background next to a green plant.

This money journal from SistersforFI goes into things like mindset and money narratives. If you are pursuing financial independence — particularly in the vein of FIRE (financial independence/retire early) culture — this journal may be a good match for you.

On top of working through your mindset, the journal includes a basic budgeting page and a page full of (mostly) money challenges.

90-Day Guided Money Journey

Picture of printed pages of a money journal lying on a marble countertop.

This 90-Day Money Journal from SandraKStewart guides you through the process of reframing negative money thoughts into positive ones. At the end of every day, you’re asked to write out a takeaway. The program encourages not just contemplation, but action.

This is a digital download, meant to be printed after download.

Money Journals for Type A Personalities

Want a money journal that’s more oriented toward the hard numbers?

There are plenty. These journals — or budget planners — will help you get your money together on a day-to-day basis.

Day One Money Journal

Journal, pen and washi tape on a pink and yellow background. Notebook read, "One day or day one you decide" on the front.

Here’s another 90-day money journal. This one with a different orientation.

From FrugalCottageDesigns, the Day One Money Journal acts as a budget planner. It covers a wide array of categories for three months:

  • Goals
  • Debt payoff
  • Weekly expenses
  • Sinking funds
  • Investments
  • No-spend days
  • Space to track extra income

Goodnotes Compatible Financial Planner

Image of printed pages from a downloadable budget planner. This budget planner from shayhayashidigital covers similar territory, but it allows you to do so over the course of twelve months. Debt, savings, expense tracking and sinking funds are all covered. There’s also a page to plan not just your monthly budget, but your annual budget, too.

This is another one you’ll need to print as it’s a digital download. You could also use it with a program like Goodnotes or Notability.

In Case of Emergency Binder

Forms where you can record financial information overlaid with a blue cover reading 'In Case of Emergency Binder'If you’re a parent, your financial concerns have probably been heavier in 2020 than other years. Keeping your job and income is a heavy burden.

But let’s be real: We’ve also been facing the omnipresent question of death. How to keep our loved ones alive, yes. But also — what would happen if we caught this thing ourselves?

This emergency binder from SmartMoneyMamas tackles the hard questions. What would happen to your money if you died? Would anyone know the right account numbers? Would they know how to divvy up your cash according to your will? What would you want your kids to know, and what would you want their new guardians to know about them?

This is a digital download. You can choose to fill it out electronically.

Yes, Etsy also has adorable everything for children.

Money Journals for Visual Learners

If you’re more visually-motivated, you might want to check out these alternatives. They’re like money journals, except you’ll track your progress with charts and graphs rather than words and numbers.

Saving Goal Coloring Page

Origami birds flying out of a cage. Some are partially colored. Text reads 'Savings Goal Coloring Book'

This savings goal coloring page from BitchesGetRiches is built around the idea that you are 42% more likely to reach your goal if it’s written down. And if your goal is beautiful to look at, you’re more likely to stick with it.

The printable coloring page comes along with a calculator. It will help you figure out how much money each fragment of the bird is worth. If each section equals $X, you get to color one section in every time you save $X towards your goal. When you’ve colored in all the birds, you’ve reached your goal.

Debt Snowball Tracker

Debt snowball tracker visual tracking sheet on a white table.Part of the reason the debt snowball method is such an effective way to pay off debt is because your brain logs those little wins as early victories.

This debt snowball tracker from FrugasaurusVault reinforces those wins visually. With this printable, you’ll be able to draw your debts — from smallest to largest — by breaking them down into 5x5mm chunks.

Similar to the savings birds, each time you pay off $X,  you’ll get to color in one box. As you see your boxes fill, you’ll be able to visually track your debt payoff.

 

How Your ACE Score Affects Your Money Habits

This feature by Eugenié George is the latest in the Intersectional Money series. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or another qualified health provider with any questions regarding a medical condition. 

Economic inequity takes on many forms. One of the forms it takes is through trauma. This article will discuss Adverse Childhood Experiences and how they can affect Women of Color’s economic inequity. We will also cover steps to address the past with the present. 

Money Triggers

Imagine grocery shopping one sunny afternoon. You have all the right ingredients in your grocery cart, and you’re ready to purchase. 

But you have a taste for Honeycrisp apples. 

You look at the price tag and see that the apples are $3.49 a pound. That’s, like, a dollar more than any of the other apples! You have money to purchase the product, but you experience a weird uneasy feeling in your gut. Your brain is running several ideas: 

Girl, don’t waste your money on that! You can get cheaper apples at Kroger.

But on the other hand, apples are healthy, and you know what they say about apples and doctors.

You don’t have any money at all. 

If I had a man (or woman) who supported me, I could buy apples. 

I bet White people don’t have this problem. 

We can’t afford that because papa is looking for a new job. 

Now in the 35,000 thoughts that we run through our brain, which thought was the weirdest?

It was probably, “We can’t afford that because papa is looking for a new job.” 

Why was that thought in your brain, you might ask?  It’s because even though we are deciding on an action in the present, our minds can be triggered by Financial PTSD

Our money triggers can help us.

We experience money triggers from our traumatic experiences in the past. In many ways, these triggers help us avoid a lot of terrible situations. 

When I was little, my family told me never to walk in a check-cashing business because many of them engage in predatory lending. 

And I’m glad that they did because, according to the National Associates of Consumer Advocates, payday lending could ruin your credit and charge you five times more than cashing your check at a bank. 

This warning was given to be because my family did go to the check-cashing place and learned from their experience. 

Our money triggers can hurt us.

On the other hand, our money triggers can hurt us. They can stop us from getting the things we want. 

It can be as little as not purchasing Honeycrisp Apples — even though you can afford them. It could manifest as accepting less pay than you’re worth, even though you’ve attempted to negotiate your pay. 

Trauma and Money Habits

On a personal level, the most challenging thing as a writer is to convey to readers the urgency around money and trauma. Using trauma as a reflective-interactive tool can help Women of Color process their cultural beliefs around gender and race. 

As I was looking for more scientific research to support this case, I stumbled upon a TED Talk by Dr. Nadine Harris Burke entitled Adverse Childhood Experiences.  

What is Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES)? 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the traumatic events that occur during childhood between the ages of 0-17 years. Some examples of these traumatic events are: 

  • Experiencing sexual, physical or emotional abuse — including neglect. 
  • Witnessing alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Divorce or family separation.

ACE scores are formulated on a one to four scale. A score of one means you’ve experienced one form of childhood abuse. Four or more means you had many hardships to overcome. 

It’s also important to know that ACE scores don’t talk about racism. They don’t talk about coping strategies or how someone overcame adversity. 

So if someone has a high ACE score, they can also be dealing with environmental trauma, such as gender and racial inequity.

The Center for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente investigated childhood abuse and how childhood abuse and neglect can impact adults. It turns out that most adults have experienced trauma in their life. 

According to the Center for Youth Wellness, about two-thirds of study participants had experienced at least one ACE category. The higher your ACE score, the higher the likelihood of developing long-term health problems like heart disease or cancer. 

Could ACE Scores be the missing link to personal finance?

When I stumbled upon this research, I kept asking my personal finance friends if they had heard of ACEs, and many of them scratched their heads in disbelief. This research meant that we could find out adults’ long-term health habits if we learned about their trauma. 

It also meant that I could find the relationship between ACE scores and socioeconomic patterns.

A 2014 study explained that the monetary hardship on women who had an ACE Score of two or more had a history of economic adversity. A UK study found out that women with an ACE score of two or more have a higher risk of premature death than women with lower scores. Many of these women had premature deaths from lack of health planning and budget prioritizing.

So what does this mean? 

It means that our trauma can have an economic impact that can affect our future lives. When we experience trauma as children, it can create barriers around future health and opportunity if not addressed early. 

The pathways associated with ACE scores could increase the likelihood of adopting harmful health behavior, impacting one’s ability to achieve upward mobility (i.e., education, employment, and income.) It also means that our ACE score can create an awareness of how vital social connections are to our overall health. 

Because we know that most Americans have experienced trauma, we must start the conversation around our behavior and emotions. 

My Family’s ACE Story

In my book, Our Money Stories, I go through a journey of understanding my ACE score through my father’s eyes. It occurred to me that my father had a high ACE score. Still, he managed not to endure all the adverse outcomes associated with high ACE scores: Violent behavior, incarceration, and premature death. 

But my dad did have one addiction that I was able to identify: His soda addiction. 

Coping with one’s emotion through addiction is a common practice. According to reporting done by Tulsa World, soda and cigarettes help people soothe and regulate emotions

The larger problem is that many adults with high ACE scores didn’t develop the ability to soothe and control emotions when they are stressed.  So as adults, they create ways to relieve their feelings either through food, soda, or cigarettes. 

On the economic side, the cost of any addiction is expensive AF. When I sat down with my father, it occurred to me that my dad spent money on soda every day. 

How ACE Scores affect your spending 

Prior to 2016, money was the number one cause of stress in America. The American Psychological Association reported that 72% of Americans stressed out about money at least some time during the previous month. 

ACE scores are the aspirin to your money headache. Why is this? 

It’s because the way we handle stress stems from our childhood. The adversity that we experience as a child — like divorce or neglect — can alter how our body reacts to all situations. In a recent discovery, ACEs Too High explained that our ACE scores could create long-term changes in our bodies without us even knowing it. 

Let’s go back to our example earlier in the article:

If I had a man (or woman) who supported me, I could buy apples. 

We can’t afford that because papa is looking for a new job. 

These ideas may stem from ACEs. 

Thought The potential link to ACEs
We can’t afford that because papa is looking for a new job. Because the family dealt with financial insecurity, the child feels neglected.
If I had a man (or woman) who supported me, I could buy apples. You might be a child from a divorce who fixates on ‘what-ifs’.

Our past can unconsciously help us make decisions. Paying attention to our thoughts and behavior patterns with money can help us create reflective money habits. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find what’s going on.

3 Action Steps to Understand Your ACE Score 

Take the ACE Test 

Let’s be real: Taking the plunge of learning your ACE score can be a traumatic experience. 

Sometimes many of us block our traumatic experiences. They can be overwhelming. If you are comfortable taking the ACE test, you can do so here. You can also take it with a therapist or a specialist. 

Write in a Journal

One of the most healing forms of understanding one’s trauma is by writing it on paper. Take out a piece of paper and start writing about your past. Hannah Brame, author of The Year of You wrote a series of money journal prompts, and we’ve found the best ones to get your ACE brain activated:  

How do you talk about money with friends and family? (Do you?)

What does it mean to you to have “not enough” money

What does it mean to you to have “too much” money?

Write a Money Brain Dump 

A quick money stress reliever is creating a money brain dump list. 

A money brain dump list is the act of setting a timer and writing down all of the things that are bothering you. You can make your brain dump money-specific and write out a list of financial stressors. 

Getting your fears on paper can relieve your current money stress. It can also help you make a mental note of why you are stressed, so you can work through it and process your stress in new, healthier ways. 

Eugenié uses her 10+ years’ experience in tech, education, and finances to lead high- achieving individuals to understand their money habits. She works as a financial wellness strategist and is the author of Our Money Stories.

More from the Intersectional Money Series

Black woman sitting in an altered background that looks like a vortex of wind, inhaling deeply.

How Your ACE Score Affects Your Money Habits

Our past can unconsciously influence our decisions. Paying attention to behavior patterns with money can help create reflective money habits.

Black woman wearing a white shirt with black trim smiling. Background is blurry trees.

Why Representation Matters in Finance Media

Sometimes, all it takes to spark the confidence that you can be successful is seeing just one person who looks like you represeneted in the media.

Black woman wearing black sweater typing at a blue keyboard

A Lesson Learned: The Black Tax

When I first heard of the Black tax, it was often described in the context of Black Americans and immigrants who are having to deal with the financial and emotional pressure of supporting family members. I connected with that assumption, but learned that I was wrong.

domestic violence advocate

The Intersection of Islamophobia and Domestic Violence

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

Flipping a Switch: Book Review

A few years ago, I met Dr. Barbara O’Neill in a Lyft, of all places.

We had both won a conference scholarship for articles we had written. We were headed to the same celebratory event. Our ride — packed full of scholarship winners — was supposed to take less than ten minutes.

It ended up taking over an hour.

And yet, I was only marginally annoyed by the gridlock traffic. The conversation I had with these well-deserving awardees was stimulating to no end.

Yes, I felt inferior in their presence.

Dr. O’Neill in particular was smart. It wasn’t just her academic resume that impressed me, though it surely did.

It was very quickly clear that Dr. O’Neill wasn’t just familiar with the most-recent research; she was effective at communicating economics and personal finance at an extremely high level.

She was one of those people who is simultaneously interesting and interested. By the end of our odyssey, I had gained so much nuanced insight from her expertise.

Beyond her own expertise, she asked attentive questions about each of the other awardee’s work; I remember being impressed that although she had such an incredible depth of knowledge, she was still actively seeking to learn more.

Flipping A Switch: Your Guide to Happiness and Financial Security in Later Life

I’ve been following her work with rapt attention ever since. When I found out Dr. O’Neill was writing a book, I absolutely knew I had to read it.

I was not disappointed. Flipping A Switch is a real-life guidebook to navigating the changes that come along with retirement.

As I read, I could see the same things that initially attracted me to her work that day. I saw the educator and communicator in her via the comprehensive action-step checklists at the end of every chapter.

I saw the academic in her through her thorough research and willingness to point out common misconceptions where they contradict the most recent studies.

Her compassion for others was evidenced in her acknowledgement of privilege and systemic obstacles throughout her book where appropriate.

Who should read Flipping a Switch?

Dr. O’Neill makes no qualms about her target audience: She is writing to a privileged group of people. She acknowledges that appropriately throughout the text without trying to make the text ‘one-size-fits-all’.

Specifically, the book professes to be best for those who already have at least $250,000 saved for retirement. Especially if you’re closer to traditional retirement age, it is even more appropriate if you have saved in excess of $1M.

O’Neill acknowledges that this excludes 77% of the American workers and some of the reasons for most Americans not being able to save that amount of money.

However, I feel like a lot of personal finance bloggers and readers may fit into this demographic, or are actively striving to fit into it soon.

Things I Learned from Flipping a Switch

I love reading books that expand my view. And Flipping a Switch did just that. Here are just a handful of the things I learned in its pages.

The 4% rule isn’t doctrine.

A lot of times when we talk about retirement, we apply the 4% rule. The 4% rule says that if you withdraw 4% of your investments per year over a 30 year period, you shouldn’t run out of money.

But recent research doesn’t support the 4% rule. According to a study that’s been around since 2013, Dr. O’Neill says, the 4% rule only works out 50% of the time.

A 2.8% withdrawal rate is far safer, with a 90% chance of not running out of money before you pass away (assuming that’s within 30 years.)

Rethinking the costs of aging.

There’s this misled though pervasive idea in the world of FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) that if you just take care of your health, you’ll never get sick and therefore not need to worry about healthcare costs.

I know. I roll my eyes hard anytime someone makes that argument, too.

But in the pages of Dr. O’Neill’s book, for the first time I saw someone shut down this argument with hard money facts.

“Healthy older adults incur higher lifetime health care costs than those who are sick,” she explains, citing a study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

She notes that the longer you’re around, the higher your annual healthcare costs climb. As we get older, our bodies eventually deteriorate; you can’t escape the financial consequences of that fact — even if you cycle everyday and eat nothing but salad.

Of course, a longer life is more desirable, even if the costs of healthcare are higher by inherent fact that you’re paying them over a longer period of years.

But going all out on a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you’ll have a less expensive life in terms of healthcare costs. In fact, it could mean the opposite. It’s important to plan accordingly.

Younger people report being victims of fraud more often than older people.

If you’re age 60 or older, you’re 20% less likely to report being a victim of fraud than younger adults according to the FTC.

I was a little surprised by this stat read in the pages of Flipping a Switch. Whether younger adults are more apt to report or are actually more often victims ended up being beside the point.

Because the amount of money fraud victims over the age of 60 reported lost was much, much higher than the money lost by younger victims.

This chapter talked explicitly about different types of scams. Reading Dr. O’Neill’s words, I felt like I got a feel for the motivation and tactics of the scammer rather than just ‘What to watch out for as a potential victim.” And that type of perspective is incredibly helpful for generalizing safety rules into any medium, whether it be snail mail, email or someone you meet in person.

Other Topics Covered

These are just a few of the myriad things I learned in the pages of Flipping a Switch. Dr. O’Neill addresses so many retirement transition issues in this book, including but not limited to:

  • Why the 100-(Your Age) Rule isn’t necessarily the best option for asset allocation.
  • Social Security benefits and Medicare enrollment.
  • Investing in later life.
  • Philanthropy and estate planning.
  • Social transitions in retirement.
  • Finding fulfillment after full-time work.
  • Deciding where to live in retirement.
  • Handling wildcard events.
  • Finding happiness.
  • Estate planning.
  • Time management in retirement.

Recommend?

Yes. If you’re ever planning on retiring, this book is helpful in every last respect. It prepares you financially, on top of guiding you through a bunch of other life transitions.

If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet and want to learn how to make that happen, this isn’t the right read for you — yet.

But if you are planning on saving up a significant amount of money for retirement, this book can guide you through what your money can do for you across all the many transitions in later life. You’ll want to take every page under consideration!

Even During COVID-19, Amazon Fresh Saves Me Time and Money

This piece is by contributing writer Chelsea Jensen.

This sounds like it just may be worth the subscription fee to not have to go to the grocery store and have food delivered to my door.

Amazon Fresh is a grocery delivery service owned by Amazon. It works mainly with Whole Foods Market and offers free grocery delivery to Amazon Prime members in select regions on orders that meet the local free delivery threshold. To check your region’s eligibility, sign in to your Amazon account, or enter your zip code here.

You can shop Amazon Fresh online or with the Amazon shopping app as long as you are logged into your Amazon Prime account. 

How I Use Amazon Fresh Regularly

I have been using Amazon Fresh as a grocery delivery service minimum once a week for about two years. It saves me so much time and money! 

On the Amazon Fresh website (or app), I save my grocery lists so that all I have to do is add the grocery item from the list into my cart. I have a list saved as “The Basics,” or the things I order every week. 

I also have separate grocery lists saved based on my favorite recipes, which makes it easy to add the items for that recipe to my cart. My order is in by 9 PM, and it’s delivered on my front porch before 7 AM the next morning. I unpack the groceries, recycle the bags, and I’m done! Using Amazon Fresh takes me about 10-15 minutes versus spending hours at the grocery store. 

Where can you get Amazon Fresh?

Amazon Fresh is unfortunately not available everywhere. However, it is currently available to Amazon Prime members in the following cities.

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington, D.C.

Amazon expanded its Fresh service to Germany, delivering in Berlin, Hamburg, Potsdam, and Munich in 2017.

How much does Amazon Fresh cost?

As an Amazon Prime member, the Amazon Fresh Attended Delivery and Doorstep Delivery is free to customers on orders over the local free shipping threshold before tax. Delivery addresses in eligible regions will receive free shipping on orders of $35 or more before tax. Other regions receive free shipping on orders of $50 or more before tax. If your region is eligible for the $35 local free shipping threshold, you will see it automatically apply during checkout. 

Delivery fees also may vary depending on the delivery method you choose. For example, if you select a 1-hour delivery window, you will incur an additional cost. The total fees will show when you go to place your order. 

Is Amazon Fresh worth it?

Amazon Fresh is worth it for me because it’s free with my Amazon Prime membership. My Prime membership costs me $119 a year or roughly $9.92 per month. I would have a Prime membership regardless of the Amazon Fresh delivery service as I use the Prime perks on lots of other things!

Amazon Fresh has helped my husband and I stay on track with our weekly grocery budget. Which, ultimately, has helped us stay on track with paying off a lot of our debt. What I love is that you can see what your total grocery cost will be when you start the checkout process. 

There have been so many times that I have gone back and deleted a tub of ice cream or that $8 organic snack to stick to my budget. When shopping at the grocery store, you don’t have the advantage of instantly seeing your total as you add items to your cart. I recommend looking for the sale items on the “Fresh Deals” page. The items with orange labels under them show you how much you save.

It May Not Be Worth It If

  • You think you will only use your Amazon Prime membership for Amazon Fresh. If that’s the case, it’s probably not worth the cost. Some of the other grocery delivery services have lower or no membership fee (see below). 
  • You will only use it as a filler between trips to the store. It may not be worth the extra cost. 
  • You are particular about picking out your produce items. 

And, I get it, and some of you love the experience of going to the grocery store. The end cap displays, new product offerings, and of course, the samples! If you like any of those items, Amazon Fresh probably won’t be your cup of tea. 

How to Get an Amazon Fresh Time Slot During the Pandemic

If you haven’t ever used Amazon Fresh, there is a chance that you will be put on a waitlist because of the increased demand for online grocery shopping due to COVID-19. Although, it appears that Amazon is working through that list pretty quickly— more than 80% of eligible Prime members can shop without having to request an invitation. 

Getting a delivery time slot has proven to be more difficult due to the increased demand for grocery delivery services. Before the pandemic, there was a lot more availability for 1-hour delivery time slots.

Now finding the 1-hour time slots is more difficult. For the past few weeks, I’ve had good luck with the 2- hour delivery time slots. You could also try this computer program that tells you when a delivery time slot opens up — I have not tried this yet. 

At the start of COVID-19, when many people started to panic shop, I placed an order and was lucky enough to get a time slot. It was delivered hours past the original delivery time window I selected. In recent months, I have also had items in my order that were no longer available at the time of my delivery, and I was refunded. 

Also, certain items are still tough to find. For example, toilet paper always tends to be out of stock, and hand soap usually only has one or two brand options. Amazon has been hiring people like crazy; hopefully, they are on track to keep up with the demand. Especially if we are hit with a second wave of the virus and stay-at-home orders later this year. 

Alternatives to Amazon Fresh

There are a few other grocery delivery alternatives to check out if you don’t live within the service area of Amazon Fresh or are having difficulty getting a time slot. 

Your Local Grocery Store or Co-Op

A food co-op is a grocery store owned by people in the community. The majority of co-ops have good relationships with local farmers that provide them with natural and organic produce, meat, and dairy. 

Here are some resources to help you find a co-op in your area:

Instacart

Instacart connects you with shoppers in your area to pick up local groceries for you. Instead of shopping by product (like with Amazon Fresh), you’ll choose a store in your area and shop from that store’s inventory. Retailers set the pricing. 

The amount of the additional costs can vary based on the size of your order and the designated delivery window. Instacart is available in a much wider geographical area than Amazon Fresh. Instacart only carries items from the specific store you choose from, while Amazon Fresh offers a mix of their store brands, the Whole Foods 365 brand, and others. 

Typically, the standard delivery fee is $3.99, and the service fee is 5% of your order total. You do not need to be a member to shop with Instacart. However, if you sign up for Instacart Express (starting at $99 for the year or $9.99 a month), you’ll get free delivery on orders more than $35. 

The annual cost of Instacart Express is cheaper than Amazon Fresh when you account for Prime membership fees. 

Shipt

Shipt offers same-day delivery from stores in your area. If you want to use Shipt, you’ll have to choose a membership plan. The options include an annual plan for $99 (which works out to be about $8.25 per month) or a monthly plan for $14.

Once you’ve signed up, you can shop online or with an app on your iOS or Android device. With your membership, orders over $35 are eligible for free delivery. Amazon Fresh currently services a larger geographical area than Shipt, but Shipt is cheaper. 

Walmart

Last year, Walmart launched Delivery Unlimited, and it currently delivers from 1,400 stores. If you’re eligible, you can sign up for a $12.95 monthly membership or a $98 annual membership and avoid the per-order fee. If you order more than once per month, this may be a great way to save over time. The Walmart annual membership fee is the cheapest option out of all the grocery delivery services mentioned above, including Amazon Fresh. 

Rent Relief for Pennsylvanians

As a part of the CARES Act, states were given money to run their choice of any number of programs. One of those programs is rental assistance.

Today, applications opened up for the state of Pennsylvania. Here’s a little more information for those who have fallen behind on their rent.

The CARES Rent Relief Program Launches in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s CARES Rent Relief Program (RRP) is open to all Pennsylvanians, but administered at the county level. Here are some of the key details.

How do I qualify?

To qualify for assistance, you as the renter must have seen a household income decrease of at least 30% directly because of COVID-19 related circumstances. That doesn’t mean you have to have been sick — it just means that this disaster impacted your monthly income.

You must also meet income eligibility limits for your county. Eligibility limits are set at the area median income based on your county.

The bigger your household, the higher the income limits.

How much help can I get?

Pennsylvania has capped assistance at $750/month. It is possible to get less money if your rent is less than $750.

You can get assistance for up to six months, for a total of up to $4,500 in assistance. The program has $150M in funding, though theoretically it could be expanded in the future.

You: I thought people didn’t have to pay rent during Corona because Congress said.
Me: No, that’s not how it works, unfortunately.

How will I get the money?

The money will be paid to your landlord by the county organization managing the RRP in your area.

When your landlords agrees to participate in the RRP, they must agree to accept the max payment of $750 as if the rent were paid in full. They will have to forgive the renter the rest.

This is a flaw in the program as $750 not going to cover rent for a lot of families across the state.

Some county organizations may be offering additional funding on top of the state-issued RRP funds. This may help your landlord fill the gap between the $750 and however many dollars you’re supposed to pay in rent.

What if I have a roommate?

Take the amount of rent you’re responsible for in the paperwork. If it is less than $750, the lower number is your new max rental assistance amount.

Now, make sure you are income eligible and that you have lost at least 30% of your income due to pandemic-related issues.

Let’s say you split $800 rent two ways. You could each potentially qualify for $400 in rental assistance each month for up to six months, getting your landlord 100% of the money even though the total exceeds that $750 limit.

Can I request assistance for future months?

Yes. If you qualify for the program, you can get help for months past and those upcoming months which you anticipate to be economically troublesome.

You will have to report your income every month. If it goes up high enough, you could lose access to rental assistance for that month.

How do I apply?

You can apply from July 6, 2020 through September 30, 2020. The organization you apply with will vary by county. Find your county organization here.

For my Pittsburgh readers: Allegheny County

What forms do I need to submit?

You will have to fill out one form and your landlord will have to fill out two. They’re fairly simple — as long as your landlord has been taking good care of you. They have to certify that the property is up to code, but the state’s not going to run inspections.

You will need to get your landlord on board for this to work. Here are the forms they have to fill out:

You will need to fill out the:

You will also need to submit supporting financial documentation as the renter, a copy of the lease and a utility bill or some other proof that you live at the property.

Depending on your county, you may be able to fill these forms out online. You should be able to submit them via email across the state.

Do other states have COVID rent relief programs?

Yes! But everything from their existence to their income limits to their payouts and administration process is going to vary based on state.

It’s fun, I know.

To find more information on your state’s program, search for “(your state)” + “CARES rent relief program” or some variation thereof.

Your city or metro area may be offering rental assistance at the local level, too. These programs exist, but they don’t exist everywhere and aren’t being done in a uniform manner. So you really have to search.

The most comprehensive list I have been able to find is from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. It does not include every single locality, though it does have information for some major cities.

Note

Assistance programs have been changing quickly during the pandemic. The information above is gleaned from the linked documents produced by the state of Pennsylvania at the release of the program. Requirements may change and there may be expansions or contractions of the program in the future.

Contact your county office for the most up-to-date information.