Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

Smart Ways To Pay Less On Your Health Care Costs

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

woman's hand holding a stack of cloth facemasks of various colors.

It’s no secret that health care costs can be astronomical. Whether you require chronic medications and treatments, have an upcoming major or minor surgery, or are only devoted to your annual check-up, health care is a concerning expense for just about everyone.

There are a few smart ways that you can effectively reduce your spending on health care needs.

Opt For The Right Health Insurance Plan

Your choice of health insurance plan will be one of the most significant factors in your overall health care costs.

Opting for just any plan may have you overspending on out-of-pocket expenses. For example, if the plan doesn’t adequately cover your medications, a plan with a lower premium could actually end up being more expensive as you shell money out of pocket every month.

Understand How Your Health Insurance Works

One of the biggest mistakes that most people make when using their health insurance to cover health care costs is not fully understanding how their plan works.

Visiting a healthcare practitioner outside of your provider network may cost you out of pocket, depending on the insurer.

Purchasing OTC medications at the checkout line instead of at the pharmacy can also sometimes cost you money. Yes, some health insurance plans cover specific OTCs when you have a prescription!

Instead of assuming what your health insurance policy does and doesn’t cover, you should assess how your insurance coverage works. You can find out more about health insurance –especially Medicare and Medicaid — at HelpAdvisor.

Update Your Info on Healthcare.gov

If you have an ACA — otherwise known as Obamacare — health insurance policy, it’s always a good idea to update income changes on Healthcare.gov or via your state’s official healthcare marketplace website.

It’s an especially great idea right now because the American Rescue Plan changed a lot about ACA plans in 2021. You might not even have to pay any premiums on certain plans, and almost everyone will experience a steep reduction in premium charges when they update their information.

Seek Out Financial Assistance Programs

If your medical provider is part of a nonprofit hospital system, they are legally required to offer financial assistance programs. These programs are available to the insured and uninsured.

While they do come with income limits, some programs are actually quite generous; even if you don’t consider yourself ‘poor,’ you may qualify under your hospital’s program, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in bills.

Never Skip Your Regular Checkup

Skipping your regular check-up or cancer screenings can be a massive healthcare mistake, as these check-ups give your doctor a baseline for healthy and can help them identify new problems early — before they get worse.

Even though you may sometimes feel as though a regular check-up is not essential as you don’t feel the signs of any ailments, it is best to devote yourself to these as allowing certain conditions to worsen will cost you more later down the line.

 

Health care is essential for everyone, even those who are considered to be in excellent health. When it comes to saving on your health care costs, it is essential to find ways to save without compromising your health.

Therefore, skipping check-ups or avoiding necessary medications is not the answer if you can at all help it, as these decisions will cost you more later on. Keeping yourself in good health and finding the right insurance plan while using your insurance correctly are the best ways to spend less on your health care costs without compromising your health and well-being.

 

May 2021 Money News

Woman's hands holding up a bouquet of flowers shaped like a heart, mostly matching the colors of the rainbow. Pink background. Ladybugs crawling up woman's right wrist and hand.

Happy May, friends!

Can you believe we’re here already?

I have a couple bits of super exciting news here for Femme Frugality, but I can’t share them just yet. Be sure to subscribe to the email list to stay up to date on the latest!

In the meantime, there’s plenty of money news outside this little corner of the universe. Let’s talk about some of it.

Taxes

We’ve talked about taxes for the past couple months. Things keep getting better!

The first think you should know is that the deadline to file your 2020 taxes is May 17, 2021. As in this coming Monday.

However, if you’re receiving a refund and you’re stressed TF out because life is just too much right now, you can breathe a little easier. You have up to three years to file your 2020 tax returns before you’re considered ineligible for your refund.

But I STRONGLY encourage you to file by Monday.

Because here’s the thing:

If the past year has been terrible for your personal economy, the government probably owes  you money that you could use TODAY. Potentially a lot of money. Potentially even if you didn’t have a job through this mess.

Finally get access to your stimulus payments.

Filing your taxes also makes it way easier to get access to stimulus payments. For example, let’s say you didn’t file in 2019. You might have missed out on multiple stimulus payments.

The first two will be accounted for in your 2020 tax return.

The IRS should be able to issue you the third payment after you file your 2020 taxes.

The easiest way to make this happen is to set your refund up for direct deposit into your personal bank account — one that you don’t plan on closing any time in the near future.

Get access to those monthly child tax credit payments come July.

The government has estimated that it will preemptively issue portions of the Child Tax Credit for the 2021 tax year via direct payments to families starting in July.

To get access to these direct payments, the IRS will need to have your information on hand. Filing by the tax deadline makes that more likely to happen.

Expanded Child Tax Credits and Huge Refund for the Self-Employed

Over the past couple months, we’ve talked about a lot of different tax credits that are unique to this pandemic we’re living through. These credits can end up adding up to tens upon tens of thousands of dollars owed to you by the IRS — even if you’re just an ordinary person.

In March, we covered a tax credit that can make a huge difference for the self-employed.

In April, we briefly discussed:

  • The first $10,200 you received in unemployment in 2020 no longer counts as taxable income.
  • There are changes to the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax credit that both make it larger and make a larger portion of it refundable.
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit has also become refundable, larger and claimable for an additional year.
  • There are BIG changes to premium credits for those who pay for an ACA health insurance plan. It is extremely likely that these changes work in your favor no matter how much or how little money you make, and can result in a larger tax refund or lower overall tax burden. Learn more here.

All that giving you did last year? It counts for once.

Last year, a lot of us found ourselves digging into our pockets to support anyone who was doing the hard work of making our chaotic world a better place.

Normally, if you don’t itemize, donations to 501(c)(3) orgnaizations don’t mean much. The standard deduction for a head of household is $18,800, and for those married filing jointly it’s $25,100.

Most American families simply don’t make enough money to justify itemizing. The standard deduction is more than all their itemized deductions — including charitable giving — so there’s no point in itemizing.

However, this year, if you gave to a 501(c)(3), you can deduct those charitable donations beyond the standard deduction. The most you can claim is $300 on top of the standard deduction, and you’ve got to have receipts to back up your claim.

You can file your taxes for free.

For real.

I don’t go into those expensive, inexperienced big-box places. Even in times of non-pandemic.

Most people can file their taxes for free online all by themselves. Here are a bunch of options.

If you have a complicated tax situation, invest in an accredited CPA.

Help for Pittsburgh

If you’re in Allegheny County, there is still an Emergency Rental Assistance Program where you can apply for help with back rent.

Just a couple days ago, the City of Pittsburgh specifically launched a program that offers free legal services to those facing housing challenges a la eviction for renters and foreclosure for homeowners.

A portion of the funding for this program is specifically set aside for residents who are undocumented or are otherwise ineligible for legal services through other programs.

The best way to get a handle on a potential eviction situation is to get legal assistance as early on as you can.

However, if you already found yourself on the other side of eviction, we talked about some steps you can take to improve your situation last month.

 

Vote for Your Favorite Affordable iPhone Case

This post is in collaboration with Etsy.

Blue iphone case with grumpy bear on back. Sitting on an open book but it's not clear what the book is about.

Guys.

I just got an iPhone. After having an Android for the past decade, let me tell you.

There is a big and immediately noticeable difference. I am super happy so far.

The reason I’ve put this upgrade off for so long is because the phone itself is so expensive. It wasn’t something I ever felt like I could justify in my budget.

I mean, I still can’t. But I was at a point where I had been wanting one for years — my Android’s screen had been shattered for almost three. Something had to give.

So I decided to take advantage of an almost-free phone discount with another cell carrier. I only sign up for carriers that don’t require me to sign a long-term contract. I prefer being month-to-month.

With these carriers, my monthly service bill tends to be lower. And all of them operate off of the cell towers of the larger, more expensive carriers, so I haven’t ever noticed a difference in coverage.

TLDR: I switched between cheap-y carriers and got a ridiculously good phone for a ridiculously cheap price. I’m thrilled.

One thing I forgot to account for, though?

An iPhone case.

Luckily, there are tons of options on one of my favorite marketplaces: Etsy.

I found a bunch of unique, clever, amazing cases. None of them are incredibly expensive. Win and win.

However, I found so many options I love, I need to ask you for a little help. Check out my iPhone case list and let me know which one you think I should get?

Grownup Options

First, we’ll look at the cases I love and should be considering because I’m an adult.

Eco-Friendly iPhone Cases

3 iphones in simple black, white and blue cases with the word 'wild' etched at the bottom. Rocks and ferns are also in the background for decorationFrom: WildCaseUK
Price: $15.84

This is a phone case you can actually compost! It’s made from biodegradable bamboo straw and PBAT plastic. No plastics are used in the packaging materials, and 5%-10% of the profit of every purchase goes to The Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Marbled iPhone Case

woman holding a pink, marbled iphone case with a vein of glitter. 3 iphones with similar patterned cases are lying on the table only the marble's primary clors are blue, purple and dark green respectively.From: moreglitters
Price: $17.86

I know it’s got glitter in it, but it still counts as grownup — right? I love all the colors this marble iPhone case comes in:

  • Dark green/white.
  • Purple/blue.
  • Blue/green.
  • Pink/purple.

Cherry Blossom iPhone Case

Black bar on the left reads "tough case". Remainder of image is white background with dark pink iphone case. Sakura cherry blossoms are painted on the case in white and pink on black branches.From: CASEbyStudioOne16
Price: $29.99

I’m a sucker for sakura. This is a dual-layer case, with an inner TPU liner and a polycarbonate outer shell.

Nerdy 90s Child iPhone Cases

And then there are the phone cases I’m actually considering. Some are pretty. Some are clever. Others just make my nerdy heart sing.

Dr. Who Tardis iPhone Case

iphone case that looks like the tardis from dr whoFrom: TheCustomCase
Price: $15.29+

See what I mean? You can get the Tardis iPhone Case in three different options:

  • Slimcase.
  • Slimcase + soft inner rubber lining.
  • Case with metal shell.

Wooden Millennium Falcon iPhone Case

wooden iphone case with millennium falcon from star wars etched on the backFrom: EtchCraft
Price: $18.00

It’s beautiful.

First you can pick the wood:

  • Black walnut.
  • Rosewood.
  • Cherry.

Then, you can personalize it should you so choose, with additional text or by changing where the design appears on your iPhone case.

3D Care Bears iPhone Case

5 different iphone cases with 3d care bears on the back. Patterns are top row: grumpy bear, funshine bear, cheer bear. bottom row: Love-a-lot bear and share bear.From: Celletechphones
Price: $17.00

There are so many choices with this one!

  • Grumpy Bear.
  • Funshine Bear.
  • Cheer Bear.
  • Love-A-Lot Bear.
  • Share Bear.

Wonder Woman iPhone Case

On the right, clear iphone case with faceless wonderwoman and paint splatters printed on back. On left, same case on a pink iphone.From: MegalarchikUA
Price: $7.99

This shop has a ton of cute options, from Wonder Woman to Snoopy, Disney to Pokemon. Cases are simple silicone.

Little Mermaid iPhone Case

blue and green iphone case with a white outline of a castle, ariel from the little mermaid and swirls of ocean waterFrom: KoKoLoveCo
Price: $15.80

This shop also sells silicone cases — primarily Disney-themed. I think this Ariel one is just so pretty.

Snow White iPhone Case

clear iphone case that makes it look like disney's snow white is holding the apple, enthralled in examining it.From: KoKoLoveCo
Price: $15.80

And this one’s just too dang clever. Incorporating the Apple like that.

Vote

What say you? Leave a comment with your favorite, or @ me on social!

March 2021 Money News

Oh, boy.

It’s been a while, friends.

This past year has tested all of us in ways we couldn’t have possibly imagined just twelve months ago. For me — like so many of you  — that has meant I’ve had to change the way I move. Slow down the intensity and speed at which I share with you here.

Whether I like it or not.

But just because I haven’t been posting as regularly doesn’t mean I’ve been idle. In fact, there are some key bits of news I’ve been wanting to let you in on lately.

So let’s look at some financial stuff.

Upcoming Events

Know what’s coming back in 2021?

Speaking gigs with yours truly!

They’re all remote for now. Holding onto hope that the world will look different soon and we can see each other IRL again.

But in the meantime…

Busy Moms Special Needs Summit

Picture of blond woman on blue background. Text reads 'Financial Management and Resources for parents of disabled children. March 8-12, 2021 Brynne Conroy busymomsspecialneeds.com

This Spring, I was asked to speak at the Busy Moms Special Needs Summit. It’s a FREE online conference that runs from March 8 through March 12.

I KNOW!!! It’s already the 9th. I’m the worst. The good news is that each talk is available for 48 hours for FREE, so you’ve still got time to get caught up on anything you’ve missed.

The conference doesn’t necessarily focus on money. Rather, the focus is special needs parenting in general.

However, money can be a massive obstacle when you’re raising a disabled child. So that’s what you and I will be talking about.

You can catch my presentation at 1p on Friday, March 12, where we’ll discuss financial tools and resources for parents of disabled children age 21 and younger.

A lot of parents are only ever introduced to the medical model of disability. That’s problematic both from the perspective of how we raise our children in the day-to-day and how we understand advocacy efforts within financial and medical systems.

So we’ll start off briefly over-viewing the difference between the medical and the more cultural models of disability, and how you can keep those in mind as you’re making life decisions on behalf of your child.

Then, we’ll delve into some nerdy stuff about the cash side of things, like:

What if I can’t make it live?

If you’re like,

Lol. She thinks I’m going to be able to watch a conference live? Even with the 48 hours, I’m never going to be able to make it match my COVID schedule. Letting me know at the last minute like that.

That’s cool.

Because luckily, the brains behind the conference, Tiffiny of 8 Busy Bees, has set up a VIP Access Pass which you can purchase. It will allow you to watch the content at your leisure whenever is convenient for you.

With the VIP Access Pass, you’ll also get bonuses like:

  • 6-month access to the Busy Moms – Breakthrough Community.
  • Coaching on how to visit Disney with disabled children. Disney is notoriously not good at accommodating families with different needs.
  • Evaluating Your Self-Care Needs Workbook.
  • And tons more.

Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center

I’m also excited to announce that my colleague Joyce and I will be speaking at the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt University this Spring. You will have to be associated with the university to attend. If you are, I hope to see you there!

You can keep up with the Women’s Center’s news and upcoming events on Insta.

This will be a live, online event on April 5, 2021. We’ll be reviewing real-life money management tricks, while actually addressing the significant financial obstacles women face at nearly every turn within our society.

Self-Employed? Don’t miss this tax hack for the 2020 filing year.

Time for a pandemic money hack!

If you were self-employed in 2020 in any way — including from a side hustle, even if you’ve got a nine to five — there is a massive tax credit you should absolutely include in your filings.

It can be worth up to $15,110 per self-employed person.

And it’s refundable.

That means if you qualify, you could be getting a boatload of cash back in your pocket through this tax refund.

I wrote a whole article dedicated to this tax credit for Insider.

Please read it. Please file for it if you qualify. And please file an amended return if you’ve already filed so you can get the cash you’re owed.

You deserve every penny. And I want to see you get every last cent.

Here are some options to file your taxes for free.

Get financial assistance for your medical bills.

Now more than ever, every American should know their rights when it comes to hospital systems and financial billing.

At many hospitals across the country, average Americans are entitled to financial assistance with their medical bills — even if they have insurance.

THANK YOU, ACA!!!

Check out the latest story I did on this topic for The Penny Hoarder.

It could just be the read that saves you from drowning in unnecessary medical debt.

See you soon!

I’ll be checking back in! I’ve missed the community here at Femme Frugality, and want to thank you all for sticking with me through all these years. Perhaps especially this last one.

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap and Free Tax Preparation Options

Totally surprised! I qualify for the third option on here and I think most of my friends do, too! So many free tax preparation options...

This year, taxes are due on April 15, 2021. That seems like it’s far away, but it definitely sneaks up on you quicker than you’d think!

Beside avoiding procrastination, filing your taxes earlier helps you reduce the odds that you’ll be a victim of tax identity theft. That’s because the IRS only accepts one return for each social security number, so if an identity thief files a fake return before you get to your real one, you’ll have more than a headache on your hands.

If you’re looking to file and don’t want to do it yourself, but also don’t want to drop a ton of cash, check out these four cheap and/or free tax preparation options.

VITA

VITA is a free tax preparation service for low- and middle-income Americans.

Trained volunteers help you get your information sorted out in person, and then run it by the supervising volunteer, who has even more training. Once you’ve made it through all of your interviews, which can take about one to three hours depending, they e-File your return for you, and you’re good to go.

Anticipate a different experience of operations on the ground during the pandemic, likely to include fewer available time slots, masking and social distancing measures.

You do have to make less than $57,000 to qualify for this program for the 2020 tax year.

Those income limits change based on your geographic location, and specific life circumstances. You’ll have to run all of your family’s specifics by the organization that runs VITA in your area before being granted an appointment.

VITA closures during the pandemic

During the pandemic, many VITA locations have been shut down. You can check to see if yours is operational here. If it’s not, there may be other community organizations filling in the gaps.

In many communities, the United Way facilitates these programs or can direct you on where to find them. They are often the organization on the other end of the line when you dial 2-1-1, depending on which part of the country you live in.

Because of the virus, if it’s at all possible for you to file online, you are encouraged to do so. The United Way offers a free online program, in addition to the Free File program from the federal government.

Free File

Free File is another IRS-sponsored way to get free tax preparation.

The Internal Revenue Service has partnered up with some tax preparation software companies. This partnership allows households with income under $72,000 to use the tax prep software for free.

In many states, you can even file your state return for free using this method. Be sure to check out this wizard tool that will show you which software is best for your specific situation.

Transparent Software Options

If you don’t meet those income requirements, you can still file your taxes affordably with guidance from tax software. There are really expensive options that come with a big price tag and hidden fees, and then there are affordable, transparent options like FreeTaxUSA.

The Federal returns you file with FreeTaxUSA are always free. Even if you’re self-employed or own a small business. Even if you’re a homeowner. State returns are currently marked down to $12.95. Learn more here.

Big Box Tax Preparation

This is my least favorite option. The biggest reason is that in my experience, I haven’t found it to be affordable at all.

One year, I took my taxes into a big box store. I had multiple state returns because of frequent moves. Income tax for one state was supposed to be waived because of military status and state law. But this guy refused to listen, demanding I pay additional taxes erroneously. And then pay him $300+ for doing a bad job.

I walked out the door. That guy in the big box store wasn’t a CPA. He was a seasonal worker who received some seasonal training. I called up my state to make sure I wasn’t totally screwing up, and they confirmed that he was indeed wrong.

In my opinion, this solution can be especially expensive if you’re a contractor and have lot of schedules and forms to attach to your 1040.

Cheap and Free Tax Preparation Exists

If you’ve been putting off filing your taxes because of cost, worry no more. For most people, there are ways to get your return filed at a reasonable rate, or even free.

Oh, and if you think you don’t owe any taxes because you didn’t make enough money, you just might want to file anyways. It’s highly likely that the government owes you a refund.