Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

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.

Preparing to See Other Humans with Free Virtual Makeovers

A rainbow of choices of eye shadow in a black palette.

Ummmmmm.

It’s been eleven months since I’ve had my hair done.

My roots are now half my hair.

Considering all of our collective problems of the past year — or, hell, even the past week — having my roots grow out doesn’t even qualify as a problem.

But when going out in public is a safe thing again, I’m looking forward to tidying up.

I’m really hoping that going out in public will be a thing again in the near future here. So I’ve set a savings goal for hair maintenance. Honestly, I’m not sure how long it will take me to fulfill that goal.

Competing priorities in these uncertain times.

When I go in, though, I don’t want to mess it up. It’s going to be an expensive appointment, and I want to make sure I don’t walk out with any regrets.

Free Virtual Makeovers

Asking, ‘Why don’t you just cut your own hair to save money?’ I did that as a young adult during the last massive economic downturn. It went great for a while. But all it takes is one disastrous self-haircut to turn you off for life.

Back in my baby days of blogging, Rhonda Writes taught me about virtual makeovers.

The idea is that before you have your hairdresser do anything to your hair, you can check out how it would look first.

When I did this for the first time, I was shocked at how the styles I thought I wanted actually looked horrible on me. The one I ended up picking wasn’t one I thought was cute right off the bat.

But I loved it after I ‘tried it on.’ And it looked great IRL after the cut, too.

To do the virtual makeover, first take a picture of yourself looking straight at the camera. Ideally, you’ll have your hair pulled back.

You’ll upload the picture for your virtual makeover. Then you’ll get to pick different hairstyles to superimpose on your selfie.

If you have a well-framed picture, these tools can be very realistic.

Favorite free virtual makeover for hairstyle.

The tools Rhonda and I used back then no longer exist, but I have a couple favorites in the rotation right now.

I found my post-pandemic hairstyle via Marie Claire’s Virtual Makeover Tool. It has 120 different hairstyles. They’re all sortable by length, color and/or style.

While you can’t make any hairstyles longer, you can make them all shorter. You can also customize hair volume using this tool.

All of the choices come from celebrity hairstyles, and you can’t change the hair color.

The Marie Claire tool also offers options to experiment with makeup and nails.

Favorite free virtual makeover for hair color.

If you want to play around with hair color, I like L’Oreal’s Style My Hair tool.

There aren’t as many style options as the Marie Claire tool, but you can find styles based on length or what would look good with your face shape.

The L’Oreal tool lets you customize the color of any hairstyle, whether you want allover color, ombre or just highlights.

If you just want to play around with color but want to keep your same hairstyle, you can do that with this tool, too. Just take a selfie without your hair pulled up. You can specify coverage down to every last flyaway hair, giving you a really realistic idea of what the dye job would look like.

The tool is fully available as an app, too.

My Pandemic Hair Revelation

During the pandemic, I mostly stopped caring about things like wearing makeup. Business casual wardrobes. Or straightening my hair.

I had been straightening my hair nearly everyday since I was 14 years old. I had damaged it so badly that it never looked right unless I did anything other than damage it further.

But a few weeks into this mess, I realized that on nearly any given day, I didn’t care what my hair looked like. No one outside my bubble was going to see me anyways.

What if I took advantage of this time and let it get back to healthy?

So that’s what I did. I solicited advice from extended family members who have similar hair. They guided me through the process. I realized that everything I was doing in my routine was wrong.

The bottom few inches of my hair are burnt past saving. But the rest of my head? It’s gotten healthier. My hair is back to its natural curls.

Favorite hair product.

The routine actually isn’t complicated. In fact, on most days, I only need one product. The best thing that’s happened to my hair during the pandemic is being introduced to the Curl Junkie line.

I use Daily Fix. That’s it. That’s my one product. My curls fall into place without weighing down my roots after using just one conditioner.

When fancy things open back up again, I might add more products. But for everyday situations, it looks like I’ve found something simple and consistent that actually works.

Ways to Trick Yourself into Spending Less

This post is in collaboration with BetterHelp.

Woman's hands holding a bunch of $100 bills fanned out.

It can be hard to save money, especially if the autopilot on your decision-making process is set to ‘spend.’

There are ways you can override that autopilot, though. Here are some practical ways to trick yourself into spending less money and saving more.

Practice the 72-Hour Rule

Those with a shopping habit may want to practice the 72-hour rule. When you see something you want to buy, you don’t purchase it right away.

Wait at least 72 hours. Most of the time, the urge to purchase will fade. You might even forget you wanted to purchase the item in the first place.

If this rule helps you, you’ll want to stay away from advertisements for flash sales. Don’t open the ‘Promotion’ portion of your email inbox unless you’re intentionally shopping for something you need and want to find a promo code.

If you just can’t stay out of the ‘Promotion’ tab, you may want to unsubscribe from email newsletters altogether.

Practice Mindfulness

Simply noticing your thought patterns can stop your spending cold in its tracks.

When  you notice the urge to spend, stop yourself and ask yourself why you want to purchase. Be honest in your answer.

If the answer is,

I want to buy this because I need it, have been watching sales, and this is a good price. I can afford it and it would add value to my life.

Then by all means, purchase.

But most of the time, you may find that if you’re honest with yourself, the answer is something more along the lines of:

I want to buy this because I’m sad and the shopping high will help me feel temporarily better.

I want to purchase this because there’s money sitting in my account and I fundamentally feel that when I have money, I need to spend it because the event of having money is so rare and fleeting.

Financial goals feel too overwhelming. Because the future is so overwhelming and I don’t have a long-term plan, I look for every last immediate ‘win’ I can get in the present moment. Including the temporary shopping high I know this purchase will give me.

Financial Therapy

If you’ve got a lot of unpacking to do with your thought programming around money, it can be helpful for some to seek assistance from a therapist.

Some therapists may come from an orientation that believes plasticity and the ability to interrupt your own thoughts indicates that the mind is a separate entity from the body. This is called dualism.

Other therapists believe the mind and brain are one entity. This is called monism. Your therapist’s view on monism vs dualism may affect the therapy you receive, though Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common treatment in these situations.

Earmark Income Streams for Savings

Waiting on your stimulus check?

If you’re one of the lucky who doesn’t need the small boost to catch up on day-to-day needs, consider earmarking this extra money for your savings goals.

You can do this with all surprise ‘extra’ money.

If you have multiple income streams, you can use this same principle. Maybe all your day-to-day needs are covered by your nine-to-five job, while the money from your side hustle goes into your emergency fund or gets set aside for a ‘want’ like a vacation.

Automate Savings

A great way to trick yourself into saving more cash is to not even give yourself the option. Let’s say you get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month. You could set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings on the 1st and 15th of every month.

By removing the mental labor of making a decision on payday, you’re giving yourself less opportunities to fall through on yourself.