Game Changing Mom Life Must Haves!

As busy moms, we need to cut the time, trim the cost, and lessen the mental load, and here are the mom life must haves to help you do it!

Ugh! You just crossed off two items on your to-do list (yaaa!), and then you immediately added four more on to it! #momlife Seriously, you feel like you’re bailing out a sinking battleship with a sippy cup, and there’s no end in sight. Or so it seems…

Every good General knows you need the right tools & resources to win the war, so it’s time to fill your arsenal with the best mom life must haves! These are the things that will help you triumph over errands, chores, and mealtime! All while helping you feel calmer and happier, settling your racing mind, giving you the space to do what’s most important!  

Yes, snuggling your kiddos, kissing on your honey, or maybe hiding in the bathtub for 2.5 hours reading a good book and eating chocolate. Hey, self-care is in, right? So sit tight, and get ready to rock your to-do list!

game changing mom life must haves

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How to be a better mom (by having the right support)

Whoa, that’s a loaded statement! I mean, “be a better mom” implies that you’re doing a bad job now, right? NO! We are all doing the best job we can in the life we have right now. No one wakes up and says, “I want to be mediocre today”! No, we want to do a great job every day. Yet, sometimes, at least for me, I fall short.  

Some days I’m exhausted, have too much on my schedule, or run out of brown sugar, so no cookie baking today (true story, huge tears ensued from my 5-year-old). When these days happen more than I would like, I know that I need to sit down and recalibrate. Take stock of the common themes, look for overlapping reasons why the $hit keeps hitting the fan, and then figure out what I need to do to get back on track.

Usually, either I need a mini-vacation (sigh), or I need to check out my tools and see where I need more support and even some tools that I may have forgotten about. I call these my mom life must haves! I’ve rounded up my best tips, tools, and resources on the items that help me be a better mom!

When I say “better mom,” I mean…

  • less frazzled, more calm
  • less scatterbrained, more organized
  • less tired, more energized
  • less scroungy, more stylish
  • less last minute, more prepared
  • less mediocre, more badass!

Being a better mom can mean anything that you want it to mean! Don’t let my own definition put restrictions on your best version of you! You can use my ideas to be a jumping-off point, and then tailor them to your own personality and goals!

Take advantage of Amazon Prime Day for huge savings!

I know that spending money on ourselves is hard. I will convince myself that I don’t really need something, or that the money would be better spent on a new thingamajig for my little one. I don’t know why I feel guilty spending money on myself, I just do sometimes.

One thing that always helps me feel better about spending money on myself is if I get it at a good deal! I love saving money! (yes, I’d save a whole lot more if I didn’t buy “it” at all but sometimes we need something! Especially when that something makes our life better or easier! So that’s why I am super excited about Amazon Prime Day!

What is Amazon Prime Day?

It’s a two day event where Amazon offers up steep discounts on millions of products across all categories! People use this time to stock up for holiday gifting, or to splurge on normally expensive items. If you’re a Prime Member you get early access to some of their deals so if you have been thinking about getting a membership, then now is the time! Don’t forget to snag your free 30 day trial!

When is Prime Day this year?

It’s October 13th & 14th this year, but if you’re a Prime Member you’ll get early access!

I am so happy to say that Amazon will be supporting small businesses this year too (sounds counterintuitive but hear me out). Small Businesses can be a partner shop on their platform, and if you purchase starting now through October 12th, if you purchase $10 worth of items from a participating small business you will get $10 credit to use on Prime Day! Check out all the small business partners here!

Amazon Prime Day Deals

Now the following items aren’t a part of my own person list of mom life must haves, yet so many people swear by these. Starting today, Prime members can shop early offers and deals everyday leading up to Prime Day on October 13 & 14.

  • Amazon Devices: 
    • Get two Echo Dot devices for $39.98 
    • Fire TV Recast for $129.99 to store up to 75 hours of HD programming.
    • Save up to $100 on Toshiba 43-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $179.99.
    • Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99;
    • Save $40 on Echo Show 5
  • Amazon Music: For just $0.99, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited can get four months of the premium streaming tier with unlimited access to more than 60 million songs ad-free, and now a wide selection of popular podcasts.
  • Audible: Prime members can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus. Audible members will also get access to the Plus catalog, featuring more than 10K Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts, all at no additional cost.
  • Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50% off a 6-month subscription.

The main question with Prime Day Deals, is did you want this item before you heard about it on Prime Day? Or did you simply see it and think “ohhhh, shiny!” Remember, it’s only a deal, if you were going to buy it anyway!

Mom life must haves for the home

1. Family charging station

mom life must have #1 - family charging station
4 1/2 stars with 4,300 ratings

Hercules Tuff Charging Station

  • charges up to 80% faster!
  • charge six devices at once
  • gift-ready packaging
  • includes 4 Lightning Cables, 1 Type-C Cable, and 1 Micro-USB cable perfectly sized to keep your space organized

This is honestly one of my favorite things, and I’m not usually a gadget person. If my phone isn’t in my hand, I always know where it is, the family charging station is the natural place to put it down, so it’s an easy habit to start. There’s no worrying about your hubby or kiddo walking off with your charging cables! Plus, it makes mealtimes more family-friendly.

We can sit down to a meal without having our phones on the table or in our pockets, where it’s so easy to start scrolling or get sidetracked by notifications!

Time Saved by less distractions and mindless scrolling!

2. A great handheld vacuum

mom life must have #2 - a great handheld vacuum

Black & Decker Max Pivot Handheld Vacuum

  • Lithium battery for strong suction that never fades
  • cordless
  • 4 stars with over 12,000 ratings!

I’m not a Roomba vacuum kind of person, even though the concept sounds great. I don’t trust them 🙂 I don’t think they’ll do a great job, and I’ve heard the horror stories of them eating cords & carpets. So that means a handheld vacuum, which sounds lame as they don’t usually have a lot of power. Until I found this one, the Black & Decker Pivot! He’s lightweight and super fast to pull out of the pantry for a quick clean up!

Honestly, this vacuum is amazing! I got mine for Christmas 2015. Yes, 5 years ago, and I can still say it’s amazing! It has so much power to it; it vacuums up everything! I’ve only had the battery run out one time; it was when we were moving, and I cleaned the whole house for the entire day. So I don’t blame it 🙂

I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know that there was a removable filter that you had to take and shake out for the first two years. Yes, I emptied the chamber, but I didn’t know about the filter. I didn’t notice it, and it still worked great!  Shhh… don’t tell anyone how dumb I was!

Besides, you cant lift a Roomba up and vacuum huge spiders off the ceiling like you can with this handheld vacuum! (Just this past week, it was two mornings in a row that I had to climb on the bathroom counter and get ’em!)

Both time & money saved, as it’s very convient for a quick clean and money saved as this is a quality vacuum, and I expect it to last a long time!

3. An Amazon prime membership

This sounds so silly, as everyone must have it by now, right? Nope, they don’t, but it’s such a lifesaver! Every one should find a way to fit this into their budget. It’s $119 a year for an annual subscription or $12.99 a month. But the main question busy mom’s ask is, “Is it worth it?”

“The actual value of Amazon Prime is estimated to be around $784 annually after all of its individual perks and benefits are considered, according to a recent analysis by JPMorgan”, says Business Insider. So the resounding answer is yes! Click here for your 30 day free trial to Prime.

You get free shipping, two-day shipping, movies, free ebooks, music, file storage, and more! Prime members also get extra discounts to Whole Foods and member-only deals.  

Plus, there’s Prime Reload, which gives you 2% by linking up your debit card and reloading your “available shopping balance” from there! Saving money without the lure of a credit card is a great option!

Their Subscribe & Save program also offers great perks! You pick out which items you order all the time, like bar soap or diaper pail liners, and you signup to get them regularly delivered to your door; with this you can save up to 15% on these purchases!  Amazon Prime Family also offers 20% off diapers and special baby registry benefits!

Don’t forget to look for available Prime Membership discounts:

  • Prime Discounted Monthly offering is just $5.99/month for qualifying customers with an EBT or Medicaid card
  • Prime Student has a 6-month trial and then $6.49 a month 

Amazon also has their Signature Visa, where you get 3% back at Whole Foods, 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores. 1% back on utilities and all other purchases (see terms & conditions for current details).  

Don’t forget you can get a 30-day free trial on all Amazon Prime!

Money saved! You will find great deals on Amazon, but you might need to spend some time digging through reviews and products.

4. Easy & fast dinners

Meal kits certainly aren’t new anymore, so the novelty has worn off. They’re not just for “fun” anymore, but they are a lifesaver! And there are so many different companies you can choose from, meal kits for any diet and lifestyle!

We like EveryPlate, as it’s one of the cheapest out there at $4.99 a serving! Meal kits save me so much time and brain angst (is that even a thing?). But you get me, I mean I would waste so much time trying to figure out what to make for dinners for the week. Then I have to go buy it all, and the prep it. Ugh! My brain hurts just thinking about it!

With EveryPlate, it takes me 12 minutes every month to go into their dashboard and pick my meals. That’s it. The recipes are easy to make, tasty, and I feel good about not serving up a frozen pizza or take out every night.

We have also started trying Dinnerly too. I’m not into blindly following brands, I like to be sure that I am getting the best deal for the best value out there! So of course I am going to try the competition! Dinnerly and Everyplate are similar in cost, program, and quality.

YET, Dinnerly just started offering extra protein portions (in case you want to make a little more). AND, they just started offering desserts too! This next week I signed up to get a caramel apple spice cake and the following week pumpkin pie cheesecake bars! (fall flavored treats are my weakness). Click the here to start making meal time easy (finally!) and treating your family!

Don’t get me wrong, meal kits have their drawbacks, sometimes the cucumber arrives soft, or it’s not enough for my hubs, but overall it’s a great option, and it totally works for us!

We also use our trusty old slow cooker! It’s still great for making a good amount of food that we can use as quick leftover meals throughout the week. Things like chicken fajitas, or three-bean chili, or mac & cheese are great options.

This slow cooker is great as it’s programable for temp & time. Then when it’s done cooking, it switches to warm mode, so you don’t overcook your dinner! It also comes with a temperature probe, so if you’re cooking meats you can be doubly sure it’s fully cooked!

On my wish list is this Instant Pot; I mean, it has 4 1/2 stars with over 100,000 reviews! That’s crazy, right! Besides, any gadget that says it’s perfect for beginners is for me!

Time & money saved! But more so, my sanity as I hated trying to decide what to make for dinner!

Mom life must haves for our kids

So we wouldn’t be busy moms if it wasn’t for our kiddos, right? These things are ones that I love, and have made this crazy journey a lot easier!

5. Honest Company products 

mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 4,000 ratings
mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 3,500 ratings
mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 7,000 ratings

So this sounds corny, but I honestly love Honest Products! Actress Jessica Alba started the brand. Honest’s bio page says, “When she couldn’t find one brand to trust for all her everyday needs, she had to create it. And she knew that there had to be others out there looking for safe products, simple solutions, and clear information about their choices, just like her.”

Did I ever tell you that I am a natural skeptic? When someone says their product is safe and uses only the best ingredients, I look to the experts to tell the truth. I use the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep app on my phone all the time for this! I scan the barcode of an item, and it tells me if it’s considered safe by their 3rd party unbiased testing. EWG is a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” Their app doesn’t have every product in its database, but they have a lot (mostly in the beauty and cleaning area). 

When I am standing in Target and looking for something for my kiddo, I scan all the brands to find the one that is the least toxic, and then I go to Amazon to check out the reviews on that item. If people love it, then I buy it!

I just used it this past month, we stayed at my mom’s house for a few days, and my daughter used their bubble bath; she loved all the bubbles. But a few days later, she broke out in a rash, sure enough, I found it was rated an 8 (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst). Whoops!

So I went to target and scanned a few and settled on The Honest Company’s lavender bubble bath, and it was rated a 1! I bought it, and it worked great (as much as a bubble bath works), the bubbles lasted forever, smelled great, and she loved every second of it! (oh and no rash!)

I bought…

  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Lavender Shampoo & Body Wash
  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Conditioner
  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Bubble Bath

I feel great about these products as I know they’re safe (peace of mind is priceless), work great, and don’t cost a fortune!

Mental space & time saved! As I don’t wonder anymore (or feel guilty) about knowing that the products I use on her are safe!

6. The best safety in the industry

mom life must have #6 - the best in car seat safety
Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat
5 stars with 1,800 ratings
mom life must have #6 - the best in car seat safety
Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible
4 1/2 stars with 3,300 ratings

Along the same vein of keeping our kiddos safe, I researched a lot of items when I was pregnant, and one of the most researched items is a car seat! I finally chose the Britax B-Safe 35 (funny story here), and then when she got older, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible car seat.

I honestly spent way too much time agonizing over the car seat choices. I wanted the best for her without spending a fortune. Yes, Britax is a teeny tiny bit expensive, but a car seat is so important, as a bad car seat can have horrible repercussions!

Anyway, funny story, so I was agonizing over which to choose for weeks. One day, as I watched TV, a clip about Prince William & Kate came on, as they just had their first baby. The TV shot was of them standing at the top of some stairs, walking down and outside to their car. Prince William was holding the car seat, and I recognized the colors (black & red) of the car seat.  

I paused it, screenshot it, and zoomed in; sure enough, it was a Britax B-Safe! Within two minutes, I was on Amazon and ordered it! If this was the brand & model that the Royal Family trusted, then this was the one for me! Problem solved, no more worries!

All of their models’ rates very high for safety, their quality is great, and they are easy to use!

Peace of mind! Knowing that I have done everything I can to protect my daughter, while in the car, is important to me!

7. Car Snacks

mom life must have #7 car snacks - packaged nuts
4 1/2 stars with 2,000 ratings
mom life must have #7 car snacks - whole grain fig bar
5 stars with 76 ratings

A busy mom’s best friend is without a doubt her car snacks! Car snacks for the kiddo and absolutely car snacks for us!

Car snacks keep everyone happy, and they keep you out of the drive-through! Oh, and did I mention that when your kiddos are eating the snacks they’re not asking you 459 questions!

I have two go-to’s for this.  

  • Emerald nut mix, variety pack 100 calories packs. Right now, it’s $9.44 for the box of 18 small individual packs. That’s $.52 a pack.
  • Nature’s Bakery Whole Grain Fig Bar – these are the best, as they don’t harden into rocks when your car has been sitting out in the freezing cold. They don’t melt in the summer, and they don’t crumble and get a mess everywhere! Plus, they’re tasty and not total garbage nutritionally speaking! 

Time & money saved, as you’re not stopping for fast food! More importantly, I can say that the magic of car snacks has saved my own personal sanity!

Mom life must haves for ourselves

8. An organized life

If I had to get married again (and not to my husband), I would marry Trello! Seriously, I feel that strongly about this app! If you’re not familiar with Trello, it’s basically a place where you can put your entire life & brain to help keep you organized!

Picture this; it’s like a giant whiteboard with lists and sticky notes, links, files, and images. It’s sharable so you can work with people on projects too! It gives you the big picture and zero’s in on the tiny details. It’s for desktop and mobile, and it’s free! Yup, FREE!

If you have a daily planner or 489 sticky notes, then you have to check out Trello!

If you absolutely love your pen & paper style organizing, then check out my Brain Dump printables! It’s for when you’ve got way too much swirling around in your brain. You lay it all out in formatted sections, and it helps you plan, prioritize & delegate your to-do list!

Time & sanity saved! I don’t forget things nearly as much (but I’m not perfect).

9. A delicious nutritional home run

mom life must have #9 - a good protein powder
4 1/2 stars with 800+ ratings

Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Clean Whey Protein

  • vanilla or chocolate flavor
  • 24 grams of protein
  • no added hormones, sugars, or rbst free, and gluten free
  • delicious! (truth!)

As busy mom’s we’re run ragged sometimes. So much to do, and it’s easy to forget about taking care of ourselves. Or we push it to the back burner, always meaning to get to it later, but never actually doing it.

Ugh. Fail.  

We know we feel better when we take care of ourselves, yet it’s hard to prioritize yourself over your to-do list (at least I do). So make a promise to yourself to start taking better care of you! For me, that looks like having a healthy smoothie! For you, it could look totally different, and that’s fine!

My favorite protein powder is Garden of Life Whey Protein Powder, I don’t need anything crazy with 78 grams of protein, I just need something to feed my body, without a ton of crazy chemicals. (Yes, I do realize that protein powders are processed, but this is a very well respected brand, and it was recommended to me by super knowledgeable staff at a natural grocery store.)

“We start with what goes IN our products—true, whole food ingredients. But we don’t stop there. We also pay very close attention to what we keep OUT of them.  And once again, we look at food—real nutrition food. When is the last time you picked up an apple, turned to read the ingredients, and saw a list of chemicals?  If it’s not in your food, then we don’t want it in our supplements.  We use third-party (never self-affirmed) certifications to prove we are clean!” (source).

My base recipe…

  • 1 scoop of protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds

Then either…

  • 1/3 can pumpkin puree with 1 tsp of pumpkin pie seasoning

Or

  • a handful of frozen mixed berries with 1 tsp of vanilla

These smoothies are a part of 21 Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide, which I did last year! I felt so good about focusing on my health and I plan to do the program again (as life happens, right).

For those of you a little wary of the can of coconut milk, I want you to try it at least once. It’s delicious, and it fills me up all day long! Yes, it has a lot of fat in it, but so many vitamins and nutrients. I’m not a food or weight loss blogger, so I won’t try and convince you of the scientific health benefits.  

It’s delicious (truly, I’m not exaggerating), and it makes me feel great, and it’s healthy! That’s good enough for me. Besides, when I make it in my Vitamix, cleaning up is super easy! I just give it a quick rinse in the sink, pour some dish soap in it, fill it with hot water, put it back on the base, and turn it on for 40 seconds! No taking apart pieces and scrubbing it! (of course, if I use dairy, then I do put it through the dishwasher)

Time saved! Smoothies are quick and easy, plus I feel good knowing that I am taking care of myself so that I can have the energy to take care of my daughter and answer her 45,871 questions!

10. Chug Chug Glug

mom life must have #10 - a good water bottle
5 stars with 16,500 ratings for standard mouth
mom life must have #10 - a good water bottle
5 stars with 225 ratings for wide mouth

That’s code for drink more water! We all know this; it’s been drummed into our head with 1000 hammers. Yet, it’s still true; we all need to drink more water!

I love my Hydro Flask! It keeps my water cold for FO-EV-ER! It never sweats, I have dropped it a billion times, and it only has one dent (haha). I love the lid with the loop, as I can hang it from my mommy hook on my little one’s stroller. (Mommy hooks are great too, you can hang anything with it!)  

My current one I’ve had for two years, and the only reason I needed a new one is I lost my older one, which was at least three years old (my Amazon order history only goes back so many years, I guess). So that ‘a good sign; they last forever! Well worth the price! Plus, they come in super cute colors!

Oh, and did I mention Hydro Flask makes a wine tumbler too! Ha! This might absolutely help me be a better mom!

Money saved, as this water bottle lasts forever! Probably money saved too, as I eat less snacks and less at meal time as I’m well hydrated.

11. A simple cute & comfy style

mom life must have #11 - comfy yoga pants
4 1/2 stars with 25,000+ ratings
mom life must have #11 - comfy yoga pants

This is a hard one, as I’m a little bit ashamed of my path to this product. I got to a point where I was getting a bit scroungy; you know sloppy. My sweatpants were old, and the t-shirts were stained. Sexy huh!?!

It was time for a mini mommy wardrobe makeover! I have been reading a lot about minimalism and especially capsule wardrobes, and am in love with the nice, basic simplicity of it! It appeals to me on all levels! Find pieces that fit & flatter, that all go together and stick to it!

So I went through, purged my closet (I got rid of 75% of my clothes), and focused on an inexpensive capsule wardrobe! The base of the collection is these amazing IUGA high waist yoga pants! I got a pair in black, and I love them! With 4 1/2 stars with over 25,000 reviews, they have to be amazing, right? They are! An absolute staple for this mom life must have list!

And they don’t cost a fortune either! Just $25 for this pair! I did buy some nice yoga pants at Target before finding these, but they didn’t come in black). These IUGA pants…

  • come in 26 colors
  • inside waistband pocket for keys
  • hip pocket for phone
  • aren’t see through (whew!)
  • 30 day money back love it guarantee

Time & sanity saved! As I don’t stare blankly at my closet for 12 minutes every am, wondering what to wear, of if it will look okay! It’s a quick scan the closet, grab the pants and it’s go time!

12. Survival in a can

mom life must have #12 - canned wine
4 1/2 stars with 50 ratings

If I didn’t mention my absolute favorite must have for moms, I would be doing you a disservice. I would also be hiding the real me. I don’t want to do that, as that’s lame. So my favorite mom life must have is canned wine.

…cricket cricket…

Let me explain. I love canned wine. I really do. I like wine, but I don’t like opening a whole bottle of it. If I drank a whole bottle, that’s bad news. Yes, I could put a stopper in a bottle and save it. But my favorite one is The Bubbles, a sparkling white wine (kind of like a Pinot Gris). So if I used a stopper, the bubbles wouldn’t be as amazing a few days later.

A can size is perfect, usually consumed over two nights. And then I don’t have to worry about it going bad, or feeling like I need to drink more than I should, just because I don’t want to “waste” a bottle.

Besides, canned wine is coming up in quality and popularity! It’s not like those jugs you see at discount grocery stores for $4.99. Trust me; it’s delicious!

The Bubbles is my favorite, and you can get it from Whole Foods through Amazon Prime delivery! Plus, add a snack tray and a heavenly chocolate bar from WF, and you’re set! This is my perfect meal for a relaxing evening on my own!

I wish that I could say that this saved me time or money. But this is just something that makes me happy!

At the end of the day

As busy moms, we have our hands full, not to mention our brains! We need all the help we can get, and I am not too proud to accept help from great tools and resources! These mom life must haves help me be a better mom by taking away the unnecessary, automating what can be, and making me feel better in my skin, my mind, and in my heart!

Posts related to mom life must haves:

  • The Secret Formula for Getting the Best Gift for Mom
  • Want to be a Stay at Home Mom? Read This First!
  • Mamas Talk Money Goals!

What’s your mom life must have item? Let me know in the comments below!

The post Game Changing Mom Life Must Haves! appeared first on Money for the Mamas.

Source: moneyforthemamas.com

Money-Saving Hacks to Implement Now

Redo your monthly budget (and stick to it)

You can do plenty of things to improve your budget, and it's not all about pain and suffering, as many would have you believe. Everyone has a few things they overspend on. The challenge lies in identifying those particular items and weeding them out. A good place to begin is with restaurant spending, grocery bills, and impulse buying. A wise general philosophy is to assign a destination for every dollar you earn and place that category on your budget. Try cutting restaurant expenditures in half, reducing impulse buys at convenience stores, and shopping for groceries just once each week to regulate what goes toward food items.

Refinance your education debt

If you have any education debt still hanging around after all these years, refinancing student loans through a private lender is a way to lessen your monthly expenses. Not only can you get a longer repayment period, but have the chance to snag a favorable interest rate. But the clincher for money-saving enthusiasts is that your monthly payments can instantly go way down. That means extra cash for whatever you want. Use the excess to fatten savings or IRA accounts, or pay off high-interest credit card debt.

Install a programmable thermostat

For less than $20, it's possible to chop at least three percent off your utility bills and perhaps much more than that. 

Programmable thermostats are easy to install. You don't need special tools or advanced skills. Be sensible about summer and winter settings and you'll see a difference in your electric bill almost immediately, especially during the hottest months of the year. Don't forget to program the device to go into low-use mode while you're away for long weekends or longer vacations.

Join a shopping club

Although shopping clubs come with annual membership fees, the savings on groceries, household items, and gasoline usually offset them within a month or two of actively using the membership. That leaves the other months of the year for you to save money on household necessities. 

For people who drive a lot, shopping clubs with on-site gas stations offer one of the best deals going. Not only do the clubs offer gasoline for about 10 cents off the regular price, but some also offer free car washes and coupons for repair work at participating shops. Although shopping clubs are a win for most anyone, a family of three or more can log thousands per year in savings.

Refinance your home or car

If you have owned your home or car long enough to ride the interest rate waves, you likely qualify for a refinancing agreement. This strategy is excellent for consumers who have better credit now than when they made the original purchase. 

Young couples are perfectly positioned to refinance a home after several years of making payments on it. Likewise, anyone who still owes on a vehicle and can get a lower interest rate should look into a car or truck refi. Not only can you get additional months to pay off the obligation, but with a lower rate, you stand to save a nice chunk of money.

Take bagged lunches to work

One of the oldest, more reliable ways to instantly cut personal expenses is to prepare and take your own lunch to work each day. Not only do you save money by not eating out or buying lunch in the company cafeteria, but you also have added control over what you eat. That means you're doing a favor for your wallet and your health at the same time. 

Don't fall into the rut of eating at your desk. Consider taking your bagged meal outside and enjoying the scenery, taking a walk after eating, or joining friends in the cafeteria to socialize. 

Use public transportation as often as possible

If you live on or near a bus or light-rail route, do the logistical planning necessary to travel to work at least a few times each week by public transit instead of by car. 

Unless you reside in a small town, chances are you have access to buses and trains for commuting purposes. Once you get into a habit of using the public transit system, consider buying a one-month or annual pass, which can represent a major discount on one-time fare prices. Public transportation can take a bit longer to get you to your destination, but it's easy enough to make use of the time reading, catching up on work, or just relaxing.

Use credit cards wisely

If you use credit cards to make purchases you can't afford, you're headed for trouble. But if you use your plastic wisely, you can reap real benefits.

If you have a good credit rating, you'll likely qualify for cashback cards that give a percentage of your money back on some or all of your purchases. You can use that cash to pay for a portion of your monthly credit card bill. You could also let your cashback savings accumulate and use it to pay for larger purchases in the future.

Just make sure not to outspend your monthly budget so you're able to pay your credit card balance off in full each month. Keeping a balance on your cards is counterproductive because you'll also be paying interest fees.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

International travel: Is it time to dust off the passport?

I’ve been laying low the last five months, my passport safely tucked into my desk drawer awaiting the world’s re-opening.

Like you, I’ve missed travel. Especially as summer winds down, and the sun sets a few minutes later every night, I’ve found myself daydreaming of returning to the proverbial road.

Sure, I’ve been road tripping, camping and entertaining myself domestically as far as my imagination can take me over these months. But there’s nothing that feeds my soul quite like crossing a border.

While most borders across the world are still closed to U.S. passport holders, I’ve not only started to seriously think about when an international trip might be right for me, but I also did something a little crazy this week.

I booked a trip to Mexico for September.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Stephanie a question.

What is and isn’t possible

Let’s be honest, Mexico was never high on my list of places to travel for 2020. Before COVID-19, my wandering sights were set on exploring much more exotic destinations this year like Uzbekistan, Guyana and the Apulia region of Italy, from which my family migrated.

In a world without a pandemic, my autumn travel plan was to spend late September in the Marquesas islands of French Polynesia, celebrating a big 50th birthday of one of my dearest friends and fellow points collectors.

As things have begun to slowly open up over the last months, my friend and I have had a million conversations discussing if there might be somewhere other than a Zoom birthday party where we could safely celebrate half a century. As you might remember, I have high expectations for celebrating milestone birthdays.

As we’ve contemplated if it’s safe and smart to actually think about international birthday travel right now, we set a few guidelines on our planning:

  • Places far away where we wouldn’t want to get stuck are off limits.
  • Any plans we make have to be fully cancelable.
  • There must be sunshine and water at the destination.
  • We must be able to pay with points.
  • Destinations with a 14-day arrival quarantine won’t work.
  • The Caribbean isn’t an option (if your birthday falls in the middle of an extremely active hurricane season).

With the big birthday getting closer each week, I’ve been paying more attention to possibilities as well as all the deals that keep filling up my inbox. Then, when Hyatt announced their new Work from Hyatt deal this week, it got me thinking: let’s plan a trip to Cabo.

See related: Can we safely return to sleeping in hotels?

How we’ll get there

From Portland, Oregon (my COVID-19 home base), Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is an easy flight. There is plenty of sun and a lot of options to plan a refundable trip on points.

A large percentage of Cabo’s resorts have reopened since June, both requiring mask-wearing in public areas and limiting occupancy to 30%. And while the ban for land crossings at the Mexico-U.S. border has been extended to Sept. 21, air travel between the two countries is not (and has never been) restricted.

The birthday trip is still a month away – and in 2020, almost anything could happen in the next four weeks – but here’s what we’ve got planned:

  • One beautiful week looking at the Pacific Ocean from an oceanfront room at The Cape (a Thompson Hotel).
  • Flights to and from Portland’s PDX to Cabo San Lucas’ SJD (one way on American Airlines miles and one way on Alaska Airlines, using a cash credit from a different trip canceled due to coronavirus).

We picked The Cape because it’s a small boutique resort known for its secluded location, ocean views and amazing copper-plated freestanding tubs in the majority of its rooms. (OK, this wasn’t actually a deciding factor, but I do get very excited about a room with a good bath tub since resort spas are still closed.).

While not a Hyatt property, Thompson Hotels is an independent brand affiliated with Hyatt, meaning you can use your World of Hyatt points for a stay in a smaller, upscale property.

At 25,000 points per night, the five-night reservation came to a total of 125,000 points earned on my World of Hyatt Credit Card. In non-pandemic times I would likely consider that to be a ton of points for a single trip to Mexico, but since I haven’t used a Hyatt point in months (besides for one quick hotel experiment) and because it’s a big birthday celebration, it seems a reasonable redemption. The reservation is also refundable up to 24 hours before arrival.

American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest and United are all currently operating flights into SJD. From Portland’s PDX, I found a good redemption via Phoenix (PHX) on American for 17,500 points and $31 in taxes. As an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite member, I can cancel this award ticket at any time without penalty or fee, so booking it now was pretty risk-free.

Taxes flying out of Mexico back to the U.S. are considerably higher (to the tune of $100-plus), so on this end I opted to book a paid Alaska Airlines flight via San Jose using the balance from this year’s travel refunds. Alaska Airlines has also extended its travel waiver, allowing you to cancel any ticket booked before Sept. 8 for a full credit. Again, I felt like I had nothing to lose.

See related: How to change your travel plans when you booked with rewards

Final thoughts

Am I certain it will be safe to travel to Cabo San Lucas in September? I honestly have no idea. I have, however, future-proofed my plan from the outset, and I know that even if Icho ose to cancel this big birthday booking the day before, I have very little to lose.

I’ll be keeping my eyes on the news in Cabo and make a final decision if I feel comfortable to travel closer to departure. For now, I’m excited to at least have a plan to use my passport again and hope for some September sunshine and horizons.

Source: creditcards.com

Consumer Spending Habits Are Changing — What to Know

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest overnight financial shakeup in our country’s history. Its effects will be felt for years into the future, if not permanently. On the economic front, it’s caused a huge change in consumer spending, largely due to how people’s income and living/working patterns have shifted. 

How Income Is Changing

According to a July report from the Congressional Research Service, the big changes in household income hasn’t affected everyone equally. Those who are hardest-hit already had a lower income to begin with — families with children, and non-white people. For example, 71% of parents earning under $25,000 per year have lost income, compared to only 33% of child-free households earning more than $200,000 per year. 

In other words, the rich are staying rich (and even getting richer), while the poor are getting poorer. And since these high-earners are increasingly working from home, it’s caused massive shake-ups in consumer spending, with winners and losers on all fronts. 

Top Spending Categories of 2020

The average family earned $68,703 (or $5,725 per month) during 2019, according to Census data. We don’t yet know what it’ll be for 2020, although it’ll almost certainly be lower when averaged across the entire population, including those with and without income losses. Here’s how the loss in income is affecting what people are spending their money on. 

Alcohol

Pre-Pandemic: In 2019, the average household spent $579 on alcohol, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

Pandemic: In April of 2020, alcohol spending was up by approximately 50%, according to an analysis from The New York Times.

With everyone stuck at home and a looming sense of existential doom everywhere you look, it’s no wonder that spending on alcohol has increased. The way people are buying their alcohol is shifting, too, according to a May 2020 Nielsen report. In-store sales of booze jumped by around 26% compared to the same time a year ago. Online sales were even more popular, with a 477% jump in direct-to-your-door delivery service. 

In addition, people shifted to buying larger packages of alcohol, with a 20% jump in sales of 24- and 30-packs of beer and cider, and a 2% decrease in sales of six-packs. Sales of boxed wine in particular were also up by 44% from the previous year, as was 1.75L Costco-sized jugs of hard liquor, with a 47% increase. 

Groceries

Pre-Pandemic: The average family spent $4,643 on groceries in 2019, according to the BLS.

Pandemic: Grocery spending is up by 10%, according to an October report by The New York Times. 

Whether it’s the sourdough bread craze or cozy comfort foods, many people have gotten a crash course in cooking from home over the past few months. And although groceries have always been a big part of the household budget (especially if you have teenagers), they’re higher now than they’ve ever been before. 

However, you can get your groceries in a lot of ways, and some are booming more than others right now. For example, an earlier survey from The New York Times in April showed that while spending at supermarkets was largely the same compared to the prior year, spending at online grocers was up by 80%, food delivery spending was up by 50%, and spending on meal kits surged by 40%. This isn’t surprising, as many people are still (rightfully) wary of packed grocery stores and are instead opting for the convenience of ready-to-cook-from-home meals.

Real Estate

Pre-Pandemic: The average sales price of a home was $278,800 in August 2019, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Pandemic: The average sales price of a home was 11% higher — $310,600 — in August 2020, according to the (NAR).

You’d think that the largest bombshell in U.S. economic history would derail the real estate markets that were already set off-course by the 2008 recession. So far (and surprisingly so), that hasn’t been the case. Despite the world burning (literally, if you live on the West coast), home prices continue to chug along at an increasing pace. 

There’s been a lot of speculation about why this is. Some experts suggest that high-paid tech workers (those least likely affected by the pandemic), are now free of their tether to high cost-of-living areas and are thus increasingly flooding out into the suburbs along with all of their cash. In particular, properties that are well-designed for working from home (such as those with extra rooms that can double as offices) are in particularly high demand. 

Areas Where Consumer Spending Dropped

As we’ve seen, some industries have picked up. But by and large, consumer spending is down, and here are some of the major industry drops. 

Travel

Pre-Pandemic: The average family spent $2,037 on their summer vacation in 2019, according to an Allianz Insurance survey.

Pandemic: Travel spending is down by 57%, according to October 2020 numbers from Status Money. 

Many of the highest-price travel is done overseas and at expensive places, like Disney World, and on cruise ships. Obviously, those things are out for this year. 

So although you can’t take that expensive Paris vacation you’ve always been dreaming of right now, that’s not stopping a lot of people. In June 2020, the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicted that 97% of trips would be taken by car, either locally or around the U.S. After all, there are still many world-class natural wonders to see right here at home, whether it’s Yosemite, Old Faithful, or hiking along the Appalachian Trail. 

Clothing 

Pre-Pandemic: The average U.S. family spent $1,883 on apparel during 2019, according to the BLS. 

Pandemic: Clothing spending was down by around 60% in April, according to an analysis from The New York Times.

With so many people working from home via Zoom, you really only need clothes on the top half of your body (be careful not to stand up from your desk though!). Even so, with so many places closed down and no one to see you, people just aren’t spending as much on clothes these days as they used to. 

Some of this spending has recovered. For example, while The New York Times recorded a decline of around 60% on clothing spending in April, it had recovered a bit to just a 20% decline by October. Sales of cosmetics were also down by 14%, at least for cosmetics brand L’Oreal. According to a JP Morgan analysis, certain cosmetics were particularly hard-hit, with fragrances, luxury makeup, and professional supplies down by 25%. 

Restaurants

Pre-Pandemic: The average U.S. family spent $3,526 on dining out in 2019, according to the BLS.

Pandemic: Restaurant spending is down by 15%, according to The New York Times.

COVID-19 is particularly transmissible in enclosed environments with a lot of packed people that are touching their faces. It’s no wonder that restaurants have emerged as a flare in the debate between safety vs. the economy. After all, the restaurant industry alone employs 15.6 million people, according to the National Restaurant Association. 

But just as with anything else, the impact isn’t equally spread across all types of restaurants. According to a May survey by McKinsey & Company, casual and fine dining saw the biggest declines of 70% to 85%, while pizza companies actually did better than usual, with up to a 5% increase in sales from the previous year. 

How Spending Will Change Over the Holidays

Last year, the average consumer spent $1,048 on holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. This year, a survey by Power Reviews shows that 73% of people expect to spend about the same amount on holiday shopping as last year, despite the present state of the economy.

One thing that is changing, though, is that more people will shop online this year, and earlier, too. According to the same Power Reviews survey, 64% of people are planning on doing more online shopping this year, and around 25% of people are planning on getting an early head start. This is largely due to concerns about inventory and shipping delays. 

The post Consumer Spending Habits Are Changing — What to Know appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Two Years Without Health Insurance (and What I’m Doing Now)

Two years ago, I was unsatisfied with my options for health insurance. The premiums were rising even as the quality dropped in the form of an ever-increasing deductible. I am guessing that you might feel the same way these days – most of us Americans are in the same boat.

I felt like I was being squeezed from both ends and it was starting to piss me off. So I decided to take some action, by doing the math for myself using a spreadsheet. I needed to answer the question, “Is this insurance really as bad a deal as I think it is?”

Sure enough, the risks and rewards of the coverage did not justify the premiums, so I decided to try an experiment and simply drop out of the market and insure myself. In other words, just rolling the dice and going through life with no form of health insurance at all.

Doubling down on the bikes, barbells and salads, I did my best to eliminate any risk factors that are in my control, while accepting that there are still much less likely but more random factors that are not.

Figure 1 – DIY Health Care

Almost two years and $10,000 in premium savings later, I have found the experiment to be a success: I have slept well and not worried about the fact that I could be on the hook for a big bill if I did ever need major care. And as luck would have it, I also enjoyed the same good health as always over this time period – probably the best in my life so far because the extra healthy living has been working its magic.

But.

This situation has not been quite ideal, because my life is not a very useful model for everyone to follow. Most people don’t have the luck of perfect health, many have a larger family than I do, and very few people are in a financial position to self-insure for all possible medical bills.

Also, I found myself wishing I had a doctor that actually knew me, who I could call or visit on short notice if I ever did need help.

Finally, I wanted to switch back to having some form of insurance so that I could learn about it and write about it as time goes on. But was I really willing to be part of that unsatisfying and broken insurance model?

Then something magical happened: I learned about the new and vastly improved world of Direct Primary Care physicians.

What is DPC?

DPC is a fairly new trend in the US, but it is also a return to a very old tradition: a direct relationship between you and your doctor, with no insurance company in the way. 

As a customer, you pay for a monthly subscription (somewhere around $100), and in exchange you get unlimited access to super elite, personalized medicine for the vast majority of your medical needs. Diagnoses, prescriptions, skin conditions, stitches, even fixing a broken bone if you don’t need surgery. All covered, with no co-pay and in an environment that feels to me like Presidential-level health care, in striking contrast to some of my past experiences where I felt like an anonymous numbered ticket in a sloshing sea of bureaucratic institutional medicine.

Oh, and direct email, phone and text message contact with your doctor, prescriptions over phone or video call, and in some cases even house calls depending on the practice and the situation.

Through some sort of magic, the Direct Primary Care model offers much better medical care and much lower prices, at the same time.

How could it be? It’s because of the incentives.

Figure 2: The Insurance Model for Health Care

In our famously broken US healthcare model, an insurance company is wedged in between you and your doctors, and it has different objectives than you do.

You just want the best overall health for yourself, and when the shit does hit the fan and you need medical care, you want it to be quick, effective, and at minimum cost. And you don’t want to be hounded with years of stressful stray bills after an expensive medical procedure.

Your Doctor wants to help as many people as possible and make a good living, without having to wade through a sea of paperwork or stress or lawsuits.

Your Insurance company wants to make as much profit as possible, which means maximizing the amount they collect from you, and minimizing the amount they pay to your doctor. In theory, they benefit from helping you to stay healthy. But they have also developed elaborate contracts (putting in as many loopholes as possible to allow them to drop your coverage or deny claims), become masters of delaying payments, limiting which procedures and tests they will authorize doctors to do, and just generally throwing the biggest monkey wrench into the system that they can.

Over the decades, there has been a complex battle of lawmaking, lobbying, compromise and complexity to try to regulate away some of these problems. Sometimes the new laws help, sometimes they don’t, but the end result will never be optimal simply because there are a lot of people involved, and big crowds of humans make for slow and shitty decision making.

The Direct Primary Care Model

Figure 3: The Direct Primary Care Model

With DPC, it’s just you and your doctor. You both have the same incentives, but now the model works much better because there is no chaotic and expensive force in the middle to mess things up.

And because you operate on a subscription, the doctor gets paid whether you come into the office or not. At the same time, you are free to come in whenever you do need something, at no additional cost. So she has an incentive to keep you healthy, so that you have no need to come into the office in the first place. 

On top of this, you get to decide together what is the best course of healthy prevention and treatment, without the overhead and complexity of constantly fighting with insurance companies. This drastically cuts the costs by eliminating the large staff of paper-pushers and attorneys that you normally need to operate a medical office, and frees up the doctor to spend more time with each patient during each visit.

How could the doctor possibly make a living with such low fees?

As it turns out, a small practice with one or two doctors and a few credentialed medical assistants can handle over 1000 subscribers while still giving each person much more time than they get under the old model. At $100 per month, this is $1.2 million in annual gross subscriber income, which is enough to pay everybody well, and rent a suitable clinic space. And as you scale up the operation, some economies of scale on things like space and equipment make it even better.

Just as importantly, running a practice like this tends to make a dramatic improvement in a doctor’s quality of life. It’s better medicine, with more flexibility and less hassle and stress. No wonder this model is growing rapidly and has become a favorite of physicians who happen to be MMM readers, as I hear from more of them every month.

Direct Primary Care is now a nationwide movement, with many hundreds of practices spanning the country and many more opening each year. Today’s screenshot of https://mapper.dpcfrontier.com/ shows the current state of the market. 

Direct care locations everywhere

In fact, it turns out this whole trend might even be a Mustachian-originated phenomenon, as I joined my own local practice called Cloud Medical, met the founder Dr. David Tusek, and he revealed halfway through our introductory visit that he was both a founder of DPC pioneer Nextera Healthcare in 2009, and a lurking reader of this blog for several years before I discovered him right here in my own town. 

A note for locals: if you are considering joining Cloud, mention that you would like the MMM discount to save a further $12/month! (we have no affiliation, they are just looking to expand the practice and I’ll remove this notice if they fill up)

My experience (so far) with Cloud Medical

Cloud Medical’s Longmont office – definitely a step up over past medical office experiences! (although they do need to add a proper bike rack)

I signed up with Cloud this past summer, about five months ago. Although I have been feeling great, I figured it was time to put myself through an extensive battery of “middle-aged man” tests just to make sure I am not missing any hidden problems. 

With the doctor’s guidance, I did a very thorough blood test, plus an electrocardiogram scan of my heart performance and ultrasound Carotid artery scan which involves a practitioner lubing up your neck and sliding a Star-Trek-style probe around on it while recording images of your body’s most critical plumbing to check for signs of clogging. Plus the usual checks of an annual physical exam. All clear.

I also finally got around to a long-awaited diagnosis and prescription for my Adult Attention Deficit Disorder condition, something which took me seven years to get organized enough to achieve, paradoxically one of the crippling effects of ADD. Although this is a very personal health detail, I mention it here because there are many friends and readers who also suffer from this condition, and I encourage you to learn more about it and seek help if appropriate. It can be life-changing.  I found this process was much easier in a DPC environment, because of the more personal nature of the doctor-patient connection. 

This DPC model addresses perhaps 90% of typical medical needs in-house, and a “menu” of optional specialists knocks out another 5%. 

Cloud and other DPC practices have a “menu” of standardized prices, typically much lower than traditional offices. Full PDF here.

But there is still a chance you will need the more rare (and expensive) services of a hospital or specialist. In this case, your DPC physician can provide referrals and guidance to allow you to get the right help at a discounted, direct-pay price, or even handle your needs with a conventional insurance company.

Part Two: But What About Bigger Expenses?

Health share options, with the one I chose (Sedera) in the center.

At this point, you can add another layer of protection: High deductible conventional insurance, or a health share membership which offers a similar end-result while being careful not to be classified as insurance. 

A Disclaimer before we begin:

I think of health shares as a form of “emergency medical bill reimbursement”, rather than full fledged insurance. They are suitable for mostly-healthy people who want financial protection in the event of a major medical event. But they are not insurance, and often not too useful for someone with an existing, expensive condition.

Update 11/12: This blog post has triggered lots of fine-print-reading and discussion among readers, which led us to follow up with various insurance and health share companies.

The final word on one issue of debate: most conventional insurance and health shares do not cover voluntary abortions, while they do cover medically necessary ones, just under the different name of “Maternal Complications”.

Health shares in particular also don’t offer much ongoing drug reimbursement, which includes a lack of coverage for birth control. While I disagree with this policy, from a practical perspective it just means you need to budget for this expense separately.

For situations where a health share membership falls short, the subsidized and regulated insurance available through employer-based plans or the state exchanges via the Affordable Care Act, are probably a better bet.

But with all that in mind, I still chose one for myself, so let’s get into it!

Health sharing groups started out catering only to members of certain religions. Then a provider called Liberty Health Share opened up the market slightly while still requiring some fairly specific spiritual affirmations.

The latest incarnation is a company called Sedera* , which has addressed some of the shortcomings of earlier companies, has far less religious basis, and now seems to be the place that most of my more analytical friends and their families are ending up. Even my DPC physician Dr. Tusek is now recommending Sedera.

Sedera is worth a whole separate article in itself, and in fact I am starting a dedicated page for questions and answers and discussion on the experience. But for now, we’ll take a shortcut and just say that I was convinced and willing to give it a try, so I signed myself up as a Sedera customer.

A quick comparison of the closest standard insurance plan I could find on the standard Colorado health insurance exchange, versus what I got from Sedera (click for larger version):

For me, Sedera cuts my monthly cost in half, even while delivering better coverage.

Another thing I like about all this is that there is no concept of “in network” and “out of network” doctors or hospitals. You can even use hospitals in other countries while traveling, and get reimbursed in US dollars after you return home. It’s simpler, cheaper and more flexible.

So in the end, by combining DPC with a health share membership, I am hopefully ending up with the best of all worlds:

  • The best personalized, advanced medicine and quick response time, possibly anywhere in the world through my DPC subscription, with unlimited “free” (zero co-pay) doctor visits.
  • Flexible coverage for any additional needs and support for decision-making and billing, even when traveling internationally
  • A financial backstop just in case things get really expensive
  • At a total monthly cost that is still lower than the most basic ho-hum plan on standard insurance
  • A further bonus – Sedera incentivizes you to be a member of a DPC, with a solid discount if you are, because they know their costs to cover you will be lower if you are healthier and have hassle-free access to a doctor.

This all sounds good to me, but it is important to state that this is an experiment. I still don’t have much experience with the US healthcare system – it helped deliver my son in 2006, and then repair that same boy’s broken arm in 2016. Conventional insurance offered some halfhearted support for both of those expenses, but aside from that I don’t have many stories to tell. 

By collecting more information from readers and from my new helpers at Cloud Medical and Sedera, we should be able to make more sense of all this. And hopefully continue to expand and improve this new, better form of health care so it is accessible to more US residents.

If it gets big enough, we might end up solving this whole problem together – better, cheaper health care for everyone.

But What About the Affordable Care Act?

I think that DPC and ACA could work together perfectly – we keep the idea of the personal relationships, the subscription-based model, and the open and competitive pricing from hospitals for all procedures. But we just don’t need conventional insurance companies. If our society wants to help less-wealthy people to afford the best health care (which I think is a great idea), we could just subsidize their DPC memberships and offer a public insurance option at low or zero cost which covers hospitalizations. The reason this is better than the ACA: direct care and no insurance companies.

Conclusion

My past articles and experiences have shown that for many of us, a big hurdle when considering early retirement or self-employment is “what about health insurance”? Hopefully the is DPC + Healthshare method will put that question to rest for many of us. After all, shouldn’t our career and life choices be separate from our healthcare?

—–

Interested in Learning More?

A long-time friend of mine (and fellow early-retiree, and co-owner of the HQ coworking space) Bill and his family have been Sedera customers and enthusiasts for about two years. So much that he even took it upon himself to meet the company’s management, sign himself up as a representative to streamline some of the inefficiencies he perceived when joining, and then teach me about the whole thing.

Because of that, I am sharing Bill’s Sedera signup link in this article. His is unique among the Sedera affiliates in that he charges zero administrative fee, typical brokers charge $25 per month and up.

https:/sedera.community/thefireguild1

*note: Sedera does pay its affiliates a small referral fee for new customers, which does not affect your monthly bill – in fact, this link offers a lower price than subscribing directly through the company’s website. Thus, we believe this is the lowest cost way on the Internet to get this coverage.

As mentioned above, I’m giving Bill his own page to maintain on this site, where he can share his ongoing research and updates and answer questions: mrmoneymustache.com/sedera

Further Reading:

I was quite moved by this piece that Cloud Medical’s Dr. David Tusek wrote about “the ten heartbreaks” that led him to work since 2009 towards accelerating this better way to do healthcare.

An interesting story from Bill’s hometown, from a doctor who took this path way back in 2013:

South Portland Doctor Stops Accepting Insurance, Posts Prices Online
(from the Bangor Daily News)

Source: mrmoneymustache.com

Quiz: Which Summer Space Melts Your Heart?

There are 93 days to enjoy this summer, which means 93 chances to chase fireflies, stick your toes in the sand or tell ghost stories under starry skies.

Gather up the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, and weigh in on which spaces you’d rather gather ’round on a warm summer’s night.

Slate gray standalone or stone-paneled sanctuary?

Slate gray standalone

Stone-paneled sanctuary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from Zillow listings: fire pit, fireplace.

Woodsy escape or opulent patio?

Woodsy escape

Opulent patio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from Zillow listings: fire pit, fireplace.

Tropical linear fire pit or stately wood-burning fireplace?

Tropical linear fire pit

Stately wood-burning fireplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from Zillow listings: fire pit, fireplace.

Water views or skylight vibes?

Water views

Skylight vibes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from Zillow listings: fire pit, fireplace.

Poolside fire bowl or secluded stone chimney?

Poolside fire bowl

Secluded stone chimney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from Zillow listings: fire pit, fireplace.

Glass-enclosed fire pit or sunset stone display?

Glass-enclosed fire pit

Sunset stone display

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from Zillow listings: fire pit, fireplace.

Related:

  • 13 Simple Steps to Prep Your Home for the Best Summer Ever
  • DIY Backyard Fire Pit: Build It in Just 7 Easy Steps
  • Getting and Staying Organized Through the Summer

Source: zillow.com

Say Farewell to Shag Carpet—Family Tackles 1970s Time Capsule Makeover

Jacksons Time CapsuleDustin McKibben

A Florida family has embarked on a wild ride to bring a 1970s time capsule in Indiana into the 21st century.

On a whim, they bought a vintage gem in Fort Wayne, IN, covered top to bottom in shag carpet, after seeing it online. It was our most popular home of the week in early December and garnered hundreds of thousands of views—the Jackson family among them.

How the time capsule was won

“So we weren’t actually looking for a home to buy,” says Alysha Jackson, who lives in Clermont, FL, with her husband, Nate, two toddlers, and a rescue dog, Ingrid.

“We have a home there and we love it,” she says. “We had talked about getting into real estate one day, but it wasn’t really on our radar yet. Then this house went viral.”

Nate saw the house online and came in with his computer to show the listing to Alysha.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, don’t shut this down right away, but what if we put in an offer on this house?’” she says.

“Usually, I’m the skeptical one, but I just looked at it and had this gut feeling, and I said, ‘You know what? I actually love it. Let’s put in an offer.’”

Interior of home in Fort Wayne, IN

Dustin McKibben

Interior

Dustin McKibben

Bathroom

Dustin McKibben

Like everyone who laid eyes on the photos, Nate and Alysha first spotted the colorful carpet. The deep shag is hard to miss: It’s everywhere, even on some of the walls.

Alysha says her first reaction was: “Whoa, that’s a lot of shag carpet!” Then, she noticed how much potential the house had.

“I kind of envisioned what it could look like with some renovating,” she says. “We’re staying thing true to the vibe of it and the time period, but we have to update it.”

Aftermath of Christmas

Jackson family

Door

Dustin McKibben

Jackson family

Dustin McKibben

The Jacksons journey back in time

Just a few weeks after putting in their offer, the two former teachers, who now sell on Amazon, packed up their family minivan (including Christmas presents) and headed north. Their work offers them the freedom to work where they choose.

Since then, the family has been living bare-bones in the house, with just a few mattresses and other essential items. They have decided to live in the home as is for a while.

“We wanted to just stay in it a little while before changing anything, because we just wanted to get a feel for the house before we just came in and made sweeping changes,” Alysha Jackson explains.

“I’m so glad we did, because we actually changed a lot of our designs based upon actually living in the home for a little bit first.”

Most importantly, they staged a 1970s-style photo shoot.

Interior

Dustin McKibben

Enjoying the view

Jackson family

Even Ingrid, the dog, seems to have settled in.

“She has a spot in the house where she can see the entire yard, thanks to the surrounding sliding doors and windows,” Jackson says.

“Ingrid was so sad when she saw us packing the van for our trip here, but literally jumped up and down when we got the leash out and she realized she was coming with us on the trip.”

Kitchen

Dustin McKibben

Kitchen

Dustin McKibben

Kitchen

Dustin McKibben

The former owner of the house, James Sherbondy, a retired architect, designed the home as his family’s personal residence. It was occupied until just a few months ago, so everything inside was in working order.

“We walked in, brought in our stuff, and used the fridge. The bathrooms were functional. It was pretty great,” Jackson says.

Everything in the kitchen works, and the cabinets are in good shape. However, the layout may not work for the family, she adds.

Lower level

Dustin McKibben

Lower level

Dustin McKibben

Lower-level bathroom

Dustin McKibben

Lower-level bathroom

Dustin McKibben

The family made some immediate changes for safety reasons and are currently living on the lower level. They’re tackling that and the main level first, and leaving the upstairs master bedroom and bathroom for last.

A bathroom with green counters and blue sink will ultimately meet its demise, but the Jack-and-Jill style entry is staying.

“The more we see, the more we want to keep, which is kind of funny,” Alysha says. “Before, we didn’t really know too much about ’70s style, and we didn’t know too much about midcentury modern even. But the more I talk with people and more research I do on my own, the more I see the beauty and the value in it, and so I want to keep that style in the home.”

Stairs

Dustin McKibben

Toddler-proof stairs

Dustin McKibben

The Jacksons have sought input from a number of experts on the Instagram account they started for their rehab project. They had hopes of reaching 10,000 followers by the summer. As of now, they’ve blown past their goal and have over 30,000 folks tracking the renovation journey.

“I just love sharing projects with people. When we did a ’70s photo shoot, we thought it would be really fun to share these. We had no idea it would go viral as quickly as it did,” Jackson says. “It’s been really fun to share what we’re doing with people, and we’ve gotten so much great input.”

Lower level

Dustin McKibben

Lower level

Dustin McKibben

The carpet can’t stay

Sadly, for lovers of colorful floor coverings, the carpet is one of the first things that’s going to go.

“There’s literally carpet in every single room, including the bathrooms. It’s everywhere and it’s 50 years old. From what we know, it is original to the home,” Jackson says.

She added that there are stains in several places, and it doesn’t smell particularly great, especially in the bathrooms.

Eventually, there will be new flooring in many of the rooms and tile in the bathrooms. But the carpet won’t vanish completely.

“I am going to be making an art piece of the different carpet colors,” she says. “There’s about four or five different colors in the home, and we just want to keep a piece of each. I’m going to cut some out from each color—deep-clean it, of course—and then create some sort of art piece with it to hang in the house on the wall.”

Master bathroom

Dustin McKibben

Master bathroom

Dustin McKibben

People on social media had a lot to say about the carpet-bedecked bathtub in the master bedroom. The tub has purple tile and no curtain. For now, it’s the only bathtub in the house, so the kids need to take their baths there.

Jackson says the tub is super clean, but the trick for the couple is to keep the children from enjoying their time on the floor.

“To them, it’s like a big towel,” she adds. The first time their son took a bath, she says, “He got out of the tub and started rolling on the shag carpet.”

Fireplace

Other modifications on the way

Back on the main level, the dramatic floor-to-ceiling fireplace will stay—but with some modifications for safety.

Wood paneling and accents

Dustin McKibben

Some of the wood paneling and carved accents throughout the house will also remain.

“I stare at the wood every day. I think that’s maybe my favorite part of the house,” Jackson says.

Some people on Instagram say the carved wood might be by an artist named Ackerman, and the Jacksons are trying to verify that.

“It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the home on the door,” Alysha says.

Work time

Jackson family

Life outside the box

The Jacksons rehabbed their Florida house, so a huge project isn’t entirely new for them and they have some family support nearby. Both Alysha and Nate are from Indiana, and much of their family still lives there. While some close to them were surprised by the somewhat impulsive purchase, they weren’t shocked.

“We kind of joke with people that Nate and I are ‘Go big or go home’ people. We kind of live life outside the box, so they were excited for us,” Jackson says.

Some relatives thought they were crazy, she adds, but changed their minds when they saw how beautiful the home is—and they’re especially excited that the family will be closer to them.

For now, the family plans to split time between the two homes and rent the other one as a vacation rental.

We’ll be tracking the process of this time capsule transformation and can’t wait to see what’s next.

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The post Say Farewell to Shag Carpet—Family Tackles 1970s Time Capsule Makeover appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Employment Resources: Five Steps for Finding a New Job

A woman reads various employment resources and books at a large white desk in front of a window.

The Congressional Budget Office believes the unemployment rate will hit 16% during the summer of 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus. With so many people on the hunt for a new job, landing an interview and getting hired is going to prove difficult for many. But the truth is that getting a new job isn’t always easy even in the best of times, which is why using all possible employment resources is important.

Follow these five steps to leverage employment resources to help make your job hunt success more likely.

1. Set Yourself Apart with New Skills

If you find yourself unemployed for any reason—especially during an economic downturn such as the one related to the COVID-19 pandemic—you might not be able to find a job right away. It’s a good idea to turn to unemployment benefits if you qualify to help you cover expenses while you hunt for a new job.

Then, consider finding ways to make yourself
more attractive to potential employers. During times when the unemployment
numbers are particularly high, you can bet that your resume is going to be
competing with many others. If you’re able to demonstrate a skill that others
don’t have, you can set yourself apart during the application process.

Consider using your time during unemployment to learn skills that complement your existing ones—especially if other people with similar education and experience backgrounds might not have those skills. One way you can do this is to sign up for online courses through a service like Coursera. You can add skills such as data analytics, coding languages, spreadsheet use, or business analytics to your resume.

Learn New Skills with Coursera

2. Add Your Skills to a Well-Rounded, Engaging Resume

Once you have those new skills, you need to find the best way to work them into your resume. If you’re looking for a job at the same time everyone else is, your resume must be high-quality and engaging to capture the attention of hiring managers. But it also has to have all the right words and phrases to get past applicant screening software. That’s technology many employers use to filters out resumes that don’t meet the job qualifications.

Balancing all of that within a short document that must also convey your education, experience and passion for the job can be daunting. Many people turn to online templates to help them create a resume. But that tactic can leave your document looking exactly like everyone else’s. Instead, you might consider using a resume service such as Monster.com to ensure your resume is as powerful as possible.

Improve Your Resume with Monster

3. Upload Your Resume to a Job Site

Armed with new skills and a killer resume, you next need to put yourself out into the job market in effective ways. Consider uploading your resume to a site such as ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter lets you search for job openings by region, niche or keyword. You can apply directly for open positions, but you can also upload your professionally written resume so recruiters and headhunters can find you.

Find a New Job on ZipRecruiter

4. Use Networking Resources

Letting people know that you’re looking for a job is a critical step in finding out about as many options as possible. Uploading your resume on ZipRecruiter is a great step, but don’t forget to let friends and family know you’re looking. Sign up for LinkedIn and post on your other social networks that you’re on the job hunt. You never know when someone in your circle will know about a job that hasn’t been posted yet.

5. Don’t Give Up

Getting a new job can be hard, especially if you really want to hold out for something that you’re passionate about or works with your lifestyle. If you’re looking for a job during the COVID-19 pandemic, consider some ways to make money while you’re waiting for the right position to open up. And even in good economic times, don’t expect a job to fall into your lap the second you put your resume out there. Modern hiring processes are complex, and it can take time even if a company is interested in your resume.

Find Your Next Job

Whether you’re a new grad just entering the job market, a seasoned vet looking to make a change, or someone who has lost their job due to economic issues, hunting for work can be stressful. Make sure that you’re using all the employment resources available to you as you work to find a new job.

And if you’re dealing with financial struggles related to COVID-19, check out our coronavirus resources to learn more about assistance options that might be available to you while you’re looking for employment.

The post Employment Resources: Five Steps for Finding a New Job appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift

If you have a special child in your life, you may be wondering what to put under the tree this year. One long-lasting and truly meaningful way to show the child in your life that you care is by taking a few minutes to set up a UGMA/UTMA account and give them a leg up in life.

The earlier you open a UGMA or UTMA account for a child, the longer your initial gift has to grow, thanks to the magic of compound interest. For example, investing just $5 a day from birth at an 8% return could make that child a millionaire by the age of 50. By setting up a UGMA/UTMA account, you’re really giving your beneficiary a present that grows all year round. Now, that’s a gift they’re sure to remember!

What is a UGMA/UTMA account?

UGMA is an abbreviation for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. And UTMA stands for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Both UGMA and UTMA accounts are custodial accounts created for the benefit of a minor (or beneficiary).

The money in a UGMA/UTMA account can be used for educational expenses (like college tuition), along with anything that benefits the child – including housing, transportation, technology, and more. On the other hand, 529 plans can only be used for qualified educational expenses, like summer camps, school uniforms, or private school tuition and fees.

 

It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot use UGMA/UTMA funds to provide the child with items that parents or guardians would be reasonably expected to provide, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Another important point is that when you set up a UGMA/UTMA account, the money is irrevocably transferred to the child, meaning it cannot be returned to the donor.

 

Tax advantages of a UGMA/UTMA account

The contributions you make to a UGMA/UTMA account are not tax-deductible in the year that you make the contribution, and they are subject to gift tax limits. The income that you receive each year from the UGMA/UTMA account does have special tax advantages when compared to income that you would get in a traditional investment account, making it a great tax-advantaged option for you to invest in the child you love.

 

Here’s how that works. In 2020, the first $1,100 of investment income earned in a UGMA/UTMA account may be claimed on the custodian’s’ tax return, tax free. The next $1,100 is then taxed at the child’s (usually much lower) tax rate. Any income in excess of those amounts must be claimed at the custodian’s regular tax rate.

A few things to be aware of with UGMA/UTMA accounts

While there’s no doubt that UGMA/UTMA accounts have several advantages and a place in your overall financial portfolio, there are a few things to consider before you open up a UGMA/UTMA account:

 

  • When the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21, depending on the specifics of the plan), the money is theirs, without restriction.
  • When the UGMA/UTMA funds are released, they are factored into the minor’s assets.
  • The value of these assets will factor into the minor’s financial aid calculations, and may play a big role in determining if they qualify for certain programs, such as SSDI and Medicaid.

Where you can open a UGMA/UTMA account

Many financial services companies and brokerages offer UGMA or UTMA accounts. One option is the Acorns Early program from Acorns. Acorns Early is a UGMA/UTMA account that is included with the Acorns Family plan, which costs $5 / month. Acorns Early takes 5 minutes to set up, and you can add multiple kids at no extra charge. The Acorns Family plan also includes  Acorns Invest, Later, and Spend so you can manage all of the family’s finances, from one easy app.

 

During a time where many of us are laying low this holiday season due to COVID-19, remember that presents don’t just need to be a material possession your loved one unwraps, and then often forgets about. Give the gift of lasting impact through a UGMA/UTMA account.

The post Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com