Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further
After a year spent indoors, everyone wants to have a hot girl summer in 2021. But when your financial situation is still recovering from the pandemic, can you really afford to?
Whether you’re struggling to get by or just looking to save a few bucks, use these tips to go big this summer – without going over budget.
Cash in rewards points
Millions of Americans stocked up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants during the pandemic. But many consumers inadvertently hoarded another item: credit card rewards points.
If you’re planning to reunite with high school friends or travel to a bachelorette party, cash in your points and miles to save on the trip. If you had to cancel a vacation due to the pandemic, redeem any remaining travel credit.
If you have more rewards points than you need, you may be able to redeem them for cash or as a statement credit on your card, which you can then use toward your trip.
Don’t have any rewards cards? Now may be a good time to sign up. Chase is currently offering a 100,000-point bonus for new cardholders who apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, or a 60,000-point bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Depending on where you’re going, that’s enough for a couple of flights or hotel stays.
Invite friends over for a swap
My new favorite tradition with friends is to host a swap. Everyone brings items they no longer need, and we take turns picking new-to-us items. Last time I got three dresses, a pair of Madewell overalls, a curling iron, and a dog bed.
You’re not limited to clothes at a swap. I encourage my friends to bring anything, including books, kitchenware, makeup and home decor. It’s a free way to get new items, and it encourages you to declutter your house.
Drink like a college student
Back in college, most people would have a couple drinks at home before venturing to the bars. If you’re going out with friends, consider starting with a drink or two at home.
Another money-saving trick is to eat a full meal before you go out, so you’re not tempted to grab pricey appetizers. If you’re getting drinks with your friends, limit yourself to basic cocktails instead of specialty cocktails, or stick to the draft list instead of buying a fancy bottle.
Create rules for yourself
Now that the world is opening up, it’s tempting to throw your budget away and treat yourself to everything you missed during the pandemic. Before doing that, set up some ground rules to keep yourself from going overboard.
For example, make a rule that if you’re getting dinner or brunch with friends, you won’t get take-out that week. These basic rules will help you spend less without having to give up what really matters.
Use a cash budget
Instead of bringing your credit card with you on a night out, only take the amount of cash you want to spend. You can still use your phone to order an Uber or Lyft, but you won’t have the temptation of a credit card. Decide how much you’re comfortable spending and only bring that amount.
Join a sports league
Group sports leagues like softball, soccer, or kickball are one of the most affordable ways to hang out with friends and get some exercise at the same time.
Most group leagues cost between $50 and $75 a person, depending on the sport, and usually last around six weeks. Sometimes you’ll even get a discount at a local bar where you can hang out afterwards.
Plan a budget-friendly trip
For the past few years, my college friends and I have met up every summer at my in-law’s lake house. The house is located near a small town in Indiana, only a few hour’s drive for most of us.
Instead of picking a more exotic locale, we prioritize saving money. It’s free to stay there, and we split the cost of groceries. I usually spend about $100 on gas, food, and drinks for a three-day trip.
If you’re considering a getaway with friends, get creative. Don’t automatically book a trip to Vegas or Miami. Pick a spot that’s close enough to drive, or near a popular airport where flights will be less expensive.
If you’re not lucky enough to have access to a family vacation home, look on Airbnb and VRBO for affordable destinations. Find a house with a stocked kitchen so you can cook most of your meals.
Pro tip: Use Mint’s free travel budget calculator to help you plan your next adventure.
Budget for it
When the world shut down last year, most of us got used to spending less on gas, bars, and new clothes. But as things start to open up, you may find your spending ramping back up.
Use this time to revise your budget and allocate money toward restaurants, rideshare services, and new outfits. As things return to normal, you may have to change your budget a few times before finding a happy balance. Give yourself some grace, as circumstances may change rapidly.
If you find budgeting for one month at a time difficult, give yourself a weekly allowance to use for non-essential purchases. Redirect some of your pandemic habits, like ordering take-out a few times a week, to your rediscovered social habits, like getting dinner with your friends.
Talk to your friends
While some consumers survived the pandemic without getting laid off, millions of Americans lost their jobs and remained unemployed for months. So while your friends may be ready to party, you might be focused on rebuilding your savings.
If you suffered financially during the pandemic, you may not be able to keep up with your friends this summer. Even though it may seem awkward to discuss your money problems openly, it’s better than making excuses.
If you lie about why you can’t hang out, your friends will think you’re avoiding them. But if you’re honest, they may accommodate you by suggesting budget-friendly activities. Give them the chance to understand, even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation. Who knows – one of them might be struggling as well, but too afraid to speak up.
Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins. More from Zina Kumok
Although most states give you a grace period before getting a new driver’s license (for example, it’s 90 days when you move into Illinois), you still want to do that as quickly as you can because you are likely to need identification that has your current address on it for other chores.
How Do I Budget for a Move?
If you are moving from a single family home, then the city in which you lived charges you for city services such as trash pickup and possibly sewer and water. Contact your City Hall and let them know they are losing a resident, and ask them to stop any charges under your name related to that address.
This will not cost you money, but it will cost you time. You are going to want to update your voter registration information, and you are likely going to want to let your former state know that you are no longer eligible to vote in that state. Otherwise, your current vote could get hung up in a technicality (and there are more of those today than there were in previous years).
The Costs of Moving Besides Moving
It is possible that you will be able to use the same bank with the same checking or savings account. Your routing number will change, because routing numbers are assigned based on the state of the bank branch where you opened the account. Ask your bank if you need to alert all of your direct deposit senders (employer, pension, income tax refunds) that you have a new routing number. Even for brick-and-mortar banks, you can likely handle this online.
Driver’s License and Car Registration
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily Most moving services offer a state-to-state move budget calculator. Your move budget will depend on how much you are moving and how far you are going. Your budget for the move will be in the thousands of dollars, but you can reduce those costs by shipping some items or hauling some items by yourself.
It is advised to contact utilities two to three weeks before your move. Some utilities require a security deposit before activating service, and the amount of your security deposit could depend on your credit rating.
In most cases, it will not cost you money to change your address, but again, in the “time is money’’ category, this is going to be expensive.
Let your auto insurance company know your new location and new license plate numbers. Since insurance rates vary based on location, you may see a change in your premium due to your move. Who knows? Maybe your premium will decrease.
We’ve rounded up the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the costs of moving.
You will need to register your vehicle(s) with the new state, getting new license plates and local registration stickers. Even if your license plate has several months remaining on its registration in your previous state of residence, you will save yourself any explaining if you get pulled over or in an accident.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com For Wi-Fi service, you need to contract with an internet provider, even if you are not going to use cable TV. The cost of the service varies widely throughout the country and depends on the provider, but you will likely need to pay a monthly fee of – for the modem and router.
Electric, Water and Gas
If you are changing banks because your current bank does not have any locations or ATMs in your new state, then you need to contact everyone who uses your current banking information. That includes apps, direct deposit senders, subscriptions, and any other service or product that accesses your banking information for payments.
Moving to your dream location does require money. Whether you hire a mover or load your own truck, there are moving costs. Selling a property, buying a property, paying the first two months rent and a security deposit on a new apartment, getting your security deposit back from your own place — these are all considerations that go into the decision to move and could cost you thousands of dollars.
The average cost for vehicle registration and plates is nationwide, but in Florida that will cost you 5.
For example, if you are moving to Las Vegas and need to start service with NV Power, you will pay a deposit of the last 12 months of service at the address you are moving to. If there was no service there — maybe it’s new construction — be prepared to pay a 0 deposit to start service.
What are the Costs Associated With Moving?
Wi-Fi and Internet
Remote working has advantages beyond being able to attend Zoom meetings in your sweatpants. You can move closer to family or friends, head to a nicer climate, or live in a cheaper state. Voter registration should come at no cost and can usually be done online in 42 states and Wasington, D.C.
These 13 free TV apps will let you cut cable from your budget and save you a lot of money.
There are the basics, such as moving trucks, vans and movers. There is also the cost of your personal transportation to the new location. The other costs relate to services you received in your old home (electric, gas, water) and must initiate in your new home (with likely turn-on charges).
While most other hidden costs are the ones that cost you time rather than money, you can be charged for services you are no longer personally receiving at your old home if you do not file a change of address or alert those service providers you no longer live there.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
In some states, you have a choice of electric or gas supply companies. Discuss your choices with your Realtor or city utility personnel — they usually handle water, garbage and sewer — before you move.
Who Needs Your New Address
However, when you move to another state, there are hidden costs that you may not fully comprehend. Some of these costs are, in fact, new payments that need to be made, and others are “time is money’’ costs.
There are fees for getting a new driver’s license and auto registration, plus you may have to pay a deposit to start power, cable and/or internet service. Your automobile insurance rates are likely to change, but that could be positive or negative. There is a slight fee for an official change of address with the U.S. Postal Service.
Your employer. If you are keeping your remote job but moving to a new location, your employer would probably like to know that.
Post Office. You need to file a change of address with your old post office, which will receive and forward any mail that comes to your old address. Make a note of any mail you received over the last month before you move to see if there are contacts you need to file a change of address with. Likewise, you will want to check in with your new post office branch to indicate that you now live at the new address and the former resident no longer lives there. This process is going to cost you $1.05.
Subscriptions. If you still receive anything in the mail on a subscription basis, you need to contact the provider.
Passport. Good news! You don’t need to change your address in your passport because your old one may not even be in there. On U.S. passports, there is a place where you can write in your address. You can erase the old one if you were smart enough to write it in pencil or use whiteout to create a new address.
Ride-sharing apps. OK, this one you are going to want to do. One of the great points of ride-sharing apps is that you only need to touch the “home’’ button to indicate where you are going, or where you are leaving from. If you don’t change this address immediately, you will do so after the first time the driver tries to take you back to Oklahoma.
Delivery services. If you get groceries or meals delivered, you want to ensure those services have your correct address.
Other apps. Look through your phone home screen and see if there are any other apps that need to know your current address.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Costs of Moving
How much you spend on your weather-appropriate wardrobe is up to you, but it needs to be a consideration. If you’re in need of winter coats, check out the local thrift stores in warmer climates. You may find that many people offloaded them when they moved south.
Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
If you are moving from one climate condition to another, you are likely going to need to alter your wardrobe. Whether your move is latitudinal or longitudinal, you are going to need lighter weight clothes or heavier clothes, different types of outerwear and footwear. If you are moving from a warm climate to a cold and snowy one, you are going to need winter wear.
As long as you have no in-office requirements, you can live wherever you want providing you are willing to deal with attending meetings in a different time zone.
When you set up these services at your new address, there may be reconnection charges, assuming the services were turned off by the previous resident when they moved.
What are the Hidden Costs of Moving Examples?
You will be amazed by the number of times you need to change your legal address when you move. This is true whether you move within a state or to a new state, but the new state rules and regulations may be different than what you are accustomed to.
All of these service providers charge you based on usage in your home. You need to contact the provider for your previous location to stop billing there once you leave, and then you need to start services for your arrival date in your new home. If you do not tell the power company that you no longer live at your old address, you will be charged for monthly service fees, even if you are not there using the electric, gas or water at that location. <!–
There will be a fee to acquire a new driver’s license, and you may end up taking a test or two to get licensed. This can serve as your official government-issued ID card if you ever need to prove where you live. The average cost of a new driver’s license nationwide is , but it costs to get a new license in Virginia. The average cost for Wi-Fi and internet service is but it is dependent on your local provider’s capabilities.There is a difference in prices between cable, fiber or satellite service. If you want cable for TV watching, you will pay more. Let’s dive below the surface level to consider all of the financial and logistical moves you are going to make when you move to another state.
They will certainly miss you at the gym or fitness center, but they won’t stop charging you the membership fee unless you tell them to do so. This is true for any club you pay to be a member of (country club, golf course, tennis center, etc.) There are many stories, some hilarious (“I want to quit the gym!”) and some horrific, about how hard it is to get a gym or fitness center to stop charging members who no longer use the facility.
Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further
Summer is typically a time when many families look to take some time off. With school out, the traditional “summer vacation” brings back memories of kids stuffed in the back of a minivan, on the road to some exotic (or less-than-exotic) destination. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more families are looking for ideas to get out of the house without having to travel too much.
For most vacations, the two biggest costs are lodging and the travel costs to get to the final destination. Planning a staycation minimizes or eliminates these two costs, helping you to have a great time while keeping things budget-friendly. Here are a few budget-friendly staycation ideas for the summer.
What is a Staycation?
A staycation is a portmanteau of the words “stay-at-home” and “vacation” and is, as the name implies, a way to take a vacation without traveling too much. Staycations can come in many different flavors. In some staycations, you take a variety of day trips but return each night to your own home. In other staycations, you might travel to more local or regional destinations instead of going too far.
Be a Tourist in Your Own City
One of the most popular staycation ideas is to be a tourist in your own city. To take a staycation like this, you might look at some of the top things to do in your city. Look at your city not as a resident, but as a tourist — what would a tourist do if they only had a few days to visit your hometown?
Chances are good that even if you’ve lived there for many years you may not have seen all of those attractions. Take a few days to visit some of those sites and see your city from a fresh new perspective. A few years ago, my family and I spent a few days touring our hometown of Cincinnati like tourists. We went to the top of the tallest building in the city, visited the US Air Force Museum, saw a Cincinnati Reds game, and had a great time. Each night we came back home and stayed in our own beds.
Another staycation idea is to hit the great outdoors. While camping may bring back traumatic memories of childhood summer camps gone bad, there are a lot of different ways to camp these days. In addition to a traditional tent in a campsite, many state and national parks offer cabins and other “glamping” experiences that you might enjoy more. That can give you the right mix of both outdoor and indoor comforts.
Another budget-friendly staycation idea for this summer is to have a movie night (or two). In order to make a movie night more of a staycation, consider how you can spice things up a bit. You don’t want to just turn on Netflix for a few hours and call it a movie night! Some ideas include renting a projection screen, moving your movie night outside, or combining movie night with a special dinner.
Visit the Beach
A day at the beach is something that many people enjoy and can be a great thing to include in any staycation. Of course, how you might visit a beach will depend quite a bit on where you actually live. Still, even if you don’t live near the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, you can still include a beach day on your vacation. Consider spending the day at a nearby lake or river, or even just visiting a local swimming pool.
Food Tour in Your Own City
Another great staycation idea is to have a food tour in your own city. Many cities have sponsored food tours or tours that you can pay for. Depending on your budget, interests, or the number of people in your family, that can be an option. But if you’re looking to keep things under budget, consider doing your own city food tour. Depending on where you live and how long you’ve lived there, you probably already know the restaurants and foods your city is famous for. Take a day and visit a few of them to make your own food tour at a fraction of the cost.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to your mental health to be able to take a break from the regular daily grind and get away for a bit. But taking a vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. The two biggest costs for most vacations are your lodging costs and the travel costs to get to your destination. Planning a staycation minimizes or eliminates these two costs, helping you to stay within your budget while still having a great time.
Which of these staycation ideas do you like most? What would you add to the list?
Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller
Paying state and federal taxes is part of life. Yet, of course, we all want to keep hold of as much of our income as possible too. That’s where what I like to call the grown-up version of hide-and-seek comes in. The more legal “hiding places” we can find for our money, the more we can stop the government from taking too large a cut.
However, rather than asking tax officials to close their eyes and count to 10, winning this particular game relies on having a tax-efficient financial plan. And that first means separating your finances into these three buckets:
Taxable: Income like a salary or dividends on which we immediately pay tax and that’s designed to cover our short-term liquidity needs.
Tax-deferred: Money in, say, a retirement plan or 401(k) that’s taxed when we use it and will fund us from retirement through death.
Tax-exempt: Investments such as cash value life insurance that don’t get taxed at all and can be used for everything in between, like buying a holiday home, starting a business, putting the kids through college, or supplementing our retirement funds.
The advantage of this approach is that it shows you exactly where your money currently sits and, crucially, whether you’re maximizing that all-important tax-exempt bucket. Spoiler alert: Most people find they aren’t, which means they’re giving away more of their income than they need to – be it now or in the future. So, if you’re one of them, here are four ways to start boosting your tax-exempt funds today.
The backdoor Roth
With a backdoor Roth, you contribute to a non-deductible IRA and then sweep the money from there into a tax-exempt Roth IRA. You can do this up to the annual IRA contribution limit, which is currently $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or over). Note, though, that this works best if you only have a single IRA. Otherwise, it can become very complex and cumbersome to track your cost basis across multiple IRAs in the long-term.
The mega backdoor Roth
If you’re in a position to save more than the annual IRA contribution cap, the mega backdoor Roth could be the way to go, if your plan offers it. Here, you take the non-deductible investment limit on your retirement plan — such as a 401(k) — and, if it’s more than $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re aged 50 or over), you invest it in your plan before moving it straight into your Roth IRA. That way, you benefit from a larger tax-exempt contribution. In order for this strategy to work, your 401(k) plan must allow after-tax contributions and in-service distributions of after-tax funds.
Health savings account (HSA)
In 2022 you can invest up to $3,650 as an individual to your HSA without paying tax on that contribution. As a family, you can add up to $7,300, and there’s also a $1,000 catch-up at age 50 and older. If you use the money to pay for anything that the IRS deems a qualified medical expense before the age of 65, you won’t pay tax when you spend it. Then at age 65, that limitation goes away and you’re free to spend the money on anything. All without ever being taxed on it.
Cash value life insurance
The amount you invest in a cash value life insurance policy accumulates on a tax-deferred basis, with tax only payable on any financial gains when the policy comes to an end. In the meantime, you can make unlimited contributions and, unlike with a Roth IRA, there are no financial penalties for early withdrawals. This means you can essentially borrow from yourself to pay major expenses or solve liquidity issues – something many business owners did during the 2008 financial crisis and, more recently, the pandemic. As long as the policy is in-force, you won’t pay tax on that “loan.”
There are a few other ways to invest in tax-exempt funds, including purchasing municipal bonds, which offer a powerful tax exemption. For example, if Georgia residents buy Georgia municipal bonds, they would not pay federal or state income tax on the yield. However, these also bring a credit risk, so they should be approached more cautiously than the other options, ideally following advice from a qualified financial adviser.
Whatever route you decide to take, the key is to ensure you keep on maximizing your tax-exempt bucket while balancing it with your taxable and tax-deferred funds too. That way, you can maintain a financial plan that matches your spending expectations in the short-, medium- and long-term. Time to hone those hide-and-seek skills!
This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.
Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Executive VP, Equitable Advisors
Stephen Dunbar, Executive VP of Equitable, has built a thriving financial services practice where he empowers others to make informed decisions and take charge of their future. He and his team advise on over $3B in AUM and $1.5B in protection coverage. As a National Director of DEI for Equitable, Stephen acts as a change agent for the organization, creating a culture of diversity and inclusion. He earned a bachelor’s in Finance from Rutgers and a J.D. from Stanford.
Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further
Summer is a common time for many people to change up their living situations by moving either across town or across the country. And whether you are moving for a new job, a recent graduation, or just a change of scenery, moving to a new city can help give you a fresh financial start. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your move.
Changing (lowering) your cost of living
The biggest thing to make sure that you’re aware of when moving to a new city is that your overall cost of living is going to change. This may be obvious to many people, but goods and services cost different amounts in different areas of the country and world. From very expensive places like New York and San Francisco to less expensive places like Tulsa or Boise and everywhere in between.
Before you move to a new city, make sure to understand the difference in the cost of living between your current city and your new city. There are many online calculators that can compare the cost of living between two different cities. Make sure to dig deeper than just the overall cost of living. The cost of living accounts for lots of different areas of spending like housing, food, transportation, and more. Understanding how different things might change in price from what you’re used to can help you plan a budget for your new city.
Hopefully, you are moving to an area with a lower cost of living. That’s a great opportunity to take your extra money and start saving or investing it. If you are moving to a higher-cost area, you can take the chance to really get serious about budgeting.
New friends and family
Your new city will also give you the chance to change who you interact with and how much. You may be moving closer to family, or have the chance to meet new friends. Changes in your family or friend’s situation can also impact your finances. If you are moving closer to extended family, you may have an opportunity to collaborate on child care and save some money that way.
If you’re moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone, consider how that might affect your budget and your social life. Will you be spending more money at bars, events, and other places to meet new people? Work those expenses into your new budget!
Updating your recurring subscriptions
Recurring subscriptions can be an easy way to lose your money if you’re not careful. Without tracking them with a budgeting tool like Mint, it’s easy to find yourself paying for monthly subscriptions that you don’t actually use. Moving to a new city can be a great way to update your recurring subscriptions and be proactive about which ones you want to pay for.
While some monthly subscriptions like streaming services are easy to transfer with you when you move, others won’t make as much sense. It probably isn’t a good idea to continue paying for your local gym membership if you move halfway across the country. Take the time as part of your move to really take a look at which monthly payments you are making and which are still providing value.
Budgeting for your move
A budget is one of the most important tools you have to achieve a positive financial future. Budgeting for your move is important in two different ways. We’ve talked a bit already about how to adjust your budget for your new situation, but it’s also important to make a budget for the move itself.
Without a budget, it can be easy to spend much more than you intended to on your move. Moving is always stressful, so before you notice it, you can find yourself spending hundreds or thousands of extra dollars. Make sure to do your research on moving options, and don’t forget to give yourself some grace in the budget to account for unexpected things to come up while moving.
The Bottom Line
Moving to a new city is an exciting time, and can be a great opportunity to get a fresh financial start. Make sure to compare the cost of living in your new city, and how it compares to the prices that you’re used to. Adjust your budget for your new living situation and don’t forget to budget for the move itself. One great way to update your budget is to take a look at some of your recurring monthly subscriptions and have an honest conversation with yourself and others in your household about which subscriptions are worth it for you. Following these tips can get you off to a great start in your new city and with your new life.
Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller
If you’re looking to add an animal to your apartment, consider birds as they’re great companions and affectionate pets.
When you think of getting your first pet, cats or dogs are the first species of animals that come to mind. But, have you ever considered a bird? Birds are popular pets as they’re friendly and affectionate yet they don’t take up too much space in your apartment.
Birds are great pets for apartment dwellers because they’re low maintenance while still being extremely affectionate with big personalities. Whether you want a few smaller birds or one large parrot, it’s important to discover which popular pet bird species is right for you.
Throughout this article, we’ll talk to you about all the different species and help you decide which is the friendliest pet bird species for you.
Welcome to the bird world
Are you new to pet ownership? Don’t fret. There are several bird species and they all make for wonderful pets. But before you go to the local pet store or aviary, you need to ask yourself a few questions to determine which pet is the best one for you.
Does your apartment complex allow birds?
Before bringing any type of animal into your apartment, you need to read your lease agreement and talk to your landlord about the pet policy. The first thing to find out is if your apartment allows pets, and specifically if they allow birds.
If your apartment is not pet-friendly, don’t sneak a pet into the apartment as there are serious negative consequences. Once you get the green light that your apartment is pet-friendly, then you can continue your search for the perfect pet.
Can you afford it?
As with any pet, you need to do some math to ensure that your budget can stretch to accommodate your first bird. In addition to purchasing the cage, which varies in price, you’ll need to calculate the cost of birdseed, fresh fruit and veggies, toys for mental stimulation, veterinary care, cleaning and grooming costs and additional money for unexpected costs that may arise.
Different species can cost different amounts, too. Owning a bird can add up, so make sure you can afford the care needed to take care of your little feathered creature.
How much time do you have to care for it?
While some birds are more low maintenance than others, all birds need some human attention every day to thrive. Ask yourself how much time you actually have each day to care for your new pet and give it the human interaction it deserves.
If you only have an hour each day to dedicate to your pet, consider a parakeet as they’re a low-maintenance bird. On the other hand, if you have ample amounts of time at home to care for and train your bird, you may consider a parrot species.
Do your research to understand the level of training, stimulation and care each different bird species needs to thrive.
Where is it coming from?
We don’t just mean which pet store is your bird coming from. Unfortunately, birds are illegally obtained and sold. In fact, some birds — like the African grey parrot — are on the verge of extinction from the illegal bird trade. African greys are intelligent birds that people love as pets, but they face extinction in their natural habitat due to illegal activities.
Responsible pet owners will ask the breeder where the bird came from to ensure they aren’t contributing to the illegal bird trade. Another great option is to adopt a bird from a shelter. That way, you’re saving a life and helping to give a shelter pet a friendly new home.
Is the species compatible with children and other pets?
Are you looking to add some playful birds to your house? Well, if you have children or other animals in the house, you need to make sure that your new chirpy addition is good with other animals, children or other birds.
Don’t bring a new bird into the apartment and expect it to get along well with others. Some birds are great with other species while some are better suited alone.
For example, if you have a cat, it’s probably not smart to add a bird to the mix. The cat may view it as lunch. Save yourself some tears and heartache and make sure that all family members, pets included, are compatible with your new friend.
Top 6 best pet birds
OK, so you’ve decided that you want a pet bird and want to bring one home. But, what are the best pet birds for you? Here are some different options to consider.
Blue and green
~30-year life span
The Pionus parrot is part of the parrot family and is originally found in South America. This is a great species for families to own as the species isn’t prone to attaching to a single person, as other parrots sometimes do. This intelligent one is sure to charm you as it’s relatively quiet and reserved. This pet bird does need a lot of attention, otherwise, it can get moody and demanding.
If you’re looking for a great companion for the whole family, the Pionus parrot is a good choice to consider.
Gray, white and yellow
~ 20-year life span
These little birds are some of the most popular pets for bird owners. They’re friendly, lovable and great for apartment dwellers. They love whistling and will likely serenade you throughout the day. Part of the parrot family, they do require attention and stimulation but are on the smaller side, so they won’t take up too much space in your apartment. They cost anywhere from $30 to $250 to purchase.
If you’re a new pet owner, experts recommend getting a female cockatiel as they aren’t as moody and possessive as their male counterparts. They love company so you can even consider getting two so they have each other. If you want two cockatiels, a male and a female will work well together. Keep in mind that if you only get one, they may require more attention from you. However, you’ll have the perfect companion on your shoulder.
~30+ year life span
Native to central South America, the hyacinth macaws are the larger cousins to something like the Pionus parrot. These beautiful birds are spectacular and full of personality. They love to play and be seen. The hyacinth macaw definitely needs attention from its pet owner.
The hyacinth macaw can live for at least 30 years or more and cost anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000 to purchase. They need a large cage that’s at least six feet, as they’re the largest parrot in the world.
If you’re experienced with birds and can give these gentle giants the proper care, then they do make great pets. But, if you’re looking for a friendly pet to start off with, this is not the right creature for you.
Blue, red and green
30+ year life span
When you think of a parrot, you probably imagine a rainbow-colored animal that can talk like and mimic humans. The scarlet macaw is that large, glorious, rainbow-colored bird. While they can talk, they don’t mimic the voice and tone (that’s the African grey!) of their owner.
Scarlet macaws are fun birds as they’re friendly, affectionate and intelligent. However, they’re not low maintenance and require a lot of time and human attention. The scarlet macaw will form strong bonds with you if it lives alone, just like it would bond with others if it were in the wild. If you’re looking for a long-term companion, consider this creature.
Small or medium
~20-year life span
This smaller species is a popular pet for families. They’re friendly birds that are affectionate and will dole out sweet gestures, like cuddling, when properly tamed. The green-cheeked conure will chatter but they’re good for apartment dwellers as they aren’t too noisy. These small birds cost anywhere from $150 t0 $300.
The green-cheeked conure is a playful, energetic and cuddly creature. While they demand attention, they just want love and if they live in positive environments, they’ll become your feathered best friend.
Medium to large
40+ year life span
Like most parrots, the Amazon parrot requires attention, proper mental stimulation and care. These mischievous birds like attention but are a great family pet. If you have the time to commit to it, the Amazon parrot is a friendly pet bird species to consider. You can teach it basic things and bond with this gorgeous creature.
What’s the easiest bird to have as a pet?
One of the easiest birds to have as a pet is the budgie, also known as a parakeet. These cute creatures are friendly pet bird species who love attention, food and play. If you’re looking for a new pet that’s easy but will give you love, cuddles and companionship, the bird world often recommends starting with a budgie.
Budgies want human interaction and don’t do well completely isolated. While they’re pretty low maintenance, they still want to interact with their humans and will be extremely affectionate with pet owners who show them love.
If you’re looking for an easy pet bird, consider the budgie or parakeet.
The best bird to have as a pet
What’s the best bird to have in your apartment? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. Birds, in general, need attention, proper care and love from their owners. If you want a low-maintenance pet, then a parakeet is the best pet bird for you. If you want a lifelong companion you can train, then the African grey is a great option.
We can’t tell you the best bird as that depends on you and your lifestyle. But, we can walk you through all of the basic pros and cons to help you determine the best one for you.
Here are some of the common pros and cons bird owners share. Consider these when determining which feathered creature to take home.
Pros of having a feathered friend
Animals bring joy and birds are no exception. These are some of the best benefits of having a feathered friend in your apartment.
They can learn basic commands
Talking parrots aren’t just found on pirate ships. If you take the time to train your bird, you can teach it easy commands and different words and it’ll talk to you! This is one of the most fun and memorable aspects of owning a bird. We’d like to see a talking Golden Retriever!
They’re affectionate pets
You might think that only cats or dogs cuddle with their human, but you’d be wrong. Birds are affectionate creatures who will cuddle you if you love them. Let them perch on your shoulder or arm and you’ll have a featured friend who loves you just as much as you love them.
They’re extremely sweet
All birds have personalities and most are very sweet. Birds want love and attention, but in return, they’ll love you back. Some will charm you with little chirps while others will speak to you. They’re popular pets because of how sweet they are.
Cons of having a feathered friend
As with any pet, there are parts of pet parenting that aren’t so glamorous. Here are some cons to know.
They’re incredibly noisy
We all know that birds tweet, but some are very loud, especially when ignored. If you live in a small apartment space next to other neighbors, your bird’s continual chirping may not appeal to everyone.
While some smaller birds cost $50 to purchase, their larger cousins can cost upwards of $12,000. And that’s just for the bird itself! That doesn’t factor in food, toys, vet bills, training and other pet-related costs. Birds are expensive to purchase and maintain, compared to other pets.
They require proper care and space
You don’t just buy a bird and call it good. Birds need the right cage with enough room to spread their wings, the right space and the right care. If you can’t commit to the proper training and attention needed, which is hours a day, then this is not the right animal for you.
Becoming a pet bird owner
Are you sold that these extremely sweet, feathered creatures are right for you? Make sure you’ve done your research, checked your budget and found the bird that you can grow to love and form strong bonds with. We know they won’t disappoint with their sweet and affectionate cuddles and beautiful birdsongs.
Follow these 13 actionable tips to stretch your money!
Whether you own or rent, there’s no doubt your budget has been feeling the effects of recent inflation. And while you’re powerless to improve the current economic changes, that doesn’t mean you can’t take action to combat higher prices. High inflation decreases your purchasing power, forcing you to spend more and get less in return. As a result, higher prices make it difficult to save money and reach your financial goals. Perhaps you’re not ready to take drastic measures like moving to a smaller apartment or taking public transportation. Instead, start with minor changes that will stretch your money so you get more bang for your buck.
1. Set financial goals
Goal setting is an important — yet often overlooked — step when trying to make progress with your finances. Don’t worry if it feels premature based on your current affairs. Setting goals and executing a plan to achieve them is powerful.
Keeping a specific goal in mind makes you more intentional with your working, saving and spending. In addition, focusing on your financial goals will give you the necessary clarity to make sound money decisions and the motivation to push forward.
2. Live on a budget
Getting good at making your money go further requires a certain level of financial awareness. Once your paycheck hits your bank account, do you have a plan for how you’ll spend your money, or do you go with the flow?
Having a plan is crucial, and a budget is a spending plan. The act of creating a budget is simply making a plan for how you’ll spend your money. Learning to live on a budget means you consistently create a spending plan and take steps to stick to that plan throughout the budget period.
Budgeting is a marathon
The first step to successful budgeting is to expect a learning curve. Becoming a budgeting master is a valuable skill that takes time to develop. So, commit to pushing through the tough months even when it feels like you’re doing it all wrong.
Budget your way
A quick Google search on “how to budget” will display many budgeting types and options — don’t get overwhelmed. As your budgeting prowess grows, you’ll begin to learn what methods do and do not work for you.
Approach budgeting as one-size-fits-some rather than one-size-fits-all. There are many different ways to budget. And, when used consistently, each of them will move you closer to reaching your goals. You may realize you prefer to manage your money with digital tools or use a budget binder to organize a more traditional paper budget.
Humans have a pesky habit of overcomplicating things, but budgeting doesn’t require anything elaborate or complicated. If you’ve tried percentage-based budgeting and it was an epic fail, there are simpler options to help you stretch your money further.
We’ve discovered that many folks gain more control over their finances when they manage their money using a zero-based (or zero-sum) budget.
In its simplest form, a zero-based budget looks like INCOME – EXPENSES = 0.
Assign every dollar of your income to carry out a specific financial “job.” Each dollar must serve a purpose, and it’s up to you to decide whether that purpose — spend, save, invest or give. Once you’ve given each of your dollars their assignments and your total income minus your total expenses equals zero, you have implemented a proper zero-based budget.
3. Track your spending
If you often wonder where your money went, it’s time to track your spending. While you may have a general idea of where your money goes each month, how clear are you on the specifics? For example, do you know how much money you actually spent on groceries, fuel and dining out last month?
Get clear on exactly how much you’re spending in each budget category. Having a better grasp on your spending is especially important when deciding how much rent or car payment you can afford each month.
Grab your phone or a notebook and add an entry each time you spend money. Exclude fixed expenses as you’ll be tracking those in your actual budget. Instead, focus on logging your Target trips, grocery runs and coffee pitstops.
Track your spending for a solid month, if possible. If you can’t swing a month, aim for at least two full weeks. At the end of your tracking period, enter your spending data on a spreadsheet or grab a few highlighters to color-code your spending.
Total each category to see exactly how much you’ve spent and compare it to your budget. The information you’ll gather from this exercise is invaluable and helpful when you want to stretch your money in a more balanced way. Your total spend numbers will point to where most of your spending is.
Your spending should reflect your values and priorities. If you discover this is not the case for you, what adjustments you need to make will be clear.
4. Avoid overspending
Overspending can creep up on you. What may feel like $10 swipes of your card a few times a week can quickly amount to high credit card balances or going over budget.
Consider these simple changes to reduce overall spending:
Order groceries online to avoid impulse purchases
Reduce online shopping frequency (e.g., order from Amazon only once per month)
Keep a running “wishlist” of items you want or need. When you come across a great deal, check your list — if the thing is on your list, buy it. If it’s not, move on.
Unsubscribe from retail emails that tempt you to spend
Add a personal spending category to your budget. Allocating a specific amount of money to spend in any way you see fit, guilt-free.
It’s not about money
Overspending is often misleading. The reality is overspending is rarely about the actual spending and is almost always caused by an emotional trigger. Therefore, the key to curbing overspending is identifying your trigger(s) and avoiding it (them).
Think back to the last time you felt shame or guilt for overspending. Then, go deeper to understand the underlying emotion that drove your spending? Were you tired? Did you have a bad day at work? Did you fight with your partner?
Retail therapy may feel helpful because we get a boost of adrenaline when we spend. However, you only perpetuate the problem when you avoid dealing with the emotions driving your spending habits. Instead, pay attention to exactly how you’re feeling the next time you experience the urge to spend money.
Once you’ve identified your spending triggers, create a plan to avoid them and break your pattern of overspending.
5. Negotiate your bills
A great way to stretch your dollar is to negotiate your bills each year. You’ll be shocked by how many of your service providers are willing to lower your rates with a simple request.
Review your monthly expenses and make a list of providers to contact. You can call the company or use their live chat feature if they have one. Explain to the representative that you want to reduce your monthly payment and inquire about their best deal. Expect a few “nos” and many a “yes,” especially if you’re kind and polite when requesting a discount.
This strategy is perfect for saving money on your:
Cell phone bill
Car insurance bill
Credit card and bank fees
Other insurance premiums
Regarding medical expenses, your best bet is to contact the billing department and offer to pay them a percentage of the total balance. Often, the provider is willing to accept a fraction of the amount owed to settle the account.
6. Pay off debt
Debt payments, especially those with high-interest rates, can eat up your income quickly. Creating a debt payoff plan will give you a road map to paying off your debt and keeping the money you previously sent to your debtors each month.
In addition, if you have a good payment history, contact your credit card servicers and request a lower interest rate. Refinancing is also an excellent option for securing a lower mortgage payment or reducing your minimum payment on personal loans or federal student loans.
Avoid future debt
As you work to get out of debt, it’s good practice to avoid taking on future debts. Trading old debt for new debt is counterproductive and will keep you stuck in a perpetual debt cycle.
7. Plan ahead
Planning into the next quarter, or even an entire year, can help you maximize your savings. In addition, saving a full three to six months of living expenses as an emergency fund will prepare you for any emergencies you experience.
Maintaining an emergency fund will protect your finances against increased expenses in the future, possible sickness, accidents or loss of income.
Forecast your upcoming expenses for the next 6-12 months and determine which you can begin saving for now. Items, such as Christmas gifts, birthdays, tuition, vacations, annual bills, etc., are all expenses you can save for, using sinking funds.
Save a small amount each month (or paycheck) until you save enough money to cover the expenses in full. Keep your sinking funds in a separate savings account to avoid accidental spending.
8. Try a savings challenge to stretch your money
Challenges and competitions are very motivating. And when otherwise unpleasant activities feel like a game, even adults can find enjoyment. Get started with a simple challenge, such as saving each five-dollar bill you receive or tossing your loose change into a jar for a predetermined time.
Are you competitive by nature? Ask some close friends or family members to join you. You’ll all benefit from holding each other accountable and boosting the competition factor.
9. Plan your meals
More than any other suggestion on this list, meal planning has the potential to stretch your money further. You’ve likely noticed your grocery bill increasing month after month. Plan out your meals and use that plan to create a shopping list.
Making a mental note of meals you’re hungry for while grocery shopping does not constitute meal planning. More often than not, heading to the grocery store without an intentional plan will cause you to go over budget.
Food waste accounts for 30-40 percent of the food supply in the United States (as of 2021). Shopping for groceries without planning often leads to a fridge full of unused fresh fruit and produce at the end of the week. If your food budget is $1,000 per month, that means $300-$400 of that budget will probably be wasted, if you’re not planning.
10. Stretch your money by ditching your cable
One of the easiest ways to maximize your money is to cancel your cable service. Today, 56 percent of U.S. homes no longer rely on cable or satellite boxes for content.
We’re fortunate to have the unique opportunity to stop paying for dozens of channels we don’t watch and customize our viewing experience. In addition, the number of available streaming services has exploded in recent years, with live sports and bundles finally being an option without cable packages.
Have an attachment to traditional cable and refuse to go without it? Keep your subscription but use tip No. 5 to negotiate a better deal.
11. Get a programmable thermostat
Unfortunately, energy costs are on the rise, too. Depending on your location, you’ll experience increased costs throughout the summer months (even if you’re trying to stretch your money). However, an Energy Star Certified programmable thermostat can cut your utility costs by up to 8 percent per year (around $50/year).
Not only will a programmable thermostat save you money but buying a “smart” model that works with Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home systems will also offer the convenience of allowing you to control the temperature with your voice.
Double your savings
Some programmable thermostats can cost upwards of $200, but more affordable options are available. In addition, many natural gas and electricity providers offer rebates for switching to a programmable thermostat.
In some instances, the rebate amount may even exceed the thermostat price. Contact your providers before purchasing your thermostat to determine which models qualify for rebates in your area.
12. Use an app
Looking for more convenient ways to stretch your money? There’s an app for that! Using mobile apps to save money or earn cashback on purchases are easy ways to combat higher prices.
Apps are available to save money on groceries, household items and even fuel. Other apps offer cashback when shopping online and in-store with your favorite retailers. There are even apps that will reward you for exercising.
Keep in mind that using cashback apps won’t make you rich. But using them consistently will help you save money on your everyday purchases, plus earn cashback rewards you can redeem for gift cards or cash.
13. Get a side hustle
There’s no doubt that cutting costs and saving money is a solid strategy to help stretch your money. But, focusing on increasing your income at the same time will boost your finances into overdrive. Plus, finding new, creative ways to earn small amounts of money in your free time will diversify your income and put you on the fast track to reaching your financial goals.
Monetize your passion
Here’s the good news: we live in an era where you can make money in countless unique, exciting ways. You no longer have to work overtime at a job you hate to make your rent payments each month.
People are turning their passions into full-time incomes from side hustles, such as pet-sitting, baking and even posting on social media. Brainstorm a list of your favorite hobbies and different ideas to monetize them.
The bottom line
Rest assured, if you’re feeling increased financial pressure, you’re not alone. Understand that maintaining financial stability in these uncertain economic times is still possible. Lowering your expenses and making a margin in your budget will allow you to spend your money on the things that matter most.
Adoption is a life-changing journey. Whether the choice to adopt comes after years of expensive infertility treatments or is a route you’ve always wanted to take, the choice to welcome a new family member is rarely a financial one, but rather a decision of the heart.
But at some point, prospective adoptive parents have to consider the costs. It’s unlikely your decision to adopt will boil down to numbers. But it helps to know what to expect.
The figures can vary depending on your adoption journey, from almost nothing to upward of $70,000. But you can use them as a baseline to help you financially prepare for starting a family and to make an informed decision about which type of adoption makes the most sense for you.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?
There are three basic types of adoption: domestic infant adoption (sometimes called private adoption), international adoption, and public adoption.
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But if you’re looking to adopt a baby, private and international adoption are the only two real options. Because of the way the foster care system operates, it’s exceedingly rare to be able to adopt an infant through public adoption. Their primary goal is reunifying families whenever possible, which can take years.
But regardless of your adopted child’s age, some costs are common to all three, such as the expense of a home study, which involves visits by a social worker and background and financial checks. Other costs are unique to the adoption route you choose, such as the travel expenses involved with international adoption.
And the costs vary wildly, so it’s crucial you understand the ins and outs of each adoption type.
Domestic Infant Adoption
When adopting a baby in the United States, you have two options: adopting through an agency or independent adoption.
Costs of Adopting an Infant Through an Agency: $25,000 – $70,000
Adopting through an agency is more expensive, but there’s also a higher success rate. Also, some agencies offer a sliding scale for those who need help affording adoption, which can potentially save you a few thousand dollars, depending on your income. However, each state has its own laws that regulate adoption fees, including sliding scale fee structures.
Average Costs of Domestic Agency Adoption
$15,000 – $45,000
$2,500 – $6,000
Birth Mother Expenses
$4,000 – $16,250
Home Study Fee
Adoption agencies are typically full-service operations. Thus, their fees generally include everything involved in the adoption process, which can be complex. The journey to bring a child home involves many parties, including attorneys, social workers, physicians, counselors, government administrators, and adoption specialists.
There are also costs associated with matching birth parents and adoptive parents. For example, there are advertising expenses to find expectant mothers. And then there are medical expenses and court costs to ensure the health of the mother and child during pregnancy as well as the safety and security of the child after placement.
When you adopt through an agency, it typically completes the entire process from beginning to end, hence the expense.
Adoption agencies that charge more include more services. For example, if you find an agency with fees at the lower end, it’s likely because their fee doesn’t include the costs of hiring an attorney, unlimited advertising for birth parents, certain birth mother expenses, or adoption disruption insurance (a guarantee you won’t lose your money if the birth mother changes her mind).
So always ask for a written, line-by-line breakdown of the agency’s costs to see what services its rate covers before signing with it.
Costs of an Independent Adoption With an Attorney Only: $10,000 – $40,000
If agency adoption is too expensive but you’d still like to adopt a newborn, you can save a lot of money by hiring an attorney to facilitate an independent adoption. Independent adoption happens when prospective parents locate a birth parent on their own and use an attorney to process the necessary paperwork.
Average Costs of Independent (Attorney) Adoption
$3,000 – $6,000
$0 – $1,000
Birth Mother Expenses
$6,000 – $30,000
Home Study Fee
$1,000 – $4,000
The cost of an independent adoption can range from $10,000 to $40,000, though it could go higher based on your circumstances. The final bill depends on how much you need to spend to find an expectant mother and how much you pay for medical and living expenses, which may be regulated by state law.
Further, adopting independently is a bit like trying to sell a house without a realtor. You must find a birth mom on your own, which means advertising for and vetting birth moms without help.
So, while it can be cheaper, you still have to go it alone. And if you have trouble finding a birth mother, your costs can quickly add up. Agencies give a flat rate no matter how much advertising it takes. If you have trouble finding someone, you could quickly blow past the $40,000 mark.
Another reason independent adoption costs can vary more widely than those through a private agency is because in most states, adoptive parents won’t have their costs reimbursed if a birth mother changes her mind, what’s commonly called a disrupted adoption. Most adoption agencies build disruption insurance into their fee structures.
International Adoption: $26,500 – $73,000
Those unfamiliar with the adoption process often believe it’s less expensive to adopt a child from another country. But the reverse is more often true.
Average Costs of International Adoption
$15,000 – $30,000
$500 – $6,000
Immigration Application Fee
$1,000 – $2,000
Dossier Preparation and Clearance
$1,000 – 2,000
Home Study Fee
$1,000 – $4,000
In-Country Adoption Expenses
$2,000 – $10,000
$5,000 – $15,000
Child’s Passport, Visa, Medical Exam
$1,000 – $4,000
The cost of an international adoption can range from just over $20,000 to more than $70,000. The wide variance is due to the different requirements of each country.
International adoption (also called intercountry adoption) has some similarities to domestic adoption. But it has its own unique steps and expenses that can quickly escalate beyond the cost of domestic adoption.
The costs of international adoptions can include immigration processing and court costs (both in the foreign country and the U.S.), travel expenses, foreign and domestic legal fees, foreign agency fees, passport and visa fees, medical examinations, and in-country adoptions expenses (such as foster care for the child, donations to the orphanage, and payments for the in-country adoption liaisons).
The costs also depend on whether a government or private agency, orphanage, nonprofit organization, attorney, or a combination of entities is managing the adoption.
Additionally, some international adoptions are finalized in the child’s country of origin, while others must be finalized in the U.S., depending on the laws of your state, further adding to the total cost. And depending on the country’s regulations, you may have to plan an extended stay, which means time off work and (potentially) lost wages.
Public Adoption: $0 – $2,500
The least expensive route to growing your family is unquestionably public adoption, or adopting through the foster care system. It’s very difficult to adopt a baby, though. So this option is best for those who wish to adopt an older child.
Public adoption costs next to nothing because the government subsidizes many associated fees and expenses.
Average Costs of Public Adoption
$0 – $2,000
Home Study Fee
$0 – $500
Federal and state financial adoption assistance programs exist to encourage the adoption of children with special needs that make them difficult to place, such as older children, sibling groups, or those with physical or mental disabilities.
Thus, most prospective parents who are adopting through public agencies will find their state is often willing to waive most or all of the fees associated with adopting through the foster care system, including both the home study fee and attorney fees.
Additionally, if you become a foster parent and apply to foster-to-adopt, the government subsidizes some of your future adopted child’s living expenses while you await finalization.
But if you have your heart set on adopting a newborn, foster care adoption isn’t the route for you. It’s nearly impossible to adopt an infant that way.
Some babies in the foster care system were abandoned by their biological parents or taken by the state due to abuse, neglect, or drug addiction. But no child in the system — infant or otherwise — is immediately available for adoption.
The state’s No. 1 priority is to reunite children with their biological families. That includes extensive sessions with counselors and social workers. If that effort ultimately proves unsuccessful, the state next tries to place the child with a biological relative.
Only after these efforts — which could take several years — are children placed for adoption. Thus, by the time babies in foster care become eligible for adoption, they’re no longer babies. But if they were placed with a foster family, that family gets the first chance at adoption. However, if you’re interested in adopting an older child and are prepared to help them work through the trauma, the rewards can be immense. My parents adopted my little brother from foster care at the age of 6, and his presence has enriched our family in myriad ways.
Factors That Influence Adoption Costs
Every adoption is unique, and though adoption agencies typically try to work within your budget, unforeseen costs can occasionally raise the base projected cost. And that can have a significant impact on your overall family budget.
Birth Mother Expenses
Depending on your state’s adoption laws, a birth mother may be eligible for coverage of certain expenses. You may have to pay medical expenses related to the pregnancy, including insurance coverage if she’s not already covered or eligible for Medicaid.
If you work with an agency, they should take care of helping her find coverage. But you may still be responsible for some medical expenses, such as doctor copays. Once you’re matched with a birth mother, her medical expenses become your medical expenses.
Adoption agencies typically work these into their overall fee structure but allow for variances that could affect your cost. For example, you may pay more or less depending on what stage of pregnancy the mother’s in when the agency matches you. If you’re matched in the ninth month, there will be fewer expenses.
And if you’re adopting independently, some or all of the medical costs the birth mother incurs as a result of the pregnancy may be your responsibility as defined by the laws of your state. Consult with an adoption lawyer for more information.
Additionally, in some states, you may need to cover other birth mother expenses. Birth mother expenses are court-approved funds adoptive families provide to help prospective birth mothers with pregnancy-related expenses. In addition to medical care, costs could include living expenses like maternity clothing, groceries, rent, and transportation.
Some states that allow birth mothers to request living expenses cap the total amount. For example, Ohio caps the amount birth mothers can be reimbursed for living expenses at $3,000 and Connecticut at $1,500. Other states have no cap but permit a judge to set one on an individual basis.
Thus, these expenses can vary widely from one adoption to another.
The longer you have to wait for a birth mother match, the more money an agency must pay toward advertising to find you one. Ask the adoption agency how they deal with this variable cost. Some charge one flat fee regardless of the amount of advertising required; others set a variable cost.
And if you’re doing an independent adoption, you’ll be covering this expense on your own. If you don’t already know a birth mother to adopt from, you’ll need to find one. That means drawing on your personal connections, using social networks or community organizations, utilizing adoptive family websites, posting print ads, or seeking referrals from adoption attorneys.
It could take a long time to find a birth mother if you don’t have extensive networking options. And that can substantially drive up your adoption costs. Depending on how long it takes you to find someone, fees for print and online advertising can range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
Lawyers are necessary for dealing with the legal aspects of any adoption. These include the original consent to adoption and termination of parental rights as well as the court proceedings to finalize the arrangement.
However, the fees can vary considerably based on the type of adoption you opt for. Attorney fees can also vary depending on other factors, including:
The Complexity of the Case. Will they need to represent you multiple times in court? All adoptions must eventually be finalized before a judge. But some adoptions — such as international adoptions or those in which birth mother expenses must be court-ordered — could require more paperwork or court appearances than others.
The Number of Hours the Attorney Works on the Case. Lawyers charge by the hour. Even if you don’t have to appear in court more than once, adoption can involve a lot of paperwork.
The Number of Additional Attorneys or Support Staff Needed. Depending on the complexity of your case or who you hire, you may be represented by a law firm rather than a single attorney. Additionally, your lawyer may use a support team to fulfill basic tasks like clerical work.
Depending on your case, rates are often negotiable. And while attorneys often charge by the hour, many offer a flat fee for certain types of cases.
For example, a family law attorney might charge a flat fee for a straightforward adoption case that requires a simple filing of paperwork and one court appearance. But they might charge by the hour for a more complex case, such as an international adoption.
Regardless, most lawyers offer payment options so clients can find an arrangement that works for their budget. And all lawyers have fee agreements informing clients of costs upfront. So ensure you thoroughly read the agreement beforehand.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., paid parental leave isn’t guaranteed by law, and many workplaces don’t have this benefit. Even when they do, it may not apply to adoptive parents. So check with your human resources department about whether your workplace offers adoption benefits.
Whether your employer offers paid time off, all adoptive parents are entitled to up to 12 weeks (three months) of leave through the Family Medical Leave Act. The act equally guarantees maternity and paternity leave for biological and adoptive parents.
But it only guarantees your job and health insurance. It doesn’t guarantee paid time off. If your company doesn’t provide paid parental leave, you need to plan for lost wages.
The costs of adoption may feel formidable, especially if you have your heart set on adopting an infant through domestic or international adoption. But they don’t have to be insurmountable.
Many resources are available to help families afford to adopt, including options for post-placement reimbursement, like the adoption tax credit. Talk with adoption professionals to explore your options before completely ruling it out.
Also, talk with other families who’ve adopted. Many are happy to share stories of how they were able to afford adoption, especially if it helps others fulfill their dreams of a family.
GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.
Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.
From the dress to the cake to the reception venue, wedding planning can pull you in dozens of different directions. It can also pull on your purse strings until they’re ready to snap.
According to wedding publisher The Knot, American couples spent an average of $28.000 on their wedding ceremony and reception in 2021 — back up to pre-pandemic spending levels. And that figure doesn’t even include the engagement ring or honeymoon!
Before you have a mini heart attack, keep in mind that the average isn’t the rule. There are many genius ways to save money on your wedding and still have a fabulous celebration.
But before you start browsing tulip arrangements, you need to have an idea of what you can afford overall.
To keep a handle on your spending and strategically tackle all the costs you’ll face, here’s the first item on your wedding to-do list: Set a budget for the big day.
What to Consider When Framing Your Wedding Budget
Fresh off the high of the proposal, you and your future spouse need to come together to answer some vital questions.
What’s most important to you in regards to your wedding?
How long do you want to wait to get married?
How will you be paying for the wedding?
What Matters Most?
Like choosing a college or buying a house, the decisions you make when planning a wedding aren’t based on cost alone. There is a lot of sentimental decision-making involved.
You’ll want to be able to reflect fondly on your wedding for decades to come. You may already have strong opinions about what you want your big day to look like. Sit down with your fiance to come up with the top three priorities for your wedding.
Is it important to have your ceremony in the church your parents got married in — even if that place is 2,000 miles from where you live? Do you want a band to play all the songs that hold special meaning in your relationship? Is it vital to serve foods that represent both of your cultures?
Establishing what’s worth splurging on will help you create a budget reflective of what you really want your wedding to be like, rather than following a template of what the typical couple spends.
What’s Your Timeline?
The period between saying “yes” and saying “I do” can have a big effect on what you’re able to afford. An 18-month engagement gives you time to save up for a more extravagant affair while you might have to make sacrifices if you have only six months to plan.
According to Brides magazine, the average engagement lasts between 12 and 18 months..
When figuring out when you want to get married, know that the time of year can affect costs too. Wedding season typically lasts from late spring to early fall. You may find vendors are cheaper in off-season months.
You’ll also want to beware of planning a wedding close to holidays when venues may be booked and caterers may be busy. A wedding on New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day may seem fun or romantic, but you’ll likely pay a premium for those special dates.
Before you start planning, an important factor to figure out is how you — or someone else — will be paying for your wedding.
Your parents or other close relatives may want to chip in to cover wedding costs, but don’t assume — or expect — they will. Have a direct conversation with your family about the financials. If your folks are contributing, make sure you understand whether they’re providing a set amount or if they plan to cover a certain expense — like the wedding gown or the booze for the reception.
If family is contributing financially, make sure you understand their expectations, like inviting a ton of extended relatives or having the wedding in your hometown.
After determining what family will cover, you and your fiance need to hatch out a plan for everything else. Figure out how much existing savings you can throw toward the wedding without eating into vital emergency funds. Determine how much you can realistically put aside every month leading up to the big day.
Take a look at your existing budget — or budgets, if you manage money separately — and figure out where there’s room to cut expenses. (Use this post on how to save money fast as a starting point.)
In addition, start brainstorming ways you can make a little extra cash to plump up your savings. (This post on quick ways to make money has some neat ideas.)
Open a separate savings account to serve as a sinking fund so your wedding savings don’t get spent on everyday expenses.
Your savings, plus any family contributions, will make up your wedding budget total. If what you expect to have saved falls short of what you expect to spend (which we’ll discuss next), you have three choices:
Plan a less expensive wedding.
Push back the wedding date to allow more time to save up.
Borrow money for your big day.
You probably won’t come across a financial expert who would recommend taking out a personal loan for a wedding. However, if this is the route you’re taking, look into opening a credit card with a zero interest introductory period. And — this is important — plan to pay it off before that period is over.
Creating a Budget for Your Big Day
Once you’ve made the important decisions about what you want, when you’ll get hitched and how you’ll afford the wedding, it’s time to lay out a budget.
You can do this on a spreadsheet you make yourself or one available online or through an app — such as WeddingWire’s wedding budget tracker or The Knot’s wedding budget planner.
Your budget should include sections for estimated costs, quotes from vendors and the prices you actually pay. Make note of when initial deposits are made and when final payments are due.
Average 2021 Wedding Costs
Information from The Knot indicates how much vendors charged on average in 2021 for their services. These figures will give you an idea of what you’ll spend in various budget categories:
Wedding dress: $1,800
Groom’s attire: $270
Makeup artist: $115
Reception venue: $10,700
Catering: $75 per person
Rehearsal Dinner: $2,300
Wedding cake: $500
Reception band: $4,300
Reception DJ: $1,400
Wedding favors: $450
Engagement ring: $6,000
Wedding planner: $1,700
And that’s not all — you’ll also need to budget for the following:
Bride’s and groom’s wedding bands
You’ll also need to add the cost of the marriage license, which ranges depending on location but generally costs less than $100.
Now think about extras. Do you want to hire an instructor to choreograph your first dance? Do you want sparklers at your send-off? Are you getting special gifts for your bridal party? You’ll need to budget for those.
There’s also all the incidental costs. Do you need to purchase a liquor license to serve alcohol at a nontraditional venue? Did you factor in the cost of stamps for your wedding invitations? Make sure you don’t forget tipping and taxes.
Budgeting for Your Wedding Your Way
What you actually spend may vary drastically depending on where you live, when you’re getting married, the size and style of your wedding and other factors.
Since you’re a Penny Hoarder, we know you can throw a fantastic wedding for much less than $28K. (Take notes from how these couples did it.)
Contact vendors to get quotes on prices. Sites like WeddingWire, The Knot and Thumbtack can help you find florists, photographers and the rest. Get recommendations from recently married couples in your social circle or chat with brides and grooms from online forums.
Get quotes from multiple vendors. You might be able to get them to match a competitor’s price. And be sure to go over contracts in detail so you know what is and isn’t included.
It’s important to include some cushion in your budget to cover miscellaneous expenses that will pop up. Having a 5-to-10% cushion can help you avoid going over budget, so you can start off your marriage on a financially responsible note.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average cost of a wedding?
The average couple spent about $28,000 on a wedding in 2021, according to The Knot’s annual wedding study, which surveyed more than 15,000 American couples.
What are the most expensive wedding costs?
The reception venue and catering tend to be the most expensive wedding costs. The average cost for a reception venue in 2021 was $10,700 and the average cost for catering was $75 per person.
How much does it cost to get married without a traditional ceremony or reception
The cost of a wedding license is typically under $100. You also may need to pay for an officiant, which can cost less than $300.
How long is the average engagement?
The average engagement typically lasts between 12 and 18 months, according to Brides magazine. Of course, the longer your engagement, the longer you have to save money for the wedding.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Parent PLUS loan forgiveness provides financial relief to parents who borrowed money to cover the cost of their children’s college or career school. It isn’t always a quick fix, but there are certain federal and private programs that might offer the financial assistance needed to help them get on track.
To receive federal relief for Parent PLUS loans, parent borrowers have a few options.
They can consolidate the loan in order to enroll in an Income-Contingent Repayment plan after 25 years, pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness after 10 years, or choose from a number of private student loan assistance programs or refinancing options.
Keep reading to learn more about what the available student loan forgiveness possibilities are for Parent PLUS loans.
Will Parent Plus Loans Be Included in Student Loan Forgiveness?
Parent PLUS loans are eligible for several of the same student loan forgiveness programs as federal student loans for students, including:
• Borrower Defense Loan Discharge
• Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge
• Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
That said, Parent PLUS loans generally have fewer repayment options in the first place and the eligibility requirements for these forgiveness programs can be strict and may require borrowers to consolidate their PLUS loan, such as with PSLF. This can make it tricky for borrowers to navigate how to use these federal relief programs to their advantage.
Refinancing is another option for Parent PLUS loan borrowers — applying for a new private student loan with an, ideally, lower interest rate. That said, some lenders offer less flexibility for repayment and the fine print can be lengthy, so there’s an inherent risk associated with refinancing Parent PLUS loans. It’s also worth noting that refinancing a PLUS loan will eliminate it from any federal repayment plans or forgiveness options.
Recommended: What Is a Parent PLUS Loan?
Parent Student Loan Forgiveness Program
When it comes to student loan forgiveness, the programs aren’t just available for the students. Parents who are on the hook for student loan debt can also qualify for student loan forgiveness.
As previously mentioned, a Parent PLUS loan may be eligible for Parent Student Loan Forgiveness through two specific federal programs:
• Income-Contingent Repayment
• The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program
There are also a few private student loan forgiveness options, which we’ll get into below.
Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
An Income-Contingent Repayment plan, or ICR plan, is the only income-driven repayment plan that’s available for Parent PLUS borrowers. In order to qualify, parent borrowers must first consolidate their loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, then repay that loan under the ICR plan.
• A Parent PLUS loan that’s included in a Direct Consolidation Loan could be eligible for Income-Contingent Repayment, but only if the borrower entered their repayment period on or after July 1, 2006.
• A Parent PLUS loan that’s included in the Federal Direct Loan Program or the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) is also eligible for ICR if it’s included in the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan.
ICR determines a borrower’s monthly payment based on 20% of their discretionary income or the amount by which their AGI exceeds 100% of the poverty line. After a 25-year repayment term, or 300 payments, the remaining loan balance will be forgiven.
Typically, the IRS considers canceled debt a form of taxable income, but the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 made all student loan forgiveness tax-free through 2025.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Borrowers with Parent PLUS loans may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, but in order to pursue that option must first consolidate the Parent PLUS loan into a Direct Consolidation Loan.
Then, after they’ve made 120 qualifying payments (ten year’s worth), borrowers become eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The parent borrower (not the student) must be employed full-time in a qualifying public service job. PSLF also has strict requirements such as certifying employment so it’s important to follow instructions closely if pursuing this option.
The Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) is another option for Parent PLUS borrowers if some or all of their 120 qualifying payments were made under either a graduated repayment plan or an extended repayment plan. The catch here is that the last year of their payments must have been at least as much as they would if they had paid under an ICR plan.
Refinance Parent Plus Loans
Refinancing a Parent PLUS loan is another option that could provide some financial relief.
For borrowers who don’t qualify for any of the loan forgiveness options above, it may be possible to lower their monthly payments by refinancing Parent PLUS student loans with a private lender.
In doing so, you’ll lose the government benefits associated with your federal loans, as briefly mentioned above, such as:
• Student loan forgiveness
• Forbearance options or options to defer your student loans
• Choice of repayment options
Refinancing a Parent PLUS loan into the dependent’s name is another option, which some borrowers opt for once their child has graduated and started working. Not all loan servicers are willing to offer this type of refinancing option, though.
Transfer Parent Plus Student Loan to Student
Transferring Parent PLUS loans to a student can be complicated. There isn’t a federal loan program available that will conduct this exchange, and, as mentioned above, some private lenders won’t offer this option.
That said, some private lenders, like SoFi, allow dependents to take out a refinanced student loan and use it to pay off the PLUS loan of their parent.
Alternatives to Student Loan Forgiveness Parent Plus
When it comes to Parent PLUS loans, there are a few ways to get out of student loan debt legally, including the scenarios outlined below.
Student Loan Forgiveness Death of Parent
Federal student loans qualify for loan discharge when the borrower passes away. In the case of Parent PLUS loans, they are also discharged if the student who received the borrowed funds passes away.
In order to qualify for federal loan discharge due to death, borrowers must provide a copy of a death certificate to either the U.S. Department of Education or the loan servicer.
Recommended: Can Student Loans Be Discharged?
State Parent PLUS Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Many individual states offer some sort of student loan repayment assistance or student loan forgiveness programs for Parent PLUS loan borrowers.
For an overview of options available in different states, you can take a look at The College Investor’s State-by-State Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness . For information on student loan and aid available take a look at the SoFi guide on state-by-state student aid available for borrowers.
In the event of the borrower becoming totally and permanently disabled, a Parent PLUS loan may be discharged. To qualify for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge , borrowers must complete and submit a TPD discharge application, as well as documentation showing that they meet the requirements for being considered totally and permanently disabled. Note that in order to qualify for TPD, the parent borrower must be considered disabled. This type of forgiveness does not apply to Parent PLUS loans in the event that the student becomes disabled.
If a borrower can demonstrate undue financial hardship upon repaying the student loan, they might be able to discharge their Parent PLUS loan. Note having student loans discharged in bankruptcy is extremely rare. Proving “undue hardship” varies depending on the court that’s granting it, but most rulings abide by the Brunner test, which requires the debtor to meet all three of these criteria in order to discharge the student loan:
• Poverty – Maintaining a minimal standard of living for the borrower and their dependents is deemed impossible if they’re forced to repay their student loans.
• Persistence – The borrower’s current financial situation will likely continue for the majority of the repayment period.
• Good faith – The borrower has made a “good faith” effort to repay their student loans.
Closed School Discharge
For parent borrowers whose children attended a school that closed while they were enrolled or who withdrew from the school during a “lookback period” of 120 days before its closure, a Closed School Discharge is another available form of student loan forgiveness.
In some circumstances, the government may extend the lookback period even further. For example, The Department of Education has changed the lookback period to 180 days for loans that were issued after July 1, 2020.
Borrower Defense Loan Discharge is available to Parent PLUS borrowers whose children were misled by their college or university or whose college or university engaged in certain forms of misconduct or violation of state laws.
To make a case for borrower defense, the Parent PLUS borrower must be able to demonstrate that their school violated a state law directly related to their federal student loan.
Explore Private Student Loan Options for Parents
Banks, credit unions, state loan agencies and other lenders typically offer private student loans for parents who want to help their children pay for college and refinancing options for parents and students.
Refinancing options will vary by lenders and some may be willing to refinance a Parent PLUS loan into a private refinanced loan in the student’s name. In addition to competitive interest rates and member benefits, SoFi does allow students to take over their parent’s loan during the refinancing process. Interest rates and terms may vary based on individual criteria such as income, credit score, and history.
If you decide refinancing a Parent PLUS loan makes sense for you, SoFi makes it simple. The application process is entirely online and SoFi offers flexible repayment options to help you land a loan that fits your budget. You can find your rate in a few minutes and checking if you prequalify won’t affect your credit score.*
Parent PLUS Loan forgiveness offers financial relief to parents who borrowed money to help their child pay for college.
To receive federal relief for Parent PLUS loans, parent borrowers can enroll in an Income-Contingent Repayment plan, pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness, transfer their student loan to another student, take advantage of a state Parent PLUS student loan forgiveness program, or opt for private student loan assistance or refinancing.
Learn more about refinancing a Parent PLUS loan with SoFi.
*Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified. SoFi Loan Products SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. SoFi Student Loan Refinance IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL SEPTEMBER 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION. Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation. Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice. Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite . External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement. Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners. Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.