Can I Afford to Have a Hot Girl Summer?

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

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

Source: mint.intuit.com

5 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas For The Summer

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.

Camping

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.

Movie Night

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

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

Source: mint.intuit.com

How Moving to a New City Can Give You a Fresh Financial Start

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

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

Source: mint.intuit.com

6 Birds That Make Great Apartment Pets

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.

Don

Don

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.

Birds need stimulation with toys.

Birds need stimulation with toys.

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.

Pionus parrots

Pionus parrots

Pionus parrots

  • Blue and green
  • Medium size
  • ~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.

Cockatiel

Cockatiel

Cockatiels

  • Gray, white and yellow
  • Small size
  • ~ 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.

Hyacinth macaw

Hyacinth macaw

Hyacinth macaws

  • Blue
  • Large size
  • ~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.

Scarlet macaw

Scarlet macaw

Scarlet macaws

  • Blue, red and green
  • Large size
  • 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.

Green-cheeked conurre

Green-cheeked conurre

Green-cheeked conures

  • Green
  • 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.

Amazon parrot

Amazon parrot

Amazon parrots

  • Green
  • 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.

Budgie

Budgie

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!

Birds love a snuggle

Birds love a snuggle

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.

Birds make a lot of noise.

Birds make a lot of noise.

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.

They’re expensive

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.

Source: rent.com

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

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Additional Resources

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

Agency Fees $15,000 – $45,000
Legal Fees $2,500 – $6,000
Birth Mother Expenses $4,000 – $16,250
Home Study Fee $2,750

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

Legal Fees $3,000 – $6,000
Advertising Fees $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

Agency Fees $15,000 – $30,000
Legal Fees $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
Travel Expenses $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

Agency Fees Usually $0
Legal Fees $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.

Happy Family Son Saving Money In Piggy Bank Budgeting Teaching Saving

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.


Advertising

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. 


Attorney Fees

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. 


Time Off

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.


Final Word

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.

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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.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Understanding the Parent Plus Loan Forgiveness Program

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.

Disability

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.

Bankruptcy

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

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.*

The Takeaway

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.
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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 .
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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.
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Source: sofi.com