#obamacare

Obamacare is the buzzword for today. Why? Because October 1, 2013, is the day it really (sort of) goes into effect. From then until March 31st, 2014, uninsured people who can’t get insurance through employment or family can go to Healthcare.gov to get coverage, which begins January 1st, in their state’s Marketplace.

Now, I know that some of my fellow 20-somethings are confused or ambivalent about the whole situation. As a generation, we’re still pretty young and for the most part healthy. We don’t spend too much time thinking about health care, unless it’s to bemoan that our part-time jobs or internships don’t give it to us or to rejoice that we’re allowed to be on our parent’s insurance until 26 (thanks, in whole, in fact, to Obamacare).

But there are a few of us, those that are over 26, or, for whatever reasons (and there are lots of them), are not on their parent’s health insurance, that are perking their ears up at the mention of “affordable healthcare.” Especially those of us with extra bits and parts that need to be checked out once a year, those of us who need prescriptions, and those of us who are, well, sick. I myself am one of those people. Plus, there’s the fact that if you don’t have minimum essential coverage by 2014, there’s a penalty fee (although if you’re too poor, it’s waived, so #yolo). So this post is to address the whole Obamacare situation that is blowing up our newsfeeds today in terms of how it effects Young Without Money-ers.

To start, I did what all people my age do when I want to learn about something. I Googled Obamacare. I glanced at a couple trending article headlines, like, “US government shutdown: House votes to delay Obamacare law,” “House advances ObamaCare counterproposal, shutdown deadline looms,” and “What the GOP has missed on Obamacare,” but I scrolled down til I found something that hinted that it was more factual than opinion. The government hosted site about the Affordable Care Act (the real name of the bill), where you’ll be able to get coverage starting tomorrow, is where I figured I could find the most facts. Here’s what it lays down:

As part of this new law, most insurance companies that used to deny coverage or charge high rates for people with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, any kind of condition that you had from birth, or from an injury, etc, are not NOT allowed to do that anymore. Other cool parts of the law: no more lifetime caps. If you get sick, like cancer-sick, insurance companies are no longer allowed to call you up and say, “You’ve reached your max. No more money is coming from us to pay for stuff. Sorry, not sorry.” Companies are also not allowed to spend over 20% of the money you pay them for administrative costs without paying it back to customers; so you might be getting a reimbursement check if you’re already covered. Insurance companies are also not allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples anymore. If your coverage offers spousal benefits, it doesn’t matter what the gender of the spouse is– they can be covered.

One of your first options on the Healthcare.gov homepage is to take a little questionnaire about your health care situation; whether or not and how you’re covered. No matter where you go from there, the next page will ask if there are any specific issues that pertain to you that you want info on, such as pregnancy, being under 18, being self-employed (aka freelance), or having a disability, etc. It also tells you that pre-existing conditions will start to be covered in 2014 and asks if you want info on that.

After answering those questions, you’re asked how many people will be on your tax return (it’s either 1-just you, or you plus a spouse plus any children. Then it asks if you think your annual income will be below $65,167.(If your answer is no, I’m not sure why you’re reading this blog. I’m not gonna check the over $65,167 box right now. Out of spite.)

(*From here, I say, if you HAVE insurance through your parents or through your job, you can pretty much stop reading, UNLESS this fact is about to change or you’re unhappy with the insurance you already have. Because if you already have coverage, Obamacare doesn’t effect you any more than maybe [grandfathered plans don’t have to] having your coverage upgrade to provide the preventatives without copays if it doesn’t already. You also get the benefit of no longer being discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition. Also, you don’t have to worry about lifetime caps anymore, so insurance will never cut you off if you get sick. The only thing that might change is that your company may change to a Marketplace plan, which could be good/no change/bad for you depending on the plan. If you want to shop around however, of if you’re uninsured, read on.)

Now, if you’re uninsured, and you make under $65,167 the two options that are going to be relevant to you are the Marketplace and Medicaid. What are these?

The Marketplace, or Exchanges in some states, is a way to buy insurance if you can’t get it through your job or through your parents, and there are government subsidies to help you buy insurance. (If you can get it through your job/parent, the subsidies aren’t there.) Think of them like Amazon. You go to a site and every company selling healthcare is there. You put in some filters (age, income, conditions, etc) and appropriate plans pop up from various companies. Then you pick the one that best fits your needs, your preferred amount of coverage, and budget. All plans are going to have the minimum coverage as mandated by the law, which includes preventative services, ER visits, hospitalization, maternity, prescription drugs, mental health services, laboratories, and more, but it’s up to you to choose how much of these costs your insurance will cover and how much you want to pay a month for it. Since you’re young and making less than $65,167 but over $15,282, you’ve got some cost-reducing options, depending on your personal conditions. You will probably be able to get lower monthly premiums or lower out-of-pocket costs through the Marketplace, including Catastrophic Plans. The Marketplace is about insurances competing for your business. Be aware that your coverage won’t start until January 1st, 2014, however.

Medicaid. Unfortunately, if you live in a state that has voted not to extend its Medicaid (Texas), this won’t be helpful to most twentysomethings. Unless you’re actually poor (you as a single person make less than $15,282 in Texas), poor and pregnant, unemployed and poor, or poor and disabled/have a very serious condition you can’t pay for, you won’t be eligible for Medicaid in Texas until/unless Texas extends its Medicaid coverage to healthy, young, making $25,000 a year people.

Within the Marketplace, you’ll notice Catastrophic plans. You’re 23, you make about #32,000 a year, you go for a run once a week, you’re drinking a little less, sleeping a little more, eating a tiny bit better. Your worse sickness scare is the flu. Or getting hit while riding your bike to work. But you wear a helmet. You do however want your annual check-up, some shots, a prescription for birth control, maybe. Those things you’d like covered. You’re not that worried about bigger stuff. Catastrophic plans also cover preventative stuff up to a certain amount (think 3 visits a year covered) but beyond that, you’re required to pay for all the out-of-pocket non-preventative stuff, until the costs rack up to a certain point, then it’ll be paid for by your insurance. This is supposed to protect you from debilitating costs. What I worry about is: what if you break your leg skiing and your insurance only kicks in if your costs go over $8000, but your bills for your leg total $7500. It sucks because you’re stuck with that bill, which is still large, even though the Catastrophe plan is supposed to protect you from high costs. You also can’t get lower premiums or out-of-pocket costs based on your income, which is lame. I’m guessing (since the Marketplace isn’t open yet, so there might be another post about this) that you choose the cap limit and the more you want covered (I want my insurance to kick in when my costs get up to $3000, for example) the higher your premium. This isn’t really different from most health insurance plans already out there, except now, because of Obamacare, these plans have to cover the mandated preventative list for up to three visits.

To put it in perspective: I bought my own health insurance last year. The premium was $65 a month. The cap I could pay out of pocket was $1000 (co-insurance), my annual deductible was $200 and my co-pay was $100. It covered 80% of some services. Lifetime max was $2,000,000.  Prescription drugs were not covered unless I paid an extra $200 deductible. Limits included maternity care, preexisting conditions, routine physical examines and more. All in all, a not-great plan, but I didn’t want to be uninsured riding around on a motorcycle. My woman’s wellness exam cost me over $400 out of pocket. Not to mention $30 a month in birth control because I could get $200 at one time to pay for the deductible. With Obamacare, I wouldn’t have paid anything for my exam or birth control. And my coverage would have been better, because it would have included so much more preventative services and basic services.

You may have noticed I’ve mentioned “basic care and preventative,” and thought, I want that. This is the list of stuff the government has deemed necessary to preventing illness and disease and the stuff that we use most often that everyone should have access to. Let me just say, I think these lists are awesome. It includes stuff like: cholesterol screening, HIV screening, women’s wellness (and all that goes with it) exams, contraceptives, most  vaccines, various cancer screenings, depression screening, diet/obesity screening, ambulances, prescription drugs, mental health services, hospitalization, ER services, lab fees, pediatrics and so much more. And the best part? “All private health insurance plans offered in the Marketplace will offer the same set of essential health benefits. These are services all plans must cover. All Marketplace plans and many other plans must cover the following list of preventive services without charging you a copayment or coinsurance. This is true even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible. This applies only when these services are delivered by a network provider.” (Network provider meaning a doctor or facility on the huge list your insurance company gives you. You can find the right network doctor/facility for you, don’t worry.) The heavens opened up and angels sing.

Now that the basics are covered (pun intended), here are some answers to some questions:

1.) Won’t companies just cut hours and make it so that they have less full-time employees, or cut my hours to make me a part-time employee so they don’t have to give me benefits?

If companies are doing this, they’re terrible. Most companies that are cutting hours or employees aren’t doing it all because of Obamacare, but because of a myriad of cost-cutting reasons. The law provides some measures to make small businesses able to provide health care for its full-time employees, and not all small business are required to. And, if you do become a part-time employee, the Marketplace is there to provide coverage.

2.) I’ve heard I’ll have to switch doctors. Is that true?

You might have to switch doctors if you change providers (go from your employer’s insurance to a Marketplace insurance, for example) or if your provider changes its network and your new provider/network doesn’t have your current doctor as part of the network. You could still go to an out-of-network doctor, just like always, but it’ll cost more. You employer might use the Marketplace to get its insurance, and they may or may not choose an inferior plan to save money. Critics of the Act cite this chance as a terrible blowback from the bill, saying millions of Americans might lose their insurance.

3.) Will Obamacare cost me money?

If you have insurance already, it won’t. In fact, because preventative care now has to be offered without co-pays/co-insurance, you might save money. If you’re uninsured right now, you’ll obviously be spending more money because you’ll now be paying for insurance. But on the upside, you’ll have insurance. And depending on your circumstances, you might get subsides or Medicaid to pay for healthcare. At the very least Marketplaces help you find rates you feel comfortable with by providing insurance plans in one place.

4.) Isn’t Obamacare going to be repealed or delayed or taken apart or something?

At this point, Obamacare is still probably not going to be repealed. The House keeps voting to repeal it, and has only just succeeded today only to be told, “NO” by the Senate. Again. The money to fund the Affordable Care Act has already been appropriated and the law supported by the Supreme Court– it’s going to happen. But there are delays because of what’s going on in Capital Hill and, as all new endeavors go, there’s bound to be some bumps along the way. And some parts of the law don’t take effect until later, such as various taxes and provisions that effect insurance companies.

5.) What about the government shutdown? What’s that all about?

Republicans seem not to like the idea of Obamacare so much, for various reasons. In order to get the Act repealed, they’re holding a law that funds lots of government activities hostage until they get Democrats to delay Obamacare for a year. It’s being called a government shutdown because many federal agencies wouldn’t have the money to open their doors for business (accept the military) and federal employees would stay at home on unpaid leave until stuff got figured out. This would be highly annoying to anyone wanting to mail letters at USPS, eat clean meat graded by the USDA, get their Social Security check, who is a federal employee, etc. The longer a shutdown goes, the more annoying it gets until it’s actually really bad.

6.) What if I lose/leave my job?

You can find new coverage in the Marketplace. COBRA still exists, but it’d probably be cheaper to get a Markeptlace plan, depending on your certain circumstance.

7.) If I don’t want or still really feel like I can’t afford insurance, what will happen?

There is a fee of $95 or 1% of your annual income as an adult in 2014 if you still don’t have minimum coverage. If after going through the whole process of trying to get coverage and still not seeing the numbers add up, and you still somehow don’t qualify for Medicaid, then there are hardship exemptions allowing the fee to be waived for you.

8.) This covers dental and vision, too, right?

Sadly no, America doesn’t give a shit about your gingivitis or near-sightedness.

9.) Are the any negative aspects to Obamacare?

As with any bill passed in Congress, it’s got some crappy stuff connected to it. Critics of the bill project that healthcare costs will increase, now that people will have free access to preventative medicine and may find out about a serious illness (as opposed to living with the unknown disease or just dying). As posted in #1, some people might have to switch provides and potentially get less coverage if their employers switch to a Marketplace plan to save money. Some people don’t like being told to buy health coverage. Small business with 50 employees or more have to provide health insurance by 2015 or pay a high fee, which could be challenging. Pharmaceutical companies may make up the loss in profit they may have due to taxes by raising prices. Medical companies may not hire new employees because of taxes. People that make over $200,000 a year will have a tax increase to help pay for the Act.

So there you have it Twentysomethings. Hopefully now you’re a bit more schooled on Obamacare and know how to approach it come October 1. If you have more questions, check out Healthcare.gov, leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter @kgraves23.

Be healthy!

TL;DR: This video does an okay job of summing up. Except the hick-who-doesn’t-want-to-pay stereotyped character towards the end is kind of insulting…

 

Ways to Pay the Rent and Other Things

I know you were expecting to read a post about how to get mo money– sorry to disappoint. This post is about how to pay for things with money you already have. How, as in, the method.

Now, I ended my multiple roommate cohabitation lifestyle this last summer in favor for a one-roommate/significant other lifestyle. But during the past year, I was in charge of collecting the money and paying the bills for my house. Needless to say, it required a certain amount of patience, as we were all busy, mostly poor twenty-somethings. Below is a non-exhaustive list of ways to pay for stuff.

1. Cash. This seems to be everyone’s favorite method. The old standby. As far as collecting money for utilities and rent for 7 people, might I say that I felt weirdly gangster and very vulnerable and scared going to the bank to deposit over $1000 in cash. It’s a little inconvenient to go to the ATM sometimes. What’s more, if you’re splitting bills with lots of people, often your share comes to $29.37 or some such uneven figure. What do you figure the chances of getting that change back? Let’s start moving away from this method… it’s 2013 for goodness sake.

2. Checks. I know, I know. Checks aren’t really “moving forward.” Although I love checks, I can certainly understand that buying them, if your bank doesn’t give them to you for free, is not great. I also know they can be easy to misplace in your multiple moves each year when you’re young. I also get that they can be confusing (although barely..). But they’re great because they’re safe, exact change, and sometimes convenient if you have them (shout out to moneygrams which are inconvenient to get, but safe to use.). But I do wish there was some online method of

3. Oh wait! There is an online method! Multiple ones as it turns out! In this day and age, it is entirely possible that your bank offers a “Pay a Person” feature, which is essentially a wire. All you have to do is know the banking info, email or phone number of the person you want to send money to. What can be annoying about this method is if there is a fee associated with using it or the amount of time it takes. If only there was a service that did this for free and fast and online

4. Oh wait! There is! 5. There are a few online sites, that will track your shared bills and allow everyone to have access to pay their share, such as SplitWise and BillsAreIn, which are really awesome. If you want more than just a way to pay, but want a fair and equal system for everyone to have access to in order to keep track of housing expenses, these are really good solutions. But what if you want a way to pay for stuff other than bills to your roommates?

5. BAM. WELCOME TO THE 21ST CENTURY. When I found out about this service, I face-palmed– duh! It’s such a great idea… why did it take so long for someone to come up with a web-based paying app that is actually user-friendly? If this had been around when I was living with my friends, life would have been so much easier for all of us. It’s called Venmo. I use it. It’s awesome. Super easy. The money is sent and received and can be deposited to your bank account super fast. It’s almost free. Receiving money and using your bank account or debit card to pay someone is free, but using your credit card to pay has a 3% fee, which is small. It’s compatible with all banks in the US and has a handy-dandy App for smartphones. All you need is your friends email or phone number and you can email/text them money (*as long as they have a Venmo account, too.) Need to pay $57.78 for Internet? Done. Need to pay back someone for lunch right now? Done. It’s incredible and I love it. There might be other services like this, but I’ve found them annoying to use (lookin’ at you PayPal). You can even “Charge” someone, so they get a notification they owe you. Splitting the bill has never been so easy. Paying someone back can be a thing you actually do, instead of saying you’ll do and then forgetting. Let no friendship have awkwardness about mooching from here on out!

5. Now, I think I should mention, there are a few online sites, that will track your shared bills and allow everyone to have access to pay their share, such as SplitWise and BillsAreIn, which are really awesome. If you want more than just a way to pay, but want a fair and equal system for everyone to have access to in order to keep track of housing expenses, these are really good solutions.

So there you go. Upgrade your paying-style today for more convenience, less stress and a mooch-free lifestyle!

Back by Popular Demand

After a 5-month hiatus– in which I kept using money, just not writing about it– I’ve heard from other YoungWithoutMoney-ers that they’ve missed the blog, and have often come back to look at older info or referenced the site to their besties. Due to guilt and a refreshed mind of ideas, I’ve decided to come back to the blogosphere to pick up where we left off, just like old friends.

I’ve moved to Canada. Sorry, old friend. There are several weird things about this country, financially speaking:

1). There are now foreign transactions fees for me to worry about.

2.) I have to move Canadian Dollars to my American accounts to pay the couple (student loan) bills I have in the USA, which is time-consuming and not free. Annoying.

3.) Their cards have microchips on the bottom that they stick (not slide) into the machine thing. Not having a chip card to use is very awkward. People are like, “Oh, from the States, eh?” And I’m like… “Yes. Eh.”

4.) The American dollar is stronger right now. What?

5.) Their money feels like plastic. And has the Queen on it. The Queen of England.

6.) They have (and USE) $1 and $2 coins. That they call “loonies” and “toonies.”

7.) Minimum wage is $10.50.

8.) Living in another country means I get to start my credit history allllll over again. It’s like New Years! Fresh and clean– without mistakes!

9.) There are no Spicy McChicken’s. That’s not financial, just important.

10.) There are a ton of co-ops here, meaning you can pay to be a member of some co-op and reap the benefits. Hippies.

10 Things You Could Do with Your Refund

1. Pay down your credit card debt.

2. Pay down a student loan with a high interest rate.

3. Invest it.

4. Buy something you really want.

5. Withdraw it as cash and toss it around your room like McScrooge, yelling “I make it rain.”

6. Nothing.

7. Give it away to the first homeless person you see.

8. Use it as wallpaper.

9. Give it to your parents as an apology.

10. Give it back to the government.

Death and Taxes

It’s February. Which means you’ve probably already received all the paperwork you need to possess in order to file your 2012 taxes (that is, if you’re filing your own, which, if your parents are declaring you a dependent, you don’t).

Now, this may seem daunting. Because of the media, a lot of us feel like this when it comes to anything the IRS does:

But really, there are only a few situations that the evil taxmen we make the IRS out to be are really jerks and those don’t really apply to young without money people. My adjusted gross income for 2012 was, like, $8000. The IRS couldn’t try to care less about me. They have no more tries to give.

So, what to do? You parents aren’t declaring you a dependent since you’ve been out in the wide world on your own for half of 2012, or for more… now what? Do you take those weird forms you’ve gotten from your three jobs and take them to H&R Block because they have the friendliest commercials? You certainly can. And no one would judge you. You’ll pay a fee ($30-200 depending on your income, the forms filed and fee schedules) and your taxes will be filed and you’re finished thinking about it for the whole year!

Or you can do them yourself. Fo FREEEEEE. It’s actually NOT THAT DIFFICULT, as long as you made under $57,000 in 2012. If you made more than that, I’m not really sure why you’re reading a blog for poor people. Weird.

Anyways, here’s a simple, non-invasive, non-inclusive guide to doing your own taxes:

1. Gather ALL THOSE FORMS, BRO. W2s for all your jobs, 1098-Ts from your school(s) that show how much you paid them while in school (you’ll only have one of these if you’re in or just graduated from school), log on to all the accounts you have for student loans and download the forms that show how much interest you’ve paid, do the same for any investment and retirement accounts you have.

2. Look at said forms. You see how there are boxes on all these forms that have numbers in them? Well, basically, when you fill out your taxes, you’ll just transpose these numbers into the correct box on your taxes. And the IRS has realized that the easiest way to do this is to tell us: How much money did you make in wages, tips, etc? You don’t know? It’s box number 1 on your W2. The WHOLE 1040 form (read: your tax return) is like this, so if you’re freakin’ out, chill out. You’ll probably fill out a 1040 EZ and maybe a Schedule A for deductions. Your service will auto-pick for you based on the info you give it. Nice. (Note: if you live somewhere that isn’t Texas, you may be subject to a State Income Tax. Boo.)

3. Decide which service you want to use. There is a whole list of free online tax services (including H&R Block) that are offered to you so you can fill out your tax return. And they’re all super easy to follow and tell you where to put what numbers. If you successfully passed the SAT, you’ll be able to do your taxes.

4. Follow all instructions on the form of whatever service you’ve chosen. They’ve already figured out what questions you may have and will provide answers for those questions. Like, do I have deductions above the standard deductions? And if so, what are they and how much? Take a deep breath; as long as you aren’t crazy super special and qualify for the weird stuff that shows up on the form (like the Railroad Assistance deduction, or you own a farm…) you’ll mostly be checking off a lot of “No” boxes and filling in boxes with information you already have.

5. Finish your return and turn it in. And stop worrying about it. You’ve filled in all the boxes. It’s all over. And if you messed up, no one will notice or audit you because you’re so poor. Also, if you messed up, they’ll just laugh at you and make you fill out an adjustment form, which you can have a pro do.

A couple things to note:

1. If you made extra money by babysitting or whatever, you don’t actually have to declare it unless you made more than $400 doing it. In which case, you’ll need a 1099 Misc form and the people who paid you will need to declare paying you. This really only happens for people that freelance. Use the 1099 like a W2. No biggie.

2. Find out if you qualify for the Earned Tax Credit at your job. It’s a deduction that gives you more money in your return.

3. If you paid for some schoolin’ in 2012, make sure you use one of the Education Credits so you can get more money in your return. There’s an option that lets your service calculate which will get you more money. Do that.

4. If you paid any medical bills that your insurance didn’t cover, THAT’S A DEDUCTION. Find your bills and calculate how much you paid out of pocket and how many miles you drove to the doctor. You’ll get money back. Which is the best medicine.

5. Did you donate money or goods to anyone/where? Hopefully they gave you a thank you letter– this money is a deductible as well. It’s only really helpful if you gave over $500, though.

6. Investments/retirement accounts. Make sure to include the info on forms given to you by your work and the ones you oversee yourself. Follow it to the tee. The government will not like you if you made money investing that you don’t pay taxes on. Which sounds strange, seeing how billionaires do that kind of stuff all the time, but you don’t make enough (probs) to qualify for the cuts they do. Sad day.

7. If you have any questions, you can always look it up on the good ol’ Publication 17, the IRS’s guide to tax returns, call the service you’re using or ask me!

If for some sucky reason you end up owing the government (instead of them owing you and paying you back in a refund), then pay them. At the end of the form, there are payback options. Choose the one that you like best– pay it all at once, once every quarter, take it out of your refund… whatever. Just make sure you NEVER OWE THE GOVERNMENT. They don’t like that. They’ll take stuff from you. No fun.

That’s it, in the simplest terms. If you made lots of money or have weird financial circumstances, you may want to consider having a pro do it once and showing you page by page how to do it so you can do it on your own next year.

Good luck!

My lipgloss is cool

While we’re on the subject of health and beauty, since we talked a bit about getting fit for less last week, let’s take it to the more superficial level. As many females are quite aware, it can take a lot of dolla dolla bills to keep up with the keepup of our looks. Some people put lots of effort into how they look, and this sometimes means spending quite a bit of money on products– makeup, hair styling products, waxing appointments, hair cuts, et etera et cetera.

Now, I am all for lookin’ good, but if you’re struggling to pay your electricity bill, but somehow the most expensive shampoo always ends up in your basket, maybe it’s time to take a step back adjust your priorities.

Now, remember, there isn’t anything more important at the end of the day except that you have a safe, warm, dry place to lay your perfectly coiffed head at night. Remember when we talked about necessities and budgeting? Beauty products are at the bottom of this list, if even. Believe me, I understand that you might have a job where you need to go in with great hair and glowing skin, but you’ve got to feed yourself if you want any chance of having great hair and glowing skin, right?

Okay, so now that we’ve established that maintenance is important but is not necessarily one of those things you should be spending a good chunk of your budget on, let’s see how you can be pretty for less.

1. Assess. See what products you already have, throw out what is bad or what you don’t use anymore. Make a list of what you need. Divide the list into what you absolutely need (foundation, blush, mascara, the most essential hair product for man hair) and what you want (lipsticks, nail polishes, awesome designer eye shadow kits, expensive cologne). Make sure to budget for what you need; every month, if you want to spend some of your discretionary income on splurging on an item, go for it. You should treat yourself to getting what you want, but only if you can afford it.

2. Do you really need all your products to be MAC? Probably not. Would it be awesome? Definitely. But ain’t no one got money for that. Buy the important basics at the best quality level you can afford– your foundation is more important than lipstick, so buy a cheaper lipstick. Get two kinds of hair product– a cheaper one you can use on the daily, and a nicer “BRAND NAME” one you use for special occasions when your hair needs to look  awesome.

3. Make sure you’re getting the best deal. A haircut that costs you $68, including tax and tip may be a little excessive if your wince when you pay it. Shop around online or get recommendations from your friends for places. I used to spend $68 for a haircut, tried a new place, got the same cut for $28. You can, too. Now, if you’re haircut is really difficult and you’re BFF with your stylist, by all means, budget and pay for that cut, but maybe you only need it two or three times a year and you can get your trims for way cheaper somewhere else. See what you’re okay with giving up if it’s costing you too much.

4. DIY. Want awesome manicures bi-weekly? Guess what? God gave you two hands for a reason–to do your own nails. If you’re not going to a wedding or some other important, equally dressy occasion, multiple manicures a month are sucking your bank account. Also, Chanel nail polish might be a better chemical composite, but YOU’RE POOR. Can’t afford the $12 to get your eyebrows waxed every 6 weeks? Tweeze them weekly to keep the growth maintained. Make your own face masks– you’ll feel gangsta with a egg mask soaking up the excess oil and getting rid of acne scars on your face, while costing you a whopping 76 cents.

5. Don’t let yourself get sucked in to everything! Those weird booths in the mall that sell that weird stuff that makes your nails shiny? You don’t need to buy it. You can buy a buff bar at your grocery store. ULTA is having a 3 for 1 sale for nail polish? Okay, fine, but there’s no reason to buy the Urban Decay eye shadow box while you’re there. Remember– beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And even if you don’t feel like that’s true, think about this: being pretty won’t make that money you spent on that luxury hairspray come back. Probably.

IDK Wednesday: Get that body

Sometimes the worst part about working out is how difficult it can get to learn how to do it and track it. Here’s a couple of free apps and resources to help you in your quest to that Spring Break Body.

1.Nike Training Club. It’s a mobile app that gives you workouts and trainer guides on your phone.

2. MyFitnessPal. This site and it’s buddy app is a popular choice amongst all the fitness gurus I’ve researched. It’s a free-to-join site that helps you with food and exercise plans.

Fit for Less

The new year is the health industry’s Boom Season. Everyone wants this to be the year they lose 25 pounds and keep it off; this is the year we’re cutting out soda and eating more greens.

But if you’re Young Without Money, it can seem like there are some serious obstacles to getting/staying healthy. Gym memberships seems too expensive. Yoga classes are for some reason scarily expensive. The food that actually came from the ground or some nearby trees is more expensive than Hot Pockets (and take way longer to prepare). So screw it, we’ll just keep the Netflix going and consume strange things like Takis to no end.

The cool thing about getting healthy is–it’s a bit easier than mass media would have us believe. Did you know that you can do these things called calisthenics and use your own body to make your body healthy? Yeah, this was news to me, too. And there’s actually a whole sphere of the internets devoted to making easy, quick, cheap yet healthy meals.

As it turns out, getting healthy is the same as getting your finances in order. You have to overcome ignorance, denial and indulgence. I’m gonna help you face the ignorance part to figure out how to afford to be healthy– overcoming the denial and indulgence part will require the reading of another health-based blog.

Working Out for Little to No Money:

1. Do calisthenics. Use your body as it’s own gym. There’s a whole range of exercises you can do at home with absolutely no equipment. You can check out books in the libs or do a Google or Youtube search. Personally, I’ve pinned workout on Pinterest. It helps to create a schedule of which exercises you’ll do on what day. Just 30 minutes will send you to bed sore in that awesome workout way.

2. Go running.

3. Get workout videos from the library or Youtube. You can find everything from P90x to yoga in all its forms to Pilates to Step Aerobics to Jazzercise (you get my drift) online or in the Libs. Follow the videos and be diligent and you’ll find your body in better shape in 4-6 weeks and your bank account will never know the difference!

4. Find the deals. Gyms around you right now are offering special deals for this special time– no sign up fees, special rates, etc. Do some research and find a gym near you that offers what you’re looking for and sign up now for their special deal.

5. You could do that thing where you take advantage of the free visits of all the gyms in your area, but that’s so much work and super awks.

Eat Healthy for Little to No Money:

The step before number one is: know what’s healthy.

1. Make a menu for the week. Seriously, it helps to know what you’re going to make yourself to eat for the week and then buy only that. Then when you’re hungry, you’ll have no option but to eat what you planned. Or be hungry and whine. Try to reuse items. Buy rice and make it three different ways– that’s three nights of a different rice dish, and leftovers= 6 meals. Whoa. Use meat sparingly, as it’s expensive, but when you do buy it, buy it in bulk and freeze the rest, then make new meals with it.

2. Have healthier snacks. Fresh or dried fruit. No-sugar granola. Popcorn. Yogurt. Veggies and hummus. Dark chocolate. Also, drink healthier. Try to cut out soda. Drink water! It’s free! This pin is helpful:

3. Buy what’s in season. Buy fruits and veggies that are on special and make special meals from that. Remember what I said about the rice in number 1?

4. Don’t overbuy. You’ll be surprised at how quickly stuff goes bad and then you will have wasted food and money.

5. Change your portions. Make them smaller and make your non-meat/dairy/bread portions bigger. Greens=good for you.

5. When you go out to eat with friends, don’t feel bad treating yourself!

6. Don’t eat fast food anymore. And by anymore, I mean try to limit it to once a week at least.

Beyonce knows everything about marriage and money

A lot of my knowledge about money and relationships comes from Beyonce’s insightful lyrics.

If you like it, then you should have put a ring on it. Girls run the world. I bought it. I even put money in the bank account, don’t have to ask no one to help me out. Partner, let me upgrade you.

I imagine that Bey and Jay’s life is perfect. If you think I’m way off base, check out her tumblr. Try to stay away from sharp objects as you look at the glory that is her world.

But I digress. This post is about the first three things you and hubby/wifey are going to have to address when it comes to living together

1. Accounts. Just because you’re joining your life and future with someone else does not mean you don’t keep your own checking and savings and retirement accounts. You will always live with you. You’ll always need to take care of at least yourself. I know this sounds harsh, but hey, more than half of all marriages end in divorce, these days. If things don ‘t work out, you’ll need to have your own money. Keep all of your accounts, and open a new account together. It’s super easy. Find the best bank and best rates and open a joint account. And while I’m on the subject, I think we all remember that golden Kayne line: “We want prenup. WE WANT PRENUP YEAH.” Preparing for an end of a marriage, while bleak, shows that you’re mature enough to get married. Real talk– when couples get divorced, assets are not automatically divided 50/50. That’s what people go to court for: to fight for what they think they earned during the marriage. It can be hard to win. Now, a prenup ensures what you want it to: you can say that you leave with what you came in with, or that you divide everything 50/50… or whatever you and your dearly beloved decide. Hopefully it’ll never have to come to that, but you know that in the very worst case scenario, you’ll AT LEAST be okay financially, even if you’re broken emotionally for years to come. If you decide not to do this, just never say I didn’t warn you.

Now you have to figure out how to fund your joint account. Most people automatically assume that the responsibility of funding a joint account should be 50/50. But that’s not always fair. Say that one person is an investment banker and the other is a teacher. One is making way more money than the other, so there’s an unfair burden on the one with a smaller paycheck to put in half of his/her paycheck. Instead, finding a better number to split might be better. Try this ratio:

Person 1’s income/total household income= the percentage they should put into the household budget.

Person 2’s income/total household income= the percentage they should put into the household budget.

The same goes for savings. There needs to be a family savings account– so that you can use the money for joint purposes, such as buying a house. Figure this into the ratio.

Joint accounts should only be used for joint purposes– rent, bills, groceries. You both need to sit down and figure out the budget for joint expenses– whatever that final number is needs to be in your checking account every month. Add some padding for varying expenses. You both need to be aware of the balance and charges to the joint account. Whether you decide to let one person handle all the bill paying and buying from the joint account or whether you both sit down weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to go over your finances (I suggest making it a fun night in or out), it’s important that control and oversight go into managing the account.

Each of you needs your own retirement plan– it’ll make things better whether you stay together for 50 years or not. Most financiers agree that retirement is the one things couples shouldn’t do together. Don’t believe me? Further your education with this information. In fact, you should also both stagger your retirement dates for reasons complicated and strange. Basically, fund your own retirement account and figure out who will probably want to work longest.

2. Credit cards. I am of the mind that you don’t need joint credit cards. It seems unnecessary. If you want to pay for groceries, do it with the joint account’s debit card, not your own personal card and then get reimbursed. I’m sure you could say, “Well what if we get a joint credit card and use that only for joint purposes?” That’s fine, I say. Beware: having a joint credit card is risky– while you are showing that you completely trust your partner by putting your credit score in his/her hands each time they go shopping, you’re also putting your credit score in his/her hands each time they go shopping. Think about it. If you both are truly able to only use a joint card for approved joint purposes, then all you have to do is have one person apply for a new card and assign a joint holder. Easy peasy.

3. Bills. There is a myriad of ways to decide how joint bills are paid and who pays them. The easiest way seems to pay from the joint account, but you could also make a different arrangement that suits your needs. The partner with higher income could agree to pay rent while the other pays all the bills. You could split everything 50/50, 60/40 or whatever. But like I said, paying from the joint account where you’ve already budgeted how much needs to be in the account is easiest. Like I mentioned earlier– make a date night of it. Nothing like talking about money and then cuddling.

Now you’ve got the first steps of planning your co-financial life together. Remember–be like Beyonce. If you and hubby/wifey do it right, you could be like this:

See? That could be you and your avowed if you play our money-cards right.

“They shall always exceed their income”

Lately, every time I open my Facebook newsfeed, I see people getting engaged, married, moving in together, having a baby…

It’s weird.

When did we grow up so fast? People I had sleepovers with as a 12 year old are posting pictures of their precious baby boy on FB. Whoa.

This leads me to believe that a post on couple finances wouldn’t exactly be irrelevant. Having been with the same guy for four years (today is actually our anniversary) I feel like I know a bit about sharing resources. First though, let’s look at some prerequisites to sharing incomes.

If you’re in a serious, long-term, committed relationship (such as marriage, or common law partnership) you may want to share incomes. Just a note– common law partnerships usually automatically happen after a couple years (depends on the state you live in), if you and your partner share finances (have a joint bank account, have a lease together), and if you, ahem, consummate the relationship). Now, if you’re living with someone and living with someone, and you’re not interested in having a common law partnership, then don’t share income.

Now, assuming you and your significant other have moved to the stage of your relationship where you want to be together forever and ever and have babies together and a house with a white picket fence, let’s move on to some helpful tips on how to get started and make an easy transition into coupledom.

As I was writing this blog, it became evident to me it needs to be a series, as there is just so much info to cover. For now, we’ll start with the very basics:

Whether it’s toilet paper, a joint checking account or a house, you’ll need to talk with each other before doing anything with your money.

See, you think I’m kidding about the toilet paper, but I’m not. There are so many landminds in the discussion of what toilet paper to get. You might think it’s silly, but hear me out: He likes Charmin Ultra with Aloe Vera. She wants to get the cheapest, no-name  2-ply because it fits the budget. What’s to be done? He could giggle and give in, thinking it’s no big deal and there’s no reason to fight about it. But then comes the time where he will be in the bathroom for 10 minutes after Indian curry and he will regret giving in. And resent it if it happens again. Six years later, they’re divorced.

Because it’s not just about the toilet paper. It’s about spending personalities. Even if your personalities are the same–say you both agree that Charmin Ultra with Aloe Vera is the only toilet paper you could ever buy–sooner or later, when you realize you’re in debt because you couldn’t control your spending habits, you might find you’ll start taking your frustrations about your finances out on each other.

It’s important to figure out how you feel about money and about how your partner feels about money. Try to find a good balance. If you’re a saver and she’s a spender, try to save enough and spend enough to make both happy. You have to actually talk about money; what you want to buy, how you want to spend, where you want to keep it. I know it’s not exactly romantic, but it’s absolutely necessary.

If nothing else, Pride and Prejudice has taught us that despite having no fortune, we can be with that special someone we love. That love is better than money. And it is. But let me give you some perspective: After Bingley and Jane get engaged, Mr. Bennet remarks that he thinks they’ll do well together, but that they’ll be so kind and generous and get cheated by their servants that they “shall always exceed their income,” to which Mrs. Bennet replies, “Exceed their income?! He has 5,000 a year!” In that age, men looked over the accounts and kept the books of the household. So if the exceeded their income, Bingley had no one to blame but himself and no one in his way of changing things except himself. In our modern times, things are a bit different.

Darcy has 10,000 pounds  year. That’s at least $300,000 a year in our terms. If I had $300,000 a year and my beloved made $30,000, I’d hire a bookkeeper to figure out all the details and my sweet hubby and I would only fret about where to stay in Europe for the Winter. But that’s not what this blog is for. This blog is for people who are just starting out, and who will probably never see $300,000 in a year.

So get ready you cutesy, PDA-ing, honeymoon phasin’ kids! We’re gonna figure out how to keep your relationship well-funded, so that you can have and enjoy moments like this: