Category Archives: Finances

Wishing Your Way To Financial Freedom: The Disney Princess Method of Financial Planning

Wishing Your Way To Financial Freedom: The Disney Princess Guide to FinancesWorking toward your goals requires more than just saving money, and Disney princesses know this. Though the princesses have gotten a bad rap lately for being all wish and no work, I don’t think this reputation is entirely earned. From Ariel to Tiana, the princesses illustrate an under-mentioned point about planning for the future.

Ariel wants to be a human. For years before the movie opens, she dreams about being human. Though she doesn’t seem to know how obtaining legs would be possible, she collects every human artifact she can find, and learns all she can about their culture. After meeting Prince Eric, she finds the determination to make her dream come true (even though she makes some pretty bad choices trying to get there).

Belle wants a life of adventure outside her little town, and to find someone who understands her for who she is, rather than the town oddball. Although fate can be thanked for the circumstances that lead her to the Beast’s castle, her own strength of character is what allows her to save her father. And it’s her unyielding determination and refusal to be cowed that wins over the Beast, leading to her happily ever after.

Jasmine knows she wants the freedom to choose her own life, and actually runs away to do it. Even when she’s back in the palace, she continues to stand up for herself, shaming the Sultan, Aladdin, and Jafar for continuing to decide her future. It’s her steadfast insistence, not Aladdin’s antics, that finally convinces her father to allow her to marry whoever she wants.

Though not as maligned as the earlier princesses, I want to include Tiana here as well. She’s the first Disney princess to make establishing capitol one of her main goals. She dreams of opening a restaurant, and works toward that with a single-mindedness that causes her to miss some of the other important parts of her life. By the end of the film, she finds a balance of work, dreaming, and living.

Are there problems with the princesses and their stories? Of course. The Disney Princess Guide To FinancesBut I think as a culture we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater when we pretend that self-knowledge, determination, and perseverance to follow one’s dreams aren’t just as important as clocking in every day for the 9-5. The Disney princesses (excepting perhaps Snow White and Aurora) know what they want and hold on to their dreams as if their lives depend on them. They make difficult choices to obtain their goals (even if, in Ariel’s and Jasmine’s cases, they’re poor ones), and follow through with them until the end. Whether you’re a fan of Disney or not, you have to admit that those are the virtues of a successful woman.

Investing In What You Buy

Every item you purchase can be an investment, from a loaf of bread to a new computer. So what are the best ways to invest when you buy?

Investing In What You Buy: The American Spinster Financial Series


Food is pretty much a one-time deal. You buy it, eat it, and that’s the end of that money. However, what you eat isn’t just a temporary fuel source. Just like a car, the quality of what goes in plays a part in how long and how well it stays running. Not to get preachy here, but even though you can eat a bowl of ramen for 20 cents, that’s sort of like funneling bootleg whiskey into your gas tank. It’ll keep you going, but does more harm than good in the long run.

Investing in your foodOrganic is out of my price range, and I’ll admit to eating my fair share of cheap, hyper-processed noodles. But I also try to balance that out with healthier options. Less expensive fruit like bananas still give your body ample nutrition. If you like salad, try mixing cheap iceberg lettuce with more nutritious Romaine and green leaf, so you can eat it every day.

Your body is the one thing that will be with you all of your life, so it’s your most important investment.

Living Space

Investing When You RentThis one is obvious if you’re living in your own home, as real estate can be a great investment. But what if you rent? You may not be investing money in the traditional way, since you’re not going to own a rented home. But since a large portion of your monthly income is going toward rent, you should make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.


There are so many ways to invest in good clothes. My preferred way is to spend very little on new-looking clothes from consignment and thrift shops. It doesn’t matter how quickly I destroy them, since I only paid about a tenth of the original cost. Of course, you can also buy new from reputable retailers. Land’s End and L. L. Bean, for instance, offer lifetime guarantees on their clothing.

Investing in ClothesWhen it comes to investing in clothes, price and durability aren’t the only important aspects. Another element of long-sighted clothes buying is limiting your trendy purchases. By all means, go buy that cut of jeans that’s popular right now. But maybe limit it to just one pair, because in a year and a half, they’ll be out of style. Is anyone (besides unfashionable me) wearing Gauchos anymore? Nope. They’ve fallen out of style. So no matter how well they’ve lasted, they’re still folded up in someone’s closet.


Investing in TechnologyWhat about buying things that depreciate rapidly, but are pretty much necessities? Computers and other technology fit the bill here. My best advice is to buy as new as you can, bearing in mind the possibility of updates and the items overall utilitarianism once it’s become outmoded. I recently bought a new laptop, and it cost me quite a bit. But, unless an unprecedented technological explosion happens, it’ll serve me for at least the next few years before it become decrepit and unusable. I also chose to buy a laptop, so it’s more functional for the money I spent.


Investing in CollectiblesAnd then there are the other things. Items that appreciate in value. Mostly, these are going to be collectibles. For people who have a beloved collection they like to add to, don’t worry too much about spending the money. As long as it’s not coming out of money earmarked for savings or regular expenses, you’re still investing that money. You may never want to sell, but it’s still a smarter purchase than over-priced convenience food that has absolutely no value once you purchase it.


No matter how well you save, you’re going to have to spend money on a very regular basis. But if you keep these things in mind, your purchases, even the ‘disposable’ ones like food, can be well-planned to give you the best possible future.

The Financial Book List for Spinsters

As I’ve been preparing this financial how-to series, I’ve been coming across a number of books about women and finances. And you know what I’ve noticed? Not surprisingly, there aren’t too many guides for single, childfree women. Despite that fact that we’re a rapidly increasing demographic, many publishers don’t seem eager to jump in and fill the void.

Financial Book List For SpinstersPerhaps they, like a lot of married-with-children adults, seem to think we naturally have tons of cash lying around, so financial advice isn’t a vital topic. While it’s true the childfree woman doesn’t have the expenses of singles or couples with children, living solo is itself a huge expense, and navigating the murky waters of retirement is a difficult task for anyone. Spinsters need to manage their money just like anyone else.

However, I did find a few helpful guides aimed at the spinster demographic, or at least in that general direction. So today, in lieu of the normal, in-depth book review, I’ve compiled a list of helpful books for the independent woman.

On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor
If you’re wondering how modern this book can be when it refers to women as girls… I’d just say that titles need to grab attention to sell books. This book offers practical advice aimed at single women. I like it because it’s straightforward and honest, backed up by studies and statistics.

Single Women And Finances: A Woman’s Secret Diary To Saving, Budgeting, and Retirement by J. J. Jones
Unlike a lot of “For Women” financial books that are filled with over-simplified, generic advice, this is actually aimed at single women. It examines the financial pros and cons of singlehood and relates the advice in the book directly to those issues.

The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement by Jane Cullinane
Retirement may seem far away to some, but for most spinsters, the time to start planning for it was yesterday. This book is written very specifically for the single audience, including statistics on single women and how they (tend to) spend and save. It’s a comprehensive look at the multi-faceted relationships between money, lifestyle, psychology, and culture.

Suddenly Single: Money Skills for Divorcees and Widows by Kerry Hannon
This book teaches financial management for women who have recently become single through the lose of a spouse. It approaches the topic with the assumption that many divorced women and widows were not solely in charge of the finances, and offers advice on taking the reins when they’re abruptly dropped into your hands.

Growing Your Savings: A Spinster’s Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest

You’re bringing home a paycheck, paying off the bills, and setting money aside every month like a responsible adult. But is that money doing anything other than waiting for a rainy day? Your saved money ought to be earning you more money. If it’s not, it needs to start.

A Spinster's Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest
When a mommy dollar and a daddy dollar fall in love…

First off, let me say I’m not a financial expert, and I can’t offer any real financial advice. What I can do is share my personal experiences about how to save and grow money when you only have a little bit, and don’t want to run the risk of stock market investing.

1. Open up a savings account.

If you don’t already have one, open a savings account immediately. Interest rates may be low, but you’ll still be earning some money every year by keeping your funds in a savings account.

How does a savings account differ from a checking account? The short answer is that one pays you interest (a percentage of money based on the amount of money you have saved), and the other doesn’t. Typically a checking account is what you’ll pay your bills with, and a savings account is where you’ll put your extra money for safekeeping. You can still withdraw money from a savings account any time you need to.

2. Put your money into a CD.

A Certificate of Deposit is similar to a savings account, but differs in that you agree not to withdraw your money for a certain amount of time. CDs generally offer higher interest rates because the bank can do more with your money when they don’t need to have it available for withdrawal. Your money is still FDIC insured, just as it is in your checking or savings accounts, so you can’t lose it the way you could playing the stock market. If you have a good amount of money saved up that you don’t plan to use for a while, a CD is a good way to earn a little extra interest.

3. Use an online bank.

Internet banks are legitimate banks (assuming they’re FDIC insured– always check), but tend to offer higher interest than regular savings accounts due to their lower overhead costs. If you don’t want to tie your savings up in a CD, or if you only have a small amount to start with, online banks can be an excellent option. Some online banks are exclusively online, while others also have brick-and-mortar locations.

One online bank that has a creative setup is SmartyPig. With SmartyPig, you create “goals” which you can fund on a recurring or sporadic basis. When you reach your goal, you have the option to get a cash boost by withdrawing your funds via gift cards, or you can simply transfer your money plus interest to your regular checking account.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is keep your money in your mattress (well, at least not all of it) or in a no-interest checking account. It may only be an extra few dollars, but every bit counts.

Keeping A Roof Over Your Head And Money In The Bank

Let’s not beat about the bush. Living alone is freaking expensive. While there are many wonderful aspects of living alone, the price tag definitely isn’t one of them. How can middle- to low-income spinsters maintain domestic independence without going broke or living in a run-down room in Cracktown?

...but it has such a lovely view.
…but it has such a lovely view.

Besides maintaining overall financial wellness (which we’ll go into in more depth later this week), there are two major steps in making your dream life own your own a reality.

1. Prioritize

I made a post a while back about picking out a safe apartment. But unfortunately, safety often comes at a high cost. Before you do anything, you’ll need to sit down and decide what’s most important to you in terms of housing. Usually you’ll need to consider

  • Size: How much space do you need?
  • Cost: How much money can you spend?
  • Safety: How safe does the area need to be?
  • Location: How conveniently located does it need to be?

This will vary for everyone to some degree, but the most ideal configuration I’ve found is this:

Safety first. You don’t need to live in a gated community with an armed guard, but living in a safe environment should probably be highest on your list. Crime happens everywhere, but some neighborhoods are more prone to violent crime than others. To learn more about choosing a safe neighborhood, check out this post.

Cost Next. I’d like for cost to be the least important factor, but living on a limited income makes this vital. Make a list of your expenses excluding rent. Now subtract that from your monthly income. Take at least 5% off of that number to compensate for a drop income or unexpected expenses. What you have left is the absolute maximum amount you can spend on rent.

Then Location. Proximity to your job, shopping centers, and family affects other monthly costs like gas and car maintenance. Work the numbers and see if living in an out-of-the-way area will get you more or less of what you want.

And Finally, Size. More space is usually more enjoyable, but unless you have so many possessions that you’d have to pay for storage space should you move to a small space, this will the most flexible of all your needs. A studio apartment that’s all your own can make for a far better life than a five-bedroom, single family home with people you dislike.

But what happens when you don’t have the money you need to get the priorities you’ve set?

2. Finding Ways To Make The Numbers Work

One of the most straight-forward ways to save on living expenses is to live with a roommate. The old adage the two can live as cheaply as one is definitely true when it comes to housing expenses, so splitting your living space can mean halving your bill. There are many ways having a roommate could go wrong, but if you know the person fairly well and have a mutual, detailed roommate agreement, it can end up working very well. Sharing your home with an adult friend can offer more privacy than living with parents, depending on the situation, so having a roomie won’t necessarily rob you of your single freedoms.

You can also usually negotiate the cost of rent, whether you’re renting from a legitimate apartment management company or a single person. Apartment complexes sometimes offer discounts for residents working for ‘preferred employers,’ or when their residency rate is low. A little subtle negotiating (for instance, letting them know you’re still looking at other places may make people or companies more inclined to offer a discount) can save you hundreds per year.

Then there’s negotiating with yourself. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom looked so tempting when the realtor walked you through, and you could technically afford it… but what kind of safety net could you give yourself if you took the studio apartment for $175 less per month? An extra 2k per year looks pretty good compared to extra space that – while you could certainly make use of it – you don’t have any real need for.

Finding a way to live on your own without getting into debt is possible, it just takes a lot of planning. And I can say from experience that it’s worth the time and mental fatigue you’ll invest running through all the different mathematical scenarios when you can come home to your very own home.

The Spinster Financial Series

The idea of a single, childfree woman usually conjures images of a wealthy woman at a high-paying job who attends the gym regularly. She can often be seen with shopping bags in one hand and the latest phone in the other, heading into Starbucks to buy whatever the most expensive coffee on the menu is.

The American Spinster: Financial Series

It’s appealing but, for most of us, definitely not reality. In the real world, spinsters need to watch their money just as much as anyone else. That’s why this week and next I’m going to be looking at several of the most important elements of money management for the childfree woman.

Below is the lineup for this series. Links will be added as they’re posted.

1. Keeping A Roof Over Your Head And Money In The Bank (Monday’s Spinster How-To)
There are many wonderful aspects of living alone, but the price tag isn’t one of them. The adage that “two can live as cheaply as one” is certainly true in terms of rent or mortgage payments. How can middle- to low-income spinsters maintain domestic independence without going broke?

2. Growing Your Savings: A Spinster’s Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest (Wednesday)
You work hard for the money, so it’s time to make it work for you. This post covers how to safely invest your money, especially when you don’t have a lot to play with.

3. Financial Guides for American spinsters (Friday’s Spinsterly Read)
For this week’s Spinsterly Read post, I’ve compiled a list of the most helpful books on finance for single and childfree women.

4. Start Saving Like You Have Kids (Monday’s Spinster How-To)
Women without the recurring expenses that children bring should resist the temptation to spend the same amount that parents do. Learn how to put (part of) that extra money in savings without living like a pauper.

5. Investing In What You Buy (Wednesday)
Every purchase you make can be an investment with the right point of view. Learn how to shift your thought process to make wise decisions, even on “frivolous” purchases.

6. Wishing Your Way To Financial Freedom: The Disney Princess Method of Financial Planning (In Place of Friday’s Spinsterly Read)
Disney gets a lot of flack for the old-school morals promoted in their older princess films. But were they actually on to something?

Spinster How-To: Buying Car Insurance

American Spinster How-To: Buying Car Insurance

I was going to post something different today, but last night I was involved in a hit-and-run accident, and the fact that I had the right insurance saved me a lot of money and grief.

pixabay asIf you own a car, you need insurance. Many insurance companies today let you build your own policy, advertising incredibly low prices. Be careful of these. They’re not bad companies, but that initial, look-how-much-you-can-save policy they show you when you visit their website probably won’t be enough to protect you.

So what do you need?

Please note: This is just a brief overview to get you started. Laws vary from state to state, so you’ll need to check the requirements in your state. This How-To is meant to give you the vocabulary and rudimentary education you need to ask educated questions of your provider to make an informed decision.

Collision insurance covers you if you’re involved in a collision with a car or something else, such as a telephone pole or building.

pixabay asComprehensive
This covers you for things such as a tree falling on your car, or other accidents that aren’t generally the result of a car accident. A rule-of-thumb way to think about this is that comprehensive insurance covers you for things that happen to your car when you’re not in it. “Comprehensive” is a broad term, so be careful to read the fine print on your policy to see what it actually covers.

Personal Liability
This covers the cost of medical bills to the other car’s driver and passengers if you are at fault in an accident.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage
This covers your damages if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, or a driver whose insurance won’t cover the cost of all the damage.

Not all states require all types of insurance, though all states require that you have insurance of some sort. There may be something required in your state that’s not even listed here. When deciding what you want to buy, you’ll want to consider the premium (amount you pay per month for insurance), the deductibles, the value of your car, and any other requirements that may apply in your situation.

Pay attention to your deductibles. That’s the amount of money you’ll have to pay out of pocket before your insurance company picks up the tab. If there’s, for example, if you have a $500 deductible for collision insurance, and you’re in a collision that causes $3000 worth of damage to your vehicle, you’ll only have to pay the first $500 dollars. Generally speaking, the lower your deductible (less money you have to pay before your insurance takes over), the higher your insurance premium. You’ll have to decide what the best balance of monthly cost and potential out-of-pocket expense is for you.

pixabay asThe Value Of Your Vehicle
If your car is worth very little, you probably won’t want to pay a high monthly premium. In some cases, the cost of damage to your car in an accident may be more than your car is worth, making some elements, such as collision, less important to you.

Is Your Vehicle Paid Off?
If you’re still paying off your car loan, you may be required to have a certain type of insurance, such as collision. Check with your lender to see if they have any special requirements.

When choosing your own insurance, you have the option to give yourself a low monthly premium, but often at the cost of better coverage. Fortunately, you can often choose how much coverage you want for each element, and how high or low your deductible is.

The bottom line is, no matter how careful a driver you are, accidents still happen. You may be the victim of another driver, or your car could be damaged by a natural disaster. Your car could also be damaged by someone breaking into it in an attempt to steal valuables. The right insurance will protect you from all of this at a fairly low cost. Be sure to answer all questions truthfully, and always make your payments on time. If you should get into an accident with lapsed insurance, your provider may not have to cover you.

Once you’ve purchased your insurance, make sure you keep your insurance card in your car or in your wallet. Most companies will send you two identical cards, meaning you can keep one on you at all times, and the other in your car.

Finally, when all of that is taken care of, enjoy. You’re a responsible adult with a car and insurance. Drive safely, have fun.

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