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The Frugal Gay: 5 Money Saving Tips for Financial Freedom

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In our society, it is not easy to live a frugal life. We are surrounded by influences which may cause us to do things that aren’t quite financially responsible. From fancy dinners to exotic vacations, the LGBTQ community loves to flaunt our fabulous life. Unfortunately for some, they are piling on debt just to keep up appearances. I used to be the exact same way until I realized that I didn’t care what others thought of me, or my Target shirts.

For the past few years, I have made a concerted effort to live more frugally. I only spend on things that mean the most to me. In my case, experiences and memories are more important than material items. I live in a moderately-priced apartment, drive a 2008 car and am within a few months of paying off my last bit of credit card debt. However, I had to make sacrifices along the way in order to accomplish my goals.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned which help me live a frugal, but fabulous life.

Throw a Dinner Party

The next time you want to go out for dinner with a group of your closest friends, invite them over to your place instead. Explain to them that it makes more sense than going out. You’ll probably get laughed at the first time you suggest this, but don’t let them deter you from your ultimate goal. Think about the last time you and some friends went out for dinner. Do you remember how much the fun evening out cost the entire table? With an average entrée cost of about $20 plus a glass of wine each, you can easily spend $120 for a party of 4. For less than half the cost, you can prepare a wonderful and elegant dinner at home. Embrace your inner Julia Child and invite a group of friends over to your place the next time you all want to get together. Find a few recipes that are fun and affordable. Another idea is to ask everyone to bring a side item or a beverage of choice. As the host, you should always prepare the entrée, but asking guests to bring a side will not make you look cheap. If someone has a problem with it, don’t invite them next time. There is no room for negative people in your life. I actually enjoy when people bring items to my home because it encourages dinner conversation.

Don’t Buy Fancy Cars

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I will never buy another car I can’t afford. And by can’t afford, I mean one that I couldn’t buy with cash if I wanted to. If you don’t have the equivalent amount of cash saved up, then you don’t need a car that expensive. And if you do spend a bit more than you should, keep it until it’s completely paid off. I now drive a 2008 Infiniti G35 with 137,000 miles and counting. I recently paid it off in full. It’s mine and I will drive that baby until the very end. I can’t stress enough how great it feels to not have a car payment anymore. That dreaded $395/month is now money in my pocket. That’s almost $4,800 per year that I can add to my investment account. Warren Buffett is famous for driving cars into the ground. If one of the richest people in the world can drive an old car, so can you!

Credit Cards Always Equal Trouble

Photo credit: Pixabay / Pexels

If you don’t have the cash in the bank to pay for something, don’t buy it. It sounds like an obvious piece of advice, but trust me, it’s easier said than done. Especially when it comes to things that would seem more manageable if paid for over time, like that new Rolex or a trip to Paris. If you want to carry plastic, carry a debit card. You will get the same feeling and satisfaction as swiping a credit card, but you’ll be using your money instead of someone else’s money. And if that some else is charging you more than 5% interest – which is extremely low in this environment – then you really don’t need to spend the money to begin with.

Ditch the Trendy Gym

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I’ll be the first one to admit, I get wrapped up in the moment every time I visit – or see – a swanky new gym. It’s usually filled with hot people all the time, as if they were planted there to sucker me in. I used to be a member of a high-end gym which charged by the class. It was a group fitness boutique-style gym and the hottest people in the city were members, so of course I had to be as well. The cost of these group fitness gym memberships can run anywhere from $60 to $120 per month, or more. Some gyms don’t offer a complete set of fitness equipment and have limited hours, so often times, you are forced to have yet another gym membership to supplement your fancy gym membership. Stick to the basics. A $10 membership is all you need in most cases and if you live in an apartment building or complex which offers a gym, use it. Why spend the extra money if you have a fitness center steps away from your home? You’ll actually find yourself going more often, and it’s free. It may not be fancy, but you’ll never have to wait to use a machine. Life can’t get much better than that!

Surround Yourself with the Right People

Photo credit: Helena Lopes / Pexels

This may be the hardest task I ask you to do. It means you may have to distance yourself from certain people in your life, and that is never easy. It will be really difficult for you to achieve your financial goals if you hang out with a group of people who don’t have the same vision as you do; to become financially independent. You will get invited to things that you will be forced to say ‘no’ to. It will be extremely difficult at first and you will feel isolated, because after a while, you’ll stop getting invited unless you are honest with people about the reasons why you can’t attend. Saying ‘no’ all the time without a proper explanation will certainly get your gay card taken away. Have an open and honest conversation with this group and let them know what your intentions are and that you are trying to save for the future. If they care about you at all, they will understand. Some may even join you on your journey.

Joey Amato is the publisher of Frugayity, a personal finance advice website geared towards helping the LGBTQ community live a more frugal life and save for the future. Amato has been in LGBTQ media for over a decade, having published his own lifestyle magazine UNITE in Nashville and Indianapolis. He is also the publisher of Pride Journeys, a syndicated LGBTQ travel column and website. For more information, visit www.frugayity.com.

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Study Explores Financial Wellness within Diverse Populations

Diversity and financial wellness: Prudential study explores financial lives of Americans by race, gender, sexual identity, caregiver status

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Bright spots and areas of optimism exist within traditionally underserved groups in the face of income inequality, retirement insecurity and household debt, new data from Prudential Financial, Inc. reveals. The in-depth exploration of data from Prudential’s Financial Wellness Census™ highlights the dramatic differences in the experiences of diverse populations within the U.S., many of whom were disproportionately impacted by the 2008 financial crisis.

The report, “The Cut – Exploring Financial Wellness Within Diverse Populations,” is based on a survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults and examines the financial lives of a diverse group of Americans: women, black Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, caregivers, and the LGBTQ community.

“Resilient and diverse communities are the foundation of a stable and strong economy. Their progress enables our progress,” said Judy Dougherty, Prudential’s financial wellness officer. “This new analysis presents a layered portrait of the financial lives of Americans and exposes factors that underlie and sometimes impede our ability to achieve financial security. These insights are critically important to Prudential’s businesses, informing our efforts to develop products and services that help more Americans improve their financial health.”

The data highlights challenges and opportunities

The research details the wide range of outcomes, experiences and attitudes among traditionally underserved communities. For example:

  • By significant margins, black Americans at all income levels are more likely than the general population to prioritize helping others financially: taking care of parents or other family members, providing college tuition for their children, helping children with a down payment on a home, leaving an inheritance to their heirs, and giving to charity.
  • The average annual income for women in the survey was $52,521, compared with $84,006 for men—women reported earning about 63 cents for every dollar earned by men. Additionally, 54 percent of all women reported being the primary breadwinner in their household, irrespective of its makeup.
  • Thirty-eight percent of caregivers in the study do not think they will ever be able to retire versus only 25 percent of non-caregivers. Although caregivers for children with special needs were as likely as other caregivers and non-caregivers to have a defined contribution retirement plan, they were also the most likely to have taken a loan or hardship withdrawal.

“The journey to financial wellness is deeply personal,” said Lata Reddy, Prudential’s senior vice president, Diversity, Inclusion & Impact. “While there are common experiences that tie us all together, there are also distinct factors that are unique to our individual journeys that impact the ultimate destination. These factors need to be clearly understood for true progress to be made. The first step is to actively listen to the voices in our communities, and it is in this spirit that this research was conducted.”

Prudential has also created a three-minute self-assessment to enable individuals to discover where they stand on their own personal path to financial wellness. To take the financial wellness assessment and to explore a visualization of its data, visit prudential.com/stateofus.

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Study: Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Americans Poorer than Straight Peers

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A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the United States are far more likely to be poor than straight people, with lesbian and bisexual women the worst off.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans were found to be less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to own their own home, with black and Hispanic lesbian and bisexual women the least likely to be homeowners.

The study also found that lesbian and bisexual women were also less likely to graduate from college than straight women and earn less money. While reporting higher rates of school harassment, gay and bisexual men were found to be more likely to have a college education than straight men, but they were also found to earn less and reported having experienced more financial difficulty than their heterosexuals counterparts.

Additionally, the study found that lesbian and bisexual women were more likely to live on the poverty line with many receiving welfare payments or food stamps and reported feeling that they had a lower social status than straight people. The study points towards ongoing issues of wage discrimination in the LGB community.

The report suggested that the symptoms could be explained by the minority stress model, which claims that stressors can be anything from internalised homophobia to negative social attitudes and actual instances of intolerance violence. Authors of the study suggest that the U.S. could reduce the inequality lesbian and bisexual women face by “promoting the achievement of sexual minority girls and young women.”

The study follows a report released in April found that LGB people were more likely to suffer from physical and mental health issues. Socioeconomic status is considered to be fundamentally important to a person’s health, however there has been limited research into how this affects LGB people.

The study followed 14,000 young people — LGB and straight — who were in seventh through 12th grades in 1994 through 2008 and 2009.

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Money

10 Tips for Cheap (But Fun!) Travel

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Is the only thing holding you back from taking a vacation the balance of your bank account? Check out these 10 tips on how to put together a getaway that’s easy on the checkbook.

This past week, my boyfriend and I wanted to embark on a fun, easy and cheap getaway. Since I live in Rhode Island, we were sold on the idea of a short drive out to Provincetown, MA — right on the tip of Cape Cod.

We gave ourselves a budget of just $150 for the 24-hour adventure—and even with gas at $4.00 per gallon, we made it happen!

Here’s how we did it:

#1 Call motels and inns directly

While booking online is super convenient, it’s always helpful to talk to a real person directly. They will also know of any last-minute cancellations or special discounts—which will increase your chance of finding a room in your budget.

#2 Travel off-peak

Our motel room was just $87 on a Thursday night. Come Friday—during the Memorial Day holiday—that same room goes for $150. We saved $63 by taking our trip on an off-peak travel day.

#3 Travel locally

While the world is full of wonderful destinations, many of them are right in our own backyard. You don’t have to travel far to have a great time. And staying closer to home will help keep costs under control. By taking a 2-hour drive out to Provincetown, we saved ourselves a potential boatload of transportation expenses.

#4 Eat like a local

Provincetown’s downtown core—like many tourist spots—is full of great but pricey restaurants. By taking a short drive off the beaten path, we were able to find a more local restaurant with much more reasonable prices. Dinner was $28 for the two of us.

#5 Use your feet

While Provincetown has some convenient paid parking lots, we were able to find a free parking spot a short walk from downtown for a $10 savings. Some destinations also offer great public transit options—it’s an affordable and fun way to experience a city or town and meet new people.

#6 Take advantage of the free stuff

The best things that Provincetown has to offer are free. Like the sights, sounds and incredible landscape. The beaches and nature trails are free—and absolutely breathtaking. Hanging out in the sand and getting a little sun charges the soul and doesn’t break the bank.

#7 Pack your own beverages

For less than $10, we filled my trunk up with bottled water and beverages. Even better, bring along a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and help save the environment. Cheers!

#8 Hit up the grocery store

Since we were only staying for one night, stocking up on groceries didn’t make a lot of sense. But for longer trips, I love packing the mini fridge full of fresh food options. It’s a lot cheaper than restaurant dining—and a lot healthier, too. Fruits, veggies and sandwiches bought at a local grocery store make for great dining out alternatives.

#9 Take advantage of free food

Our motel offered a free continental breakfast. It wasn’t super fancy, but it was a free meal. Before booking your room, ask about any included meals—it can be a real money saver.

#10 Ask locals

I always try to befriend locals wherever I go. Friendly locals can be a tremendous resource—they are full of great recommendations and often know of free events (i.e., concerts, festivals, etc). Be friendly and wear your smile.

With $87 for a room, $28 for dinner, $10 for beverages and another $25 worth of gas, our grand total came out to a very doable $150. Turns out, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a wonderful and amazing vacation adventure.

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