Author Archives: Kathleen O. Celmins

You Can Sell Your Eggs to Pay Down Debt

Please note: the following is a very true, very personal story of one of the craziest things I did to pay down debt. It might offend your religion, your politics, or your general sensitivities about the world. But it’s something I did, myself, of my own free will, and I will be monitoring the comment section very closely to take out any comments that I perceive as even a little offensive. This is a story that has taken me two years to write, so be nice!

Would you sell your eggs to pay down debt? I did. Three times.

I saw the ads everywhere. They were on Craigslist, when I was looking for a new job. It seemed like they followed me around. $6000 when you donate your eggs!

I remembered a girl in college who did it. They only paid her $2000. It sounded like a good deal. So I filled out their application.

I was living in DC at the time, and I can’t remember if I was working or not. Seems like maybe I was between jobs, because the clinic was a 45 minute commute and I had to make it several times a week.

They call it donating your eggs so you don’t feel like a mercenary, but let’s not mince words here: you sell your eggs to a donor. In fact, you fill out your medical history, you get official copies of your college transcript, you even give them the cutest pictures of you as a baby, you do a physical exam, you take a series of quizzes, you meet with a psychologist to make sure you’re not going to become a crazy stalker, then you wait.

Prospective couples come in and go through a binder of women (what’s up, dated political reference! I was in fact in a binder full of women). Most, I have to assume, want someone a lot like they are, or perhaps the way they aspire to be. Similar ethnic backgrounds, similar upbringing, similar grades in college, etc. People pay a lot of money to use a donor’s eggs, so they’re allowed to see all the things they can see. That is, everything except the actual donor.

What to Expect If You Decide to Sell Your Eggs

You can expect to go to the “doctor’s office” (I use quotation marks because this is not your average run-of-the-mill doctor’s office — it’s really fancy) several times a week for a few months.

You can expect to take birth control, then anti-birth control.

You can expect to inject yourself with a variety of hormones.

You can expect to get swollen when it becomes time to harvest.

You can expect to lose all sense of modesty when it comes to the exam room.

You can expect to be a part of actually very interesting science.

You can expect to be compensated.

You can expect to learn a lot about the reproductive cycle, specifically yours.

You can expect to be judged by your friends and family. People who don’t have a similar opinion as to where life begins will call you names you won’t like to hear.

Why I Sold My Eggs

The first time I did it, I was toying with alternative ways to make money. I was in my 20s, and I wasn’t in debt, or if I was, it was that gauzy pre-acknowledgement that there was a problem stage (or step -1 in the “get a hold of your finances, you dingbat”), but I didn’t have a lot of money.

I’d never been paid a lump sum before, and six thousand dollars was at least three months of work.

I was able to disassociate from the “mommy” feelings and could see it as a period. I’ve never thought about the potential kids.

It sounded easy. Like something I could do.

It wasn’t easy, but I understood why I got paid as much as I did. It’s work. I had to rearrange my life for it. I had to miss my cousin’s wedding because of the way the dates fell.

They Pay More Each Time

That’s how they get you. If you think $6,000 is a lot, how’s $6,500?

And you know how it goes already, so you do it. They cap you at a certain point, but that’s not a problem. You don’t want to do it forever. You can’t do it forever.

In fact, if you’re past 30 and thinking that this might be a viable option for you, it’s too late. They want young women because their eggs are healthier.

I donated twice when I was living in Washington, DC, and the way it works is as follows:

  • Recipient selects donor
  • Recipient and donor get on the same cycle
  • Donor takes hormones that make her next ovulation a MAJOR egg drop
  • On specified day, donor and recipient go to the same clinic
  • Eggs (20+) come out of donor, get inseminated, some become embryos
  • Embryos (1-3, or 8 if you’re the octomom’s clinic) get implanted
  • Some become babies, some don’t
  • Some embryos get frozen for the next time (either in a few months if it didn’t take, or a few years if there’s a desire for a sibling)
  • Donor takes the money and moves on with her life, waiting until she’s selected again.

The Last Time I Donated

I moved back to Portland, and realized the extent of my financial mess. Got my head out of the sand, so to speak. I realized I could donate again and that would really be a punch to the mountain of debt I was in.

So, I went through the process again, thinking it would be easier than the first time. However, I was soon to find that this kind of clinic is not like a hospital. They’re private entities that do not have to share information with one another, and because the location I’d used before was in Virginia, near the CIA, they had similar thoughts on sharing information. So I started somewhat fresh. They gave enough information to green light me, and within a few months, I had $7000 in my pocket.

That last time, every last bit of the $7000 went toward my debt of highest pain, which was a credit card.

I had to pay taxes on it, of course. The clinic gave me a 1099-MISC.

Should You Sell Your Eggs?

I can’t answer that question for you. Only you can. I am too old to do it now (and if I keep on this track, I’ll end up on the other side of egg donation, which would only be fitting for the universe to work that way), but I am not sorry I did it.

Had I been more responsible with the money from the first two times, maybe I wouldn’t even have this blog! Because I would have paid off the debt and moved on.

But that’s not the way the story went. I made a terrible financial decision. I got into debt. Then I got out of it.

Would I have donated if I didn’t have a five-figure debt to work myself out of? It’s hard to tell. But at least I know, even if I don’t have children of my own, my genes are moving on in this world.

And that’s pretty weird.

One Way to Invest Your IRA

The following is from an IRA firm. Their opinions are their own and do not reflect the views or opinions of Frugal Portland. That said, it’s a solid article, and offers a pretty cool view of that world. Enjoy!
Gold Eggs

If there’s one thing we all worry about it’s how we’re going to finance ourselves in our twilight years. That’s why many have taken to pouring their finances into various pension plans and strategies. One plan that’s proven to be quite popular is an IRA investment.

What is an IRA?

IRA stands for ‘Individual Retirement Account’ and allows you to save money for your eventual retirement through a method of either tax free growth or via a tax deferred program which ensures that you get the most out of your initial investment.

Related: Learn about IRA’s

Types of IRA Investments

One of the benefits of an IRA account is that it can come in a variety of different forms and options. For example when you’re funding your account you could use a range of options from antiques to heirlooms or you could have it in real estate, coins, stocks and gold bullion.

The IRAs also come in several different types from the traditional to Roth IRAS, SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRA’s. Each one involves different investment plans and they all come with their own separate benefits.

How to Invest

One of the most difficult decisions when considering starting an IRA is not what type of account or where your money will be invested, but rather how you should invest your hard earned cash.

This normally involves asking yourself a series of questions like, why are you choosing to make an investment? What is your source of financing? Is this your main source of funding your retirement and how many years you have left until you do eventually retire?

First of all ideally when you’re investing in an IRA you want to aim for something that will give you a high rate of return. Since IRA investment plans can either be tax-free or will offer a defer on tax payment until you start to make withdrawals you want to invest in something that will increase in worth relatively quickly before you have to pay for any growth if it’s been deferred until later.

Next you want to aim for something that’s within your price range; you’ll want a plan that has a relatively low minimum deposit and high maximum deposit. Some policies require a mandatory upfront deposit as a guarantee that you’ll be able to finance your investments in the first 6 months, so the lower you can get that initial payment the better.

Related: Beginners guide gold IRA investments

Choosing a plan with both a low minimum and high maximum deposit options will not only give you a relatively large range when it comes to your required monthly payment but it also means if you have a low minimum deposit you don’t have to worry about struggling to make a payment.

But it’s not just the plan that has to be perfect you also need to choose a type of investment that is both stable and contains a low element of risk. Although how much risk you’re willing to place in your capital depends entirely on how long you have left until you retire.

For example if you have a long time left you can afford to be a bit more risky with your investment, you could even have an IRA plan that covers a wide range of investment options. Your best option if you’re looking for risk and high return is usually stocks since they’re almost constantly in flux. Plus, depending on the type of stock and the type of plan you signed up to you can often see your money quadruple over a short period of time.

But if you’re closer to retirement then you’ll definitely want to reign in your ideas and stick with something safe and stable that guarantees at least a little return. If you’re looking for stability then you can’t go wrong with gold, often called the ‘crisis commodity’ because of how it shoots up in price. During any stock market dip gold is always appreciating in value.

These are just a few things to consider when it comes to planning for your future. There are tons of other options for investing that you can choose from ordinary stocks, company trading, minerals, metals and even just standard bank accounts.

Related: How to Plan for Your Future When You’re Already Behind

But IRAs are always the best option as they’re easy enough to understand, contain a wealth of options and best of all they involve no tax or are tax deferred.

So to take that pressure off any pension plans or investment concerns you might be having you should definitely consider investing in an IRA account. Ideally you should start planning for your future as early as possible by putting away whatever cash you can for that day when you inevitably step down from the daily grind and have to start collecting a pension.

Southwest Airlines Charges 25,000 Points to Fly Standby

Southwest Airlines Into Paying BIG MONEY to Fly Home On an Earlier Flight Brent and I are members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. Brent is a lifetime fan of the airline, which makes sense, given that he’s … you know, from the Southwest. I didn’t fly it much before dating him, but that’s only because the airline has a teeny tiny presence at my airport, and the pricing structure weeds out those of us who don’t usually buy tickets months in advance. It was never cheaper for me. But it is now. Earlier this year, we did a bit of credit card hacking (if by hacking you mean spending a bunch of money on wedding-related things and paying for them in advance instead of paying a deposit plus the balance later) and earned a free companion pass through the end of 2015, making all our flights exceptionally reasonable, at least through the end of next year. We somehow managed to get tickets to Oakland for our honeymoon (because we know how to party!) for somewhere under $100 for both of us. Brent booked the tickets well in advance (because he’s Brent and that’s what Brents do), for us to leave the day after our wedding and return the following Saturday. Our flight Monday was no problem. We were pretty much on vacation 24 hours after saying “I do/me too,” which was exactly what I wanted. However, the flight on Saturday was just too late. We were set to fly home on the 6:40 flight or something, which would have gotten us in at 8pm, but after an amazing lunch in San Francisco, we were tired and ready to take an earlier flight. So, knowing what we know (which, spoiler alert, wasn’t enough!) about Southwest, we decided to try our luck at flying standby on an earlier flight. There was a flight that left at 3pm that would get us home at 5, which would have meant we’d have plenty of time to rest, relax, and recharge for our real lives instead of eating airport food and hanging out in the Oakland airport (which is always the risk you run when deciding to fly standby).

Heading to the Airport

We checked our bags, and asked the person at the counter if we could be put on standby for the earlier flight. No problem, she said, and the flight isn’t really full, so your chances are good. Great! We went through security, and when we heard our names called, we ran to the counter. She asked us for our credit cards because she needed to charge us something like $3, which we were told was the difference between the airport tax when we purchased the tickets and today. Awesome! I called my sister and told her about the change of plan. “No problem,” she responded. “See you soon!” We had a safe and uneventful flight, and got home early. That’s when we noticed something weird.

Southwest Airlines Charged us 25,000 Points to Fly Standby

Southwest Airlines Charges 25,000 Points to Fly Standby

“Weird,” Brent said, when he turned on his phone. “I have an email from Southwest’s Rapid Rewards.” He opened it. We’d been charged 25,000 points to fly standby. Now, if you don’t know about Rapid Rewards, 25,000 points is a round-trip ticket anywhere Southwest flies. We were really upset. I mean, seriously! They can’t just charge us that without telling us! And, I probably don’t have to tell you, but if at any point during our trip, they’d mentioned, even casually, hey, that’s definitely something we can do, but we have to charge you, you better believe we would have finished our books in the Oakland airport! But nobody told us. So we flew. And we lost the chance to fly anywhere we wanted. Essentially, we exchanged two hours of our lives for a trip anywhere in the country (or a few select places out of the country).

Customer Service Wasn’t Helpful

Brent called customer service first thing Monday morning, and didn’t get any help. The person he talked to wasn’t empowered to help calm down this cranky customer. So, he took it a step further, and sent an email to the VP of Customer Service. As of October 11, 2014, he hasn’t gotten any response. The entire copy of Brent’s email is below the fold, highlighting just how upset he got with the service he received. I’m still a little salty about all of this. It certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth for this airline, and were it not for the free companion fare I get for the next 14 months, I might not be so inclined to fly their friendly skies. The moral of this story is that it is your responsibility to ask if there are any charges associated with flying standby. Even with the airline who doesn’t charge you to change your airfare. Read more

How to Get the Most from Daily Deal Sites

How to Get the Most from Daily Deal Sites

The following is from a Savings.com blogger. Do you use daily deal sites? I had to stop when I was getting out of debt because I found I bought more than I actually used. But she offers some great tips below on how to actually maximize your usage of these sites!

I live for a good bargain, but after spending a small fortune on daily deal sites such as Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local, I’ve learned that not all deals are created equal. Like mama said, sometimes the devil is in the details.

From spa treatments to food and entertainment deals, I’ve figured out how to get the most from daily deal sites and also how to sniff out the bad deals. So please, take a moment to learn from my mistakes, and you’ll end up saving your hard-earned dollars for something more worthwhile.

Read the Fine Print

If you’ve ever read the complaints against some of these deal sites, you’ll see a lot of angry people who didn’t read the fine print. For instance, if you get a deal involving services such as carpet cleaning or re-roofing your entire roof, make sure they actually service your zip code. It makes no sense to get a deal that doesn’t apply to you, unless of course you decide to move to the serviced zip codes. Within the fine print, you may also see an expiration date. Make sure that you note the expiration date somewhere on your calendar, because once the deal expires, it’s worth nothing to you.

Don’t Settle for Less Than Half Off

If your deal is not at least 50 percent off the retail value, it’s probably not worth your time. Of course, there are exceptions — if your favorite restaurant is offering a less-than-amazing deal, but you know you’ll be going there soon, it might be worth the tiny savings. If you look through Valpak and other local coupon mailers, you may be able to get a better deal than what the daily deal sites offer, so don’t always jump on the next deal that you find. Do a little research!

Look Out for Coupons

While discounts on the daily deal sites are great, you can generally save even more by using coupons on the sites. Living Social often has coupons for 15-20 percent off your purchase. If you sign up for their emails, you’ll always get notified of these coupons. Groupon occasionally offers $10 or 15 percent off your purchases. With an extra discount, I’ve gotten up to 80 percent off the retail price of my deals.

Use Your Negotiation Skills

Can you get a better deal than what you see on a daily deal site? Yes, you can! Most of the merchants on the daily deal sites make almost nothing on those deals; they consider it more of an advertising method. If you reach out to the merchants directly, they may offer a deal that’s even better than the one you’re seeing online. A few years ago, a local company was selling memory foam mattresses through Groupon. I reached out to the merchant, and they were able to match the deal and offer free shipping on top of it — which was not included in the Groupon deal.

Mind the Restrictions

Should a deal be so complex that you really don’t understand what you can or cannot do or get? It really shouldn’t. A deal should be plain and simple. If you want to eat sushi, you should be able to eat sushi, right? Unfortunately at some restaurants, there are so many restrictions that it may not be worth it. Case in point: I recently saw a voucher for a beer garden that doesn’t include alcohol. Seriously? If there’s a long list of restrictions, you’re usually better off passing up the deal.

Make Customer Service Your Friend

What if you received bad service, or for some reason you couldn’t use the voucher? Wasted money, right? Wrong. From my experience with daily deal sites, they want you to be happy. Early this year, I tried an aerial yoga class, and midway through the class I was nauseous and felt like I had vertigo. A few of my other classmates actually took turns barfing. After being off-balance for a few weeks, I knew I couldn’t finish out my voucher for five classes. I immediately let Groupon know, and they credited my account with the cost of the deal. Never waste your money on a deal that you couldn’t take advantage of.

Are you addicted to daily deal sites? Tell us how you use them to save money!

Susan Yoo-Lee is a mother of two and the editor at The Scratch, a Savings.com blog where professional funny people take a crack at saving you a buck. She founded Mommas in the House in 2009 when she was pregnant with her 2nd child. Currently, you can see some of her published work on LHJ.com, More.com, WomansDay.com, AJC.com, ClarkHoward.com, US News & World Report, Military.com, LearnVest.com and more.

The Bouqs Review: Fresh Flowers in the Mail

I got an email from The Bouqs a week or so ago, asking if I wanted to check out their website, and get a bouquet of flowers to review. Just another day in the life of a blogger. Disclaimer: I did not pay for these flowers, and I am an affiliate of this company, but they didn’t buy my opinion.

I thought, sure, I’ll send Brent flowers. I’ll be home to sign for them, this will be great! So I picked some flowers out, and promptly forgot about them until the doorbell rang on Wednesday. Thinking it was someone I knew, I stepped out of the house in my bathrobe. Note: showering is not high on the morning priority list for those who work from home.

Sorry/You’re Welcome, FedEx Guy.

The Bouqs Review

the-bouqs

First Impressions

Their website is really nice. Just gorgeous. In fact, you can pick out your theme! What version of their website do you want to look at? Corporate? Rustic Thunder? Light and Bright? That’s a very silly feature, but given the number of times I’ve changed the theme here on Frugal Portland, it appealed to me. Finding a bouquet (or a ‘bouq, because we’re cool now) was easy — narrowing it down to just one was the hard part! Read more

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