40 Thoughts on Turning 40

Forty.

The big FOUR-OH.

Over the hill.

As you can guess, I very recently hit a milestone birthday. The day itself was really nice—my coworkers taped “over the hill” caution tape around my desk and Photoshopped me in pictures from Poldark and Outlander (two great series with hunky male leads). I also had a lovely dinner with my family.

Of course turning a year older, especially one that ends in a zero, has made me a little more introspective. I took stock on where I’ve been the first half of my life and have come up with a list of forty truths I have personally experienced and that become truer with every passing day.

I could make each separate one a blog post, but I’m not going to bore you to death with that or a running commentary on each. So, in no particular order:

  1. Don’t apologize for your curiosity.
  2. You have more control than you think.
  3. There is nothing to compare to the strength you drawn on from your family and friends.
  4. Don’t waste your free time doing things you don’t absolutely love.
  5. Travel is one of the best ways to gain perspective.
  6. Living debt-free is the only way to live.
  7. Trust your intuition—you’ve spent years cultivating it.
  8. Pets are little balls of sunshine wrapped in fur/feathers/scales.
  9. Pick your battles to win the war.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you live with a mental illness.
  11. Don’t let an opportunity pass by to tell someone you love them.
  12. Start on your dream today. Right now. Do it now.
  13. Filling your brain with positivity will fill your thoughts with positivity.
  14. It’s OK to keep your private life private.
  15. Journaling is tedious in the moment, but it will vividly remind you of a period of your life that seems long forgotten.
  16. There is so much freedom in owning less stuff.
  17. Take time every day to focus on what you’re grateful for.
  18. Don’t allow your past mistakes to dictate your present reality.
  19. You are not obligated to follow your family’s religion.
  20. Your opinions can—and probably will—change.
  21. Don’t feed the trolls.
  22. “I could/should have…” is one of the most dangerous phrases.
  23. Keep your promises.
  24. It’s OK not to know what the next step is.
  25. Doing a job just for the paycheck is no way to work.
  26. I’ve never once regretted getting rid of my TV.
  27. A walk outside is perfect for shaking loose the cobwebs.
  28. Nothing is more powerful than standing up for the voiceless.
  29. The journey from the heart to the head is the longest one of all.
  30. There’s nothing wrong with taking yourself out to dinner or a movie.
  31. You really learn who true friends are when you go through a crisis—job loss, illness, etc.
  32. While there are plenty of jerks on the planet, most people are truly kind and decent.
  33. If someone is mean to you through no fault of your own, that is completely their problem. It has nothing to do with you.
  34. No matter how badly someone has treated you, dwelling on how much you hate them will never help. Learn to let go and don’t let them control your lives.
  35. Having a rainy day emergency fund will help you sleep easier at night.
  36. No matter what your spiritual belief, take time every day to connect with a higher power.
  37. Take advantage of being stuck in your car—there is so much to be learned from podcasts or audio books.
  38. Always look for ways to improve yourself. You will never waste your time doing that.
  39. I used to love to gossip, but the older I get, the more pointless it has become.
  40. Laughter is really, truly the best medicine.

Whether you are twenty or sixty, I hope some of my observations strike a chord with you. We are all on this journey together, and my hope is that you will love, learn, and grow along with me every single day. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts—each one of you has helped me grow along the way, and I am grateful for you!

Which of these most resonates with you right now? Comment below!

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How to Start a Book Club

What is your favorite book?

My all-time favorite is Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, but it’s hard to pick a favorite from the hundreds I’ve read over the years.

I think just about everyone loves a good book, either on paper, an ebook, or an audio book. They take us away to stories of romance, adventure, history, and fantasy. Or, if you are a literature major like I was, you slogged through tomes about existential crises or boring philosophical treatises.

But any way you slice it, books are fabulous, and nothing beats the satisfaction of sharing good stories with others. One of my readers requested that I write about how to start a book club, and I don’t have to look any further than my sister Liz.

Liz is a dedicated, fabulous teacher who loves all things Jane Austen. One of her best friends, Cheryl, read The Jane Austen Book Club and got an idea to do something similar. So she convinced her sister, sister-in-law, Liz, friend Jamie, friend Erin, and Erin’s friend Tiffany to start a book club. It revolves around all things Austen.

Cheryl is the driving force behind the book club. She selects the seven titles to read each year. Every September, all the girls meet to set the dates, decide who will host which meeting, and Cheryl lets them know the book titles.

The meetings all follow the same format:

  • Each member hosts the club once a year. They are in charge of snacks—which of course include tea or lemonade, finger sandwiches, and desserts. They food is something similar to what Austen would have eaten, but of course they can put a 21st-century twist on the food.
  • The host is also responsible for discussion questions. Liz either finds them online, or she takes notes as she reads her book and makes up the questions that way. They debate major themes, plot points, and if they liked the book or not.
  • Then there is a craft or project that relates to the first two decades of the nineteenth century. The book club has made quill pens, teacup bookmarks, needlepoints, or silhouettes that were very popular back then. They have also learned how to play card games popular during the Georgian era.

Jane Austen only wrote six books, I can hear some of you thinking. So what do they read every year?

  • During the first year, the book club read the original Austen novels.
  • Year two, the girls read books all written from male characters’ perspectives.
  • Years three and four were fan-fiction novels, some of them bestsellers (such as The Jane Austen Book Club.)
  • In the fifth year, they revisited the original novels.
  • The club is in its sixth year, and they are reading spin-offs of the original novels.

I asked Liz if she ever gets tired of reading the same type of books, but she doesn’t. She loves the social time, hanging out with friends she doesn’t see often, and she has enjoyed almost all the books she has read.

Now while Liz’s book group is exclusively dedicated to Jane Austen, you can get creative. Maybe you are a fan of Harry Potter, Twilight, or The Hunger Games. Maybe you read novels set in Paris or Italy. Or you focus on a certain period of history.

Maybe you want to read books with a purpose. You get together with co-workers or other entrepreneurs to read business or self-development books. There are no limits to topics.

I hope this gives you an idea of how to start a book club and structure meetings. You don’t have to have a large group, and you don’t even have to meet every month. But you do have to have a love for books and want to share that with others!

What topics interest you if you could star a book club? Comment below!

How I Failed Myself with Food and What I Learned

My name is Annie, and I like food.

I also do Weight Watchers.

Just the other day, I went waaaaay over my points limit on food. Without going into gory details, I consumed enough calories for three days in about 18 hours.

I messed up, big time.

While it wasn’t during the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to talk about it because it is very topical. There are so many events revolving around food this time of year—office parties, family get-togethers, seeing friends, bowl games, cocktails…and on and on.

So if you’re like me and are trying to eat sensibly for your health, how do you get back on track? Let me tell you a little about my situation and what I have done to grow from the experience.

I must preface this by saying I am losing weight and that is my choice for my health. I advocate healthy eating for everyone, but not weight loss to conform to society’s standards. And not “dieting” to the point you forsake all the foods you love. So if you think I’m hypocritical for being body positive and wanting to lose weight at the same time, please stop reading.

OK, now that I made the disclaimer, back to the story.

After a day of overindulging, I woke up and calculated how much I ate and drank. And I was appalled at what I had done.

You had been doing so well and now you’ve really effed it up, I told myself. Great job, Annie!

Well, I poured myself a cup of coffee and assessed how I felt.

  • I acknowledged that I ate. A lot. No sense in denying it happened. There is no one to blame but myself. No excuses. But also no beating myself up about what already happened.
  • I determined what caused me to overeat. I thought about how I was feeling at the time—depressed and bored. Depression will especially drive me to eat more than I should. Again, I’m not excusing myself, but recognizing what pushes me to turn to food.
  • I developed a strategy. I created a menu for my weekly grocery-shopping trip, which mostly consisted of fruits, veggies, healthy TV dinners, and low-sodium soups.
  • I put some guardrails in place. I blocked the websites from my two favorite pizzerias on my computer so I wouldn’t be tempted to order online. I also left my debit card in my sock drawer for the following week so I couldn’t go out for happy hour or get fast food after work.
  • I talked it out. I called one of my best friends and texted the other while I cleaned house. It reminded me that there is more to life than food and the guilt associated with it. And it also reminded me there are a lot of people who love me no matter what my size and no matter how badly I screw up.
  • I went for a two-mile walk. Enjoying the unseasonably mild fall, I walked around the neighborhood and listened to some positive, uplifting podcasts which I always have programmed into my phone. Spending time out in cool weather never fails to lift my spirits.

So I stuck carefully to the food plan I laid out. I tracked my points on my Weight Watchers app, and I stayed on the bandwagon. I called my friends or went out for a walk when I was tempted to order takeout or get a bottle of wine. I know what I need to do to overcome my depression, and I focused on me and my feelings instead of the food.

I was rewarded the next time I went to Weight Watchers—I had lost five pounds in the span of a week. That’s a drop in the bucket for me, but it is a testament to what I can do when I put my mind to it. It’s hard to say no to food or wine in the short-term, but I kept my eye on the long game. Losing weight is my goal, and acting like an adult woman in charge of her feelings resulted in real progress.

Everyone has different ways how they treat themselves after they overindulge on whatever their vice is. But please look over what I have laid out and adapt it to a plan that works for you. How can you forgive yourself when you make a mistake, but still be gentle with yourself?

Maybe you go for a bike ride. Maybe you cook a healthy dish. You talk it over with a loved one, journal, write poetry, or you have another outlet for your feelings.

Whatever it is, my hope is that you will acknowledge when you make a mistake, love yourself anyway, and come up with positive strategies for future success.

What are healthy ways you deal with depression, negative emotions, boredom, or stress? Comment below!

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An Interview with Canadian Blogger Ena Dumais

Plus One Woman is going north of the border this week to interview Ontario-based fashion and body positivity blogger, activist, and speaker Ena Dumais.

Ena is the creative for behind Pretty, Plus, and Proud, where she chronicles her journey to self-love and –acceptance, provides makeup tips, stresses the importance of loving yourself, teaches how to cultivate a positive mindset, and shares her shopping scores (frequently at Torrid).

She is also honest about her daily life, her family, and living with MS. I just love her blog because it radiates positivity, strength, and finding joy in your everyday life.

Please enjoy the following interview and make sure to check Ena out on social media at the links below—she is especially active on her YouTube channel. Her videos are a blast to watch—especially her shopping hauls and her body positive talks. Be sure you subscribe so you can snag her giveaways!

  1. One of the strongest messages on your blog that resonates with me is learning to love who you are, where you are right now. How did you learn that yourself, and what do you say to the woman who really struggles with accepting herself as she is?

 I guess for me, wisdom came with age. I turned 50 and was tired of fighting with my body. I thought to myself I don’t want to waste any more time trying to be something I’m not. I didn’t want to spend any more time counting calories, weighing food, and hiding in clothes too big for me. For women still struggling, I would say that life is short and spending it hating yourself is a battle that there is no winner. You don’t want to miss any more special moments with loved ones that you can’t get back.

  1. I really loved your “Inspiring Women” series you did earlier this year. You highlighted some of your heroes from social media, and how they are beautiful inside and out. What inspires you as a woman?

Women who have fought the battle with themselves and have come out loving their curves. Women who see their lumps, bumps, scars, and stretch marks as signs of a life well lived are my heroes. They are the women little girls should be admiring—not what they typically see in social media, TV, movies, or print media.

  1. What are some of your favorite fashion and/or makeup combinations you have worn lately?

Recently I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried on a skirt/t-shirt combination that I didn’t think I’d like, but I loved it and I bought it. I plan to rock it at a Body Positive event I’m attending Thanksgiving weekend!

 

How to follow Ena:

Her blog

Facebook

YouTube

Instagram

Twitterv

A Powerful Book for Body Positivity—Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Don’t read this book if you want to feel good about yourself.

With so much ugliness and negativity floating around the news and online, good news is sometimes hard to come by, but thankfully there’s a book that will make you laugh, cry, cheer for the authors, and help you love your body as it is.

I am referring to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident.

This is one of the most powerful (and easy-to-read!) body positivity books I have read in a long time. Each chapter is four pages tops, and reveals little slices of life from 90+ authors who all experience body positivity in their own ways.

The following are summaries of my favorite chapters (other than my own…Chapter 67 if you are interested!) and the lessons learned in each:

  1. Shape Shifting Editor and trailblazing supermodel Emme had her first big photo shoot in the 1980s. The well-known photographer took one look at her and gasped, “I’m not shooting this fatty!” Aghast by his unprofessional behavior, Emme managed to hold her head high and finish the session. Five years later, when she was at the peak of her career, she got a certain sort of revenge on him. And she reflected on how she grew from the experience. “Despite one man’s limitations, we can all expand our horizons and change our attitudes toward each other,” she muses.
  2. Exposed – In this short essay, author Kathrine Conroy is very, very hot in yoga class. She wants to take off her tank top, but would she dare to do an entire class wearing a sports bra? She does. And as class progresses, she marvels at her body’s imperfections and how it has allowed her to travel through life. And how it allows her to do the yoga that she loves so much.
  3. SweetestRedHead – This story really punched me in the gut. After another divorce, author Patrick Michael McIntyre decided to try online dating and met SweetestRedHead. It was her first real relationship and his deepest love. Patrick had to break through the walls that SRH’s low self-esteem had built up around her. But his patience was rewarded with love and joy beyond all telling. Though they loved intensely, the relationship only lasted 2.5 years. I’m not giving away the ending, but this book made me ugly cry. In a beautiful way. It is a story of love beyond weight, and love beyond time. And if you don’t cry just a little, there is something seriously wrong with you.
  4. Mother of the Groom – I thought this one was the funniest. Writer Anne Merrigan is desperately trying to find a dress to her son’s wedding. At a tiny dress shop owned by two fearless and hands-y Italian sisters, Anne finds a beautiful dress. And despite her flaws, the Italian shopkeeps acknowledge them but point out the best parts of her “”Gooda arms!” “Gooda legs!” “We shorten gown. Showa leg.”). They give Anne the confidence to fly solo.

Packed with heart-warming quotes to introduce each chapter, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident is a wonderful read. The short chapters make it perfect to pick up and read a couple chapters before bed, or when you only have a couple minutes.

And, of course, the message is timeless and at the heart of all that is body positivity: Celebrate the skin you are in.

What story of your life would make the perfect addition to a Chicken Soup for the Soul book? Comment below!

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The Best Plus-Size Podcasts

Hello. My name is Annie, and I am a podcastaholic.

Serioulsy. I can’t get enough of them. Whether commuting to/from work, cleaning house, running errands, or walking around the neighborhood, they are like catnip for me. I have fourteen active podcasts in my Stitcher app that put out new episodes (usually weekly), and another eight that put out episodes on an irregular basis.

Truth be told, my interests vary greatly; most of them center around blogging, self-help, or business. But one is dedicated to antique phonograph music, and yet another deals with the politics of the European Union. True story.

Today I want to introduce the four best podcasts out there for plus-size women that I have found. While their publishing schedules are erratic (as of September 2017), their positive and joyful message merit a listen-to and you should definitely add them to your listening rotation:

  1. The Chenese Lewis Show—Founded in 2008, this began as PLUS Model Radio, the podcast for PLUS Model Magazine. Chenese Lewis began interviewing plus-size models, agents, make-up artists, etc. Then she rebranded and interviewed singers, designers, bloggers, athletes, comedians, actors, and other movers and shakers in the plus-size community. After 187 episodes, she took a 14-month hiatus before relaunching again in October 2017. Listening to all her episodes helped me learn a lot about the plus-size community and exposed me to a lot of names and brands I never would have learned about otherwise.
  2. Big Curvy Love: A Plus Size Podcast—Australian blogger Kelly Glover is perhaps best known for her spectacular “50 Fat Dates” series. Her fun podcast covers male and female fashion, fitness, Brazilian waxing, lingerie, fashion, etc. My personal favorite episode is her interview with plus-size burlesque dancer Lillian Bustle. It is outstandingly funny and you learn that burlesque is a lot harder than you’d actually think. Glover’s last podcast was published in September 2016. She is now a writer for the Australian site Mamamia.
  3. Healthy at Any Size—Melinda Parrish has a beautiful podcast that celebrates fitness, recovering from eating disorders, entrepreneurs, and really feeling healthy at any size. No matter what your size or your sport, plus-size model, athlete, and recovering-from-an-eating-disorder host Parrish has a podcast that celebrates curves and where you are right now as an athlete—not your ideal size, but where you are today. 
  4. Flaunt Performance—I absolutely love Aja Yasir’s podcast for plus-size runners and athletes. She interviews trainers who give running and triathlon tips, and she also interviews her 75+-year-old mother who got Aja hooked into running (by far my favorite show!). You don’t need to be a runner to enjoy the healthy-at-any-size movement. And Aja’s story is truly touching. What a wonderful show!

Whether you have lots of commute time to devote to these podcasts or can only check out the episodes I recommend, you will not regret adding these podcasts to your favorite listening app. They are a great way to learn more about the plus-size community, get inspired, or become introduced to new writers, bloggers, or fashion lines!

What is your all-time favorite podcast? Comment below!

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Three of Mainstream Retailers Are Now Offering Plus Sizes

If you’ve been plus-size like me since you were a teenager, you know how much going shopping sucks with your straight-size friends.

You patiently go to their stores and watch them try on super cute clothes you can’t wear. Then they accompany you to Lane Bryant or Torrid. The only stores you could both enjoy would be shoe stores or Sephora.

In other words, it’s no fun.

It’s no fun to not be able to shop the same places as your straight-size friends and enjoy pulling clothes off the same racks in the same store.

That is starting to change.

Thankfully more and more merchants realize plus-size women have money—after all, we spend over $20 billion a year on plus-size clothing. And we want cute clothes. Most of all, we just want the opportunity to shop where our friends do, and some of them are stepping up to the plate. While these retailers don’t carry their new plus collections in their stores, it is definitely a good sign.

New York & Company (If you are my age, New York & Company was a staple at many malls in the 90s. I loved their clean and simple silhouettes, durable fabrics, and timeless patterns. However, by the time I hit college, I grew out of their XL size range. Even their “extended sizes” (to XXL) were cut too slim for me. Boo.

Imagine my delight when I saw their new collaboration with actress Eva Mendes to carry a new line in sizes up to an American 3X. I hurried over to check out the site (it’s only available online), but I was quickly disappointed. While the thirty-eight-piece collection isn’t bad, it’s not my aesthetic. It relies heavily on cheap materials like itchy polyester, velvet (yes, I am weird and hate velvet), and wrinkly rayon. And there were other details I didn’t like such as bell sleeves, shapeless swing dresses, and maxi-dresses for a fall/winter collection.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to check it out. My opinions are my own, and you might find it really cute. Most of the collection is 50% off as of this writing.

White House Black Market I always felt a twinge of envy walking by their stores. Black and white. Chic, timeless designs. Sign me up!

I moseyed on over to their collection of fifty-nine pieces and was again disappointed. While it was a larger offering than NY&CO, there was still a lot of reliance on polyester in their fabrics and the website wouldn’t break down the fabric percentages. That said, the jeans look particularly cute, and the blazers look nice – I particularly like the cropped black blazer. It’s worth a look!

Ann Taylor Loft This is the one I really want to see. I’ve always loved their classic style. When Chrissy Metz from This Is Us announced Ann Taylor would be carrying plus sizes starting in February 2018, I was foaming at the mouth and ready to whip out my credit card.

But I will wait and see what they have to offer. NY&CO wasn’t all that great. WHBM is a “meh” at best, so I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up too high.

It is about time more mainstream designers realize our money is just as good as anyone else’s. And if they want to snooze and miss a multibillion dollar industry, that’s their loss. I will check out the new collections, but I still prefer to support indie designers, and you should too!

Want to know the secrets to cultivating a French wardrobe? Sign up for the Plus One Woman’s mailing list to get your free ebook with a capsule wardrobe checklist and places to shop!

How About…Selling Things on Craigslist?


Ah, Craigslist!

That circus of humanity where you can buy haunted dolls for $1 or a $1.3M Bugatti Veyron.

While there is certainly a myriad of items for sell on Craigslist, have you ever thought of using it to downsize and even make some cold, hard cash?

Full disclosure: I have never sold anything off Craigslist myself. I am much more of an eBay seller. I guess the introvert in me likes the nameless, faceless interaction eBay offers. But I have friends who have made a surprising mint on this site.

Here are some ground rules that you, as a single lady, should keep in mind as you ponder what to sell on that crazy Craigslist (tips are courtesy of my BFF Angie, a Craigslist maven):

  • Only accept cash payments. Checks can bounce, and why bother getting a Square account for plastic?
  • Don’t hold anything for someone who will “pay later.” You want the item? You pay now! Why would you hold an item for someone who may or may not pay you? If you have a good item for sale, first come, first served.
  • If at all possible, meet in a public place. In broad daylight. With lots of people around. Coffees hops, fast food restaurants, and parking lots of big box stores are all good ideas.
  • If they are coming to your house, have backup. Angie has her dad over. Get your sweetie to hang around. Or a couple friends. There is safety in numbers!

Now that we got those deets out of the way, here are some ways my friends and family have profited from Craigslist triumphs:

Kellsey from NE: I bought a total lemon car…a 2000 Dodge Intrepid. We test-drove it, my stepdad said it looked OK, and we talked them down to $1,200 from the $1,700 asking price. I found a bunch of change left in the center console, and they told me to keep it! Plus I got to flirt with the handsome son of the owner ;).” (You can actually find money in your purchases!)

Ashley from TN: “My husband told me I could fill our home with knickknacks off any money I could make selling our old appliances and such when we rehabbed our home. I went Craigslist crazy and made $842 selling our ‘trash.’ It was a bit more than he expected!”

Dad from NE: “I had a 1984 Toyota Corolla. It was 24 years old, barely worked, and I thought I would be lucky to get $50 for scrap metal. I listed it for $250 on Craigslist one Tuesday morning, and had a woman test-driving it and paying cash for it within an hour. A barely usable car that was a curse for my family turned out to be a blessing for hers!”

BFF Angie from NE: “Do you want to hear about the $500 coffee table I got for $50? That was a magnificent bargain. Or once when I was moving I had a freezer I had to get rid of. It worked fine, but there was a funky odor coming from inside. So I offered anyone $50 to take it off my hands. Six people replied in less than 90 minutes.” (Moral of her stories: You can flip extraordinary bargains if you have the time, you can declutter your house with a few clicks of your mouse, and you can even find random gigs on Craigslist that actually pay!)

So whether you are looking to unload stuff for extra cash or looking for side gigs to earn some money, give Craigslist a thought. Give your unwanted items a new lease on life and give them to a good home!

Except the devil dolls. You can keep those.

What is the best thing you’ve ever found on Craigslist? Comment below!

The Value of In-Kind Donations

Want to make a difference in the world?

Yeah, Annie, I would love to. But I don’t have time. And right now, I am so broke that I can’t afford to pay attention!

Trust me, I get it. Money isn’t always an option to give, especially since us single girls only have our income. Have you ever thought about in-kind (non-monetary) donations?

I want to give you some tips for giving in-kind donations to make your donation go further and get yourself a tax write-off.

In-kind donations can take lots of different forms such as:

  • A silent auction item for a nonprofit
  • A bridesmaids dress for lower-income girls to have as prom dresses
  • Housewares for domestic violence survivors to set up their own apartment
  • Furniture for nonprofits that provide housing for refugees
  • Business clothes for women to wear on interviews
  • Gently used clothing for thrift shops who reinvest their earnings into community programs

Not only are these donations fantastic gifts for the nonprofits and those they serve, but it saves items from being thrown away. Clothes get a second life, and old appliances or furniture help set up new households.

There are tax benefits to in-kind donations. According to IRS.gov, here is what you need to do:

  • Make sure your donation is to a fully qualified 501(c)3. You cannot claim deductions to your church’s thrift store if it doesn’t have its own nonprofit tax ID number.
  • Make absolutely sure you have the proper documentation from the nonprofit about your donation. Any donation above $250 must have the charity’s name, the date, and the description and value of the donation. It’s a good idea to do this for any in-kind gift. Any 501(c)3 worth its salt will happily provide this paperwork upon request.
  • You cannot take a deduction for clothing unless it is in good used condition or better.
  • If you donate more than $500 worth of goods, you need to attach IRS form 8283, Section B to your income tax return.
  • Certain items are subject to professional appraisals to determine value. Click the link above for more information.
  • Always ask your tax professional any specific items. I am not a tax professional, and I gave up doing my own taxes a long time ago!

Note: While volunteer time and donated services (teaching a class, helping people prepare tax forms) are exceedingly generous, they are not tax-deductible. The IRS states that only tangible goods can be deducted from taxable income.

Now, to be honest, I don’t get documentation for every donation I make. I ruthlessly purged my closet about three years ago and had three trash bags full of clothes to give to a women’s shelter in my hometown. I didn’t have the time or the interest to categorize every item, let alone bother the shelter for a donation letter. But it was hundreds of dollars worth of clothing I could have written off.

I advocate giving because you really want to—not because you want a tax write-off. Don’t feel like you have to do all the paperwork if you just want to give items away. Do what works best for you. If you don’t have the time or energy to gather receipts or donation acknowledgments, there’s nothing wrong with that. The fact you are giving trumps everything else!

Whether you are helping a women just out of prison furnish her first apartment or adopting a family for Christmas, giving in-kind donations can have a powerful impact that lasts long after you’ve paid the bill. With a little creativity, you can give your unwanted possessions a second life. With a little extra paperwork, you can benefit from the tax deductions in the IRS code.

What do you have in your home that you would love most to give as an in-kind donation? Comment below!

The Single Girl’s Guide to Renter’s Insurance

About ten years ago, I was living at home when my parents got a late-night phone call.

My sister’s apartment building had burned down.

A guest visiting a resident carelessly discarded a cigarette into a trash can. It happened to be right next to the apartment building, and it caught fire in no time.

Thankfully my sister wasn’t hurt, and her cats suffered some smoke inhalation, but they were fine. Her betta fish somehow even made it out unscathed.

The rest of her possessions were shot. Except for a few objects, everything was waterlogged or sustained smoke damage. She had to trash about 95% of what she owned.

She also was the only building resident who had insurance. Her company cut her a check for her insured amount, and she was able to refurnish her apartment after it was rebuilt. The rest of the tenants were not as lucky.

Be a savvy single woman. You only have your income and yourself to rely on to get insurance. My sister’s lesson was a powerful reminder for me to always have renter’s insurance, and I have never been without. It is one of the cheapest insurances to get—most policies run $10-$25 a month, and the following tips will help you decide what renter’s insurance is best for you, and how to find it.

How much insurance do I need?

This depends on how much you own. The average renter has $20,000 – $30,000 in possessions.

  • Make an inventory of everything you own.
  • Figure out how much you paid for it, and what it is worth now.
  • If you have an emergency fund (and you should really have at least $1,000 on hand), you can have a higher deductible.

How do I shop for insurance?

  • Call around to get price quotes. I like to do this every couple years to make sure I am getting the best possible deal.
  • Get quotes online. With the exception of erenterplan.com (which is worthless because there are a lot of zip codes they don’t even offer quotes for, and I mean A LOT, you have to go from site to site for quotes. It’s a hassle, and to be perfectly honest, I got cheaper rates when I made a few calls and talked to actual human beings.
  • Bundle it any existing car/life/etc. insurance. This doesn’t work in my specific case, but it does for a lot of people.
  • Hire an insurance broker. If you don’t have the time or energy to do your own comparison-shopping, you can always have a broker do it for you. While I have never done this myself, there are definitely some benefits, the most important being you have a honest-to-God person in your corner.

Are there any things in my policy I need to be aware of?

  • Some policies don’t cover earthquakes or floods. You may need to purchase separate policies. Consult your insurance company.
  • Know the difference between Actual Cash Value and Replacement Value. Actual Cash Value takes into account wear and tear, and is the actual value of the item. This is cheaper insurance. Replacement Value would be what it actually costs to replace your item with something similar.
  • Know if you policy has a cap on certain items. If you have a $20,000 policy but only has a $2,000 cap on jewelry, you may need to get a rider or extra insurance for heirloom jewelry. 

I sincerely hope nothing ever happens that you would need to cash in your renters insurance. But having it gives you that extra peace of mind you deserve. Don’t be like the other tenants in my sister’s building. Be savvy and protect your possessions!

When was the last time you compared renters or homeowners insurance policies? Comment below and tell us your story!

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