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Theres a silver lining to this shit cloud.

How to Pay Hospital Bills When You’re Flat Broke

It’s a fucking travesty that the leading cause of bankruptcy in these United States is medical bills. Not credit card bills nor risky investments. Not even student loans, but hospital bills. Invoices racked up through freak accidents and diseases the patient certainly didn’t ask for and would probably prefer to live without.

To our readers in other, more civilized countries, you’re dismissed. This week we’re going to be dissecting a uniquely American problem: exorbitant medical bills and how to pay them.

The CEO of GoFundMe, an online crowd-funding platform, never dreamed that his company would become synonymous with “I’m broke and need $300,000 to pay for my child’s cancer treatment.” What he envisioned as a way for entrepreneurs and artists to raise money for their passion projects has become the last desperate hope of sick and injured Americans on the verge of total financial ruin.

It blows, dear readers. It fucking blows.

Which is why we need to get creative with some of the lesser-known and best ways to pay for medical bills. Sure, it might be cheaper in the long run to move to Canada, Sweden, or Namibia. But if you bleed American blood on American soil, here’s what you do.

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Here's how you, too, can be a Craigslist Samurai.

I Am a Craigslist Samurai and so Can You: How to Sell Used Stuff Online

A few months ago I found my neighbor’s purse in the alley behind our houses near the dumpster. It was a nice purse, real leather, and inside was a Coach brand wallet. I assumed she’d been robbed, and went to her door to return the nearly empty bag. Imagine my surprise when she told me that no, it hadn’t been stolen, she’d just thrown it out.

Rather than side-eyeing her into oblivion, I kept the designer items… and sold them for cold, hard cash. Because that, dear friends, is how I do.

For I am a Craigslist Samurai! A Paladin of online, stranger-to-stranger transactions! Bequeath unto me your used snowboards and semi-broken furniture! I shall dust them off, fix them up, and turn them for a tidy profit, all in the name of my eventual financial independence!

Besides the thoughtlessly discarded purse and wallet, over the last few years I’ve sold a dresser ($20), a table ($25), a microwave ($10), a VCR ($10), bar stools ($20 each), a flat-screen TV I literally found on the side of the road ($100), another flat-screen from a friend ($100), two tables ($50 and $20 respectively), my old desk ($50), an AC ($20), a hardwood bed frame ($280), and a bike a friend left in my garage because he didn’t want to bother selling it before moving away ($150).

Selling stuff online can be a great way to bring in a little extra money. Most of the items above are things I got for free. The tables, for example, were left in the alley behind my house (before you call me out on it, yes, I aspire in all ways to be Dumpster Doggy). I rescued them, gave them a new coat of paint and stain, and sold them.

And if you’re patient, the payoff can be huge: the bed frame, bike, and TV were all from friends who moved away and didn’t have the time to sell their stuff before they left. But I had a garage to store them in and plenty of time to sell them right, for maximum profit.

It’s an art and a challenge. Here’s how you, too, can be a Craigslist Samurai.

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Like anyone optimizing your finances, the minimalist's ultimate goal is freedom.

Everything I Know About Minimalism I Learned from the Zombie Apocalypse

Dear readers, it’s time I made a confession. You need to know The Real Me™. I’ve been hiding myself for too long.

Guys… I fucking love zombies.

It’s true. Every year around Halloween I go watch a live theatrical performance of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I’ve met Max Brooks twice and both times he declined my marriage proposal. Same goes for Mila Jovovich. I finished The Last of Us in forty-eight hours. Zombieland is my favorite family-friendly, feel-good buddy comedy. I attend my city’s annual Zombie Crawl religiously.

I pride myself on having read the entire canon of zombie literature. Yes, even the one about zombies on the Titanic. Even the one where a zombie gets elected president. Even the one where a high school football team is reanimated as zombies just in time to win the state championship. Even the one where zombies played a pivotal role in the formation of ancient Israel. And yes, even the YA romance trilogy (no, the other one). I read Warm Bodies before it was published.

Having lived for years with this unhealthy obsession with zombies, you would naturally think that I would’ve learned something by now (besides the double-tap rule and how to steel yourself for mercy-killing a loved one, of course).

Turns out I did. I’ve learned a helluva lot about minimalism from the zombie apocalypse.

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When the check arrives, who pays?

Take Pride in Being a Cheap Date

I have no idea how to date. I accidentally fell in love with the boy next door at eighteen, married him at twenty-seven, and I don’t think you could call my high school floozyism before then “dating” by any stretch of the imagination (#noregerts).

So picture my horror when my single friends tell me about how goddamn expensive it can be to date. On top of dating being an often excruciatingly awkward, painful, nerve-wracking, and misery-inducing experience, it can also feel like throwing good money after bad dates.

My girl Gabby says of the dating experience, “Dating revolves a lot around going out for meals and activities. We went to Top Golf for an hour and a half and he spent over $100… for a casual weeknight date. Concert tickets at the best venues in town are no less than $50 a pop before you even add in any drinks or food. Not only is dating expensive because you’re going out, but it also means you want to look your best so you may get a few new articles of clothing, get your hair done (on your head or otherwise…), get your nails done…”

All of which is just financially dire enough to convince me there has to be a better way. And I don’t mean taking vows of chastity and poverty and joining a convent. Though that’s a truly tempting option in light of some men’s behavior.

So buckle up, kids, and let this old married hag tell you how to save money while still finding Prince or Princess Charming. Surely it can’t be that hard, right?

… right?

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Do not get me started on the whole "audiobooks aren't books" thing.

Your Library Lets You Stream Audiobooks and eBooks FOR FREEEEEEE!

Our love of libraries is well-documented. Did we mention we feel the same way about librarians? We’re working on a dating app to connect our two core user demographics: INTJs and librarians. It’s called Stackitect, and it’s coming in 2019! Copyright, copyright, copyright. (Copyright law works just like triple talaq, yes?)

We love going to the library in person. Entering a library feels like taking an Adderall. (Again, I assume. I’m lame.) My ass gets FOCUSED! It’s the perfect place to work, read, research, study, and learn. And whatever you’re doing, librarians can be incredibly helpful. They are friendly, knowledgable, and waging a quiet war to protect us from fascism.

But sometimes it’s tricky to physically get to your library. Maybe the parking situation is rough, or the hours overlap with your work schedule, or a trip requires a long series of bus rides. Maybe you find the librarians too distractingly sexy. I’m not here to judge.

Too sexxxay.

Have no fear! In recent years, libraries have made incredible strides into the dense and unmappable jungle that is the internet. There’s a slew of new and constantly-improving apps that allow you to instantly rent and return free audiobooks and ebooks. Including graphic novels! And movies!

As you well know, the only thing we love more than librarians is free shit. Here are some of the top apps. Please go download them immediately.

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The Magically Frugal Power of Patience

When I was a little kid, my dad explained the power of prayer to me. He said, “When you ask God for something you really, really want, He’ll give you one of three answers: yes, no, or wait.”

And kids? That’s when I became an atheist.

Just kidding. I didn’t apostatize until I was about nineteen, and the decision to leave religion forever had nothing to do with my dad’s words of wisdom.

But at the time my dad told me this story, I was pretty fucking disgruntled. “Wait”? Dafuq kind of answer was “wait” from an all-knowing, benevolent, magical guidance counselor in the sky? “Wait” was not in my eight-year-old vocabulary and I was damned if I was going to be patient for anything.

But with the perspective and wisdom of years, I now have good reason to embrace this concept of waiting, of being patient for the things I want.

My dad thought he was teaching me about faith and adult-level patience and serenity and shit. But what he really taught me about was far more interesting:

Money.

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What’s the Effect of Social Media on Your Finances?

“What’s the effect of social media on my finances?”

Our regular readers know that we ask our Patreon supporters to help us choose article topics. This month’s poll was a dead heat, so we decided to take on both! And this was the question posed.

It’s a tough one to answer comprehensively with data. Everyone uses different platforms, in different amounts, for different reasons. But some immediate commonalities jumped out at us. Some were good, and some were bad. In honor of my tepid* acknowledgment that Star Wars exists, I’ve categorized them into light and dark sides.

GUYS I’M JUST SO

HIP AND TOPICAL

YOU CAN’T EVEN HANDLE IT.

Go see a star war.

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Fun for the whole train car!

Understand the Hidden Costs of Travel and Avoid Them Like the Plague

Like traveling ladies of yore, we daintily but enthusiastically wave our kerchiefs to our Patreon supporters. They selected this week’s topic in our monthly donor polls, and I’m thrilled. Because I have some things to get off my chest. Other than my bra, which has already had its ceremonial end-of-day removal and flinging.

Gentle readers, I come to you straight from my biannual trip back home for Christmas.

It fucking suuuuucked.

It’s not that I hate spending time with my family (though the inclusion of the Commander in Chief in this year’s Christmas dinner prayer was more than enough to ruin my appetite). But visiting them during the holidays is an expensive logistical nightmare.

We have to buy our flights, get to and from the airport four times, feed ourselves during a long day of travel, arrange for pet care while we’re away, and even pay for lodgings and transportation once we’re there if my in-laws are inexplicably remodeling the house again during our visit.

Again: it sucks. And I’ve realized that traveling to visit family is the thing that most often puts me at risk of overspending my budget.

Fortunately, this cheap bitch has learned a few tricks along the way to cling to my hard-earned pennies.

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Meaning a necklace, not a garrote.

I Have No Gift to Bring Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum: The Anti-Consumerist Gift Guide

Kitty: <writes title>

Kitty: <pats self on back until wrist breaks>

Self-congratulatory.

As we discussed earlier this month, shopping for holiday gifts can be… well, sucky. As often as it’s fun, it’s stressful and financially draining.

But if you’ve been paying attention to our RADICAL SOCIAL JUSTICE WAR CRIES, you won’t be surprised to hear that we’re pretty conflicted about holiday gift-giving in general. Specifically, our gripe is with the hyped-up mass commercialization and the endless push to consume.

Tokens and gestures of kindness give us a seasonal thrill—I mean, we’re not totally dead inside! Merely partially! But when you hate consumerism, it can be really hard to participate in the good parts of the tradition without feeling like you’ve lost touch with your own values.

Anti-consumerism is a lake fed by many rivers. Mindless consumption is bad for people, bad for the planet, bad for your wallet, and rote and impersonal. Some people care a lot about one or two of those aspects more strongly than others. If only there was some kind of helpful venn diagram that broke down anti-consumerist attitudes about gift giving…

Oh wait! Silly me, I’m a graphic designer! I’m paid to eat data and shit venn diagrams!

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When you come from a family such as mine, exchanging presents at holidays becomes a massive impracticality.

How Can I Tame My Family’s Crazy Gift-Giving Expectations?

Want to know how much the average American spends on Christmas gifts in a single year?

It’s $929.

Keep in mind that this does not include airfare to visit family, food and drink for large gatherings, donations to charity, holiday decorations, or other common yuletide purchases. That’s just the gifts.

Given that a majority of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency, it’s hardly surprising that a majority of Americans also go into debt to buy Christmas gifts.

This indicates there is a startling cognitive dissonance around Christmas. Our cultural scripts constantly remind us that gifts are unnecessary, that the true spirit of the season is love. Yet so many of us martyr ourselves financially to be able to give each other yet more stuff.

It’s hard to push back against the weight of tradition, but the results are well worth the effort. We Bitches, using different systems, have managed to make the last several winter holidays a stress-free, debt-free season. Here are our secrets.

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