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5 Things

5 Things You Can do to Improve your Credit Score Right Now

Your credit score is important. It’s how lenders decide if they’ll approve your loan application, how insurance companies determine your premiums, and even how some employers decide if they’ll hire you.

If your credit isn’t where you’d like it to be, you may run into some brick walls. Fortunately, there some quick ways you can improve your credit score right now.

1. Bring all payments current

Life happens and sometimes we get behind. That’s okay, as long as it’s temporary. As quickly as you can, bring your payments current. The faster you show a positive payment history, the faster your credit score will improve. Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score – it’s the largest component of it.

Do what you can to get the payments current and then keep paying them on time. Late payments affect your credit score the most. 

2. Reduce your credit utilization ratio

Your credit utilization ratio measures the amount of outstanding debt compared to your credit lines. It makes up 30% of your credit score (the second largest portion of your credit score) and any credit utilization rates higher than 30% hurt your credit. 

If you can’t pay your balances down quite yet, consider asking your credit card companies to raise your credit limits. This decreases your utilization rate too. Keep this in mind – every $100 in credit limit shouldn’t have more than $30 outstanding at once.

3. Keep unused credit cards open

It seems natural to close credit cards you or your partner don’t use – but don’t. Keep them open, just lock them up. Closing credit cards hurts your credit length, which makes up 15% of your credit score. 

Lock the cards in a safe or give them to a trusted family member – just don’t close them as it’s hard to make up credit length.

4. File a dispute for credit report errors

Credit report errors happen often. Whether it’s human error or creditor error, fixing it may help increase your credit score. File a dispute with the credit bureau with the incorrect information. You can file it online or write a letter and mail it in. Make sure you include as much proof of the error as you have. The credit bureau has 30 days to respond to your request.

5. Become an authorized user

If your partner or other close family member has good credit and/or good credit habits, consider asking to be an authorized user on their credit card.

You don’t have to use the credit card or make the payments, but you get the benefit of the cardholder’s good credit habits reporting on your credit report. Make sure the credit card you go on reports authorized users to the credit bureaus, though, as not all do. 

 

With the right habits, you can turn your credit score around quickly. Consistent and good credit habits can create change in your score in as little as 30 days. Make sure you’re consistent with your efforts and you’ll see a nice increase in your credit score. 

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Team Spotlight

Team Spotlight: Matt Modrowski – Design Lead

Matt is the Design Lead at Daylight. He previously worked for Monzo on their expansion into the US where he was responsible for the internationalization of the UK-based business for the US environment.

What steps led you to Daylight?

I’ve been building things for the web for the past 15 years, trying to create products that help serve the underserved. Most recently, I helped with product design at two FinTech startups and it was through a co-worker that I was introduced to the Daylight team. I immediately fell in love with Daylight’s mission. Queer banking? Sign me up.

When was the first time you thought about money?

I was lucky enough to have parents that taught me money basics early in life by giving me a small allowance every week in exchange for doing chores around the house. I remember just wanting to save up enough to get a Sega Genesis.

What was your “aha” moment with money?

I’m not sure that I ever had an ‘aha’ moment with money, but rather a series of accumulated experiences — from earning and saving with an allowance to figuring out to manage a part-time job while in high school. But I think the biggest moment was college / moving out on my own and figuring out how to budget.

What do you do outside of work?

I love movies and TV, especially older film classics. My husband writes about media for a living, so there’s always a good opportunity to watch interesting new things — we just finished watching “I May Destroy You” and are currently working through “Lovecraft Country.” When I’m not doing that, you’ll find me out hiking, baking, or playing video games (currently replaying Alan Wake).

Favorite LGBT+ business?

Outfest is a wonderful organization that supports LGBT+ media and arts, including their yearly Outfest Film Festival here in LA.

Categories
The Issues

The Hidden Costs of Transitioning

I’m finding this blog post really hard to start. There’s so much to say on this topic and it’s such a complex and personal issue that I’m almost at a loss for words. Transitioning is different for everyone. For some, it means hormones, name changes and surgeries. For others, it’s some of none of those things. It’s personal, it’s difficult, and often it’s really really expensive!

I’ve spoken briefly about how I got myself into debt transitioning: I was working a job that paid barely the living wage for NYC and despite freelancing on the side, I was not managing my money properly. I then got myself further into debt in order to retrain as a software engineer, one of the few career paths I could see that would allow me to work remotely (something I felt I needed for my mental health) while also giving me access to the kinds of salary levels that could actually enable me to access the surgeries I felt I needed to self actualize. 

My friend (who is also a trans woman) and I often joke about how every trans woman we know is a software engineer, but this took a more serious tone when, for some Daylight research, I was looking at your average monthly expenses if you’re a trans woman vs if you’re cis. She’s a senior software engineer, and has been on 6 figures since before she transitioned, so money has never been a barrier to any of her transition steps. When we looked at the spreadsheet, she texted “how can anyone who’s not on six figures afford all this”. Quite! 

A transgender woman in a hospital gown speaking to her doctor, a transgender man, in an exam room.
Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection.

The process of transitioning will vary from person to person according to their desired procedures and surgeries. Many will have different support networks and employment situations that could either help facilitate or act as a roadblock to transition. A lot of younger and less financially independent trans people, for example, who rely more heavily on monetary support from their parents, may experience a major financial setback, simply in failing to gain acceptance from their family.  

I think it’s also important to acknowledge here that some trans people choose not to take any medical steps, additionally non-binary people and people of other genders might also choose to medically transition. Everyone’s journey is different and valid, and today I just want to talk about those that do choose to take these steps, and the costs involved.

So, what are the costs?

Starting off with some of the costs of socially transitioning, getting a name change in the United States will cost in the range of $150 to $436, depending on which state or county you reside. Fees relating to the documentation of your name change, like the birth certificate and a certified copy, are included in that price range. A change of name on your driving license will typically cost around $20.  

There may be small costs relating to the purchasing of physical items that can enhance the gender experience of an individual. Products like chest binders cost around $30 while packers can be in the range of $10 to $20. 

Regarding the road to medically transitioning, hormone replacement therapy is one procedure that some wishing to transition see as a crucial step in their gender affirmation. The prescriptions and regular check-ups involved can cost around $1,500 a year. For transgender men’s hormone therapies, testosterone injections typically cost around $80 monthly, with testosterone patches costing more than $300 monthly. 

Sexual reassignment surgery (SRS, or GRS for ‘gender’) for trans women and trans femme people costs upwards of around $30,000, which many will find a daunting check to write, but the benefits will completely outweigh the costs. Other surgeries such as top surgery will cost between $9000 to $10,000.  

Many of the costs for surgery-related changes will vary depending on the complexity of the procedure, which comes down to the choice of that individual. For example, a metoidioplasty can range from anywhere between $50,000 to $60,000 whilst facial feminization surgeries (FFS) can be as expensive as $40,000 or as little as $3000, depending on which collection of surgeries you choose to have. 

Physical health considerations relating to transitioning must also be considered alongside psychological care, as trans people are more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression. It seems that from a bird’s-eye view, the bills really do begin to pile up.

How to fund a transition

The cost of gender affirming medical treatments can amount to more than $100,000 and a lot of these treatments are not covered by health insurance, based on short sighted ‘medically necessary’ clauses. 

The hidden costs to self-actualize, for a community already in an up-hill struggle legally and socially, are then doubled by a more complicated process for raising such money for these costs. For example, public funding platforms like GoFundMe require an individual to share their personal struggle to people which many individuals wishing to transition won’t be comfortable doing. There’s also evidence that being white, binary-presenting and a man makes it easier to crowdfund for surgeries.

Other methods of a medical loan or simply ‘saving up’ are more difficult for a group who are disproportionately of low income, and experience high levels of employment discrimination.

We’ll cover health insurance more deeply and broadly in a later blog post, but around 18% of trans people remain uninsured even though insurance companies have made sizeable strides in the past decade to provide coverage for transgender care. About 83% of insurance companies offer healthcare benefits that cover transgender care.

However, whilst this is now the case, some surgeries that are deemed ‘cosmetic’ by health insurance companies are less likely to be covered by their insurance policies. Procedures such as hair-removal, non-breast implants such as hip/face, or FFS are controversially labelled as not medically necessary for trans patients, when they are necessary for safety reasons. These treatments are medically necessary because they make it more likely that that person will move through society without being subject to bullying or harassment.

There has been some good progress in that regard, but the struggle carries on. Regarding the idea of ‘completing’ a transition: it must be held that no individual should feel pressured into undergoing multiple surgeries in order to validate their gender, and that transitioning doesn’t have a start, or an end. However, while surgery isn’t everyone’s goal, anyone wishing to embark on it should be supported. Ultimately, it’s about being comfortable in your skin and feeling safe and affirmed in your gender.

Categories
The Issues

LGBT+ Retirement: What You Need to Know

Did you know that half of all LGBT+ people believe they will have to work well beyond retirement age?

Retirement can be a scary prospect if you aren’t prepared. For a lot of people, the thought of things like 401ks, retirement homes and relying on familial support can send anyone into panic, but for LGBT+ people, it’s often even scarier.

Two older gay men embrace

Finding Support

40% of LGBT+ older people have said that their networks have become smaller over time, as compared to 27% of non-LGBT+ people. They are also more likely to live alone and less likely to have children or family that they can rely on to advocate on their behalf.

I do wonder if this will change over time; in our previous article about Queer Families we found that 63% of LGBT+ millennials are considering expanding their families either by becoming parents for the first time or by having more children. But for our current cohort of LGBT+ seniors the numbers are not quite this high, largely because it’s only recently become socially acceptable and legal for LGBT+ couples to raise families and adopt in the USA.

Roth IRA who?

The general consensus goes like this: if you want to be prepared for retirement, you need to start young. But being able to afford to put a hundred dollars a month or more in an account you won’t be able to touch for 40+ years is a hard concept to swallow if you’re living paycheck to paycheck or…yknow…during a global pandemic.

Additionally, 25% of LGBTQ Millennials rate their investing knowledge/financial acumen as very knowledgeable, compared to a third (33%) of Non-LGBT Millennials who rate themselves as very knowledgeable. I think a lot of people don’t even know where to start when it comes to retirement! There are all these confusing terms like ‘Roth IRA’ and ‘401k’ that you hear a lot, but no one ever seems to be able to explain what they actually mean.

The cost of being queer

All of our research ultimately points to the fact that being LGBT+ just costs more than being non-LGBT+. We’re more likely to have more student debt, family planning costs more, trans people face astronomical costs to self-actualize and even LGBT+ retirement homes cost more! They’re more likely to be in a city with a higher cost of living, and there are fewer of them (maybe as few as 22!).

But why does being in an LGBT+ specific retirement home matter? Well, for one thing, a lot of LGBT+ seniors fear being discriminated against, or just simply misunderstood. I highly recommend this podcast episode by Nancy on queer retirement. Hearing the conflict in the voices of gay seniors as they discuss the awkwardness of their straight friends at retirement homes presuming that they’re also straight really drives home how important it is that you’re able to grow old in a space that understands you and doesn’t try and erase your identity.

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Money Stories

Money Stories: Hadassah (Ride Free Fearless Money)

Image of Hadassah Damien from Ride Free Fearless Money

Money Stories is a new series designed to start the conversation about how being LGBT+ has affected our financial lives and hopefully help people feel inspired to talk more openly about money! Share your stories with me at billie@joindaylight.com.

– Billie

Hadassah Damien is a professional strategist, award-winning queer artist, entrepreneur, facilitator and educator. She founded Ride Free Fearless Money, an iconoclastic blog and finance consulting firm, in 2015 with the mission of stabilizing progressive communities by empowering people’s relationship to money. 

Ride Free Fearless Money helps individuals, partners, business owners, organization leaders, and cooperatives to create actionable and equitable financial strategies. Damien shares writing and online courses, collaborates in strategy sessions, and facilitates online trainings and workshops.

Ms. Damien is Brooklyn-based, with deep roots in working-class Western NY. She puts the values she inherited both into practice and under microscopes in her work. She has an MA from the CUNY Graduate Center, an Honors BA from the University of Toronto, her professional training and work is in communications, civic technology, and human centered design, and she’s an Accredited Asset Management Specialist from the College for Financial Planning.

When was the first time you thought about money?

The first time I thought about money was early on, as my parents made it clear to me we didn’t have much of it. The message was clear: be frugal, make things last, use what we have, creativity is more important than new gadgets, and you’re not getting new stuff so don’t ask. On one hand, these are (mostly) great values and I’m grateful they were instilled in me because they’ve lead me to be able to easily save money and not get stuck in cycles of consumer debt. On the other hand, the purpose of money isn’t to be freaked out by it and save all you get for a rainy day. Currency is meant to be a tool for exchange. My learnings later in life were about balancing rainy day preparation — which is important for those of us without financial safety nets — with using the other money I have.

What was your “aha” moment with money?

I always knew money meant the power to make decisions — I just thought for a long time I’d never have that power and would have to get creative with my decisions. But, in my 30’s, I started challenging myself to think about money as a tool, rather than simply a limitation or source of stress. That got me curious and wondering how it worked – and lead me to be willing to take what felt like risks at the time with various investing methods, because I understood them a lot more.

Once I understood it, I learnt what felt risky because it was so, and what felt risky because it was new, and could work around that. Investing can feel freaky because it’s not everyday you sit down and go “how can I make some money for my future?” but a nice boring reliable recurrent investing plan is one way you can go from precarious to prepared for the future. For folks who experience marginalization in everyday life, or who have historical inequality behind them, this can be a real game-changer. 

How has being LGBT+ impacted your relationship with money?

As a white cisgender lesbian, I haven’t experienced direct discrimination based on being queer, but for a long time I felt very alienated by status quo culture — hetero, middle-class, kahki-wearing white people. I didn’t see all the energy and passion I experienced in my creative, radical, queer life reflected by the status quo, so after trying out a day job and having a terrible boss and experience, I tapped out and worked lower-paying jobs in community. I also decided that I would never end up in a situation ever again where I had to suck it up to a cruel boss because of money — I saved an emergency fund, strategically built up all kinds of skills, freelanced on the side of other freelance, and picked jobs where the culture was intentional and cooperative. It was great; wonderful people, and excellent learning – but at some point, I realized I needed to make more money or I was going to struggle to support myself, forever. 

Queer and progressive people can build amazing businesses because we are more likely to be aware that domination culture is part of the problem, and now I work as a business and experience strategist, human-centered designer, and facilitator with organizations. I’ve made it my work to make work not suck, to center people by design, and help money not to be scary.

What are your financial goals for the future?

As a financial coach and consultant, I’m always asking others this question!! My goals include buying a home in the next year or so and paying the hell out of it so it’s paid off and I’m FI by 50 (I’m 41 now). I watched my mom grind away working low-paying jobs until she was 70 and I am highly motivated not to live that way, so another goal is to make enough money to be easily able to help her, give back, and have money to hit my goals. 

Favorite LGBT+ business (online or IRL)?

Ride Free Fearless Money is my personal brand, where I blog all about how money works from an intersectional and progressive perspective, as well as workbooks, courses, and classes. Let’s Talk About Money is the consulting I do with organizations, schools, foundations, etc:

Otherwise, my favorite queer business was the queer-owned local coffee shop that closed recently, so my 0.02 is to go support your local queer-owned brick and mortar business because they are struggling right now!

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Money Stories

Money Stories: Ali and Alison (All Options Considered)

Money Stories is a new series designed to start the conversation about how being LGBT+ has affected our financial lives and hopefully help people feel inspired to talk more openly about money! Share your stories with me at billie@joindaylight.com.

– Billie

This week, we’re chatting with Ali and Alison Walker from the blog All Options Considered. Ali and Alison met in 2004, got married in 2006, reached financial independence in 2017, and retired in 2018. Ali retired from her career in marketing and business development for A&E firms at the age of 44, and Alison worked as a Photoshop expert managing image retouching of high-end catalogs until she retired at age 54.

After reaching financial independence and retiring early, these lesbian members of the FIRE community now spend their time coaching others on financial independence and blogging about their experiences with personal finance, travel, and being good global citizens.

When was the first time you thought about money?

Ali: I learned about money as a little kid by watching my grandparents give my mom money every month to pay rent, buy food, and keep gas in the car. I didn’t understand why my parents didn’t have jobs or money, but it was clear that they were both unbanked, uninterested in earning money, and carefree/careless about accruing debt. So instead of learning about money from my parents, I focused on learning about money from my hard working grandparents.

Alison: When I was about 12 years old I had a savings account and I had several things I wanted to save for all in that one account. I kept a ledger for each item I was saving for so I could track my progress. The funny thing was that my Dad was a CPA and never really talked to me about money, because talking about money was considered taboo in my family. So I came up with my childhood accounting process on my own. If my Dad had taken the time to educate me about money instead of assuming my future husband would take care of our finances, I would have been more ready to handle my finances once I was out on my own. I made it my mission to give myself a financial education and though it took a long time, I did get there. 

What was your “aha” moment with money?

Ali: When I was 26 I got my first job that paid over minimum wage. At that point in my life I had $43k in student loan debt, a car loan, and some credit card debt. I was very excited to have a decent paycheck, to start investing in retirement accounts, and to start paying off my debt. That’s also when I started letting go of my guilt and shame about being in poverty as a kid, and decided I was ready to start working harder on my own financial education.

Alison: My moment was back in 2005 when I realized money and investing did not have to be scary or exclusive. I was determined to educate myself to a level where I wouldn’t feel stupid when I was meeting with a loan officer at a bank, or my human resources manager at work to talk about my 401k choices. Learning about personal finance was empowering for me, and opened the door for me to set my own financial goals. Realizing it was possible to take control of my future gave me confidence and helped me see past boilerplate, average ideas about personal finance. 

How has being LGBT+ impacted your relationship with money?

Ali: When I was 18 I was fired from a job for being a lesbian, and for not looking like my heteronormative bosses. That experience stuck in my memory as a reminder that huge numbers of people in the LGBT+ community have faced discrimination from their employers and suffered financially because of it.

Alison: When I was younger I was not as confident about being an out lesbian in the 1980s. I didn’t speak up as much when I had questions. I was nervous about the prospect of standing out or bringing attention to myself at work. I felt uninformed and excluded from the world of money, and I hate the idea that so many other people in our community still feel that way today. 

What are your financial goals for the future?

Both: Our financial goals today are focused on sticking to our budget, and planning carefully for our future. We want to maintain an emergency fund of three years of living expenses since we no longer have job related income to rely on, and we no longer have employer provided health insurance to help cover our medical costs. Our other financial goal within the next year or two is to find a new home base to purchase somewhere in the USA. We want to make a home and a safe space for ourselves and a member of our chosen family where we can spend time with the people we love.

Favorite LGBT+ business (online or IRL)?

There are so many businesses out there that support the LGBT+ community in different ways. Here are some of our favorites:

Mental Health: When we lived in Seattle Ali was on the board of Seattle Counseling Service. This amazing organization is focused on the mental health and wellness of Seattle’s LGBT+ community. SCS is the oldest LGBT+ focused community mental health agency in the world, and we are very proud to support them. 

Debt Reduction: We love John and David of the Debt Free Guys. They have made it their mission to serve the LGBT+ community by creating the tools and support system people need to get out of debt and reach financial security. We are proud to support the work that they do in any way we can.

Travel to Ecuador:  In 2019 we traveled to Ecuador for a financial independence conference hosted by Cheryl Reed of Above the Clouds Retreats. We had an amazing time with the 28 person group, and Cheryl handled all of the logistics. She showed us the best of Quito, Otavalo, and took us on a bunch of fun side trips as well. It was an unforgettable experience. We also spent a week at Cheryl’s Guest House in the Choco-Andino Biosphere Reserve, and we loved being out in the wilderness while we were there. Cheryl is one of the best global citizens we know, and we look forward to future trips to Ecuador because of her.

Restaurant: When we lived in Seattle we loved Terra Plata in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. We look forward to returning on Paella night the next time we are in town!

Categories
The Issues

Queer Families: Adoption and Fertility

Last week we talked about queer families, mostly from a philosophical and personal level. This week, I thought I’d expand more deeply into the practicalities of starting or expanding a family when ‘traditional’ conception methods aren’t available to you.

Adoption

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimated in a report that 114,000 same-sex couples in 2016 were raising children in the United States. Same-sex couples with children were far more likely than different-sex couples with children to have an adopted child, 21.4 percent versus 3 percent, the report found.

Despite this, adoption discrimination is still a thing in the US, where it is legal to refuse to place a child with a couple on ‘religious grounds’. Beyond this, it’s an expensive and time-consuming process and those of us with more of a ‘non-traditional’ lifestyle can be subject to scrutiny.

The average cost of adoption, according to a report from Adoptive Families Magazine, is $43,000. And that’s just the start: let’s not forget all the expenses in raising a child itself!

I’m not going to go too into funding options for all of these methods, as they’re largely the same as laid out in our surrogacy article. But, there’s a great episode from the Debt Free Guys podcast with Help Us Adopt, who are providing grants to couples who want to adopt.

Fertility for Transgender and Non-Binary People

Something that I think doesn’t get discussed a lot is fertility for trans and non-binary people. For those of us that decide to medically transition, taking hormones can have an effect on our fertility down the line. It’s very rare to find insurance plans that cover things like freezing sperm or eggs and it’s very costly out of pocket and usually requires a yearly fee.

This is part of a wider issue around trans health and insurance companies just not cutting it! More to come on that soon.

In Vitro

If you’ve chosen to use the aforementioned fertility freezing methods, or if you’re planning to use a sperm donor, you’ll likely be looking at in vitro fertilization. This is the process of taking mature eggs from ovaries, fertilizing them with sperm in a lab, and transferring the embryo into the uterus.

This is actually the cheapest of the methods, coming in at around $20k for a one ‘cycle’. But this does not include the cost of medications, and you might not be successful the first time, meaning you’ll need to shell out another $20k for an additional cycle.

Insurance does often cover a certain number of cycles, but I’ve heard from some couples that they’ve been required to have heteronormative ‘trying to conceive’ periods that they have to somehow prove that they’ve been doing for 6 months. How do you even begin to explain the mechanics of lesbian sex to an insurance rep over the phone?

Families look different for everyone

Not to repeat myself too much from last week, but I want to reiterate that everyone’s journeys are different. Some people don’t want kids, some trans people are able to conceive in the ‘traditional’ way because going on hormones isn’t part of their transition. Ultimately, it’s about what makes you feel fulfilled, and like you’ve made the best use of your time on this earth.

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Money Stories

Money Stories: John (Financial Freedom Countdown)

Money Stories is a new series designed to start the conversation about how being LGBT+ has affected our financial lives and hopefully help people feel inspired to talk more openly about money! Share your stories with me at billie@joindaylight.com.

– Billie

John is a gay immigrant from a third world country who came to the US by himself with only $1,000. In 12 years, he achieved his retirement number. He writes at Financial Freedom Countdown and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area enjoying nature trails and weight training.

When was the first time you thought about money?

I remember an incident from my childhood when my Dad handed me some money and I put in my pocket. He immediately reprimanded me: “why did you not count the money I gave you? Always count your money no matter who gives it to you and never trust anyone with your money”. It was at that point I became more serious about money and paying attention to how it impacts our lives.

Growing up in a third world country; we did not have much money. But my parents were very conservative with regards to spending. They only spent what they earned and saved the difference. Investing was never on the radar and that meant a higher percentage needed to be saved.

What was your “aha” moment with money?

My “aha” moment with money was inspired by a distinct memory in my working career. I remember my VP who was in her 70s mentioning that her sister was not keeping well. I assumed she would visit and asked about her travel plans. But she did not want to take time off, given that we had a huge product launch coming up.

Two weeks later, when we were in a meeting; she received a phone call. Her sister had passed away. The fact that although she was a VP, earning at least 3X more than me; and yet was a “wage slave” hit me like a tidal wave.

I then realized that we sacrifice so much to earn money; and yet, we are not conscious with regards to spending it.

How has being LGBT+ impacted your relationship with money?

It is harder to find good money role models in the LGBT+ community. Since the “coming out” process delays “adulting”, I became serious about money much later in life.

What are your financial goals for the future?

Having achieved my early retirement number, my financial goals are to share my experiences and mistakes. I write at Financial Freedom Countdown helping readers live the life of their dreams.

Favorite LGBT+ business (online or IRL)?

Given my passion for travel, I do realize that many places around the globe are not LGBT+ friendly. The Frugal Tourist documents not only amazing travel destinations; but also how to save money when traveling.