Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

Three Ways to Lower Car Insurance Rates

These are great tips! I'm about to go get on the phone to lower my car insurance rates!

Wondering how to lower your car insurance rates? If you drive a car, auto insurance is a necessary bill, but it can eat into a good chunk of your budget. The good news is that you can probably pay less than what you are today.

Here are three ways to lower your car insurance rates so you can save some of that premium money for something a lot more fun:

1. Compare Insurance Companies

Compare auto insurance companies to score lower rates.

Every few years, call and compare rates. Kind of like lowering your credit card debt, if you know what competitors are offering, you may be able to use it as a type of bargaining chip.

Before you call a competitor, make sure you know exactly what your current car insurance covers, how much they’ll pay out for each type of coverage and how much your deductible is for each type of coverage. You do this because when you call to get compare rates, you want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

When you’re getting a quote, you’ll want to make sure you ask not only what the premium is, but also how many times a year you pay that premium.

The last time I called the company with a lizard for their mascot, they gave me a great quote on a premium.  It really was tons cheaper than any of the other companies I called.  But I was going to have to pay it three times a year versus the twice per year frequency other insurers provided.

I did the math and found that rather than saving 15% or more, I would actually be forfeiting 15% or more per year if I chose them as my insurer.

When you’re comparing in an attempt to lower your car insurance rates, don’t forget that most  companies give customer loyalty discounts.  If you’ve had a policy with them for ten years, for example, you’ll be saving money. This means that while it’s good to shop around, you should also ask your current provider how long you have until you reach your next loyalty discount–and how much it will be.

Related Post: 10 Car Insurance Discounts You Should Ask For

2.  Trim your hedges

Check ou these three ways to lower car insurance rates.

Insurance is all about hedging risks against possible bad outcomes. While I wouldn’t recommend state minimum insurance as a way to lower your car insurance rates, you probably don’t need all the whistles and bells the insurance company will try to sell you–or already has.

For example, if you already have an amazing health insurance plan, you may not need gold star medical coverage on your auto insurance. Have a car that’s worth $1,200? You probably shouldn’t be paying for $50,000 worth of collision/comprehensive coverage on your vehicle.

Coverage for other people’s vehicles is something you’ll want to hedge against. You never know when you’re going to get into a fender bender with a Lamborghini.

I recently lowered some coverage and started saving $35/month.  The amount of hedges you’re comfortable with trimming is completely up to you.

3.  Bundle Packages

ways to lower car insurance rates

Most companies that provide auto coverage also cover other things like homes, renters, life, or valuable personal property insurance. Bundling these packages can sometimes make your premium lower.

For example, if you pay $4/month for valuable personal property, but the discount for bundling is $19/month, you’ve actually reduced your overall premiums by $15/month, and you’re getting coverage on other areas of your life.

 

Have you ever lowered your car insurance rates? Share your experiences in the comments!

Where to Go If You Don’t Have Health Insurance

Have been thinking about what to do if I don't have health insurance after the ACA is repealed. This is a great list outlining where to go for healthcare services.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, 18 million people would either lose or drop their healthcare coverage during the first twelve months after an ACA repeal. Looking at the long-term, an additional 32 million people would go uninsured by 2026.

I’m no stranger to a world without health insurance. Prior to the ACA, I was only able to get coverage when I was expecting my children or during a few brief stints at severely underpaid jobs, where a good portion of my income went towards premiums.

I’m incredibly grateful to have it right now, even if it is expensive. But I’m preparing myself for the worst, primarily because many lawmakers have promised to deliver it. Luckily, thanks to past experience, I know how to navigate the world of healthcare when I’m uninsured.

Should you find yourself in these unfortunate masses over the coming years, here is where to go if you don’t have health insurance–assuming these organizations don’t lose their funding, too.

Healthcare for the Uninsured at the CDC

The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, has locations across the country–and they’re not just there for you if you have Ebola or Zika.

They also provide things like:

  • low-cost vaccinations
  • dental care
  • addiction services
  • environmental health services
  • free STD testing and treatment
  • medical tests for employment or school entry

On top of these services, they also have a wealth of information for all kinds of populations. Whether you have a specific disease or destructive habit, or want to keep up on what vaccinations your kid should be getting, their Healthy Living page covers the bare essentials for each stage of life for a vast diversity of populations. This way you know which health care services are vital to pay for, and when you may be able to get them at a discounted rate at the CDC.

We’ve used these services a few times ourselves over the years. At one point I needed a TB test for employment. At the time, I was able to get it at the CDC for $10. Currently, the Allegheny County location offers them for $25 for a one-part test and $35 for a two-part test. Inflation, I suppose, but still not bad.

When I was expecting, I had health insurance, but my husband didn’t. Regardless of whether or not you have insurance, anyone who is going to be around a newborn baby should have a D-Tap vaccine to protect the child from pertussis AKA whooping cough.

He went into the CDC and got his vaccination for $10. Since the cost of the TB test has gone up since then, I’m assuming the cost of this vaccination has gone up a bit, as well.

Childhood immunizations are free through a federally funded program. Hopefully this continues as it protects the health and safety of the entire population.

Where to Go if You’re Uninsured and Need Women’s Healthcare Services

First, let’s clear up some facts. Under Title X, federal dollars cannot be used to fund abortions, even when they are directed to Planned Parenthood.

Medicaid only covers abortion in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother is likely to die if she continues carrying the child, with the exception of a few states with more expansive coverage.

So even today, before Trump or a Republican congress touch our laws, your tax dollars are not going towards abortions except in the most extreme cases–and then, only for low-income women in dire, physically traumatic situations. They are most certainly not going directly to Planned Parenthood for this service.

Here are two women’s healthcare providers I have had experience with as an uninsured woman:

Planned Parenthood

They provided me with annual exams, low-cost birth control and pregnancy confirmation so I could get on insurance.

My Run-In With a Protestor

The latter is a fun story. I had an appointment to get my test, but when we walked up to the door there was a protestor. I buzzed up to the office, but they wouldn’t let me in. They said they were closed.

I asked them why they were answering their buzzer if they were closed on a random Thursday. No good answer.

I asked them why they had scheduled an appointment with me if they were closed. Still no good answer.

All this was going on while the middle-aged woman behind me was screaming at me not to kill my baby and I was going to hell. I think she may have had something to do with the doors being locked.

Eventually, I got fed up with it. I turned around and screamed back at her that I wasn’t getting an abortion; that they were giving me a pee test so that I could get on health insurance and take good care of the fetus with prenatal appointments.

That I had taken a day off work from a position where I was paid hourly to be here and now she was messing it all up.

And how dare she tell me I was going to hell without knowing my story–and how dare she tell other women who were making a decision to abort that they were going to hell after making one of the most difficult decisions in their lives.

And that I wanted to see the Bible verse that said, “Thou shalt not abort. Even in cases of rape and incest.” And that even if such a thing existed, it shouldn’t even matter because this is America and I’m not subject to her religious beliefs.

She shut up real quick. She thought a moment, and then directed me to a Christian charity a few blocks down. She told me they’d give me the pee test for free.

We walked down there and the place was flooded and therefore closed. Thank God, because we later found out that in order to give you a pee test, they require you to sign a contract committing to giving up your child to a family that is more suitable, and they’re not always forthright about what you’re signing.

We found a different Planned Parenthood location that saw me as a walk-in patient.

Moral of the story: Be very careful to read what you’re signing when you’re consenting to free or low-cost healthcare.

Additional Services Provided by Planned Parenthood

Aside from the services I received at Planned Parenthood, they also provide low-income, uninsured people with:

  • breast exams.
  • STD testing and treatment.
  • UTI treatment.
  • sexual health education.
  • eating disorder counseling.
  • help for those in abusive relationships.
  • infertility screenings.
  • men’s sexual healthcare services, including but not limited to testicular and colon cancer screenings and vasectomies.

You can find a Planned Parenthood local to you here.

Adagio Health

I used Adagio a couple of times for annual exams. They are exclusive to Western Pennsylvania. In my area, they had a much longer waiting period for an appointment than Planned Parenthood, but offered many of the same women’s health services.

You can find an Adagio Health local to you here.

You can still go to the doctor if you don’t have health insurance.

Going to the doctor is going to be more expensive than if you had a good health insurance plan with a low co-pay, but that does not mean you can’t go. Many doctors will accept you as a “self-pay” patient.

Because you’re uninsured, they are often willing to negotiate how much you pay. Essentially, everyone in healthcare inflates their prices so they can offer insurers seemingly massive discounts. They’re not really expecting to get full sticker price.

In my experience, I was almost always offered 50% off. I would establish this before I got any services, though, and keep in mind that you will need a separate agreement with any labs that might be running tests on any bio-matter you provide.

You should be able to negotiate down to Medicaid/Medicare rates, though, which are often 50% to 66% cheaper than the “gross price” they initially bill you.

Also, if you find yourself in the ER, be sure to go to a nonprofit hospital and ask about their financial assistance plan.

Spending on Healthcare is Important

Staying up on your and your family’s health is not only important for health reasons, but also financial.

No one needs to tell you how expensive health care is–especially without insurance. But using the resources that are out there may help prevent heartbreak and unavoidably outrageous bills. Please take the time to explore what you can do to take care of yourself and yours.

How to Save Money on Vacation Home Rentals

Using these insider tips for saving money on vacation home rentals for our summer trip!

Booking a beach getaway is exciting. But when you start looking at the prices on vacation homes, that excitement may screech to a sudden halt.

If you find yourself stressing over the cost of renting a vacation home for a week, stop and take a deep breath. Our friends at Outer Beaches Realty are sharing some expert, insider tips today on how to bring those rental costs down.

Decide What You Want in a Vacation Home Rental

Do you want to be able to step right out onto the sand? How many bedrooms will you need to house everyone that’s coming with you? Do you need a pet-friendly property? Are the kids going to freak out if there’s not a pool?

Look at these things first; nothing’s worse than getting excited about a property’s price tag only to find out that it doesn’t meet your needs.

This is especially important if you’re traveling with someone with mobility issues. A lot of beach properties are elevated on stilts, so even if they have an elevator it may not go to the ground floor. Be sure to ask extra questions when you book since being labelled “handicap accessible” doesn’t necessarily mean it will suit your exact needs.

Look for Companies with All-Inclusive Rates and Zero Booking Fees

Another way to hedge price disappointment is to make sure the properties you are considering are rented by a company whose rates are all-inclusive and doesn’t charge booking fees.

Advertised rates can be hundreds of dollars less than what you actually end up paying after booking fees. If the extras that drew you to the vacation home are a la carte, you can tack on even more.

If you’re headed to the Outer Banks, like we did last year, be sure to check out this price comparison tool.

Follow Realty Companies on Social Media

Want to find up-to-the-minute deals? One of the best ways to do this is to follow realty companies on social media. For example, right now if you follow Outer Beaches on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll see that they have their Golden Ticket promotion live. All you have to do is request a brochure before January 31 and you’re entered into a drawing for $1,000 off your rental.

Another great way to catch these deals is to sign up to realty companies’ email lists. That way they’re delivered right to your inbox.

This is probably the most effective way to trim your costs once you’ve found a suitable summer property. But tread with caution: if you spend too much time waiting for that “perfect” deal, someone else may just grab up your perfect property before you actually book.

Book Early and Use Payment Plans

If you can’t stand the risk of waiting, you can always book early and use a payment plan to spread your costs over multiple months. Outer Beaches gives a 5% discount on advance year bookings and offers payment plans that span 3-12 months.

Five percent may not seem like a lot, but when you consider how much money you’ll be spending on a vacation home for a week, you start to realize that the savings adds up quickly, even with a seemingly “small” percentage.

With Outer Beaches specifically, five percent could save you up to $725—not exactly chump change!

Book Your Vacation Home During Shoulder Season

Want to save a ton of money? Go on your trip in May before Memorial Day or September after Labor Day. In the Outer Banks and most vacation destinations, all the shops and attractions are already open, but there’s less tourists to compete for so prices are incredibly low.

Not only do you get a discount on everything from a vacation home rental to tchotchke shops, but the weather is also still idyllic if you’re visiting a southern beach. You get the same experience with less crowds and lower costs.

My Favorite Reasons to Book a Vacation Home

There’s a reason we decided to rent a home when we went on our trip last year.

Even though the price tag may look big at first, it’s actually a cost-effective way to stay at the beach. It’s way cheaper than getting everyone individual hotel rooms.

We also didn’t pay a lot for entertainment as we had lots of entertainment on site for the adults and kids that didn’t involve watching TV. We had a pool, a basketball hoop and a billiards table—and never once heard, “I’m bored!”

Then there’s the second biggest expense that comes with vacation: food. Because we had a full kitchen with lots of storage and a full set of pots, pans and plates, we cooked almost all of our meals ourselves. If all we had was a mini-fridge, we would have been dropping copious amounts of cash on eating out.

Have you ever booked a vacation home rental? How did you save money?

 

 

*We received a discount on this Outer Beaches property thanks to a partnership with this blog. Regardless, all content and opinions are 100% honest and my own.*

5 Surprising Things Health Insurance Covers

Okay, I'm definitely checking my policy to see if my health insurance covers formula or a hot tub. The third one on this list is pretty amazing, too!

With the exception of residents of a few states, you now have to have health insurance.  If you’re paying for it anyways, make sure you’re getting the most for your money.  Here are five surprising things your health insurance may cover.  Plans and coverages vary, but it’s worth investigating to find out.

Some state's Medicaid programs cover diapers for kids with disabilities.Does Medicaid cover diapers?

Having a child over age three who is not potty trained can be taxing, both emotionally and fiscally.  If your child has a disability or learning delay, you could get your diapers for free.

Depending on your state, Medicaid will cover diapers in this situation. If your child falls into one of those categories, odds are you already have some version of Medicaid–if you live in a state that chooses to support its disabled children through Medicaid.

When I say disability I of course mean things along the lines of children with Autism or Down’s Syndrome, but “learning delays” is a much broader term.  Perhaps your child has delays with fine or gross motor skills, or they aren’t talking or communicating at a level that is “normal” yet. Both of these things can lead to serious problems with getting your kiddo on the potty every time.

Talk to your doctor at your child’s three year check up, and ask them to write a prescription. Even if you don’t have Medicaid, some private insurers will still offer this benefit.

Does your health insurance or Medicaid cover gym membership?

Does my insurer cover a gym membership?

Your health insurer wants you to be healthy.  Healthy people don’t file as many claims. And the less claims insurers have to pay out, the more money they can keep in their pockets.

As a result, many insurers cover gym memberships in one way or another. Some work with specific gyms to give you a discount or even a free membership, while others will offer your a set amount in reimbursement.

If you have Medicaid, gym membership may be covered depending on which state you live in. Most states do not offer it as a benefit, but a handful have experimented with behavior incentives.

Call your insurer to see what their policy is.  It just might be worth switching gyms!

If your insurer doesn’t cover gym memberships, that doesn’t mean you can’t get fit. Trying working out at home or going to reasonably priced gyms like 24 Hour Fitness. If you want to try them out, you can get a free pass here.

Is massage therapy covered by health insurance?

Are massages covered by health insurance?

Are you in desperate need of a massage?

Well, you may be able to get that covered, too. Especially if you have chronic back pain, were in an accident, or see a chiropractor/physical therapist regularly. If you have pain, talk to your physician about it.  If you can get a prescription from any of these medical specialists for massages, insurers will often cover the therapy.

Don’t know where to find a masseuse in your area? Use Spafinder Wellness 365’s search tool.

Insurance will sometimes pay for a hot tub if you have a medical need for it.

Wait–hot tubs are covered by insurance?!

WHAAAAAAAT?!?!  

I know.  It’s crazy good news.

Here’s the thing:  to get a hot tub covered by insurance, you have to have an actual medical need for it. Like injury. Spine problems. Etc. But if you do, asking your doctor if s/he thinks hot tub therapy would help certainly doesn’t hurt.

If they do think it would be beneficial to your situation, make sure they write a script.  From there, call your insurance company.  If you’ve got the Rx, and your policy doesn’t specifically state that a hot tub isn’t covered, it should count as a qualifying piece of medical equipment. Medical equipment is covered on many plans.

If it’s not, and you still really want and can afford that hot tub, take the prescription with you when you buy it.  That will eliminate the sales tax.

Plus, if insurance doesn’t cover hot tubs–even as a piece of medical equipment–it could be tax deductible as a medical expense.  So is the electric you’ll use to run it.

Be very careful here, though. If you’re throwing hot tub parties or your family is using it, you could run into some serious trouble if you get audited.  If you want more details, here’s a great article and an interesting forum on the topic.

Buying a hot tub yourself? Just because it’s tax deductible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t score a great deal. Make sure to check out sites like Groupon before making your purchase.

Check out the states that require insurance to provide prescription formulas.

Are there any instances of insurance covering formula?

Yes. If your child needs a prescription formula, such as Alimentium or Nurtamigen, it may be covered.

Usually these coverages are in the form of reimbursement, and usually your health insurance company will give you the run around–even if prescription formula is clearly covered in your policy.

Stay strong. This stuff is expensive. It’s worth saving your receipts not giving up. You pay for that benefit, and you deserve to have them fulfill their end of the bargain.

If you live in one of the following states, there is legislation dictating that your insurance cover these prescription formulas, regardless of if they want to or not:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Illinois
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Arizona
  • South Dakota
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island

Get more details about each state’s specific legislation here.  Knowing your rights within the law can be a powerful tool to speeding up the process.

Another option for families in states which do not mandate this coverage is to look into your local Women, Infants, and Children program.

 

 

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links.*

Free Date Night Ideas: Stargazing at Observatories

This is one of the coolest free date night ideas I've seen in a long time!

Looking for free date night ideas that are actually fun and romantic? I highly recommend checking out your local observatory–because what could be more romantic that looking up at the stars?

We actually did this last year, and it was really cool. We learned how telescope lenses were made, the history of modern astronomy and got to see the rings around Saturn.

The best part?

It was 100% free.

Free Date Night Idea: Stargazing at Your Local Observatory

We live in Pittsburgh, which just happens to have one of the most important modern observatories in recent history. But we’re not the only city to have an observatory, and we’re not the only city to benefit from free tours.

This is common practice at observatories all around the United States, so if you’re looking for free date night ideas, be sure to look up the one that’s local to you.

Here are some examples. If you don’t find yours on the list, just search ‘free observatory tour [your city here]”.

Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh, PA

Like I said, this is one we’ve tried and loved. We learned a ton, including that until the late 90s–when digital imaging became a common thing–every astronomical theory of what stuff was (meteor? planet? alien spacecraft?) and where it was when had to come through this observatory.

Every Thursday from April through October you can join a free tour from 8p-10p. Just be sure to call ahead for reservations.

There is also an extremely popular lecture series that runs throughout the entire year on one Friday per month. The topics are crazy interesting, and the presentation is followed by a tour of the building. All of it is free.

Learn how to make reservations here.

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, CA

Admission to the Griffith Observatory is free, and the opportunities to visit are more frequent. You can go Tuesday through Friday from 12p-10p or Saturday/Sunday 10a-10p. The observatory is closed to the public on Mondays.

While you’re there, you may notice the planetarium that runs different shows. These shows are not free, but they’re also not mandatory.

If you want to indulge, they won’t cost you much:

  • $7 for adults
  • $5 for seniors and students (bring your ID)
  • $3 for kids 5-12
  • Kids under five get in free as long as they sit on a parent’s lap.

Learn more about Griffith Observatory here.

Maunakea Observatory in Hilo, HI

The observatories at Maunakea are arguably the best situated in the world. That did come at a cost to native Hawaiian’s cultural and religious beliefs–a common theme in our country, apparently.

While the observatories are closed to the public, there is a free event every night of the year from 6p-10p outside of the observatories on the stargazing deck. Telescopes and stargazing pros, who will help guide you, are included.

Learn more about Maunakea’s free events here.

When the Observatory Isn’t Free

Most observatories here in the states are run by a university or other educational organization. They also typically have some type of free event for the public on a regular basis.

Not all of them do, though–especially when you travel outside the US. For example, the Sydney Observatory does offer stargazing tours, but they are not free.

Sydney Observatory in New South Wales, Australia

They are, however, affordable. A couple can get in for as low as $15.30 total, and the cost of admission includes not only telescope viewing but also a show in the planetarium.

The Sydney Observatory also has qualified astronomers on hand to answer any questions you may have during the visit, and a solar telescope–which allows you to look at the sun–for those who are visiting during daylight hours.

This level of affordability is common. Even if you can’t go for free, you can still chalk it up as a super cheap date night idea.

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links. You do not pay anything additional for using these links. In fact, sometimes they allow me to bring you even better deals! Thank you for supporting this blog.*

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