Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

Therapy Options that Won’t Break the Bank

This post is brought to you and written by an outside writer.

Who couldn’t benefit from a few therapy sessions in 2020?

It’s been a challenging year for most people. We started off an election year quickly with the COVID-19 pandemic, and not long after began experiencing additional trauma and anxiety over racial injustice around the country.

The headlines alone are enough to cause many people’s anxiety to shoot up, but it doesn’t end there.

Many are facing financial challenges from lost jobs, health challenges during a worldwide pandemic, and loneliness or depression due to social isolation. It’s fair to say that it’s been a rough year all around.

Getting professional help from a licensed therapist might sound like just what you need. But one of the main obstacles that stands in the way of people seeking help is the cost. Therapy tends to come at a high price that many insurances don’t really cover.

So, what are you supposed to do?

Affordable online therapy

If you’re working hard to stick to that budget and keep your finances in order, therapy might feel like it’s out of your reach. But BetterHelp might be just the solution that you’re looking for.

BetterHelp provides online therapy from licensed professionals. And it’s more affordable than many private practice therapy practices.

You can pay a set monthly price and have access to therapy sessions with the therapist you’re match with via:

  • Video.
  • Phone.
  • Chat.
  • Messaging.

The best part is that you can do it all from the comfort of your home. Not only does this make it easier to squeeze appointments into your busy schedule, but it also stops you from needing to go out at a time when people are being encouraged to stay home.

Who can online therapy help?

Online therapy can be a great option for you if you’re struggling with things like:

It’s an effective option for many people. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with a severe mental health disorder, are hurting yourself, or find yourself in a crisis or emergency situation, online therapy isn’t the right fit for the moment. In these cases, you should seek care and treatment in person.

If you are interested in exploring your options with BetterHelp, you can learn more here

Other options for affordable therapy

Online therapy isn’t the only option that you have if you’re looking for affordable ways to address your mental wellness. Here are some other options.

Check with your insurance company

If you have health insurance, there are instances where your insurance will cover therapy. However, this likely comes with restrictions and it’s important for you to understand what is actually covered.

Some insurance companies will cover a certain number of sessions while others will only cover if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. However, if you have health insurance, it’s well worth the time of making a call or jumping online to explore your coverage options.

Find a support group

If you’re struggling with a specific challenge, you may benefit from joining a support group. Traditionally, these types of groups were held in person. But many began providing virtual options this year when the COVID-19 hit.

These groups can cover a wide range of challenges from anger management and anxiety to grief support. Some groups are led by licensed therapists and others are put on by local nonprofits and even religious organizations like churches.

To find a group in your area, you can begin with a simple online search such as “support group for [fill in topic]”.

Talk to a religious leader

If you attend a church or are involved with another type of religious organization, you may have access to counseling through your connection. Some churches have groups to help with grief support or addiction. Or your pastor may offer counseling sessions for a free or reduced price.

It’s important when pursuing these options to remember that it’s likely the person that you’re working with won’t be a licensed mental health professional, although they may have some type of counseling training.

DIY ways to address mental health challenges

While this is not a replacement for professional therapy, there are some things that you can do at home to supplement help that you’re receiving. Some of these things include:

  • Meditation – Learning to meditate can help you work towards overcoming things like anxiety and depression. It can also help you process difficult emotions that you may be experiencing.
  • Exercise – Getting in physical activity on a regular basis can help boost your mood and relieve stress.
  • Getting enough sleep – Lack of sleep or too much sleep can have an impact on your mental health. Work on getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night by creating and maintaining a sleep schedule.
  • Journaling – Writing in a journal can help you process your thoughts and emotions to deal with them in a healthy way.
  • Connect with a support system – Spending time talking to trusted friends and family members can help boost your mood and take your mind off of your stress or anxiety.

Remember, 2020 has been a rough year on everyone. There is no shame in getting help when you need it.

It doesn’t have to break the bank, either.

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

How to Negotiate Your Cable Bill

You aren’t doomed to pay retail on your bills.  A few minutes on the phone can save you up to thousands a year.  This is particularly true for recurring bills, like rent or credit card payments.

Another huge one?

Your cable and internet bill.

This bill can get large quickly if you’re not on a reduced-price contract. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to negotiate your cable bill.

Prepare for Negotiations with Your Cable Company

Like most things in life, your negotiations with your cable company will benefit from some preparation. First, you’ll want to gather info like:

  • Your current cable package.
  • Your current internet package and speed.
  • The channels your family ‘can’t live without.’

See if there are any specific programming needs that could be met through streaming rather than through a cable package.

Shop the competition.

Most cable companies and internet service providers roll out the red carpet for new customers. As a new customer, you may be able to secure introductory pricing in exchange for signing a one- or two-year contract.

If you have Comcast, for example, and Spectrum is another provider in your area, you would want to check out Spectrum’s offers for new customers.

Switching providers can cost you money in terms of installation and other fees. You’re not necessarily committing to switching providers at this point. But having this information can help you as you negotiate with you current provider.

Research current deals.

You aren’t going to qualify for introductory pricing with your current service provider. But that doesn’t mean they won’t offer you a lower price.

Your ability to get a new price will depend on your contract. Some providers may allow you to sign up for a new package twelve months into a twenty-four month package. Others may make you wait until your current contract expires.

But once your contract expires, most companies will offer you reduced-price packages to get you back on contract. They won’t be as low as the offers for new customers, but they’re often dramatically cheaper than going month-to-month.

Talk to the Right Person

When you call to negotiate your internet bill, the first person you talk to isn’t likely the best-suited to help you. Often, you want to talk to someone in sales. Some companies will even have a department specifically as a stop-gap for customers considering cancellation, complete with reps authorized to provide even lower-priced packages.

If the first person you talk to can’t help you, or isn’t giving you a price you can afford, ask to talk to someone in another department — sales or customer retention. If there is no other department, ask to speak to a manager. Be kind and respectful about your ask, but don’t be afraid to make it.

If you’re not getting anywhere, it’s okay to call again later. The odds of getting the same representative — especially if you’re dealing with a larger company — is slim. The next person you talk to may be more willing or able to help you.

Ask About Bundle Pricing

Once you’ve found a helpful representative, they’ll likely offer you bundle packages. This can include services for internet, cable and home phone lines.

Bundled services are less expensive. However, bundles can also be pack with preselected channels you don’t actually need. Check to make sure the bundle is actually cheaper than what you need rather than what you’re often being sold: A padded bundle.

Ask about smaller internet and cable packages.

I’ve never had a customer service representative offer me a package with bare-bones basic cable.

I have to ask for it explicitly.

Often, bundling your internet with basic cable will result in a lower bill than if you get internet alone. However, if you have to rent extra equipment it can end up being a wash or even more expensive.

Cut the cord.

If you really want to save on cable, you can cut it altogether. Services like Netflix and Sling TV have given us a myriad of viewing options at a sliver of the price.

Low-Cost Internet Programs

There are certain situations where government programs can help you get discounted or even free internet access. A couple of the big ones include:

  • Lifeline. Lifeline is an FCC program that has been around since 1985. Initiated with the intent of helping lower-income Americans have access to a landline, it has since evolved and now includes broadband access. You can apply for the Lifeline program here if you meet the income eligibility guidelines. You can also inquire with your internet service provider about low-income programs.
  • ConnectHomeUSA. The ConnectHome program was created under the Obama administration. It was a pilot program, and the expansion — ConnectHomeUSA — was opened in 2017. This program provides free or subsidized internet services, capped at under $10/month. It also provides discounted laptops and tablets, along with digital literacy programs. It’s currently available in 48 states & DC, and is targeted at those who live in HUD housing.
  • EveryoneOn. The nonprofit partner that runs ConnectHomeUSA — EveryoneOn — also has a tool that can help you look for additional assistance programs. There are even some programs you qualify for simply by virtue of having a K-12 child.

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!

If you’re paying for health insurance 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 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.

Does Medicaid pay for gym membership?

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 ran experiments with behavior incentives funded by federal grants in the 2010’s.

It’s not just your state’s Medicaid laws that come into play. Some Medicaid plans extend this benefit even if the state does not require it. Many of these programs are run in partnership with the YWCA/YMCA and other like community organizations.

Call your Medicaid provider. They’ll be able to tell you if it’s a covered benefit or available as part of an auxiliary rewards program.

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. 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 durable medical equipment (DME). Durable 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 the hot tub, 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.  

Buying a hot tub sans insurance company? 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.

Does Medicaid cover hot tubs?

In most states, yes. That’s assuming that the hot tub is prescribed as a necessary piece of durable medical equipment by your doctor. And it doesn’t mean your insurer will make the process easy.

Some states have restrictions on qualifying DME, though restrictive policies can — in some cases — be litigated.

Does Medicare cover hot tubs?

Yes, if you have Medicare Part B coverage. There are several caveats to get coverage, though.

First, your doctor must deem a hot tub medically necessary and write you a prescription. Your doctor must participate in Medicare, though we’re assuming that’s already the case.

Then, you have to find a manufacturer who also works with Medicare.

You may still have to pay for 20% of the cost, and plan deductibles apply.

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.

Father’s Day Gifts for Sports Fans Under $20

Father’s Day is just around the corner! And I’ve got a great roundup of Father’s Day gifts for sports fans for you!

While it’s good to celebrate Dad, buying gifts should always be done within your budget. I’m not encouraging you to be a cheapskate — if you can afford something very expensive that would add value to his life, go for it.

But if your budget is a little tighter, know that you’re not alone and that you can still get the father in your life something he’ll appreciate without draining  your bank account.

Here’s a Father’s Day Gift Guide for some inspiration. Keeping in mind that budgets may be tight, everything is under $20. And everything is sports-themed.

MLB Watches

MLB San Diego Padres Men's Spirit Watch

Price: $19.99 – $24.99, depending on team.
Where to get it: Bed Bath & Beyond

Our perception of time has undergone a wild makeover in 2020. Help Dad keep track with this affordable watch from Bed Bath & Beyond. Featured here is San Diego‘s watch, but you can pick his favorite team.

Michael Jordan Motivational Poster

Price: $5.72
Where to get it: TrayFivePrints

If you didn’t spend five straight Sundays — including Mother’s Day — watching The Last Dance, go back and binge watch it now.

We could all use a little bit of this particular Michael Jordan energy in our lives right now. A lot of our own weaknesses are exposed in this moment of uncertainty and strife. I’m not talking about physical or monetary status right now. That’s mostly out of your control in the current climate.

But if we take this moment to reflect on our own characters, we can turn some of those flaws we have into strengths. Your money and your health can be taken from you. But your character cannot.

Father’s Day Golf Tees

Price: $9.98
Where to get it: XcaliburInk

Golf is supposed to be the safest sport to engage in right now — if social distancing is properly practiced. If Dad is choosing to visit the links, these tees will make his day!

Hockey Stick BBQ Spatula & Bottle Opener

Price: $14.99
Where to get it: Requipd

Requipd is a cool Etsy shop that takes hockey sticks and turns them into tools — primarily for grilling out. With its hockey stick handle, this spatula also serves as a bottle opener.

Greatest Plays Mug

Price: $15.00
Where to get it: PlaybookProducts

These mugs feature the four best plays from MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL teams. You can also pick from soccer teams and many college sports teams. PlaybookProducts also has slate coasters, poster and iPhone cases featuring some of the best plays of all time.

Featured here is the play that gave the Steelers one for the other thumb in ’09. Right before this play happened, I was sitting in a ‘Steelers Nation’ Bar packed full of Cardinals fans screaming at them bout our 4th quarter stats. I knew we had it, even though we were down.

AND WE DID.

I’m obsessed with Pittsburgh sports. But it’s really just an example. Whoever your team is, PlaybookProducts has a coaster set that features their best.

Survivalist Father’s Day Gifts Under $50

Everything in 2020 is marked by the corona virus. From our daily schedules down to our hobbies, nothing is free from the justified anxiety we all feel on an near persistent basis.

One way to work through that anxiety is to prepare. If the dad in your life has recently started showing an interest in survivalist gear, this post is for you.

The thing about prepping is it can be expensive. And right now, all of our wallets are at least a bit thinner than they were a few months ago.

That’s why every Father’s Day gift in this guide has been chosen for value — providing Dad with a lot of utility even if you’re on a budget.

Wingman® Multi-Tool

Wingman�

Price: $49.95
Where to get it: Leatherman

Usually the Wingman is $59.95, but this best-selling multi-tool is currently on sale. It’s perfect for someone who wants a tool box that fits in their pocket as it includes 14 tools:

  • Spring-action needle nose pliers.
  • Wire stripper.
  • Spring-action regular pliers.
  • Can opener.
  • Spring-action wire cutters.
  • Wood/metal file.
  • Spring-action scissors.
  • 420HC combo knife.
  • Package opener.
  • Ruler.
  • Bottle opener.
  • Phillips screwdriver.
  • Medium screwdriver.
  • Small screwdriver.

The Wingman can also be customized. You can add text, an image or pattern on either handle or blade.

Survivalist Candle Beeswax

Price: $9.50/lb
Where to get it: HungryBearFarms

If Dad needs a hobby through quarantine — whether imposed by the government or common sense — candle making is one that’s key to many survivalists. Typically, survivalists are making candles with the aim of replacing electric light sources.

When you do this, you want to ensure the candle will burn both cleanly and for a long period of time. The two best waxes to achieve this are soy wax and beeswax. Beeswax actually burns longer, but it is slightly more difficult to work with because it takes so long to melt and therefore form.

But Dad has time to perfect the art of beeswax candle making. That’s kind of the point.

And he’ll appreciate that you did your research.

HungryBearFarms is an Etsy shop. I love Etsy because each and every shop you buy from is an individual small business. In these trying times, it’s nice know the money you spend on your purchase is going to the little guy supporting their family.

I did my research on this one and found you the lowest price per pound on Etsy as I could. They got great reviews, too.

Square Candle Wicks

Price: $3.95/10 feet
Where to get it: AllThingsHoney

Also integral to candle making — and also from an Esty shop — is a square wick. A square wick burns the longest, making it the best option for survivalist candles.

Rugged Rechargeable 400L LED Lantern

Coleman Rugged Rechargeable 400L LED Lantern

Price: $49.99
Where to get it: via Coleman

If you’re ever without electricity, candles will serve you for the long-term. But a great, battery-powered lantern is a better alternative for as long as you have batteries, if only because it’s not a fire hazard.

This LED lantern from Coleman fits the bill and then some. You won’t even need actual batteries; this lantern is chargeable via USB.

CHOETECH 24W Solar Charger

Price: $49.99
Where to get it: CHOETECH

It’s great that the Coleman charges via USB, but if you’re in an off-the-grid situation, where are you supposed to plug it in?

Solar battery chargers are a great solution for this. Generally speaking, the more money you invest in your solar charger, the more quickly it will charge when you set it out in the sun. Then, you can plug in your devices, whether that’s your lantern or cell phone or iPad.

This one from CHOETECH gets rave reviews for the price range. It’s compact, charges relatively quickly for the price point and is compatible all kinds of devices.

Seychelle Water Filtration Bottle

Price: $29.99
Where to get it: Wise Company

When you’re hiking or otherwise spending time out in the wild, it’s a good idea to have a filtered water bottle. They’re also great to have around in a time of disaster.

This one from Wise Company is 28 oz, filters up to 100 gallons and removes:

  • Aesthetic contaminants.
  • Chemicals.
  • Dissolved solids.

It also removes 99.9999% of bacteria and 90% of fluoride.