Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

Ancestry Deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend 2020


Hey, everyone! There were quite a few of you interested in the Ancestry DNA kit when I wrote about it, so I just wanted to let you know that there’s a sale going on this weekend. It really is the best one they have all year, and this year the discount is just as steep as last. You can get AncestryDNA for just $49 now through 8:59p Pacific on November 30, 2020.

This 50% off is the steepest discount I have ever seen for AncestryDNA. If you’ve been thinking about trying it for a while, now is the time to do it at just $49.

Introducing DNA + Family Tree Bundle

New since last year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday AncestryDNA sale, the company has introduced the AncestryDNA + Family Tree Bundle.

For $50 — just $1 more — you can get everything included in the standard AncestryDNA bundle plus three months of the Ancestry World Explorer subscription. This subscription lets you search records from around the world as you pursue your family’s genealogy.

AncestryHealth®

Last year, Ancestry released a new product: AncestryHealth. If you want to know how your DNA could potentially affect your future health, this is a product worth looking at. Normally it’s $179, but until 8:59p Pacific on December 31, 2020, it’s only $99.

The best ways to interpret these tests is to sit down with a professional genetic counselor. The meeting may even be covered by your health insurance.

You also need to know you can’t get AncestryHealth in New York, Rhode Island or New Jersey. For more deets, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Using Ancestry for Genealogy Research

Ancestry is one of the primary US-based sites that allows you to sift through historical documents to find your ancestors and build your family tree. The records best serve those whose family has been in the US for a while. Many, though not all, European countries will also turn up records. Records for other regions of the world can be sparse to nonexistent. This is a common trait throughout many US-based genealogical databases.

As a part of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, you can get an Ancestry.com subscription for 50% off through Cyber Monday. This subscription will allow you — or whoever you gift it to — to search through census records, religious documents, muster rolls and more as you build your family tree.

For the purposes of the sale, these prices will be available through 8:59p Pacific on November 30, or Cyber Monday.

Hope this helps! Happy Thanksgiving and Black Friday!

AncestryHealth® includes laboratory tests developed and performed by an independent CLIA-certified laboratory partner, and with oversight from an independent clinician network of board-certified physicians and genetic counselors. The test results are not diagnostic and do not determine your overall chance of developing a disease or health condition. The tests are not cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You should consult a healthcare provider before taking any action based on AncestryHealth® reports, including before making any treatment, dietary, or lifestyle changes. AncestryHealth® is not currently available in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

Update on Ancestry Deals

Cyber Monday has come and gone, and so have the biggest deals.

However, if you’re still shopping for the holidays, you can still get 20% off Ancestry gift subscriptions here and/or 40% off AncestryDNA here.

I’ve been tracking this sale for years, and these are the steepest discounts I’ve ever seen on the AncestryDNA offer after Cyber Monday. By shopping now, you are getting a great deal: AncestryDNA for just $59. As a point of reference, $59 has been the Black Friday price in years past.

You can also get a 14-day fee trial subscription to access Ancestry’s record database. That way, you can see if your family’s records are likely to be included in the database before you commit.

And the new AncestryHealth? Normally $179, it’s now only $99 through December 31, 2020. Assuming you don’t live in New York, New Jersey or Rhode Island, where it’s not available.

If you buy a kit and feel comfortable, please come back and share your story in the comments! We’ve had a lot of interesting reader AncestryDNA stories, and would love to hear yours, too.

 

 

 

16 Ways to Keep Heating Costs Down

Want to reduce your heating bill in the winter? It comes down to a bunch of small actions that add up to big savings. Here are sixteen ways to keep heating costs down.

Bundle up.

Make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing, even while inside.  Layer up, remembering that in most cases, loose clothing will keep you warmer as it insulates better.

Bundle up your living space, too.

Your hardwood floors may be gorgeous, but they don’t help your space retain any heat. And while the window nook is adorable, a lot of warm air is escaping through the panes.

You can bundle up your living space by:

  • Adding floor rugs to your space.
  • Switching out linen curtains for heavier ones.
  • Placing blankets in sitting areas so they’re readily available.

Let the sun in.

By opening up curtains during the day, you can let the sun heat up your living space without spending another cent.

Just remember to close them at night so that same heat doesn’t escape!

Dress your windows.

If you have a drafty window, use plastic to seal it up during the winter months. This way, the sun can still come in, but not as much warm air will escape.

If you don’t have the budget to plastic wrap every window, try hanging a heavy blanket over it instead. You won’t get the sun, but the lack of sunlight may be worth slowing the leak.

If you’ve got the plastic out anyways, go ahead and use it to seal up any doors you don’t use, too. Whether it’s a door to a closet you don’t want to heat or the door to your attic, sealing it off during the colder months can help you keep heating costs down.

Invest in draft stoppers.

Dark pink door draft stopper shaped as a daschund dog sitting in front of the crack at the bottom of a white door. To the left are a pair of pink shoes and a pair of blue shoes.

So you’ve plastic wrapped the doors you don’t regularly use.

But the doors you do use can still let heat out.

Consider investing in a super cute draft stopper that serves both as decoration and a way to keep your heat from escaping out from under the door.

Pinching pennies?  Use a rolled up towel at the base of the door instead.

Seal the leaks.

It’s amazing how much heat you can lose just through a tiny crack.

Caulk up cracks in window and door frames, as well as any cracks that might exist on surfaces such as basement floors or walls.

Check your ducts, too, and use duct tape to seal up any small leaks.

Don’t lose warmth through the fireplace.

If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. Otherwise, you might be heating your home just to have all the warmth escape up the flue.

Keep heating costs down by clearing your vents.

If your heating vents are blocked, it may be time to adjust your furniture.

For instance, if your couch is in front of the vent that heats your living room, all you’re doing is paying a lot of money to make the back of the couch warm while you’re reaching for your snuggie.

For unavoidable arrangements, you may want to invest in plastic heat directors that can redirect the heat to the rest of the room.

Use the heat you’ve got.

After cooking, don’t let all that heat in the oven go to waste.  Leave the oven door open so you can keep your heating costs down.

When you get out of the shower, you may want to leave the vent fan off and the window closed. That way, the steam escapes out the bathroom door and warms other parts of the house.

If your bathroom doesn’t get a lot of ventilation and you’re worried about water damage from the steam, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of this tip.

Get a humidifier.

Dehumidifer decorated as Hello Kitty

The higher the humidity, the more heat the air holds. That means running a humidifier can help you lower your heating costs in the winter.

Turn down the thermostat.

You can save money on your gas bill in the winter by turning your thermostat down or off at key times of day.

For example, when you’re sleeping under 3 blankets, you might not need the heat up as high. Depending on if you have pets or family members at home during the day, you might not need the heat on as high while you’re at work.

You can either make these adjustments manually, or you can invest in a programmable thermostat. These thermostats allow you to set and forget the temperature of your thermostat for different times of day.

Is it cheaper to leave the heat on all day?

No. While your house will retain heat for longer if it’s better insulated, the amount of energy it takes to kick on the heater is almost never more than you’d lose by heating all the space in your home all the time.

Only turn the heat on when you need it.

How much money do you save by turning down the heat?

According to the Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% on your annual energy costs by turning the temperature down seven to ten degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours per day.

You’ll be closer to 10% savings if you live in more mild climates; those in places like Phoenix, Arizona or Bradford, Pennsylvania may not see as much savings. Living in an extreme climate, according to DoE, diminishes your savings with this method.

Is it cheaper to turn the heat down at night?

Yes. When you’re cuddled up under blankets, you probably won’t need as much heat. Turning your thermostat down helps you save money.

Change your filter.

Clean or replace your filter often.  Checking on it once a month will keep your bill lower by making sure dirt and other fun stuff isn’t blocking the heat from flowing freely throughout your home.

You should check your filter every six months.

Maintain your furnace.

If you own your home, make sure you have an HVAC professional checking out your furnace for general maintenance on a regular basis. A visit once or twice per year can save you a lot of money and safety hazards over the long-haul.

If you rent and your landlord isn’t doing this, it may be a good idea to ask about it.

Keep heating costs down by adjusting your water heater.

If you have small children, you may have already adjusted the heat on your water heater for safety reasons.

If you haven’t had to do this yet, try turning it down to about 120 degrees. When your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard to heat your shower, you’ll save money.

Shop around for better energy rates.

Whether you’re trying to reduce your electric bill or reduce your natural gas bill, if you live in a deregulated state you can actually shop around for the cheapest energy.

Apply for LIHEAP.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) covers a number of home energy costs for low-income families in US states and territories.

You can get LIHEAP assistance for help with:

  • Your heating or cooling bill.
  • Energy crisis assistance.
  • Weatherization of your home.
  • Energy-related home repairs.

You can see if you qualify by contacting your state or territory LIHEAP office.

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.