Finance

Saving Money While Dining Out

Long ago, people rarely ate out. Mom would cook almost every meal at home. When they did eat out it was exciting and special. Times changed and eating out became an almost everyday happening. Times have changed again and we may have to revert to the old ways because dining out has gotten so expensive.

But, why should you? You work hard. You and your family deserve to eat out if that’s what you enjoy. Some read a menu from right to left checking prices first and then scan back to the left to see what it is. There are other ways to dine out and stay within your budget.

Select a restaurant you can afford. You may have eaten in restaurants where you feel the owner must be laughing at you for paying his exorbitant prices. You can get just as full in a reasonably priced café on quality food with friendly service. If you’re a big eater, an all you can eat buffet may be right for you. And, you can save on tipping.

Some restaurants offer specials on certain days and discounts for eating early. Do your homework by reading their ads or give them a call. If you’re a senior citizen they may have senior specials that offer smaller portions for a smaller price.

If you’re eating with no children in tow, try the happy hour lounge specials. For the price of a drink you can usually sample the heavy hors d’oeuvres. If you do have kids, some places have kids eat free nights.

For the two of you just order one dinner and perhaps an appetizer and share. Portions can be too large anyway. Most restaurants these days are happy to have your business and will be glad to bring you an extra plate at no charge. If you have leftovers take it home and eat it later getting two meals for the price of one.

Scan the newspaper and other ads for discount coupons but read the fine print and make sure it’s a bargain and not a come-on. Buying an Entertainment Book that usually offers buy one get one free can be real savings for the whole year.

Practice skipping when dining out. Yeah, that would be good exercise but try skipping a drink such as iced tea or soda and skipping dessert. Drinks can add more than four dollars to the check for just two people.

Order water instead and freshen it up with lemon and maybe a little sugar. Pick up a half gallon of ice cream on the way home for dessert the rest of the week. Fast food fare can be cheaper and if you’re careful it can also be healthy. Most fast food chains now offer salads and soups. For dessert try a container of fruit instead of fat-laden sweets.

Don’t forget to check your receipt. Some offer free meals or a reward if you take a survey about your dining out experience. Your experience should be fun and affordable. With a little planning and restraint dining out can always be special.

Automotive

Why That High Auto Insurance Rate Is Your Fault

Everyone likes to score a great deal, and no likes to pay more for something than they have to. When shopping for auto insurance, many people try to find the average of what those around them are paying — thinking this is a “good” rate for the average person. It may seem like a smart strategy, but it won’t help you out. In fact, it may be a mistake.

Only liability insurance is used in annual statistics. That’s because it’s the only coverage that’s required by law for drivers to carry.  But many people also carry the recommended collision and comprehensive coverage, which raises the price of a policy even further. So if your neighbor is bragging about how he pays only $500 annually for car insurance, he probably carries the bare minimum of coverage and is assuming more risk than you.

It’s also well known that auto rates are determined by status and age. Teenage drivers (especially males) pay some of the highest rates in the country for auto insurance. This is because of their lack of experience behind the wheel, and the greater chance of accidents and citations. Senior drivers on the other hand, pay the lowest rates of any group, even though there’s a debate about whether or not senior citizens are actually safer drivers. Families—whether older or younger generations—pay less than the national average, as do married drivers over single drivers.

So, what are some other big factors that determine your annual policy rate?

1. Location
Urban areas in particular have higher traffic congestion, wages, gas prices, and car theft statistics. New Jersey and Washington DC residents have some of the highest premiums in the country. But, if you’re moving from Oregon to Florida, you’ll welcome the 7 percent drop in your policy rates. Those relocating from Nevada to Utah though will face sticker shock with a 5 percent increase.

2. Deductibles
Average drivers have a $500 deductible on their policy. It grants them reasonable rates and ensures they won’t have to pay too much out-of-pocket in case they need to file a claim. However, some people find $500 a major hardship. You can lower the deductible (depending on your insurance carrier) to $200 or $300, but your annual premiums will shoot up. On the other hand, some people prefer to raise their deductible to $1,000. It’s a quick way to instantly lower your rates.

3. Personal Driving Record
Citations, speeding, DUI’s and crashes all increase your rates or cause your auto insurance company to drop you altogether.

The quickest way you can find low auto quotes for your unique profile is to compare different insurance carriers online. You could see a major drop in price by perusing online quotes annually, so don’t cheat yourself out of your hard-earned money. After all, no one likes to pay more than they have to for car insurance.

Travel

Tricks to Finding the Cheapest Flights

Travel can be a lifesaver. The right vacation at the right time can revitalize your whole year, not to mention your body and mind. But, in today’s economy with airlines adding new fees almost daily, and ticket prices sharply on the rise, many have written off travel as too expensive. However, with a few savvy tricks and a little research, there are still lots of great deals to be had on airline tickets and more.

Early Bird Gets the Deal. Travel experts say that there are certain times of day when more deals are available. Airfares can change three times a day, as airlines adjust their prices to fill up flights. Early morning is when the fares tend to be lowest, but it is a good idea to check every five hours to track prices as they change throughout the day. Also, it’s a good idea to check again at 5PM when the airlines are trying hardest to fill empty seats.

What Wouldn’t a Business traveler do? Flying when business travelers don’t can save you a bundle. Most business travelers fly on Mondays and Fridays, so Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days. Airlines will usually lower their prices on these days to aggressively try and fill empty seats.

Avoid the Crowds. Fly to popular places at unpopular times. The slowest time of the year for travel is in the Fall between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Again, to try and fill more vacant seats, the airlines will lower prices and offer better deals to get people to fly during this time of the year.

Right place, “wrong” time? By flying to popular destinations at unpopular times, you can secure the best prices from travel companies and airlines. Here’s where flexibility in your planning can pay off. Going to the airline websites and planning your vacation around the best ticket prices offered can result in a fun, cost-effective vacation and maybe widen your horizons to a place you might never have considered before.

Package Deals. Many times the best deals on airfare can be found as part of a package rate. Most travel sites have package rates available, and they are definitely worth a look. Often times, the entire package (hotel, airfare, rental car) is cheaper than just the plane ticket on another site. Even if you don’t need the rental car, with the money you saved on the flight, you can’t afford to not pick it up. These deals are especially good on last minute bookings.

With a little inside knowledge and some good timing, you can get yourself a steal on a ticket to the vacation you thought was out of reach.

Click on the links below to get some great travel deals and plan your trip today:

Automotive

Pay Less for Car Insurance: 10 Ways to Save Money Now

Car insurance is probably a significant part of your budget. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Americans pay on average about $800 a year for car insurance-that’s over $67 a month. Wouldn’t it be nice to reduce that payment by as much as 20 or 30 percent? You can-and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Take a look at the following 10 tips from InsWeb.com and start saving money now.

1. Shop Around and Compare Rates Regularly

If you don’t compare rates every once in a while, you’ll never know if you could be paying less. According to an independent study, people who compare rates and switch carriers at InsWeb.com save an average of $301* on a six-month policy.

2. Increase Your Deductible

Simply put, the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. The cost of an accident will be that much more expensive, but the savings on your rate could make it well worth it.

3. Insure Your Home and Your Car With the Same Carrier

With a multi-line insurance policy you purchase both your car and homeowners insurance from the same carrier. A multi-line policy can save you up to 15% on both premiums.

4. Pay Your Policy in a Lump Sum

Extra administrative fees are often applied to payments when you split your premium into installments (e.g. monthly, quarterly, etc.). Be aware that a monthly fee of even $7 can add up to almost $100 a year.

5. Take Advantage of Good Driver Discounts

Most insurance companies provide discounts for drivers with excellent driving records. In fact, some states require companies to provide these discounts. If you haven’t had any accidents or tickets in the last three to five years, you’re probably eligible.

6. Don’t Overpay Just Because Your Record Isn’t Perfect

Not all companies look at violations and accidents the same way, and many companies specialize in insuring different types of drivers. If you shop around, you might be surprised at what you find.

7. Look for a Safe Vehicle Car Insurance Discount

Many car insurers offer discounts for various safety features on your vehicle, including air bags, alarms, factory-installed mechanical seatbelts and antilock brakes. When getting  updated car insurance quotes, be sure to indicate such safety features.

8. Pay Less When You Drive Less

Many car insurance companies will offer discounts on vehicles that incur low annual mileage. If your commute has recently changed or you have recently retired and no longer drive your car to work, you might save money by getting an updated quote.

9. Take Advantage of Good Student or Senior Discounts

Because many companies feel conscientious students make conscientious drivers, students currently enrolled in school often receive a discount on car insurance if they can demonstrate good grades. Similarly, providers are also known to value the wisdom of an experienced driver, offering discounts to drivers over 50 as a result.

Automotive

Don’t Let Repair Costs Come Between You and Your Car

There’s an old saying in the auto industry, “They All Break” – and it’s true, regardless of make or model.

Unfortunately when it comes to our vehicles, they always seem to break when they’re out of warranty which means fat out-of-pocket expenses.

With economic uncertainty many people are holding on to their vehicle for longer than usual and even with proper maintenance, expensive repairs are inevitable.

Data shows that two of the most common big ticket items to go are transmissions and air-conditioning.  The average cost of replacing a transmission is now over $2000 and the average cost for a major air-conditioning repair is now over $700.

But dealing with auto repairs doesn’t have to be a nightmare.  The recent growth in extended and after-market warrantees now gives consumers a good way to protect themselves from large and unexpected auto repair costs.

Today, there’s little doubt that extended warrantees do save you money in the long run

But consumers should be extremely careful when purchasing an extended auto-warranty.  It’s very similar to buying insurance and there are a few key questions you should always ask:

  1. What is the deductible? As with insurance, warrantees can include deductibles that will have an impact on the price. Chose a deductable that makes sense for you and make sure you understand if the deductible is applied on each repair separately or just the first repair.
  2. What are the labor rates the warrantee reimburses for? Do they seem reasonable for your preferred repair shops? Do they pay the repair shop directly, or do you need to pay and wait for reimbursement?
  3. Exactly what is covered under the warrantee? It’s better to have one that clearly lists what is not covered (exclusive) rather than what is covered (inclusive).
  4. Have you read the full agreement? Make sure you do so before signing.
  5. Most importantly, is the warranty provider reputable and financially secure? Will they be there when you need them to pay off?

With dozens of companies now selling extended warrantees, how do you find the right one for your particular needs? 

Fortunately, today there are online services that let consumers quickly shop for the best rates from a nationwide selection of extended warranty providers all competing for your business. 

One of the most comprehensive of these services is called Extended Warranty Pros.  They operate a free website that will find you the best warrantee offers for your exact needs from a wide network of warranty providers.   You simply enter your details and requirements and then receive personalized quotes from a range of providers.  The site works exclusively with reputable companies providing the best value to consumers.  It makes it super easy to compare various warrantees by cost and coverage.

The fact is that there’s a lot of variation in the prices of extended warrantees.   But, with a minimal amount of time and the help of a service such as Extended Warranty Pros you can save time and rest assured you are getting a good value.

So, before your transmission falls out and you have to blow your vacation fund on a new one, find out just how easy it is to get some protection and peace of mind.

Click here to start.

Finance

How Natural Gas Can Save You Money

Natural gas is one of the most versatile fossil fuels used in the United States with approximately 22% of energy consumption coming from natural gas. Most gas consumed in the U. S. is produced in the U. S., with some coming from Canada. More than 60% of U.S. homes use natural gas as their main source of heating. It burns cleanlier than other fossil fuels with demand increasing at about 6% each year.

Natural gas is a non-renewable fuel that’s odorless, colorless and tasteless. Then what’s that awful odor when you turn on a gas jet that some say smells like rotten eggs? It’s a chemical called mercaptan added before distribution as a safety device. Natural gas is moved from production fields to consumers and stored in large underground storage systems for use when needed.

Uses for natural gas include high efficiency furnaces and boilers, space and water heating, ranges, gas grills and fireplaces, spa and pool heaters. It’s also a major source of generating electricity.

Studies reveal many benefits of natural gas making homes more valuable and desirable. Natural gas furnaces last twice as long as an electric heat pump providing a more comfortable heat.

Water heating and clothes drying are done faster and more effectively with gas. When drying clothes, dry consecutive loads to take advantage of built up heat. Separate heavy clothes from light weight fabrics to reduce drying time and use the proper water level for your load size when washing.

Gas is safer to cook with since you can see the flame reducing the chance of getting burned. Adjust the flame to fit the bottom of your pan. If the flame goes beyond the bottom you’re wasting energy. Reach the desired temperature more quickly when heating food by using lids or covers.

Check and clean your furnace regularly to gain optimum benefits from natural gas. Have a professional tune up your furnace each year to save at least 2%. Turn off any pilot light if you’re going to not be using that appliance for a prolonged period. Caulk and seal doors and windows when drafts are detected to keep the cold out. Shut fireplace dampers and close doors and vents in unused rooms.

A gas radiator located near a cold wall is inefficient. Place a sheet of aluminum foil between the radiator and the wall to reflect the heat back into the room.

If you’re upgrading your appliances be sure and purchase the Energy Star models. With this program, you’re sure to get the most energy efficient appliance available. Rebates may be available when you switch from electric to gas on some appliances. Your dealer can usually help you with this.

More home builders and home owners are choosing to use natural gas, especially for heating. When you save money and increase your efficiency, you might say you’re cooking with gas.

Finance

To Save Big, Nix the Lunch Breaks with Co-Workers

You probably know the scenario. The office clock says noon and the guys and gals decide where to go for lunch. In many towns, the drive time to a restaurant eats up most of the lunch hour, not to mention the gas.

It’s hard to find lunch for less than ten bucks plus tip. You gobble down your food, share a few laughs with your co-workers and rush back to the office wishing you had time for a nap.

As you walk to your desk, you notice this guy putting away his brown bag. He appears calm, happy and ready to get back to work, some of which he did while eating his lunch. He’s thinking how delicious it was, how much money he saved and the hassle avoided.

Is it worth it to prepare and bring your lunch to work each day? Well, looking at some basic examples let’s say the cost to fix your own lunch costs about $3 a day. It’s probably much cheaper.

That’s $15 for a five day week. Eating out at approximately $10 a day comes to $50 for the week. You saved at least $35 not including drive time and gas. That’s more than $1,800 a year saved. Interested?

Here are some brown bag tips. Prepare it the night before so you’re not rushed in the morning. Keep it simple but be creative and think healthy. Sandwiches on wholesome bread are fine but include nuts, fruit or yogurt. Also, put in a little treat for yourself that you can look forward to, perhaps a health bar or your favorite cookie.

Plan ahead and buy in bulk with lunches in mind. Buy large chips and put them in smaller plastic bags instead of buying small individual bags. Don’t pay more for convenience.

Cook a big dinner and save some for lunch the next day or the entire week. If it’s home cooked you know it’s good, healthy and cleaner. Put it in individual containers that night so you can grab and go in the morning.

If you’re running late there’s nothing wrong with occasionally taking a can of soup or vegetable chili. Most offices have ovens or microwaves you can use for heating.

Bring your drink too. You can probably get a 12-pack of soda for $2.99 and that comes to about 25 cents a can. Compare that with expensive vending machine drinks or coffee and you’ve saved even more.

It’s up to you of course, but you can continue to work while you eat, catch up on your emails or other relaxing reading. It just might impress the boss and if you have to take off early, you don’t feel as guilty. Don’t be surprised if others ask you for tips on brown bagging.

There’s a lot to be said for brown bagging your lunch. You eat better, save time, money and you’re more productive. Now all you have to do is figure out where to invest all that money you saved.

 

Finance

How to Save Money on Wedding Gifts

It comes in the mail all too often. A large pristine white envelope hand addressed to you. The calligraphy is beautiful. You don’t have to open it to know what it is. It’s another wedding invitation to go with several others you’ve already received. Some of these people you barely know.

You know it means buying a gift and money is already in short supply. Where can you find a cheap wedding gift and not look cheap? How much should you spend? If you’re invited to one of the wedding dinners a good rule of thumb is to spend about as much as the dinner would have cost.

This could run between $50 and $125. You’re certainly not obligated to spend that much but polite etiquette also says you should not go empty handed. How can you afford to give something special yet affordable?

Select the gift early. Go ahead and get it over with and check the gift registry. With so many weddings, especially in the spring, registry items can quickly get picked over leaving you with little to choose or gifts out of your price range.

Many thoughtful brides and grooms are now adding a broad selection of gifts in all price ranges. Again, shop early for best (and cheapest) idea. With the distinct possibility of going to two or three weddings in the same year even an inexpensive gift could add up when multiplied.

Use your imagination and creativity to make or buy something that’s personalized for the newlyweds. Wedding gift baskets can be geared to their particular tastes and lifestyle. Most new brides need kitchen gadgets so a basket filled with kitchen basics, a few epicurean recipe ingredients and even a recipe book would be perfect. The groom could appreciate this more than you know.

Frame their wedding invitation. Make the frame yourself or buy one that can be personalized with their names and wedding date. Framing a favorite poem or readings from the ceremony itself is a very considerate gift.

Newlyweds are usually on a tight budget so give them a movie night out. You could spring for movie tickets and cash for the popcorn or buy them a romantic movie DVD and include a package of popcorn to pop. Put all this in a popcorn bowl along with two boxes of movie candy.

Give a bottle of wine with a note attached that the wine will be at its prime in 10 years and it’s not to be opened until their 10th anniversary. Decorate the bottle with bows or ribbons. You could also include ingredients for a romantic dinner such as pasta and a gourmet sauce. A couple of candles would round out the gift nicely.

A lavish expensive wedding gift will never trump the thoughtful personalized gift from their friend. (Well, almost never.) Be creative and give from the heart. If you run out of time and ideas, a little cash or gift card in any amount is always appropriate and appreciated.

Shopping

How to Get Huge Savings on your Grocery Bill

It’s a rare family that’s not on a food budget.  The family food shopper searches for any way possible to cut back on the amount of money spent on food.  One of those is using coupons. 

Conservatively speaking, there are millions of coupons circulating every day that could cut your food budget by 30 to 50% – even more if you’re willing to turn couponing into a passion. 

Even the casual coupon clipper can become quite successful overnight and with more work and dedication become a super saver shopper.  You have to be patient, flexible and perhaps give up your favorite brand, but it can be done and you can save a lot of money.

Remember, coupons are designed to sell a certain product and get you in the store but if the item is not one you need and use, then saving money on that item is a moot point.

Food coupons can be found anywhere.  The Sunday newspaper is usually the best source but also look on line, at public libraries and at coupon swap boxes at the store itself.  Some stores issue coupons at checkout for use on your next trip.  Be sure and note expiration dates and if a cash value is offered.  Don’t let them expire and go to waste.

The keys to a successful coupon strategy are:

Organize before you shop.  Keep coupons sorted by food type in an easy to search through container and match coupons with needs on your grocery list.  Some coupons have mail in rebates.  Beware of this and follow up.

Use Store Loyalty Card Programs. Sign up for a store loyalty card that usually offers coupons plus bonus points that are cumulative each time you shop.  Using a store’s own credit card can lead to double points and free item coupons. 

Combine regular coupons with sale prices.   If a coupon item is not on sale and it’s not an urgent buy wait until it’s on sale.  Be on the lookout for sale and bonus points tags.

Compare ads.  It may pay you to drive to more than one store if it’s an item you need, have a coupon and it’s not available anywhere else.  But, before you burn up extra gas, ask if the store honors its competitor’s coupons.  Many will do this just to keep you in the store.  You can call ahead to save a trip.

Don’t buy too much. Don’t be susceptible to the 2 for a dollar marketing tool unless it’s to your advantage with a coupon.  If you need two of the item go ahead and buy them; but save by buying only one if that’s what you need.  For example, the sign may read:  15 limes for a dollar.  Unless you’re a big lime user, some could go bad before you use them.

There was a time when some shoppers felt using coupons was not appreciated by the grocer and hesitated to use them.  They didn’t want to hold up the line while the checker scanned coupons.

It’s a faster and easier method now with computers.  Some of these strategies may not be right for you.  It takes practice and patience, trial and error.  If stretching your food dollar is your goal, there are few better ways than using coupons.

Finance

Plug in Points to See How Your Financing Will Pay Off

One of the most innovative financial markets is the home mortgage loan sector. And, when you toss points into the mix it adds convolution to an already complicated process. Most buyers don't understand the concept of points and hesitate to ask or go to the trouble to learn about the process. They become overwhelmed and can be at the mercy of whatever the lender offers.

It's actually quite simple. Points are fees paid to a lender for a loan. The points are usually linked to interest rates with the more points you pay for, the lower the interest rate. You can view them as pre-paid fees. It's sort of pay now with points or pay later with interest.

If you have the cash on hand to pay points and you still can't decide if you should pay them to get a lower interest rate ask yourself what you would do with the money if not spent on points. If you're buying a home you probably have many needs for the extra money but don't be short-sighted. Invest for the long term.

Most lenders typically charge one point for the loan origination fee and additional points on loans that have interest rates under the current market rate. The lender gets some money up front in exchange for a lower interest rate. It's a win situation for both parties. You can check the newspaper or the Internet for current rates and points being offered and their combinations, which are many and negotiable.

Some points will reduce the interest rate and some won't. Discount points are based on how much money you borrow. One point equals 1% of the loan. For example, 1% of $100,000 would be $1,000. You can expect a reduction of about one quarter percent for each point paid. Paying points does not reduce the amount borrowed but how much you'll be paying back. So, paying points depends on a lot of factors.

If you don't have the cash to pay points then it's a moot point. (No pun intended). The main thing to consider is how long you plan to keep your home. In other words, will you keep the home past the break-even point? That's when your accumulated monthly savings exceed what you've paid in points to get the interest rate down.

Paying points is probably a good investment if you plan to keep the home five years or more. Points can be considered an investment when it continuously yields a savings the longer you stay in the home.

A chart can be prepared to show you the options and when the break-even point occurs. Ask the lender to quote points in dollar amounts so you can easily see how much you're spending.

It's thought the point system is used only in the United States. That's probably a plus for the creators of our financial system which enables more families to purchase a home who otherwise would not qualify. Get the point?

 

Uncategorized

10 Ways to Save on Health Insurance

With the wide variety of health insurance plans available, choosing the lowest cost option should not be the only factor influencing your decision. Instead, you should look for a plan that fits the needs of you and your family. After selecting a plan, there are ways to save on your health insurance costs. Here are 10 ways to save on health insurance.

1. Compare Multiple Health Insurance Quotes Online

When comparing plans be sure to evaluate the benefits as well as the monthly premium. Make sure your plan provides adequate catastrophic coverage, with preferably at least a $2 million lifetime maximum benefit.

2. Raise Your Deductible

The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly premium. Keep in mind, you will be responsible for medical bills out of your own pocket until this deductible is reached. However, there are plans that will waive the deductible for office visits, preventative care, prescription drugs, or accidental injuries.

3. Factor in Co-Insurance

Co-insurance is the amount the insurance company will pay after you meet your deductible. Most companies will pay 80% of the medical bill after the deductible up to an annual maximum of typically $5,000 to $10,000. Medical bills in excess of this annual maximum will be covered at 100% by the insurance company. Some companies offer 50% co-insurance plans which may lower the monthly premium. But if you visit your doctor frequently, the policy may actually cost you more in the long run.

4. Make Sure the Policy Covers the Doctors you Need

Most plans contract with a network of “preferred providers.” These “PPO” plans pay more of the medical cost if you use the services of doctors within this network. If go to a doctor or hospital outside the network, the insurance company may cover only part of the bill.

5. Consider Separate Policies for Individual Family Members

Age plays a role in determining how much a policy costs, and it may be more affordable to purchase separate health insurance plans for your family members. You might save if the older members of your family purchase their own policies. Or get health insurance coverage for children 18 and under.

6. Coverage Offered Through an Employer

Employers providing health care benefits will pay all or part of the premium for the employee but often do not contribute toward dependents. Adding your dependents to your employer plan may be the responsibility of the employee and can be expensive. If your dependents are relatively healthy, you may save money by purchasing an individual or family policy separate from the employer’s plan.

7. COBRA Alternatives

COBRA is a continuation of an employer-sponsored plan for a former employee where the premiums are usually paid entirely by the participant. If the COBRA participant is relatively healthy, they can usually save money by purchasing an individual policy instead of accepting the COBRA plan. Keep in mind that the insurance company may refuse to provide coverage based on past health history. Therefore, those with serious health issues or expenses should stay with their COBRA option or enter their state’s high risk pool.

8. Consider an HSA-Compatible High-Deductible Health Plan

An HSA (Health Savings Account) allows you to set aside money in a tax-sheltered, interest-earning account that you can draw on to pay most medical expenses. Because it works with a high-deductible health plan, you pay less premiums than you would with a more comprehensive health plan. In addition, the savings you accrue minimize the risk of not being able to cover unexpected medical bills.

9. Minimize your Chances of Being Denied Coverage by the Insurance Company

Most states offer high risk pools for those unable to obtain health insurance from the traditional carriers due to serious health issues such as AIDS, cancer, major heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic conditions. These high risk plans can be expensive. Therefore, it is beneficial to qualify for the plans offered by the insurance companies if possible. Rejection rates can be as high as 60% and often individuals without serious issues could have been approved had they provided an adequate explanation of past medical history. For example, be sure to explain clearly when a condition has been resolved and requires no further treatment or medication.

10. Government Assistance Health Programs

Obviously, those at or below the poverty level may have access to government assistance, but many people are unaware that some states offer programs for those above the poverty level as well. Usually, this assistance is in the form of a subsidy that will pay part of the premiums for traditional health insurance. Contact your state’s insurance department for details.

If you’re looking for affordable health insurance, compare free quotes at InsWeb.com and see if you can find an affordable policy.

Shopping

How to Find Free Coupons on the Web

When times are tough, the old fashioned staple of coupons tend to experience resurgence. Coupons have been around as long as the concept of marketing has, and in recent years the internet has helped create a whole new universe for coupon hunters.

Coupon Aggregators

Some web sites specialize in providing a one-stop shop for coupons from all sorts of stores, both online and brick and mortar stores. Similar to travel web sites, these coupon aggregator sites can save you a lot of time clicking around looking for the best deal. Why go to hundreds of sites when one site can deliver what you need? That's exactly what sites such as RetailMeNot.com do for you. Beyond simply searching for stores of interest on their site, they also provide other convenient ways to access their online coupon services. For example, why not use their Mac Dashboard Widget to keep track of the latest free online coupon codes? If you don't have a Mac, simply download their Internet Explorer or Firefox web browser add-ons and have free online coupon codes sent directly to your web browser. Jumping on the expanding popularity of Facebook, they also offer a plug-in for the popular social networking site.

Other useful free online coupon aggregator web sites include CouponMountain.com, DealCatcher.com,Ebates.com and BestOnlineCoupons.com. Do a search on Google or your favorite search engine for “free online coupons” and you'll be amazed at the different sites out there.

Company Coupons

Businesses have long recognized the power of the coupon. Not only does it help them increase sales, but from an analysis perspective it can help their marketing departments figure out what types of promotions consumers you like respond to the best. Thus, you can find many coupons directly from company web sites.

The easiest way to see if there are savings of what you regularly buy is simply to type the brand name and the word “coupon” into any search engine. Chances are the free online coupon you're looking for is out there. Many may have expiration dates, so make sure you take note of when the coupon is good until.

Free online coupons have two main ways of redeeming them. The first is the good old fashioned way. Print out the coupon and take it into the store of your choice. Present the coupon at the point of purchase. Another popular way to use free online coupons is by typing in a coupon code during an online purchase. If you regularly purchase over the internet, this can be more convenient (and save a lot of paper and printer ink too).

Make sure to read the fine print of any web site offering coupons. Most will ask for your email address and other personal information. Give out only what you're comfortable with. It's a good idea to open a separate email account just for these types of online promotions. This will prevent your personal inbox from getting flooded with spam.

Finding free online coupons is not only a great way to save money, it can be a lot of fun as well!

Automotive

How Much are You Over-Paying for Your Auto Insurance?

In good times, it’s natural that we pay less attention to our individual expenses.  But, in today’s uncertain times, regardless of our current situation, everybody needs to save as much money as possible. 

When it comes to saving money the best place to start is with your auto insurance.

Most Americans can point to a similar list of monthly expenses, including mortgage or rent payments, auto expenses, utility bills, food and clothing, etc.  Many of these expenses are fixed and can’t be changed, so they offer few opportunities to save any significant amounts of money.  Financial experts agree, however, that the one monthly expense where people can, with minimal effort, often find real and substantial monthly savings is auto insurance.

Auto insurance is a necessary evil that responsible people know they can”t live without. In fact, for many of us, it’s a payment we make month-in and month-out, and never see the benefit of.  That”s okay, because the coverage has to be there if we need it–but, it also makes it all the more important that we don”t overpay.

How to make sure your insurance company is not getting rich off you.

Fortunately, today there are online services that let consumers quickly shop for the best rates from a nationwide selection of auto insurance companies, all competing for your business.  You simply enter your requirements and instantly receive quotes from a wide range of reputable companies.

One of the most comprehensive of these services is GoInsuranceRates.com.  They operate a free website service that will find you the best insurance quotes from a wide network of premium insurers.  The site also contains a wealth of reference information that helps you understand how different policies work and how to save the most money possible.

The fact is that auto insurance rates are constantly changing and, for certain policies, rates have actually dropped significantly in the past 12 months.  You can be sure, however, that your insurance company is not going to call you up and let you know their rates have dropped.  But, with a minimal amount of time on a service such as GoInsuranceRates.com, you may be able to quickly save hundreds of dollars.

So, if you’re into saving money, start by finding out how much you’re overpaying for your insurance coverage.  

Click here to start.

Finance

What to Do When Your Water & Sewer Bill Soars

Save water and you not only save money, but also conserve one of our planet’s most valuable, natural resources. It’s like getting paid twice. Water conservation is one of the easiest things to do if you have a little discipline, but it’s so easy to turn on the faucet and let the water run.

When gallons of water go down the drain, so does your money. You can actually save a third time, because most sewer charges are based on the amount of water used.

Let’s take a look at the amount of water used daily for a family of four: 

Bathing or showering uses the most at about 80 gallons. Showering accounts for 30 percent of total water usage in the home.

Laundry uses about half that; dishwashing 15 gallons; cooking and drinking 12 gallons; and, for the big surprise, four people can flush down over 100 gallons of water a day. Including miscellaneous use, the total rounds out to 250 gallon a day, or 7,500 gallons per month. That’s a lot of water.

What can you do to save?

Make sure your commode doesn’t leak. Listen carefully for the tiniest dripping sound. If it’s old, you might want to buy a new water-saving model. Or, place something plastic inside the tank to displace the amount of water being flushed.

Use only as much water taking a bath as you need. A full tub is fun, but not necessary. For showering, use a low-flow showerhead. Get wet, turn off the water, and soap. Turn the water back on and rinse. When shaving or brushing your teeth, don’t run water during the entire task. Running water while brushing for two minutes can waste up to four gallons of water.

Most washers use up to 60 gallons per load, so use load settings on the smallest setting possible. Permanent press cycles use a third more water than the regular cycle, so use that feature judiciously.

Run your dishwasher only when full. The amount of water used is the same regardless of how many dishes you wash. At the sink, use hot water only when needed. You waste a lot of water waiting for the hot water to reach the faucet

Lawns are more resilient than you think, so water lawns and gardens only when necessary. Use mulch around plants to hold moisture. Water either early or late to prevent evaporation during the heat of the day.

A soaker hose conserves more water than a sprinkler and gets to the roots better. Native grasses and plants require much less water. Use a broom or blower to clean your sidewalks. Don’t wash them down with water.

If you wash your car, don’t let the water run continuously. Get a hose brush that has an on/off water switch. Wash your car on the grass to water it with runoff from your car.

Repair drippy faucets. The smallest drip can waste over 300 gallons a month. Check both inside and outside faucets. If you can’t fix it right away, place a container to catch the drip water, and use it to water plants or clean floors. Encourage your family to be water misers and your bank account will remain more liquid.

 

Shopping

Private Online Shopping Clubs – How to get Huge Discounts on Luxury Goods

There’s a special text message that usually gets Jennifer Phillips-Miller’s attention right away. That’s because Jennifer is a member of Ideeli.com, one of a new breed of private shopping clubs that have recently emerged on the Internet.  The text message advises Jennifer that a new designer product is about to be offered for sale at a huge discount.

Ideeli is a members only club that organizes short (lasting just 2-3 days) online sales of luxury products at steeply reduced prices.  Think Italian designer shoes for $100 rather than $500.  It’s one of the hottest new trends on the Internet.

Ideeli works with hundreds of luxury brands from the US and Europe.  These brands all have the occasional need to quickly sell overstocked items or to quickly introduce new products to the market to generate buzz and word of mouth. In the old days they would do this with sample and warehouse sales. 

Now they use membership clubs like ideeli to move the product for them.  Ideeli is given a set number of items to sell and offers them in short time restricted sales at huge discounts.  It conducts about 20 of these sales per week. While they keep the names of the brands they work with somewhat under wraps (we aren’t allowed to mention them here) , we can say they have relationships with nearly 300 of the top luxury brands in the world at prices of 60, 75, or even 90% off retail

Goods include more than apparel and shoes.  In the case of ideeli, they also offer home furnishings, jewelry and travel.

Sales can sell out in a matter of hours or days and never last more than a few days.  And if you don’t like the item when it arrives, or the fit is no good – you can return it.

For Jennifer, the sales make for great sport. “I love it!”, she says, “You need to move quickly when you get an alert to see if the item is something you are interested in and how cheap it is.” And with a 2-year old in tow, “It sure beats spending time in a department store.”

Jennifer also loves the variety. ‘Living in Dallas, you just don’t get a chance to see a lot of these brands and at these prices – forget it.”

The one drawback of these clubs is that membership is limited.  That’s because the clubs have access to a limited number of items for each sale.  If membership were too large, then the items would sell out in minutes leaving most of the members upset.  Typically new members need to be invited to join by existing members.  If they don’t have an invite, they can apply to join through their waiting list.

Fortunately, ideeli is expanding its membership for a limited time. They have set up a special page where, for a limited time, readers of HowLifeWorks.com can sign up free, and bypass their waiting list. 

To get your free ideeli membership now, click here.

Finance

How Homemade Gift Baskets Can Save You Money and Show You Care

Gift baskets can be made for every occasion and every person. They can be costly to make or buy, but with a little planning and creativity, you can craft the perfect gift–even if that person has everything.

When you personalize a gift, it says a lot about you. It says you cared enough to put love and effort into creating something for someone who’s important to you. And, that special someone will be impressed.

Sure, you can buy gift baskets from a professional and spend any amount you want. They look good and come in a variety of themes and containers. But, wouldn’t a basket fashioned personally by you send a more meaningful message? Not to mention it’s a lot cheaper and more fun. Homemade foods from your kitchen (for example) are the perfect gifts for your basket.

Ask yourself three questions before you get started: Who is it for, what are their interests, and how much am I willing to spend? A gift basket fits the bill for everyone, regardless of age or gender.

Choose a theme based on their interests, hobbies, or an upcoming event in their life. You can spend as much as you want, but assuming you’re on a limited budget, your basket can still be something you can give with pride.

Wicker baskets are probably the first choice to use, because they’re easy to work with and can be found inexpensively at dollar stores and even yard sales. Other containers work as well, such as trays with an edge, plastic pails (best for kids), coffee mugs, flower pots, and if the person you’re giving to happens to enjoy cooking, use a baking pan, bowl, or even a colander.

Let your imagination run wild utilizing various shapes and materials. For instance, if the recipient is a cowboy, put your items in an old boot, a tackle box for a fisherman, or a sewing basket for a seamstress. Choosing the container and the gifts can be almost as much fun for the giver as the receiver.

Place your main theme gift in the center or high enough that the eye is drawn to it. Additional gift items go around the sides, and then add filler material such as colored paper or straw available at hobby stores. If you have a paper shredder and colored paper, make the filler yourself and save. Remember, an overflowing basket looks better than one that’s sparsely filled.

Set your basket inside a cellophane bag and tie a bow with colored streamers flowing down. Attach a card and you’re good to give. If you need to secure items inside the basket to keep them from flopping around, clear tape works well–or use a glue gun. Be neat with your work, not sloppy.

Give genuine thought to the appropriate theme to make the basket more expressive. Consider the person’s personality, whims, and passions. Fashion something you would like to receive and be assured others will like it too.

 

Finance

How Paying More on Your Mortgage Can Save You Money

It's the American dream to own your own home and dreamers will go to any lengths to accomplish this even if it means borrowing thousands of dollars to be paid back over a 30 year period. It's quite an obligation to make 360 payments month after month with the bulk of the money going toward interest, at least in the beginning.

The interest on an average home over a 30 year period can account for twice the cost of the home. Interest is working against you 24/7/365. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could pay off your debt years sooner and save thousands of dollars?

You can. It just takes discipline and perhaps a little budget adjusting. It's no secret that paying the mortgage twice a month, instead of only once will save you thousands and pay off your debt years sooner. Some call it the bi-weekly mortgage plan.

For example: Let's say you paid $80,000 for your home and got a 7% loan for 30 years. If you divide the payment in half and pay it every two weeks you should save $25,000 in interest payments and reduce the term by 8 years.

Not bad for a little extra work. Of course, the higher the loan and interest, the more you save. You're paying less interest and more on the principal. The extra payments bring down the principal and interest faster.

Can just setting up a shorter mortgage term in the beginning accomplish the same thing? Essentially yes. But many people cannot qualify for a shorter term mortgage because of the higher payment. With the bi-weekly plan, you can take control yourself and enjoy the flexibility.

There are many companies who will set this up for you for a fee ranging from $100 to $400. Or, some will do it free but charge a transaction fee each time you make a payment.

Can you do it yourself? Yes, but talk to your lender and read the fine print in your contract. You may have a pre-payment penalty for paying off the loan ahead of time. Some lenders also tack on a service fee each time you make the extra payment.

Banks can also provide you with a bi-weekly calculator to let you determine how much you would save and how soon you would actually own your home. You'll also save on private mortgage insurance (PMI) by paying off the loan early.

By paying bi-weekly, you're actually paying one extra payment a year and that makes the difference. You can accomplish the same thing by making an extra payment whenever you can of any amount. When you do this, write a separate check with a note that states the money should be applied to the principal and not the interest.

Most financial institutions are happy to help you with saving money on your mortgage but it's up to you to get the financial ball rolling. For about the cost of dinner and a movie for you and your family each month you can be debt free years sooner and save thousands of dollars.