A Financial Education Event
 

Polite Bargaining – 8 Ways to Negotiate on Everything

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My longtime friend, Edith and I found heaven on earth this past weekend and we were determined to milk it for all it was worth. Milk chocolate that is! We took a day trip to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA from her new house in Mechanicsburg and we racked up the discounts all day. There was a Groupon for four special events: a chocolate tasting, the 4D chocolate experience, a trolley ride and build your own candy bar. We saved 30% on those bundled tickets.

Chocoholics forever 

When we had lunch and bought tons of candy to take to our chocoholic friends and family, we got a military discount. When we left, we were astonished to realize that our 3 hours of free parking had grown to $45 for the 6 hours we were there! When we went to pay, Edith (who has 20+ years of military service) asked for a veteran’s discount and we breezed through the exit with a 100% parking discount. We were on a sugar high and a savings high as well! 

My grandma Laudeman used to quote a Bible verse that has stuck with me throughout my whole life: “you have not because you ask not.”

Even though I was a shy person growing up, I was never shy about parting with less of my hard-earned money if there was a chance I could save some bucks.

So, how do you bargain in every day matters without embarrassing yourself or your family? Consumer Reports says that 89% of those who regularly ask for discounts get a “yes” on that discount at least once. Those are good odds.

Here are 8 tried and true ways that can help you become a polite negotiator.  

Everything Is Fair Game – Almost everything in retail goes on sale at some point, so why not try to create your own sale? A retailer may not want to give the sale to everyone, but they may give you a discount if they are still making a profit. Ask the manager if the item has recently been on sale, if it is going on sale soon or if they can sell it at a discount. One college student in Chicago routinely asks for the “good guy discount” because he’s a good guy and they’ll be a good guy if they give him a discount. If you’re military, use the Scout app to find those discounts. Don’t forget the classic money saver, RetailMeNot for additional savings.

Find Something Wrong – A makeup smudge, a missing button or a slight hole along a seam that is easily repaired are all good reasons for a big discount. Show the sales clerk or manager the damaged area and ask for a 30% discount, you can settle for less, but ask for more since it can’t be sold as brand new.

Do Your Research – Comparison shop online using apps like Amazon which has a barcode scanner that you can use when you’re in a store to immediately find the item on Amazon and check its price. Just choose the camera icon next to the search bar and hold it over a barcode. You can do the same thing with Walmart Savings Catcher, which is a part of their regular app. Show the manager the comparison price and ask if they will match it. Check out Yelp to also get check in discounts and review the vendor.

Use Your Expertise – If you are a geek at an electronics store or at a gaming outlet, talk with the sales person and capitalize on your mutual passion for the products. But don’t be a bore and inundate them with a one-way monologue. Instead, build a rapport with the sales person by asking them questions and letting them be the expert they are. You’ll come across as a qualified buyer who is worthy of a discounted price.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Professionals with Titles – Just because someone is an MD, CPA, or a lawyer doesn’t mean you can’t get a discount. One lady was told her eye surgery was going to be 10K and she didn’t have insurance coverage for the procedure. She told the doctor that it was too much and “could he work with her to get it for less?” He told her that besides the big city practice he had (where she saw him) he also had a smaller office in a neighboring smaller city. If she went to that smaller office, he would reduced his fee to $1000, use the smaller clinic that charged a lot less than the hospital surgery room and they got a discounted rate on the anesthesiologist as well. The new price on the surgery? $2800

Buy Everything in Bulk—Even Services! It’s hard for most vendors to turn down cold, hard, cash. I have learned to negotiate paying for services in advance to save even more. These would be known vendors you work with frequently and trust. At my mail and more store where I have a PO Box, I paid for a year and asked for a deal I saw elsewhere where they offered 2 months for free by paying the full year—he gave it to me in seconds. For haircuts, spa treatments, and massage treatments, I’ll prepay anywhere from 5 to 10 services at a 30% discount. Then we keep up with services as we go along, counting down to the next bulk payment. This works especially well for services you know you will get regularly.

Get Discounts on Existing Service by Mentioning the C Word – Take those sale circulars you get in the mail, are hanging on your door, or you find in the paper and call your existing provider to renegotiate your current service. Whether you are getting cable service, cell phone service, entomology or house cleaning services. Call your current provider, tell them you want to “cancel” or talk to the cancellations department. You’ll likely be transferred to a department that has more authority to offer you freebies to keep your business. If you mention the introductory pricing from one of their competitors, you might not get that exact price, but you could use it as leverage to get deeper discounts on your current service.

Be Willing to Walk Away- Whether you are in a department store or a Turkish bazaar, decide ahead of time what your “comfortable” price is for the goods or service you are negotiating. Decide this ahead of time so you won’t get caught up in the moment. My favorite words, when discussing prices, are: “I don’t feel good about that price.” Then the seller usually tries to find out what price I would feel good about. I’ve often been stopped while walking away with a lower price that will seal the deal. And if I’m not followed out with the promise of a bargain? That’s OK, too, I can feel good about walking away if I don’t get the price that floats my boat!   

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I have a friend who is a newly single mom and her part time job is making phone calls to get discounts on existing payments she must make. We figured she is earning about $50/ per hour for her time investment. She has talked to utility providers, mortgage bankers, insurance companies and the city to get free items such as light bulbs, a/c filters, a refrigerator, a swamp cooler (also installed free), low moisture landscaping and much more. She’s a firm believer in “you have not because you ask not.”

What’s your bargaining story? Let me hear from you!

De-Stress for Less (part 2)

In order to fully embrace the value of free time, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of recreation and relaxation in our overall quality of life and productivity. Our families, marriages, and friendships all need time to regenerate and celebrate so we can be refreshed and ready to face the next round of daily demands of modern living. Unfortunately, if we are not mindful, those rewarding activities can become costly and negatively impact our budgets—which puts us right back into stress mode!

If entertainment and eating out is scheduled into your spending plan, then there’s no stress of going off budget. But what if you could go out twice as often and still stay on budget? Here are some ways to have twice the fun at the same price:

De-Stress for Less (Part 1)

De-stress for Less Part 1: On the Run

You can get the stress out of your life without breaking your budget if you follow a few steps to de-stress for less. Here are some creative ways to relax and be entertained while paying attention to your bottom line. I encourage you to pursue a sustainable lifestyle of balance, because the price we pay for living under constant stress is much too high. In fact, a CNN poll reveals that the number-one reason for stress in most countries is money.

The countries most stressed out by money are Malaysia, China, Singapore, and the United States. The countries least stressed out about money are Russia, France, and Italy. It would be self-defeating to ask you to be less stressed about money and then suggest ways to de-stress that cost a lot of money.

As a mom of many children, I was often a mom on the run. I’ve seen the price that people pay for never slowing down, and the cost can include frequent headaches, arthritis, high blood pressure, and even heart attacks. I determined when my children were young that I would learn to do things that relieved me of the pressures of a large and busy family. I also learned that some of the simplest activities could bring the most enjoyment. Here are some simple and free options I’ve used many times over the years to de-stress my life:

  • Take a power nap.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Listen to an audiobook.
  • People-watch on a bench.
  • Talk to God. Write out prayers for friends and family.
  • Light a candle.
  • Eat a sack lunch at a park or somewhere outside.
  • Take a stroll and stop to smell some roses.
  • Write in a journal in your backyard or in a garden.
  • Draw a picture of your house. Or backyard. Or somewhere that makes you happy.
  • Write out favorite quotes or passages of literature and put it somewhere you will see it.
  • Call a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while.

I know you are aware of these simple pleasures, but do you practice them? Intentional breaks from your usual routine can make a huge difference not only in your stress, but in your overall productivity later in the day.

Bonus De-Stress Tip:

Since the recession, the idea of a “stay-cation” has become popular, where a family camps out in the backyard or does something special to make their time at home feel more like a time away. While these are great ideas to save money for people on a budget, I believe there are other ways to get away from home and have an affordable vacation away. For one thing, you can check your local deals at httpe://www.groupon.com/, http:/travelzoo.com/, or http://livingsocial.com/ to get some really fun values. I went indoor skydiving for only $35 (a $110 value) and it changed my entire perspective! And don’t forget to check out Pinterest to see great ideas of fun activities

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Top Ten Failure Factors for Finances

Welcome to Thursday. Did you know there are only 8 days left in February? By now, it seems that most of our New Year’s resolutions are either given up on, pushed to the side for a little while, or lost a little bit of steam along the way.

It is never too late to reevaluate our resolutions and start over. We never need to wait until the next January 1st to get our finances under control. When we fall off the wagon, it is best to get up and keep going.

Many times when we set goals, they are unachievable. These are the top ten failure factors to setting any goal from my latest book Lean Body, Fat Wallet:

Top Ten Failure Factors:

•   Set unrealistic goals

•   Motivated by the wrong motives

•   Believed failure was inevitable

•   Fulfilled the need for immediate gratification too often

•   Influenced unduly by other people

•   Practiced a “deprivation mentality”  – all or nothing/black or white

•   Rationalized and made excuses rather than taking responsibility

•   Displaced emotional issues through overspending and overeating

•   Procrastinated rather than taking action

•   Lacked the tools to make compounding incremental change

Reread the list above and circle any of the “failure factors” which you believe may be significant influences in your life. Failure needs to be seen as a profound learning opportunity. It’s time to stop trying so hard and start training toward a new way of addressing your wealth challenges. Past failures do not need to be repeated.

After you circle the “failure factors” that may apply to your situation, take the time to write three ways you believe you can counter those factors and turn them into successful areas of your life. I believe in the old saying that “people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” Having a plan can be over half the battle in discovering ways to be successful in your finances. But implementing that plan is the other half of finding success.

One of the ways that I have found most people can create and stick to a plan is by having a “money buddy.”  If you are married, this might be your partner, and if you are single, it can be a like-minded friend who is good with their own financial resources. Get together with your money buddy and go over this “failure factor” list. Let them help you come up with ways that you can counter the failure to turn it into success. Then, set a date to meet with your financial partner and track your success. It’s kind of like Weight Watchers for money matters and there is great power in unity with other like-minded people who want to overcome their own failure factors.

For great tips for understanding your money better can be found at mint.com—an excellent site for managing finances. Keep checking in week to week for help along the way. You are not alone in this financial journey! There are so many tools to help along the way.

Ellie Kay

Lean Body, Fat Wallet: The Health and Wealth Connection

I’m announcing, in this blog, my new upcoming release with friend Danna Demetre!

What would you do if you finally lost all that excess weight and had energy to burn?  How different would your life be if you were completely out of debt and in control of your finances? And what if you could do both at the same time with just few simple lifestyle changes?

Those were some of the questions we wanted to answer when I wrote this book with Danna Demetre. In the interest of full disclosure, there were other reasons I wanted to pen this work as well. One of them was because it was a good excuse to spend time in Danna’s lovely San Diego home doing the writing (and drinking beverages from Italy)! Plus my hubby likes her hubby, Lew (except when the West Point grad takes on the Air Force Academy grad and they engage in a death-match-war-of-the-words to see whose academy is superior.) It also meant that I only had to write ½ of a book instead of a whole book.  Don’t laugh, this is a very important reason I engaged in this project.  In fact, my literary agent, Steve Laube, says, “Ellie you are the kind of author who likes to have written books.”  So what’s your point, Steve?

Even though Danna and I are experts from two seemingly different fields – finance and fitness,  in our new book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, we let readers in on a remarkable discovery – the habits that are good for your wallet are equally good for your body. The principles that help you stick to a budget are the same ones that help you eat better, lose weight and keep it off.

The simple and practical teaching in this “two for one” bargain of a book will help you put those principles and habits to work using an innovative approach to improving both your wealth and your health.  Lean Body, Fat Wallet, includes real life stories of failure and success readers will identify with and draw inspiration from. It also links common issues of health and money, such as balancing a budget along with a diet and how overspending relates to overeating.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in Lean Body, Fat Wallet:

  • Four essential habits for satisfying, sustainable change and how to make them part of your life
  • Ten “failure factors” that trip us up and how to steer clear of them
  • Proven strategies to overcome emotional eating and spending
  • A wealth of stress busters that don’t rely on food or money
  • A game plan for raising fit and frugal kids

We also offer a tool kit of charts to track your accomplishments and a recap menu that allows readers to easily navigate each chapter and pick out specific sections relevant to current needs.

Here’s a list of reasons people fail to develop that Lean Body, Fat Wallet we will give you ways to overcome these:

Top Ten Failure Factors

  1. Set unrealistic goals ­
  2. Motivated by the wrong motives
  3. Believed failure was inevitable
  4. Fulfilled the need for immediate gratification too often
  5. Influenced unduly by other people
  6. Practiced a “deprivation mentality”  – all or nothing/black or white
  7. Rationalized and made excuses rather than taking responsibility
  8. Displaced emotional issues through overspending and overeating
  9. Procrastinated rather than taking action
  10. Lacked the tools to make compounding incremental change

Through this book you, too, can discover a new way to approach your financial and physical challenges. Join Danna and I on this amazing journey and at the end of the road, you’ll develop your very own lean body and fat wallet!

Pre-order the book and we’ll send you a special surprise!

What would YOU rather have, a Lean Body or a Fat Wallet?

 

Summer, Squash and Squeamish Eaters!

Summer, Squash and Squeamish Eaters

If you have kids, you probably know what it’s like to have picky eaters in the house. One loves pickles, another one hates them. Someone doesn’t like mushrooms, another hates the taste of celery and one has aspirations of a completely carnivorous diet.

Fortunately, there are ways to hide nutritional ingredients in your meals. One of my staple recipes for our children is squash casserole. It’s ooey, gooey and packed with healthy nutrients like Vitamin C. It’s also affordable, considering summer is squash season. Best of all, it’s easy-to-make, filling and just as good when eaten for leftovers.

Hungry yet? Here’s a version of my squash casserole recipe if you’d like to try it out this summer:

Ingredients:

–       3 pounds of yellow squash (or zucchini, depending on what’s on sale)

–       1 large onion

–       2 cups of your favorite shredded cheese

–       30 crushed round buttery crackers (Ritz or something similar)

–       ½ cup of cream, milk, cream cheese or unflavored Greek yogurt

–       4 tablespoons of butter/margarine

–       salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Dice onion and sauté with butter in a large skillet on medium.
  3. Chop squash and immediately place in skillet with the onions.
  4. Sauté for 10 minutes, or until squash is tender (easily breaks apart with a fork).
  5. Add cream/milk, 1 cup cheese and half the crushed crackers and cook until cheese is melted (about two minutes).
  6. Pour mixture into a greased casserole pan and top with rest of crackers and cheese.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Let it set for a minute or two (it’s hot!) and enjoy.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it’s super-versatile. Like a little spice? Dice up a jalapeno or add some cayenne pepper. You can also make it cheesier or healthier by adjusting the amount of cheese.

Play around with it and create your own family squash casserole recipe!

What is YOUR favorite summer recipe?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Creative Cooking

 

 

When I first got married I didn’t know how to boil an egg. So I called my college girlfriend, Donna, and asked her. “Oh my,” she said, “I think you just boil it until it floats!”

Well, two hours later, the egg floated all right—by exploding in a billion bits.

As the years went by, I finally managed to boil an egg without having an accident. In fact, I enjoyed learning how to cook healthy and tasty foods for my growing brood of lean, mean, eating machines. Our four boys seemed to have a bottomless pit in the place of their stomachs. I developed some ways to save money in the kitchen without compromising health.

Tips to Stretch the Food Dollar

  • Kid Power – When my kids were little, I always let them help me in the kitchen because they wanted to be there. Plus, kids are more likely to eat food they help prepare, thus eliminating those picky eaters and the need to lecture them about hungry children in third world countries who would love to eat their dinner.
  • Teen Power As the kids grew into young teenagers they loved watching cooking shows and became adept at putting together a meal. When I’m too tired to cook and before I spend $35 + on fast food, I just gather the ingredients and ask one of my teens to cook something simple. I pay them $5 for the effort and that usually saves about $20 over the cost of buying fast food. Teach them to use apps like Coupon Sherpa and RetailMeNot to save even more.
  • Cook Once, Eat Twice – To save time, energy and use leftovers, try to cook foods that will give double the mileage on a single effort. For example, cook my recipe for spaghetti sauce and use the leftovers for spaghetti pie. Or boil extra chicken breasts to make chicken enchiladas one night and use leftover chicken to make tasty chicken salad over the weekend. Another one of our favorites is to make a large pot roast for one dinner, then save the leftover meat, combine it with bar-b-que sauce and make hearty sandwiches for Sunday lunch!
  • Weigh Your Produce – Not all ten pound bags of grapefruit or potatoes are created equal. Weigh your prepackaged produce to make sure you get the most for your money.
  • Follow the Food Mile – Today’s it’s all about sustainability and the environment. Part of that has to do with how far food travels to get to your local store—the longer the food mile, the more expensive the product. Try to buy local food  or shop at farmers markets because these products have a shorter food mile to save dollars and the environment!
  • Soup and Muffin Night – To cut back on meat, try substituting a soup and muffin for dinner one day a week. This lighter fare will not only help cut back on your food budget, but it will also save calories. If you’re feeding teen boys or a hungrier husband, you might want to substitute sandwiches to go with the soup instead of muffins.

  How do YOU save money when cooking?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Counterfeit Products — Deals or Dangerous Duds?

 

I was given a designer purse as a birthday gift and was so thrilled until one of my other friends pointed out that the nameplate should say “Prada” not “Proda.”  So my Prada was a Nada, which was embarrassing, but it wasn’t life threatening as other counterfeit products are. For example, the third most commonly copied product is drugs. The U. S. Customs department said that agents seized 24% more shipments of counterfeit goods last year (2011) than the previous year. In fact, fake purses didn’t even make the top ten list of these kinds of bogus products.

Top 10 Counterfeit Products

 

  1. Electronics
  2. Shoes
  3. Drugs
  4. CDs and DVDs
  5. Clothing
  6. Perfume
  7. Watches
  8. Cigarettes
  9. Computer Hardware
  10. Toys and Games

 

The Food and Drug Administration found fake versions of the cancer drug Avastin that made their way into doctors offices and in two cases, consumers received counterfeit versions of the attention deficit disorder drug Adderall. A mom noticed the misspelled label and alerted authorities. Way to go, mom, I guess a secondary clue was that junior was bouncing off the walls instead of calmly reading a book.

 

The Electrical Safety Foundation International says that there have been more than 1 million counterfeit electrical products recalled in recent years to include extension cords, batteries and power strips. These fake versions can cause fires and destroy devices.

 

The most popular knock off is electronics where the Gallup Consulting group found that 64% of counterfeit electrical products are purchased from legitimate shops and retailers! This includes iPhones, iPads and iPods. Phony apple stores abound in China and Hong Kong—the country that accounts for 80% of the value of counterfeit goods.  There was one industrious crook in America who set up a fake Apple storefront online and sold thousands of products before he was caught.

 

Don’t think that buying fake shampoo, toothpaste, or perfume constitutes getting a good deal either. These phony versions of branded personal care products can contact caustic chemicals that can harm the unsuspecting public.

 

Spotting the Deal that’s Really a Dud

 

There are ways to know whether you are getting the real deal or not.

  • Look for misspelled words and incorrect grammar on products, packaging and websites.  It might be a good idea to invite your 7th grade English teach to go shopping with you.
  • Beware of packaging, websites and products that don’t include company names, toll free numbers or other contact info. In fact, you can whip out your legitimate iPhone and call the toll free numbers on the product to see if they work or not.
  • If an item doesn’t come with a product manual that contains safety warnings and instructions for use and maintenance, then it’s probably a dud.
  • Don’t ever buy toys, anything electrical or items for children from flea markets or dollar stores that don’t allow returns.
  • Watch out for fake UL marks. The legitimate one includes “UL” in a circle, the word “LISTED” in all caps, the control or issue number and what the product is.

When in doubt, go to the Better Business Bureau www.bbb.org  or the Federal Trade Commission www.ftc.gov to see if there’s been an alert listed for the product you are purchasing

 

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

Our son, Jonathan, is a senior this year and we’re glad he made it this far! Last year, he had a concussion on the soccer field that could have ended quite badly. The total hospital bill for that little trip was over $18,000! According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, if you or your child broke a leg, you would incur costs in excess of $15,000. It’s no wonder that in my experience with mainstream American families, I’ve found that the greatest financial concern they have is how find affordable health insurance.

Be Healthy

The best protection against rising medical costs is still prevention. So get involved in a healthy workout program or plug into a support group to regain control of your health such as www.weightwatcher.com.Another great program is First Place 4 Health (www.firstplace4health.com) for men and women of all ages. Using a support system that incorporates prayer, balanced eating and exercise plans, this non-profit group provides the opportunity to change your life, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally.

A healthy lifestyle can also have other advantages. Many health insurance companies offer a refund on an annual premium if the insured can prove that they have attended a health and fitness center three times a week.

Be Wealthy

There’s no need to pay more than necessary for health insurance.Compare plans and prices by going to a non-intrusive site such as www.Ehealthinsurance.com. It’s possible to get a relatively anonymous quote instantly without the intrusion of a salesperson calling your home or office. It’s also a good place to compare plans by remembering that you shouldn’t buy what you don’t need. For example, if you do not need maternity benefits, eliminate them from the plan you choose.

If you can consider a higher deductible, then the money saved on premiums could go into a Health Savings Account (HSA), which is basically a health insurance policy you can bank on. When an HSA-eligible policy is purchased in conjunction with an HSA account, then the Health Savings Account is funded with pre-tax dollars, and taxable income is reduced at the same time. The money in this account is used, tax-free, to fund healthcare related costs including prescriptions, insurance deductibles and over the counter medications. The money that is not used in this account is rolled over from year to year and can serve as a retirement plan.

You do not have to insure all family members on the same policy. If there’s an employee benefit in a group plan, it doesn’t mean all family members have to be covered on the same plan. An average family can save as much as $2500 a year by pulling family members out of pricey group plans and purchasing individual health insurance. The exception to this would be if the family member has a pre-existing condition (such as asthma, a heart condition, high cholesterol, etc) that might be temporarily or permanently excluded in an individual plan. In that case, it would be better to pay the higher premium in order to keep the comprehensive coverage consistent.

Be Wise

Know the difference between health insurance and discount health or medical “cards.” According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, many companies are selling so-called discount health cards to consumers seeking affordable healthcare. Usually for a monthly fee, the cards claim to save subscribers money by offering discounts on physician visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, dental work, eye care and other treatment. The CAIF says that, “Discount health cards are spreading rapidly. Many may offer valuable, money-saving benefits for people without health insurance. But these cards can also be confusing, because they are not insurance. You still must pay the medical bills yourself. These cards simply offer lower prices on services that accept these discounts.”

If you have a question about a policy or a card before you buy, go to www.insurancefraud.org to make sure you’re being wise in your choices.

Finally, for the 45.8 million uninsured Americans, who may feel they cannot afford health insurance, go to the non-profit arm of a previous site found at www.EHealthinsurance.org to see what services and benefits are available for your particular situation and in your state and community.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!


With our son well into football season, I’m thinking about his health a lot more and the cost of health insurance as well.

According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, if you or your child broke a leg, you would incur costs in excess of $15,000. It’s no wonder that in my experience with mainstream American families, I’ve found that the greatest financial concern they have is how find affordable health insurance.

Be Healthy
The best protection against rising medical costs is still prevention. My friend, Danna Demetre, has a is a fabulous health program for men and women of all ages. Using a support system that incorporates accountability, balanced eating, and exercise plans, this approach to health provides the opportunity to change your life, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally.

A healthy lifestyle can also have other advantages. Many health insurance companies offer a refund on an annual premium if the insured can prove that they have attended a health and fitness center three times a week.

Be Wealthy
There’s no need to pay more than necessary for health insurance. Compare plans and prices by going to a non-intrusive site such as www.Ehealthinsurance.com . It’s possible to get a relatively anonymous quote instantly without the intrusion of a salesperson calling your home or office. It’s also a good place to compare plans by remembering that you shouldn’t buy what you don’t need. For example, if you do not need maternity benefits, eliminate them from the plan you choose.

If you can consider a higher deductible, then the money saved on premiums could go into a Health Savings Account (HSA), which is basically a health insurance policy you can bank on. When an HSA-eligible policy is purchased in conjunction with an HSA account, then the Health Savings Account is funded with pre-tax dollars, and taxable income is reduced at the same time. The money in this account is used, tax-free, to fund healthcare related costs including prescriptions, insurance deductibles and over the counter medications. The money that is not used in this account is rolled over from year to year and can serve as a retirement plan.
You do not have to insure all family members on the same policy. If there’s an employee benefit in a group plan, it doesn’t mean all family members have to be covered on the same plan. An average family can save as much as $2500 a year by pulling family members out of pricey group plans and purchasing individual health insurance. The exception to this would be if the family member has a pre-existing condition (such as asthma, a heart condition, high cholesterol, etc) that might be temporarily or permanently excluded in an individual plan. In that case, it would be better to pay the higher premium in order to keep the comprehensive coverage consistent.

Be Wise
Know the difference between health insurance and discount health or medical “cards.” According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, many companies are selling so-called discount health cards to consumers seeking affordable healthcare. Usually for a monthly fee, the cards claim to save subscribers money by offering discounts on physician visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, dental work, eye care and other treatment. The CAIF says that, “Discount health cards are spreading rapidly. Many may offer valuable, money-saving benefits for people without health insurance. But these cards can also be confusing, because they are not insurance. You still must pay the medical bills yourself. These cards simply offer lower prices on services that accept these discounts.” If you have a question about a policy or a card before you buy, go to www.insurancefraud.org to make sure you’re being wise in your choices.

Finally, for the 45.8 million uninsured Americans, who may feel they cannot afford health insurance, go to the non-profit arm of a previous site found at www.EHealthinsurance.org to see what services and benefits are available for your particular situation and in your state and community.

Of course, I think it’s friends and family that truly make you wealthy and those who are happier generally have better health. So kiss your kids and take your girlfriend to lunch and enjoy!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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