In this issue:
10 Ways You Waste Money on Your Car
Summer Savings Strategies
Back-to-School Money Guide: Making a Budget
Choosing a Health Plan
With the countless options available and the complex terminology and paperwork, selecting a health care plan can be overwhelming. There are two basic types of plans: group plans (plans supported by an employer) and individual plans (plans not supported by an employer). Whether you have access to a plan supported by an employer or you need an individual plan, these tips for selecting a plan can help.
Before choosing a plan, ask yourself:
- How much can you afford to pay monthly for health care?
- Who requires coverage under your plan (just you, or a spouse or dependents as well)?
- How often do you, your spouse, and children visit the doctor?
- Do you want or need dental and vision coverage?
- Do you or your dependents have medical conditions that require specialized care?
- What would happen in the event of an accident or surgery?
- What is the maximum deductible you could afford to pay?
As part of the Affordable Care Plan passed in 2010, there is a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) available. You can find out more about it here.
Managed Care Health Plans
Here is a brief explanation of some of the most common Managed Care health plans:
- HMOS (Health Maintenance Organizations) are a type of health insurance plan where coverage is limited to doctors who work for or contract with the HMO. A primary care physician generally oversees your care and must refer you to specialists as needed.
- PPOs (Preferred Provider Networks) allow subscribers to use doctors, hospitals and providers outside of the network for a fee.
- High-Deductible Health Care Plans are high-deductible plans with low monthly premiums, designed to offer minimal day-to-day coverage but to protect you in the event of a catastrophe.
- Point of Service Plans combine some aspects of PPOs and HMOs. Like PPOs, they generally require users to choose a primary care physician, who can make referrals to other doctors inside or outside of the network.
- Fee-for-Service Plans reimburse you for a large percentage of what you pay out of pocket. You pay the bill for services; then your insurance company pays you back.
In addition to making life more enjoyable, living a healthy lifestyle is key to keeping healthcare costs down. People who live a healthy lifestyle tend to be more productive and better at handling stress, making them more valuable employees. Being fit can even save you on health insurance - many companies factor in height and weight when determining rates for consumers.
Article courtesy of www.practicalmoneyskills.com
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|10 Ways You Waste Money on Your Car
With gas bills putting a crimp in your budget, you don't want to be wasting money on other car expenses. But many car owners do just that - either spending more than needed on maintenance or putting off work that will cost more later. To be smart about your car, you need to do the right amount of on-time maintenance - while resisting mechanics' pitches for unnecessary work. Here are 10 ways you may be wasting money on your car:
1. Changing oil every 3,000 miles. Read your owner's manual and follow the manufacturer's recommendation for oil-change intervals - it's often 5,000 to 7,500 miles.
2. Using premium fuel unnecessarily. Don't pay this higher cost unless your owner's manual says premium fuel is "required." High-performance engines like those in Corvettes and some luxury models do really require it. But if premium fuel is just "recommended," you can still buy regular.
3. Failing to change your air filter. "If you have not changed your air filter by about 40,000 miles, it is probably clogged and hurting your gas mileage," says George Sadowski. That MPG penalty could be as much as 10% to 15%, he estimates. So if your mechanic recommends a fresh filter after about 25,000 miles, say yes.
4. Failing to check the brake pads. Most mechanics will raise this issue periodically, but you should suggest it if not. Getting timely pad replacement can help you avoid later (and much more expensive) repair to the brake drums or rotors.
5. Buying mileage-boosting additives and devices. On auto racing shows and other sports programs, ads are nearly constant for oil additives or devices - like magnets on the fuel lines - that will supposedly improve your car's mileage.
6. Tune-ups for your engine or air conditioning. Another relic of a bygone era, this is still a popular promotion to drum up business.
7. Changing coolant. Mechanics or dealers will often say you need to have the engine coolant flushed out and replaced. That's only true if you have plenty of miles on it. Modern coolant - you'll know it because it's usually brown or light red - is engineered to last five years or 50,000 miles.
8. Ignoring your check-engine light. This amber light on your dash, which in some cars says "service engine soon," indicates a problem with the fuel or emission system. A malfunctioning oxygen sensor, often the reason for the light, can hurt your gas mileage. And an out-of-kilter fuel mix, if ignored too long, could harm the engine.
9. Buying expensive performance tires. When it is time to replace your tires, the dealer rep or salesman at the tire shop may try to convince you that you need the super-grip performance tires that come with sports cars and other high-performance vehicles. But they can sometimes cost twice as much and because they are made of softer rubber, they often do not last as long.
10. Paying for built-in navigation. If you are buying a new car, taking the factory navigation system can cost $2,000 or more. Most smart phones now have navigation options that work just as well and carry free updates of their maps, unlike the built-in systems.
You can't control the price of gas. But by paying attention to your maintenance schedule and doing just enough - but not more than you really need - you can keep from wasting money on your other automotive costs.
Article courtesy of http://finance.yahoo.com
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|Summer Savings Strategies
Summer is a great time to practice money saving strategies. Here are tips to save in various areas of your life:
Driving -- Money saving tips: To help get more mileage for your dollars, make sure all of the tires on the car are properly inflated. Using cruise control will help you burn less gas on unnecessary accelerations, as well as help you avoid speeding and getting a ticket. Drive the speed limit, because lower speeds save gas.
Gas -- How to find the best price: Although gas prices change from station to station, there are tools to help find the cheapest gas. AAA has a free iPhone application called "AAA Triptik Mobile" that allows people to compare gas prices along the route. The application can also give directions, maps and recommended hotel choices. No iPhone? Use Triptik through AAA's Web site instead.
Air-Conditioning -- How to save: Air conditioners account for approximately 16 percent of a household's energy bill. To cut that portion of your bill, set your air conditioner to 78 degrees when you are home and an even higher temperature when you leave. Every degree below 78 will add approximately 5 percent to your energy bill. Additionally, turn off unused lights and try not to let sunshine in, which would heat up your home and cause your air conditioner to work even harder. Replace dirty filters in the air conditioner, monthly if necessary, since dirt-ridden filters make air conditioners work more.
Lock in your winter heating rates now: You may have an opportunity to lock in your heating rates by reaching an agreement with your utility provider on a constant rate that you pay each month. This protects you from extreme price fluctuations. To find out if your service provider offers a plan such as this, contact your state's public utility commission. But be aware of the fine print in the plan in case there are hidden fees such as a termination fee.
Back-to-school layaway: In 2009, the average family with a child in kindergarten to 12th grade was expected to spend approximately $550 on back-to-school items, equaling a national total of more than $17 billion. One way to save money in the fall is to look into layaway plans from retailers. You can choose the item and then make periodic interest-free payments towards the item. This is preferable to using credit cards because you won't incur interest. However, some layaway programs have initiation or cancellation fees, so make sure you read the fine print.
In the market for a new car: September is usually the best time to buy a car because dealers are looking to replace last year's models with new inventory and therefore have an incentive to give you a better deal. Even though September is still a few months away, the extra time gives you an opportunity to determine your budget, research cars on Web sites such as Edmunds.com and check your credit report to make sure there are no errors, which could mean paying more in interest. No matter in what month you decide to buy a car, purchase it at the end of the month. Dealers need to fill their monthly sales quota, and therefore might be willing to bargain to meet that goal. Go to a dealership on a weekday instead of a weekend, because you are more likely to get better attention.
Article courtesy of www.abcnews.com
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|Back-to-School Money Guide: Making a Budget
College means more independence for many students, but it also means more financial responsibility. Before your teen goes off to college for the first time, it's important to talk about spending and budgeting. Paying for a college education means more than just covering tuition costs.
Making a Budget
The first step to creating a college budget is considering expenses. There are many costs to take into account, including room and board or rent, books and supplies, food and groceries, transportation, personal care (cosmetics, toiletries, prescription medications, etc.) and more. Don't forget to set aside funds for entertainment -- things like dining out, going to the movies, or big events like birthday celebrations plans. Next, figure out your child's income. This includes any income from a school job, financial aid, scholarships, student loans, and any support or monthly allowances from parents. Parents should make it clear that income and expenses need to balance.
CLICK HERE for a printable budget worksheet for college students.
SayStudent.com has an online budgeting worksheet that students can download. Enter the estimated expenses for the year and it will automatically calculate the total costs.
Staying on Track
Once you have a budget in place, to help stay on track, SayStudent.com also has a printable worksheet where you can record your daily expenses. Click here for the spending sheet.
For the digitally-savvy, Web sites like Mint.com will manage your budget for you. It's a user-friendly site and can be linked to students' bank and credit card accounts, making it even easier to keep track of things.
Freshman Finances 101
Most universities have credit unions that are usually free to join. This could be a great choice if you do not like any of the banking options on campus. Many credit unions have free checking accounts with no minimums, and low or no fees for other services.
Make sure that your college student keeps an emergency fund so they can cover any unexpected items that may come up and you are not relying on credit to make any hurried purchases.
Many colleges offer free legal services, so if you need them, make sure you take advantage of them as soon as possible. This could save you a lot of headaches and expenses later. Check with your resident advisor or student life center to see what services are offered.
Article courtesy of www.abcnews.com
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