How to Use Priceline to Save on Travel

I don’t know about you, but one of my most exciting resolutions for this year is to travel more. In order to make this a reality, though, I need to be able to save money wherever I can on the trips that I plan for my family.

One of the biggest tools in my money-saving arsenal is to use an online travel agency site, like Priceline, anytime I’m ready to book. This can help me save tons whether I’m trying to find flights, hotels, rental cars, or even book a cruise or vacation package.

While Priceline is a pretty straightforward platform to use for travel booking, there are a few features that can save you even more money than you’d expect.

Express Deals show you star level and location, not the name of the hotel. Image source: Priceline.

Express Deals

Once upon a time, Priceline had a tool called Name Your Own Price. This allowed you to bid for flights, hotels, and rental cars, finding companies who would accept the offer(s) you were willing to make. It was a bit of a gamble and you were essentially “buying blind,” but the tool was a great opportunity to save.

Unfortunately, that tool was phased out a few years ago for flights and rental cars. It’s now only available for hotel stays and only accessible through the Priceline mobile app.

However, if you’re still itching to save money — and don’t mind buying blind — there’s another option. You can still save big using Priceline Express Deals … saving up to 60% off, in fact.

With Express Deals, you are able to pick up incredible prices on hotels, as long as you’re a little flexible (and trusting). All you need to do is choose your destination city and travel dates, and Priceline will help you find a great deal on a surprise booking.

While you won’t be able to choose the exact hotel you’ll get through Express Deals, you can choose the amenities you need and even the hotel quality you desire. You’ll see the price you’re paying as well as your overall savings. As soon as you book the room, you’ll be told where you’re staying (but, be careful because these are non-refundable purchases). And you can switch to the map view and see exactly where your hotel options are located.

A screen shot of the Priceline Trip Builder tool

Priceline lets you package airfare, hotel, and more. Image source: Priceline.

Trip Builder (new)

Sometimes, you just need a hotel room. If you’re planning a big trip or family vacation, though, you’ll need a lot more: hotel rooms, rental cars, and even flights.

Thanks to Priceline’s new Trip Builder feature, you can bundle all of those travel needs into one convenient package and save significant money.

With Trip Builder, you can combine any two or three needs from flights, hotels, and a car. If you’ll be bouncing around, you can add multiple hotel stays to the bundle and further boost your savings.

Your Trip Builder booking will all be listed under the same confirmation number, making it easier than ever to track all of your reservations in one place. You’ll also enjoy some of Priceline’s best deals in the process, leaving more jingle in your pocket for things like souvenirs and experiences.

Best Price Guarantee

Every once in a while, I’ll book a room or a flight for an upcoming trip, only to notice that the price goes even lower the very next day. Sometimes, that price continues to drop, reminding me of how much money I lost out on.

Luckily, you can learn from my mistakes. That’s because if you book a flight, hotel room, rental car, or cruise through Priceline, you’ll be covered by their Best Price Guarantee.

With this guarantee, you can receive a 100% price adjustment if the price of your reservation drops in the 24 hours after you book. If you booked an Express Deal, Priceline will not only give you double that — 200% of the difference! — but you’ll also have all the way until midnight the night before you travel to file your Best Price Guarantee claim.

There are some requirements, of course: the lower-price itinerary must be publicly accessible (no military discounts or special pricing platforms), the details must match exactly, and some airlines are excluded (Spirit, British Airways, and KLM, to name a few).

Even still, this guarantee means added peace of mind when you travel. And perhaps even extra savings in your pocket after you’ve already booked.

Double up on savings

Want to make your Priceline experience even more lucrative? Then double up on the savings.

There are a few ways to do this. You can:

  • Visit Priceline’s website through a shopping portal such as Rakuten (which is currently offering up to 5% back on your bookings)
  • Use a travel rewards credit card to earn extra miles or points on your reservations made through Priceline
  • Join Priceline’s membership program, giving you access to additional members-only discounts and easy trip management
  • Get the Priceline Rewards Visa credit card, which offers 5x bonus points back per $1 spent on priceline.com purchases

In fact, you can use more than one of these within the same booking, earning you maximum rewards, and saving as much as possible.

When booking a trip, sites like Priceline make it easy to shop around, compare prices, snag discounts, and manage reservations. You’ll have access to deals and promotions that you might not be able to find elsewhere, while also offering a best-price guarantee each time you book.

The more you save on your travel today, the more you can put toward additional trips in the future. And I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to start seeing more of the world in 2020.

–By Stephanie Colestock

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

What Is a Certified Check?

The last thing you want to worry about when making a big purchase is being scammed. Whether you’re buying or selling something, you don’t want your money or investments to go to waste. Making any financial decision can be unsettling for your budget when faced with a chance of fraud. That’s where certified checks can help add security. But first, what is a certified check?

A certified check is authorized by a bank to guarantee buyers have the funds before writing the check. This ensures that the person receiving payment isn’t left hanging, and the buyer double-checks they have enough funds to make the purchase. 

Why Use a Certified Check?

A certified check is one of the most secure payment options available. When you’re selling or buying expensive items, you want to ensure you get what you were expecting. Certified checks generally require a bank or credit union to set aside money in the buyer’s account until the check has gone through. This way, the bank verifies the buyer has enough cash to make the purchase and the seller gets paid. If you’re selling a big ticket item, you can request payment with a certified check.

If you’re buying an expensive item, certified checks will offer your seller additional security. It will prove to the seller that you’re serious about your choice and that your finances are in place for this investment. 

Certified Check vs. Cashier’s Check

Chart compares the differences and similarities of a certified check and a cashier's check.

A cashier’s check is also used for large purchases and authorized by a bank or credit union. The main difference between cashier’s checks and certified checks is where the money’s stored until it’s cashed out. Before signing a cashier’s check, banks will move the funds into a separate account for security purposes. Then, a bank representative will sign the check over to the receiver. 

Even though both check types are generally safe, cashier’s checks tend to be more secure. As banks take the buyer’s funds when they authorize the check, your funds are waiting at the bank instead of in your buyer’s account until cashed out. 

How to Get a Certified Check

Illustration details the steps to getting a check certified.

For buyers looking to get certified checks, most banks or credit unions offer these services. While you’re able to get them at financial institutions that offer these services, fees may apply at banks you don’t have an account with. If you’re in need of a certified check, read our tips below:

  • Call your bank to ensure you meet all their requirements. 
  • Visit the bank in person to avoid any mishaps or miscommunication. 
  • Come prepared with:
    • Funds needed for the check amount
    • Name of the recipient
    • Your account number 
    • Photo ID
  • Verify your identity and funds with a photo ID and bank account numbers for authorization. You may be asked to sign the check in front of a teller for them to certify it. 
  • Bring extra cash in case your bank charges a service fee, typically anywhere from $5 to $25. A bank you already do service with may waive your fee.

The Pros and Cons of Certified Checks

Certified checks lower the risk of carrying around large sums of money or bounced checks. There are a few pros and cons to weigh before choosing your payment option as a buyer or seller. 

Pros:

  • Safer way to carry cash: Certified checks are great tools for large purchases. It can be impractical to carry around a large stack of cash or the risk of a regular check. This way, you’re able to cash in your earnings, or pay the seller without any worries. 
  • Adds additional payment security: For large purchases where a buyers credit score or payment is questioned, this adds additional security. Since the bank issuing the check double-checks that the funds are there, it takes more risk out of the deal. 

Cons: 

  • Scammers may be ready to scam: One downside of this payment option is the risk of scams. It’s common for businesses to purchase bulk products out of state in exchange for a certified check. If you realize your purchase is a scam after sending your check, you may not be able to stop the payment from going through. 
  • Potential service fees: As always, bank services usually come at a price. In this case, most banks and credit unions will bill you for the time used to certify the check. Generally, these services cost anywhere from $5 to $25. If you decide to request a certified check from a bank you already do business with, they may waive your fee. 

4 Tips to Prevent Check Fraud

Illustrations depict the 4 ways to prevent check fraud.

Forty-seven percent of industry money losses were from fraudulent checks in 2018. Taking the extra steps to double-check your buyer’s payment could prevent your budget from taking a hit. Follow the steps below to ensure you and your earnings are on the right track:

1. Research Your Buyer

People may use fake names, addresses, phone numbers, and more to get away with a scam. Without knowing the identity of the person you’re selling to, it may be hard to get your money if things go wrong. Research your buyer or safely meet with them in person to get a better feel for their identity. 

2. Call or Visit Your Buyer’s Bank of Choice

For more security, reach out to the financial institution where the check is issued. Contact your buyer to see where they’ll be authorizing their check. Look up the branch’s phone number and call to verify the check went through. Avoid calling any phone numbers the buyer gives you in case they provide you with the wrong number. 

3. Immediately Double-Check With Your Bank

Right after you get paid, go straight to the bank or call to ensure there weren’t any complications processing the check. Ask your bank or credit union if the funds made it to your account safe and sound. 

4. Save All Documentation

Receipts, emails, and other information can build a case in the event you don’t receive your payment. Keep all documentation or files until you’ve been paid in full. As long as you have all the details, you’ll have a better chance of building a case. 

Key Takeaways

  • A certified check is a check that’s authorized by a bank to guarantee buyers have the funds before writing the check. 
  • When you’re selling or buying a large item, certified checks are a less risky payment option. 
  • If you’re unsure about your buyer, do more digging. Research them, call the buyer’s bank, and save all documents and files from the exchange. 
  • Call your bank beforehand to ensure you meet all the requirements and ask about service fees. 

Having an uneasy feeling about selling or buying a large ticket item is normal. You don’t want your hard-earned money or investments going to waste over a bounced check or scam. Certified checks can be a safer payment option and it’s worth the extra research for your budget’s sake. 

Sources: Investopedia | DFI

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Source: mint.intuit.com

75 Personal Finance Rules of Thumb

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A “rule of thumb” is a mental shortcut. It’s a heuristic. It’s not always true, but it’s usually true. It saves you time and brainpower. Rather than re-inventing the wheel for every money problem you face, personal finance rules of thumb let you apply wisdom from the past to reach quick solutions.

Table of Contents show

I’m going to do my best Buzzfeed impression today and give you a list of 75 personal finance rules of thumb. Some are efficient packets of advice while others are mathematical shortcuts to save brain space. Either way, I bet you’ll learn a thing or two—quickly—from this list.

The Basics

These basic personal finance rules of thumb apply to everybody. They’re simple and universal.

1. The Order of Operations (since this is one of the bedrocks of personal finance, I wrote a PDF explaining all the details. Since you’re a reader here, it’s free.)

2. Insurance protects wealth. It doesn’t build wealth.

3. Cash is good for current expenses and emergencies, but nothing more. Holding too much cash means you’re losing long-term value.

4. Time is money. Wealth is a measure of how much time your money can buy.

5. Set specific financial goals. Specific numbers, specific dates. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

6. Keep an eye on your credit score. Check-in at least once a year.

7. Converting wages to salary: $1/per hour = $2000 per year.

8. Don’t mess with City Hall. Don’t cheat on your taxes.

9. You can afford anything. You can’t afford everything.

10. Money saved is money earned. When you look at your bottom line, saving a dollar has the equivalent effect as earning a dollar. Saving and earning are equally important.

Budgeting

I love budgeting, but not everyone is as zealous as me. Still, if you’re looking to budget (or even if you’re not), I think these budgeting rules of thumb are worth following.

11. You need a budget. The key to getting your financial life under control is making a budget and sticking to it. That is the first step for every financial decision.

12. The 50-30-20 rule of budgeting. After taxes, 50% of your money should cover needs, 30% should cover wants, and 20% should repay debts or invest.

13. Use “sinking funds” to save for rainy days. You know it’ll rain eventually.

14. Don’t mix savings and checking. One saves, the other spends.

15. Children cost about $10,000 per kid, per year. Family planning = financial planning.

16. Spend less than you earn. You might say, “Duh!” But if you’re not measuring your spending (e.g. with a budget), are you sure you meet this rule?

Investing & Retirement

Basic investing, in my opinion, is a ‘must know’ for future financial success. The following rules of thumb will help you dip your toe in those waters.

17. Don’t handpick stocks. Choose index funds instead. Very simple, very effective.

18. People who invest full-time are smarter than you. You can’t beat them.

19. The Rule of 72 (it’s doctor-approved). An investment annual growth rate multiplied by its doubling time equals (roughly) 72. A 4% investment will double in 18 years (4*18 = 72). A 12% investment will double in 6 years (12*6 = 72).

20. “Don’t do something, just sit there.” -Jack Bogle, on how bad it is to worry about your investments and act on those emotions.

21. Get the employer match. If your employer has a retirement program (e.g. 401k, pension), make sure you get all the free money you can.

22. Balance pre-tax and post-tax investments. It’s hard to know what tax rates will be like when you retire, so balancing between pre-tax and post-tax investing now will also keep your tax bill balanced later.

23. Keep costs low. Investing fees and expense ratios can eat up your profits. So keep those fees as low as possible.

24. Don’t touch your retirement money. It can be tempting to dip into long-term savings for an important current need. But fight that urge. You’ll thank yourself later.

25. Rebalancing should be part of your investing plan. Portfolios that start diversified can become concentrated some one asset does well and others do poorly. Rebalancing helps you rest your diversification and low er your risk.

26. The 4% Rule for retirement. Save enough money for retirement so that your first year of expenses equals 4% (or less) of your total nest egg.

27. Save for your retirement first, your kids’ college second. Retirees don’t get scholarships.

28. $1 invested in stocks today = $10 in 30 years.

29. Inflation is about 3% per year. If you want to be conservative, use 3.5% in your money math.

30. Stocks earn 7% per year, after adjusting for inflation.

31. Own your age in bonds. Or, own 120 minus your age in bonds. The heuristic used to be that a 30-year old should have a portfolio that’s 30% bonds, 40-year old 40% bonds, etc. More recently, the “120 minus your age” rule has become more prevalent. 30-year old should own 10% bonds, 40-year old 20% bonds, etc.

32. Don’t invest in the unknown. Or as Warren Buffett suggests, “Invest in what you know.”

Home & Auto

For many of you, home and car ownership contribute to your everyday finances. The following personal finance rules of thumb will be especially helpful for you.

33. Your house’s sticker price should be less than 3x your family’s combined income. Being “house poor”—or having too expensive of a house compared to your income—is one of the most common financial pitfalls. Avoid it if you can.

34. Broken appliance? Replace it if 1) the appliance is 8+ years old or 2) the repair would cost more than half of a new appliance.

35. Used car or new car? The cost difference isn’t what it used to be. The choice is even.

36. A car’s total lifetime cost is about 3x its sticker price. Choose wisely!

37. 20-4-10 rule of buying a vehicle. Put 20% of the vehicle down in cash, with a loan of 4 years or less, with a monthly payment that is less than 10% of your monthly income.

38. Re-financing a mortgage makes sense once interest rates drop by 1% (or more) from your current rate.

39. Don’t pre-pay your mortgage (unless your other bases are fully covered). Mortgages interest is deductible, and current interest rates are low. While pre-paying your mortgage saves you that little bit of interest, there’s likely a better use for you extra cash.

40. Set aside 1% of your home’s value each year for future maintenance and repairs.

41. The average car costs about 50 cents per mile over the course of its life.

42. Paying interest on a depreciating asset (e.g. a car) is losing twice.

43. Your main home isn’t an investment. You shouldn’t plan on both living in your house forever and selling it for profit. The logic doesn’t work.

44. Pay cash for cars, if you can. Paying interest on a car is a losing move.

45. If you’re buying a fixer-upper, consider the 70% rule to sort out worthy properties.

46. If you’re buying a rental property, the 1% rule easily evaluates if you’ll get a positive cash flow.

Spending & Debt

Do you spend money? (“What kind of question is that?”) Then these personal finance rules of thumb will apply to you.

47. Pay off your credit card every month.

48. In debt? Use psychology to help yourself. Consider the debt snowball or debt avalanche.

49. When making a purchase, consider cost-per-use.

50. Make your spending tangible with a ‘cash diet.’

51. Never pay full price. Shop around and do your research to get the best deals. You can earn cash back when you shop online, score a discount with a coupon code, or a voucher for free shipping.

52. Buying experiences makes you happier than buying things.

53. Shop by yourself. Peer pressure increases spending.

54. Shop with a list, and stick to it. Stores are designed to pull you into purchases you weren’t expecting.

55. Spend on the person you are, not the person you want to be. I love cooking, but I can’t justify $1000 of professional-grade kitchenware.

56. The bigger the purchase, the more time it deserves. Organic vs. normal peanut butter? Don’t spend 10 minutes thinking about it. $100K on a timeshare? Don’t pull the trigger when you’re three margaritas deep.

57. Use less than 30% of your available credit. Credit usage plays a major role in your credit score. Consistently maxing out your credit hurts your credit score. Aim to keep your usage low (paying off every month, preferably).

58. Unexpected windfall? Use 5% or less to treat yourself, but use the rest wisely (e.g. invest for later).

59. Aim to keep your student loans less than one year’s salary in your field.

The Mental Side of Personal Finance

At the end of the day, you are what you do. Psychology and behavior play an essential role in personal finance. That’s why these behavioral rules of thumb are vital.

60. Consider peace of mind. Paying off your mortgage isn’t always the optimum use of extra money. But the peace of mind that comes with eliminating debt—it’s huge.

61. Small habits build up to big impacts. It feels like a baby step now, but give yourself time.

62. Give your brain some time. Humans might rule the animal kingdom, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t impulsive. Give your brain some time to think before making big financial decisions.

63. The 30 Day Rule. Wait 30 days before you make a purchase of a “want” above a certain dollar amount. If you still want it after waiting and you can afford it, then buy it.  

64. Pay yourself first. Put money away (into savings or investment accounts) before you ever have a chance to spend it.

65. As a family, don’t fall into the two-income trap. If you can, try to support your lifestyle off of only one income. Should one spouse lose their job, the family finances will still be stable.

66. Every dollar counts. Money is fungible. There are plenty of ways to supplement your income stream.

67. Savor what you have before buying new stuff. Consider the fulfillment curve.

68. Negotiating your salary can be one of the most important financial moves you make. Increasing your income might be more important than anything else on this list.

69. Direct deposit is the nudge you need. If you don’t see your paycheck, you’re less likely to spend it.

70. Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Instead, use comparisons to set goals. (net worth).

71. Learning is earning. Education is 5x more impactful to work-life earnings than other demographics.

72. If you wouldn’t pay in cash, then don’t pay in credit. Swiping a credit card feels so easy compared to handing over a stack of cash. Don’t let your brain fool itself.

73. Envision a leaky bucket. Water leaking from the bottom is just as consequential as water entering the top. We often ignore financial leaks (e.g. fees), since they’re not as glamorous—but we shouldn’t.

74. Forget the Joneses. Use comparisons to motivate healthier habits, not useless spending.

75. Talk about money! I know it’s sometimes frowned upon (like politics or religion), but you can learn a ton from talking to your peers about money. Unsure where to start? You can talk to me!

The Last Personal Finance Rule of Thumb

Last but not least, an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

Boom! Got ’em again! Ben Franklin streaks in for another meta appearance. Thanks Ben!

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

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Source: bestinterest.blog

By the numbers: My spending for March 2019

March was a mixed month in my financial world. I ended March with a slightly higher net worth (up 0.6%) but my spending was the highest it’s been this year: $5989.10. Yet, that spending was mostly mindful. I wasn’t frittering away money on silly things.

If I wasn’t buying dumb stuff, then where did my money go? A few worthwhile places:

  • I spent $653.31 on the yard and garden. Specifically, Kim and I tore out a big cedar tree in the corner of the yard, then converted that space to a small orchard. I use the word “orchard” loosely here. We planted three fruit trees, four blueberries, four grape vines, and a bunch of strawberries. I hope to write about this more in the near future.
  • I spent $625.72 on health and fitness. In the middle of the month, I had quite a scare. Out of nowhere, I had chest pains, so I visited the local hospital ER. My co-pays and prescriptions are reflected in March’s spending — and there’s more to come. (We’re about to have a l-o-n-g article on the $6800 hospital bill I received in the mail yesterday. That’ll happen in April or May.) Meanwhile, Kim had knee surgery at the end of the month. I paid for some of her stuff out of my pocket.
  • I spent $579.36 on gifts in March, which is very very unusual.
  • I paid the $450 annual fee on my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. (Yes, I know this seems like a lot. But remember the card comes with a $300 travel credit, which means my effective annual fee is $150. I believe I receive $150 in value from the card’s other benefits.)

I don’t consider any of that spending frivolous although I recognize that some of it isn’t necessary. (Do we need an orchard? Do I need to give gifts?)

That said, I did have some weak spots in my spending. I bought several movies on iTunes. In fact, I spent $72.63 on iTunes in March. I need to be careful lest I return to my former profligate ways. No more looking in the iTunes store! I also spent $230.15 on alcohol during the month (most of which was beer).

How did I do with groceries? As you know, my food spending had grown out of control, which is one of the primary reasons I’m tracking my spending in detail this year. Last year, I spent over $1000 per month in food. This year, I’m spending less than $700 per month.

I was very proud of my food spending for most of March. I spent a total of $658.21 during the month: $468.27 on groceries and $184.24 on dining out. That’s my lowest monthly food total in two years (excepting months during which I’ve been on the road).

Going into the last week of March, I’d only spent $241.87 on groceries. That’s amazing! Things fell apart, however, when I stocked up on food for Kim’s convalescence. Meanwhile, we only had three restaurant meals during the month. For one of those, I paid for two guests. Not bad. Not bad.

Quarterly Spending

Now that we’ve made it through the first three months of 2019, I was curious how my quarterly spending compared to last year. Monthly spending can fluctuate quite a bit. You can get a better idea of your actual habits by looking at a bigger picture.

Here are some highlights:

  • I spent $116.56 at the iTunes store during the first quarter of 2019. That’s less than I spent on movies and TV shows during any single month last year, so that’s a win.
  • I spent $2076.54 on food for the quarter, which is lower than any quarter in 2018. I spent $1179.53 on groceries, $323.52 on HelloFresh, and $542.29 on dining out. That restaurant spending is another big win. The grocery spending was good — better than any quarter in 2018 — but I feel like I can do better.
  • I spent a lot on health and fitness during the first three months of the year: $1752.60. And the thing is, it’s not going to get much better.
  • This year, I decided to separate hot tub expenses into its own category. I spent $151.88 on hot tub stuff (chemicals, etc.) during the first three months of the year. And, no, that doesn’t include electricity.
  • Our zoo — three cats and a dog — cost us $447.54 during the first quarter of 2019.
  • You know where I could save big bucks? By drinking less. I spent $586.36 on alcohol during the first three months of the year (and that includes four weeks during which I didn’t drink a drop!). That’s $6.44 per day. Time for me to cut back on my craft beer obsession…

I spent a total of $15,364.85 during the first quarter of 2019, an average of $5121.62 per month. That’s not a great number, to be honest. It’s pretty much what I was spending last year. Still, I’m trying not to get too stressed about things…yet.

The whole point of this exercise is for me to figure out where I’m spending my money and why. Once I have a clear picture, I can make some course corrections.

April is the Cruelest Month

Unfortunately, April is going to have some crazy, crazy spending numbers. My accountant called yesterday to give me my tax bill. I owe $20,000. (I’m not joking.) The hospital called too. They wanted to let me know that I owe them $6800 for the ER visit in the middle of March. To cap things off, payment is due on the vacation that Kim and I booked a year ago. We’ll be headed to Greece and Italy in August — but we’re paying for it today.

Fortunately, I knew that some of these expenses were looming, so I have cash set aside to pay for taxes and our trip. (The ER visit was a surprise, obviously, and I don’t have money set aside for that.) That doesn’t change the fact that April’s expenses are going to be insane, though. It just means I’m somewhat prepared for the insanity.

The upside to having a $6800 hospital bill so early in the year? It gives me a chance to make maximum use of my health insurance! My max “out of pocket” is $7900 annually. Since it looks like I’m going to hit that, it makes sense to address all medical issues that are bugging me in 2019.

At the end of 2018, I had a net worth of $1,334,227.20. At the end of March, my net worth was $1,397,545.18. That’s a leap of more than $63,000 (or 4.75%). That’s great! In reality, this simply reflects a hot stock market. My investment accounts are up $77,933.04 this year (11.45%).

A hot stock market can cover a multitude of sins…

Source: getrichslowly.org

Live Right, Save Money, Be Happy

If you follow these steps to take care of yourself, you will save money and live a happier life. 

By

JJ Watt, Partner
January 12, 2021

need money in an emergency, or for any reason at all.

There’s genuine peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved ones are protected from financial stress after you pass away. And if you face unexpected bills and need a ready source of funds, you can simply go online and get several estimates on the sale price of your whole life policy.

The process is fast and simple. Plus, when you sell your life insurance policy, the only amount of the proceeds that are taxable are those that exceed the tax basis (the total amount of premiums you’ve paid to date). Selling can be a very wise move, too—often, when one spouse passes away, when there’s a dire need to pay unexpected medical or other kinds of bills, or the premiums become too high.

Learn how to relax

Stress has the potential to cause medical problems, but it also can make you miserable. The good news is that there are effective ways to beat stress and minimize its effects. Learning to meditate or taking part in guided relaxation sessions are two popular strategies. Regular exercise, stretching, and yoga are other choices that many people find satisfying for keeping stress at bay.

Get enough sleep

When you get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, it’s much easier to wake up refreshed and feeling good every morning. Having the inner calm and physical relaxation that comes with regular, restful sleep means being able to take on the day with a positive outlook and a body that’s ready to withstand 16 hours of activity. When you realize that sleep is part of your lifestyle, it’s easier to make a commitment to get the amount you need.

Know what PMA stands for and learn to have one

There’s an entire industry based on the concept of PMA, or positive mental attitude. Classic books about winning friends, influencing people, and simply thinking in order to grow rich point to the immense power of the human mind.

Of course, maintaining a positive attitude is easier said than done. It takes effort, patience, and persistence. But once you decide to cultivate a PMA, you’re already finished with the first step of the journey. The upside is that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books and no-cost online videos about how to create a positive outlook and attitude. The rewards are measurable and real and include things like being able to sleep more soundly, handle life’s challenges more adeptly, and find solutions in the face of adversity.

Eliminate the negative

As the classic tune from the 1940s suggests, it helps to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. Those timeless words of wisdom contain some potent advice. One way to make your life better is to say goodbye to destructive, negative forces, habits, and ways of thinking.

What does that mean for everyday people who seek self-improvement? It means they have plenty to gain from banishing harmful behaviors like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, taking part in dangerous sports like cliff diving, base jumping, and amateur race driving.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong or with those activities when you do them in moderation and with appropriate safety measures in place. But they carry enough risk to make insurance carriers raise rates or flat out deny coverage to participants. So, if you have the desire to purchase an insurance policy that pays a death benefit to someone when you pass away, steer clear of extreme sports and risky hobbies.

Take the time to plan

Planning, both long- and short-range, gives you options and advance warning about financial and other types of problems. Consider making written, detailed plans about buying a first home, your career path, educational goals, relationship goals, whether you want to have a family or not, long-term care insurance, etc. Planning makes things real and attainable. A lifestyle that incorporates planning is a sustainable, rewarding one.



Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How This Former Zookeeper Paid Off Over $40,000 In Debt

Hey! Today, I have a great debt payoff story to share from Steffa Mantilla. She paid off $40,000 in debt so that she could be a stay at home mom and start a business. Enjoy!

My husband CJ and I have been married for over a decade.  You’d think with all that time married would come wisdom but it wasn’t until year 10 of our marriage before we really took stock in figuring out our financial life.

How This Former Zookeeper Paid Off Over $40,000 In Debt

How This Former Zookeeper Paid Off Over $40,000 In Debt

Like most people, we got into a routine and didn’t question what we thought was working.  We had surrounded ourselves with other couples who were living the same way we were. 

There was no impetus to change because we had created a comfortable echo chamber with a “Keeping up with the Jones’ mentality.”

Fast forward to today and we’ve paid off $100,000 in debt and are on track to pay off our mortgage within the next 3 years. 

While there’s no “easy button” on debt payoff, I hope that our story can help others see what’s possible and the steps we took to get there.  

More debt payoff stories:

Our Debts

In 2016, my husband and I were close to $200,000 in debt.  Around $165,000 was our mortgage, $12,000 in student loans, and $30,000 in consumer loans.  We were a dual income couple with no kids and lived like money was infinite.  Most of our friends had a similar lifestyle and seemed to be able to afford it.  

The problem was, we put our entire life on payments because we had the mistaken belief that we “deserved it” somehow.  Payments for already-experienced fancy vacations, new cars, and furniture ate up the majority of our paychecks.  

From the outside, we seemed like we were well off when in reality, we were one missed paycheck away from not being able to make the minimum payments on our bills.  

What Made Me Want To Change My Career

By the time 2016 rolled around, we had been married for 11 years and were ready to start a family.  I had also been in my zookeeping career for equally as long.

I had worked my way up from an Avian Intern all the way up through my ultimate goal of Senior Keeper for Carnivores.  While I had loved being a zookeeper all those years, I had reached the limit of upward mobility.  All higher positions were supervisory and were no longer working directly with the animals.  

When we were discussing our future family plans, it became apparent to me that my career wasn’t going to mesh well with my idea of motherhood.  Zookeepers work long hours, often starting at 6AM to get the exhibits ready by the time guests arrive.  They also work every weekend,  evening special events, and every holiday.  

I was also capped out on pay. 

Despite working a decade in this field, having advanced continuing education certifications, and the required degrees, I made merely $16 an hour (roughly $30,000/year).  The long, strenuous hours left me burnt out and wanting a change.

One day, my husband and I sat down to do our budget planning for a baby.  After looking at all of the costs, including childcare, if I continued to work in the same job, I would be making negative dollars

This, combined with rarely being able to have weekends or holidays off with my family, was a deal-breaker.  I’d essentially miss out on my child’s entire childhood if I stayed in this job.

I brought up the idea of becoming a stay at home mom and we set out to make a plan.

What Needed To Happen To Make This Work

In order for me to become a stay at home mom, our family budget had to be drastically altered.  Thankfully, while talking about finances was awkward in the beginning, we quickly set aside any embarrassment or feelings of guilt that we had.  

Open communication without judgement, finger pointing, or blame was the only way we were able to make a real plan that we could stick to.  While it was stressful since we were essentially broke despite both earning incomes, we instead used this to come together and strengthen our marriage instead of pull us apart.

By the end, we came to the conclusion that a few things needed to happen:

Our Money Mindsets

As a wedding gift, we had received the book The Total Money Makeover.  Neither of us had heard of Dave Ramsey before and didn’t really have an interest in learning about him.  Thus, this book sat on our bookshelf for 10 years unopened.

It’s kind of interesting thinking back about how we had the tools for financial success right in front of our faces for literally 10 years without ever using them.  But, we weren’t mentally open to change at the time.  

I think the saying that “you can help someone who won’t help themselves” is especially true when talking about money.  Money is a personal topic that many people have hang ups about. In our case, I knew investing was good so we did that but never really had a problem with debt.  I assumed everyone had debt and all my friends confirmed that.

For CJ, he grew up in a household where you didn’t talk about money.  It was always a source of stress because there was never enough.  Then when he grew up and got his first adult job, there was a sigh of relief.  All restrictions were gone and he could spend how he wished instead of constantly being in a scarcity mindset.

Even though we came from very different money backgrounds, we both were missing solid financial knowledge.  Neither of us had been taught about building wealth or living a debt-free lifestyle.  

This was a huge paradigm shift that we each needed to overcome in order to truly get on the same page and work together.

How We Got On The Same Page As A Couple

I love reading so I quickly devoured The Total Money Makeover in one day.  But no matter what, I couldn’t convince CJ to read the book.  He thought of it as “work” and he’d rather read for relaxation.

So I used my training in operant conditioning to subtly leave hints and clues about.  CJ and I now joke how I “clicker trained” him into getting on board. 

During car rides together we’d listen to the Dave Ramsey Podcast. I’d talk about how neat it was hearing other’s debt-free screams and then we’d discuss what we’d do if that were us.  Could we ever achieve that?  How are these people able to do this and we can’t when we’re earning more money than them?  

The best persuasion was learning about others achieving their financial dreams.  Dreaming together and making plans for our financial future was instrumental in giving us an achievable goal.  

Now it wasn’t just some vague idea; we had concrete plans for how we wanted the next 20 years to go.  We could eliminate financial stress and truly live a life we never thought was possible.

Our Plan To Pay Off Debt

So back to the debt.  We had around $42,000 that needed to be paid off before I could become a stay at home mom.  We weren’t a brand new couple so we did have some savings and investments.  Everything was disjointed and not well organized though.

After looking at our current financial state, we saw that a lot of the debt could be wiped out fairly quickly with the money we had in various places.  

Here’s where we took money from:

These were the immediate quick wins that we could do.  We now had $23,000 left in debt to tackle.  

Rearranging our budget was where we found our largest consistent monthly savings.  After tracking our spending for a few months, we saw that we were spending an insane $800 a month on eating out and for entertainment purposes.  This was on top of the $600 we already spent on groceries for two people.

While we do live in a city where things cost more, it wasn’t enough to justify hundreds of dollars every month.  We were going out for dinner or drinks with friends whenever we were invited.  We never said “no” and our bank account was weeping.  

I also started to take any overtime that was offered.  I’d either come in to work on my days off when coverage was needed or I’d volunteer to work extra evening special events.  This also made it easier to save because a lot of my free time was being used up so I couldn’t go out with friends.

After rearranging our budget and adding in overtime pay, we were able to free up around $1800/month to go directly towards debt. It took 12 months for us to pay off the remaining debt.  During this time I got pregnant and now had to figure out what to do about my soon to be eliminated income.

Making Up The Deficit In Our Budget

Fast forward to me having a baby and being out on maternity leave.  During this time I was still being paid since I had sick days accumulated from the past 5 years.  I was working with my boss to try and see if a part-time or few days a week position could be created.  

Ultimately, while they were willing to work with me somewhat, it still wouldn’t have been financially viable due to the cost of childcare.  

After switching gears, I started talking to other zookeepers who did pet sitting as a side job.  They mainly did weekend pet sits or before and after work drop-ins.  I picked their brains a bit and then decided to offer up my services on Rover.

The reason I chose Rover was that there was already a built-in client base.  I knew I could get clients by highlighting my experience with animals.  Who wouldn’t trust their dog with someone who worked with cheetahs and lions?  By using Rover, I didn’t have to do any outside marketing and ended up having a client wait list.

I also made it clear that I’d be bringing my baby along with me to all dog walks or cat sits so I only took on small or elderly dogs and cats.  I met all clients ahead of time to do behavioral observations and stroller testing to ensure it would be safe. 

In the end, I took on 2 mid-day dog walk clients and numerous cat sitting clients. Our budget was going to be $500 short once my maternity pay ended but with these pet sitting clients I was making $500 a month bare minimum.  And I didn’t need to worry about childcare.  

Paying Down The Mortgage

As I got into the hang of mom life and my child grew older, I started looking into creating my own business.  I was now a self-taught personal finance enthusiast  and Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) so I started my blog Money Tamer.  I was able to write blog posts during my son’s nap time and learned as much as I could about online business.  

My blog is now monetized and the income I take from it goes directly towards our mortgage principle.  Any extra money that CJ earns also goes towards paying off our house early.  We’ve sold things we no longer want or need to consignment stores or used online marketplaces.  

Over the past three years, we’ve been able to put close to $55,000 towards paying down our home making our total debt payoff close to $100,000. 

Our next goal is to have our house paid off in an additional 3 years or so.  

Final Thoughts

Getting out of debt is possible even when you feel lost.  So many people grow up in households where money is taboo and many schools barely touch upon the subject.  Even if you think you’re too far gone, I’m here to tell you it’s never too late.

We had been married and spending with abandon for over 10 years before we got our act together.  The biggest factor in our success was our change in mindset.  We started seeing money as a way to build freedom into our lives rather than surrounding ourself with consumer goods.

If you’re in a couple, it’s paramount that you have meetings to dream together.  You both need to create a dream you’re both working towards so that you aren’t tempted to derail one another.  When one of you is struggling, the other is there to help keep you on course and vice versa.  

This is the route we took, and while it’s not complete yet, we’re well on our way to being able to reach our goal of financial freedom.

Author bio:  Steffa is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and founder of the personal finance website Money Tamer.  She is an online entrepreneur who built her business while being a stay at home mom to her toddler.  Steffa has paid off over $100,000 in debt and now teaches others how they can get their finances under control to do the same.

Are you trying to pay off your debt? What are your dreams for life after debt?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

My True Travel Insurance Story – A Broken Leg & Surgery in the Dominican Republic

Today, I have a great article written by my sister-in-law and editor, Ariel Gardner. She is sharing her travel insurance review story, and goes in-depth on the travel insurance process. I asked her to write about this because I feel like it’s not really discussed, yet there is a lot to learn! You may have seen her here before talking about taking her side hustle full-time, living in a small house, real life frugality, and more.

Earlier this year, I was enjoying myself on a relaxing Caribbean cruise with one of my best friends.

I had breakfast delivered to my room every morning, drank fancy cocktails in the evening, and barely thought about the travel insurance policy I bought just in case.

On the fourth day of our cruise, we docked in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and disembarked to explore the city. Our group ended up at Fortaleza Ozama, a Spanish fort built in 1502.

We walked up four or five flights of stairs to get a view from the top, and on the first step back down, I fell and broke my leg.

It wasn’t a major fall.

But I twisted my leg in just the right way to end up with a spiral fracture that broke several bones in my ankle, my tibia, and fibula. 

There was so much chaos as we figured out how to handle everything, from whether or not to have surgery in the Dominican Republic and how to fly my husband down.

On top of everything, this was at the beginning of March 2020, just as the U.S. and many other countries were shutting their borders down because of COVID-19.

The impressive Fortaleza Ozama. 

My travel insurance policy went from an afterthought to a necessity as I racked up more than $10,000 of out-of-pocket medical costs and unexpected travel expenses in just a couple of days.

Eight months after this whole ordeal began, I’ve finally got closure. My travel insurance claims are paid, and I had my last visit with the surgeon who fixed my leg with a metal rod and seven screws.

I learned so much about the travel insurance process over these past few months, and I was excited when Michelle asked me to share my experience. 

My biggest takeaway from it all? I will always buy travel insurance when traveling out of the country, and I’m about to explain why.

Related content:

My True Travel Insurance Review Story & Why You Should Consider Travel Insurance

The cost and details of my travel insurance plan

You can expect travel insurance to cost 5%-10% of your total trip cost. The cost largely depends on what kind of coverage you want, where you’re traveling, length and cost of trip, and your age. 

I decided to purchase a travel insurance plan through Generali Global Assistance because they had high ratings and offered the kind of plan I wanted. 

For $142.68 my trip would be covered under Generali’s Preferred Plan, which offered the following coverage limits:

There were a few aspects of this plan that I was really concerned about, including trip cancellation and interruption. I was leaving for a cruise as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting the U.S., and there was a real possibility something might happen to my travel plans.

Cruising at the start of a global pandemic wasn’t an awesome idea, but luckily no one on our ship showed signs or tested positive for COVID-19 after getting back to the states.

My plan offered “cancel for any reason” coverage for trip cancellation and interruption. This is the most comprehensive kind of coverage – you’re reimbursed for a portion of your costs no matter what your reasons are – but it’s a little more expensive. 

Medical coverage wasn’t a huge priority to me because I assumed the chances of getting hurt were pretty slim. This is laughable now.

Despite feeling like medical coverage wasn’t necessary, the reason I got travel insurance (with higher medical coverage) was because of a story an acquaintance told me a few years earlier.

This woman had gone on a 10-day cruise in the Mediterranean, and her esophagus spontaneously ruptured a few days into the cruise. This is an incredibly serious condition that will result in death if it’s not immediately treated.

When the cruise ship doctor realized what was happening, they ordered a helicopter to medivac her to the closest hospital. I can’t remember which country she ended up in, but between surgery, complications, and recovery, she ended up in the hospital for two months.

She paid $450 for a premium travel insurance plan, and it covered all of the $1,000,000+ expenses she incurred. From health care, medivac, trip interruption costs, and flights back and forth for her husband.

With that story stuck in my head, my worst-case-scenario mindset kicked in and told me to buy travel insurance for my cruise.

What my travel insurance actually covered

I’ve broken my ankle before and the treatment is pretty straightforward and easy. Slap a boot on your leg and be on your way. This break was worse, and being in a foreign country complicated things.

First of all, I sustained an open fracture. That means my tibia bone broke through my skin, which puts you at risk of infection. Had it been a closed break, maybe I could have gotten back on the cruise ship, had the onboard doctor set my leg, and cruise back on painkillers until I got home.

Open fractures need to be treated with surgery as soon as possible so the wound can be cleaned out. Surgery meant that I would not be getting back on the cruise ship. 

There was a lot of debate about where to take me – the Dominican Republic has a very different health system. It was decided that the best care would come from a private clinic. 

The clinic required a deposit of 80,000 Dominican Pesos (DOP) before I could be treated. The exchange rate varies day-to-day, but this equals $1,369 at the time of writing.

I was put on an IV drip for antibiotics, given IV painkillers, was x-rayed, had an electrocardiogram, and was prepped for surgery. The surgery to clean out the wound was quick, but it still required anesthesia. 

The surgeon said I also needed an ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) to fix my leg. This is where they fix your break with a rod and screws. It’s not a complicated surgery, but after talking with some people back home, and with a doctor friend who was traveling in our group, we decided it was best to wait until I was back in the U.S. for the ORIF surgery. 

After the surgery to clean out the wound, the surgeon ordered me to stay in the clinic for two days before it was safe for me to fly home. I spent that visit on more IV antibiotics and painkillers. After the deposit was applied to the total, my stay was another 357,000 DOP or $6,110.

Between just having surgery and the fact that my broken leg wasn’t fully fixed, I couldn’t just fly home by myself. The surgeon in the Dominican Republic said I needed a travel companion to help me fly home, so my husband booked a flight and came out the day after my surgery. His flight was $400.

The surgeon ordered two things to fly home safely: an ambulance to transfer me to the hospital and first-class flights home to give me enough room for my bandaged leg. Side note: this was the first time I’ve ever flown first class, and I’d love to do it again when I can appreciate it. At least my husband got to enjoy the complimentary Bloody Marys.

Those tickets weren’t cheap. Not only was it first class, it was a last minute, one-way flight at the start of a global pandemic. We paid $1,275 for each ticket.

The ambulance ride to the airport was 7,600 DOP or $130. We paid the drivers in cash plus a tip. They were amazing, by the way. Neither of them spoke English and we don’t speak Spanish, so we spent the 30 minute drive communicating via Google Translate.

Because I was wheelchair-bound at this point, we would need more time in the airport, and our ambulance ride was going slower than expected. The driver knew we were pressed for time and drove over the grassy median into oncoming traffic to get us to the airport in time. Probably not the safest move, but it worked.

They were so sweet and even wanted to take a picture with us because, as they said, “You’ll want to remember this day!” 

Omg, the compression sock and three-day old outfit is a look. What you can’t see is that I was also traveling with a catheter in because I was completely immobilized. Definitely won’t forget that day!

Between my husband’s flight to the Dominican Republic, our first-class tickets home, and the ambulance ride, that was an additional $3,080.

Here’s what travel insurance covered from those costs:

=$10,029 total costs reimbursed

Travel insurance didn’t cover my husband’s $400 flight to the Dominican Republic – they said it wasn’t part of emergency assistance and transportation. Their reasoning was that someone already in the Dominican Republic could have flown home with me.

We also claimed $200 for the flight I would have taken home from Florida after the cruise, and this was denied too because I paid for it with credit card points. Some travel insurance offers reimbursements for points, but Generali’s plan didn’t. We tried to claim it knowing they might deny it.

The other cost travel insurance denied was the $130 ambulance ride from the clinic to the airport. The problem was that the receipt wasn’t dated. 

That’s $730 that I wasn’t reimbursed for.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the cost of the cruise and getting reimbursed for the part of the trip I wasn’t able to take. Long story short, my friend was part of the cruise’s entertainment and the organizers covered my ticket because I was going as her guest. 

The cruise organizers have their own insurance to deal with that claim. Had I paid for the cruise, then I would have submitted that loss to my travel insurance company. Make sense?

All in all, my $142.68 travel insurance policy saved me more than $10,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

Will my health insurance cover medical costs when I travel?

It’s unlikely that your domestic health insurance plan will cover medical care outside of the U.S. If your plan does cover anything, it will only be for very, very emergent situations. 

For example, my broken leg was a serious enough injury that I needed emergency surgery in a foreign country. I had to leave my friends and my belongings on the cruise ship and stay in a hospital for two days.

My health insurance company (Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield) did not consider this an emergency situation – it was only deemed urgent. 

This is how my insurance company describes emergency care: if the injury is severe enough that it places “the Member’s physical and or mental health in serious jeopardy; serious impairment to bodily functions; or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.”

I recommend calling your health insurance company and asking about their policy on international travel, but realize that it probably won’t offer the kind of coverage you’re looking for.

What about the travel protections offered by my credit card?

Not all credit cards come with travel protections, but some of the more popular travel cards (like the Chase Sapphire cards and American Express Platinum card) do offer it. Important point: you will have to book your trip using that card to qualify for coverage.

The other thing about the coverage that comes with your credit card is that it’s fairly limited when you compare it to third-party travel insurance. 

The most common kind of coverage through your credit card is for baggage delays, trip delays, trip interruption, emergency trip cancellation, accidental death and dismemberment, and auto rental collision damage cover.

But you probably won’t get the kind of coverage you need if you, say, break your leg in the Dominican Republic.

I have three credit cards that are considered travel cards, and none of them would have covered what my travel insurance did.

The Points Guy has a really good article that explains more: When to Buy Travel Insurance vs. When to Rely on Credit Card Protections.

What about flight insurance?

Most airlines offer a limited form of travel insurance, and limited is key.

I’m sure you’ve seen the pop up when you enter your payment information for your flights. Something like, “Do you want to spend $25 on coverage to protect your flight from cancellation or delays?” 

Seems like a good deal, and I’ve bought it before when I didn’t understand what it covers. The coverage airlines offer does not include medical care, lost luggage, and it’s not “cancel for any reason” coverage. 

When should you buy travel insurance?

You now know that you can’t rely on your health insurance in a foreign country, your credit card doesn’t offer comprehensive coverage, and flight insurance is meh

That’s why I highly recommend travel insurance if you’re traveling out of the United States. Experts will offer the same advice for these reasons:

1.You’re concerned about medical expenses

Travel medical insurance is similar to your domestic health insurance, and it’s honestly the main reason experts recommend travel insurance. Without it, a medical emergency in a foreign country could devastate your finances. Most policies have limitations for pre-existing conditions, but you can shop around and find coverage for pre-existing conditions.

2. You want coverage for your baggage and personal belongings

It’s not uncommon to travel with some pretty expensive stuff. It adds up quickly when you think about the combined value of your laptop, tablet, cell phone, camera, jewelry, etc. 

Travel insurance may cover these things if they’re lost or damaged. I say “may” because most policies expect that you’re not being reckless with your belongings. For example, you’re not leaving your laptop unattended in the hotel lobby. 

You should ask about high-value things like your wedding rings because there will be some limitations to the coverage. Better yet, leave your expensive jewelry at home.

Some policies have additional coverage for things like golf clubs, ski equipment, and hunting or fishing gear. They might even offer coverage if you miss days for skiing or golfing, or even pay for rental gear if yours is lost or delayed in transit.

3. You’re an adventurous traveler

There are risks with all kinds of travel – my husband cut off the tip of his finger during a relaxing beach vacation in the Bahamas, and he was only chopping green onions. But there are some kinds of vacations where you’ll encounter more risks.

Hiking through the jungle, ziplining, parasailing, surfing, caving, etc., those are all things that can increase your chances of getting hurt. World Nomads is one of a few travel insurance companies that covers extreme sports.

4. You want to be able to cancel your trip for any reason

Things come up. Maybe you didn’t apply for your passport soon enough, your pet gets sick, you have a financial emergency, you’re traveling during a global pandemic, etc. If you want the option to cancel your trip for any reason, travel insurance can help. 

I’ve said this already, but not all policies are considered “cancel for any reason” or CFAR. Most CFAR policies don’t cover 100% of your prepaid and nonrefundable travel expenses – it’s more like 50% to 75%. 

These policies are more expensive and cover less than people expect, so do your research. Most companies offer CFAR as an add-on, but they’re expensive and cover less than people expect. 

5. You might need to come home early

A friend of mine had to leave his honeymoon early because his new father-in-law landed in the hospital with a life threatening illness. It’s a good thing they came home because the father-in-law passed away a few days after they got back. Travel insurance reimbursed him for the rest of his honeymoon and their last-minute plane tickets.

All in all, travel insurance is peace of mind. You can’t control what happens, but you can reduce a lot of the financial stress associated with emergency scenarios.

Traveling with travel insurance

Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have your travel insurance policy printed and stored somewhere you can easily access. It should stay on you when you’re away from your hotel, cruise ship, etc.

Because I didn’t have my policy on me, someone had to go back to the cruise ship, find it, and bring it back. 

It’s also not a bad idea to send a copy of your policy plus your itinerary to someone back home. They can quickly hop on the claims process without needing to get login information or policy numbers from you.

What to expect when you file a travel insurance claim

I won’t lie, dealing with the claims process was extremely frustrating. My husband was super stressed waiting for us to be reimbursed for our out-of-pocket expenses. He called and emailed every couple of weeks to make sure things were still moving forward.

We had to re-submit paperwork twice, our entire claim was denied the first time (I will explain why in a minute), and it took a full seven months before our claim was paid.

What I didn’t realize is that what we went through is more common than you would expect. Travel insurance companies are very specific with how they accept paperwork and the process for filing claims. 

Here’s what you need to know about the claims process:

I know it’s hard, but be patient. You can always email your claims agent if you have questions or want to be reassured that they’re working on your claim.

Should you buy travel insurance?

Moving forward, I will always be buying travel insurance when I leave the country. It’s an extra expense we’ll have to budget for and build into the total cost of our vacations. 

What I went through is pretty small, but the majority of our cash savings would have been wiped out without travel insurance. 

It was really scary being injured in a foreign country where I didn’t know the language. You can’t put a price on this, but believing that the majority of my expenses would be covered helped me get through those couple of days until I got home. Okay, painkillers really helped too.

But the point is, travel insurance is peace of mind. Buying it is a choice, but I hope you realize what a beneficial choice it can be in the long run.

Do you usually buy travel insurance? Do you have anything that you’d like me to add to this travel insurance review?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Pizza Delivery is for Millionaires

My son and I are having a beautiful Saturday night here at home. The sun is setting over the mountains outside my bedroom window and I’ve just finished baking a pizza which I am about to serve up for his dinner.

Although our day has been very simple, there has been an underlying magic within it that triggered an epiphany that I just had to write to you about. Because within this simple moment seems to be the secret to pretty much everything.

We woke up to a cloudless blue sky and were treated to summer-like warmth even though it’s November. I served up a French toast breakfast and then we ate together as we made plans for our day. We decided the first stage would be some computer work for him, while I went out to do some yard work and a bit of maintenance and cleanup on my construction van, to get it ready to lend to a friend.

Stage Two was our big walk downtown. Little MM wanted to get some shots of old buildings as part of an assignment for photography class, and I wanted to fix a minor leak in the roof of the MMM HQ Coworking building, so we decided to combine the errands. The walk was long and adventurous and we even stopped for some exorbitant ice cream cones on the way, courtesy of a gift card I received for helping someone last month.

We got it all done – Little MM got his 24 required shots, I fixed the roof and also ran into my co-owners Mr. and Mrs. 1500 who were setting up the building for a group breakfast tomorrow. So my boy and I strolled the 1.5 miles home through the sunny leafy autumn streets of Longmont and settled in for the night.

I popped one of my homemade pizzas into the oven. Because it was a big one, it was going to take at least 25 minutes to cook so I figured I’d use that time to shower off the day’s dust and sunscreen. But then I noticed my hair was starting to get a bit out of control so I gave myself a quick haircut before the shower.

And as I stepped out of my room, dressed in clean clothes and feeling sharp and healthy and arriving in the fancy kitchen I built last month just as the oven beeped to indicate the pizza was finished, I realized that this is the secret to wealth. Days like today. Monetary wealth for sure, but also every other kind of wealth.

We had just enjoyed an almost perfect day almost effortlessly, just by having the right habits in place.

We had a shitload of fun, socialized and exercised and advanced the projects that are important to us. But simultaneously, we spent very close to zero dollars, and left the world mostly unscathed as we finished our day.

The beeping of that oven full of homemade pizza was what really set off the epiphany in my head.

“Damn”, I realized, “even with all this excess money building up over the years, it didn’t even occur to me to order a pizza. It’s just automatic, and thus faster and cheaper and healthier, to make my own.”

Plus by avoiding the delivery I am saving my neighbors from one gas-powered car bringing an unnecessary extra serving of danger and pollution onto our street. It’s a three-way win with no losing involved.

Ordering a decent extra-large pizza including tax, tip and delivery: $20
Dad’s Homemade pizza: about $4
Difference: 500%

Sure, the difference here is only sixteen bucks, but I wanted to highlight the percentage difference instead. Because if you apply this philosophy of efficient, automatic habits all through your life, it really does tend to cut your costs so that your life becomes 2, 3, 4, or even 5 times less expensive.

So I thought to myself “WHY does anyone who is not even a millionaire yet, or even worse who has a mortgage or credit card debt, still do something as frivolous and easily avoided as ordering a pizza?*”

With that example drawn out in detail, let’s look at some of the other details of this day:

New kitchen in my latest frugal fixer-upper house in progress. Even the toaster is fancy!

My new kitchen which made that pizza cooking so enjoyable was built on a total budget of about $6000 including changing the floorplan, electrical, plumbing, cabinets, countertops and all the appliances.

This is less than half of what custom-ordered cabinets alone would have cost, and a full kitchen remodel of this type usually tops $25,000. But by getting assemble-it-myself cabinets from Ikea and my appliances from Craigslist and doing all of the work myself, I cut the cost by about 75%, while earning plenty of great physical exertion and satisfaction at the same time. Savings: about $20,000 or 80%

My son is in the public middle school rather than in the private school across town, which is where some of the other multimillionaire parents send their kids. If the private school were better for his needs, of course we could afford to send him there too. But we gave the local option a chance and it has turned out to be an incredible place for him. Savings: about $20,000 per year or roughly 100%

We chose walking as our means of transportation, and if we were in a rush we would have ridden our bikes. This habit of not driving doesn’t just save me gas and maintenance money, it also allows me to keep an older vehicle. I have a 1999 Honda van that is still in sparkling new condition.

She just reached drinking age, all cleaned up for her first can of Coors Light!

It stays new because I barely use it, because I have designed my life to be within an entirely muscle-powered radius. But this brand-new van is worth less than two grand and insurance is about twenty bucks a month. Maintenance is less than $10, registration is $5. Savings versus owning an “average” $35,000 American car and driving an average amount: about $600 per month or 90%.

We didn’t go “shopping” (100% savings), watched a movie at home instead of the theatre (100%), I cut my own hair for the something-hundredth time (100%), we advanced our health rather than chipping away at it (100%), and built this warm caring relationship with each other as well as with our friends (priceless).

And there were all sorts of other less tangible things working in the background too. I bought a commercial building and started this coworking space as a way to pass the time and spend time with old and new friends – the same reasons that someone might buy a vacation home in the mountains or at the beach.

But instead of costing me a few thousand dollars per month and requiring 100 miles of driving every time I visit, this building is just a pleasant walk from home and it generates thousands per month in cashflow and appreciation. It is great for the mental and physical health of all of our 75 members and growing, and we all save money by being a part of this community.

Mr. 1500 and I hosting a party at MMM-HQ for the first screening of the Playing with FIRE documentary, April 2019

The funny part of all this is that today was a completely normal day for us – most of my days are very similar to this one. The only unusual part was that I happened to take a step back and actually notice it. And that is really the point of this whole article:

We get used to our daily routine, and think of it as “normal”, even if it is completely ridiculous.

In recent months, I have just had my eyes re-opened as I have had more contact with people who are living more typical American lives than me. Their normal is different than mine, so when I visit I happen to notice the differences – more car trips and impulse purchases and pizza deliveries.

These people are not living lifestyles that appear exorbitant at all, and their houses aren’t packed with expensive things. But these little 5-to-1 differences just silently happen, quietly and consistently and add up to perhaps $100 per day, when compared with a more streamlined lifestyle.

And $100 every day becomes $36,500 every year, and if you invest that conservatively it will compound into about $520,000 every decade.

$520,000 per decade.
Just from the tiny mindset switch between
“hey lets order a pizza”
versus
“Hey, let’s throw a pizza into the oven.”

I really think this is important, and as this whole “FIRE Movement” thing grows, some people are getting soft and complaining that Mr. Money Mustache is “too extreme”, and so we should take a gentler and easy path and let our spending get sloppy if that is what’s right for us.

The thing is, this is usually just wrong. It’s laziness rather than practicality. Because Mr. Money Mustache is already plenty spendy, and plenty sloppy – well beyond the level required to live a happy life.

I can afford to live this way, because I’m old and wealthy now. If you are still young and poor, you should be spending less than me, not more.

So, pizza delivery is for millionaires, and it’s also time to put away those car-clown keys and get back on your bike. We’ve still got work to do.


* Of course, this is a perfect-world generalization. Real life has room for joyful exceptions and imperfections. But you have to know the reality of what you should be doing, before you can safely start making exceptions like ordering your pampered ass a pizza.

Source: mrmoneymustache.com

Downsizing Your Home? Here’s How I Went From A 2,000 Square Foot House To An RV

Downsizing your home can be a big process. And, less and less people seem to be doing it these days.

Downsizing Your Home How I Moved Into An RV From a 2K sqft Home

Downsizing Your Home How I Moved Into An RV From a 2K sqft HomeThe average home size in 1950 was less than 1,000 square feet. Fast forward to 2013, the average home size has increased to nearly 2,600 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

We were fairly close to this size when we owned a house. The house we owned in the St. Louis, Missouri area was around 2,500 square feet if you included our finished basement, and it was just for myself, my husband, and our two dogs. Our home in Colorado was almost as big, at slightly over 2,000 square feet (with no basement).

More and more people seem to be purchasing large homes, but that’s not the case for us. We sold our home last year and moved into an RV.

We made this decision for many reasons, but the main reason was that traveling nearly full-time added to the stress of owning a home. So, we figured why not just take it a step further and actually travel full-time?

Related:

So, we did it. We went through all of our possessions, stored certain belongings that we couldn’t part with (we have a VERY small storage unit, the size of a closet, filled mainly with hundreds of photo albums that my dad left me after he passed away, family paintings, childhood mementos, etc.), and moved into our RV.

It wasn’t the easiest task on earth, and really we dreaded all of the work that had to be done. However, we knew it was well worth it to live the life we wanted.

And, it was! We are so glad that we decided to downsize our home. We haven’t regretted the decision one bit, and now we are happier than ever.

There are many other reasons for downsizing your home:

Whatever your reason may be for downsizing your home, here are my tips. Of course, certain downsizes may be easier than others, but overall the tips below can help you sort through your items.

Tips for downsizing your home:

Make a plan for downsizing your home.

Downsizing your home can seem like an easy task to some, but in reality it is not. There are many things that go into downsizing your home, such as:

What do you think you just cannot get rid of?

To start off, you should make a list of all the items you believe you just cannot part with. Your list may start out long, but it will help you decide what items you don’t need and should get rid of.

What can you easily get rid of?

If you have the time, then you may want to start getting rid of things that you know you don’t need as soon as you can. By doing this, you can clear a lot of clutter and it will also help you realize that you may not need other items you once thought you needed.

Usually getting rid of the first few items is the hardest. After that, it gets easier to downsize your home!

Think about why you want to keep certain items.

Many people have a hard time parting with things for reasons such as:

If you just don’t have the room in your new home, you should really dig deep and figure out why you believe you need to keep so many items. Talk about your reasoning with your family or out loud to fully grasp it. Doing so may help you realize how ridiculous your logic may be.

Sometimes, you may laugh at your reasoning, and this may help you get rid of an item more easily.

Find ways to store documents digitally.

For me, I just couldn’t bring myself to store my dad’s photo albums digitally, even though numerous people have told me to scan them and throw them away. The memory is in the actual photo albums as well as the photos, as my dad loved photography and we would often put the photo albums together as a fun project.

However, there are many other non sentimental things that you can store digitally. This includes tax information, receipts, paper documents, and so on.

The average person has thousands of papers that they store!

Paper is a big reason for clutter, and so many people keep items that they don’t need. Go through your documents and start either digitally storing them or recycling them.

We kept just one binder of papers and scanned the rest. It was very easy to do, and getting rid of all of that paper felt amazing.

Give yourself time.

Going through your whole house and downsizing your home in one day would be quite difficult and stressful. Instead, you should give yourself time to really think about what you do and don’t need.

This means that you may want to take a few days, weeks, or even months to go through your home.

Start off room by room and see what you can get rid of. Then, when you are done doing that, go through everything again and again until you are down to the amount of items you need to have. By doing this process, you will clearly see what you need and do not need, because you will be able to see how much you have, evaluate items more clearly, apply past reasoning to other items you think you can’t get rid of, and so on.

Create a donation list.

Donating items makes getting rid of things and downsizing your home a little easier. By knowing that your items will be better used by someone who actually needs them, you are giving your stuff new life! If you have a large amount to donate, many donation centers will even come to your home, which can make getting rid of items a breeze.

Plus, you’ll feel great about it.

Related: 58 Random Acts Of Kindness

Think about when the last time was that you used an item.

Many people keep items that they hardly use or have never used, yet keep and store them anyways.

If you want to start downsizing your home, you should think about the last time you used a specific item.

For me, this is a big reason for why it was so easy to get rid of so many things. I just sat down, created a list, and thought about the last time I used a certain item. For many things, it seemed like years had passed since I had actually used that item. For some things, I knew I didn’t actually need to use them when I thought I did.

So, you should do the same. Think about when you last used an item, if you will ever use it in the future, if you’re better off just renting or borrowing something you occasionally use, and so on.

Related: How To Live On One Income

Get rid of the “maybes.”

If you have no space for items in your new home, but you still have a huge pile of things that you want to take with you, you may want to think about just completely getting rid of your “maybe” pile.

After all, these are “maybes” and you probably don’t want them as badly as you think! This can make downsizing your home much easier in one swoop of a decision.

Related tip: Are you looking to downsize? I recommend checking out the course Downsizing for Tiny Life. This course gives you the step by step process for downsizing to move into a smaller space. This course will help you identify what to get rid of, change your mindset about your stuff, help you sell your stuff, and more.

Carefully evaluate future purchases.

So that you are less likely to have as much clutter in the future, you should evaluate future items before you buy them.

You should think long and hard about whether you truly need something, whether you should buy, borrow, or rent it if you won’t need it in the future, and think about where the item will be stored in your home.

We do this now that we live in an RV. We think about every purchase in terms of weight, size, where we can store it, and more. This has helped prevent us from buying many items because we know it’s not realistic to bring everything into an RV.

How big is your home? Is downsizing your home something you are interested in?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com