Reduce or Pause Auto Insurance During Coronavirus? Insure Only One Car?

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Many of us are driving less these days. Nearly all of the major auto insurers are providing some sort of refund – this detailed list suggests an overall average of 15% to 25% back on two months of premiums. But what if you don’t need to use your vehicle for an extended period of time? You might:

  • Reduce your coverage levels to the minimum liability coverage levels required by your state for driving, saving money on premiums but assuming some risk yourself (depending on how much you actually drive).
  • Suspend your coverage as if your car was in storage. This would include liability and collision insurance. You may consider keeping comprehensive insurance to protect against theft, fire, or other damage.
  • Something in between. If you feel like you are driving a lot less, you could do some combination of raising your collision/comprehensive deductibles, dropping only collision coverage, or changing up any of the various options to lower your overall premium.

A common situation might be that a couple owns two cars but only really needs one for a while. Reader Beth shared that she chose to drop the (more expensive) coverage on her newer car while keeping the existing coverage on the older car, thus saving more than 50% on her total bill:

Our family lives in Texas, and we own two cars. Right now because of COVID-19, my husband and I are both working from home and hardly leaving our house, so we do not need both cars. I called our insurance company and temporarily dropped coverage on our newer, more expensive car, which is saving us more than half our 6-month premium. Once the COVID-19 restrictions ease up, we’ll add the second car back on.

[…] We took our newer car off completely and left our older car with the same level of coverage it had beforehand. Allstate said they would happily add the newer car back on whenever we’re ready, and they will simply prorate the amount for however much is left of our 6-month policy.

We are only driving the older car (we drive a couple of times a week right now), and the newer car stays in the garage. Allstate even emailed us a little sign to print off to tape on the steering wheel to remind us to call and reinstate coverage.

I agree with her other advice that the best thing to do is to call your insurance company and explore your options. Mine has always been happy to help me compare a variety of options along with the resulting price changes. If asking about pausing or suspending coverage, you want to make sure it is treated differently than “canceling” coverage, as gaps in coverage can make you look riskier and hike up your future premiums.

As an aside, if you are not going to move your car for a long time, you should looks up tips to prep it for long-term storage. Otherwise, I’d worry that the damage might exceed the insurance savings. Ideally, you would start it up every couple of weeks and drive it for a while on a private driveway.

Note that if your car is under a loan or lease agreement, you may have agreed to maintain a minimum level of coverage that includes both collision and comprehensive coverage. Has anyone else had success in doing this? Or tried and run into problems?

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Red Pocket Mobile: iPhone SE $299 with 2 Years Service (Starts At $10/Month)

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(One more iPhone SE deal! Apologies if these bore you; I have no more planned. They do also happen to be the cheapest MVNOs for anyone with an existing phone. Compare with Visible and Mint Mobile.)

Red Pocket Mobile is an MVNO with very competitive pricing that doesn’t stick with any single network. You can choose which one you want: AT&T (GSMA), Sprint (CDMAS), T-Mobile (GSMT), and Verizon (CDMA). They aren’t allowed to actually use the trademarked names on their pages, but it’s an easy conversion. Note that the pricing for certain plans differs by the network chosen, and they often shift the pricing around with limited-time offers. If bringing over your own device and you want to switch networks, use their compatibility checker first.

Their current front page deal is the iPhone SE for regular price ($399) but with 6 months of free 3GB service. At $14/month, this could be seen as a $84 discount. However, if you proceed to the iPhone SE purchase page and agree to a 12 month or 24 month term, you can get alternative discounts on the phone itself instead as well as long-term discounts on the service. If you commit to 2 years, you can get the iPhone SE for $299 ($100 off) and have a choice of several monthly plans.

Example: iPhone SE + 2 years of Unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB LTE data = $299 + $336 = $635 for 2 years. This works out close to $26.50 per month. Breaks down to $12.50/month for the phone and $14/month for service. GSMA network (AT&T). You can upgrade to 7GB LTE for $20/month, 15 GB LTE for $30/month, or Unlimited LTE for $45/month. You could also downgrade to 1,000 minutes, unlimited text, and 1 GB LTE data for $10/month. After you reach your LTE data allotment each month, you still get unlimited data at slower 2G speeds. Looks like a little bit more if you finance it over monthly payments. UPS Ground shipping is free.

iPhone SE 2020 quick take. Apple’s new $400 iPhone SE may be called a “budget” phone, but it is a “parts bin” phone that saves money not by using lower-quality ingredients, but instead by combining high-quality parts from other iPhones. If you’re okay with the older body style (might be what you already have), this phone is a great value at $400 (64 GB). Check out the review from your favorite tech site, but here are the basics:

  • Screen/Body: iPhone 8. Same outer shape as iPhone 6/7/8. Retina 4.7″ screen. Touch ID (no Face ID).
  • Latest CPU: iPhone 11 Pro. Same A13 Bionic chip as inside the current iPhone 11 Pro that costs $1,000. These fast internals mean this phone won’t be obsolete for 4+ years.
  • Camera: iPhone XR+. The hardware specs are like the iPhone XR which still costs $600 today. However, combined with the faster internals, Apple added software improvements to make it take better photos (better portrait mode, etc). Still an upgrade over the iPhone 6/7/8 cameras.
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Mint Mobile Bundle Discount: iPhone SE $15/Month, Service $15/Month

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Mint Mobile has a new iPhone SE bundle promotion where you can get the new iPhone SE 2020 for $15/month + their $15/month cell service = $30/month total. You save $40 off the iPhone SE price and you lock in their bulk discount on data plans. Details below.

Apple’s new $400 iPhone SE may be called a “budget” phone, but I prefer to think of it as a “parts bin” phone that saves money not by using cheaper, low-quality ingredients, but instead by RE-using high-quality parts from other iPhones. Check out the review from your favorite tech site, but here’s a short take:

  • Screen/Body: iPhone 8. Same size as iPhone 6/7/8. Retina 4.7″ screen. Touch ID (no Face ID).
  • Latest CPU: iPhone 11 Pro. Same A13 Bionic chip as inside the current iPhone 11 Pro that costs $1,000. These fast internals mean this phone won’t be obsolete for 4+ years.
  • Camera: iPhone XR+. The hardware specs are like the iPhone XR which still costs $600 today. However, combined with the faster internals, Apple added software improvements to make it take better photos (portrait mode, etc). The camera is still significantly better than iPhone 6/7/8.

If you’re okay with the older body style (might be what you already have), this phone is a great value at $400 (64 GB).

$15/month for unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB of LTE data. We are in our second year of using Mint Mobile for cell phone service, an MVNO which runs on the T-Mobile network. One of us is on the $15 a month plan ($180 a year) for unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB of LTE data. The other pays $20 a month for unlimited talk, text, and 8 GB of data. You lock in this discount by paying for a year upfront.

In response to COVID-19, Mint Mobile offered their existing customers unlimited data (via free data add-ons) since March and going through May 14th, 2020.

New 2020 iPhone SE for $15/month. Mint Mobile combines these two into a new iPhone SE bundle promotion where you can also get the iPhone SE for $15/month for two years when you agree to also buy two years of service. This works out to $360 total for the phone, a $40 discount on the $400 retail price. You also get the free year of Apple TV+ streaming service included with all new iPhones.

End result: iPhone SE and unlimited talk/text/3GB data service for $30 a month total. Quite the frugal minimalist combo. You could also upgrade to the 8 GB data plan for $35/month total. This offer is for new Mint customers, although existing Mint customers can get 0% financing on the iPhone SE for $16.66 a month (you don’t save the $40 over 2 years).

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My Unconventional Best Work-From-Home Gear Guide (What’s Yours?)

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I’m quite familiar with working from home in my tiny 78 sq. ft. “office”, but after looking at some online WFH gear guides recently, it’s all about standing desks, latest laptop models, and USB hubs. Eh? My desk is a basic folding table and my laptop is a 2015 Macbook Pro (with real scissor keyboard and real moving trackpad) that recently underwent DIY battery replacement surgery (way too complicated, Apple!).

My favorite WFH gear is different. Maybe yours is too? These are real things that I bought with my own money and I would buy them again if I had to do it all over again.

Quiet, Please! – 3M PELTOR X5A Over-the-Head Ear Muffs

I wear these every day to help me focus. They have the highest noise reduction rating (31 dB) available on the market. You even have to certify that you are using them for “professional/commercial use” (which I am while working for money, as far as I am concerned). At ~$30, they are also about $10 more expensive than other similar models, but I think the extra $10 is well spent to know you have the quietest experience possible. If you have kids running around the house, you need all the help you can get. They are “over ear”, which means they don’t put pressure on your ears and I can wear them for a relatively long time without discomfort. (I try to take regular breaks anyway.)

Budget Noise-canceling Headphones – Mpow H5 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

After a certain member of the house (ahem) stole my trusty old pair of wired Bose QC25 headphones, I decided to try out a budget pair of $50 bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones. These over-hear headphones worked out quite well and I really don’t miss the old Bose ones. I’d say they are 80% as good while under 20% the price of new Bose QC35 headphones.

Note: I do own a pair of regular Airpods, which I got as a nice gift. I do like them and use them for phone calls around the house and outside, but I use the Mpow headphones while at my desk listening to music or editing things.

Dependable Printer – Brother Monochrome Laser Printer

This thing is the workhorse of my home office, and yet also the oldest electronic item here at over 10 years old. Which is rather crazy, given that it has moving parts and is used constantly to scan PDFs, make copies, and of course print. These Brother black-and-white laser printers are like the Toyota Corollas of the printer world – cheap yet reliable. The cost per page can be very low thanks to generic toner cartridges (that link is for two of them) if you don’t mind a slight decrease in quality.

Dry Erase Whiteboard – Magnetic Dry Erase Whiteboard

Another inexpensive but important addition for a variety of reasons. Sometimes drawing it out in real space is just better than the digital alternative. This one is lightweight and thus easy to remove from the wall and move it around. You can also put up complex equations or obscure drawings and put it behind you during those Zoom and Webex meetings and impress/confuse/scare your colleagues. I like these BIC markers as they are higher quality and have finer points.

Looking around my desk, other random things that I probably like more than I should are my TI-85 calculator, classroom-grade pencil sharpener, and an ancient Swingline stapler (sadly not the red 747). The only thing that I have been thinking about upgrading is my office chair. Any suggestions?

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Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Promo: $300 Prepaid Mastercard + Unlimited Talk, Text, Data For $35/Month

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Limited-time offer for $300 prepaid Mastercard. The merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is supposed to close very soon, but it hasn’t quite yet. Maybe that’s why Sprint has added a $300 prepaid Mastercard for people who port over their own device and phone number to their Unlimited Kickstart plan that includes unlimited talk/text/data for $35 per month, per line. Porting is free and you can come from any specific provider. Limited-time offer ends 4/9.

It’s rare to see them pay you for not even buying a new phone. There is no contract with Kickstart, although the fine print says the $300 prepaid Mastercard ships after 90 days, so you would probably need to stay on the plan until then. Bring over your own phone, and you could actually generate a net profit with this promo for several months!

Pros of Kickstart Unlimited:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data for $35 a month, per line.
  • You can bring over any compatible phone, or buy one from Sprint. Use their phone IMEI/MEID checker.
  • You can come over from ANY outside provider, Verizon/AT&T/T-Mobile or even another cheap MVNO.
  • No expiration date. Price will not go up after a year.
  • No annual contracts.
  • No family plan or minimum number of lines required.

Cons of Kickstart Unlimited:

  • New customers only.
  • Online orders only. You won’t see this offer in stores.
  • No mobile hotspot.
  • Unlimited video in standard definition. Video streams up to 480p, music up to 500 Kbps, gaming up to 2 Mbps.
  • Data deprioritization during congestion.
  • Autopay required.

Sprint Unlimited Kickstart is best for those that want to lock in unlimited data direct from a major provider at a low $35/month price. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile Unlimited may have slightly better networks but they are also significantly more expensive.

I am not a huge data user, but it was still nice when I was on Sprint Unlimited. I could stream videos without worry and switched all my settings to “use cellular data whenever the heck you want!” instead of having to wait to sync or download things like podcasts over WiFi. There is also (slightly) better customer service at a major provider as compared to an MVNO. However, I would also consider the these MVNO alternatives as they can offer some significant savings.

Mint Mobile is another low-cost competitor with data caps. This is what I use. They are an MVNO that runs on the T-Mobile GSM network. You can get:

(Disclosure: I am a Mint affiliate and if you purchase a Mint plan through one of the links above, I may earn a commission. I am also a paying Mint customer. Thanks for supporting this individually-owned site.)

The thing about Mint Mobile is that you have to “buy in bulk”. Initially you have to buy at least 3 months upfront, and then after that you have to buy 12 months at a time to get their lowest price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They do offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

How Many People Save, Even Without High Incomes?

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If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, by definition you aren’t saving and buying any assets. The folks who do have assets, those assets keep growing and compounding away. Left alone, that gap just widens relentlessly. Meanwhile, building up assets from nothing can feel agonizingly slow in the beginning.

So if you don’t make at least six figures already, should you just give up? It’s not your fault, and you can’t do anything about it, so why bother? I worry that this is the underlying message of certain media articles. As a small antidote, check out this chart that shows the percentage of households with a positive savings rate, broken down by income quartiles.

The data is taken from a 2016 survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Source: Personal savings: A look at how Americans are saving by Deliotte Insights.

Let’s use real numbers to add some clarity:

  • A household in the 20th percentile earns about $24,000 per year. Yet, according this chart, ~30% of households that earn less than $24k manage to spend less than they earn.
  • The 2nd quintile (20th-40th percentile) household earns between roughly $24k and $45 per year. A little over 40% of these households manage to spend less than they earn.
  • The 3rd quintile (40th-60th percentile) household earns between roughly $45k and $75k per year. Close to 60% of these households manage to spend less than they earn.
  • Let’s skip to the 80th to 90th percentile, where households earn between ~$120,000 and $170,000 per year. This is between 5X and 7X the 20th percentile and more than double the middle quintile. Yet even here, only a little over 70% of households have a positive savings rate.

It should not be surprising that households with higher incomes have a higher savings rate. Of course it is easier to reach financial freedom if you have a higher income. That’s just a mathematical fact.

Nearly 30% of households that earn between ~$120,000 and $170,000 per year spend everything they earn and then some. A higher income does not guarantee that you are not living paycheck-to-paycheck. When you look beyond the broad averages, you start to see the ability of households to differ. Everyone with a low income is not spending the same. Everyone with a high income is not spending the same.

This supports the notion that your actions still matter. Use your money to invest in yourself, increasing your skills and the ability to find more rewarding work. You can prioritize your expenses. It won’t be easy, and yes there will be setbacks and roadblocks in your way. In fact, it’s probably better to expect that it won’t be easy. As we should tell our children, success is not a straight line. “More often, a meandering and unexpected path is what leads to success”.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Do Not Buy List: Healthcare Sharing Ministry As Health Insurance Alternative

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I am creating a “Do Not Buy” list as part of my estate planning to help my family avoid potentially dangerous financial products. These things are not illegal “scams”, but may have hidden risks where it is better to simply avoid them. In addition to equity-indexed universal life Insurance, I am also including health-care sharing ministries (HCSM). The bigger names in this group include Samaritan, Medi-Share, Christian Healthcare Ministries, Trinity/Aliera, and Liberty.

I’ve been reading about these off and on, and they are often mentioned as a cost-saving option for the self-employed and/or those in early retirement. Read this NY Times article It Looks Like Health Insurance, but It’s Not, this Seattle Times article Washington state orders ‘sham’ health-care sharing ministries to halt, and this Consumer Reports article to get some background.

I can definitely see the appeal of the lower monthly costs and the positive feelings from being part of a cooperative community. I can accept that many (but not all) require a strong religious affiliation. I might overlook the fact that they usually don’t cover and basic preventative care like screening exams (mammograms, colonoscopies), flu shots, and other vaccines. However, I cannot accept the following:

  • HCSMs are not health insurance. This also means they are not overseen by state insurance agencies. There no government oversight, nobody to appeal to and have them say “hey that’s not right, you can’t do that”.
  • HCSMs provide no guarantee of payment. Legally, they are just a charity. The ministry looks at each claim and has sole discretion as to whether they want to provide payment.
  • HCSMs do not have to accept or cover pre-existing conditions.
  • HCSMs do not have to cover prescriptions drugs. Read their rules very carefully.
  • HCSMs can cap lifetime payments at relatively low amounts like $250,000. Read their rules very carefully. ACA-compliant health insurance plans have no lifetime limits.

The problem is that by design, yes, MOST people will be satisfied by these programs. MOST people get their bills paid. MOST people can thus leave a positive review. MOST people won’t have an extreme event that requires $500,000 of medical care over time. However, that is not the point of insurance! Insurance is there to protect you from bankruptcy due to a catastrophic event out of your control. Insurance is based on strict contracts, and you should notice that all forms of real insurance (life, health, auto, homeowners, etc) are tightly regulated. What happens if they run into some sort of financial difficulty, perhaps in a recession or from a rogue employee or executive?

Think of the importance of only putting your cash in an FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union. The vast, vast majority of the time, banks don’t fail. I’ve never had a bank fail on me. I don’t know anyone who has had money in a truly failed bank where the FDIC had to step in. But I still know that having the proper checks and backstops is important. Sometimes things are great for long time… until they aren’t.

Also, don’t forget that if a healthcare sharing ministry rejects a child’s claims and the family is bankrupt and desperate, they’ll likely end up falling back on taxpayer-funded Medicaid to cover their healthcare needs. Is this how we want the system to work?

My recommendation is to steer clear of all healthcare sharing ministries. I do not doubt that most have good intentions and happy customers, but things can happen that may even be out of their control. HCSMs are charities, not insurance. They can fail as much as any business. Yes, real insurance costs more, but at least you have a clear contract with defined rules and legal options as a backup. If you are my loved one and are reading this, please protect yourself fully and make sure you are buying true health insurance.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Which Car Models Do Owners Keep Forever?

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Used car website iSeeCars.com commissioned a study of over 350,000 cars from the 1981-2004 model years to determine which Cars People Keep the Longest. Here are the Top 15 vehicles ranked by how many of the original owners kept them for at least 15 years:

Out of the Top 15 spots, 10 were from Toyota, 4 from Honda, and 1 from Subaru. The Toyota Highlander midsize SUV had nearly 1 in 5 original owners (18.3%) keep it at least 15 years, which is more than double the overall average (2.4x). The Toyota Sienna also has double the average rate of 15+ year original ownership. In this peak age of 3-year leases, 15 years feels like forever!

It is a widely-known fact that Toyotas are above-average in reliability. However, this survey isn’t specifically about what cars are still on the road after 15 years. It’s about people who buy a brand new Toyota/Honda and keep the same car for 15 years. Are these just random people who buy a new Toyota and then not replace it because it never breaks down? Or are they a self-selected group of practical-minded people who plan on buying a car and owning it forever, and thus choose a Toyota? Perhaps they simply hate the car-buying experience? Or maybe it’s just the stereotype that they are bought by old, boring people *cough*.

I was a little surprised that Ford F-150 trucks are not on the list. These are usually the best-selling vehicle in the country, so people must think that they have some level of quality. They are expressly mentioned in the bestselling book The Millionaire Next Door as the car most commonly owned by “real world” millionaires. However, if you look further down in the study, you will find that the Ford F-150 is below average and the light-duty truck that is least likely to be kept for 15 years. For some reason, people are more likely to replace their Ford F-150 than any other truck! Meanwhile, the Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra are at the very top of the long-term ownership list by a solid margin. I wonder if Toyota Tundra owners in fact have a higher probability of being a millionaire?

I will admit, I chose a Toyota Sienna over the Honda Odyssey (and all the other brands) for my current car after reading about how their slow-and-methodical engineering process is specifically designed for maximum reliability. I simply hate the inconvenience of having to visit the mechanic shop, and am willing to give up sportiness and luxury at this point in my life.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts: Don’t Lose Your FSA Money

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Here’s my annual reminder (to myself, really) to get back all the money sent into Healthcare Flexible Spending Accounts (HC FSA) before it disappears forever. The maximum salary deduction limit is $2,700 for 2019. You can pick this during Open Enrollment season, but it can also be adjusted during “qualifying life events” like the birth of a child, marriage, or divorce.

Quick ideas. If you didn’t exhaust your funds with insurance copays or deductibles, here are eligible items that you can still buy over-the-counter without a prescription. Just order things online and then submit the receipt. Amazon even has a special FSA-eligible page that accept FSA/HSA debits, complete with an “under $25” and “little-known eligible items” section.

Certain over-the-counter (OTC) items such as cough medicines, pain relievers, acid controllers, and diaper rash ointment require a prescription for reimbursement. This is an added hassle, but worth a quick ask if you have a doctor appointment anyway.

When getting a receipt, make sure it clearly includes the following:

  • Date of service or purchase
  • Name or description of the item
  • Amount of purchase

Deadline extensions. Employers have the option of adding one of the following:

  • Some plans allow a grace period until March 15th of the following year as opposed to a December 31st deadline to use your funds, but it may only apply to claims and not late purchases. Check with your employer.
  • Some plans allow participants to carry over up to $500 in unused FSA funds into next year. Check with your employer.

Big, exhaustive lists. Some of these are searchable by keyword as well.

Finally, only your FSA administrator can provide you with the exact guidelines for reimbursement according to your plan. I learned this the hard way when our FSA administrator switched one year from in-house to Conexis (now since acquired by WageWorks). Wow, Conexis was a pain. I had to submit some claims three times before finally getting approved. If you count the time wasted, I probably lost money by participating in the FSA at all. The skeptic in me suspects that this bureaucratic nightmare is part of their business model. (Remember mail-in rebates?) Guess who gets to keep un-reimbursed FSA funds? The employer, which can then use the money to pay for… the FSA administrator.

p.s. If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) and think you are ineligible for an FSA, look for a “limited-purpose FSA” option that is restricted to dental and vision care services. These have the same max annual salary deduction.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Permanent Gift Guide 2019 – Give Stuff That Lasts Forever

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I’m reading through all these gift guides and so much of it seems just trendy and disposable. Do any of the authors actually own all the stuff they list? How many of these gifts will end up forgotten in a few months? I decided to create an alternative “Permanent” Gift Guide, consisting of things that (1) I actually own, (2) I’d buy again if I lost it (it sparks joy), and (3) I expect to last for a very long time (or at least comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee).

Coleman Classic Gas Camp Stove – $44

We found one of these while cleaning out my in-laws’ house, which means it is probably 30+ years old. This is the classic Coleman double burner camp stove, which is simple and sturdy. Even if you aren’t a camper, this is useful as an extra burner during Thanksgiving or a backyard party (connect any propane tank with adapter). Use it during a blackout or as part of your survivalist gear. We already had our own Coleman single-burner butane stove, and I had this beefier-looking red copycat on my wishlist.

Moka Pot Coffee Maker – $30
A lot of people love espresso, just like the Italians. But traditionally Italians only drink espressos in cafes. They don’t have huge, fancy espresso machines at home; they have Moka pots! (Okay, they now like Nespresso pods.) Something like 90% of Italian homes have a Moka pot. Read this Atlas Obscura article for details. I also learned why Cuban households also love Moka pots. Comes in different sizes. Bialetti is the original but there are other Moka pots that are cheaper and with good reviews.

LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box 10696 – $28
When cleaning out my parents house, what were the toys that still worked and my own kids could pick up and start playing with instantly? Legos and Hot Wheels. As a kid, I never ever followed any of the directions that came with a Lego kit, so I am partial to these big assortment Lego mixes. Lego wants their bricks to be biodegradable, which is nice but at least their stuff lasts forever and can be used forever!

All-Clad Stainless Steel All-in-One Pan – $180
I first heard about this brand when they kept winning comparisons by America’s Test Kitchen. However, they are quite expensive. Now, you don’t need All-Clad everything, but do I think a large stainless steel fry pan or all-in-one saute pan from All-Clad is an important kitchen addition that will pretty much last you forever. (Skip the non-stick All-Clad and go with T-Fal for best non-stick value.) Resurrect occasionally with Bar Keepers Friend.

Patagonia Houdini Jacket – Men’s and Women’s – $100
This ultra-lightweight jacket (3.4-3.7 oz) packs into it’s own chest pocket (so there’s no extra bag to lose). This means you can throw it anywhere, from your cargo shorts pocket to your purse to your travel carry-on. It’s good for wind and light rain (not fully waterproof though) and just those times when you’re a bit chilly. It’s relatively expensive but the quality is high and it has traveled with me everywhere for several years.

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Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet – $15
With over 10,000 reviews (!) and a 4.5 out of 5 star average rating, these heavy-duty beasts are trendy again. Great for searing and pan-frying, oven-safe, no worrying about scratches or dings. They will outlive you for sure. Got a rusty one? They are easy to resurrect; here’s a quick video on how to season your cast iron. Here’s a slightly-more expensive version with a silicone handle and the bigger 12-inch version.

Darn Tough Full Cushion Wool Socks – Men’s and Women’s – $25
You wouldn’t think socks would come with an unconditional lifetime warranty, but they do from Darn Tough. If you wear a a hole in them a decade later, they will still replace them for free. Made in Vermont and comes in different thicknesses for use in both the heat and cold. High-quality wool keeps your feet dry and doesn’t stink. These are pricey, but I am slowly collecting them as part of my minimalist wardrobe.

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Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop – $16
If you walk into an ice cream shop, this is probably the brand that they use. Once you try it, you will wonder why all the other ice cream scoops in the world are so bad in comparison. It has conductive fluid that makes it easier to get through rock-hard ice cream. It creates the perfect ball shape for placing on cones. The 3-ounce size makes medium-sized ball, but other sizes are available. Why not own the best ice cream scoop in the world for under $20?

Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack – $160
After doing a lot of research on travel/hiking backpacks, I decided to plunk down a lot of money on an Osprey Pack. They have an All Mighty Guarantee that will repair any damage for any reason free of charge, no matter when you bought it. So far, I have not been disappointed. Quality materials and construction. (My previous pack was from REI, but they discontinued their lifetime repair/replacement guarantee in 2013.)

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Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven – $350
I cook multiple times a week with our Staub and Le Creuset enameled cast-iron dutch ovens. Cast iron isn’t a lot of maintenance, but you do have to keep it dry after each use to prevent rusting (and seasoning it again takes time). With enameling, you can just wash and leave it wet. The dutch oven shape also makes it perfect for braises, stews, and soups. (They also look nicer at dinner parties.) They do run $200-$300 but spread out over years of use it’s not that bad. I love ours, but honestly I don’t know how much better they are than this Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven which regularly runs under $60.

Hot Wheels 20 Car Gift Pack – $20
I gave my old Hot Wheels to my daughters, but will be giving some new Hot Wheels to my nephews. I will admit that some of my old ones seem much more heavy with more metal content than the new ones, but none of the new ones have broken yet either.

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Wusthof Classic Knifes – $350
I remember wondering if Wusthof and Henckels were worth the price as I zapped them onto our wedding registry. Then someone actually bought us a set of Wusthof Classic knives and we proceeded to use them nearly every day for over a decade. They have been professionally sharpened a couple of times (less often than recommended), but they still work perfectly with no chips or rust spots. I bought a $40 Asian cleaver from a shop in Chinatown a couple years ago, and it only lasted a few months before large rust spots appeared. My mom told me I didn’t treat it right. Probably. I told her I’d rather spend $80 on a knife and have it last decades even after not treating it right. So I bought this one.

Let me know if you have suggestions (preferably due to personal experience).

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Mint Mobile Promo: 3 Months of Unlimited Talk, Text, 12 GB Data For $45 Total ($15 Per Month)

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In my own phone, I use Mint Mobile to keep my cell phone costs low. They use the T-Mobile network, which means if you have a compatible phone switching just involves swapping in a new SIM card. It works just fine in my iPhone X. I just renewed for another full year of service for $240 at the 8 GB tier ($20 per month).

They just started a limited-time 40% off promo on their highest data tier with Unlimited Talk, Text, 12 GB of LTE Data per month. Instead of $25 per month if you buy a full year, it’s only $15 a month for 3 months ($45 total).

As with most of their promos, it’s about getting you to try them out so you can feel comfortable buying an entire year at a time. That’s their “gimmick”, where you buy in bulk and save.

They also offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment at all. Here is my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review. Be sure to use their phone compatibility checker first to see if you can bring your current phone over and just pop in the Mint Mobile SIM card.

Also see:

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links above, I may be compensated.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Enough Curve: Consider the Ongoing Costs Of Your Purchases

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Our youngest child successfully completed her first semi-autonomous Halloween, but also threw up after eating her candy. Instead of just a case of diminishing returns (stops tasting as good), it was an important life lesson about negative returns! This reminded me of the “Enough Curve” from the early retirement manifesto Your Money or Your Life, which maps the relationship between fulfillment and the money spent.

In the beginning, you are getting a lot of “bang for your buck”. You have the basics: enough to eat, safe shelter, clothing and general safety. After that, you are moving into comforts that help you think beyond day-to-day survival. This is a good thing. However, eventually you start getting diminishing returns where an extra dollar spent isn’t getting you much more in personal fulfillment.

If you keep going, as the TV ads say you “deserve”, you can get to a point where you experience negative returns. You spend more, but get less. Minimalists call this when “Your stuff owns you” vs. You owning your stuff. Here’s a few examples:

Too much housing. The more house you buy, the higher the insurance costs, lawn maintenance costs, home repair costs, heating/cooling/electricity/gas/utilities costs, cleaning costs, security costs, and so on. If you have too much space, you may also find yourself filling the extra space with junk you don’t even need. Extra furniture, extra toys, who knows.

Too much car. The more car you buy, the higher the insurance costs, repair costs, maintenance costs, detailing costs, and so on. You worry more about small scratches and dings. The strange thing is that the most expensive cars are not any more reliable or long-lasting than a Toyota Corolla or Prius.

Housing, cars, utilities, gas, and insurance costs are linked together and add up to nearly half of all household spending as shown in this visualization from Engaging Data :

Housing and car purchases tend to be infrequent, so the next time it comes up, try to take a good hard look at the total cost. One of the central tenets of Your Money or Your Life is that you are exchanging your finite life energy for money. Once you internalize that, you realize that many things are not worth exchanging years of your life working.

I’m not here to draw a line about what is okay and what isn’t, as it will be different for every person and every expense. I struggle with this as well. This is just a reminder that it’s easy to minimize this extra financial and mental baggage when the dopamine rush comes at the time of purchase. Finding enough is hard, but taking a moment to consider the ongoing costs helps me make better decisions.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.