Get Money Smart, Spend Less, and Save More this Month – Tough Money Love Style

September 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Financial Planning, Spending

These are Money Strategies I Actually Use

Although I am dedicated to personal financial planning, I concede that I am not a pure “frugalist” or money “hacker.”  I particularly lack a desire to find the best credit card deals because I dislike credit card companies.  I like to think of myself as a “money strategist.”  Having a good money strategy does include being aware of ways to save money or to not get ripped off.  I am happy to implement such money saving strategies as long as it doesn’t take a disproportionate amount of another resource that I value highly:  Time.  The hard truth is that time is a non-renewable resource.  Many money decisions that my wife and I make have to factor in the value of time.  So at the beginning of this my third month of blogging on personal finance, Mr. ToughMoneyLove thought he would summarize some money strategies that recently caught my attention and that you might benefit from knowing.   Unlike money smart ideas you might read on other places around the Internet, these money strategies have actually been used by the person who is suggesting them.  (That would be me.)

Don’t Be a Victim of Balance Billing of Medical Expenses  

“Balance billing” is when a health care provider (or worse, a bill collector) bills an insured patient for the balance on a health care bill that remains after the insurance company has provided the contracted amount of reimbursement.  (“Balance billing” does not include collecting deductibles, co-insurance, or co-pays required by your insurance policy.)  This happens most often when a hospital or physician is dissatisfied with the amount of insurance reimbursement and decides to try to collect the difference from you.  It also happens when you are forced to seek emergency care outside of your provider network. 

Balance billing of Medicare and Medicaid patients is generally prohibited by Federal law.  Balance billing by in-network providers is a violation of the contract between the insurance company and the provider.  You are the beneficiary of that contract.  Also, in many states, balance billing is illegal, including balance billing by out-of-network emergency health care providers.  The problem is that many insured patients aren’t aware of this.  Instead of writing off the balance as required by the insurance network contract, your health care provider may refer your account to a bill collector.  Bill collectors don’t care what the law is – they just want your money.  When many patients – particularly the elderly – are confronted by an aggressive bill collector, they pay the balance, not realizing that they have no obligation to do so. 

If you receive a bill from a health care provider for the balance of a charge after full insurance reimbursement (and payment of any deductible, co-pays, and co-insurance amounts by you), make sure that this is legitimate and legal before you pay it.  You can first check with your insurance company.  It can probably explain the rules in your state.  If not, check with your state insurance department or consumer affairs department.

Use Google Text Messages to Look for Deals and Limit Impulse Buying

Impulse shopping is bad for your financial health.  A typical impulse buying scenario finds you in a retail store, you see something on sale, and decide that with such a good deal, you must buy it.  The problem is first, its an impulse decision and second, the deal may not be as favorable as you believe.  Instead of pulling the trigger on the impulse, put your cell phone to work.  Send a text message to Google at 466453.  In the body of the message type “price” followed by the brand and model or style of the product you are looking at, e.g. “Nintendo Wii”.  In a few seconds, Google will send you one or more text messages containing prices for that product at other retail outlets.  This step may save you from the impulse buy altogether by informing you that there are actually better deals out there.

Exploit Your Costco Menbership for High Yield Savings

Last month I got upset with GMAC Bank because they refused to open a deposit account for one of our sons.  Why?  Because he graduated from college without a credit history.  Oh the shame of it all!  So I started looking around for alternatives for our short term savings.  I discovered that Capilal One Direct offers special incentives to Costco members.  If you maintain a minimum balance of $10,000, you get a 3.75% rate (not just a teaser rate).  If you deposit $5000 within 30 days of opening the account, Capital One will pay a bonus of $20 or $60, depending on your membership level.  So, we are moving our savings to Capital One. (And no, I don’t get anything from Capital One for saying this.)

Get the Latest Economic News You Can Use 

With the election rapidly approaching, Mr. ToughMoneyLove thinks everyone should be paying close attention to the latest economic news.  We voters certainly should try to know more than politicians who don’t know anything about economics.  I get my economic updates from a lot of different sources but one of the most convenient, understandable and succinct sources is Vanguard.  You can subscribe to their free “Economic Week in Review” newsletter by RSS feed or email.  I recommend it (and again, I don’t get paid to say that). 

Cancel Your Land Line Long Distance Service 

Several years ago my father told me about the cheap long distance rates you can get by purchasing a long distance calling card.  I checked it out and he was right.  Costco and Sams offer long distance calling cards for under 3 cents/minute.  The minutes don’t expire and are easy to re-charge.  So we cancelled our long distance plan, saving $10/month and bought a Costco calling card.  There probably are similar deals available from other sources, but make sure the minutes don’t expire.  Getting rid of that monthly landline long distance charge is the way to go.  In fact, my wife and I are very close to dumping the landline altogether.  (Yes, I know this is twice I have pumped Costco in this post, but they aren’t paying me either.) 

Get the Latest Printable Retail Store Coupons and Discount Codes 

There are lots of places on the internet to get the latest grocery store coupons.  I discovered a site this week that has coupons and discount codes from all kinds of different retail stores.  (They claim 15,000 different retail sites.)  The site is retailmenot.com.  You can enter the URL for a retail store and it will bring up a list of printable coupons and coupon codes for that store.  Much of the information is submitted by site members (free to join) so you have to be careful about the source.  Definitely worth a try for your favorite brick and mortar and online retailer and a time saver as well.  

Cancel Your Cell Phone Insurance 

Mr. ToughMoneyLove favors insurance for major risks such as disability insurance.  On the other hand, that $4.99/month you may be paying for cell phone insurance?  Get rid of it.  If you read the fine print on most of those policies, you may discover that you have a deductible that is more than the cost of a new phone.  You may also learn that the insurance company is obligated to replace your lost phone with an “equivalent” model.  Often, that means the least desirable phone that you can think of.  You are better off just being careful with your phone and putting the $4.99/month in the bank.

That’s it for this month.  Come back often so that Mr. ToughMoney love can bring you more of his favorite money strategies.


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Comments

6 Responses to “Get Money Smart, Spend Less, and Save More this Month – Tough Money Love Style”
  1. Thanks for the Google text tip. I’ve used Google to find phone numbers and movie times, but I hadn’t heard about price shopping. That’s awesome.

  2. MasterPo says:

    Regarding “balance billing” where would I look to see if it’s legal in my state or not?

    The statements from my health insurer have a line at the bottom to the affect “This represents what we have paid on your behalf. The provider may bill you seperately for any unpaid charges” so I presume it’s legal in my state. :-(

  3. MasterPo – It still may not be legal, depending on whether the provider in a network and has agreed to be reimbursed in accordance with the insurer’s network payment schedule. That is boilerplate on the statement.

  4. Regarding phone service, I switched to Vonage about 5 years ago and haven’t looked back. It’s only $25/month for local and LD with all the free perks. My favorite feature would have to be that voicemail messages are recorded and stored online for easy record keeping. You can even email them as attachments.

  5. I haven’t tried Vonage but that price is quite good. We are still leaning toward dropping the landline altogether.

  6. Doctor S says:

    Google text is amazing! And I got rid of my cell phone insurance a few years ago, that stuff was worthless! Thanks for the tips! I nominated you for the “I heart your blog” award…

    http://www.financeurlife.com/2008/09/blog-love.html

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