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Pregnant? Maybe You Can Get a Free Car Seat Too…

The following is another post from my younger sister, Teresa Ward.  She already wrote about how she got a free breast pump.  Now she found out how to get a free car seat!

I promise not to bombard Crystal’s loyal readers with baby/toddler bargains, but just like the free breast pumps, I had to share my latest insurance steal that could save parents $$$!

That Necessary Car Seat…

One of the more expensive baby products that ALL babies and toddlers need is a car and/or booster seat.  They vary widely in costs from $70 on sale/online for a basic model to $400 for a new model or one purchased at a speciality store.

You might think the difference in price buys more safety for the little one, which I would argue is money well spent, but the truth is ALL car seats sold in the US must meet Federal Safety Standards and pass multiple crash performance standards.  Yes, a few of the high end seats do have extra bracing or maybe shock absorbing material they claim to be effective.  But judging from the specifications I researched, it appears more money mostly buys you the newest fabric trend or a few bells and whistles that your little one might never use/aren’t proven effective.

So I was already planning on getting a lower end car seat that had great customer reviews and great customer service for our second vehicle (we were already gifted a different car seat which is awesome, but we need two as per our lifestyle and having an extra base alone wouldn’t work for us).

Free Car Seat Opportunity

Happily, I just happened to receive a flyer summarizing our car insurance benefits while car seat shopping.  We are insured through Texas Farm Bureau, and one of their much touted benefits listed was the Child-Saver Program.  Basically, this program boils down to a partnership between TFB and Child Source to give heavy discounts on car and booster seats (and for TFB to randomly add a few child safety articles in their flyer).  Eager to see the deals, I logged onto TFB’s website using the member link online and was directed to an order form.

I was pretty happy to see a Cosco Apt 40 RF CC047FSM Car Seat listed at the member discount co-pay of $35.50 (no shipping or tax fees added)!  Features of this car seat actually exceed minimum requirements.  The seat comes with:

  • the ability of both rear facing (for newborns) and front facing (for not-so-newborns) modes
  • 4 harness heights
  • 3 buckle locations
  • side impact protection
  • 2 integrated cup holders (win for when the baby is older!)
  • 5 point harness with up front adjuster.

Grabbing the Deal

While I wish the insurance company offered more options to choose from, I did enough research to be very happy with the 4-star rated Cosco car seat (as listed on Amazon).  My baby book even mentioned it as a steal-deal at retail of $70-100…to think, I swiped it for a fraction of that!

I happily filled out the half-page order form, wrote a check for $35.50, and slipped both into the mail to Child Source, the company that my insurance works with to supply this great deal.  Side note:  I have also read multiple reviews that Cosco (not to be confused with Costco, a chain store) has excellent customer service, and even accepted a car seat that was used for 6 months for a full return.  I love companies like that!

A month after I sent my check, I opened my front door to see my car seat was delivered! 

Car Seat - Yorkie Not Included

Yorkie not included. ;-)

I would recommend researching and ordering car seats a few months in advance of your due date since processing seems to take a few weeks with any insurance for anything (especially during the holidays like my order), and you never know exactly when D-day is ;-) .

Also listed on the order form was a booster seat for $25.50, which I will totally order as soon as my much anticipated son gets to that stage.  Just figured I would mention that for other parents of infants and toddlers ;-) .

Search for this Steal Deal

I did a quick google for this post and saw a few other car insurance companies offering discount car and booster seats (including Arkansas Farm Bureau and Mississippi Farm Bureau who offers theirs at only $25 a car seat).  It’s definitely worth a quick call/email to your car insurance company!

I would also recommend calling a mainline or national line, as I am not sure how familiar local offices would be with this type of benefit.  I’ve also read that a few medical insurance companies and employers will provide discounts as well – so give your medical insurance and HR a call too if the car insurance company doesn’t pan out.

Overall, I spent about ten minutes finding the order form online and ten minutes filling it out and sending a very small co-pay – and saved a minimum of $35-50 depending on where I would have bought it plus taxes/shipping costs (while avoiding the temptation to purchase an even more expensive car seat).  My insurance company even allows me to purchase up to three discounted seats, so I could have multiplied the savings and bought one for every vehicle (but it wouldn’t make sense to return the gifted car seat, so next time!).  This is also a great option for a back-up car seat for the much loved grandparents or caretakers to use.

Hope this helps you or someone you know!

If You Have to Go…

I know it seems dark, but do you ever think about dying earlier than expected? It pops into my head once in a while, and then I start thinking about the people I’d leave behind. Then I get all teary-eyed. And then I attempt to leave the emotion part out of it and think about the financial repercussions for my husband. That is how I try to make insurance and other financial decisions that would affect him if I die first.

Not Dead Cat

This is one of my clients again with Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting. His name is Meiko the cat, and he is a trap. If you pet his belly as he intends, you will bleed. Seriously. Cute can kill.

Life Insurance

When we hit about 28 years old, my husband and I started taking life insurance a little bit more seriously. Our coverage before that was just one year’s income, which would cover our funeral cost and pay off our first home.

But at 28, we noticed our accumulated assets, we paid off our first home and bought a more expensive one, and he joined me and took the leap into self-employment. We decided to get more coverage and bought a 10 year term life plan that will cover each of us for $250,000 for an accidental death (or $37,500 for a natural one…). That is enough to cover our funeral costs and about 3 years of not working at all, which should be long enough for whichever one of us is still alive to get back on their feet.

Funeral Insurance

If you have a super low budget or just rather not look at the big life insurance plans, you may want to check into simple funeral insurance. Plans like HBF’s funeral coverage can be extremely affordable and at least take care of your final resting costs. There’s a low monthly premium in exchange for a $5000-$15,000 payout if the worst comes to pass.

Our Assets

Other than insurance, I also look at our largest assets and see how we would be affected if the other one of us passes away. Our home and our rental property are in both of our names. So are our major investment accounts (or at least our spouse is the beneficiary in all accounts). The only main assets that we have that aren’t co-owned or have beneficiaries is our cars. My husband is the name on his car and my name is on my car. It was easier than filling out financing paperwork for both of us. So, worst case, one of us dies and their car is in probate for a while? Not too worried overall…

Honestly, our next step is to get a real, legal will written up. We have an informal one signed and have told the executor where it is. But by age 35, we should have a legal one wrapped up just in case.

How about you? Do you have stuff squared away if the worst happens?

Took the Pet Sitting Insurance Leap – Coverage and Cost Breakdown!

I mentioned yesterday that I would be investing in pet sitting insurance soon to protect me from general crud that could happen with my new side hustle – Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting.  Making extra money wouldn’t mean much if I ever get sued and lose based on something my pet sitting fur-clients did while under my care.

Insured and Ready to Go!

Insured and Ready to Go!

Coverage

I ended up choosing a policy through Pet Sitters Associates, LLC.  Here’s a quick breakdown of the coverage:

  • $1,000,000 per occurrence, up to $2,000,000 annually for bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, advertising injury, products, and completed operations
  • $100,000 annually for fire damage
  • $15,000 per occurrence, up to $30,000 annually for pets lost, stolen, injured, or killed in your care
  • $1,000 per occurrence, up to $5,000 annually for vet expenses regardless of negligence
  • $2,000 annually for lost keys and re-keying of customers homes
  • $5,000 annually for medical expenses
  • $10,000 per occurrence, up to $25,000 annually, for the theft, breakage, and mysterious disappearance of the personal property of the pet owner while under the care of you, your employees, your independent contractors, or your incidental helpers.

No deductible for claims, EXCEPT $500 per incident if you purposely took an unleashed animal to a dog park or outdoors unless it’s in the pet owner’s or pet sitter’s yard with an above ground fence that will keep pets inside and people/animals outside.

In Short

Does the pet insurance cover your liability if the dog bites someone or runs in the street and causes a car accident or does it cover death and illness of a pet? If the pet has to go to the vet, you might have to pay if the owner refuses to reimburse you. If the pet dies the owner may want compensation from you.

In short – yes, all of that is covered.  :-)

Total Cost

Here was the breakdown of the costs for coverage from April 3, 2014 for one year:

  • Basic Insurance – $185
  • Special Property Coverage (that $10,000 property coverage was extra but I’m clutzy sometimes) – $100
  • Processing Fee – $10
  • Listing Fee to be in their search database of pet sitters – $10
  • Total = $305

Totally worth the peace of mind for me and my clients!  And it looks good to be able to show and state that I’m insured.  :-)

My Experience So Far with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)

Before I get started today, just let me put this out there – THIS IS NOT YAHOO.  DO NOT TURN THIS INTO AN AWFUL, NAME-CALLING COMMENT SECTION.  This is Crystal-ville, where we can whine like adults and not get personal.  Got it?

Oh, and I will keep using the name “Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)” simply since so many people actually don’t know the real name.  It’s not a political statement.  I’m generally an unofficial Libertarian that votes on candidates, not parties.  And just to get this out of the way too, I am not religious.  I am not an atheist either.  I’m like an undecided agnostic.  My children will have to figure some stuff out for themselves is all I’m saying.

Okay, time to get the perspective of a self-employed, 30 year old and her husband (same stats) on this new health insurance stuff.  I just received my letter notifying me about upcoming changes.  It also said that I needed to make a choice between Option A and B for 2014 (see below).

Current Policy

Humana 80/5000

  • $5000 individual deductible / $15,000 annual family deductible
  • $7000 additional family annual coinsurance maximum ($17,000 a year maximum out of pocket)
  • 20% coinsurance
  • Six $35 doctor’s visits per year and the 20% coinsurance thereafter.
  • Special prescription rates for long-term meds.
  • No vision coverage.

Total cost has been $267 per month.

New Options for 2014

Option A – Humana 80/5000

  • Same everything as the basic plan.
  • A few tiny changes to comply with 2014 Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) minimums

Cost of $278 per month starting and running for all of 2014.

Option B – 2014 Affordable Care Act Compliant Policy

  • $3500 individual deductible / $7,000 annual family deductible
  • Unknown additional family annual coinsurance maximum (it didn’t list it in the summary and I didn’t bother asking)
  • 20% coinsurance
  • Six $35 doctor’s visits per year and the 20% coinsurance thereafter.
  • Special prescription rates for long-term meds.
  • No vision coverage.
  • “Essential Health Benefits” – seems to include maternity coverage and I stopped reading because of the info below…

Cost of $627 per month starting in 2014.

Our Choice

Option A.  Done.  Already called, confirmed, and moved onto dinner.

My Honest Reaction

Here were the thoughts that literally went through my mind in this order:

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  No way in hell.  Option A looks tasty.  Hmmm, if we do decide to have a baby for sure, we should start trying in late 2014 so that we can use that maternity care coverage that is going to cost a buttload in 2015 anyway.  Wow, that’s a weird thing to think about when looking at insurance policies.  Sort of a realist view/ cynic.  Oh no worries, you knew you were weird.  Oh, okay.  So, what was for dinner?

Yep, the takeaways from this are that I am weird.  And if we are going to have a baby anyway, it’ll be in 2015.  Oh, and more than doubling our monthly insurance premiums is the opposite of “affordable”.  Yeah, that should be mentioned here…

So, how are you handling the new healthcare policy changes?  Did something like this happen to you yet?

Private Health Insurance Update – Changed Again

It’s been 6 months since I’ve tackled the private health insurance issue and renewed with Celtic.  I just received a letter letting me know of my new premium choices for August 2013, so it’s time to play the game again. Since they are once again raising the rates on crappy coverage, we are actually switching companies this time.  So I went back to esurance.com and spent an hour looking at our options and getting us signed up for a new policy that will work with our doctor.

Current Policy with Celtic

  • $5000 individual deductible / $10,000 annual family deductible
  • $6000 additional family annual coinsurance maximum ($16,000 a year maximum out of pocket)
  • 20% coinsurance
  • Two $35 doctor’s visits per year and the 20% coinsurance thereafter.
  • Basic vision coverage provided and saved me about $150 a year.
  • Total was $357.24 a month.   It will rise to $421.71 per month.

New Policy with Humana

Humana 80/5000

  • $5000 individual deductible / $15,000 annual family deductible
  • $7000 additional family annual coinsurance maximum ($17,000 a year maximum out of pocket)
  • 20% coinsurance
  • Six $35 doctor’s visits per year and the 20% coinsurance thereafter.
  • Better RX rates.
  • No vision coverage.
  • Total cost will be about $267 per month.  I’ll eat that $150 a year of vision coverage loss that I could have saved with the other plan to save $925 over the next 6 months.  :-D

Why I Chose It

Honestly, I have come to the conclusion that most health insurance policies suck and just are there to cover the OMG moments of life.  I’m just trying to keep our costs as low as possible while limiting our maximum out of pocket per year to $20,000 or less.  Having low cost basic coverage like some $35 doctor visits is nice too.  In the end, I am not expecting miracle coverage.  I just like basic coverage and knowing that we won’t go bankrupt because of a major fall or something.

Oh, and on a side note, having my birth control covered 100% now has meant a savings of about $840 a year.  Yeah, the NuvaRing is freaking expensive usually.  So, yay for that at least!

If we ever want to have a kid, it looks like there are just hardly any policies available that would cover the prenatal stuff and delivery.  BUT, they all cover the baby wellness visits and immunizations.  Weird.  So I called around, and if we use cash and have a normal pregnancy, it will cost about $5000-$7000 for all the prenatal visits and stuff and the delivery.  It’s usually like $20,000 or more, but hospitals and doctors really love not having to deal with insurance companies, lol.

I think all of that is moot right now since I am not kid-ready, but all knowledge is worth having.  :-D

What kind of plan do you have?

Life Insurance Q&A with Liran Hirschkorn

Hello everyone, as Crystal already introduced me in the previous post I won’t take up too much room doing the same. Just a quick recap: my name is Liran Hirschkorn and I’ve been an independent life insurance agent for over 12 years now. I specialize in high risk and term life insurance and I’m outreaching to sites such as Budgeting in the Fun Stuff because I’m trying to dispel many of the myths that surround life insurance, and ultimately make it more approachable for Americans who largely go under or uninsured.

Life Insurance Q&A with Liran Hirschkorn

Thank you for your time and great questions which I have addressed below.

From: Lance @ Money Life and More

How much do term life policies go up as you get older? Male and Female at 25 vs 30 vs 35 for a 25 or 30 year term policy. I know there are many variables, but just a percentage estimate would be great. I think it makes more sense to wait until I’m going to have kids to get a policy.

Lance, you’re right. Rates do vary by age. Let me give you an example of a $500,000 policy at the best rates (preferred plus). To keep things simple I’ll quote a 25 year old male – female rates are slighlty less, but this should give you an idea.

25 year old male 500k 25 year term = $26 per month, 30 year term = $30 per month

30 year old male 500k 25 year term = $28 per month 30 year term = 32 per month

35 year old male 500k 25 year term = $34 per month 30 year term = $37 per month.

If you’re married and your spouse couldn’t pay the bills on her own, I wouldn’t wait to get coverage. If you are going to wait, the one risk you have to weigh in your mind is your health. If your health changes it could affect your rates or the ability to get approved. The benefits of getting a policy earlier, before you have children, is that the cheaper rate will stay with you even if your health should degenerate. You’re basically gambling that you won’t have any maladies or lifestyle changes between age 25 and 35. That being said, if something does go wrong by the time you’re 35 that $37 payment could be far out of reach

From: jenn

This may be an odd one. At one point my nephews were getting 10% of our life insurance policies, for future college funds if we are not around. Their parents were aware of this. We have had a massive falling out to the point of changing wills, removing the nephews as beneficiaries, etc, it was bad. Should something happen to my husband or I, the parents will definitely be expecting something as we haven’t told them they were removed from the policy, do they have any recourse? Do we need to notify them in writing?

No. As long as you have removed them as beneficiaries on the policy they have no recourse. Just make sure that you didn’t make the change only on the will and that the beneficiary designation on the policy is correct because what is on the policy supersedes what is in the will. An insurance policy does not go through the probate process – that means it is outside of your will.

From: Laura S.

How long does it take for someone who has previously had cancer to qualify for term life insurance? My husband had prostate cancer two years ago and I was told by one company five years and a second he may never qualify despite being fairly young (early fifties).

The reason why you received conflicting answers is that both scenarios are possible and the agents may have not asked you the right questions. The key to knowing when you can qualify after cancer depends on several factors. For example, with Prostate cancer we would need to know the stage and grade of the cancer, the pre-cancer PSA, and the Gleason score. If it was very low grade and low Gleason it is possible he could get coverage right after or within 6 months of completed treatment. In other cases it could be a longer waiting period.

From: Adam – HireMeHigherEd

My wife and I have a term life insurance policy. I believe the policy is Term 80. Does this mean that the policy will be in place until we reach 80. or will it be in effect for 80 years after the date we signed for it? Also, can the premiums ever rise, or are they generally fixed for the life of the policy?

It sounds to me like you have a term policy that goes until age 80. What you need to check for is how many years is the term “Level” for – meaning is it a 20 year term that goes to age 80? What that means is that your payments could be locked in for 20 years, and after that period they skyrocket each year to age 80. With term policies, premiums are generally fixed for 10, 15, 20 ,25 or 30 years depending on the term you bought. I suggest you review the policy with an agent and get clarification on what you have to avoid shocks down the road.

From: Brick By Brick Investing – Marvin

1.  Are life insurance payouts taxable?

Life insurance death benefits are income tax free, however they are not estate tax free. That means if your estate is subject to federal or state taxes then the insurance proceeds would be subject to estate taxes.

2.  Do you recommend whole life or term life insurance?

I generally recommend term over whole life. It’s cheaper and you can get a lot more coverage for your money. I see insurance as a protection vehicle not an investment vehicle. If you need permanent life insurance, I suggest looking into a “No Lapse Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance” policy, which is significantly cheaper than Whole Life and still provides lifetime protection.

From: Mom @ Three is Plenty

How do insurers look at diagnoses of depression when applying for life insurance? – I’m especially concerned about “temporary” depression such as post-partum depression, and for folks who have their depression managed.

Depression and anxiety are extremely common. If depression is well managed you may still qualify for the best rates, or if you don’t qualify for Preferred Plus, it may bring you down to Preferred instead. The concern is when the depression isn’t well managed, and you have been hospitalized due to it, or aren’t able to work because of it. Besides these big red flags, depression usually isn’t as big of a factor in determining life insurance rates as most people assume.

From: Mike @ WeOnlyDoThisOnce

How early is too early to get started? Cheers and thanks!

And From: Edwin

I am only 20 years old and healthy as far as I know. At what age should I begin to shop around for and concern myself with life insurance? My concern is that I will be funneling money out of my income to pay for something I won’t need for years to come.

Thank you for taking the time out to answer my question.

I’ll answer both these questions together. The time to get life insurance is when someone that you care about would be financially hurt due to your loss. So if you’re 20 and single, there is no reason for you to have life insurance. On the other hand if you’re 20 and married, and want to make sure your spouse could remain in the same home and keep the same lifestyle, then it isn’t too early to buy a policy.

—–

Thanks again to Crystal for hosting this Question and Answer session. It’s been my pleasure and I love the diversity of questions brought forward. Some were common, and some were pretty unique. I hope I was able to cover everyone’s questions sufficiently – if you have any follow up questions please feel free to contact me via my website, ChooseTerm.com. I’m fortunate enough to work as an independent broker which means I get to work with the best life insurance companies, rather than being limited to one.

Need Your Life Insurance Questions!

Hi everybody!  I need you to ask every life insurance question that you have.  :-)

Mr. Liran Hirschkorn, whose stats I’m listing below, has offered to write a straight-up Q&A post for BFS about life insurance.  He’s not going to try to sell anything, his post will not be sponsored, and even the link back to his site will be no followed (no link juice), so this is all about info exchange.  He’s just trying to get his name out here in the blog world and I would love to get any life insurance questions that you have answered by a professional.  You know I sort of suck when it comes to research posts.  ;-)

Here are his qualifications:

  • Independent life insurance agent for 12 years now
  • Licensed to sell life insurance in all 50 states
  • Studied business in college and worked as a financial planner before founding ChooseTerm.com
  • He works with all of the providers rather than being tied to a specific one
  • Also specializes in high risk life insurance and getting people coverage who have been previously declined

So, please comment below with any life insurance questions that pop to mind and we’ll try to get them all answered and posted for you by sometime next week!