Feb 19 2013

I Saved $100 By Making Companies Compete

By |February 19th, 2013|Blog|9 Comments|

About a month ago I was installing a new dishwasher and I was using Tag’s cell phone as a flashlight. Being the handyman that I am, I got water all over the place and it destroyed Tag’s phone.

We had been talking about getting on the same cell phone plan for a while, and my little mistake made “someday” become “today”.

I had dropped my phone in the toilet a few weeks earlier (oops) so we both needed new cell phones at that point. We decided to spend a Saturday shopping around for new phones at the four big companies: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon.

Four Companies, Four Options

Our first stop was at AT&T and they were offering a promotion for buy one Galaxy S3, get a second for $100 off. We weren’t thrilled about the plans, but we had our first option.

Next we went to Sprint. They had a little bit cheaper plans but didn’t have the phones we wanted at the right price.

Third we went to T-Mobile. At this point we had the brochures from the first two places in our hands and we were comparing the T-Mobile plans to the other two right on the spot. We didn’t like what T-Mobile had to say but they did offer us a $50 discount if we signed a contract that day. They knew we were shopping around and they wanted to stop us from looking elsewhere. Of course we still left.

Finally we went to Verizon. Their plan was better than AT&T and about the same as Sprint (after my company’s corporate discount), and they did have the phones we wanted but they weren’t on sale.

Make Them Compete

Instead of just picking the best option and going with it, we wanted it all. We liked Verizon the best but we didn’t like paying full price for two phones.

competition

photo credit: Paolo Camera

We told them that if they could match the AT&T promotion ($100 off) then we would probably choose to go with them. The salesman said he’d have to talk to his manager.

We left to think things over and the Verizon salesman called me back and said they wanted our business and they were going to match the AT&T promotion. (You can find Verizon Coupon Codes here.)

We saved $100 just like that.

Competition is Good for YOU

I guarantee if we had just gone to Verizon and said we wanted two phones that they wouldn’t have even considered giving us a deal. They don’t make money by handing out deals when they don’t have to.

The only reason they gave us the deal is because we asked for it and we were willing to go elsewhere if they didn’t match it.

Don’t be afraid to let companies know that they need to compete for your business. I used to think it was an insult to tell one company that you are also considering another. Now I’ve realized it’s just honesty and it’s good business.

Companies know they are in competition for your business, and they all want to win. If you give them a path to the finish line (give me this and I’ll pick you) then there’s a good chance you’re going to get it.

Readers: How have you pitted one company against another to save yourself money?

Feb 19 2013

Substandard Care from GP’s

By |February 19th, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Substandard Care from GP’s|

When you are unwell you go to a doctor and you trust their medical opinion and the way they look after you. However, more and more GP’s are under pressure to meet targets, they are struggling with strict budgets and rising workloads. The head of the Royal College of GP’s has estimated that the NHS needs another 10,000 GP’s to cope with increased workloads and provide adequate out of hours patient care. Is this increased pressure on GP’s leading to more cases of medical malpractice as doctors are overworked, stressed and tired? Since 2004 most doctor surgeries chose to opt of providing out of hours care, leaving the Primary Care Trusts to provide the care. As budgets for out of hours care are getting cut, some PCT’s are also using just one doctor to cover areas with thousands of patients in out of hours times. A report by the Daily Mail showed that some nights in Cornwall one GP was covering 535,000 patients and one in Mid Essex 370,000 between 7pm and 8am. If these doctors had a lot of call outs you can see how they would become stressed, tired and easily miss an easy diagnosis if they are thinking of the other five patients they need to see.

More private companies are being used by the care trusts to provide locum doctors to cover out of hours times. Some out of hours providers have been found to employ doctors from overseas without checking they have the necessary medical skills or can even speak a comprehensive level of English. Some of the private companies are also using skeleton staff to ensure they maximize profits; the emphasis is very much on money and not at all on patient care.

health pillsThese factors are leading to more and more legal cases against GP’s as more fatal mistakes are being made. In 2008 pensioner David Gray died after being administered ten times the recommended dose of a painkiller by a German GP. Then a baby was misdiagnosed at an out of hours clinic in Ipswich and died of whooping cough after being sent home with an inhaler. A locum out of hours doctor has recently been jailed for two and a half years after failing to send a seriously ill man to hospital.

If you have been a victim of poor GP care then be sure to get legal advice on this matter as you may be entitled to compensation if you have suffered as a result of the care. Solicitors at Bolt Burdon Kemp are medical compensation claim specialists who could help progress a compensation claim.

Feb 14 2013

40 Days of Eating In

By |February 14th, 2013|Blog, Life|6 Comments|

Yesterday was the first day of Lent, which means it was the first day of mine and Tag’s Lenten sacrifice.

There are about a billion things I could do to make myself a better person, but Tag is almost perfect so it was hard to find something we could do together. However, after a little discussion we decided that we wouldn’t eat out for the next 40 days.

Stop Eating Out to Save Money

One of the best reasons to stop eating out is simply because it will save money. I have no idea exactly how much money you can save by saving money, but I do know it’s pretty substantial. A meal at a fast food restaurant is always around $5-10 and is usually terribly unhealthy.

healthy dinner

photo credit: anneheathen

A loaf of bread and a pound of deli meat is also around $10. Add a few bucks for chips and fruit and you can eat lunch all week for less than what it costs to eat lunch out for two days.

For dinner we can save even more money. We typically spend more money on something a bit nicer when we get dinner, so let’s call it $10 a person. That’s a lot of money for just one meal. I’m sure I can at least cut that in half and still have a great meal at home.

It looks like we are talking about over $100 a month just by cooking food at home. That’s not bad.

Stop Eating Out to Stop Getting Fat

Full disclosure: I’m surprised I’m not dead from all the chicken nuggets and french fries I’ve eaten in the course of my life.

Just try to find someplace that serves a healthy vegetable at a restaurant. If you find that, you’re probably at a crazy fancy place that is going to run you $20+ per meal.

By eating at home we are going to be able to control our portions better, include more fruits and vegetables, and stop giving our hard earned money to Mr. McDonald and Mrs. Wendy.

Give Up Something for Lent!

Whether you are a christian or not, now is as good a time as any to spend the next 40 days (not including Sundays) giving up a bad habit or committing to a good habit.

Try to pick something that’s easy to keep track of. “Work out more” or “eat healthier” are bad examples because there’s not a good way to measure them. Something like “don’t eat out” or “go to the gym 5 times a week” are much better because either you did it or you didn’t.

Finally, remember that it’s only 40 days and you get to cheat on Sundays. If you count the number of days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday there are 46 days; remove the Sundays (because they are for celebration, not fasting) and you get the 40 days of Lent.

I think New Year’s resolutions fail so often because there’s no end in sight. With this, you get 40 days and you’re done.

If you want to keep going after 40 days, tell someone to give you a high five. If you get to 40 and go back to normal, then at least you saved money or got healthier for 40 days, right?

Readers: Share your Lenten sacrifices or resolutions.

Feb 13 2013

Would the Skyfall on James Bond If He Were To Insure His Car

By |February 13th, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Would the Skyfall on James Bond If He Were To Insure His Car|

The following is a guest post on behalf of Shreya

Hello. Mr. Bond, is it? Mr. James Bond. We here at Double Oh Insurance are most glad that you have decided to contact us as a part of your effort to compare the market for coverage on your latest vehicle, the Jaguar XJ L. I see you have some questions as to the amount you were quoted. Very well, let’s go over the facts, shall we?

The Car Itself

James BondThe, as you put it, Bondmobile is a Jaguar XJ L. As you know, this is a very expensive vehicle. The average motorist will not putt about in a Jaguar XJ L with a 3.0L v6 diesel engine. You are looking at a luxury car here, Mr. Bond.

However, to further complicate matters, the so-called “Bondmobile” is not just an expensive luxury car. I see that you have had many customisations applied to the vehicle. Those ejector seats, guns and other gadgets you say are for work all add to the value of the car and, thus, to the insurance premium’s cost. Just what is it you said you did for a living again? Ah yes — civil servant is it?

Bond, James Bond

In addition to the value of the car, we must also look to you, Mr. Bond. It says here that you live in the SW3 region of Chelsea in London. You claim to be 40 years old and, as we have established, you are a civil servant. Your age, area of residence and employment are all in your favour as these are all signs of a good, safe driver. This is good, but your driving record? Well let’s just say it’s not so good.

Spying Ain’t Easy, But It Sure Is Fun

What’s so wrong with your driving record? Let’s start with the many Aston Martins you have wrecked over the years. Although you claim each and every one of these accidents are “work related,” we fail to see how a car that got destroyed by a rocket propelled grenade could possibly be related to the work of a civil servant. Perhaps you’re a super spy or something, but that is silly – isn’t it?

Furthermore, your driving record is questionable at best. There is a long list of traffic offenses attached to your record, Mr. Bond. Running traffic lights, excessively mind you, is only the tip of the iceberg. Other traffic offenses include driving at high and dangerous speeds and performing dangerous stunts while driving. Worse yet, you appear to have done all of these things while talking on your mobile phone. I’m afraid these things all add up, Mr. Bond.

In addition to being a danger to yourself, you apparently have quite the history of being dangerous to other drivers on the road as well as pedestrians. There are many accounts in your record of dangerously driving through heavily populated areas, all the while forcing drivers off of the road. Additionally, your antics have caused many injury claims to be filed against you by pedestrians as well as property damage claims resulting from your high-speed antics. Then there is the foreign use insurance you have requested. I’m afraid that, due to the frequency with which your employment seems to take you to strange and exotic locales, not the least of which is underwater, that will also lead to an increase in your insurance premium.

In Conclusion

Taking into account all of these factors you can expect to pay nearly 20 times the car insurance premium of what an average person would have. I realise that this might be disappointing to you, as you were hoping to find an inexpensive solution to your insurance needs. I would strongly suggest that you continue to shop around and compare insurance rates. You never know what deals might be available from other companies, and you might be able to find a premium amount that is hopefully less than what we have quoted you.

We wish you all the best in your hunt for inexpensive car insurance, Mr. Bond. If you are unable to
find a lower rate, please keep us at Double Oh Insurance in mind. Good day, sir.

Feb 8 2013

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

By |February 8th, 2013|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|16 Comments|

Tag and I adopted our puppy Sydney on Thursday, January 31st. Six days later she was so sick that she had to stay overnight at a veterinary hospital with an IV giving her fluids.

Holy crap were we scared!

Sydney went to the vet on Monday and got some heartworm medicine. On Monday night she threw up twice, which we didn’t think was a big deal because vomiting was one of the side effects of the medicine.

Then in the morning she wouldn’t eat anything and wouldn’t drink much, and she wasn’t as lively as a puppy should be. Loss of appetite and lethargy were also potential side effects so we weren’t too worried. We figured it would pass and she’d be fine.

On Tuesday night she was throwing up again, and on Wednesday morning she still wasn’t eating. Tag took her to the vet and he gave her a shot that was supposed to stop her from throwing up. Then she threw up twice in the car, feel asleep when she got home, and threw up again hours later when she woke up.

Something was wrong.

We called the vet and he said we should bring her in immediately.

At this point we were freaking out. She was so lethargic she could hardly move and she hadn’t eaten or drank much of anything in two whole days. The vet he saw how bad she was and after a negative Parvo test (thank God!) he recommended that we leave her overnight hooked up to an IV so she could get her strength back.

We hadn’t even had her a week and we already had to spend a night without our puppy! Worse yet, we had no idea what was happening to her. Was she okay? Was she getting worse? It’s SCARY!

Luckily the fluids did wonders. She woke up and ate food for the first time in three days now. She even had enough energy to get into a little mischief at the vet. By the time I was done with work she was ready to go home!

When I picked Sydney up the guy at the front desk told me that he was going to print off a receipt. He handed it to me and there was a $500 bill!

When the vet came to give Sydney back she told me that they weren’t going to charge me because it was all just a bad reaction to the heartworm medicine they gave her and that they would try to recoup their costs from the heartworm medicine company.

Whew! I don’t really have an extra $500 lying around (although I would have found a way to pay for it to make my little baby better!).

This got me thinking… what if this happens again?!

Do I Need Pet Insurance?

If Sydney gets sick or hurt then I’m going to take her to the vet and get her fixed. When we adopted a puppy she became a part of our family, and we are financially responsible for keeping her healthy.

Sleeping

This is how she sleeps when she is REALLY tired.

I really don’t want to have to come up with $500 if she gets sick again. I definitely don’t want to come up with $2,000-$3,000 if she tears a ligament in her knee. However, there’s a fairly good chance that she’ll never get sick again until she’s old.

Is pet insurance worth it?

I got a quote online where I can get a comprehensive insurance plan for Sydney for between $19 and $28 a month. The $19/mo package has a $500 annual deductible, while the $24/mo package has a $250 deductible and the $28/mo package has a $100 deductible.

Keep in mind this isn’t like health insurance where EVERYTHING is covered. I’d still have to pay 100% for standard checkups, shots, and heartworm meds.

On one hand, the insurance will make sure Sydney doesn’t break the bank with health issues. On the other hand, the insurance isn’t cheap and I have a wedding to save for.

No Pet Insurance for Sydney Today

In looking at the numbers I just don’t think pet insurance is going to fit in the budget right now. I do understand it’s a risk, but it’s one I’m willing to take.

We already spent $350 adopting her and have spent a bunch on toys, food, a crate, leash and collar, and more. I’ve also spent $150 for a puppy training class that will last 6 weeks and start soon.

Puppies are expensive.

If something terrible happens with her health then I’m just going to have to buck up and pay for it from the wedding fund. Then I’ll make up for it with reduced spending elsewhere. I’d rather take the money I would have spent on premiums and the deductible and use that to pay for anything that might happen.

If nothing or something small happens, I’ll have made the right choice. If she has a really big health issue, I’ll have made the wrong choice. Only time will tell.

The great news is the she’s healthy again. She’s lots of trouble and too freaking adorable. We love her so much already!

Readers: If you have a pet, do you have pet insurance? If so, how much does it cost and have you ever had to use it?

Feb 1 2013

The Best $350 I’ll Ever Spend

By |February 1st, 2013|Blog, Life|16 Comments|

Owning a home can be expensive. There are a lot of big purchases that can drain your bank account pretty quickly.

Sometimes your spend a lot of money and it’s really exciting. Other times you spend a lot of money and it’s super-duper lame.

I’d say $350 is a lot of money, so here are a few things I’ve spent $350 on so far:

  • A fancy schmancy new stainless steel microwave (which is pretty cool)
  • A big office desk for your two desktop monitors and printer (also pretty snazzy)
  • A paint sprayer and 5 gallons of paint (kinda boring if you ask me)
  • Underlayment and transition pieces for my floors (lame-o)

However, none of that can even compare to the $350 I spent yesterday. For a tax-deductible donation of $350 Tag and I welcomed this little rascal into our family!

Our Puppy

This is Sydney. She’s our new Australian Shepherd puppy!

She was a rescue and needed a good home. We wanted a dog that would run with Tag and would play frisbee with me. Most importantly, we wanted a dog that would be protective of our family and be our last line of defense in keeping us safe in our home.

Sydney is perfect for us!

Yes the adoption fee was expensive, and yes we’ve already spent another $200-$300 on a crate, playpen, dog food, toys, a bed, food and water bowls, a collar, a leash, and probably a bunch of other stuff I’m forgetting.

And it’s worth every penny.

We have a house. We have a nice yard. And now we finally have a dog to share it with! This is a great addition to our family and will also serve as a nice warm-up for when Tag and I get married next year and start thinking about kids.

You’ll certainly be getting more pictures of Sydney over the next few weeks and months (as I’m pretty sure the pictures of her are 95,231 times more interesting than anything I’d ever have to say).

We are super excited, and thank you for helping Tag and me welcome Sydney into the McKee family!

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