Starbucks Health Insurance & Part Time Employment Jobs With Benefits

I do not have health insurance. In fact, I have not had health insurance for exactly one year. (Yes, I did apply once, but in Colorado where I no longer live) Why? Because insurance companies would not let me buy it from them due to me having had skin cancer in the past. I did have insurance when I was married through my wife’s work, and I always had it through my previous employees, but now that I am self-employed and with a pre-existing condition, I go without health insurance. I have paid through the nose for small surgeries and usually visit health clinics for smaller issues, and will be applying for the new California pre-existing condition health plan (unless Republicans in Congress repeal it, which I hope for my sake and others they don’t) starting next month. But for the past 12 months, I have been without health insurance — not by choice, mind you — and it’s quite scary. Before I found out that a plan will be in place for people like me, I had been trying to come up with ways to get insurance, and one of those ways included finding a small part-time job that offers insurance.

One of the companies I hear mentioned most often by those looking for health insurance is Starbucks. Starbucks offers benefits for employees and dependents alike, including domestic partners of the same sex and unmarried heterosexual couples. Employees (or Partners, as Starbucks calls them) are eligible for these benefits as long as they are paid a for a minimum of 240 hours of work in each calendar quarter. That’s 80 hours a month, which is definitely a part-time job, and believe me I have considered it several times. Granted I would have been about 15 years older than their average employee is, but being without insurance is a little unnerving. Due to some circumstances and two moves, I never applied for a job there, but it is a good place to look if you are in need of insurance and a part-time job. Plus, I think you get some free coffee if I am not mistaken.

Starbucks is not alone in offering insurance to part-timers though. Barnes & Noble, UPS, Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, IKEA and REI are just a few other companies offering pretty decent benefit packages to part-time employees. (I would love to work at REI, personally) While the eligibility requirements are different for each, most companies require a minimum amount of hours each month and a waiting period before benefits go into effect. For self-employed people like myself who probably have some hours every week they could work at an extra job, the benefits could be quite valuable – especially if you either cannot afford private insurance or have a pre-existing condition.

So, this leads me to you guys; do you work at an extra part-time job just for the health insurance? If your main source of income doesn’t offer insurance in some form, how do you get it? Maybe some of your tips/ideas will help others get the insurance they need. Or do you go without? With over 40 million Americans without insurance, it wouldn’t surprise me if several readers have to go without due to a pre-existing condition or some other reason. Let us all know in the comments!

photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt


How to Increase Your Credit Card Limit

Think you don’t have enough open credit? Have a major purchase coming up, like buying a car with a credit card to get more reward points? If so, you may want to give some thought to asking your credit card issuer for an increase in your credit limit, which is actually a pretty painless process. But before you do so, you may want to give some thought to a few things you should take care of before applying. Here are 5 things you should know before asking for a credit line increase:

1. Make sure you pay more than your minimum charge each month. Upon seeing you only pay the minimums, credit card issuers won’t be too keen to hand out even more credit that you can’t keep up with the payments on. They want to know you can afford your new higher limit.

2. Check your credit report and credit score before asking. I told you a few weeks ago how I ran my own credit report before applying for a new rental, so you may want to take a look to make sure that all the information on your report is correct and up-to-date.

3. Don’t ever go over your credit limit. Ever. Did I say ever? Ever. Never.

4. Use your credit card regularly, so the company can see that you are a constant user of the card. That way they can then see that you pay off your balances, pay on time, and never charge more than you can handle. Once they see a history of being responsible, they are more apt to agree to any increase requests you may have.

5. If you have a new credit card, I wouldn’t call them two weeks after you receive it and ask for an increase. It’s probably not going to happen. Use the card for 6-12 months before asking. For example, Wells Fargo makes you wait until your account has been established for at least one year.

After taking into account the above 5 items, it’s time to ask your credit card for an increase. There are a few ways you can ask them – online on their website, via telephone, or by stopping into a local branch. Personally I do as much as I can online, so I would use any online forms your bank has. But everyone has their own way of doing things, so use the method that is most comfortable for you. Keep in mind that when you apply the bank will probably ask you for and/or research your:

  • Employer
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Monthly rent or mortgage payment
  • Assets – bank accounts, cash accounts, etc.
  • Liabilities – cars, other debt, etc.

You should be ready to provide this information should you get asked. They will also likely pull your credit report to check out what you have been up to and to make sure you haven’t been putting in requests at any other banks (this could trigger a red flag). To any bank or credit issuer, you want to be seen as a competent “borrower”and not a “deadbeat, so it’s important to have your financial house in order before applying for a credit increase.

However, I wouldn’t go around asking for increases if you really don’t need or won’t be using them. The days of easy credit are over (for now), so if you don’t need the credit, don’t bother asking for it. Stick with what is already working for you if that’s all you need!

Photo credit: shawnzrossi


What Is a Good Credit Score Rating For a Mortgage or Loan?

Your credit score can make or break many situations in your life. From renting an apartment, to getting a job, to buying a car, to getting a mortgage, your credit score is incredibly important. Last time I checked I had a credit score of 800, which probably helped me to get my current rental over some of the other potential tenants. But what what determines the score that you have, and what number makes for a good credit score? Let’s take a look.

Your credit score is based upon five major criteria set forth by Fair Isaac, the creators of the scoring system called FICO, which TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax use to tabulate your score:

Payment History – Your payment history makes up 35% of your total credit score. Make too many late payments, and this can drastically cut in to your overall score.

Outstanding Balances – Your outstanding credit balances make up 30% of your total score. When you are constantly near your limit on your credit, your score can drop. The more open credit you have available, the better this part of your score will be.

Credit History – This is the amount of time you have had credit, and it makes up 15% of your overall score. The longer you have had credit, the better off you look to potential lenders. This is why most people will tell you not to cancel old accounts, even if they have a $0 balance.

Applications For New Credit – 10% of your score is determined by how often one applies for new credit. Each time you apply, your score drops a little bit, especially if the applications are close together. (One exception is when you are shopping the best rate for a mortgage. If done within a few weeks, it is reported as only one application.)

Types Of Credit – This is the last 10% of your score. You want to have a mix of different types of credit if you can, such as a few credit cards, maybe an installment loan, and maybe a mortgage. Being able to manage those helps your score.

According to Fair Isaac, the average credit score in the U.S. is currently around 680, which isn’t too bad of a score; but it’s not fantastic. Considering the state of our economy right now, I kind of imagined it to be a lot less, so it’s good to see that it isn’t. Credit is scored between 300 to 900, with the majority of people falling in the 600 to 800 range. Here is a look at how those scores and ratings break down:

  • 760 and above – Excellent. You will be able to get the very best rates and loans.
  • 700 to 759 – Still excellent. You will have no problem getting great rates.
  • 660 to 699 – This is considered “Good”. You will still get very good rates.
  • 620 to 659 – Still OK, but your rates will be slightly higher for scores in this range.
  • 560 to 619 – You are getting into “Poor” territory here. You will still get a loan, but your rate will be pretty high.
  • 500 to 559 – Very poor. You can still get credit, but expect to pay a very high interest rate.
  • 499 and below – You may still get credit, but you will pay a ridiculously high interest rate on any loans. If your score is this low, work on increasing the number before applying for credit.

So, how do you increase your credit score? Well, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Pay your bills on time. This is key, and makes up 35% of your overall score.
  • Pay off balances. By keeping balances low, you open up more credit.
  • Don’t close unused credit cards if your score is already low.
  • Don’t open a lot of new accounts.

By being responsible and diligent about your credit, you can keep your credit score up to the point that you will always get the best rates on any loans. It’s not about how much money you make, but it’s about how well you manage your finances.


How To Save Money on Cheap Batteries – Rechargeable Batteries & Charger Worth It?

Imagine a world without batteries for a minute. No remote controls, no cell phones, no laptop computers, no flashlights, no wireless mice. It would be quite a different world if batteries were not so commonplace! The problem with having batteries in everything, however, is that we have an almost constant need for new batteries, which can get costly over time. When it comes time to purchase and/or replace the batteries in your home, it can really pay off to be smart about what kind you buy, along with how and where you buy them.

For my money, the only way to go is to invest in rechargeable batteries and a battery charger. I did this about 4 years ago, and I haven’t needed to buy a single new battery since then. Today’s rechargeable batteries are not what they used to be (the ones I grew up with) in that A. they actually hold a charge and B. they don’t cost a fortune. I got my entire rechargeable kit consisting of a charger, 24 AA and 12 AAA batteries, for $56 at All-Battery. Considering that a pack of 12 non-rechargeable AA batteries can run as much as $10 (if not more in some place, I imagine), a one-time expense of $56 for 36 batteries and a charger is quite a steal. I cannot even remember the last time I needed to pick up regular batteries at the store – that’s how well (and how long) my rechargeable ones have been working for me. Rechargeable up to 1,000 times, these batteries can replace the need for hundreds of throw-away batteries.

If one is not ready to go the rechargeable route for whatever reason (although I highly recommend it), be sure to only buy batteries in bulk, on sale, or with coupons. Oh, and buy them advance! Batteries cost the most when you realize that they are dead and you just run out to the closest store to pick up a small pack. Over time, that is definitely the way to spend a ton of money on batteries! Costco and BJ’s wholesale clubs normally have really good deals on bulk batteries, although you do need a membership to shop at those stores. For non-wholesale clubs, be sure to check out stores like Target, CVS, or Walgreens for when they have battery sales – and stock up. And every once in a while, you may find a coupon in the newspaper or online for batteries, so be sure to use it. Single-use batteries can be found everywhere, but if you want to save money on them you really need to pay attention to these things.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if a battery no longer works for something in your home, that doesn’t necessarily mean the battery is completely out of juice. For example, a battery that doesn’t have enough power for a wireless mouse anymore may still have some life left in it to be used in a TV remote control. Why throw away a battery that may be useful for another couple of months or so? Save yourself some money and try those batteries in another device to see if they work. Before I discovered that trick (before I started with rechargeable ones), I can only imagine how many batteries I got rid of that still had some life in them. What a waste!

And finally, in addition to the financial cost, there is an environment cost involved as well. Almost 200,000 tons of batteries containing toxic acid, lead, nickel, lithium, cadmium, alkaline, mercury and nickel metal hydride get thrown into landfills each and every year, where they can leach into our groundwater. That’s a lot of toxic waste from a product designed to power remote controls! So if you are not ready to jump on board the rechargeable battery train just yet, be sure to recycle your batteries correctly at the end of their lives rather than just throwing them away.


Where to Sell Your Used College Textbooks Online For Cash – 10 Best Places & Sites

I hate to really age myself, but when I was in college we only had one place to try to sell our textbooks – the same exact store we bought it from in the first place. And that store, of course, was the school bookstore. Yes, I was in college before the internet was as widespread as it is now, and I didn’t even send my first email until the second half of my senior year. And it was only to the guy sitting across from me in the computer lab! But let’s get back to the textbooks. Back then, the bookstore bought and sold all the books we would need for the year, and you were lucky if you got back any of your money at the end of class. The internet has changed that game, though, and now there are tons of options for both saving money on purchasing your books as well as selling them to other students looking for a deal on a used textbook.

When my (then) wife was back in school as an adult, we spent a while trying to find the best places to both buy and sell her textbooks at the end of the semesters. What we found was that most of the time, Amazon.com was the best place to sell the books and Half.com was the best place to buy them. I believe Amazon was best for buying because they have so many different sellers trying to compete for your money, unlike individual or independent websites who are only in competition with themselves. To give you an example, I picked a random textbook and searched for it on Amazon, just to compare prices. This is what I found:

Book title – Biology: Concepts and Connections with Mybiology (Hardcover)
Amazon new price: $113.65 with free shipping
Lowest non-Amazon new price: $79.99 +$3.99 shipping
Lowest used price: $39 + $3.99 shipping
Highest used price: $289.00+ $3.99 shipping

That is an incredibly wide range of prices, wouldn’t you agree? But on one single website, Amazon, you can see just how different the pricing can be. And by using these prices, you can determine what to set the price of your book at in order to sell it quickly. Now, just because there are this many choices doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the best prices for buying and selling, but it can give you some base numbers to start with. A few other sites you may want to check out include:

We Buy Textbooks
Big Words
Barnes and Noble
Valore Books
Better World Books

Really, and I have heard this from current college students too, the worst thing you can do is to use your school bookstore to buy and/or sell your college textbooks. They charge the most for books and will pay the least upon buyback. Definitely go the online route when you are buying or selling your books, to be sure you save money and also get the most money back. Of course, and just to throw another wrench into your research, you could always rent your textbooks from a company like Chegg. You could see how much your books would cost to buy, see what you could get back for them, and then see how much it would cost to just rent it instead. Do whatever costs you the least amount of your much-needed college cash fund!

Photo by Flickr user Plutor

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