31 More Days To Use Up Your Health Benefits For The Year.

If you pay for health insurance, this last month of the year is the time to make sure you use up any benefits you have left and/or any money still in your Flexible Spending Account. After all, you pay for the insurance so why not use as much of it as you can? While I no longer have health insurance, I did use up all my dental benefits for 2009 last month when I had some crown work done and I got my prescriptions filled and saw a doctor one last time before I lost my medical benefits. I meant to get a full physical which was included in the BCBS plan I had, but I ran out of time. Oh well! Some things to keep in mind for these next 31 days so you can be sure to use up your benefits:

Go to the dentist and get your teeth cleaned! My insurance covered 2 cleanings a year and I made sure to use them up. (Getting cleanings often is also a way to keep future dental expenses in check)

Check how much money you have left in your Flexible Spending account and see what medical expenses you can use it for before you lose it. Some often-missed uses of this money include costs of acupuncture, bandages, birth control pills, chiropractor visits, COBRA payments, contact lenses & solution, eyeglasses, eye exams, and stop-smoking programs.

Check if you have hit the deductible on your insurance options. If you have already, that means your insurance company will pay more of your care costs, so visit a doctor for anything that has been bothering you!

Refill any prescriptions before the calendar year starts over. Most insurance companies only cover X amount for prescriptions, and if you haven’t hit it yet, refill those meds.

You have 31 more days to use up the benefits you paid for all year, so spend a few minutes going over your records or calling your insurance company to see where you stand. They have no problem taking money from you, so you shouldn’t feel bad cramming a bunch of doctor and/or dentist visits in before the end of the year!


Happiness Is What Matters, Not Net Worth.

With Thanksgiving Day coming up tomorrow, I wanted to write a post just to remind everyone of what I think is truly important – happiness. If you are happy, you have something to be thankful for tomorrow, as there are many, many people around the world who have it way worse than you do. I imagine you have a roof over your head, food on the table, and some clothes on your back, all of which are worth much more than whatever your net worth is. Sure, having money is nice – but it sure ain’t gonna make you happy and content. Those feelings come from somewhere else and it most definitely isn’t the bank. So while everyone else is out trying to buy themselves some happiness in the next few days, take a minute and consider your own life and what you can be thankful for other than your money. Your own self is worth way more than any amount of net worth can buy you. Looking for some help or advice on this line of thinking? Check out some of my past posts on the same:

You Cannot Buy Your Way To Happiness, No Matter What You Think.

Finding Contentment While Others Around You Want More.

Is Your Life Fiction Or Non-Fiction?

Living Below Your Means Does Not Mean Living Poorly.

If someone came along and emptied your bank account, would you still be happy? That’s the key.

Have a good Thanksgiving, and remember to be thankful for all that you do have.


Renters Losing Their Homes Over Mortgage Foreclosures

Think just the people who bought homes are losing theirs in this crisis? Think again. Renters are now finding themselves homeless after investors are upside on loans they cannot pay back – meaning rentals are now being foreclosed on.

Analysts say international speculators and private-equity firms took on mortgage payments larger than their income from rents in such buildings. Some may have hoped they could eject rent-regulated tenants in favor of higher-paying ones.

In Los Angeles, foreclosures for buildings with five or more units totaled 78 — encompassing 1,344 units — in the first three quarters of 2009, compared with 49 buildings and 432 units over the same period last year, and 13 buildings and 239 units in the same period of 2007, according to the city’s housing department.

So while most people are worried that only homeowners are going into foreclosure, the truth is that people who had nothing to do with the real estate collapse are being hurt as well, which just isn’t fair. People and banks just got too damn greedy and now even the innocent are being sent packing because of others’ negligence. It’s a sad state of affairs out there…

via the Washington Post


Streaming Video To My TV With My Netflix Account…For Free.

Seriously, how can Netflix offer unlimited DVD rentals AND free online streaming for $9 a month? And now, with my new Blu-Ray player, I can stream the movies and TV shows directly to my TV? For no additional money per month? I remember the days of driving to the video store, spending 45 minutes looking for the elusive “in-stock” case, giving the clerk $4 and being told to have it back the next day by midnight. Now, Netflix just charges $9 to my credit card each month and I can rent as many movies as I can watch (1 at a time, of course) AND watch any of the ones available for streaming as well. Just the other night I watched the entire first season of 30 Rock, on my TV, without renting a single DVD. Talk about cool… Video on Demand is definitely the future, as evidenced by the number of DVR’s and Netflix/Blockbuster memberships there are, and with my ability to now watch these streams on TV rather than on the computer, well, I can see where all of this is going – TV/movies when and where you want!

I have been a Netflix customer since (hold on, let me go look it up, be right back) March of 2006 and in all that time, I have only had 1 problem when a DVD came to my house scratched. Almost 4 years and only that single issue. They have great customer service (I cannot speak for Blockbuster, as have never had an account there), I rarely have to wait much time at all to see brand new movies, and now with this streaming to my TV, I am seriously one happy customer. I rarely give giant kudos to corporations, but these guys are doing something right, for sure.

If you already have an account with them, next time you need to buy a DVD player, do make sure it is Netflix-streaming enabled. All you have to do is key in your wireless internet access security code in the settings, and bam – your Watch Instantly queue is right there on your TV screen for you to pick from. I know that there are some boxes you can buy that just do the streaming and nothing more, but I refuse to add yet another device to my already cluttered entertainment system. Having your DVD player be able to do this saves space and headaches.

If you do not have an account with them, I recommend you give them a shot. Right now you can try them out for 2 weeks for free, and you can cancel anytime during your 2 week free membership and you will not be charged. There are no due dates or late fees and free shipping both ways. Their rate plans are as follows:

$4.99 a month -> 1 DVD out at-a-time, limited to 2 per month, plus
instantly watch up to 2 hours of movies/TV online.

$8.99 a month -> 1 DVD out at-a-time, exchange each DVD as often as you want, instantly watch online on your PC or Mac or right on your TV via an Internet connected ready device. Instantly watch as often as you want, anytime you want. (This is the one I have)

$13.99 a month -> 2 DVDs out at-a-time, exchange each DVD as often as you want, instantly watch online on your PC or Mac or right on your TV via an Internet connected ready device. Instantly watch as often as you want, anytime you want.

$16.99 a month -> 3 DVDs out at-a-time, exchange each DVD as often as you want, instantly watch online on your PC or Mac or right on your TV via an Internet connected ready device. Instantly watch as often as you want, anytime you want.

Netflix, Inc.

There aren’t many ways I could better spend $9 a month than with Netflix – even 2 mocha lattes don’t give me this much entertainment value. Because I have all this access to movies and TV shows, I rarely, if ever, go to the “real” movies anymore. With ticket prices around $12 or so for one movie, I have a better way to spend my entertainment dollars!


How To Buy A Foreclosure.

Thinking now may be a good time to start shopping for foreclosures? You may be right – but you also may want to be careful. While there are houses going for pennies on the dollar in some towns and cities (like the sub-$1,000 houses in Detroit seen on the news recently), you really need to know what you are doing to get into the foreclosure market safely. With over 1.5 million homes facing foreclosure, your time for picking one up might be now. Luckily, CNN/Money has an article up with some tips for buying foreclosed homes that I figured I would share with those of you looking to do so, along with my thoughts on each:

Don’t get caught up in a feeding frenzy – Kind of a no-brainer, but I suppose people get pretty excited about getting homes for so cheap. If something gets out of control, walk away and look for another home.

Contact lenders directly – This may help keep other bidders away from your home, by getting to it before it hits the market.

Get pre-approved from the lender you want to buy from – Not sure how this would work, unless you really are only looking at the listings from a single bank. Seems kinda…limiting.

Consider fix-ups – I would imagine if you are looking at foreclosures, you are going to have to do some work on the house. Be sure you can afford whatever needs to be done.

Hire a real estate attorney – Another no-brainer, unless you are practiced in the fine art of reading legalese.

Wait to make an offer – Although this goes against the “get it before it hits the market” concept, I suppose letting others make offers before you will let you see just where a home price is headed – and you can then walk to the next one if it gets too heated before you invest too much time.

Tour properties with contractors – Kind of like having your own home inspector with you, I would most definitely find SOMEONE who knew more than me about building to go with me.

So there’s their advice – what’s yours? Have you bought or looked at any foreclosed homes? If you have anything to add, would love to hear it and pass it along to other readers!

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