Finance Tips & Resources

5 Easy and Quick Steps to Save Big on Medical Bills

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Alex on March 31, 2014

5-easy-steps-to-save-on-medical-bills

It has been a while since we have talked about this – like four years! So we thought it was time to share with you one way to save big money on your medical and doctor bills.  We were reminded to tell you about this again because we just used these steps again last week and saved another $252 by following these steps to save money on our medical bills!

We first mentioned this a while back when we told you about our $1,000 meal.  That “expensive meal” was mainly due to a quick trip to the emergency room; as it turned out it was actually $1,300 submitted to insurance (not our portion thankfully!).  But, even after insurance, our portion of the emergency room was $600 (we were so close to meeting our high deductible if you’re wondering).  So why are we telling you all of this?  It’s because we want to always give you the full scoop, but even more so let you know what we really paid.  Even though the hospital showed my portion as $600, I paid $450 which then resulted in a zero balance!!  How did we do it?

The secret is in negotiating your balance by paying the total amount in full and early.  We do this all the time and are successful in negotiating the rate a majority of the time.

Here’s the simple steps we use:

  1. Make sure to watch closely for your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from the medical insurance company.  The sooner you can call the hospital/practice, the more bartering power you have. It shows you are on top of the bill and a responsible person.  This sets the stage for them to give you a balance break.
  2. Call and plan on paying the amount in one lump sum – you lose your negotiating power unless you can pay it all right then.
  3. Speak kindly to the person that answers and confirm your information.  Ask them if there is any way they could give you a discount if you pay in full today.  Explain that you would like to pay this balance in full.
  4. If the representative can’t help you, thank him or her for all their awesome help and ask to talk to their supervisor or administrator (trying to skip talking to the representative in step #3 is often viewed as offensive and rude – and just last week I didn’t need to talk to a supervisor to receive the discount).  Remember to be kind and relate that you will make sure to tell the supervisor how much you appreciated the help – you only want to talk to the supervisor to see if they might be able to help with discounting the balance.
  5. When the supervisor gets on the line make sure to do as you just said – tell him or her that you really did appreciate the representative’s help.  Then ask what kind of discount they will give you for paying in full today (again remembering to be very kind in the phone call).  Explain that you would like to pay this all off today and if you did that, would they give you a discount?

And voila!  Our average discount is generally about 10-25% off the remaining portion of the bill.  We really can’t give you the definitive answer why they do this, but it appears some of the reasons is due to lesser administrative costs in combination with how difficult it can be to collect the amount in full.  Cassie used to work as a paralegal early in our marriage and one major client was a large hospital.  Eventually they would have to go the legal route with collecting on the long overdue unpaid medical bills.  It’s a nightmare for doctors and hospitals to collect the amount they are owed.  So many will be happy to reduce for full payment and close the account that day! It saves them tons of money to reduce the “risk” of not collecting.

We don’t have large medical bills often but when we do, we try to follow this process.  We can’t say that it has worked every time – because it hasn’t.  Some are not willing to negotiate.  However, it only takes a few minutes to ask and it is worth asking, especially if you can save big money.  We have  but we just did this process again this past week on another emergency bill and sure enough, I followed the steps above and within minutes, I saved $220 and the bill was complete.

Now we did want to clarify and give a caveat.  When we were in debt and had our financial woes, there was no way we could do this – we did not have an extra few hundred laying around to pay off a medical bill all at once.  It wasn’t until we became debt-free and had money saved to be able to cover things like this.  We tell you this because we realize that it will require extra money around, and that we haven’t always been able to do this.  We also want to make this an encouragement for yet another reason to become debt-free!

Have you ever tried this before?  What tips do you have?

Alex & Cassie
 

Why We Invested in a Roku Streaming Device and How We Save $500+ Each Year

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on March 24, 2014

why-we-invested-in-a-roku-and-save-500-per-year

We don’t post many higher priced items, except when we really think it matters and if there is a “thrifty” reason for it! A Roku streaming device is one of them.

We personally do not have a television service of any type from an outside company.  In fact, we can’t get even local stations as we don’t have the digital connection needed to even connect locally.   This all means that we literally monthly save $30, $40, $50 or whatever cable costs these days!

So what do we do?  We have honestly not missed a television service. Why? Because we can watch our favorite shows with a Roku device!  We can even watch some news as well!

We wanted to share this idea with you because you can literally save hundreds per year! It is a  Roku HD streaming TV system.  We own one of these and the initial smaller investment (less than the cost of 1 month of cable television) yields an unlimited amount of entertainment and eliminates the need for cable and many other entertainment expenses.

roku-hd-player-2

Roku streams internet tv on your tv.  You have channels like Hulu, Amazon Prime (the ability to stream over 40,000 movies and TV shows from Amazon’s Instant video – many of which are FREE or for the same cost of a rental!).  There are 600+ channels that you can add (like how you add apps on your smart phones) and many of those channels are free to add. They even have game apps like the ones for smart phones and tablets such as Angry Birds that you play on your TV with your Roku remote.

We love our Roku for these main reasons:

#1. Sermon Audio Channel which allows us to stream the video or audio of our favorite sermons and lectures as they are added each day, and tune into live webcasts by using the Roku device.

#2. Our Amazon Channel and the ability to stream 40,000+ movies or tv shows, many of which are free for Amazon Prime members.  We have enjoyed many movie classics and this Christmas season many seasonal movies and shows – plus tons of family and animated movies and shows.

#3. Pandora – we love to play music on our TV and Pandora is one of our favorites as we can get a customized “radio” station with the genre of songs we love.  The Classical music while kids are doing their school, the fun music while we do our 20-minute quick cleans, the Christmas music, Psalms, Hymns or the classics music from our younger days.  And the Pandora channel is FREE too!

#4 – Hulu – This is another way (like Amazon) to avoid paying for cable, even if there are shows that you like to watch on TV that need cable, with this you don’t! You can access the TV shows on Hulu just a short time after their actual airing time! There is a free Hulu service which has limitations on what you can watch, but then you can pay around $8 a month for Hulu Plus which is pretty much a full-scale television programming options! You can find out more about it and even sign up for a 2-week trial here.

#5 – Netflix – you can also stream Netflix on your Roku, whether you are a $7 monthly member or higher, you can access the streaming shows just on your television!

#6 – Kids Free Disney Channel

#7 – Kids Free PBS Channel – which is already free on your television too, but you can choose what show to watch when and not on the PBS schedule.

#8 – News channels

#9 – Game channels – our whole family gathers around and plays an online virtual game! Our favorite is Wheel of Fortune! It’s also a great game for kids because it really gets them thinking!

And many more of our favorite channels!

With this little device, we have eliminated many household expenses: cable television, movie rentals, subscriptions to other digital media.  Plus it is all much simpler to have it all in one place too!

Like we mentioned above, they have 600+ channels on Roku (you shop for channels on the channel store like you would an app store and add those channels to your Roku homepage).

Anyway, once you make the initial purchase of the Roku console, then you can have all of this affordable entertainment and replace many of your other options that you pay for monthly!

Amazon is a great place to get a discount price and free shipping on a Roku Streaming player.  Head to Amazon HERE to see the options for the device starting at $35.

Plus if you plan to purchase one of these streaming devices, make sure to check whether you have an HDMI cable as this will give you the best output to your TV.  Here’s one amazing deals you can find on them now:

Head to Amazon HERE for the Roku options available and shipped free.

So here’s an example of how you can save, even with paying for many additional options that will literally give you everything:

Average cost of cable television basic: $50 per month plus the taxes and fees (usually about $60 total) = $720 per year or $840 if you have a premium channel added.

  • Roku device = $50 
  • Monthly Hulu Plus = $8 ($96)
  • Monthly Netflix = $8 ($96) (equal to some of the premium channels that you pay $10 a month for, but you get way more options!)
  • Annual Amazon Prime Membership (this is how you can get thousands of movies and television shows for free) = $49- $99 (or free on promotions like this)

At the most…. you will pay $341 the first year ($50 towards your device) and then $291 each additional if you pay for these extra options…. but please note, Roku has over 600 channels, most of which are free! We are just including the most popular paid options.  The Amazon channel is totally free to download and use with your Roku, and then you can pay for rentals at .99 and up, or get 40,000 for free if you are a prime member.

See more Amazon Deals

Alex & Cassie
 

Why It’s Important to Create a Price Comparison Shopping List

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on March 10, 2014

why-its-important-to-create-a-price-comparison-list

As a reminder, the 30 Be Intentional baby steps are designed to get you on the right foot, the right track and give you energy, efficiency and organization which will propel you into a life that is able to develop an overall financially smart, happy and frugal home. We encourage couples and families to do these challenges together so the whole house can function well!

As the 30 steps go along, we will be focusing on 5 areas for the Be Intentional Month:

  • Self
  • Home
  • Budget
  • Schedule
  • Frugality

See the full list of baby steps HERE.

Today’s challenge is to help in the area of frugality again and this one is going into a home binder that we will be sharing with you in a few days, so print it and get started on filling it in and then you can store it in this binder coming up!

Be Intentional Baby Step #22:

Create Your Regular Shopping List with Price Comparisons

What is a Price Comparison Shopping list? 

This is a free download and you print as many as you need.  Then as you are shopping over the next few months, slowly fill this out to show what the regular price is of the items you buy on a normal basis.  This will help you to monitor sales prices that are posted in our grocery shopping section to compare with the regular price to help you determine when it is a good time to stock-up on that item!

The point of this is to know your price point to help save you money and become a savvy and wise grocery shopper. The cool thing is, this will help you to save loads of money, whether or not you use coupons!

This might seem overwhelming at first, but I am going to tell you that you do not need to have it all filled out today.  The challenge is to print it off and get it in your home binder and fill-it out as time goes on.  I personally find that I could not do something like this just sitting down at one sitting.  I forget and don’t realize just all of the foods we have on our normal “non-coupon” shopping list.  These are items I pretty much buy when we are out regardless of whether there is a coupon and sale attached with it.

Why It’s Important to Complete the Price Comparison List

This list is vitally important as you can then use this list to help you:

  • form future recipes
  • keep your pantry stocked with a several month supply
  • keep inventory
  • This is the FIRST step in our “4 Tricks of the Trade” to save 60-70% on your groceries, household and personal care each week.
  • most of all, track prices so that when your family’s “normal” item goes on sale somewhere, you can nab it for the lowest prices!

I find that this list is often built when I run out of a regular use item.  Just keep it handy and then begin to fill-it out.  It is designed to list a comparison price for up to three stores for each item.  In addition, you can create the store abbreviation legend in the bottom section in case you forget or one of your family member’s uses the list one day!

Here’s some examples for the legend on my list: WM = Walmart, KR = Kroger, TG = Target, etc.

In the end, this is going to be a very useful tool, so just get it printed and started and handy to continue to work on! You will be thankful that you have it!

<== Download your printable Shopping List and Prices Comparison Form HERE

One final thing….. we also have a Facebook Group where you can engage in discussions, receive encouragement and talk to others that are participating in the challenges too for more ideas! Head to the Be Intentional with The Thrifty Couple Facebook Page HERE and ask to join us there! You can also invite friends and spouses too!

Alex & Cassie
 

Be Intentional Baby Step 15 – Write Down Extra Income Goals Based on 2 Percent Rule (Free Download Too)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Alex on February 21, 2014

create-your-extra-income-ideas-using-2-percent-rule

As a reminder, the 30 Be Intentional challenges this month are designed to get you on the right foot, the right track and give you energy, efficiency and organization which will propel you into a life that is able to develop an overall financially smart, happy and frugal home.  We are going to have different themes each month this year (and we have very exciting stuff planned) and this month is your foundation!We encourage couples and families to do these challenges together so the whole house can function well!

As the 30 steps go along, we will be focusing on 5 areas for the Be Intentional Month:

  1. Self
  2. Home
  3. Budget
  4. Schedule
  5. Frugality

Baby Steps for Self

Baby Steps for Home

Baby Steps for Budget

We have 2 more baby steps under the budget category of our Be Intentional Baby Steps to help you get those 5 areas on track!

Now that we have talked about debt and also reducing our spending to reach financial goals, the second part is increasing income a little bit each month too!

Baby Step #15 

Write Down Your Extra Income Monthly Goals (Using 2% Rule)

First, EVERYONE has the chance the ability to make extra income if you really want to.  Whether you spend 1-hour per month or many hours, don’t think that your situation prevents you or someone in your family to earn extra income.

Again, what are we talking about with this 2%?  Well, we have mentioned the 2% cut a few times in various blog posts here, but for the most clear perspective, we suggest you read about our 2×2 plan HERE which is what we used to pay off our over $100,000 consumer debt and what we use today to help us continue to reach our goals.

So we want to help propel you into reaching your financial goals.  But we want to do this incrementally so that you don’t overwhelm yourself and so that it becomes a lifestyle.

After your are finished reading those posts (no need to restate them here) come on back here and print off this form (there are 3 months on each form, so print off 4 to plan for the year).

First, how do you figure out what the 2% income increase is?  Well, we all have different types of jobs, schedules and budgets and so we recommend choosing one of these ways to calculate what your extra 2% income would be:

1. If the main income in the household is salary based, you can also calculate your increase on your take-home pay, which is hopefully higher than your expenses :) Let’s say you bring home $3,500 per month, then your 2% increase would be $70 ($3,500 x .02 = $70).

2. If you have varied/commission based income then you can calculate your 2% on your actual bills and living expenses to set your goal.  If you spent $2,800 in January between bills/living expenses (debt payments not included) then set a goal to increase your income by $56 this month, etc.

3. If you have varied/commission based income then you can calculate your 2% by looking at what you made this month last year.  Let’s say last February, you made $4,000, set a goal to make an extra $80 each month this year.

4. Finally, no matter how you earn your income, one last way to choose how to set your 2% extra income goal, take your take home pay from last year (whether salary or varied income) and divide it by 12. Then calculate 2% of that.  For example, let’s say that last year, you made a total of $50,000, your 2% goal increase each month this year is $83 more per month.  ($50,000/12 x.02 = $83.33 and round to nearest dollar).

Choose whichever method makes the most sense for your family!

This is also a fantastic learning, growth and responsibility task for children and teens!

Now what we are saying is to add that each month.  So the first month is $60, second month is $120, etc. these are goals that you are setting and some months you will far exceed the 2% and other months you will come short.  But the goal is to do something and you will see lots of amazing progress towards your financial goals!

The next baby step coming next week is to brain-storm ideas on making extra income.  We have lot of sources on our site for this too.  But for now, just fill these downloads out so that you can catch a vision for what the goals are!

It shouldn’t take you long to set your money making goals – have fun!!

<== Download your printable Extra Income Monthly Goals Plan HERE

One final thing….. we also have a Facebook Group where you can engage in discussions, receive encouragement and talk to others that are participating in the challenges too for more ideas! Head to the Be Intentional with The Thrifty Couple Facebook Page HERE and ask to join us there! You can also invite friends and spouses too!

Alex & Cassie
 

You May Have Lost Money Out There and Here’s How To Find It: We Just Found $100

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on January 29, 2014

floating lost money

We mentioned this back in 2010, but since it has been a few years, we thought it would be good to remind you about possibly finding lost money! In fact, it comes up again here on our site because we check every once in a while and every time we have come up dry….. except this time! We had just under $100 waiting to be claimed from a medical bill we made an “overpayment” on! SWEET!

In fact, we have checked this over the past few years because we know it works! Last time we found $75 for a family member that was waiting to be claimed! We didn’t have any then, but we do now!

And apparently many people do! There is around 33 billion dollars from 117 million accounts* that have unclaimed money sitting, waiting to be claimed from bank accounts, stocks, dividends, paychecks, etc.  The average account holds around $280!

So if you have you ever wondered if you have unclaimed, lost money floating around out there that you just need to claim? It would be difficult if not nearly impossible to think back over your whole life to determine whether any portion of that unclaimed money belongs to you! Well, thankfully it is actually easy and FREE to claim any lost money that is due to you.

There are two sites that you check this information from:

Each of these sites walk you through the steps to enter your name and any any state that you have resided in and then informs you if you have missing money to claim.  These sites are officially endorsed by each of the states.

We actually heard about these sites many years ago and checked it then.  Neither of us had missing money then and we just checked again today and found money today, so check it often!

When you do a search (like in the case of me searching under family members names) it does not give you any details.  The actual person has to make the claim.  But you can do your close family a favor and check for them too!

We are curious if you have missing money coming to you. Let us know! With 33 billion unclaimed, surely someone is a new millionaire amongst us!

* The actual facts regarding the 33 Billion dollars and 117 million accounts in this article were taken from unclaimed.org/what.

Alex & Cassie