Sometimes you do things you hate

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AJ: There’s a lot of stuff I’d just rather not deal with that impact our financial well-being. I’m classifying this as “stuff I hate.” I’m not kidding when I use the h-word, I sincerely loathe dealing with these things, however, when you consider what a significant part of our variable expenses are impacted by these buckets I occasionally force myself to face the music and deal with these problem children.

1. Insurance and all things health-related
I’m not alone in this and this is not unique to our household, but insurance companies, plans, billing, filing, etc, etc, etc ARE. THE. WORST. We’re a generally healthy people who prefer high deductible plans coupled with HSA accounts that we leverage more as tax-free savings accounts than we do as spendable cash against medical needs. KJ is far more educated on insurance than the average bear and even he finds himself drowning in billing codes, misinformation and loopholes insurers have built in to cause plan holders grief and cost them money. Tips for not drowning in sorrow or yelling at your insurance company for hours on end:
a. Pick the plan based on what you actually use/will do – don’t pick a plan that has you spending very little out of pocket each time you visit a doctor but paying super high monthly premiums if you go to the doctor once a year on average. My company has ways for us to earn contributions to our HSAs or as cash back on what we pay in if we complete a certain number of health-based activities. If you know yourself well enough to know that the likelihood of you ever completing any of those activities on your own time is slim to none, don’t pick a plan that is expensive but offers a high dollar amount in rewards. Rewards are only beneficial if you’re actually going to earn them.
b. Check your bills – it seems like such a simple thing, really, but most people don’t check their bills from doctors and hospitals to verify what they’re being charged for (did you actually have those tests/procedures done or was it simply a typo?). This is a quick thing you should be doing prior to paying any bills and especially medical bills.
c. Bargain shop supplements, generic prescriptions – most “brand name” prescription companies offer coupons and discounts in a variety of ways. Doctors offices often have rebates or coupons they can offer you in addition to prescription samples, just ask for them. Additionally, there are a multitude of ways to shop for supplements and vitamins online that will help you get the best price. We’ve mentioned before that I take a multitude of supplements daily, so I’ve hunted down the best places for each of my supplements and order from a variety of places to maximize my savings. Keep track of your per-pill costs via spreadsheet and watch them each time you shop to save as much as possible.

2. FREAKING CABLE AND INTERNET
It’s a toss up for me as to which I hate more, cable and internet or cell phone companies. In our house I’m typically the master negotiator because I will settle for nothing less than exactly what I want. I am loyal to no one but my wallet which means that most of the time I hold the cards, that is, until the cable and internet providers run their little scammy scams on us and don’t provide what they sold us initially, at which point the gloves come off and I go for the jugular. Here’s the point – once you’ve shopped around and researched the best option for your household don’t settle on service, equipment or price. I don’t care if it’s $1 more per month, don’t pay it. Because I loathe this bucket so much KJ took over the reigns of research when our existing service year was coming to an end. We weren’t going to pay $40 per month more for the same service, so after tireless research KJ decided it was time to switch companies. The new company’s hardware couldn’t do what they said it could, the channel line up wasn’t what they had promised and they were already tacking on additional charges for things that were supposed to be included, so at 10 pm on a Friday night I called and laid down the law. Give us what you sold us, for the price you quoted us or we cancel. Instead, he gave us what they sold us for $10 less than the price they quoted us and ultimately I think he was the real winner because he didn’t have to listen to me anymore. In the end it still felt like a losing battle, but we aren’t paying more in the end and that’s what matters.

3. Cell phones
GAH, CELL PHONES! It’s like car maintenance or roofing – there’s very little chance this is something in your life you can control without outside help. Cell phone providers know we all have to have cell phones and they know that we are all laying at their feet as they come up with more ways to increase the complexity of phone plans.
a. Advice here is simple – leverage online chat options to get customer service agents to put in writing what they’re offering so you have something to reference when you’re in-person in a store or on the phone with a different agent. It makes it so much easier to point back to the transcript of your conversation than to just claim someone who works for them promised you the world.
b. Research, research, research – if at all possible, avoid buying new cell phone hardware any time other than Black Friday. For years we milked $0.99 phone deals when we needed to upgrade hardware and it worked like a dream.
c. Pay attention to plan changes and additional fees – there are fees for EVERYTHING. It’s like Spirit Airlines, seriously. Companies are now charging an additional monthly fee for the opportunity to upgrade your phone and pay them hundreds of dollars for the phone. There are activation fees. There are additional line fees. There’s mandatory insurance fees. It’s nuts! So before you make any changes to your plan make sure you ask what awesome fees they’re going to try to saddle you with. It’s much easier to refuse fees at this point than it is once your bill has already hit.

What are the necessary evils of your everyday financial life? How do you ensure you’re not taken to the cleaners over completely essential services and purchases?

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2 thoughts on “Sometimes you do things you hate

  1. You are not alone in the Hating of all these things. And the importance of checking your bills cannot be stressed enough. I keep a running tab of what I save by checking my bills, and between work and home I’m up to 890.00 this year. That includes changing plans for stuff I don’t need or use, and finding a better supplier for toner, LOL>

  2. These are definitely some of the more annoying financial things in life! I especially hate doctor bills, may of which are incorrect or haven’t been submitted to insurance and they just hope you’ll pay without noticing. I think I’ve got saving on medication down pat, including pill splitting which I just wrote about. Using online chat to have a written record of customer service promises, no matter what they’re about, is a genius idea!

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