Top 5 Health Insurance Shopping Secrets

health insurance shopping

Everybody needs health insurance, but no one really wants to go shopping for it. Perhaps, you think the entire process is confusing, it’s too expensive to manage or maybe you are just afraid of the doctor’s needles. Fortunately, shopping for health insurance is not as complicated as you may think.

If that is not enough to get you excited about shopping for your health insurance, financial experts have identified 5 secret ways of shopping for health insurance. The tips below are based on years of health insurance provision and advice on how to find the best plan that fits into your needs and budget. These tips will surely make health insurance shopping more enjoyable and painless.

  1. Don’t Delay Purchasing Health Insurance

The best time to purchase health insurance is anytime; however, you are limited to a 3-month period called the Open Enrollment, which typically runs from November to December. Waiting until the Open Enrollment period means that you’ll be competing with  millions others, meaning that you’d need to deal with overtaxed websites and long hold times when on the phone. Unfortunately, skipping this year is likely to see yourself subject to the individual mandate penalty.

The tax fine is usually around 2.5 percent of your yearly income or $695, depending on which is higher. When you pay the fine, you are actually paying without getting any form of health insurance coverage.

Fortunately, there are some special enrollments periods that occur throughout the year, they are known as Special Enrollment Periods. When changes occur in your life that requires changing your health insurance, you can buy even when it is not Open Enrollment period. Some of these special events include having a baby, losing a job that had the employer-provided coverage, and if you are moving to a new zip code.

  1. Weigh All the Benefits

Your deductible and premium are not the only things you need to consider while purchasing health insurance. There are tradeoffs and knowing how they will help you find the best affordable plan. For instance, your doctor should be part of your network; the HMO is strict when it comes to doctors you may visit.

When it comes to health insurance plans, you have plenty of choices. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most of the things people shopping for health insurance are looking for are already taken care of – the plans have free preventative essential benefits as well as offer protection against pre-existing ailments. Essentially, this means that you have the option of focusing on the elements that are important to you, making health insurance more affordable and comfortable for you.

  1. Your Health and Finances Working Together

While shopping for health insurance, your finances play a critical role. However, your health also has a key role to play too – and both factors are actually related to each other. This is why you need to make sure that you understand both elements.

Look at the premium – it doesn’t matter how much you’re paying every month – against the deductible – amount you are paying before the insurance kicks in. If paying a higher premium rate, you’ll be required to pay more upfront, but your insurance will be activated much sooner. If working with a high deductible figure, you pay less every month but once you get to the doctor’s you will foot the bill for a long period of time.

This doesn’t cover your healthcare, but it also concerns your lifestyle. For instance, if you live a relatively healthy lifestyle and see the doctor a few times in a year for regular checkups, it’s best if you get a higher deductible plan. The healthcare amount you are paying might be less than if you were paying in premiums.

However, if you are planning on becoming pregnant, have a medical condition that requires lots of tests or medication, or if you will be going in for surgery, the costs may end up increasing faster. Going for the higher premium is not the best thing to do, but you’ll eventually hit your deductible faster, saving over the course of the next year.

The most important thing is to be honest with what you are doing and that includes becoming honest with your situation; for example, if think financial counseling can be helpful, get the help you need. A cheaper upfront pay may not always be the best solution, you ought to take a holistic view of your overall finance and health situation to find what makes sense for your situation in the end. In fact, paying more every month may see your plan become affordable.

hand holding stethoscope

  1. Understand How Your Plan Works

Make sure that you know of the doctors in your network as well as whether or not you need to have a referral to see a specialist. Take into consideration what prescription drugs are covered in your plan – whether generic or not. These are just a few of the costs that will likely add up throughout the year.

It’s important that you make sure that your medication is covered by the plan. If the medication you require is not on the drug formulary, you’ll likely end up paying more. However, you need to know all the aspects that go into creating your plan and health insurance in general so that you can make an informed decision.

  1. Health Insurance is Affordable

While you may think that you cannot afford paying for health insurance, the truth is that you cannot afford to live life without it. In fact, there are low-cost health insurance companies out there and more than 70 percent of insurance shoppers can purchase plans for under $75 per month, with an additional 2.5 million already eligible for federal subsidies they’re not even aware of. 60 percent of personal bankruptcies are because of medical bills; without health insurance, you’re literally inviting trouble home.

Overall, understanding your plan, the considerations you have to make and narrowing down your choices will help you find an affordable plan with better protection. It’s important that you stay informed of the choices available.

How to Get Cheap, or Free Christmas Decorations

There’s not much I love more than Christmastime. Though I’m far from being a minimalist, I certainly don’t enjoy ‘’stuff’’. I generally don’t like trinkets or things surrounding me. I like clean, open and tidy. The only exception is when it comes to Christmas. I love Christmas decorations. I count down the days every year that I can decorate the house, complete with little Christmas trinkets, lights, garlands, trees, you name it we have it. I have a lot of sentimental attachment to my Christmas decorations and probably have a good story, or memory, with just about every Christmas decoration I own.

Though my collection has accumulated since my childhood, I do go through everything every year and phase things out as I add new ones. Given that Christmas is already an expensive time of year, cheap, or even free, Christmas decorations are my favorite kind.

Thankfully now that I have a kid, my stash of free Christmas decorations is growing quickly. I remember being a kid and wondering why my mom had such an attachment to ornaments and decorations my sister and made for her when I saw them as being less than perfect. Now that I’m a mom, I totally get it. Free Christmas decorations made by your kids are the very best kind to add to your collection. If I’m being honest I don’t keep every single thing that my daughter makes, like every picture she colors, but those special ones, the tree ornaments she makes for us, no matter how ‘’cheap’’ they are, are my favorite. In my option, the best free Christmas decorations are ones that are homemade.

Obviously not everyone who is looking for free Christmas decorations, has kids. One easy way of getting free Christmas decorations is to look no further than your online classifieds. I know both our local (within the neighbourhood we live) and our city, has a ‘’free’’ section and this time of year there is often free Christmas decorations listed. I know if I was looking to get rid of a few things  I would bundle them up in a box, take a picture ad post it for free, this isn’t the time of year I’m looking to profit from a sale, I’d just rather someone else enjoy my free Christmas decorations.

Though this isn’t totally free, an easy way to build your Christmas decoration collection for cheap is to organize, or attend, a Christmas ornament (or decoration) exchange. Usually you provide one decoration or ornament per person attending and everyone there also supplies one. So if 10 people were in attendance (including you) you would go home with nine new, free Christmas decorations. There is a small upfront cost (though there are millions of ways to DIY or potentially find free ones to exchange) but you stand a chance to gain quite a few nice new things for your collection.

If you’re looking to start, or grow your Christmas decoration collection, it doesn’t hurt to see what you can get for free. As mentioned, it’s an expensive time of year and arguably, Christmas decorations aren’t a necessity, but if you’re anything like me you enjoy having them around. Look to see what options you have for free Christmas decorations and go from there. Save your money for more important parts of the season and don’t waste it on stuff just to have it.

Have you every acquired or been given free Christmas decorations? What were the circumstances?

Can I Deduct My Moving Expenses This Year?

Moving is really hard work, it costs you money and causes disruptions to your life. It sure would be nice if you could get reimbursed for your moving expenses through a bigger tax deduction this year, wouldn’t it? But, surely that’s too good to be true. Or is it?

moving expense deductions

Any way you can get the “tax monkey” a little more off your back, the better. Yes, it is possible that your move this tax year will qualify you for a hefty deduction. But there are rules you need to know first.

How Do I Qualify for a “Moving Deduction?”

The basic rule is that you can only deduct your moving expenses if your recent move was “work-related.” That means you moved in order to live near your new employer or you were transferred by your old employer to a new location. But your new workplace must be 50 or more miles more distant from your old home than your old workplace was from your old home. That may sound a bit confusing, so here’s a couple examples:

  • Your old home is 100 miles from your new workplace. Your old home is also 15 miles from your old place of employ. 100 minus 15 is 85 miles more distant, so you get the deduction.
  • Your old home is 50 miles from your new home, but only 45 miles from your new workplace. Plus, you were already commuting 10 miles from your old home to your old job. 45 minus 10 equals only 35 miles, so you don’t get the deduction.

calculate distances for moving deductions

Note you have to calculate distances using the shortest possible commute route, even if that’s not the way you actually travel.

Second, you must work full time for 39 weeks out of the first year at your new job, the 12-month period commencing from moving day. Each industry will have different standards on what counts as “full time.”

You can claim the deduction the year of your move, even though the 12 months won’t end until the next year (unless you moved January 1st!). However, if it turns out you didn’t work full time to ultimately qualify for the deduction, you have to refund it on your next tax return.

Incidentally, the relevant tax form is IRS Form 3903.

What Can I Deduct Specifically?

Any “reasonable expenses” incurred in the move can be deducted, if you have the receipts. That includes moving trucks, gas and tolls getting there, a storage unit if you couldn’t move in immediately and needed one, or plane/train tickets.

It also includes vehicle shipping expenses, if you used a car shipping company rather than drove your vehicle the distance. Check out to learn more.

You can also take the “standard moving mileage deduction” instead of the gas deduction (if you drove). Just estimate which one will save you more.

In essence, you are deducting any expense that was necessary and directly related to your relocation. You may need to ask a tax expert about some of the details, but definitely save all receipts of anything that could possibly qualify.

5 Ways to Get the Cheapest Price on a Term Life Insurance Policy

Buying life insurance is a big step in life, one which acknowledges the importance of the people you love and of your own mortality. Heavy thoughts aside, term life insurance is a very affordable way to prepare for the future, with exactly the terms you need for your specific situation. Term life is much cheaper than whole life insurance, and can be renewed and adjusted as needed. For peace of mind and future security, there’s not a better product you could buy. Here are some of the ways you can make sure you get a great price on term life insurance.

  • Shop around online for life insurance quotes. Sites like True Blue Life Insurance make it easy to explore all of your possibilities. Some life insurance companies make it seem like every policy you could be offered is basically the same. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Term life insurance is about your unique needs and your personal budget. Keep looking until you find terms that work for you.
  • Choose an independent broker. You’ll be able to find institutional insurance companies which cast a wide net but don’t offer personalized service or value. You’ll also find fly-by-night organizations that will gladly take your money but might not offer the right kind of service when it’s most needed. A solid independent broker will be competitive and responsive to your needs, because their business depends on it.
  • Look at agent and agency reviews. Want to know what it’s like working with a company before you sign on the dotted line? Look at some online reviews. You should be able to find ample reviews for any insurance option worthy of your business. Be careful to avoid reviews that seem phony – overly enthusiastic or structured in a way that a real person would not write. When you find the real thing and the reviews are good, you know you’ve discovered a quality agent or agency.
  • Don’t buy directly from an insurance company. Agents from these large companies are not knowledgeable about the wider insurance landscape and are really just in place to make sure their company gets your business. An independent agent will understand the larger industry and will be able to direct you to products that best serve your needs.
  • Choose an A rated company from AM Best. This is a third party that evaluates different insurance companies’ financial strength. Accredited third party reviews like these help structure the entire insurance market, because consumers alone are often not sophisticated enough about the life insurance market to make these evaluations. Their criteria will offer you facts you won’t find in life insurance marketing media – a valuable provision in the complex world of insurance.

Term life insurance is usually very affordably, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still look for the best price. With many options available on the market, it’ll take a little research, but you’ll save for months and years to come, so the extra effort it worth it. Good luck in the hunt!