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9 Vacation ideas that won’t break the bank

I grew up in a home where we started planning for vacation about a year or so before we planned to go. Although it would often drive me a little crazy (because I would have no idea what I’d even asked to do when we finally went), I understood the logic: Plan ahead to get the best deals.  So, here are 9 vacation ideas that won’t break your bank.

  1. Roughing it. Go on a camping trip. I don’t care that you’re from the city and afraid of bugs. Try it. It’s a good bonding experience, both the equipment and the campsite are inexpensive, and depending on where you camp, there’s the possibility of sight-seeing opportunities nearby.
  2. Go on a cruise. Lots of people think “Oh, cruises are expensive!” But, if you buy early, some of them are less than $100/person per day, which, if you think about it, is less than a hotel and food in a lot of places. There’s ton to do, it’s all you can eat, and it’s cozy and comfortable.
  3. Vegas, baby! Or NYC, or some other big city. Many people assume that going to the city is expensive, but if you are smart, you can get some great package deals.
  4. Visit people you love. My best friend and her husband live in Washington DC. Do you have anyone in your life that lives somewhere with a lot of cool stuff nearby? Then why not kill two birds with one stone- visit and stay with them, and check out some awesome sights.
  5. Go on a “stay-cation” Most people don’t realize the neat activities and historical events that are in their own area. For example, I live in the southern part of Pennsylvania and Gettysburg is about 45 minutes from me. There are also countless harvest festivals and such in this area of the United States. Although a lot of people think these kinds of events are corny, they’re a fun and different way to “vacation” without busting your wallet.
  6. Revolve your vacation around a certain activity or historical event. Ever want to go water rafting? Is your family really into a particular sport? Plan a vacation around that. If you like baseball, go to Cooperstown, NY and go to the Baseball Hall of Fame, then catch a minor league game or, if you want to travel a  little further, a major league game. There are also a lot of ways to get special packages for a good price for these kinds of vacations.
  7. Get a timeshare. Timeshares are usually in a network, where you have “rented” one week out of the year. You can usually pick where you decide to use that week at. They cost an annual fee, but then it’s always there whenever you decide to use it.
  8. Roadtrip! These are always fun. Pick somewhere random to go, drive there, and check out stuff along the way. I did a lot of these during college, and some of the best memories have come from them.
  9. Go in the off-season. Last but not least, why does your vacation have to be in the summer? I totally understand if you have children that that is most convenient, but if it’s an educational trip, your student may be able to get out of school for a few days for it, depending on your school district. If you don’t have kids, then you can go whenever you want depending on your job. Going to places during the off-season (usually October to March) will save you a good chunk of money in the long run.

Hope these tips helped you think about some new and inexpensive ways to go and relax on vacation instead of feeling like you have to spend a ton of money in order to have a good time with your family and loved ones.

Tax Deductions for Being a Good Samaritan

Volunteer work is awesome. I never thought that I would enjoy volunteering as much as I do, but I do. Recently, someone I know informed me that you could deduct some of the funds that are involved in volunteerism and giving to charity.

I thought Angie was kidding, but she wasn’t! She then proceeded to tell me about the first year she saved all of her receipts from the stuff that she did and gave away. Now, I’m going to share it with you in hopes that you’ll be as enlightened as I was when she informed me of all this.

One of the things that both Angie and I want you to know is this: Don’t give because it gives you a good tax break. That’s never the right intention; sadly, some wealthy people and corporations use this strategy in order to get more and more tax breaks. It may be smart, but it also may weigh on your conscience.

Angie was involved in several different volunteer activities: She lead a small group of teenagers at her church, she chaperoned trips, gave students rides when they needed them. She tithed regularly, and she also gave larger sums of money to different organizations throughout the year. Every time that Angie donated money, she made sure to ask for a receipt.

Angie started to save her gas receipts, but only when she wasn’t reimbursed for driving. If you’re reimbursed, it’s not too fair (or legal) to ask to be reimbursed again (and that may be a premise for an audit later on, which would be more of a mess than it’s worth). She would get snacks and get supplies for her small group. And the receipts kept accumulating.

Angie also lost a significant amount of weight that year. So, she decided to donate some of her old clothes. The Salvation Army store helped her calculate an approximate value of her donation, and gave her a receipt for her donation so she could itemize that as well.

At the beginning of the next year, Angie sat down with all of the receipts and started calculating how much she may be able to deduct if she decided to itemize instead of taking the standard deduction ($5,700 at that point because Angie was single). It looked something similar to this (but not exactly; Angie couldn’t remember exact numbers in her head).

Gas costs (unreimbursed): $530
Supplies for small group: $102.54 (rounded up to $103)
Clothes Donation: $123
Tithe: $4,000
Donation to Organization A: $500
Donation to Organization B: $225
Donation to Organization C: $400

She told me her deduction was somewhere around $6000 if she itemized it. So, she took the time to do so, giving her an extra $300 worth of deductions for that year. She was excited, especially because she’d just gone into the next tax bracket. Angie shared that her return wasn’t that big that year, but had she not itemized, she may have even had to pay the IRS some taxes.

So, you can deduct a lot of your volunteer expenses and donations from your taxes. The IRS does it to encourage giving of time and treasures, but in this case, I think that everyone wins! Except maybe the IRS, since they had to pay Angie instead of her paying them.

The lesson? Don’t be afraid to see if you can deduct some things off of your taxes that you would do anyway. Don’t necessarily go out of your way to get a tax deduction via these means, but enjoy the experience and time as well.

Don’t Let Your Pet Put You in Debt

Don’t Let Your Pet Put you in Debt

Lots of little kids want a pony. Or a puppy. A teenager I know wants a pet turtle (and ended up with a cat). I had a dog growing up, and after I got my first apartment, I had pet rats. Everyone likes to have some kind of pet. But, did you know that one of the top reasons for people to have problems with debt is because of their pets? I didn’t either.

Why do people go in debt because of an animal? Here are a few reasons.

 

  • They don’t realize how much the pet they’re getting really costs. Yes, that rat that you get at the pet store may only cost $5, but what about a properly sized cage, a well-balanced diet and the need for a buddy? Someone may have given you the kitten for free for Christmas, but now you have to get him neutered, buy him food and water bowls, and all of those fun things. In 2010, Americans spent over 18 billion dollars on pet food. That’s a lot of Meow Mix.
  • Unexpected medical costs. People get sick and have to go to the doctor; pets get sick and have to go to the vet. Some people don’t realize that even small animals have to go to the vet, and depending on what kind of pet it is, that could be pricey and you may have to go to a special kind of vet. I was lucky when I owned rats; but I have a friend who owns ferrets and there are only two vets who see ferrets within about 15 miles of her home. 
  • They don’t realize what their chosen pet is like. I babysit for a family that has a pair of dogs. One of them has an anxiety issue that causes her to pee on the floor. Replacing rugs or getting them specially cleaned can get expensive! Most rodents shouldn’t stay in a cage all day, they need time out, and during that time they may chew on stuff, causing expensive repairs and replacements.

So, how do you prevent yourself from making these mistakes and having your penny pooch become a million-dollar mutt? Here’s a few hints.

  • Always do your research. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you get into it. See how much space the breed of dog you want needs to run away. Realize that many small animals (guinea pigs, rats, ferrets, mice) do better in pairs or groups. Find out that that pretty fish you want needs a 70 gallon tank, special food and this funky thermostat thing in order to live well. Don’t get a pet just because it’s cheap initially; know what the costs are before you get into it.
  • Get pet insurance and have an emergency fund. Pet insurance is a lot cheaper than human health insurance; some are only $20+ dollars a month.  Things happen; my friends’ dog started having tooth problems when he turned 10. Pet insurance can help defray those unknown, yet unavoidable, medical costs. Also, have an emergency fund especially for your pet. You (hopefully) have one for your car- why not for something that’s actually alive?
  • Take time for training. Whether you take your dog to a local chain pet store to get trained by their experts or you take time to do it at home, it’s totally worth every second. I knew someone that had a pet rabbit who would go back into his cage to go to the bathroom instead of on the floor. Save yourself money and a big headache (whether due to the money or due to the smell- ew).

Pets have been proven to be wonderful for anxiety and stress, unless you’re in a situation where they’re the reason for your stress. They can hurt your wallet if you don’t prepare yourself to take care of your new cuddly buddy well. Be willing to take some time to do research and training, and a new best friend won’t cost you your credit score!

Cracking Crude Oil Prices

If you drive a car, there’s no hiding the fact that gas prices are absolutely horrible right now. A gallon of gas in my area costs $3.22. The average price in the United States is about $3.19 per gallon. My Sonata took over 50 dollars to fill on Tuesday. Americans are griping about prices, but do we really understand what all goes into our crude oil prices?

Most of the world’s crude oil comes from the Middle East, and if you’ve been watching the news, there’s quite a bit of political unrest there. Egypt had a whole bunch of riots and political demonstrations until their president stepped down. Libya is currently adding to the mess that is over there, on the brink of civil war and adding to political unrest. This political unrest causes oil prices to increase.

Why does the political atmosphere of a country affect oil prices? Because if a country is having political unrest, the access to that country becomes more restricted, and importing and exporting from that country can become more difficult. This leads in a perception of a decrease in supply, which according to the economic principle of supply and demand, will cause the price of oil per barrel to rise. Notice, there may not be an actual decrease in supply, but the perception is enough to cause prices to fluctuate.

One of the biggest reasons that Libya is really affecting oil prices is because of the presence of British Petroleum (BP). In 2007, BP signed a contract with Libya topping about $900 million to explore and drill over about 21,000 square miles. BP is one of the largest oil producers, and even though the amount of oil they export isn’t as much as oil giants Saudi Arabia and Russia (approximately 85% of the almost 2 million barrels they produce is exported a day), they still play a significant role in the crude oil economy. Because of political unrest, the employees of BP who were working on exploring and drilling had to be evacuated, and their very expensive drilling project is now at a standstill.

Thankfully, oil prices in the United States went from over $100 a barrel to about $97 a barrel yesterday, helping ease the potential tension of the political events in Libya. It’s said that Libya is the 18th highest producer of crude oil in the world, so if they stop exporting, this could affect the economy and also the value of the American dollar.

The American dollar, because it is the currency most often used when talking about the crude oil industry, is devalued as crude oil prices go up. A dollar buys less oil, therefore causing inflation in countries that drill and export oil but don’t use the dollar as their primary form of currency. As inflation rises, it affects non-dollar economies negatively. Because global economies are very interlinked, these economies then affect others, causing the global economy as a whole to struggle.

Crude oil prices are a great example on how global our economy has become. Even though we have different political and economic systems worldwide, the web we’ve created of importing and exporting miscellaneous goods ends up being both good and bad. Political unrest, market crashes, or supply and demand issues in one country can affect the whole world, and crude oil exemplifies that perfectly, especially with what’s going on today.

Some Do’s and Don’ts for this Tax Season

It’s tax time! Exciting, right? Probably not, at least not until you get that return in the mail or via direct deposit (isn’t that the best thing ever?). But, there are some things that we don’t necessarily think through during our tax times. Today, we’re going to look at some do’s and don’ts to help you get through this tax season smoothly.

DO:

  • Pay attention to ALL of your income. Income isn’t only what you make in your paycheck. Did any of your accounts (except Roth IRA’s- they go tax free) accrue interest? Did you make any money on the stock market? Then wait to get your 1099’s from your financial institution. You have to claim any interest that you receive from investments.
  • Deduct non-cash charity donations. I know, it’s a pain. But, especially if you’re someone who gives a lot of clothes or food to charity, you should make sure to itemize them and deduct it.
  • Take that home office deduction. So many people get nervous about this because we’ve been warned it’s a red flag for an audit. But if you work from home at all and have a home office, deduct those supplies! You have a right to!
  • Check your math. Please. Most tax mistakes are because of one number being wrong. Don’t let that person be you.
  • Deduct medical expenses. So many people don’t realize that you can deduct your medical expenses if you itemize. If you have to pay for your health insurance yourself (with no help from your employer) and/or you paid a lot of out-of-pocket expenses because of a lack of coverage, then you can claim them.

DON’T:

  • Just take the standard deduction without calculating. Most of the do’s I mentioned involve itemizing. Most people want to avoid that because it’s “too much work.” But, a lot of software helps you determine whether to itemize or to just take the standard deduction. When I did my taxes a few weeks ago, the program I used had me calculate my itemized deductions (which included almost everything I listed in the Do’s section). It still ended up being less than the standard deduction for a single person ($5,700), but it was pretty close. Imagine if I hadn’t looked and it had been more! So many people overpay on their taxes because they’re too lazy to itemize- don’t let it be you.
  • Get a refund anticipation loan. These things are a waste of time and money. The interest rates are through the roof. With the IRS now offering direct deposit, you can get your refund quickly. I did my taxes in late January and got my refund last week.
  • Unnecessarily go to a professional. If your taxes are simple enough, you can spend the money on a software program and be done with it. Even if you itemize, these programs have become advanced enough that they can help you out. Professionals can cost almost as much as your return sometimes, where software programs are between $20 and $50. Now, if your taxes are complicated, going to a professional is not a bad idea.
  • Take a big refund without realizing why. You may be getting too much money withheld from your paycheck. Use available calculators to see how you should claim yourself according to your income and marital status and you can prevent getting more money taken out than necessary.
  • Miss the deadline. The most obvious don’t of all. April 18th. You can get huge fines and fees and being lazy or late is just not worth it.

This tax season doesn’t have to be as difficult as people make it. Be willing to put some time and energy into your taxes and your return can be maximized with little to no issue. Organization is key, and always seek out help (either online or from a professional) if you truly need it.

Financially feasible fitness

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States; it’s estimated that over 60% of Americans are overweight. Being overweight has always been an issue for a lot of people I know. Take Ali for example: She’s 26 years old, 5 foot 3, and 250 pounds. She’s built tough and still has a lot of strength amidst her large girth. She knows that obesity is bad for both her financial and physical health. But, she’s paying off college loans, is underemployed, and just can’t afford a gym membership or something similar.

Ally is determined to lose the weight though. She’s made a lot of lifestyle changes in order to reach this goal, which is great considering she was almost 300 lbs at one point. The fitness is still a struggle though. She’s told me about a lot of the resolutions that she’s had to increase her activity while not decreasing her savings account, and I’m sharing those with you today.

Ally realized that one of the most important things was that she needed to walk more. She has bad knees, so she has to be careful with the impact that hard surfaces can have on them, but there’s a few things she’s done in order to get more steps in a day.

  • Park further away. When Ally was in college, she didn’t buy a parking permit so that she would force herself to park off campus and walk. The extra activity lost her that first 50 lbs and cost her nothing. Instead of darting into that incredibly close spot, Ally parks further away from the doors of the store she’s going to. Even that extra 100 feet gives her some sort of activity to add onto her day.
  • If it’s nearby, walk instead of driving. Right now she doesn’t, but when it gets warmer, Ally plans on walking to her church on Sunday mornings- it’s less than 2 miles from her house. Not only is she getting exercise, but she’s saving gas money too.
  • Go with a buddy. Ally loves to walk with the students that she volunteers with. It gives them time to talk and hang out, and neither one of them have to spend a penny to do it. Saving money and spending quality time together while getting healthy? I think that’s a win-win all around.

Ally admitted that one of her issues is being at home a lot. Being underemployed can do that to you. So, she’s figured out some ways to add to her activity while at home.

  • Invest in a game system. Ally received a Wii for Christmas a couple of years ago. The great thing about the Wii is that it’s fairly inexpensive and has a variety of motion-based games for you to use. Ally says the boxing games wear her out!
  • Use household items as barbells. Ally has a lot of spare time on her hands when she’s just bumming around the house. She just grabs a can of whatever and lifts it up and down like a barbell. It weighs almost the same. The only issue may be the grip, but just make sure you get a can that fits in your hand.
  • Do leg exercises at the computer. Ally looked up office exercises online and discovered that there are endless leg exercises that you can do while sitting at the computer. Look them up! Ally jokes that she uses them while she’s putting her resume in at different jobs.

Who says you have to get a pricey machine or pay a monthly fee in order to get fit? Ally’s figured out lots of ways to get fit while paying little to no extra money, and it’s working for her. It’ll work for you too; like Ally, you can truly work out your body without wearing out your wallet!

7 stupid things we do with credit cards

Suzie got a credit card when she turned 16. Yeah, that wasn’t the brightest idea ever. It was a joint credit card with her mom, who wasn’t incredibly financially-savvy herself. She frequently maxed it out (thankfully it was only $500, but still, the point remains) even though it was meant “for gas.” For gas turned into “for everything.”

Suzie’s mom is an example everyday mishaps where we can be too “trusting” to our kids. What was originally meant as a lesson turned into a disaster. Today, we’re going to look at seven stupid things we do with our credit cards.

  1. Give them to our kids. As exemplified by Suzie’s mom, giving a credit card to your kid is a bad, bad, BAD idea. Well, if you don’t set limits. A kid using a card that you can control, or one of those debit cards that have a set amount on them that you have to refill can be an awesome idea for teaching kids how to use money and budget appropriately.
  2. Use them to pay bills. Great idea, let’s pay bills with them and then pay interest, when our bills wouldn’t have interest. Now, if you’re in a jam one month, it’s okay, but to always use it is foolhardy.
  3. Transfer balances again… and again… and again… We bounce between different companies. Why? Because we’re trying to get the best rate. But, this can affect your credit score adversely. It can also tempt you- if you transfer a balance and don’t get rid of a card (which I’ve done!), you end up maxing out both of them. Speaking of maxing a credit card out, look at the next stupid thing.
  4. Use all of your available credit. Did you know that this adversely affect your credit? Yes. I remember getting my FICO score for the first time and it said “heavy use of available credit” affected my score. I had 3 cards maxed out. Always give yourself some space, because your credit availability ratio* is a big part of your credit score.
  5. Paying only the minimum. The minimum payment on your credit card is mostly interest. If you do this, watch how much… well, how little your balance goes down. It’s not much at all. You’re usually paying more interest than you are principle. Instead, pay a little more than the minimum if you can.
  6. Using them when we actually have the money to pay for things. This was a dumb mistake I made until a few years ago. I would charge stuff so I could “have the money” in order to buy other things. Now, if you are going to dinner somewhere that you know only takes cash, that’s totally understandable that you charge something earlier in the day. Just don’t make it a habit.
  7. Dispose of them the wrong way. Cut it up, destroy it best you can. Too many times we just toss them, and if our signature is on there, you have the risk of people taking it and using it. Make sure that it will be near impossible for people to get your card information.

Remember, your credit score is a huge part of your life, from getting a house to getting a car to getting good rates on other types of loans. If you’re stupid with your credit card, your credit score will reflect it for a good long time. So, be smart with your credit card and spend wisely to keep that score where it truly reflects you and your spending habits.

*Credit availability ratio is your available credit compared to your total credit. If this is equal or close to equal, it can totally kill this ratio and hurt your credit score.

10 Ways to Fight your Fleeting Food Finances

Inflation is a pain for a lot of reasons. Gas prices are going up, basic utilities are a bit pricier and our trips to the grocery store fill our carts but empty our wallets. Whether you’re a person in a family setting or a bachelor that lives on your own, the rising food prices are a dilemma for pretty much everyone. Unlike other things, food is something that we absolutely need to survive. How can we reduce the amount of money we spend on food and not deprive ourselves of what we need? Here are some tips and tricks so your grocery bill doesn’t eat away at your wallet.

  1. Always have a list. This is a huge must! If you are going to the store, make a list and do not deviate from that list. The accessibility that the internet provides is a huge help with this. You can go to the internet, look up coupons, and check out what’s on sale. The list will help you keep on track and buy
  2. Try to use cash. If you can get close to your cost, you can even try to have the amount of cash that you’ll need plus only a little extra in order to restrict yourself even further than the list will.
  3. Always try to buy in bulk. Why? Because, especially if it’s on sale, you end up spending a lot less money if you just freeze the extra meats you buy and shelve the extra canned goods.
  4. Make homemade meals. Eating at home is almost always cheaper than eating out (unless you have a really good coupon or deal). Yes, I know you think it always tastes better when someone else makes it. But when you’re pinching pennies, it’s a bad idea.
  5. Don’t buy boxed food. Just because you’re making it at home doesn’t make it cheaper. I realized this while in college: I was paying $2 for premade bagel pizzas. You know what ones I’m talking about. Then, I compared, and realized that if I bought a package of larger bagels, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni, I was spending a little bit more ($7 compared to $2), but it was covering me for 4 meals instead of 1! Homemade meals, on average, are about 25-50 percent less cost than their frozen counterparts.
  6. Use coupons. Coupons are usually free or, if you buy the Sunday paper, it’s like $2. To save as much money as you’ll save clipping coupons, the $2 is worth it. There are also countless websites that offer coupons that you can print and bring to the store.
  7. Sign up for Bonus Cards. Many stores also have bonus or rewards cards that are also free. Even if you only go to that store once or twice a year, the time it takes to sign up is worth it.
  8. Compare prices between stores. It may take more time, but with the internet, it’s easier to figure how which stores sell what for how much. Sit down and plan out where to buy what things. You may spend a little more on gas, but sometimes the differences are so significant that won’t matter.
  9. Buy before they go bad. Check sell-by dates and freeze-by dates. A lot of times, stores will drastically reduce prices of items so they can sell them instead of throwing them away.  I do this with meat a lot.
  10. Don’t go all the time. Keeping your kitchen stocked and only going grocery shopping a couple of times a month will help keep your costs down. Knowing what’s in your pantry will help so that you don’t have to buy basic supplies unless they’re on sale.

We all need to eat. But eating doesn’t have to be a chore. Be smart, and follow the tips and tricks that we just talked about and it will help your bills be less and your savings account will have a little more at the end of the month.

Some tips on negotiating a lower interest rate

Ever been in debt? If you have, and you’ve tried to get by by means of only paying the minimum payment, you may notice that it takes awhile. Why? A big part of this is how high your interest rate is. Most standard credit cards have an interest rate of at least 15%, so on a $1,000 debt, half or more of your minimum payment could be interest.

Did you know that there are ways to negotiate a lower interest rate on your credit cards? Honestly, it just takes a phone call and a conversation with the right tone in order to do so. Here are some hints.

  1. Don’t even try if your payments are erratic. A bad pay history means that your importance as a customer isn’t as high as it could be. You’re a bit of a threat, so to “reward” your mistakes with a lower interest rate is out of the question.
  2. Be polite. Threats like “I’m gonna leave if you don’t give me a lower rate!” aren’t going to help your situation any. If you are polite and mention that you’ve been offered a lower rate with another company, they’re more likely to cater to your inquiry.
  3. Talk to them about transferring other balances. If you talk to them about other cards and that you’re considering consolidating them, your creditor may be more likely to give you a lower rate so that their company is the one you consolidate to.
  4. Always double check if it’s introductory or fixed. This is incredibly important, especially when transferring balances. A lot of times, your card company will give you an introductory rate for those transfers, and then it’ll go up to a normal fixed rate after a set period of time has passed. Try to see if they will give you a lower fixed rate, even at the cost of losing the lower introductory rate. Having 7% interest throughout the duration of paying off your card is better than paying 5% interest for 6 months then having to pay 15% after that.
  5. Have a backup plan. Some creditors just won’t budge. If this is the case, make sure you do have a backup plan to transfer your balance to another company. Even though your current creditor may not have budged for you, losing your business (especially if you were a good and/or long time customer) may give them a message so that other people can negotiate lower rates.

Consolidating your debt and trying to fight for lower interest is totally worth it. If you stay polite while not allowing yourself to be walked all over, you should be able to slowly get away from a painful life of debt management more quickly.

Medical Expenses and Insurance

I have a friend (let’s call her Sally) who talked to me recently about how much her medical expenses have increased over the past year. Before she started seeing a psychiatrist for some of the issues she was having emotionally, she was on one medicine, and that was for a stomach issue that she’s had for several years.

About a year ago, Sally was diagnosed with several emotional disorders. This made her medical bills in a year six times more than what she’d originally had to pay in a year. Check out the difference:

Before the medication:

  • $48/year on stomach medication
  • $100/year for 1 doctor visit. Sometimes.

After the medication

  • $156/year on stomach medication (they switched her meds for this too)
  • $360/year on ADHD medication
  • $216/year on anti-depression/anti-anxiety medication
  • $200+ on doctor’s visits

Now, Sally still isn’t covered by health insurance. For it to be worth it, Sally would have to find insurance for $77/month or less… and then her visits and meds would have to be free for that to be worth it. We all know that’s not the case, so she’d have to pay less than $50 a month for it truly to be worth it. She doesn’t make a lot (about $12k a year), lives on her own, and doesn’t have any family around to help her out.

What’s she supposed to do? Luckily, she can afford all of her stuff out of pocket until the government requires her to get insurance. At that point, she hopes the government or some other entity will be able to help her get cheap insurance or that she’ll be able to get it through her job.

I bet you’re thinking, “What are her options?”  or “what are mine, if I’m in a similar situation?” Let’s explore that a little bit.

  • Go to a state or federal government site. Both have ways for you to figure if you are eligible for state or federal health insurance. Sadly, when Sally did this, she found out her premium was going to be more than what she pays in a year… and almost as much as she makes.
  • Go through a faith-based organization. There are several faith-based “insurances” that are basically assistance programs that, if you participate in them, will make you exempt from the mandate to have health insurance.
  • Just wait it out. Some specifics haven’t been outlined in the law as of yet. No one really knows how long it will be until it’s mandatory to have health insurance and how much the fines and fees will be if you don’t get it. Sad to say, in some cases it may still be cheaper to get fined. We won’t know that for awhile though, especially if ObamaCare gets repealed.
  • Just deal with it and get a plan. Sally doesn’t like this option at all. She simply can’t afford to get insurance. She has the only kind she can afford (accident insurance) and it doesn’t count!  Some people will just take it as it comes and buy a plan. Sally simply cannot.

It’s not a lot of options, but they work.  Hopefully, as time goes on, it will become clearer how it will be affordable for every American to have health insurance without breaking the bank. Until then, Sally’s going to just keep shopping around and paying her health bills as they come.