Getting Ready for Back to School: Health Edition

The Back to school shopping crazies will start in a few weeks with sales and deals, but one thing we’ve done this summer to help with Back to school is getting everyone in tip-top health!

I made sure the kids are seeing all the doctors/specialists over the summer to minimize appointments during the school year.

Here in California vision and dental insurance is included under health insurance plans for kids 18 and under. To learn more, check the back of your kid’s health insurance card for phone numbers.

The kids saw the dentist and had eye exams. New glasses were ordered through the optometrist that are part of the vision insurance (one pair every 2 years from a list of specific frames), and we get the paper prescription for our family binder. 

I order extra pairs of glasses through online discount retailers such as EYEBUYDIRECT. A lot of online discount retailers have inexpensive kid’s glasses that can be less than $20 a pair, which is great to have on hand because we all know, kids tend to break stuff.

EYEBUYDIRECT prices start at $6 for select frames!

I also had the kids see any specialists that they needed to, in our case they needed to go to the podiatrist.

And of course, we took care of behavioral/mental health appointments and medication checks over the summer as well. And all future mental/behavioral health appointments are after school or on weekends.

The next health component that I am working on is getting our family first aid kit up to snuff, and that will be a separate post over the weekend.

AO Opinions: Upcoming Auto Insurance Project

AO Opinions is another Market Research company that I get information from. Right now they are recruiting for an upcoming research study on the subject of Auto Insurance.

To be considered, please complete the pre-screener here.

Compensation: $100 (if chosen)

Open to: Military Personnel and Military Family (By U.S. Military we mean all branches, including Reserves and the National Guard.)

Project: Answer questions on video and upload the videos to the client platform. Should only take about 45-minutes.

Looking to Build Credit History? Check out Self!

It’s important to have a good credit score. 

So many things depend on your credit score: Car insurance (really), renting or buying a home, even getting a job.

If you’ve never given your credit score a second thought, or maybe you don’t have credit, check out SelfSelf offers an accessible and responsible way for consumers to establish payment history and build credit, while saving money, through a credit-builder account.

  • Apply for a loan that is held by our bank partners. Your money is secured and protected in a bank account
  • Pay off the loan in 12-24 months^. You can choose a repayment plan that fits your budget.
  • Each payment builds credit history and adds to your savings. Your payments are reported to all three credit bureaus.
  • Get money back at the end after building credit history. Your paid off loan unlocks and you get the money back, minus fees and interest.

If that sounds like something that interests you, check out Self here.

I’ll have more posts coming up about credit and credit scores.

A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part Three)

The first two parts (Part One, Part Two) of this series talked about the essentials of how to budget. This third part is for those of you who are having a difficult time making the ends meet to get your needs met.

I’m talking about when cutting cable and going cash only for groceries isn’t enough. When you need help. When there isn’t much (or anything) to eat. When the power might be shut off. When there isn’t money to put gas in your car to get to work or job interviews.

This is the most important thing to remember: It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to seek out services and take advantage of programs. Do not worry about what others will think- This pandemic and all of the fallout that has happened has affected so many of us. So many hardworking families and individuals need a hand up right now. 

A lot of the services and programs listed below are specifically for San Diego County. If you live outside San Diego County, I recommend that you call 211 anywhere in the US. They can help you find resources- all judgment free!

So when I talk about needs being met, I mean:

  • Shelter (Rent/mortgage assistance/utilities)
  • Food (Healthy food for you/your family and pets)
  • Comfort (Clothing, healthcare, medication)

Shelter:

  • If you have a mortgage, contact your lender for a forbearance. You may have to provide them with proof that you are unable to pay.
  • If you are a renter in San Diego, here is the County Rental Assistance site.
  • If you require assistance with your utilities, SDG&E has many programs and assistance available.
  • For your water/sewer bills, you will need to contact them directly. There are so many water municipalities in San Diego County.

Food: Food insecurity is a cause near and dear to my heart, so I have all kinds of resources to share!

Many food banks give out pet food as well- don’t forget to mention your furry friends when you complete your intake paperwork (which is oftentimes to find out demographic information to obtain additional funding from the government or private grants). Some do not require any paperwork at all.

Comfort: Being housed and fed is important, in addition to this I’ve added the comfort category. This includes clean, well fitting clothes, access to health care, and prescription medicines.

  • There are many resources for no and low cost clothing (besides thrift stores, which have become increasingly higher in cost in the past year). Naomi’s Closet, Closet on 54th, Charity’s Closet at Sonrise Church, Sharia’s Closet are all San Diego resources. I’ve been told that some Salvation Army churches offer free clothing vouchers to be redeemed at their thrift shops. Don’t forget your local Buy Nothing Group too! So many of your local neighbors are cleaning out their clothes and purging while they are stuck at home, you’d be surprised what your neighbors are will to share with you.
  • If you are in need of healthcare, there are several options. Medicaid/Medi-cal may be available for some. If you have had a “life event” (job separation, birth of a child, death of a spouse, marriage, etc.) you can look for health insurance in your state’s Health Insurance Exchange. Here is a link to California’s Exchange. There are frequently lower rates or discounts for those with certain income limits.
  • If you or family members take prescription medicines, look into discount programs like Singlecare (which you can access via the Fetch Rewards App and earn cashback/points), or GoodRX. Some pharmacies have their own discount programs too. Make sure to ask the pharmacy staff. Another option is to ask your doctor for medication samples when you are visiting them. Many doctors have medication samples in their offices, and most doctors are willing to help you when you tell them you need assistance with medication costs.

 

 

 

A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part Two)

In our last post, I talked about the basics of starting a budget (you can read it here).

We ended with… What happens if you spend more money than you bring home? Don’t feel bad, It happens more than you would think. Living in a credit-based world, it’s easy to swipe, swipe, swipe your card and have it seem like it’s not real money.

How do you stop spending willy nilly and start saving money?

First of all, I went through our family budget line by line looking for ways to cut down on costs. This will take a little work, but it’s worth the savings. Here are a few ways that you may be able to save.

  • Cell Phones- I called and negotiated a new contract, and they were able to give us a small discount ($15/month).
  • Auto/Home Insurance- Called our insurance carrier (it’s the same for both). We went through both policies, and were able to adjust our annual mileage to lower mileage, and adjust a few things with our homeowner’s insurance to save some money too. (About $50/year)
  • Gas & Electric (power company)-Because of the big kids’ diagnosis, we were able to qualify for a discount. SDG&E (Our utility provider) offers several discounts. You can learn more about our experience and how we saved money here.  We also take part in OhmConnect, and that saves us money and gives us cashback. You can learn more about OhmConnect here. We save about a thousand dollars a year between the programs SDG&E offers and using Ohmconnect.
  • Internet- We ended up changing internet providers to save money. I know that not everyone has this ability, but it’s worth a call to see if you can get a better deal. We don’t have cable or a home phone, so there are no bundling deals that can save our family money. ($5/month)
  • Cable- We don’t have it, but if you are thinking of cutting the cable, it’s not all static and bunny ears like in the old days. Between Apple TV (ours is really old and it works great), Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and over the air TV, we aren’t suffering. (No savings for us, but maybe some for you?)

Secondly, I take cash out for Groceries ($100/week), gas ($60/week), and fun money (funds for the kids and I to do something fun during the week- usually a snack or treat at the zoo, admission to a museum, or renting a Redbox movie. $40/week). When the money’s gone, it’s gone. For our budget/spending- this has been the game-changer. Due to quarantine/lockdown the only fun we could have was ordering take out or expensive trips to the craft supply store/Amazon to keep us entertained. Now that we have parameters for spending money, I am taking a harder look at groceries and meal planning and low-cost to no-cost ways to have fun with the kiddos.

In addition to that, I didn’t set up Apple Pay on my phone. I don’t have a credit card attached to the app store on my phone. I don’t have any credit cards set up on my Amazon Account, or my Target App, or any of the purchasing apps on my phone. If I want to buy something I have to either go to a store or sit down at my computer and enter my credit card/debit card information. Taking that extra step to purchase stuff really helps me think about what I am buying and how much I am spending.

And I’m always looking for ways to make a little extra money. Side Hustles are a real way to make money. You can invest as little or as much time as you want.

You can still have fun and live on a budget. Don’t feel like having takeout? Spend some of your fun money on a couple steaks and have a BBQ at home one week. Rent a movie on Amazon Prime, and add some dollar movie candy to your grocery list (or hit up Dollar Tree). Close the curtains/ blinds and throw some pillows and blankets on the living room floor. We call that “Movie theatre night” and the kids love it.

Living during a global pandemic you have to think outside of the box.

My next (and last) post about setting a practical budget will be ready tomorrow and it’s going to be a little more serious. What to do/where to turn when you need help with the basics: Food, Shelter, and Comfort. And what you should cut out if you are struggling. For those who are struggling right now, this is written with you in my mind and heart.

Moms To Be: Free Breast Pump Resource!

I came across this yesterday, and thought I would share. Most (if not all) insurance companies provide free breast pumps to mom to be, but navigating the insurance system to get one can be daunting.

Aeroflow Breast Pumps is here to help! Sign up and receive FREE Aerohead Breast Pump through your insurance.

It’s super easy:

  • Provide your insurance information to discover breast pump coverage.
  • Aeroflow verifies coverage and submits required paperwork.
  • Pick a Top of the Line Breast Pump.

That’s it! Pretty Sweet, right?

To get started, click here.  And if you know any mamas to be, please share this post with them!

Tips to Reign In and Out Of Control Family Budget: Taking Advantage of Discounts

959b176d7a237c76fc19ff89cdfc6904.jpgPreviously we talked about shopping your Cell Phone service, Internet service, even your Auto/Home/Health insurance.

Sometimes switching companies doesn’t yield you any savings. At that point, turn to your current providers and see if there are any additional discounts or perks that you could be taking advantage of and are not currently receiving?

Example: Some cell phone providers (Like T-Mobile) offer perks or freebies weekly. Free tacos, backpacks, free Netflix subscriptions, and other swag are some of the other cool things that they have offered in the past. AT&T has a program called AT&T Thanks where customers can score varying freebies and deals depending on what type(s) of service they have with AT&T.

Some Auto Insurance companies offer discounts for good students (High school and/or college), safe driving/accident-free, defensive driving courses, and low mileage discounts. It’s worth a call in to see if you can score any extra discounts!

What about services that you can’t shop around?

Utilities are a big one- We can’t shop utilities here in San Diego. SDG&E is the only name in the game here.

BUT- there are ways you can save and even earn money!

Did you know that most local utilities (in San Diego county that means SDG&E) will come out and inspect your AC/furnace for free at the beginning of each season? They can let you know if your furnace or AC is running in tiptop condition, and they can also check to see if your pilot light is lit and safe to run your furnace.

If you are in a lower income or you have a medical condition that requires continue with usage of electricity, SDG&E and other utilities frequently have a medical baseline or low-income program that you can apply for to save money on your utilities.

Other ways that you can save money on your utilities include signing up for services like Ohmconnect, which help you conserve electricity during peak demand hours, which not only helps you save money, but you’ll be saving extra electricity as well.

We’ve been members of them connect for upwards of five years, and we earn about $100 a year cashback from home connect, in addition to the money that we save on our SDG&E bill. You can learn more about Ohm Connect Here.

 

 

 

Tips to Reign In and Out Of Control Family Budget: Shopping Around to Save!

683459ee810703fe032903d2443bf58d.jpgToday I’ll be sharing some ways to save money that takes a little more work but can definitely pay off in the end.

For some of us, this may seem like too much work, and that’s ok. Just because it’s something that my family does, doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

Insurance: Most companies offer a discount if you have more than one kind of policy. Example: State Farm offers a Multi-line discount. If you have your cars and another type of insurance (homeowners/renters/condo insurance, or a life insurance policy).

Some insurance companies serve a specific audience- for example, USAA is an insurance company for active duty or retired military. Because they serve a specific audience, they offer very competitive rates.

When you shop for insurance, have copies of all of the policies that you want to compare. That will help you see apples to apples. You can’t compare and try to save money if you don’t know what you’ve got. This is also a great time to go over all of your coverages and see if you need to increase or decrease coverages.

Due to state and federal regulations, you usually can’t shop for health insurance unless it’s open enrollment or you’ve had a qualifying life event (married, divorced, had a baby, retired, lost your job, etc.). Luckily, Tis the Season for open enrollment! We purchased insurance through the state exchange a few years back, before we had employer-sponsored insurance. It was not too difficult to navigate, and there are discounts available for a lot of people!

Cell Phones: This is my least favorite activity, but it can a money saver. Once again- have a copy of your contract or a copy of a recent bill that outlines everything your plan covers before you get started. If you are looking for a pre-paid plan, Tello has some great money-saving plans!

Internet: I hate dealing with our internet service provider. I always feel like they are trying to upsell me, no matter why I am calling in. We’re looking at changing our plan soon. The big kids school recently sent home information regarding a program that Cox offers called Connect2Compete. For those families that have qualifying social service(s), Cox can provide internet service for $9.95/month! That’s a great deal.

 

Talk Back: I’d love to hear your success story! Share how much you’ve saved by shopping around for your insurance, cell phone service, or internet service.

Family Binder: Important Info at Your Fingertips

The other day I was talking to a friend about how we store all of our information now that my computer is on the fritz/being repaired.

I mean, Most people have everything stored on their computer or on the cloud/external drive, which is great, but if your computer goes out… Are you really going to access everything via your smartphone? That was my plan originally, but after like.. oh, say 8 hours of that, I posted on Facebook, asking my friends if anyone had a spare computer or laptop I could borrow. Because don’t you know it, the computer died… 2 days before school started. When I was taking an ONLINE CLASS!!

My friends Michael and Amanda are generously loaning me their laptop, and it’s much easier to do homework and write.

IMG_3895So, how to store all the important stuff… I’m bringing back The Family Binder. It’s a 3 inch binder, with section dividers, heavy weight page protectors, and plastic folders. We’ve has one for a long time, and as we moved more to paperless bills, it got used a lot less, and became a good way of storing a copy of our monthly budget, important papers, passwords (so many passwords, you guys!).

As you can see I’ve decorated the front of the binder with photos, the Brandon Bird SVU Valentine’s Day card Mr. Husband got for me years back, sonograms of the kiddos. You can make it as plain or fancy as you’d like.

IMG_3901I use some of the pages from the household notebook section of Organized Home.  I love the holiday printables from Organized Home the best. I’ve been using them since 2010, and they really help us stay on budget and keep track of all of the shenanigans that the holidays bring!

Additionally, I have extra sections for vacation planning, important papers (marriage license, vaccination records, copies of prescriptions/ list of all of our medications, birth certificates, kids social security cards, insurance id cards/policy information, and a copy of the deed to our home), and vehicle maintenance. IMG_3896I have a folder tucked in the front pocket of the binder for the big kids educational/medical stuff like his most recent IEP, Regional Center correspondence, and copies of his medical diagnostic paperwork.

I know a lot of you are reading this thinking that most of this information can be accessed online or via your smartphone, but think about when you will most likely need to access this binder… In an emergency. Not the time you want to drain the battery on your phone trying to figure out what your homeowners insurance policy number is, or your insurance agents phone number.  I also keep notebook paper in the back, in case of an emergency. If nothing else, it’ll keep the kids entertained!

If you want to make your own Family Binder, you can put as much work into it as you’d like. I made ours while I was pregnant and nesting with the big kid. So I went to town with with laminating sheets, scrapbooking stickers, decals, paper, and all kinds of doo-dads. I even made a family binder for my Sister-in-Law and her husband when they got married.  Just make sure that you store extra empty page protectors in the back- you never know when you’ll need to add more information!

I keep ours in a safe, easily accessible location, in case we need to leave the house. Living in San Diego County, it will most likely be a wild fire that causes us to leave home. We live too far inland and up high enough where rising flood/excessive rain water won’t touch us.

Talk back: If you have a family binder, I’d love for you to share photos in the comments or post pics on Instagram and tag me: @hewesfamilyfun  using #familybinder.