IMPROMPTU SCRIPT: Rising costs of medications don’t have to affect your budget

Not all medications are created equal, especially in the eyes of the health care companies that are paying the majority of costs for them.

Consumers who wait patiently on line at their pharmacy of choice are incredibly grateful when they compare the actual cost of the medicine versus what your co pay actually ends up being. That $5, $10 or $20 price tag far exceeds the potential of paying in upwards of a few hundred dollars for one prescription.

But what if you can’t afford health care or you have one particular medication that either isn’t covered or your insurance company only takes care of a small piece of an otherwise large expense. That means you’re responsible for the remainder, and that hefty price tag might be too much for you to handle.

Spending as much on medicine per month as you would on a car loan or mortgage is more than enough to sink any thoughts you might have of saving money.
Aside from shopping around and buying health insurance on your own, that still doesn’t account for co pays on specific medicine that might be too much for you to handle. If that situation arises, you don’t have to sacrifice what money you have stored away or go deeper into debt just to ensure your health isn’t compromised.

You have options that go well beyond taking out a loan to cover these added expenses.

Consider ordering your medication in bulk through a mail order company that specifically deals in generics. Even if they don’t have generics are part of the equation, ordering large amounts at one time cuts back on the overall cost.

As part of your doctor’s office visit, you can always ask the physician for some free samples in the short term or inquire with the office manager about any types of assistance programs, whether those are on the national or state level or done directly with the drug manufacturer.

Some of these programs are directly related to your income and can drastically reduce your out of pocket expense. A $50 copayment, for example, could go down to $5 just by asking a few questions and filling out a bit of paperwork.

And when in doubt, you can always go back to an old reliable: coupons or various promotions offered by the retail. Plenty of weekly circulars from the likes of K Mart and Target toss incentives toward customers in the form of gift cards or discounts if they switch pharmacies. When it comes to prescriptions that become remarkably difficult to pay for, every dollar off counts.

The toughest aspect of medication as it pertains to saving money is knowing that, no matter what, you’re going to need the prescription. How you go about securing them and, more importantly, paying for them determines your financial fate moving forward.

TEAM EFFORT: Financial struggles shouldn’t have to be just your burden

Struggling from one day to the next, worrying about bills and how you’re going to pay them or hoping and praying you have enough money this month to cover all your expenses is the epitome of stress and certainly adds to a daily regimen that is riddled with concern.

So with that, do you really think this is something you should tackle on your own?

A number of reasons may factor into why you believe that you should forage into fixing your finances on your own. Perhaps the mentality that pushes to the forefront most is blame, specifically you accepting it thanks to your savings account and overall portfolio not being in tip top shape.
Even if you are the one that put yourself in this financial pickle doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t ask for help to turn this thing around in a hurry, especially if your significant other also is indirectly involved in righting the ship.

Before you begin working together as a team, there are a few basics you can implore before that moment arrives. You should take stock of the entire situation and truly determine what exactly is causing you the most trouble. Maybe you’re spending too much on entertainment or perhaps that clothing budget is busting at the seams.

After you narrow down your financial shortcomings, you can pull yourself out of the muck that is your checking or non-existent savings account. Being able to broach the subject to your wife, husband or partner as to why money isn’t favorable in your household is a lot easier if you can be specific with the issues and offer realistic options moving forward.

Once you bring the second person on board to help discuss where you want to go money wise, you can troubleshoot together and fully understand their perspective and come together with plenty of ideas that transform into a well-rounded plan that encompasses the scope of the entire household.

Far too often, you want to assume all the burden and tension that is associated with having money and budgeting issues. This isn’t done with deceit or disinformation in mind but rather to spare the feelings of the people they care about and, truthfully, to not look incompetent as the person in charge of the finances.

But not asking for help or getting another opinion is only going to exacerbate the problem and leave you in an even less enviable position: trying to explain not only why things got out of hand financially but how you let this far along without speaking up.

SPOT ON(LINE): Saving money starts with buying right items online

Pinpointing shopping as the root of all your financial misgivings might be a bit of a shortsighted comment if you consider not so much what you’re buying but where you’re getting it.
Shopping online is convenient, but also carries with it a sense of saving more money by using this particular medium, at least when it comes to certain products.
Whether you’re buying in bulk or taking advantage of online only promotions, fulfilling your product wants and needs online often means not only shopping from the comfort of your couch but counting all the extra cash you’ll be saving.
Take for instance if you have a pet.
Between the cost of food, flea medicine, snacks, leashes, litter and anything else associated with these cute and cuddly creates, you might spend far too much time and money tending to their needs for the sake of forgetting about yours.
Buying those items online saves you not only the time and effort of buying one can of food at a time but also stocking up and saving in one fell swoop. Plenty of online pet stores put prices at bare minimums, including free shipping, that it is easy to ignore those retail powerhouses and brick and mortar stores with relative ease.
It’s also incredibly easy to skip buying books or magazines within the confines of a physical store. That $4 or $5 magazine or $20 hardback book could easily be found online for more 50% off the retail price. Magazines especially come remarkably cheaper online with a plethora of subscription based sites that are practically giving these periodicals away to the tune of less than a $1 per issue.
Knowing that, why would you continue to spend five times that much while waiting in line at the grocery store?
Those small dollar figures might not seem like much, but over the course of a calendar year could equate to easily a few hundred dollars.
And as long as you’re online deciding between ordering Sports Illustrated or Good Housekeeping, you may want to take a look at buying your electronics there, too. Maybe you feel more comfortable buying the big ticket items like tablets, laptops or computers in person, which makes sense given the nature of the purchase. But what about the ancillary products associated with those larger items?
Cell phone cases or screen protectors are two perfect examples of things that you’ll find much less expensive online than in person, without sacrificing buying a lesser brand or an item devoid of quality or durability.
Satiating your shopping needs might be a little smoother sailing, with just a simple change of venue

Social Insecurity: How to avoid being broke beyond retirement

Enjoying your “Golden Years” might be a lot more difficult if you’re struggling to stay afloat post retirement.
A growing trend in the United States puts retirees in the unenviable position of attempting to live comfortably after they’ve decided to call it a career. The transition from 40 hours per week to living off the wealth and savings you’ve amassed during your time working has been anything but seamless for a generation of hard workers who find themselves flirting with poverty or forced to go back to work in some form or fashion.
That sad tale has transformed from the exception to the norm. A shocking number of retirees or those ready to retire in the next decade don’t have the kind of money set aside that they’ll need to live out the rest of their life without fear of foreclosure or bankruptcy.
The first mistake that demographic makes is the assumption that Social Security will be enough of a monthly income, in addition to what money they have saved. That fact is incredibly narrow minded and shortsighted, especially if you’re approach the age of 62 and are still carrying debt or paying off your house or car.
Social Security is only a piece of what should be a much larger retirement puzzle as you approach your post work lifestyle. That memo needs mailed out to the masses, particularly the age groups that should start thinking about their retirement at this very moment.
If you don’t already have a 401K or IRA either on your own or through your job, you should strongly reconsider participation, especially if the company matches what you’re putting in as well. It’s hard to imagine anyone balking at the idea setting aside a pretax percentage of your pay, plus what your employer adds to that total.
Let’s say you struggled to save money your entire life, and you’ve convinced yourself that Social Security and the little you do have is going to cut it. That blueprint is a recipe for disastrous results, which is why you should turn your financial misgivings over to a professional to put you on track and make investment suggestions.
And if all else fails, just employ a little bit of logic, and reassess your necessities versus luxuries and start prioritizing accordingly. Eliminating a few spa treatments or extravagant vacations now will afford you the opportunity to breathe much easier money wise later.

EMOTIONAL SPENDER: Buying based on how you feel can sink your budget

Everyone has bad days. Some are few and far between, and others can string together for what seems like an eternity.
Your job isn’t exactly panning out the way you thought.
You’re working too many hours, and find yourself completely stressed.
You may be in the midst of a porous relationship or can’t seem to get on track with accomplishing any goals, whether that’s exercising, eating better or spending more time with your family.
All of those aforementioned scenarios, at first glance, probably have very little to do with spending or saving money or your monthly or yearly budget.
Emotionally charged spending is quite a bit more prevalent than you would think, mostly because the people who participate in this tumultuous type of buying don’t believe it to be a problem. How many times have you heard the phrase “I’m having a bad day; I’m going to buy myself a present.”
Those famously foreshadowing words often lead to spending gratuitously to the point that you’re not only buying items you don’t need, but also are incapable of saving money.
This type of shopping hardly is confined to just clothing and can extend to food, more specifically, eating out in restaurants frequently, or simply redoing a room in your house with the purchase of expensive, unnecessary furniture and accessories that you simply don’t need.
The simple fact is buying makes you feel better in that very instant. Once the credit card bills or bank statements start rolling in, you instantly feel a sense of regret for the purchases you’ve made. When you’re in the midst of feeling bored, sad or not appreciated, it’s easy to fall victim to clever, savvy advertising that convinces you that you need a jet ski, even though you don’t like to swim.
The trick is channeling your energy away from newspaper ads or television commercials in favor of perhaps a leisurely stroll with a set of headphones. You might want to consider calling an old friend that you can seamlessly bounce your emotional status off of without fear of judgment or rejection.
This tips take only a few minutes, but ultimately will afford you with the wherewithal and restraint to banish that debit card back into your purse or wallet or filling out a credit card application at a department store while trying to hold back tears.
Buying and how you’re feeling today, this week or for the entire month run parallel with one another, but the key is capturing that emotion and transforming into something a little more positive than wrecking your budget in one fell swoop.

Penny Pinching: Focusing on the little makes big difference financially

You might be of the opinion that you rarely buy yourself anything, spend money wisely and have a firm handle on your finances.
If that’s the case, why is most of you money slipping through your fingers?
That dwindling bank account, the inability to save money and living pay check to paycheck puts a bit of a damper on previous beliefs that your financial acumen is impeccable.
Turns out, you might be saving money and losing it at the same time.
This art form isn’t impossible, but rather quite common if you take a closer look at your spending.
Take your food shopping for instance.
You make look at this excursion with pinpoint accuracy to make sure you’re purchasing generic brands, shopping smart with online or paper coupons and calculating whether you should be buying in bulk or if less is best.
Those are absolutely wonderful strategies to employ and probably will lead to extra money available in your budget, but only if you’re equally mindful of spending money eating out at restaurants. Let’s say you spend $200 per week on food for the house, which is about $800 every month. That number hardly stands as staggering, unless you’re not only buying food twice.
If you eat lunch and dinner four times per week at a restaurant, that’s about $20 extra dollars per day or $80 each week. That’s another $320 added to your food budget, making your total nearly $1200 per month.
Your specificity and tactical approach to grocery store shopping doesn’t look quite like the impervious game plan you once perceived it to be.
Similarly, if you downgraded your pricey cell phone plan in favor of dropping the smart phone and two year agreement for a pay by month option, you deserve plenty of praise for your ability to live without the luxury of having Facebook on your phone. That is a perfect example of eliminating expenses that make a true difference in how you’re able to save.
Leaving that $200 plus monthly cell phone bill intact and instead deciding that you’re going to save money by cutting out buying a few lottery tickets per week doesn’t make much sense in the long run. Saving an extra $5 per week or $20-30 per month means very little in comparison to a few hundred.
The goal of saving money is to make more than just a minor dent in your debt but rather succeed in setting aside enough cash for plenty of breathing room. If all you’re hoping to save money by keeping your minor spending in check, you shouldn’t hold your breath.

CRAZY BRILLIANT: Can you actually save more by spending more?

Suggesting that you have to spend money to make money works when you’re, for example, talking about a business. It’s hard to imagine that same philosophy translating from the board room to living room as far as getting your personal finances in order.
That sentiment usually is attached to companies that spend money on advertising in the hopes that their investment will turn into more customers and increased sales revenue. Spending more in the business world also could relate to increasing your workforce so that you have eight, instead of six people doing the job, assuming that the adding wages equates to wonderful bottom lines.
But spending more to make more hardly seems like it would apply to your daily routine or spending habits. Even those who aren’t financial wizards or moonlight as a top flight accounting or budgeting expert know that saving money doesn’t start with spending more of it.
Or, does it?
Think of a job that you do from home or an interview that you’re preparing for in a few days? For the former job, if you choose to buy a laptop for around $1,000 versus the one for $300 that is an investment that should have a sizable return. Let’s say the more expensive computer is better equipped to handle the job to the point that you’re getting double the work done in half the time.
That $1,000 pales in comparison to the money you’ll be making thanks to being remarkably productive at what you do.
As far as the job interview, do you really want the first impression of the hiring manager of you to be a mental picture of you in your dad’s old suit? Probably not. Spending money on a power tie and an equally strong suit might suit you well to land that job that pays double what you make now.
In this instance, your $1,000 suit might translate into a new position that pays you $10,000 more a year. Sounds like a fair trade off, right?
Being in the business of saving money also means you could use a little help. Hiring a professional to budget out your expenses might seem counterproductive to the idea that you’re trying to save money. But if this person knows more than you about money, giving them some of yours isn’t a bad thing. In the long run, paying someone a few hundred dollars in exchange for advice and leadership that nets you a few thousand is a business deal any one would take.
And who wouldn’t want to spend a little time and money so ultimately you’ll have more leftover?

BARE BONES BUDGET: Tracking what you spend is easy, unless you make it otherwise

Building a better budget is a job anyone can handle. If you try to build the perfect one, you’ll probably find yourself somewhere between frustrated and frazzled to the point that you’ll just skip having one altogether.
A budget is to the financially misguided what a diet is to those who struggle with how they eat. The words are intimidating and even when you incorporate a diet, for example, most people try to do too much, too son and end up failing completely.
The trick to a diet, much like a budget, is working through it slowly, making simple changes and not attempting to do a complete 180 degree turn within a few weeks.
Budgeting isn’t about a complete overhaul but rather handpicking some bills or debt that could be whacked relatively quickly or spending habits that obviously need halted.
The biggest mistake people make is pairing down their budge to the point that it is unrecognizable and incredibly impossible to fulfill, and still be content.
If that sounds oddly familiar, think back to when you ate whatever you wanted, then decided to diet. Rather than just substitute a baked potato for your French fries at lunch, you tried to live on carrot sticks and salad every day.
And much like weight loss or exercise, you can’t expect to change your appearance or body type within a few weeks. The same could be said for saving money. If you make $2,000 per month, you can’t expect to save $20,000 by the end of a work year. You need to make sure you leave yourself money to live on and enjoy; setting realistic goals helps, whether you want to lose 50 pounds in one month or all of a sudden have a sizable savings account within a year.
That just isn’t going to work, no matter if you’re talking food or finances.
The one aspect of a budget you’ll always need to think about is consciously putting aside cash in case of an emergency. Far too many people break a leg, have a major medical expense or a repair that makes them crazy and no money to take care of the issue.
Even $100 per pay equates to more than $2,000 saved at the end of the year. Over the course of a five year budgeting plan, you’ll sock away $10,000 and be fully prepared to at least tackle most of what ails you financially.
A lot of what will make you successful is patience and not feeling like you have to do too much too soon as far as budgeting. You have to find a system that fits you well, so that your money ultimately will work for you.

SMOOTH MOVE: Make moving day easy by saving money

Moving day has arrived, and along with saying goodbye to your old place and watching your furniture, tables, chairs and lamps jettisoned from house to another, you also could easily bidding farewell something equally as important: you money.

Buying your first home or moving out from under mom and dads watchful eye is an exciting time, one filled with change, responsibility and growth. In the midst of all the packing, unpacking, paperwork and pleading with your friends and family to help, you might forget just how expensive it can be to move.

Between renting trucks, a U-Haul or hiring a company to do most of your moving bidding, you could easily drop a few hundred dollars on that very day. Most businesses that specialize in moving make a living and a killing on selling moving equipment as well as the rudimentary items you’ll need, such as boxes.

Paying for a box is rather silly, especially if you’ve made it a point to plan ahead for when your moving day is taking place. You can easily collect boxes for free from grocery store, department stores or just about any type of business that gathers inventory on a consistent basis.

If the average person uses 10 boxes, at $4 per box, that $40 could easily be used to help offset the cost of the moving vehicle or even pay for gas to and from old place to new.

Furthermore, why rent a truck if you have friends or family that can help? It also isn’t out of the question to begin moving some small boxes with kitchen utensils, clothing or small furniture in your car in the days or weeks leading up to the proverbial “big” move.

This way, if you need to rent a vehicle, you can skip the largest one possible and go modest in the midst of uprooting all your belongings.

And speaking of all your things, who says you need to take everything with you? Of course, the staples must come, such as TVs, appliances and furniture, but moving often is a good time to start taking stock of what you have, and if it made the cut so to speak to go to the new place.

Cleaning out junk or ditching items you don’t plan on using any time soon saves on truck space, boxes and anything else you might be spending a few bucks on along the way.

You’re already in the midst of a major undertaking by moving, and adding to that stress, hustle and bustle and headache by overspending seems like you’re just spinning your wheels on route to  your new pad.


Auto Pilot: Selling your car could yield quite the profit if done correctly

At one time or another, you’ll probably be faced with the prospect of either trading in or selling your car.

Selling the car on your own could easily mean more money in your pocket upon completion of the transaction versus the alternative of trading it in to buy something nicer and newer. The latter certainly sounds much more convenient, but perhaps the sale of your vehicle isn’t tied to getting a new one, and you’re just trying to make some extra cash in a time of need.

So what the best way to sell your car to make the most money?

If you answered parking it in a driveway with a “For Sale” sign on it, that’s a bit short sighted since not many people will see it. You’d be better served to spend a few dollars and list it online for maximum results.

Consider that some online ads cost between $20-40, and most of the more reputable ones carry a decent duration with them. The alternative is an all too familiar and expensive route: the newspaper. Those ads are overpriced and hardly read thanks to dwindling readership.

The real selling power needs to be put in the buyer’s hands, and that begins with the sticker price you’ve selected for your car. Don’t be afraid to ask a little less if you want to get rid of it quickly. That doesn’t mean you should ask $9,000 for your car if you owe $11,500 on it. Instead, if it’s paid off, and you want to get about $4,000 for it, but it’s worth about $5,000, then set it at $4,500. This way, you have a $500 cushion to work with, assuming the buyer is going to bounce back a counter offer from your asking price.

And when you’re deciding on a price, it’s best not to over value your vehicle. Truthfully, it won’t sell quickly if at all, and you’ll be wasting money on posting the ad. The assumption being that trying to overprice your car to make the most money is wishful thinking.

The price obviously would be a moot point if the car doesn’t look the part. If you sell the car, the least you could do is clean it up, wash it, vacuum the interior and throw a fresh coat of wax on it. The car may be worth what you’re asking, but if it doesn’t look like a million bucks, the potential buyer might think you haven’t taken care of it.

If you really want to wow the buyer, show them the original receipt and paperwork, and really hit a home run if you kept records of brake jobs, oil changes or any other maintenance to the car or truck. And please, be honest. If you had a complete transmission overhaul, put that in the ad and let the person know without fail.

All of these tips will push you toward a passing grade and have you riding high when you finally see your profit.