Obtaining discounts, paying fees by the year, finding a part-time job with health care benefits, and more.
By Janet Groene, F47166
Full-timing can be a rewarding way of life, but the lifestyle is getting squeezed these days from all directions. Food costs have taken a big jump, and everything from repairs and maintenance to fuel and campground rates continue to rise. One obvious solution is to drive fewer miles. That leaves more time to smell the flowers, but you still have to eat and pay bills.
Here are just a few other ways to make your full-timing finances go both further and farther.
- If you pay your campground rent by the week, month, or season, ask whether you can receive a discount by paying for a year in advance. This also locks in the current rate and protects against subsequent price hikes. Many other expenses also can be reduced by paying by the year instead of by the month or quarter. They include insurance, storage unit rentals, and prepaid telephone cards.
- If possible, sign up for a cell phone service program that warns you when you’re approaching your allotted limit on voice or texting. With some plans, you don’t know until you receive the bill that you racked up overage charges.
- Hit so much as one wrong key on your phone and you may incur a connection fee. On smartphones this happens if you accidentally hit the Internet button, at which time you could pay as much as 99 cents for going online. If you use a dial-around long-distance service on any phone and get a no answer, a busy signal, or an answering machine, you may automatically incur a connection fee (usually 99 cents). Even though the company boasts that its rates are only 4 or 5 cents per minute, connection fees add to your overall costs. Beware, too, of stumbling accidentally into a pay-per-minute number via a phone app.
- Take a close look at the “free upgrades” offered with a phone plan. By signing up for these types of offers, you probably also will incur fees for new services plus a new contract that puts you back at the start of a two- or three-year commitment. Fulfill a current contract first, and then shop around. The best deal may be with a different brand.
- Carefully check your credit card charges each month. Crooks who have stolen your credit card number often start with a small charge that can be overlooked easily for a month or two. The thief may continue to bleed off small amounts for months, then sock you with a big charge and disappear.
- Save by signing up to receive notices about online specials at Web sites for campground supplies, tools, campsites, restaurants, and other frequent needs. These last-minute deals come and go within days or even hours. If they result in too much spam, you can always unsubscribe.
- Are you starting a business on the go? The first step is to choose a powerful name that brands your goods or services in one or two words. Start by going to the United States Patent and Trademark Office Web site (www.uspto.gov) to determine whether the name you’ve chosen has already been trademarked. This is also a good place to see names used by the businesses that will be your competition.
- If you need a job primarily to acquire health insurance, companies that offer the most generous plans for part-timers include Build-A-Bear, Costco, JCPenney, Starbucks, REI, and Whole Foods.
- Make it a habit to check supermarket receipts before leaving the parking lot. The most common errors are when you purchase “buy one, get one free” specials in which you are charged the full price for both items. At one Southern supermarket chain, I find errors more than 50 percent of the time. They are never in my favor, and they are always blamed on computer error.
- Discover the heart of a town where you are staying, and also save some money, by looking up information about local church suppers, bazaars, and festivals in the area. Modestly priced, they are usually fund-raisers for a good cause. The food is hearty, the welcome sincere. Often, a Greek festival or apple pie supper is a small community’s biggest social event of the year. Suggested dates and places are found at my blog: www.churchsupper.blogspot.com.
- It’s usually wise to obtain a second opinion, especially for medical issues or repairs, but first check your insurance coverage to see whether a second opinion or estimate is covered. It may be required. For a health matter, you may need a referral from your primary care doctor before seeing another physician. Follow the rules from the start and keep all paperwork in order.
- Read the fine print. The chief reason for claim denials in health insurance (51 percent) is that the policy clearly states that the service is not covered. Another 11 percent of claims are denied because the patient did not obtain a referral or authorization before seeing the doctor.
- If you’re age 50 or older, ask about senior discounts. They may not apply until you are 62 or 65, but you can save on everything from restaurant meals to veterinarian bills. They are rarely offered unless you ask.
- This tip from the January/February 2012 issue of Money magazine may save you money when you buy a used vehicle. Observing that prices typically drop approximately $200 as each 10,000-mile mark is passed, the publication suggests looking for odometer readings just over that mark. For example, choose a vehicle that has 41,000 or 51,000 miles rather than 49,000 or 59,000 miles.
- If you need extra income on the go but don’t want to be tied down, check out these Web sites for temporary, flex-time, or telecommuting jobs: www.championlearning.com (tutoring positions for those who have credentials in education or consulting); www.momcorps.com; www.retiredbrains.com; www.secondact.com; or www.snagajob.com. No endorsement by this writer or magazine is implied.
- Avoid traffic tickets by checking out traffic laws before crossing each state line. Many quirks and differences in rules and penalties exist, especially in regard to texting or cell phone use, child restraints, and the type of safety equipment you’re required to have on board. With the help of a second person, periodically check all lights (headlights, taillights, turn signals) to make sure your motorhome is in compliance.
- If you receive a gift card, use it promptly. According to Smart Money magazine (February 2012), one-third of $1 billion was lost in 2011 to gift card expirations. Another $1.2 billion was lost to fees (typically a $4.95 “activation fee” for a gift credit card worth $50 or $100). Most gift cards for retail stores and food outlets are good for their face value. Credit cards, by contrast, are not worth full face value, but they can be used wherever that card is accepted.
The next step is to protect your name and other intellectual property with a trademark, copyright, or patent. Patent and trademark applications go to the site above; copyrights are filed at www.copyright.gov. Even though there are companies that can file for you, charging a service fee, you can do it yourself. Individual pieces of writing, such as blogs, can be filed in batches to save time and money.