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Monday, November 14, 2011

Now for something lighter

I don't know about you, but sometimes I need to do something really cheerful and unrelated to my situation. Let's have some fun and lighten up!!! (Message to myself as I'm tempted to let my life get me down). Having fun always gives me more energy and optimism. While I can afford some entertainment, it's way more satisfying to have fun for free or at least cheaply.

Check out your library. Even though I live in a really small town, our library is fabulous: free books, free music, free movies, free lectures and programs, and notices of local events. Don't forget to check for discounts for any reason, like being over 50 or being in the military.

This is a UK site, but the concepts work fine for the U.S.A. http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/oct/21/fun-for-free-cuts

Even if you don't have kids, try some of these out for the kid in you.
http://zenhabits.net/100-ways-to-have-fun-with-your-kids-for/

Does your little one need some free fun? Here's a great site.
http://www.havefunteaching.com/

I'm a history geek and archaeologist wannabe. Volunteer at places that interest you. For me, that would be our small, but cool historical museum. Search for your wannabe free fun possibilities.
http://www.havefunwithhistory.com/

This site is for Washington, D.C., but if you search for fun for free (in your city) you'll see lots of activities. I looked for "free fun" in my little town and the city where I used to live, but not much was there for free so I looked for cheap fun (in your city).
http://www.washingtonian.com/blogarticles/afterhours/6845.html

This is a "cheap fun" site for states and cities. Your city could be on their list, and you can also share what you've found to do in your area.
http://www.wisebread.com/free-and-cheap-fun-things-to-do-in-your-city

My cheap exercise is walking, riding my exercycle, or jumping on my little trampoline. Here's some more ideas for everyone.
http://familyfitness.about.com/od/waystoplay/tp/cheap_fitness_fun.htm

I really enjoyed this site!
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/50-creative-cheap-ways-to-have-fun/

Are you an Avatar (the movie) enthusiast? Try this photo altering site for fun.
http://www.avatarizeyourself.com/

I offer this free e-books site with some misgivings since free things that usually cost money make me wonder what the catch is. But don't let my attitude stop your explorations.
http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/20-best-websites-to-download-free-e-books/

Same advice as above for free music downloads.
http://freemusicdownloadsforipods.com/music-downloading-sites/

Just to see what would come up, I searched for free travel 2011. Interesting. Check it out.

I know you're too savvy to be conned, but as a rule, if a site wants you to register with your email address, street address, or any other personal information, be wary.

Be entertained by your own creativity! Try something new. Life will still be there when you get back from your fun break, but you'll have more energy to deal with it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Medical care for the Uninsured: A Resource

For the first time in over eight years I have adequate medical coverage. However, about the time I began Medicare, my husband, a newly diagnosed diabetic, lost his exceptional and affordable medical insurance. Well, we almost had adequate medical care for both of us. Fortunately, there are two excellent free clinics in our area, but if he needed to be hospitalized….

Despite tight money there are options for anyone without medical insurance. PLEASE do not neglect your health by not having appropriate checkups! Look for your state's free/low cost medical care and if you have a particular condition, search for help with that. For example, if you have a history of breast, colon, or prostate cancer, or any other medical condition there are organizations dedicated to those issues. I found it more useful to search for free screenings in a particular area or state, Seattle, WA for example.

BREAST AND CERVICAL CANCER

http://ww5.komen.org
Directs you to sites that can help you, particularly if you have a diagnosis of breast cancer.

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp
Another good search site for help. Click on "Find a Screening Provider."

http://www.plannedparenthood.org
Does breast and cervical cancer screening. This is where I got all my "well-woman" exams for the last 8 years. Check also if they provide free/low cost mammography. Go to "Find a Health Center" and type your zip code.

PROSTATE CANCER

zerocancer.org/events/free-testing
This is a mobile clinic. Go to "Free Testing" at the top of the page. Check their schedule for a stop in your area.

http://www.prostateconditions.org
Go to the bottom of the page for screening site locator.

http://www.pcf.org
Good information about prostate cancer. Go to "Understanding Prostate Cancer" and then to "Helpful Resources." There are several useful connections there.

COLON CANCER

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/screening/
Look for screening sites in or near your city.

MEDICAL CARE COVERAGE


**http://freeclinics.us/clinics/search
This is the most useful site for free clinics I've found so far.

http://www.healthfinder.gov/findservices/
Go to "search" at the top of the page and type what you are interested in such as free dental or medical services.

http://www.rxassist.org/patients/res-free-low-cost-healthcare.cfm Another great site for finding affordable health care options

http://www.coverageforall.org
Look for help in your state: http://www.coverageforall.orG/our_services.htm#apps

http://www.healthfinder.gov/findservices/
Look for Community health centers about half way down the page. These are often low/no cost clinics.

INSURING KIDS

http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/ What is CHIP? The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides free or low-cost health coverage for more than 7 million children up to age 19. CHIP covers U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants. CHIP Is Available in Every State. In general,children in families with incomes up to $44,100/year (for a family of four) are likely to be eligible for coverage. In many states, families can have higher incomes and their children can still qualify. What does CHIP pay for? Each state designs its own CHIP program, including eligibility, benefits, premiums and cost-sharing, and application and renewal procedures. States can decide on the benefits provided under CHIP, but all states cover routine check-ups, immunizations, hospital care, dental care, and lab and x-ray services. Children get free preventive care, but low premiums and other cost-sharing may be required for other services.
To get started, make a free call to 1-877 KIDS NOW (1-877-543-7669). When you call the free and confidential hotline, you’ll be connected directly to someone from your state who will help you apply. Families will need to complete an application and provide some documents. Depending on the state, you can complete the application through the mail, over the phone, or even online.

DENTAL COVERAGE

http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth
Mainly a research organization, but provides dental information as well. Go to the bottom of the page to "Related Links" and then to "Finding Dental Care"

http://www.healthfinder.gov/findservices/
Go to "search" at the top of the page and type what you are interested in such as free dental or medical services. You can find dentists here, but check your area for free dental clinics.

Information about medical insurance rate quotes: you likely already know this, but if you don't, many sites offering medical insurance quotes for low income and unemployed are actually regular insurance companies looking for new business. If you see offers of several medical insurance quotes at once, this is not likely to be helpful if you have little or no money. If you post your home address, email address and/or phone number, be prepared to get calls, emails, and/or written material for an indefinite amount of time. I chose my Medicare supplemental insurance plan in April and in November I still get phone calls, snail mail, and email from agents and insurance companies.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

http://www.rxassist.org/patients/res-state-programs.cfm
This site lists the states participating in "drug buying clubs." Several states enter into deals as a group with pharmaceutical companies for better prices. Check your state's official site for information or call the number listed. For Washington State, there was no needs qualification. Your state may be different. This plan is what I (gratefully) used for the last eight years and what my husband uses now.

http://www.rxassist.org/
Looks like a good site for finding assistance programs for prescription drugs. Go to the bottom of the page and click on "Patient Center."

http://www.makoa.org/freemedicine.htm"
Has a huge list of prescription drug assistance possibilities including importing non-controlled prescription drugs from Canada.

Disclaimer about imported drugs: the FDA, due to the current state of their regulations, has taken the position that virtually all shipments of prescription drugs and certain other products imported from a Canadian or other foreign dispensary by a U.S. consumer will violate the law. Many legal experts, however, disagree with this position. These legal experts have observed that such importation is permitted under federal law as practiced. The FDA itself provides guidance to the public on how to accomplish such importation and no individual has ever been prosecuted by the FDA for importing non-controlled prescription drugs for personal use from a certified member of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.

And lastly: The Affordable Health Care Act may be controversial because of the mandatory participation clause, but please consider this. If my uninsured husband is admitted to the hospital, that hospital will have to wait a long time to be completely re-paid. His hospitalization costs will be passed on to the community making everyone's insurance premiums go up. If he had medical insurance we could afford, everyone's costs could be kept down. Having said that, read this:
http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/KnowYourRights/KnowYourEmergencyRoomRights.aspx

www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline
A descriptive timeline of the benefits provided by the Affordable Health Care Act.

http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2010/07/preventive-services-list.html
This site shows specific benefits for preventive health care for everyone in your family.

If you know of other resources, please share and I will add them to this blog.
Thanks!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanks, but no thanks

I have three friends who are chronically chirpy, meaning they never seem to be in a fussy mood or have a crabby day. Being around them is like basking in a warm sun, and I appreciate them … when I want to bask. The rest of us live somewhere between "Good morning, God!" and "Good God it's morning." Nothing against my sweet friends, but I'm not sure I want them around when I've had yet another bad night and can't imagine how I will make it through the day. In my experience excessively cheerful people are uncomfortable around those of us with troubles. They want to fix us and seem to assume that we haven't been working on whatever it is that has derailed us. There's nothing like a list of recommendations you've already tried to cheer you up.

There's a web site that I've already included, but this topic kept coming back to me: useless advice for the laid-off. (I sincerely hope that any information I share doesn't contribute to someone's pain!) The author of the site believes that the person who wrote this stuff had to be currently employed. Sure, I want advice about my frequent bad nights and the resulting trashed days from someone who rarely experiences that. What would I appreciate? First, assume that I've tried lots of remedies, and second, give me a hug. Most of us with serious problems want our distress to be acknowledged first. Then we can explore possible solutions.

I'll list the topics here, and if one appeals to you, go to http://shine.yahoo.com/work-money/useless-advice-for-the-laid-off-400822.html and check out the site he mentions.

1. Just get over it approach "If you're laid off, you'll need to overcome the initial shock and demoralization and move on quickly and confidently."

2. The laughingly unrealistic "Do things that will get you to be recognized as a world leader in the field you want to be in."

3. The glaringly obvious "Review your financial situation. You may have set aside what seemed like a reasonable amount for a rainy day, but if your unemployment goes beyond a month or two, you may need to make some lifestyle adjustments." (Add a big "DUH" here)

4. The out of touch "If your feelings of anger, sadness or helplessness persist beyond a few weeks, consider getting short-term therapy for depression."

5. The outright dangerous This needs some explaining. The offending site offers this: "You need to get your mind off losing your job and get out of the house and meet people. If you're single, there's no better way than dating." Yes, like you're going to make good decisions about new relationships when you're feeling sad, angry, and depressed.

6. The wishful thinker "Now is the time to pick up a hobby you've always wanted to do but never had time for. Diddit is a relatively new social network for finding people who are doing the things you want to do. Use it to learn more or just find partners to go skydiving with." (Hmmm. This is uncomfortably akin to my suggestion that you consider where you might want to work that is different from your previous profession. I hope this wasn't wishful thinking. Well, if it is wishful thinking for you, ignore that piece of advice.)

7. More from the Pick-Yourself-Up-by -the-Bootstraps Useless Bucket "But don't let your layoff get you down. Be sure to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Stick to a regular exercise program. Get involved in outdoor sports. You need to look sharp when you go to job interviews."

8. The Too-Little-Too-Late "Take a few minutes to connect with everyone before you leave the premises. Get everyone's contact information and future plans. You never know if you might need them."

9. More Don't-Be-a-Freakin'-Wuss "Don't be a victim. Don't whine. Don't let people whine to you. Get busy on the next phase of your life."

10. The Golden Opportunity "This is the time that you can spend Organizing Your Life! Remember when you said to your friend, 'One of these days I am going to get everything in my house organized.' Well, today is the day to start!" I have to include this commentary from the author of the "Useless" website: "I'm not a violent person. But I'd like to slap silly whoever wrote this. Especially for the exclamation marks."

11. The I'd-Rather-Beat-My-Head-Against-a-Wall "See if you can keep coming into the office. " Riiiiiiight!

When someone with good intentions offers you any of the above advice, just smile and say "Thanks." Or you can set them straight.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Is "frugality" just a four letter word?

Is "frugal" a four letter word? OK, it has five letters, but you know what I mean. We all have understandings of "frugality," so to see what yours might be, try this short, informal review:

1. Only those without enough money have to be frugal. Yes___ No___
2. I have all that I need and use my money the way I want to. Yes___ No___
3. Being frugal means I win the advertizing battles for my money. Yes___ No___
4. I'm being punished for having too many debts, so I have to be frugal. Yes___ No___
5. When I am being frugal I feel deprived. Yes___ No___
6. Being frugal means I can have anything I want when I choose to. Yes___ No___

Until the last three years of 180 degree life change, my gut feeling about frugality was that it meant deprivation and punishment. Not much of a motivator for getting out of the large credit card debt I had. The more I tried to be frugal, the less I succeeded to pay it off or to save money. I'd like to say that virtue won and I bravely chose frugality. What really happened was that not being able to go places to shop and little inclination to buy on-line, I became frugal by default. Big surprise: I don't feel dis-empowered or deprived. How did that happen? Like any intervention, being away from your drug-of-choice means you don't feed your addiction. I was at the "rehab center" provided by being sick, and when I felt well enough to go out, the addiction was gone. I've paid off my debt and recently bought a big-ticket item we wanted - with cash. That is enormous progress for me!

Opportunities for attitude change can come from anywhere, but if you're struggling with accepting frugality as a life-style, try these web sites. For them frugality is a fun game they are winning. I enjoyed checking into many of them and am recommending a few to you. Look for "frugal blog" on the web - there are A LOT of them out there. All of them provide ways to make your money go farther. My new favorite word: frugalista.

A Momma and the Boys Living on a Budget : printable coupons (I don't usually buy name brands, but will if I have a coupon.)

http://www.momadvice.com/blog/: lots of freebies

http://www.frugallivingjournal.com/blog/: lots of topics - search for one you're interested in

http://www.livingonadime.com: More topics

http://www.frugallawstudent.com/: good advice about student loans and other helpful topics

http://www.frugal101.com/: getting out of debt and other topics

www.mightybargainhunter.com: shopping ideas and personal finance

www.getrichslowly.org: good advice and good reader stories (you can post your own story here.)

http://shine.yahoo.com/work-money/useless-advice-for-the-laid-off-400822.html
: Excellent!!!

Be careful when you choose a blog. Only go to the sites with some indicator that the web connection has determined it's virus free. When I went to "Ask the Frugal Decorating Diva," my virus alarm went crazy!