Friday, March 19, 2010

Affordable Health Insurance - Is it Worthwhile?

Within Australia, you need to purchase health insurance cover before you turn 31 or face higher annual premiums for each year that you are without cover.  I wasn't keen, but to avoid this extra cost and to save money on my tax I joined up before my 31st birthday, with the most basic cover available.  After I had finished working full-time, the Australian Government decided that a couple could earn $150,000 before they were charged a Medicare surcharge through their tax meaning that I dont need to pay health insurance....except I am now over 31.

I have been paying for about three years and never made a health insurance claim.  I visited the health insurance quotes website ISelect and applied for health insurance quotes in my search for low cost health insurance plans.  Based on my details, the recommended individual health insurance cover was with the exact same policy. 

I have now received a letter informing me that my health insurance premium will increase by about $7 a month.  It is not much, but I really hate to have to pay for something I am determined I wont need for 30-40 years.  I gave birth to my son in a public hospital and loved the experience.  I have no desire to be out of pocket many thousands of dollars, just so that I can have my own hospital room for 3 days with a few other perks here and there.  If I have an accident, I would be treated immediately so really I would only be inconvenienced for elective surgeries. 

It is so tempting to cancel my individual health insurance, but insurance is for 'just in case' so I guess I'll be spending many more years paying for something that I am determined not to need.

There are ways you can save on low cost health insurance policies.

1. Ask for a higher excess and you may be able to reduce your premium.  It just means you will pay more if you have to use your health insurance for any reason.

2. Paying annually can save up to 10 per cent on your premium when compared with monthly.

3. Quit smoking, some insurance companies will charge you less if you are a non-smoker.

4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle so that even if you are paying for health insurance, you dont need to make a claim.

5. Compare policies that the different health insurance companies offer to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How to Plan a Cheap Trip

The Easter holiday is fast approaching, another opportunity to plan a cheap trip vacation.  As usual, my husband decided mid-2009 that it was time to book for our Easter holiday 2010, a nice cheap trip to Australia...well interstate within Australia, since we are already living here.  We discussed options for cheap holiday vacation packages searching for the best cheap holiday.

We finally decided to plan a cheap trip to Cairns, as I have never been there and there is just so much to see.

To save money and to plan a cheap trip, we researched all aspects of our holiday to plan a cheap trip.  We are lucky enough to be members of a holiday club through Worldmark South Pacific Vacation Club by Wyndham so we were able to pay for accommodation with our points.  Had we not had points available, we probably would have looked further into cheap holiday getaways to plan a cheap trip.

We also invited my in-laws, since we will be staying in a three-bedroom apartment.  They will enjoy a cheap trip, will get to spend time with us - especially little LJ and we will have childcare available when we want to go out ALONE together.  I cant wait to go on a date with my husband again!

Listed below are tips on how to plan a cheap trip and save money when you book your cheap holiday trips.

When you Plan a Cheap Trip, Compare Airfares
I compare airfares between carriers and if I can save a few bucks, will use one airline in one direction and another for the return.  My favorite Australian carrier is Qantas as our family all have Qantas frequent flyer memberships and between us we have enough points for return flights to either the USA or Europe, which we plan to use next year.  However, if we can save money by flying another carrier, it is worthwhile.

Book cheap holiday trips well in Advance
To plan a cheap trip, we book cheap holiday trips well in advance to ensure availability.  Most bookings can be changed or cancelled until a certain date, so periodically we compare prices to see if we can get a better price elsewhere.  We booked our car hire in July 09 which was a good thing.  To hire the same car now would cost an additional $400 for the week.  

Pay for Cheap Holiday Getaways with Cash, not Credit Card
Booking in advance also allows us to save money toward a cheap trip so that we dont need to use the credit card to pay for bookings and spending money.  We use our credit card out of choice to earn points and can easily afford to pay it off at the end of the month, rather than feeling guilty about recreation credit card use that leads to credit card interest charges.

Points used the Right Way will Save Money on your Cheap Trip Vacation
I am devoted to points, probably because I like the feeling of getting something for nothing...well almost.  I know there's an annual credit card fee, but we never pay credit card interest.  To plan a cheap trip, you can still spend a lot of money, so if each dollar I spend earns points I can eventually plan a cheap trip for nothing.

When you plan a cheap trip earn points by using an airline loyalty program for flights, paying with a credit card that offers rewards and if you can use accommodation loyalty clubs, timeshare or vacation club points, utilize these as well.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Save Money when you Bring a Plate

Each week my Mother's Group takes turns in providing coffee and cake for morning tea.  In the nicer weather we have been meeting in our local parks (we live in a fantastic area for parks and playgrounds).  Mostly the mums bring a divine cake from the bakery, they are so yummy and look amazing.  But as I am trying to be good and save money, I try to bake something.  Comparatively, the cost of buying a cake or slice is much more expensive.  However, when baking the cost of time needs to be considered.  I have a lot on my plate, but if I plan ahead I can usually manage to whip up a slice or some cookies.

If a small cake or slice costs about $12 to feed 6 people, then I estimate I am saving at least $8, by baking something at home.

Below is the Brownies Recipe that I have been making since I was about 12 years old.  I got it from the wife of our American Baptist Pastor who was in Australia for a few years.

1/2 cup cocoa
2/3 cup oil (I use olive oil, but vegetable oil is fine)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Cook 180 degrees for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven)  I check it after 15 minutes, just gently jab a knife into the slice and if the blade comes out clean, then it is ready.

I love this recipe because it tastes great before and after cooking.  I always make sure I leave extra in the bowl, so that I can enjoy licking it while the slice is cooking.  My estimation is that this recipe costs about $4 to make and you can cut it into around 30 good sized slices.  That is enough for my Mum's group, as well as to feed my ravenous husband when he arrives home from work.

Actually I'll just make a little admission here.  I love to bake.  The main reason is that I LOVE cake mixture, cookie mixture...almost anything raw.  I even went to Mrs Fields Cookies once, and asked them if they could just sell me their mixture.