Buying Home Insurance

When buying a new home, there are so many decision to make and processes to go through. One of the main concerns when buying a new home is the amount of money being spent on the investment. Your family is spending so much, you want to do everything possible to save every penny you can. It can be stressful. Below are some helpful hints to help you save money during your home buying endeavor.

Realtor Fees

One thing people should know is that Realtor fees are often negotiable. Now when you are purchasing a home it is typically the seller who has to pay the realtor fees, but most likely you are selling a house to buy a home (not everyone is a first time home buyer). It is important to realize this because it could save you some cash.

You can also sell your house on your own. You can do this by doing a for sale by owner or by using services like Make Me Move by Zillow. This allows you to eliminate your realtor fees all together.

Home Insurance

A key element to buying a new home is finding homeowners insurance. This is an integral part to the home buying process. What you need to know to save money on your firs home insurance policy is that it is ok to ask questions and shop around. Know what you are looking to insure to make sure you have the proper coverage that your home and family need. Is there something specific that you need covered? Make sure to ask! There are also different factors that determine your cost of your insurance so it is important to go through each thing with your broker. A particular location of your home or materials/set up of your home can easily affect your plan.

Know the Market

You can save money when buying a home just by being educated on the market you are looking in. This will allow you to know if you are overpaying or underpaying on your investment. If you know your area well, as well as the schools and neighborhood factors you will make sure you are getting the best deal possible and won’t be taken advantage of.


A lot of home buyers are frustrated by paying money for inspections and other testing on a home before going through the deal. This is very true but it is also important to know what you are getting into before making the big investment. Since you need to get inspections it is important to choose which houses to put offers on. You can also save money by asking to see the Sellers Disclosure that may disclose information on the home.

Hopefully these hints will help you make some good decisions while buying your home.

What to Consider Before You Switch Insurance Plans

Whether you have to wait until open enrollment to change your health insurance coverage or your coverage allows you to switch at any time, there are a few things to consider before jumping ship on your medical insurance. Often, the plan you enroll into has a period of time that you are “locked into” the plan, and you may have to wait up to a year to change again. Keeping that in mind, this is an important decision that requires some thought.

Is Your PCP Covered?

Being able to freely see your primary care provider when you need a doctor is one of the most important reasons to carry health insurance. If your doctor is out of network on a new plan, it’s a potentially bad idea to switch. Out of pocket costs can really add up, even for those that are in good health and only see a doctor a few times a year.

Other Types of Insurance

If one of the reasons you want to switch is to have better dental insurance and vision coverage, that’s a very important thing to consider. Paying out of pocket for dental care, even routine cleanings twice a year, can get really expensive, even if your dentist has a sliding scale. If your new plan includes general dentistry and vision exams, it may be time to switch. Another thing to consider is prescription coverage.

Waiting Periods for Eligibility

If your new plan has a substantial waiting period and it’s fairly on par with your current plan, it probably isn’t worth the wait. This is an important question to ask if you’re switching jobs, in which case changing insurance may be unavoidable. COBRA, the type of insurance that covers you between jobs, can be more expensive than staying with your original plan. Even if you have to pay a higher premium to stay with the insurance offered from your old employer, it may be worth it to stay on.

Quality of Care

Another important thing to consider is your quality of care. If you’re happy with what you’re receiving now, it may be a good idea to stick with the plan you have. If a new plan is less expensive and you can keep all of your same doctors, hospitals, and specialist choices, that is of course, a different story.

Bottom-Line Costs

Almost as important as quality of care, the bottom line costs are an important factor when you’re thinking about switching. What are your premiums and deductibles? Obviously, no one can predict the future, but if you’re a reasonably healthy adult with high premiums and low deductibles, it may be time for higher deductibles that may save you money in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Money isn’t the most important thing when it comes to deciding whether to switch health insurance. Your health is paramount, and if your quality of care will go down over just saving a few dollars, it’s better to stick with your current plan. However, if you find a way to keep costs down while keeping the same quality of care, it is a good idea to switch.


How to Save on the Cost of Life Insurance

All too often people avoid buying life insurance because they simply cannot afford it. However, it might be that you cannot afford your ideal life insurance policy, but you can afford something for less. The following article will cover money saving tips when purchasing life insurance.

Fifteen money saving tips when purchasing life insurance

  1. Buy cheap term life insurance

Life insurance comes in three main flavors: term, whole, and universal life. One of the best ways to save money on your life insurance premium is to purchase term life insurance. Here is a brief description of each type of life insurance.

Term life insurance is designed to last for the term of the policy. Usually, the term can be anywhere from 10 years up to 30 years. You can even find a 35-year term policy with a return of premium rider. Typically the premium is fixed for the duration of the term with the ability to renew on an annual basis. However, because the policy ends at a specified time (the term) your premium will be less than a product that lasts the rest of your life, such as whole or universal life insurance.

Whole life insurance lasts the rest of your life. The policy builds cash value. Typically the premium and face amount are fixed for the life of the primary insured. You can borrow against the cash reserve. Any interest owed on the money you borrowed against will typically be repaid from the death benefit when you die. And for those who want permanent coverage, single premium whole life insurance saves you on the cost of protection.

Universal life insurance is a permanent policy. It is very similar to whole life but has more flexibility when it comes to the payment. There are three main types of Universal Life: Guaranteed, Indexed, and Variable. Guaranteed Universal Life typically has a fixed premium amount. Indexed Universal Life has the premium you paid tied directly to a benchmark, such as the stock market. So if the market does well you pay less and vice versa. Variable Universal Life allows the owner to invest the policy into various investment vehicles which can make the premium and cash reserve go down or up depending on the performance of the investment index the policy is tied to.

You might need life insurance for the rest of your life. In that case, term will not be the best choice. However, you cannot beat cheap term life insurance for the savings it will provide compared to Universal or Whole Life.

A word of advice when choosing the type of life insurance for you: You need to consider how much life insurance you need today, not some hypothetical day in the future. All too often people get hung up on cheap term life insurance because they are too fixated on what may or may not happen once the term expires. The problem is this misses the point of term life insurance. Term should be used to meet your needs in the here and now.

For example, if you know your family needs $500,000 of life insurance proceeds to pay off the mortgage then you should get $500,000 of coverage. What tends to happen is people will purchase $100,000 of whole life instead of the $500,000 of term they need because they are too focused on the term expiring and “then what?” But consider if that person dies in a few years or few months from now.

That $100,000 policy is not going to do the job. And further, how much will $100,000 be worth in 30-40 years when the insured dies? That is why a healthy husband or wife age 40 and younger should consider a million dollars of life insurance. The idea is to buy the amount of insurance you need in case you die today and deal with the future when it comes.

  1. Have your beneficiary or beneficiaries pay for it

Another great way to save on the cost of life insurance is to have your beneficiary pay your life insurance premium. Often older clients will be saddled with a high premium that makes paying life insurance painful. As a result, many people will simply let the life insurance lapse, cash it in, or sell it for a life settlement because it does not fit into the budget. But a good idea would be to see if your life insurance beneficiary will help or completely pay the premium. After all, they are the one who stands to benefit from the policy. Why shouldn’t they help pay it?

  1. Stop smoking

An important money saving tip on life insurance is to know the requirements of getting a non-tobacco rate class. As you may already know, smoking and life insurance are poor bedfellows. Typically, the premium is three to five times higher for a smoker compared to a non-smoker. To save on your life insurance, you will need to quit for at least one year. There is a company that will offer a preferred rate class after one year of no tobacco use. But you need to quit for at least one year to qualify for a non-tobacco rate. For those of you who use other forms of tobacco besides cigarettes than make sure you apply with a company that has favorable underwriting for tobacco products other than cigarettes. And if your tobacco product happens to be marijuana, make sure you apply with a marijuana friendly life insurance company.

  1. Get healthy

Easier said than done, we know. However, many steps can be taken today that will help you qualify for a much better rate class down the road. And going from one rate class to another can save you between 10-25% on your premium. In fact, the difference between a preferred plus rate class and a standard rate class is typically 200%.

The two primary contributors to getting healthy are diet and exercise. Think baby steps. You don’t need to run a marathon or go vegan. Instead, take small steps to improving your diet and fitness. For example, you could cut down on the fast food you eat or take an evening stroll around the neighborhood in the evening. You would be amazed at how a few small changes can make an enormous difference over time.

If you are currently working on getting healthier but you need life insurance today, consider a cheap term exam or no exam life insurance policy. A 10-year term will provide ample length and you can easily re-apply for life insurance once you have reached your desired health goals six months or so down the road.

  1. Pay annually

Here is an often overlooked tip for saving money when purchasing life insurance that adds up over the years. You receive price breaks by paying less frequently. For example, the best way to buy life insurance is with a single premium policy where you put down a large sum of money to purchase an even larger death benefit. Single premium is a great deal for some who have a lot of liquid cash but for those of us who do not have an extra $50,000 or more lying around, there are still ways to save money.

The lowest premium is the annual premium. Paying your premium once a year will provide you the most savings, followed by semi-annual, then monthly and then quarterly. Yes, quarterly is the most expensive way to pay for your life insurance.

  1. Buy it while you are young

Age is the primary factor that a life insurance carrier will consider when determining your premium. The reason is, the actuarial tables that an underwriter looks at considers your life expectancy above all else. Therefore, the older you are, the closer you are to that fateful day. Therefore, the younger you are, the more money you will save on your life insurance.

For all you 20, 30 and 40-year-olds looking for cheap term life insurance, there is no time like today to lock into a policy. Once you get into your 50s, life insurance premiums jump up around 5-10% year over year.

  1. Avoid Dangerous Hobbies

The dangerous hobbies that do raise a red flag for life insurance companies will either make your premium go up, require an exclusion, or cause your application to be declined. And you will have to wait two years after quitting the hobby to qualify if you do engage in particular dangerous hobbies. For thrill seekers, refraining from dangerous avocations is not realistic. However, if you don’t regularly participate in adrenalin sports and have plans to purchase life insurance, don’t go skydiving or make plans to go skydiving before you secure that policy.

  1. Consider the term length

Here is another great tip to save money when buying life insurance. If you are pressed for cash because your monthly budget is precarious close to swamping you but you want life insurance to protect your family as their primary income source, then consider a shorter term length. There are two distinct advantages to doing so.

One advantage of a shorter term length is the premium will be less because the chances of you dying in 10 years or 15 years is less than you dying in the next 30 years.

Also, most term policies come with an additional life insurance rider called a conversion option that will allow you to convert all or a portion of your policy into a permanent policy at your original rate class. That way, even if you do come down with some condition that precludes you from life insurance, you can convert your term policy to a permanent policy with no proof of insurability.

Further, you can always add additional coverage or buy a new policy when you are not so financially strapped, but at least you have some life insurance in the interim.

Also, be aware that some life insurance carriers offer term coverage for every year from 15-30. That means 16, 17, 18, 19, and so on. So you can tailor a policy to your particular need.

  1. Actual age versus insurance age

Some life insurance companies will use your nearest age to determine your life insurance “age”. How this works is the life insurance company will date you at the age you are closest to. So if someone 44 years old was born in August and they apply for life insurance in March, that person is one year older for life insurance purposes because they are nearer to turning 45, rather than 44.

Now you can backdate the policy to save age but you will end up paying more premium up front to do so and it is not in everyone’s best interest to backdate although at times it makes sense.

Other companies will use your actual age. That means as long as you apply and are approved for life insurance before your birthday then you are your actual age. If you have a birthday during the underwriting period, than you are your new age for that insurance carrier. Therefore, you want to make sure you applied with an actual age company with a few weeks or months to spare to lock into your current age.

The difference between the costs for an actual age company versus a nearest age company will probably be a few dollars. However, for longer terms, such as 20 or 30 years, that will amount to thousands of dollars of savings on life insurance premiums. It pays to know which company to choose.

  1. Know your insurance companies weight chart

Different companies have different build tables. Your build is your height and weight allowance that a life insurance company will use to determine your rate class. Another way to say this is that some companies allow for a larger body mass index than others.

The key for overweight or big boned clients looking to save on life insurance is to apply with a carrier that has a more liberal build chart. As we mentioned above, the difference between rate classes can save you 10-25% on your premium. That is sizable savings over the life of your insurance.

  1. Buy in bulk (discounted rate bands)

Life insurance companies bundle policies in much the same way that a company like Costco bundles its food. You receive a price break when you buy more life insurance. Face amounts $0-249,999 are in the lowest band, although some companies have it $0-199,999. The next typical band is $250,000-499,999. There is a price break at $500,000-749,000 and then another price break on cost per units at $750,000-999,999. Another price break on cost per units at $1,000,000-1,249,999. Therefore, a great way to save on life insurance is to inquire into that specific companies price breaks.

You might find that your $700,000 policy actually costs more than a $750,000 policy because the larger policy had a bigger price break on costs per unit.

  1. Take an exam compared to a no medical exam policy

If every penny counts, then this is another awesome tip for saving money when purchasing life insurance. Life insurance companies want to get a complete picture of who the company is offering life insurance to. Therefore, taking an exam provides a company a complete picture of your health and lifestyle.

As a result, exam policies (called “fully underwritten”) are less than a no exam policy. For those of you with a fear of needles or that have superior health, there are still affordable life insurance companies available that do not require an exam. It is these instances when the premium is very close or when it makes sense to choose a no exam policy versus an exam because of a potential health issue not yet discovered that a no exam policy can save you a lot of time and money.

  1. Consider a second-to-die policy

If your goal is to leave money to your estate, then a survivorship life insurance policy might be right up your alley. With a second to die policy, the premium is lower, up to 40% lower in some cases, than buying coverage on an individual. The reason being, both spouses have to die for the policy to pay out. But if neither spouse needs money, an excellent way to increase an estate and pay any estate taxes is with a second to die life insurance policy, perhaps in an irrevocable trust.

And a second to die policy can be purchased on two business partners, siblings, and many other potential scenarios as long as there is an insurable interest. Buying coverage on two business partners is a great way to create a business succession plan with life insurance, such as funding a buy sell agreement, or key man business insurance.

Do your work benefits rock?

With the arrival of Baby Ninja in the rear view mirror, Girl Ninja and I are starting to receive a hefty amount of mail from my insurance company. All the hospital visits, the labor and delivery, the lactation consultations, the pediatric appointments, and medications; are looking for their cut of pie. Every time I check the mail a little part of me dies inside.

I think to myself, “Ah crap, how much is Baby Ninja gonna cost us.”

The answer…

Ten dollars. 

Yup, just ten George Washington’s is all it took to bring Baby Ninja in to this world.

Your income is more than just your income.

While I may never earn a six figure salary in my government job, sometimes I have to remind myself that my total compensation package is MORE than just the salary I receive.

Like having access to great health insurance. While many of my friends have had to shell out thousands of dollars in medical costs for their labor and delivery, Girl Ninja and I have been able to rest easy the last nine months knowing that $10 was all we would have to pay.

Why $10 you ask?

Well, when Girl Ninja found out she was pregnant back in October she scheduled a maternity appointment with her OB/GYN. That first appointment had a $10 co-pay. Every other appointment since then has been 100% covered by my health insurance. No copays or out-of-pockets for anything.

Do you know how awesome it was to see a $4,000 medical bill indicate my financial obligation was $0.00?!

It felt like this..

Today I’m not only thankful for having a sweet job, but benefits that rock my world. 

Do you have any sweet work benefits? I know the tech industry is infamous for crazy perks.

Oh and here are a few more shots of Baby Ninja now that he doesn’t look quite so weird…

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Turn your audio up 😉

I bought a security system that isn’t a ripoff.

We were over at a friend’s house a few weeks ago, and after he gave us a tour of his home he asked Girl Ninja and I a weird question. He said “Do you want to see your entrance to our home?”

I had no idea what he was talking about so I said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

He pulled out his iPhone, opened up an app, and played back video of us approaching his front porch and knocking on their front door. Unbeknownst to us, he has a security camera that films his front porch. Creepy and awesome.

Being the tech nerd I am, I was intrigued and began asking him a billion questions about it. That night, I went home and bought myself a Dropcam.

***Note: I want to make sure it’s clear this is not a sponsored post. I’m just pumped about this discovery and want to share it with you all.***

Girl Ninja has been pestering me about a home security system since we moved in. I hate the idea of a home security system. We know a ton of people who have them, but have not heard one story where they have actually been useful. Heard too many stories about alarms going off (and cops being called) because of a cat in the garage, a family member forgot the security code, or an electrical issue. Couple that knowledge with the fact that I’m a cheapskate and you can understand why I was hesitant to get a home security system.

Dropcam, however, seems like the perfect solution for someone like myself. I want to give my wife peace of mind, but keep as much money as possible in our pockets.

We hopped on Amazon and bought the camera for $135, now $149. It’s wifi enabled and after two minutes of set-up, it was ready to be used. We put it in our living room, looking out a window on to our front porch. Here’s a sreenshot of our camera’s point of view…


Dropcam is awesome for a few reasons. I’ll list them in bullet point form…

  • It takes HD video.
  • The Dropcam app allows you to pull up the live (or archived) feed from your phone, tablet, or computer at any time.
  • You can choose to receive notifications anytime the camera senses motion, noise, or both.
  • For $99 a year, you can add 7 days of cloud storage. Meaning you can play back 7 days of footage at any time. Significantly cheaper than the $20/mo security system plans.
  • The camera has both a speaker and a microphone, meaning it can also be used as a Baby Monitor. You could also communicate to someone who is in the process of robbing your house, via the camera speaker, that you have called the police and have video of their face.
  • You can buy multiple Dropcams and place them anywhere you want.
  • It has night vision, which works surprisingly well.
  • It’s significantly cheaper than any big box security system and there is no contract.
  • You get video of the dudes robbing your house. EVIDENCE!!!!

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of our Dropcam. We’ve used it to check in on Nova while we’ve been out (making sure she isn’t barking or chewing at her crate). We love getting notifications when we are out that motion has been detected, pulling up the feed quickly on our phone, and being able to make sure everything was all good.

For $135 it’s the perfect home security system for us. We’ll probably buy a second one this summer and use it as a Baby Monitor knowing that a few years from now it can become a second home security camera.

I’ve asked our insurance agent to check with our homeowners policy to see if this is considered a legitimate security system in hopes that it will lower our homeowners insurance policy. Haven’t heard back yet, but if it does, that would be reason enough for anyone to buy it.

Anyone else have a Dropcam? What measures do you take to protect your home?

If you’re like me and interested in buying the Dropcam after my little review, I’m including an Amazon Affiliate link below to it. Meaning, I’ll make a small commission off your purchase, but you can totally just go to Amazon on your own and pay the same price if you don’t want me to get a piece of the pie 😉

p.s. Here’s the security footage of our stupid neighbors cat triggering a motion alert…

I guess I should be a grown up now.

I don’t know if you all are aware, but I’m kind of a rebel. I’ve lived the last 28 years of my life with reckless abandon. Doing something so controversial I rarely mention it on the blog. But today, it’s time I come clean…

I’m uninsured. 

I know, I know. You are judging me. Second guessing your very decision to continue reading. Doubting every piece of financial advice I’ve ever shared. I get it. I’d probably judge me too.

I’ve been married for a little over three years now, but never found a legitimate need to explore getting life insurance. I could have died six months ago and Girl Ninja would have been just fine. In fact, she arguably would have been better off. Here’s what life looked like for us a few months ago….

  • We were on a month-to-month lease.
  • We had nearly $100,000 in savings.
  • We had $100,000 in retirement.
  • We had no debt.
  • We were both employed full-time.

You see. I could have died, and it would have had little impact on Girl Ninja. Well, except for the whole being emotionally distraught thing. She would have moved out of our apartment, and in with her parents that live 20 minutes away. She could have sold one of our two vehicles (adding another $10,000 to savings). There was no income crisis as she works full-time.

Basically, she would have been just fine. 

Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Now that we own a home, we have a couple hundred thousand dollars of debt to our name and a much larger house payment. If I die tomorrow, that payment isn’t going anywhere. A payment Girl Ninja couldn’t comfortably float with her income. She’d be forced to either sell the house, or begin renting it out.

So it’s time I man up and get myself some 20 year, level, term life insurance. After a quick search on the interwebz, it appears I can get $1million in coverage for around $30/month. In other words, for about $360 a year (what we spend dining out each month), I can take care of Girl Ninja even after I die.


I’ll be honest, I’m not pumped about spending $30/month on something I will most likely NOT use (fingers crossed), but I’d be way less pumped about  dying and leaving Girl Ninja up a creek without a paddle.

There really is no excuse for not being covered in my opinion. Especially when you think about all the dads paying $90/month for their iPhone, but wont cough up $20/mo for $500,000 in life insurance.

Have you been totally reckless like me? Do you have life insurance? If not, what is keeping you from getting your crap together!?

note: If you are single, have no dependents, or are self-insured via investments/savings, then I obviously wouldn’t expect you have life insurance 😉

Gonna die? Spend everything!!!!!

Read a fascinating article the other day about a man, Frank, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he only had a few months left to live. Frank and his wife Wilma did what I, and what many of you, would likely do. They sold their home, canceled their health insurance, and cashed out their life savings. If your days are literally numbered, might as well make them count right? Here’s where it gets juicy.

But after spending all their money, plus several thousand dollars more, the Kiwi couple learned the bittersweet truth: Frank was just fine.

Turns out they didn’t only sell off their assets and burn through their cash, they charged upwards of $63,000 on their credit cards to fund some of their lavish lifestyle (trips around the world, shopping trips, dining out, etc).

If you’re like me, you suddenly stop empathizing with Frank, and begin to think he is a douche. Burning through your own cash is one thing, but when you start to charge your lavish expenses on credit – when you clearly don’t have the savings/assets/income – one can’t help but think Frank is taking advantage of the system. If the cards were in his name only, his wife would have no obligation to pay back his loans after his death. And since they sold off their assets, Frank has no estate in which the bank can seek compensation. Frank, essentially gets to blow $63,000 and doesn’t have to pay a penny back. Frank went from being super cool, to being a SUPER TOOL (see what I did there?).

But then I got served a big slice of humble pie. Turns out, Frank isn’t the douchetastic individual I thought he might be. His redemption came when I read the following sentence: “The pair didn’t worry about getting into debt because they figured Frank’s life insurance would cover it.”

Dang. I’m narrow minded. Our assets aren’t just the liquid and illiquid assets that we control, but also the contingency policies we’ve established outside of ourselves. In Frank’s case, via a life insurance policy. Frank and Wilma had a plan after all; They weren’t gaming the system like I once thought.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, Frank found out nearly two years after he was told he had months to live, he was misdiagnosed and didn’t actually have cancer. Frank was not going to die.

Sounds weird, but Frank’s initial reaction to this news was probably not complete and utter relief. The dude was broke and in debt and life insurance was no longer going to be his saving grace.

The article doesn’t make mention of a lawsuit, and I typically HATE how “sue-happy” people are. But if I was Frank, I would probably sue the doctor (and/or hospital). Who of us wouldn’t blow all our cash if we knew we only had a few months left? Who wouldn’t rack up some credit card debt if you knew your life insurance would more than cover the bill and provide for your loved ones? The misdiagnosis of a SERIOUS health condition had a significant impact on Frank’s life and the decisions he made. Do I think Frank should get millions for the mistake? No, but I’m all for him recovering his losses (the assets he had and the income he lost).

What say you?