7 Ways to Score Free Dental for Seniors on Medicare

Affording dental work can be tough if you’re an older American on Medicare.

That’s because Original Medicare — which covers a majority of beneficiaries — doesn’t include routine dental care.

Congress is considering whether to add dental coverage to Medicare as part of a $3.5 trillion social spending package — but progress has been slow.

For now, older adults are mostly on the hook when it comes to paying for their own oral health care.

Here are seven ways to get free or reduced dental care. We’ll also explain what limited dental benefits Medicare coverage provides, along with other options like private insurers and Medicaid.

7 Places to Get Cheap or Free Dental Care for Seniors

Medicare beneficiaries who use dental services spent an average of $874 a year out-of-pocket, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That’s a lot of money, especially if you’re on a fixed income.

Here are a few tips and tricks to save big on oral health.

1. The Dental Lifeline Network

This program by the American Dental Association offers free, comprehensive dental treatment to specific groups, including people ages 65 and older.

You can use this tool on the Dental Lifeline Network website to learn about the specific program details in your state.

Heads up: Due to long wait lists, several states and counties are no longer accepting new applications for the Dental Lifeline Network program. When we did a quick search, states like Texas, California and Kentucky weren’t accepting new applications.

2. Community Health Clinics

Federally funded community health clinics provide reduced-cost or free dental care services to people with low incomes.

Many operate on a sliding scale system while others offer flexible payment plans.

Wait lists can be long, so it’s important to reach out to your local clinic early.

Follow this link to find the nearest community health clinic near you.

3. Dental Schools

Some dental schools offer low-cost cleanings and other routine care to members of the community.

Most of these teaching facilities have clinics that give dentists-in-training an opportunity to practice their skills while providing care at a reduced cost.

You can search for a program in your area by visiting the American Dental Association website.

There’s no guarantee that a dental program in your area currently offers free or reduced dental care. You’ll need to contact each program individually to see what’s available.

When you call, make sure to ask about any fees up front.

4. NeedyMeds.com

This website offers a comprehensive list of dental offices with sliding scale payment options, community health center locations and dental school clinics.

It does a great job breaking down requirements and eligibility (if any) for services in your area, and provides contact information for each service.

Just enter your zip code into this search tool to get started.

5. Talk With Your Dentist

It might be difficult to ask for help, but being honest with your dentist about your financial situation can help.

Your dentist may be able to offer a less expensive treatment, help you set up a payment plan or provide a sliding scale payment option.

Ask if you can receive a discount for referring a friend. Or, see if it’s possible to knock off a few bucks in exchange for a positive online review of the dentist office.

6. Sign Up for a Dental Savings Plan

Dental savings plans aren’t dental insurance, but they may still be able to save you money.

Here’s how it works.

With a dental savings plan, you pay an annual fee, then get a 10% to 60% discount on most dental services such as exams, cleanings, fillings, root canals and crowns.

The plan contracts with dentists who agree to reduce their fees, then you pay the participating dentist directly using your discount.

You’ll still pay out of pocket for those services, but the idea is that you won’t pay as much as you would without the plan.

But let’s be clear: Dental discount plans aren’t free. The average cost for plans in Orlando, Florida, for example, ranged between $135 to $170 a year.

You can visit DentalPlans to find a plan in your area.

7. Shop Around

Dentists can charge widely different prices for the same exact procedure.

When you’re paying out of pocket, it pays to shop around.

You can find average prices in your area by using FAIR Health, a national nonprofit organization. The site lets you search by specific procedures, so you get the average cost for a root canal or teeth cleanings in your area.

Armed with knowledge, call around to different dentist offices for quotes. Ask about senior discounts.

You can also look for discounted dental care on sites like Groupon.

A quick search on Groupon for dental services in Houston, Texas, showed numerous x-ray, exam and cleaning packages for $25 to $50. One office even offered $700 toward dental implants for just $40!

If you live in a high cost-of-living area, driving to a less expensive area is another smart way to save money.

A senior citizen laughs as a dentist shows him dentures.
Getty Images

Does Medicare Cover Dental Care?

Yes and no.

Original Medicare doesn’t provide coverage for routine dental, vision or hearing benefits.

Original Medicare will only cover dental work if it’s deemed medically necessary, i.e. you were hospitalized after a traumatic injury that also affected your jaw, teeth or mouth.

Here are the other dental services covered by Medicare Part B:

  • Dental services that are critical to a larger procedure like facial reconstruction after an accident.
  • Tooth extraction that is needed to prepare for radiation treatment.
  • Oral exams that are done to prepare for a kidney transplant or heart valve replacement.

So if you’re looking for standard dental care like teeth cleaning, X-rays, fillings, extractions, dentures and more — the cost comes out of your pocket.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans are administered by private insurance companies. They must provide the same basic coverage as Original Medicare, but plans may offer additional benefits, such as dental.

About 94% of private Medicare Advantage plans provide some dental coverage, but the amount of coverage varies by plan.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly all Medicare Advantage plans that include dental offer coverage for oral exams, cleanings and x-rays.

But benefits for more advanced dental work like root canals, implants and dentures can carry substantial copays, depending on the plan.

Medicare Advantage plans almost always impose restrictions, including annual dollar caps and how often you can get certain benefits, such as dental implants.

The average annual limit on dental benefits among Medicare Advantage plans that offer more extensive benefits was about $1,300 in 2021, according to KFF.

If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan, it’s important to check the plan’s summary of benefits or evidence of coverage to see exactly what dental work is covered. It can vary widely from plan to plan.

Other Dental Insurance for Seniors

About half of all Medicare beneficiaries — 47% — did not have any form of dental coverage in 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Besides Medicare Advantage plans, other sources of dental coverage for seniors include Medicaid and private plans, such as employer-sponsored retiree plans and individually purchased dental plans.

Private Dental Insurance for Seniors

A standalone dental policy for people 65 and older is typically $20 to $50 a month, according to AARP. These dental insurance policies usually come with an annual deductible of $50 to $100.

Dental insurance plans usually cover checkups and cleanings 100% but you will probably owe 20% to 50% for other services, such as tooth extractions or dentures.

The devil is in the details with private dental plans: It’s important to shop around and carefully compare benefits to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind about private dental insurance plans:

  • You can’t enroll in a dental plan through the federal ACA Marketplace if you’re already enrolled in Medicare.
  • ​​Private dental policies usually don’t charge higher monthly premiums if you’re over 65 or in poor health.
  • An insurance company may require you to undergo a waiting period before you can get expensive procedures.
  • Some plans won’t cover pre-existing dental conditions you had before enrolling in coverage.
  • You may be restricted to an in-network dentist, so check to see if your dentist is on the list.

Medicaid

About one in five Medicare beneficiaries is also enrolled in Medicaid, sometimes referred to as being “dual enrolled.”

Medicare usually pays as your primary insurance when you’re dual enrolled. But if you need dental work done or even a yearly cleaning, consulting your Medicaid handbook is a smart move.

If you meet Medicaid low income requirements in your state, you may be able to receive free or low-cost dental care for certain procedures and services.

But it’s not a guarantee. While most states provide at least some emergency dental services, only 36 states and Washington, D.C. offer limited or comprehensive dental benefits for adults, according to the National Academy of State Health Policy (NASHP).

Even if your state Medicaid program includes dental, it may not pay out much. Of the 36 states with routine dental care coverage, only 23 states offer an annual expenditure cap of $1,000 or more.

Adult Medicaid recipients in Arkansas, for example, only receive up to $500 of dental services a year. So if you need a $3,000 root canal and you’re dual enrolled with Original Medicare, you can expect to pay $2,500 out of pocket in that state.

According to Medicaid’s national website, “States have flexibility to determine what dental benefits are provided…There are no minimum requirements for adult dental coverage.”

To find the Medicare office contact information for your state, click here.

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids? 6 Ways to Save Money

Affording hearing aids is challenging if you’re an older American on Medicare.

That’s because Original Medicare — which covers a majority of beneficiaries — doesn’t cover hearing aids, fittings or hearing exams.

That’s right — not a dime. And hearing aids are expensive: The average cost for one pair ranges from $3,000 to $6,000.

About 1 in 3 people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and nearly half of people 75 and older have difficulty hearing, according to the National Institute on Aging.

For now, older adults are mostly on the hook when it comes to paying for hearing care.

In this guide, we break down what hearing aid coverage is available to both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.

We also explore other ways to save money on hearing care, including Medicaid and nonprofit programs.

Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids and Exams?

Original Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids or exams for fitting hearing aids. Some Medicare Advantage plans have hearing aid coverage, but it varies by plan. Some other services are covered under both, however.

Original Medicare

In some situations, Original Medicare coverage may pay for cochlear implants or hearing tests in emergency situations.

Original Medicare covers 80% of the cost of cochlear implants for those who qualify. Cochlear implants are considered medically necessary for the treatment of a severe to profound hearing impairment.

Medicare Part B will generally cover a cochlear implant if you recognize sentences while wearing your hearing aids only 40% of the time or less.

Medicare Part B will also cover 80% of a diagnostic hearing test and balance exams, but only if it is ordered by your doctor or health care provider during an emergency.

For example, a doctor may run these tests to diagnose the cause of dizziness or vertigo.

Need a refresher on how Medicare works? Check out answers to seven frequently asked questions. 

Medicare Advantage

Original Medicare doesn’t provide hearing aid coverage, but many Medicare Advantage plans offer hearing health benefits.

Medicare Advantage plans are administered by private insurance companies. They must provide the same basic coverage as Original Medicare, but plans may offer additional benefits, such as hearing aids.

About 93% of Medicare Advantage plans provided some hearing aid coverage in 2021, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But how much coverage each Medicare Advantage plan provides varies.

For example, the KFF analysis found that about 60% of enrollees are in plans that require cost sharing for hearing aids, which ranged from $5 up to $3,355 in 2021.

Most plans also include coverage limits and restrict you to a specific network of physicians.

Make sure you calculate your potential out-of-pocket costs when choosing a Medicare Advantage plan.

Remember: Even with a good Medicare Advantage plan, you may still face out-of-pocket costs, such as premiums and deductibles as well as copayments to see an audiologist for fittings.

6 Ways To Get Cheap Hearing Aids

Medicare beneficiaries who accessed hearing care services spent an average of $914 out-of-pocket in 2018, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. For many, that’s simply out of reach.

Some national organizations cover hearing aids for people with low incomes and limited resources. These programs often have strict eligibility criteria and may be difficult to qualify for.

There are other ways to get affordable hearing aids, including shopping around and asking your audiolist for sliding scale payment options.

1. Miracle-Ear Foundation’s Gift of Sound Program

The Miracle-Ear Foundation’s Gift of Sound program helps provide hearing aids for adults with hearing loss.

The program is available to individuals with significantly limited incomes under 200% of the federal poverty level who have exhausted all other financial resources.

You need to contact your local Miracle-Ear store before starting an application. Supporting documentation from a hearing care professional and an application fee of $150 is required.

You can find more information about the Gift of Sound program along with eligibility requirements here.

2. Help America Hear Program

The Help America Hear program provides hearing aids for adults with limited financial resources.

The program can provide both new ReSound behind-the-ear and receiver-in-canal digital hearing aids.

There are three qualifying tiers based on gross household income, personal assets and health insurance coverage.

Every applicant is required to pay a fee, which can range from $125 to $500 for one hearing aid, to $250 to $1,000 for two hearing aids.

The application process is extensive and requires medical documentation, proof of income and proof of health insurance (if any).

The entire application process can take two to six months, according to the organization’s website.

If you qualify, you are still responsible for the cost of the hearing evaluation, batteries, accessories as well as extended loss and damage warranties.

Click here to check out the Help America Hear program application.

3. Check Out Costco

Comparison shopping is important if you want to save money on hearing aids.

Wholesale clubs like Costco offer great deals on hearing exams, fittings and devices.

Costco’s private brand, Kirkland Signature, sells hearing aids for about $1,400 per pair — about half the price you’d pay elsewhere for a name-brand equivalent. They also offer free hearing tests.

Not every Costco location has on-site audiologists or hearing specialists and you’ll need an appointment. You’ll also need to sign up for a Costco membership, which starts at $60 a year.

4. Talk to Your Doctor

It never hurts to ask for a discount.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but simply asking your health care provider for a more affordable price can really help.

According to Consumer Reports, almost half of all hearing aid users in their survey who asked for a lower price on their hearing aids ultimately received a discount.

Most audiologists and hearing care professionals offer financing plans and some offer sliding scale payment options.

Wherever you go to purchase your device, try bargaining or asking for a lower-priced model.

The price of a hearing aid is sometimes “bundled” to include the device plus other costs, like the audiologist’s services for fittings, adjustments and follow-up care.

Asking your provider to unbundle their services and provide you with an itemized list of charges can help you save money because you’ll only pay for what you need.

5. Keep an Eye Out For Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

Hearing aids may get much more affordable in the near future thanks to an FDA proposed rule issued in October 2021.

The rule would create a new class of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids available without an exam or fitting by an audiologist.

OTC hearing aids would be available from any seller — and at a fraction of the cost. Consumers could pay about $600 per pair instead of upward of $5,000 per pair, according to Harvard Health Review.

It would also cut the red tape many consumers face: Currently, patients must see a licensed hearing professional and obtain a prescription before they can buy hearing aids.

OTC hearing aids will be available to adults with mild to moderate hearing loss, and will be equipped with the same basic technology as traditional hearing aids.

The FDA is currently finalizing its proposed rule. OTC hearing aids are expected to hit the market by the end of 2022, according to The New York Times.

Local Organizations and Programs

Some local and regional nonprofit programs provide financial assistance or discounted hearing aids to those who qualify.

You can call United Way’s 2-1-1 social services number or contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see what’s available.

To find the contact information for your local Area Agency on Aging, enter your zip code into the Eldercare Locator tool operated by the U.S. government.

Other Hearing Care Insurance

Medicare coverage for hearing aids may be limited but Medicaid and VA benefits can help pick up the cost if you qualify.

Medicaid

About one in five Medicare beneficiaries is also enrolled in Medicaid, sometimes referred to as being “dual enrolled.”

Medicaid is a federally-funded health insurance program for people with low incomes. It’s administered at the state-level, so each state determines its own hearing benefits and limitations.

About half of states offer some hearing benefits and coverage for hearing aids.

What’s covered varies even among states with hearing aid benefits. In Florida, for example, you can receive a pair of hearing aids once every three years but in North Dakota, Medicaid recipients are entitled to hearing aids only once every five years.

In some states, like New Jersey and Massachusetts, hearing aids are only available with specific Medicaid plans.

You can see what benefits your state offers along with any limitations and requirements by visiting this comprehensive list from the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Or call and ask the Medicaid program in your state to see if you qualify.

Veterans’ Benefits

Veterans may qualify for hearing aids through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

You must enroll in the VA Health Benefits program to qualify.

Once enrolled (or if already enrolled), you can schedule an appointment at an Audiology and Speech Pathology Clinic for a hearing evaluation.

If the doctor recommends hearing aids, you can receive the devices for free so long as you maintain VA eligibility for care.

The VA will also provide necessary maintenance of any hearing aids you receive, including replacement batteries, cleaning and adjustments.

If you live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or if you can’t get an appointment for at least a month, you may qualify to see a private audiologist through the VA’s Choice Program.

The VA provides hearing aids to the following veterans:

  • Former Prisoners of War.
  • Purple Heart recipients.
  • Those rated permanently housebound or in need of routine care.
  • Those with any service-related disability.
  • Those with hearing loss resulting from a disease or medical condition for which they receive VA care or disability.
  • Those who have hearing loss severe enough that it hinders their ability to participate in their own medical treatment or daily living.

Even if you don’t use the VA for your other health care needs, it’s smart to use it for hearing aids. It’s one of the only programs that provides high-quality devices at no cost.

To apply, visit your local VA office, go online or call 877-222-VETS (8387).

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Immediately Get Rid of Those Gross Slugs in Your Bathroom

Pests in our homes are gross but seeing slimy creatures crawling along bathroom walls or slug trails is enough to cause concern. Slugs, which are often described as snails without a shell, are often found in gardens or farms. They’re attracted to food and moisture and love to eat vegetables and flowers. Since slugs and snails like damp conditions, some people might find themselves with a slug infestation in and around bathrooms, including the shower, shower floor or toilet.

If you ever wondered why slugs are in your bathroom and how to get rid of them, here’s a quick primer on what they are, what attracts bathroom slugs, where you might find them around your house and how to prevent slugs or get rid of them at the first sight of slime trails.

What’s a yellow cellar slug?

The yellow cellar slug, sometimes called a cellar slug or tawny garden slug, is yellow-brown or green-yellow in color. They’re part of the Gastropod family, which consists of slugs and snails. They’re pests and can do a fair amount of damage outdoors, especially in gardens. Slugs like to eat decaying plants, including plant leaves or materials.

Why are there slugs in the bathroom?

Slugs and snails are food-driven and like dark damp refuges. They don’t need larger gaps to find their way inside a house. Ideal entry points are as simple as a small hole in a wall or crawl space.

If you see evidence of a slug in your bathroom, whether it’s hiding by a tub drain or you see slime along a bath or shower, you’ll want to look for possible leaky boundaries or other possible entry points. Do you have pet food lingering that will attract slugs? Slugs have been found eating leftovers. Since slugs also eat mold (or, as the British like to say “eats mould”), like those dark spaces in your house where there’s warmth and chill out where algae are growing, you’ll want to look for evidence in those areas.

Look for a possible entry point in your house, look for a hole near a shower wall or near drain lines. If you see a snail or slug’s tell-tale sign of their slime line underneath a drain pipe or near a shower, which often looks like a thread runs along the bathroom floor, either during the night or in the morning, you may have to figure out how to create a bait to trap them.

Slugs eat plants

Are there slugs in other rooms in the house?

Most often, a snail or slug will find its way to a bathroom during the night since that has the conditions it loves best: dark and damp. Also, there are holes via drain lines. That’s not to say they can’t make it into other rooms in your house. As long as there are easy-to-access holes to get into a house and access to food, especially in the form of decaying plants or pet food, they don’t need to make their entry through a bathroom.

If they originally posted their flag in a bathroom, it’ll be that much easier for them to slide their way into other rooms in the house so it’s best to consider ways to get rid of slugs when you first notice them.

How to deter slugs from making their way into your home

The best way to not attract slugs into your house in the first place is to cut off any entry points and not have food available for them to eat. If you notice any holes along windows or flooring, seal them with silicone sealant. You may have slugs feasting on your plants outdoors or on a patio, so line the planters and your entryways with copper tape as a deterrent.

If slugs or snails do make it indoors, some have resorted to pellets and other attempts to get rid of them.

Can I kill slugs with slug pellets?

Slug pellets or slug bait are small cylindrical “bullets” that contain metaldehyde, a substance that’s poisonous to slugs. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about the use of using slug pellets to eradicate slugs, “metaldehyde works by disrupting the mucus production ability of snails and slugs. This reduces their digestion and mobility and makes them susceptible to dehydration. Snails and slugs that have eaten metaldehyde often seek hiding places, become inactive and begin to die within days.”

It’s important to note these pellets contain poison and the United Kingdom banned their sale as of April 1, 2022, because they pose an unnecessary risk to birds, dogs and mammals. While they’re still permitted in the United States, it’s important to consider where they’re placed so an animal doesn’t mistake it for pet food or a child doesn’t accidentally consume it by crawling along the floor.

Slug trap

Ways to get rid of slugs in your apartment

Slugs, in general, don’t pose a health risk. But slugs and snails do serve as a host for some parasites during the larval stage. You really don’t want them in your home if you can help it.

If you don’t want to go the pellets route, some people opt for other methods to show these slimy nuisances they’re not welcome. They may also trap or kill them and dispose of their squishy bodies.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), iron phosphate is a compound that combines phosphorous and oxygen with iron and can kill slugs and snails when eaten. Another product NPIC recommends that’s non-poisonous to humans is products that contain “food grade” diatomaceous earth. “Diatomaceous earth causes insects to dry out and die by absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect’s exoskeleton,” according to NPIC. “Its sharp edges are abrasive, speeding up the process. It remains effective as long as it’s kept dry and undisturbed.”

As mentioned earlier, the copper tape can fend off slugs. Other easy, affordable and do-it-yourself approaches are placing eggshells around the perimeter of where slugs might enter. Or, placing beer in a bowl since they’re attracted to the yeasty odors found in beer. You can also add a bowl that holds standing water so they can slide their slimy bodies into the water trap and drown.

Slugs also avoid salt because salt crystals bind moisture. Salt draws water from slugs and dehydrates them. You can always try an experiment and sprinkle salt in half of an area and not the other area. Then you can see if you notice the telltale signs of slugs in the area you didn’t sprinkle.

Keeping slugs out of your apartment

Any pests are not welcome inside your apartment and slugs are no exception. We want our bathrooms as a place of calm and respite and our homes clean and dust-free and without unwelcome guests. Finding how slugs are getting in is one way to not put out the welcome mat. But if they do find their way indoors, it’s comforting to know there are several ways to stop them in their slimy tracks.

Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Save Money on Groceries: 28 Tools and Tricks to Save $100 or More

Penny Hoarder Favorites


We’ve got tons of tips to share with you, but first, here are a few of our staff and reader favorites

Want to slash your grocery store tab? Saving money on groceries is easier than collecting binders of coupons and buying 455 rolls of toilet paper.

We’ve compiled a list of simple (and some unexpected) tips to help you maximize your grocery budget.

How to Save Money on Groceries: 28 Tools and Tricks

If you know what you’re doing, you can save a purse-full of money next time you hit the grocery store. Here are our favorite ways to save money on groceries.

8 Tools and Apps That Help You Save Money on Groceries

Your phone is a powerful tool, so download these grocery apps. (Using them all is easier than clipping coupons!)

1. Nielsen Consumer Panel: Share What’s in Your Fridge

Want to get rewarded for showing off your grocery haul? Nielsen will do that for you.

You’re probably familiar with Nielsen. It’s the company that tracks TV ratings. Now, it wants to track what’s in your fridge.

Join the Nielsen Consumer Panel, then use your smartphone to scan your items’ barcodes after your next grocery run. When the data is sent off to Nielsen, you’ll earn gift points, which you can use to redeem for free electronics, household items or toys.

2. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Get a $150 Bonus

If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

The card also offers 5% cash-back on select rotating categories. For example, in one quarter, you can earn 5% cash back on gas. The next quarter? Groceries. The categories continue to rotate throughout the year.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire.

*The information for the Chase Freedom card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

3. Ibotta: Find Freebies, and Snag $20

Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

Here’s how it works: Before heading to the store, search for items on your grocery shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Pro Tip

Browse your grocery list on Ibotta before heading to the store — you might find a cash-back alternative to something you planned to buy already.

Bam. Cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $20 sign-up bonus after redeeming your first 10 offers within 14 days.

4. Ebates: Get a Free $10 Walmart Gift Card Plus Cashback On All Purchases

Want $10 for your next Walmart haul?

Download the free browser extension from Rakuten, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you make an online purchase. When you give the site a try, you’ll pocket a $10 Walmart gift card.

Here’s how:

  • Sign up for Rakuten.
  • Use the online portal next time you make an online purchase from a popular retailer like Walmart, Amazon or Target. Make this purchase within 90 days of signing up, and spend at least $25.
  • Your Ebates account will be credited with points, which you can cash out for a $10 Walmart gift card.

5. Phil: Get up to $30 off Your Next Prescription

man reaches for one of his prescription medication bottles as he sits at his dining room table.
Getty Images

Are you running to the local grocery store pharmacy because you forgot to pick up your refill? Next month, save time and money with Phil, a refill service that delivers your prescription right to your door.

It even talks to your insurance company to handle payment issues and renew refills so you don’t have to.

Plus, as a new customer, you’ll get up to $30 off your first prescription.

6. Swagbucks: Get $5 Cash for Shopping Online

Coffee and a muffin enjoyed on a budget in St Petersburg Florida
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Here’s a simple trick to snag a $5 gift card for your next grocery trip: Use the Swagbucks extension on Google Chrome on your computer or laptop, and save even more on purchases at some of your favorite sites like Amazon and Target.

You’ll get a $5 Swagbucks bonus when you earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days of signing up. Cash the bonus out through PayPal.

7. Fetch: Get Paid to Take a Picture of Your Grocery Receipt

At this point, tons of grocery-savings apps have hit the market — and we don’t hate it. But having so many options can become overwhelming, especially for the lazy saver.

If that’s you — the one who just wants to get in and out of the store and save money on groceries without doing much thinking — there’s an app we recommend. It’s called Fetch Rewards, and all you have to do to earn rewards is take a photo of your receipt.

No scanning barcodes; no searching for offers; no store limitations.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Download the Fetch Rewards app. (Pst: Enter the code PENNY and scan your first receipt to earn 2,000 free points!)
  2. Create an account with your email address or through Facebook.
  3. Take a photo of your grocery receipt (must be from the past 14 days).

Fetch Rewards finds opportunities for you to earn rewards for your everyday purchases.

Every time you scan a receipt that includes one of more than 250 participating brands, you’ll earn points — without worrying about matching specific product offers.

If the app does find a match, you’ll earn even more. For example, we recently saw an offer of 2,000 points when you purchase a Suave female hair product. And another for 2,000 points for a 12-pack of Blue Moon.

Once you collect enough points (as little as 3,000), cash out for a gift card to any of a number of retailers, including Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Go ahead, and start fetching points toward gift cards by downloading Fetch Rewards.

(And, yeah, we somehow resisted the obvious “Mean Girls” reference. You’re welcome.)

8. Store Loyalty Apps: Clip Digital Coupons

What’s your go-to local grocery store? Chances are, it has a loyalty app.

For example, the Aldi app allows you to tap into its weekly coupons, create a grocery shopping list and find the nearest store. The Publix app works similarly, allowing you to clip digital coupons to use at checkout.

11 Simple Ways to Save Without Coupons

Jennifer Bishop brings her piggybank as she prepares to grocery shop, Tampa Fla, on November 3th, 2017
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Now that you’ve got your go-to savings apps and your coupons, it’s time to hit the aisles. Use these tips to save even more money on groceries.

1. Check Unit Prices

Sure, it’s tempting to think buying in bulk is better, but that’s not always the case. That modest two pack of paper towels might actually be more affordable than the insanely large case of 16.

Pro Tip

Divide an item’s price by its quantity before you buy — that bulk purchase might not be the better deal.

To calculate the unit price, divide an item’s price by its quantity. Consider how much you’ll actually be saving (if anything — and definitely not shelf space) by buying the bulk item.

2. Meal Prep to Make a Grocery Shopping List

Food items photographed in St Petersburg, Fla., on May 5th, 2018.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

We know, we know. This seems soooo obvious, but meal planning for the week and making a grocery list can help you stay on task, not waste food and avoid frivolous purchases — like cheese wedges.

3. Don’t Shop at Eye Level

Dedicated professionals study the psychology of grocery shopping.

For example, shelves at eye level are prime real estate. You’ll often find more expensive items there — or items that attract kids.

Or think about this: Between 1975 and 2000, the size of shopping carts tripled. A bigger cart doesn’t mean you have to fill it all the way up.

Once you recognize these mind games, you can more easily avoid them.

4. Ask for a Rain Check

You know when there’s a BOGO for Nutella — but then you get to the store and it’s gone? Someone else got greedy.

Don’t be afraid to ask your grocer for a rain check so you can still snag the sale when the store restocks.

5. Store Your Food Properly

You buy a container of spinach or bundle of avocados, but before you’re able to devour all the green goodness, it goes bad.

Avoid wasting money at grocery stores by storing your food properly, so it lasts longer.

6. Have Your Groceries Delivered

paper shopping bags in male hand
Getty Images

Sure, you’ll have to pay for a grocery delivery service if someone brings your groceries to you, but opting to get your groceries dropped off at your door can actually save you a ton of time and money because you’ll be forced to plan out your meals.

Plus, there’s no veering off into the snack aisle.

7. Don’t Shop Hungry

The golden rule of grocery shopping: Thou shall not step into an aisle the least bit hungry.

Seriously.

You’ll start grabbing anything and everything that looks good. Then, because you’re planning for an immediate meal, you’ll have a ton of fresh, ready-to-eat impulse purchases that’ll linger in your fridge and go bad before you have time to devour them all.

8. Shop Your Pantry First

Before your next grocery run, take stock of what’s already in your pantry, fridge and freezer. What can you make with those items? Chances are you have a box of noodles or a carton of eggs. Use those already-purchased staples to build out your weekly meals.

9. Don’t Buy Pre-Cut Produce

man peeling vegetables at home
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Yes, it’s tempting to buy the already-spiralized zucchini or the pre-cut butternut squash. However, it costs a lot more than buying the “real” thing. Plus, you won’t get nearly as much, and the pre-cut stuff won’t stay fresh nearly as long.

10. Practice Meatless Mondays

Plain and simple: Meat is expensive. Enough ground beef for tacos for two can cost nearly $8. You might as well go to Taco Bell at that point…

To save money on your weekly grocery haul, practice meatless Mondays. Just giving it up once a week can help you save money.

Check out these meatless meals to get started.

11. Compare Stores

Ah, the store loyalists.

It’s easy to lean into one grocery store. You grow close with its aisles, its products, its cashiers… But you can save a bundle of money by jumping around. Use a grocery comparison chart to determine the best grocery stores to buy your go-to items.

For example, you could save a ton of money on paper products at the dollar store. Then, hit up your favorite grocer for your fresh fruits and veggies.

Use These Sites to Get Coupons for Groceries

A simple way to save a ton of money at checkout is to deal stack, the art of layering cash-back apps and coupons.

If you’re looking for coupons — because not many of us receive the Sunday newspaper anymore — you can find a trove of coupons to print from these sites.

1. Betty Crocker: Up to $250 in Free Coupons

Give Betty Crocker your email address, and it’ll send you up to $250 worth of coupons that can help you get deeply discounted or free canned goods, cereal and yogurt at grocery stores.

In addition to coupons, Betty Crocker’s free email delivers the best of Betty’s 15,000 kitchen-tested recipes, how-tos and more — straight to your inbox!

If you’re like us, you probably get bored making the same food week after week, so wouldn’t it be nice to occasionally be surprised with simple recipes you can make on a budget?

2. Pillsbury: Up to $250 in Coupons

Sign up for Pillsbury.com emails to receive up to $250 in yearly coupons, access to free product samples (quantities limited, one per member) and the easiest recipes sent right to your inbox.

Because of the high value of these coupons, they’ve limited it to one set of coupons per person, so if you need more, get someone else in your household to sign up, too.

Pillsbury's free Pie Guide sign-up page.

3. Tap Into This Free Coupon Portal

Just when you think you’ve exhausted all your coupon resources, think again.

Tap into exclusive discounts through the Kellogg’s Family Rewards portal. Find printable and digital coupons for great deals on cereals, diapers, laundry detergent — more than just Kellogg’s products.

Additionally, use the tool to earn points on other qualifying items. Exchange them for gift cards to popular retailers, like Starbucks, Domino’s and Sephora.

Sign up with your email address and answer a few questions to earn an easy 100 bonus points. Then start collecting!

 6 Ways to Save on Organic Groceries

A women tends to her home Garden. Saturday Aug. 24, 2018, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

We get it: You just feel better about buying some items organic. That doesn’t mean you have to spend more money, though. Here are some strategies to help you save on organic groceries:

1. Grow a Cost-Effective Garden

If you have a yard — or even shelf space for herbs — consider growing your own fresh produce.

Because some veggies require more time, money and love upfront, plant the most cost-effective vegetables, which include salad greens, cherry tomatoes, green beans, herbs, summer squash, carrots and zucchini.

Another perk? You’ll know exactly how your produce was grown.

2. Shop Seasonally

Woman working, arranging produce at farmer's market
Getty Images

Stay in your lane — or season.

Buying organic strawberries out of season, for example, can cost you a ton of money. Instead, shop and plan your meals seasonally. If you need out-of-season produce, buy it frozen.

3. Buy Organic Meat in Bulk

Did you know you can buy meat in bulk? The idea of it sounds kind of gross, but you can save a ton of money by shopping at your local wholesale meat supplier.

Penny Hoarder contributor Shannon Quinn buys her meat in bulk from her local supplier.  She gets three months’ worth of beef, pork, chicken and fish for $50 — and it all fits in her standard-sized freezer.

4. Tap Into a Local CSA

Find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to tap into your area’s organic fruits, vegetables, meat and even honey.

It’s like a subscription box. You’ll receive monthly, biweekly or weekly boxes of goods. Plus, you’re supporting local agriculture!

Find CSA programs near you by searching the USDA’s CSA database.

5. Know the Organic Store Brands

woman comparing fruit in grocery store
Getty Images

You probably know grocery stores offer store-brand items, which can typically help you save some money over regular name brands. But did you know some also offer organic store brands?

Here are a few examples:

  • Aldi: SimplyNature
  • Kroger: Simple Truth
  • Publix: Greenwise
  • Safeway: O Organics
  • Target: Simply Balanced
  • Whole Foods: 365 Everyday Value

6. Understand What’s Worth Buying Organic

If you’re tried-and-true, always organic, that’s fine. But if you buy organic because you’re a sucker for green labels or simply feel like it’s healthier, then do some research. Make sure you know what that “organic” label means, and determine what’s worth buying organic and what’s not.

Saving Money on Groceries: Easier Than You’d Think

Maximizing your grocery budget doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right apps, coupons and strategies, you can easily cut your monthly grocery spend.

If you’re looking for even more ways to save money, check out our ultimate step-by-step guide to saving money.

*The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Your Complete Guide On How Much to Tip Wedding Vendors

Weddings are complicated ventures whether you are booking the vendors yourself or working with a wedding planner. Expensive, too. And what if we told you that an extra $1,000 is needed for tips.

That’s right, tips. It’s smart to budget a little something extra for the makeup artist that made the bride sparkle and the florist who got the groom’s mother to smile for the first time the whole day.

“Tipping is becoming increasingly common and while it may seem uncomfortable for some couples and families,” writes wedding planner Nicole McCann of Exhale Events on her blog, “and how much to give is a valid question.”

But how much and who should get a tip? This wedding tipping guide will help you figure out how much to budget long before the big day.

Should You Even Tip Wedding Vendors?

Not all wedding vendors get tipped, but most of them do. Some of the workers, like parking attendants, hair and makeup, reception staff, and the band or DJ depend on tips. According to wedding site The Knot, even conservative tipping can impact your wedding budget. You should also set aside at least $800 for gratuities.

Need to shave the budget for your wedding? Check out 90 ways to save on a wedding according to the pros. 

Tipping Wedding Vendors Tips

It’s easier in the long run to build gratuities into your wedding budget planning, so there are no surprises at the end. In this guide will tell you:

  • Who should get tipped
  • How much to tip
  • Who is optional to tip
  • Who you don’t have to worry about tipping at all

And just so you aren’t awkwardly thrusting money in someone’s hand at the wrong time, we let you know when you should fork over the money.

When you or your planner are working on contracts, clarify whether gratuities or a service fee for each wedding vendor are already built into the cost. Don’t assume the service charge is an employee tip.

You (or the people who keep offering to help) can write thank you notes for each vendor with the tips already included before the wedding. Then you just pick a trusted friend or relative to hand them out at the end of the reception.

You don’t have to tip the owner of a large, established business, but you might be tipping their staff. For small business owners, it is okay to tip, since they might be a one person operation.

We are here to take the worry about how much to tip wedding vendors away. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

How to Tip

Put going to the bank and getting cash a few days before the wedding on the to-do list. Cash tips can be put in envelopes and pre-labeled with the intended recipient’s name. Pick a responsible friend or relative to be in charge of handing them out at the end of each facet of the wedding (rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception).

We note below that some of tipping your wedding vendor can happen both before and after the wedding.

How Much to Tip Wedding Vendors

Some vendors can be tipped the day of the event and some can receive their gratuity in the mail or via credit card when you settle the bill.

Florist: $50-$100

Flowers are an integral part of the wedding and reception. Florists often guide you through the whole decision process. Florists may not expect a tip, but it is common to give them $50 to $100, depending on how elaborate your flower arrangements are. You can mail the florist a thank you note with the check or cash.

You should definitely tip the florist delivery people, $10 to $20 each, depending on how complicated the set up is for them. Tip them at the time of the delivery.

Stationer: No tip

You do not have to tip the stationer, but a thank you card or nice review on the website is a nice gesture.

Set Up and Delivery Staff: $5-$10

People delivering and setting up tables, chairs, tents, flowers, cakes, etc. should be tipped $5 to $10 each, depending on how complicated their tasks are. The wedding planner or coordinator can be responsible for giving them their tips.

A wedding officiant weds two grooms.
Getty Images

Wedding Officiant: $50-$100

Tipping the wedding officiant depends on whether it is a religious service or secular. It also depends on if they are voluntary or hired. If your ceremony takes place in a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious institution, you make a donation to the institution.

If there is already a fee for using the religious institution, you can still tip the wedding officiant between $50-100. You would lean toward the higher amount if you had premarital counseling or other special services.

If you hired the wedding officiant, then you can tip between 15-20% of the fee up to $75, if they have provided exceptional service.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator: Up to 15% of the Bill

There is a difference between a wedding coordinator and a wedding planner. Wedding planners help you achieve your wedding vision from the beginning (and are a big help in understanding tipping wedding vendors). They help set the wedding budget, negotiate contracts with vendors, and oversee the whole project.

A coordinator is responsible for the logistics of the rehearsal, ceremony, and reception. You would plan your wedding, and the coordinator would start working with you a month or so before the date through the wedding reception to ensure everything goes smoothly.

If the wedding has gone amazingly well, it is nice gift to give the coordinator 10-15% of the bill after the wedding or honeymoon.

Ceremony Musicians: Up to 15% of the Bill

Plan on tipping the ceremony musicians either 10-15% of their fee or $10 to $15 per musician at the end of the ceremony. Have a trusted person hand them cash envelopes.

Valet/Parking Attendants: $1-$2 Per Vehicle

Usually tips for the parking attendants are covered for guests. Estimate a $1 to $2 tip per vehicle at both the wedding and the reception, if they are in different locations. If there are different workers at each venue, it’s easiest to give a cash tip to the lead valet to split up. You should let guests know that tips are taken care of already.

Chauffeur: Up to 20% of the Bill

Review the contracts from transportation companies to see if gratuities or a service fee is already included. If it isn’t included, or if the limo driver was fabulous, 15-20% of the total bill is perfect. Remember, they have a long day too, from the beginning of the wedding to possibly the end of the reception. Tip them after the final ride.

The same rule goes if you have hired a party bus for everyone. Check to see if there are service charges included. If not, tip 15-20%, and of course, always give more for great service.

Venue Coordinator/Catering Manager: $100-$200

Often the venue coordinator or catering manager does a lot of the things a wedding planner or coordinator would be doing, for much less money. Usually they are tipped, but as always, check your contract to see if a service fee is already included. Plan on $100 to $200, at the end of the reception or mailed later.

Catering Staff: Up to 20% of Bill

Check your contract to see what, if any, gratuities are included. If none, then tip 15-20% of the final bill. If the wait staff did a great job, then you can throw in another $5 to $10 even if there is already a service fee.

Bartender: Up to 20% of Bill

Bartenders might already be covered in the catering contract or by a drink fee, so check before tipping them. You can tip 10-20% of the bar bill for them to split at the end of the night if there isn’t a built-in gratuity. If you have a cash bar, let them put a tip jar out, but still tip.

Wedding DJ: Up to 15% of Bill

A wedding DJ is another small business owner that it is okay to tip. Plan on 10-15% of the bill, with the higher amount if they’ve emceed all night.

Wedding Musicians: $10 to $15 Per Musician

This is similar to the ceremony musicians, either a flat 10-15% of their fee or $10 to $15  per musician, at the end of the reception.

A wedding photographer shows a bride and groom their photos.
Getty Images

Photographer and Videographer: Up to $100

Wedding vendor tipping suggests you don’t tip owners, just their employees. If your photographer has an assistant and they have given great service, then tip the assistant $50.

Wedding photographers get tipped too, $50 to $100 if you are happy, Send the tip when you have gotten all of your photos.

Wedding Cake Baker: Up to 15% of Bill

The wedding cake is one of the most memorable parts of the reception. Tipping the cake baker isn’t expected but it is pretty common. You would tip them 10-15% of the final bill. You can send them a card after the wedding with the tip.

Hair and Makeup: Up to 20% of Bill

You will probably see both the hair and makeup artist at least twice. Once is for the trial run and then again for the wedding. You tip 15-20% each time: when you visit the hair salon and on the wedding day.

If your wedding hairstylist is doing the whole wedding party, and you are paying for it, you still tip about 20% of the total bill.

It is the same procedure with the makeup artist. For your trial run and wedding you tip 15-20% each time.

What About the Rehearsal Dinner?

Gratuities will likely be included in the overall bill, but of course you can always throw more in if expectations are exceeded. Guests should bring some cash for tips if they are ordering at the bar.

If the dinner was catered or a pretty grand affair, you might want to tip the banquet manager for making it go smoothly, about 15% at the end of the night

Other Ways to Thank People

Not all wedding vendors expect a tip, but you might still want to thank them for making the day so special. You can tip the business owners with a thank you card, small gift, or gift basket.

Posting positive reviews or sharing photos from your wedding for them to use for their marketing materials are other ways. Just because these wedding pros own businesses doesn’t mean they don’t love a thoughtful gesture.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Home Birth vs. Hospital Birth Costs – Is Natural Birthing with a Midwife For You?

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Additional Resources

When preparing to have a child, it’s crucial to consider the financial aspects. It may not be as costly as financing an adoption, but pregnancy and childbirth bring a financial burden. And the total cost largely comes down to whether you choose a home birth or hospital birth. 

As soon-to-be parents, you naturally want to make the choice that gives your baby the greatest chance to survive and thrive. However, the cost of giving birth in the United States is high, and health insurance plans are complicated. 

While there are many personal and emotional reasons to choose home or hospital birth, you must also consider the financial implications.   

Home Birth vs. Hospital Birth Costs 

When deciding between giving birth at home or in a hospital, look at the cost of having a baby in either situation. Four primary factors are involved: pregnancy and prenatal care, labor and delivery, a hospital stay, and postpartum care. 


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Home Birth Cost Factors

Home birth seems like it should be less expensive than a hospital birth. But the costs can add up quickly if you go in unprepared.

Insurance Coverage for Home Births

Some states’ insurance allows coverage for home births — but not all of them. As of May 2020, only 21 states covered home birth under the Medicaid program, for example. 

As you’re preparing, a couple of things are essential: asking your insurance carrier what types of birth they cover and ensuring you choose something that fits the bill. Some insurance companies may only cover a home birth with a certified nurse-midwife attending, while others may only cover a midwife if you give birth in a birthing center. 

So it’s key to communicate clearly with your insurance provider. Find out what your out-of-pocket costs are for any deviations from their typical requirements. 

Home Birth Prenatal Options

Home birthers typically receive a similar level of prenatal care as those having a hospital birth. However, when you decide on a home birth, you might work closely with a midwife, doula, or both. Each birth assistant has different roles and responsibilities.

  • A doula is a guide who provides physical and emotional support before, during, and after childbirth. They may be doula-certified, but they are not necessarily medical professionals. 
  • A midwife is a trained professional who assists healthy individuals in childbirth and provides prenatal and postnatal care. Training varies, but certified nurse-midwives have completed a training program, making them the safest (and most expensive) option.

Doula and midwife fees vary greatly based on geographic location and services provided. It’s usually more expensive in cities and higher-cost-of-living areas. 

For example, in a large city in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, metro area, you can find doula packages ranging from $1,600 to $2,500. But in a significantly smaller city like Abilene, Texas, they’re less than $1,000. But going to an even higher cost-of-living area like New York City may mean a minimum of $2,000.

Typically, the doula fee includes a specific number of prenatal visits, prenatal support and information, assistance during labor and delivery, and at least one postpartum visit. Typically not included are prenatal vitamins, any required lab work, or any type of hospital visit. 

Midwives are generally more expensive. Because of the wide variance in things like certification status, it’s hard to put a solid number on midwife costs. But expect to pay on the high end of doula costs at a minimum. But some midwives may charge $5,000 or more.

Note that the fees for doulas and midwives may not include necessary medical exams like regular OB-GYN visits and ultrasounds. And those cost just as much as they would for a hospital birth if they’re not included as part of your package (some midwives and doulas work with OB-GYNs).

You also need prenatal vitamins, which are relatively inexpensive. For example, many prenatal vitamins range from about $0.08 to $0.48 apiece at Walmart. Over nine months of pregnancy, that’s only between about $20 and $130. Fortunately, you don’t need a prescription, so there’s no added cost for a doctor’s visit.

Home Birth Labor & Delivery Costs

Fortunately, if you’re electing for a home birth, you’re skipping one of the most significant expenses associated with childbirth: the hospital stay. That’s a major benefit many expectant parents appreciate about the home-birth option. Ideally, you’d incur zero hospital costs. 

And doula and midwife packages typically include labor and delivery. 

A midwife will usually provide equipment like IVs, sterile gloves, gauze pads, a thermometer, and waterproof bed covers. You may want to ask your midwife just to be sure, though. Doulas may provide some of this equipment, but they’re not authorized to insert IVs unless they’re also medical professionals. 

You may also have to purchase special equipment if your doula or midwife doesn’t provide them. Costs vary, depending on the types of supplies you need. 

Even if your midwife or doula doesn’t provide them, simple items like waterproof mattress covers cost under $40 on Amazon. But if you need a birthing tub, you’re looking at $100 or $200 and up at a retailer like Oasis or La Bassine. You can also look into renting one, though you may not save much money if you need to keep it for several weeks.

Fortunately, midwife and doula fees include some services hospitals may ask you to pay for, such as facilitating skin-to-skin contact. Even if it doesn’t cost much, it’s annoying to pay to hold your own baby.

If your home birth expenses come down to just a few thousand dollars paid to a midwife, that may sound like a simple decision from a financial standpoint. 

But you need to consider the safety of both the mother and baby. The infant mortality rate for babies born at home is several times higher than the rate of babies born at hospitals, according to a 2010 to 2017 study featured in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

And just because you plan to give birth at home doesn’t mean it will turn out that way. So plan your ideal situation and have a Plan B in case complications arise. Have enough money saved for a hospital stay for both Mom and Baby. If things go smoothly, just add it to Junior’s college fund.

Postpartum Care After a Home Birth

Most doulas and midwives include some form of postpartum support and care in their packages. Your specific agreement may vary, but it’s fairly standard to offer at least one postpartum checkup. (Babies should see a pediatrician for their post-birth care.) 

Those with postpartum depression or psychosis must seek mental health treatment from a source other than their doula or midwife unless they’re also qualified therapists. That treatment may include talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

You may also wish to seek the advice of a lactation consultant. Most midwives and doulas are trained to help, but a board-certified lactation consultant may provide further assistance if you need it. A home visit can be around $200 or more per hour, depending on your location. 

Insurance may cover some of these costs, but you can also get free online assistance at La Leche League. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers WIC breastfeeding support. Online resources are freely available to anyone, though you must qualify for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children to get personalized support. Your local health department may have resources as well.


Hospital Birth Cost Factors

Hospital births are often more expensive than home births, but that may not necessarily be true. In general, insurance covers hospital births more thoroughly than home births, meaning a home birth could lead to higher out-of-pocket costs. 

But a hospital birth costs considerably more than a home birth unless your insurance covers the majority. Know what your insurance pays for and what it doesn’t. 

Hospital Birth Insurance Coverage 

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care are essential benefits that qualified health plans must cover. That said, if you’re a dependent on a parent’s or guardian’s policy, coverage may vary, so look into that sooner than later.

Note that its status as an essential benefit doesn’t prevent insurers from charging copays, coinsurance, or deductibles, so that doesn’t necessarily mean insurance covers the full cost.

But if you’re tempted by a home birth only for the cost savings, your insurance could drop the amount for a hospital birth to a very comparable number. So check into your coverage and do the math.

Some policies cover prenatal care at a higher level than others. Additionally, high-risk pregnancies require a greater level of care and could cost more, even with insurance. But you should likely opt for a hospital birth anyway.  

Whatever type of insurance coverage you have, know how much your deductible is, the length of hospital stay covered, and what doctors and hospitals are in your network to achieve maximum coverage. 

Additionally, if you require prenatal tests your insurance doesn’t cover, be mindful that you may incur those costs and can ask your doctor how much they are. For example, not all plans cover genetic testing.

Fortunately, there’s a cap on how much you can pay out of pocket on all medical care each year. On the most affordable Bronze level ACA insurance plans, the maximum individual out-of-pocket cost in 2022 is $8,700 for in-network medical services for an individual ($17,400 for a family). The max gets lower as you buy more expensive plans.

However, your pregnancy will last around nine months, meaning you could easily straddle two plan years, making the maximum overall individual out-of-pocket potential on the lowest plan $17,400. So that’s another factor to consider.

If you don’t have health coverage through an employer or your spouse, go to Healthcare.gov to see if you qualify for a special marketplace enrollment period based on a qualifying life event, such as losing your employer-sponsored health benefits or changes of state of residence.

While pregnancy is not a qualifying life event, it may give you access to programs like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (commonly known as CHIP). And even if you only qualify for open enrollment toward the end of your pregnancy, it can still save you significant cash.

Hospital Birth Prenatal Care Options 

The Kaiser Family Foundation says prenatal care totals an average of about $2,000, including about 12 doctor’s visits at $100 to $200 each if you don’t have ACA-compliant health insurance.

Hospitals also often provide free childbirth and infant care classes, so take advantage of those opportunities, especially if you’re a first-time parent. 

Your obstetrician will recommend prenatal vitamins and other preventative strategies to ensure your and the baby’s health throughout the pregnancy. The vitamins cost the same as they would for a home birth at around $21 to $130 for the whole pregnancy unless your doctor prescribes something special. 

When charged separately, ultrasounds range in cost from an average of $319 in New Jersey to $2,295 in Florida, according to a 2021 survey by Hospital Pricing Specialists. The national average cash price for an ultrasound came out to $745, so research prices in your area carefully.

General office visits to your obstetrician during pregnancy run about $207 if out-of-network or uninsured and $105 if insured and in-network, according to Fair Health Consumer. 

Prenatal care packages at hospitals and birthing centers typically detail how many visits and ultrasounds they include and what types of additional care they offer, which can save you money on those costs. But if you have insurance, ensure your plan covers a package before you buy it.

Hospital Birth Labor & Delivery Costs

Despite the cost, there are advantages to a hospital birth. It allows you to have an epidural, even if you initially planned against it. Epidurals will put the cost of a vaginal birth toward the upper range of any uninsured rate estimates. 

At the hospital, you can choose a cesarean delivery if it becomes medically necessary (even a certified nurse-midwife cannot legally perform a C-section). 

And that’s important because the type of delivery you have can also influence the cost. For example, health care cost transparency advocate Fair Health Consumer states that the national average charge for a vaginal delivery is $12,290. The national average charge for a C-section is $16,907. (That’s as of 2018.)

But those are just averages. How much it truly costs varies widely based on where you live and what services you want or need. 

For example, Fair Health Consumer puts the average uninsured cost of a vaginal delivery with pre- and post-delivery care in New York City’s priciest Manhattan zip code at between $12,380 and $24,666, depending on the specific care you need. But in Boise, Idaho, it’s only $4,180 to $16,269.

Note that those numbers don’t include prenatal or newborn care, which Fair Health Consumer shows comes in at several hundred (potentially close to $1,000) dollars per day, assuming there are no complications.

The Fair Health Consumer site can give you a ballpark idea of how much you’ll pay if you search based on your specific location.

Skin-to-skin contact is another aspect of the birth experience that might incur a charge. Although it may seem silly, after a surgical birth, the mother may be unable to safely hold her baby, making it necessary to have an additional nurse on hand to assist her.

Most hospitals allow parents and babies to have skin-to-skin contact as a matter of routine, but it never hurts to ask. It’s unclear what the average cost is, but the charge that went viral was $40. 

Postpartum Care After a Hospital Birth

If you’ve chosen a hospital birth, you should have plenty of help in the realm of postpartum care. Most hospital birthing packages include at least one follow-up visit soon after the baby is born. You should take the baby to a pediatrician for their follow-ups, which is an entirely separate charge.

If you experience a high-stress birth, such as having emergency surgery, you will need greater care in the following days and weeks. It may be as simple as family members assisting you after the cesarean procedure so you don’t overexert yourself. But it could be something more costly. 

Even if the delivery went smoothly, your OB-GYN will screen you for potential post-birth issues, such as postpartum depression. Postpartum depression could lead to serious expenses. Insurance should cover much of the cost of treatment, but if you’re uninsured, the rates can rack up fast.

In most areas of the country, one session with a psychologist runs between $100 and $200. It’ll cost even more if you need to see a psychiatrist (a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat mental disorders and prescribe medication). Rates per session are similar to a psychologist’s, but an initial visit could be $300 to $500.

Postpartum care may also include physical therapy and pelvic rehabilitation to help restore pelvic floor muscles. The cost for these can vary by location, but expect to pay between $150 and $400 per 45- to 90-minute session.

Many mothers also seek lactation assistance. It can save money in the long run if your baby breastfeeds instead of needing formula, so the investment in a consultation (around $200 per hour) can be well worth it. 

But you might get plenty of lactation help through your hospital as well. Some offer one or more free sessions initially and quite reasonable follow-up visits. For example, Baptist Health of Lexington, Kentucky, offers one free lactation consultation and follow-up visits for $25. 

And you have the same free or low-cost options as you would for a home birth, including the La Leche League, WIC breastfeeding support, or your local health department. 


The Verdict: Should You Choose Home Birth or Hospital Birth?

Overall, home birth costs are typically lower than those of hospital births. But the decision-making process isn’t as simple as looking at the numbers. 

It doesn’t help when you consider that hospitals negotiate rates based on factors like a patient’s insurance, whether you pay in cash, or whether you’re out of network. It’s tough to know the “official” cost of childbirth.

But there are things you can consider to help you make the decision.

A Home Birth Makes Financial Sense If…

Finances shouldn’t be the only reason you choose a home birth. But they can play a significant role in your decision. A home birth makes financial sense if:

  • You Need to Save Money. Home births are often cheaper. But if possible, don’t allow money to be the sole deciding factor in your birth plan. You must also consider your and your baby’s health and safety and your personal preferences. 
  • You Don’t Have Any Health Risk Factors. If you don’t have underlying risk factors like obesity or diabetes that could put you or your baby in danger, a home birth is less likely to result in emergency hospital expenses. 
  • You Have a Solid Backup Plan. Even if you don’t have risk factors, you need to prepare for an emergency hospital trip. That means setting up an emergency fund. If you don’t use it, you can spend it on the baby or set up a college fund.
  • You Live Near a Hospital. Don’t plan for a home birth unless you can get to a hospital quickly if something goes wrong during delivery. Emergency care will probably be more expensive than a hospital package, especially if you have to be air-lifted.
  • You Have a Trusted Midwife and Amazing Support Team. A doula or midwife with solid credentials (ideally a certified nurse-midwife) can save you money by providing similar care for less money, working with (not against) your medical team, and calling for medical intervention as early as necessary.
  • Your Insurance Covers Home Births. If your insurance covers home births, crunch the numbers to determine how much it can save you. While home births are already cheaper than hospital births, insurance can make it even cheaper.
  • You Don’t Have Insurance. If you’re uninsured, a home birth can save you a ton if you’re healthy. But it’s still a gamble. Complications could land you in the hospital anyway. It may be better to see if you qualify for open enrollment or wait until you do to try to become pregnant.

A Hospital Birth Makes Financial Sense If…

There are some circumstances in which a hospital birth is the best choice. In fact, medical professionals overwhelmingly recommend hospital births. Regardless of the cost, you should have your baby in a hospital or birthing center in the following situations. 

  • You Prefer the Greatest Level of Access to Medical Care. Opting for a hospital birth means having licensed OB-GYNs available on-site and top treatment and surgical options. Many things can impact labor and delivery, and the hospital can provide access to a C-section and pain medication as needed.   
  • Your Insurance Has Better Hospital Birth Coverage. Insurance can make hospital birth competitive with home birth. And you can always have a midwife or doula with you in the delivery room. 
  • You Have Contraindications to Home Births. If you have risk factors like diabetes or obesity, are carrying multiples, have had a prior cesarean delivery, or there are any issues with the fetus, plan a hospital birth. Home birth won’t save you money if you have to go to the hospital anyway, and it’s safer to be there from the beginning.

Both Make Financial Sense If…

Both home and hospital birth can be a high-quality childbirth experience as long as you have top-notch care. Choose the one that makes the most sense to you in these situations.  

  • You Have a High Income. If your household income is high enough that the cost difference between a home and hospital birth doesn’t matter, go with your preference. 
  • Cost Is Equal in Both Situations. Some people will find that the financial cost of using a midwife to facilitate a home birth is quite comparable to that of a hospital birth. If the cost is similar for both options, go with your personal preference. 
  • You Want the Best of Both Worlds. A hybrid approach in which you do much of the laboring process at home and then move to the hospital as labor progresses may lessen the amount of time spent in the hospital since early labor can be quite a long ordeal. 

Final Word

The choice between home birth and hospital birth isn’t purely a financial issue. 

A home birth has other distinct advantages: the potential for greater freedom in choosing your birth plan, a more intimate experience, and a more comfortable environment in which to bring your baby into the world. 

If you’re underinsured and worried about the costs of a hospital birth, in some situations, a home birth can be a safe alternative, especially if you’re healthy and build your emergency fund to cover unexpected hospital expenses. 

On the other hand, hospital births are safer, and infant mortality is much lower. You have access to more advanced care and licensed physicians, which can bring immense peace of mind during what can be a very uncertain and emotional few days. And insurance coverage can help lower hospital costs, even if you need a C-section.

Overall, the decision is an important and personal one. Examine your insurance coverage to help you evaluate the options and choose the right birth plan for your family.

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GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.

Kate Underwood is a former high school French and English teacher who has turned her obsession with personal finance into a career. Her work is featured at Money Crashers and elsewhere on the web, covering side hustles, debt payoff, investing strategies, and more. She loves making finance more accessible to everyone. In her free time, she loves to hike and hang out with her husband and kids.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Don’t Move to Another State Just to Reduce Your Taxes

We know lots of friends who are considering moving from a high-tax state, such as New York, to a state with low or no state income taxes. They think they will end up with more money, although they are torn because they may also be moving away from family and friends just to escape state taxes.

What I advise them to do is think about spendable income — the amount they’ll have to spend after taxes — and not just low or zero tax rates. If you have more money to spend after paying the tax bill wherever you currently live, you might as well stay where you are, if it’s closer to the grandkids. You may be able to pay for at least one warm-weather winter trip, too.

Design a Smarter Retirement Income Plan

Before making life decisions about moving (or downsizing, purchasing insurance, etc.) retirees ought to know their number for their total starting income, and have a plan for retirement income that includes a projection of income and savings, and all planning assumptions.

The income plan ought to cover:

  • Starting income
  • Inflation protection
  • Beneficiary income protection
  • Spousal income (if applicable)
  • Plan management (when plan assumptions are not realized)
  • Market risk to plan (when markets fluctuate)
  • Legacy passed on to beneficiaries or heirs

All these subjects are covered in articles on Kiplinger.com. In one article, How to Generate an Extra $20,000 a Year in Retirement, we examined the income from our favorite investor (a 70-year-old woman with $2 million of savings, of which 50% is in a rollover IRA). We saw a large before-tax income advantage from Income Allocation planning. Even if she invests a portion of that to meet her legacy objective, she still has a $20,000 advantage in spendable annual income.

The question is whether she gives back that advantage in federal and state income taxes in her home state of New York.

Reducing your Combined Federal/State Retirement Tax %

You may have heard that New York is a high-tax state, and that’s true. It ranks No. 5 on Kiplinger’s list of the 10 least tax-friendly states for middle-class families. 

Importantly, most states exclude Social Security income from taxation, as well as a portion of IRA distributions and employer pension plans. Together with interest on state and local bonds that is not taxed, a retiree has a head start in reducing state income taxes. 

But the question remains how much of that advantage is eaten up in New York state income taxes. The key for our Go2Income planning is that annuity payments are treated the same in both the New York and federal tax returns, meaning the tax benefits carry over. And with some of the adjustments at the state level mentioned above, the favorable tax treatment of annuity payments may be even more valuable.

Let me share with you the high-level elements of our 70-year-old investor’s federal and New York state tax filing.

   

A table shows a total gross income of $168,183 results in federal taxes of $20,191 and New York state taxes of $3,564.A table shows a total gross income of $168,183 results in federal taxes of $20,191 and New York state taxes of $3,564.

Benefits and Cost from this Planning

For our investor the income taxed by New York would be around $67,500 — or about 40% of her total gross income. As a percentage of total income, the state income tax is a little more than 2%. Even after adding federal taxes, her Retirement Tax Rate is less than 15%. That leaves her a big advantage in spendable income. A traditional plan without annuity payments and with lower income actually pays more in total taxes — with a combined tax rate of over 18%.

So, our plan produces more cash flow from savings, much of it tax-favored, and gives our retiree the freedom to live where she prefers.

And the cost? The primary one is that annuity payments don’t continue at your passing even before the premium has been recovered. 

You can elect a beneficiary protection feature that makes sure total annuity payments will equal the premium at a minimum. However, that choice will reduce the level of guaranteed annuity payments and some of the tax benefits. Or you can use the higher annuity payments to purchase some life insurance. And those planning choices aren’t the only options you will have in terms of beneficiary protection. 

What if the lure of zero state income taxes is too great? Our retiree could move to Florida, save the $3,500 in New York taxes, adopt a Go2Income plan for her circumstances — and pay for the kids’ trips to visit her.

So be with the kids, live where you want and possibly leave less at your passing if it’s early in retirement. Bottom line: Don’t follow the crowd. Do your own research. And rely on resources at Kiplinger.

At Go2Income, we can provide you with a complimentary personalized plan that delivers both a high starting income and growing lifetime income, as well as long-term savings. 

President, Golden Retirement Advisors Inc.

Jerry Golden is the founder and CEO of Golden Retirement Advisors Inc. He specializes in helping consumers create retirement plans that provide income that cannot be outlived. Find out more at Go2income.com, where consumers can explore all types of income annuity options, anonymously and at no cost.

Source: kiplinger.com