A Thread That Is Open

There are definitely worse ways to spend $30 on Amazon on a Friday night.

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Dancercise (#94)

You guys, I am so excited. I have one more week at my company and then I start a new job! More money! Better job! Closer to home! Hooray! The thing is, I’ll have to buy my own health insurance.

But… anyone have experience having their own insurance? I was planning on COBRA’ing it through my current and soon-to-be-former employer, but my brother suggested it might be cheaper to get a personal plan. I don’t even know where to begin looking for personal insurance, so any advice would be appreciated!

Spinach Party (#253)

@Dancercise There may be freelancer’s unions you might qualify for. When I had to buy my own insurance a few years ago I had “Tonik” from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. I think the name of the program has been phased out, but I believe they still offer individual insurance plans. Only in certain states however(I live in CT).

Stina (#686)

@Dancercise Spinach Party is wise. It’s pretty much always better to buy into a group plan than go on your own, the coverage is better.
Otherwise most insurers nowadays do offer individual plans. Just look at their websites and they will have a function on it to give you a quote and to then tell you how to buy if you are interested. Consumer reports magazine (check your library) puts out ratings of quality by state for plans. Also http://familiesusa.org/resources/resources-for-consumers/ has some resources as well.

Other rules of thumb: 1. Set $ copays are fine but paying co-insurance is a huge no go unless it has a tolerable set yearly maximum. (FYI: Co-insurance means that you pay a percentage, say 10% or 20% of each procedure. Co-pays are a set $ amount by service, like $25 for a doctor’s visit, $75 for an ER visit etc.)
2. See how they deal with pre-existing conditions. Preferably they will pay for all services relating to them. Some require that they not be liable for a limited amount of conditions that they will specify for the first six months to a year of your membership. This is not ideal but sometimes that’s how all the plans available will operate. Absolutely do not sign up with someone who has a vague policy on this otherwise they will try to wriggle out of every expense.
3. What’s the lifetime maximum of the plan? Go for 1 million at the very least.

@Dancercise I found my individual plan through ehealthinsurance .com. They show you all the plans available in your area, so you can compare deductibles, monthly fees, and copays. You can also search to see what plans your current providers accept, if that is an issue. I actually found a great plan, and it’s cheaper than what most group plans cost employers per person, but the deductible and copays are higher. When I found the plan I liked best I applied directly through their website.

First I went with Regence, because that was the company my previous employer used, but they refused to pay some charges for really obscure reasons. Even though it eventually got sorted out, I switched to Group Health (a Seattle co-op) because I didn’t want any additional stress while dealing with health stuff. I got their best individual plan, and its been great; if you’re in Seattle I would totally recommend it. If not, hope you find a good one!

@Dancercise Congratulations on the new job!

Dancercise (#94)

Thank you, everyone! The job I’m leaving was my first job out of college, so I’m still learning to ropes here. I will definitely do some research this week and see what I can find.

joyballz (#2,000)

This show is going OFF THE RAILS. And I kinda love it, but I also hate Fitz and Olivia. Crazy when Huck is the most likable character on that show.

@joyballz wait i need to know why you hate fitz and olivia pls. is it because they are too in love?

blueruin (#3,491)

@Logan Sachon I totally ship Fitz/Mellie and I don’t care who knows it.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Logan Sachon Fitz is the wooorrrrrrsssssttttttttttttt. Worst President, worst husband, worst boyfriend, worst friend.

WORST.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@Lily Rowan Fitz is the grossest. The Senator dude and/or Scott Foley for the win, EITHER OR BOTH is 100x better than Fitz. Although, the main reason I came down here was to say: pony up for a 1 month Hulu plus subscription ($7.99) and you can watch the whole season! Or, I think they’re still offering the “one week free”, so you could bingewatch the whole season within a week FOR FREE. What is this “30 dollars on amazon” business??

cryptolect (#1,135)

I have a phone call scheduled with a financial planner next week! What should I ask him?

bgprincipessa (#699)

@cryptolect I know that you have probably planned this out if you have gotten as far as setting up an appointment, but the juxtaposition of this comment made me giggle. Like, I’m doing a really smart thing! Okay, now internet, tell me how I should go about this.

While I’m here, I should say that my father is a financial planner, and I have not. a. clue. what it is that he does.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@bgprincipessa Ha! Yeah. I mean, I have some ideas (do we need life insurance? are 529s the best way to save for college? is a will enough, or do we need a revocable trust? stuff like that), but I figure crowd-sourcing couldn’t hurt, either.

@cryptolect Ask carefully about fees structure, what commissions they get, etc. Fees are a good thing if it means no commissions, because if they earn all their money off commissions, it’s going to be a lot easier for them to try to sell you on the product that they get more money back from!

Speaking of buying tv shows: Game of Thrones is coming back and I would love to not, um…risk the wrath of any television internet police. Is there any way to buy a season pass to that other than just having HBO?

Also, thinking of buying a season pass to Mad Men on iTunes, worth it?

cryptolect (#1,135)

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter I think HBO is pretty strict about having HBO, unfortunately. But I would *definitely* buy a season pass to Mad Men. And I say this because I do, every year. So worth it.

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter Definitely worth it.

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter If you know someone with an HBO subscription, you can use their login details on HBOgo (I use my parents’).

terrific (#1,532)

So I’m starting part-time freelancing for this company and I don’t know what to do with my taxes. I can find all sorts of guides that tell freelancers how to put money aside, but none that explain what to do if you’re a part-time freelancer with a salaried job elsewhere… help? Do I pay quarterlies? What do I do!?

cryptolect (#1,135)

@terrific I usually put all my freelancing money into a traditional IRA just to avoid thinking about this very question.

terrific (#1,532)

@cryptolect I would love to do that but I’m a little too poor and have too many credit cards / student loans to do that 100% :(

@terrific You still have to pay quarterly estimated taxes on your freelance expenses, technically.

Though I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule that you *have* to pay them, just that you might end up owing. Not sure if the IRS will apply your “refund” from W-2 income to what you owe on your 1099 income but I assume it all nets out and then you get paid/owe accordingly?

pawnknee (#2,911)

@terrific I was freelance once and am about to be again. Although quarterly is how you’re supposed to do it, I’m not sure how it works because the taxes are estimated? Rather than guess and have the IRS owe me maybe, I’d rather pay them on April 15th. But I’m guessing there are penalties and fees to worry about if you do it that way.

When I was freelancing I just guestimated how much I’d owe and kept that aside, along with all my deductions and I was about right with the final total. But I did not have any other tax-taking jobs. This time around, once freelance money starts coming in, I will definitely keep what I owe aside, but I will also consider the quarterly taxes if it’s not tedious. Does anyone else have experience with this?

@stuffisthings *earnings, not expenses.

@pawnknee When I was a freelancer I ran everything through an LLC and my mom, who is an accountant, did my actual taxes for me. But I only made like $15,000 that year so my deductible businesses expenses were enough to wipe out the payroll taxes I owed, and I don’t think I owed anything on the income.

The LLC thing may be something to look into though — I’m not sure but I think it confers some tax benefits that individuals don’t get?

deepomega (#22)

@pawnknee Ahem. *Puts on freelancer hat* What you do is, when you do your taxes for, say, 2012, there’s a section about estimated taxes for 2013. You can either try to make up numbers, or just use 2012′s income to do it. If you fill it out with 2012′s income, then you’ll literally divide 2012′s total tax burden in four, and pay that each quarter in 2013. This is easy and great if your income goes up every year! If it does not, you will overpay, and then you’ll get a refund, like a normal employee.

pawnknee (#2,911)

@deepomega But if this is the first year I’m freelancing in a long time, I don’t know what my wages will be. I’d be surprised if my freelance wages this year come close to my full time salary of last year. This will help me next year, though, if I’m still freelance.

@terrific – You only need to pay the estimated taxes quarterly if you will have at least $1000 in unpaid taxes for the tax year. Keep track of your freelance profits, put a percentage aside to pay the taxes on that portion, and wait until you get close to $1000 total owed and/or tax time to pay. Put it in a savings account & don’t touch it!

If you think you may be tempted to spend the money, you might be better off making quarterly payments. Or fill out a new W-4 to have more taxes withheld from your salary and let your employer take care of it. You can claim zero allowances and/or have a certain amount withheld from each paycheck, like $50; it all goes in the same pot as far as the IRS is concerned, and you will get back any extra as a refund.

I wouldn’t sweat it too much the first year, although if your freelance income will push you into a different tax bracket that can be a very, very unpleasant surprise when you do your taxes. My wonderful partner works in IT and the first year we dated he was unemployed, worked freelance for three months, then got a salaried position; he did not save anything from the freelance income, and he wound up owing thousands. He had to set up a 3 year payment plan with the IRS; he’s still paying it off. He did say that the penalties and interest from the IRS are less than credit card interest rates.

If you’re really worried, it’s better to pay a little more than what you owe. The IRS doesn’t care if you give them extra, but they do not like being shorted.

NeenerNeener (#156)

@terrific
You will not be charged any penalties next year if you owe at tax time as long as you make sure you pay in at least 100%* of 2012′s tax. So, if your tax this year came out to, say, $3K, if that amount is withheld from your W2 wages, you will be fine even if your 2013 tax comes out to $6K (of course you’ll want to actually be able to pay the balance due, so depending on your tax bracket, you’ll want to set aside probably around 30-35% of your freelance earnings)
*unless you make big bucks, then it should be 110% of past year tax.

ThatJenn (#916)

@stuffisthings I have an LLC for this very reason that’s going to make a profit for the first time this year (2013) and I am so freakin’ lost when it comes to taxes for it. Ugh. I really gotta find a good resource on how to do all this crap. I mean, I know how to actually file the taxes, it’s determining how to list my expenses (I don’t have a real “cost of goods sold” or “rent” but I do have a bunch of server expenses and a PO box and crap, so… ugh, I have no idea and I really need to devote a weekend to figuring this out).

dudeascending (#1,921)

So, I got a big ol’ title change a few weeks ago, but only got an automatic (non-merit) 4% raise. Talked to my boss about it, and he said he’d talk to his boss about it, etc., etc. Boss’s boss just offered 10% more… which is still $11K below the industry average. I told him so and asked him to reconsider.

This is the first time I’ve ever negotiated/advocated for myself. It’s kind of terrifying, but kind of fun. I feel like I have cojones of titanium.

@dudeascending Whatever you do DON’T PISS OFF THE EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT.

@stuffisthings

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa

limenotapple (#1,748)

@dudeascending How are you determining what industry average is? This might be a helpful thing to know.

Madeline Shoes (#1,324)

@stuffisthings ugh I’m in the process of pissing off the executive assistant in my office (we got a new phone system, and she redid the menu so all the “random” phone calls come to my desk instead of reception – I’m in a totally unrelated department and my boss was not thrilled when we figured out what had happened). I’ve been spending half my day re-routing calls for the past few months and called IT to change it back. She will be SO PISSED on Monday and I’m a little scared…

NeenerNeener (#156)

@limenotapple
One helpful place is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website.

dudeascending (#1,921)

@stuffisthings Pfft, that bitch has only been here for two years. (Kidding, kidding! I’m a former EA. That job was… not easy.)

limenotapple (#1,748)

I think I’m going to buy a car this week and am dreading the negotiating part. I don’t know why that part is so hard for me!

readyornot (#816)

@limenotapple I need to buy a car, too! I have been putting it off for, like, a year and a half, just driving my 14 year old car with 100K miles. In that time, we saved up some money, so at least maybe there was a benefit to putting it off? I am also dreading the negotiating. I’m considering getting online price quotations. Or using the true value website to find out what the dealer’s real inventory cost was. But I’m still scared. There is way more at stake than when you’re haggling over crafts at a market or something.

What kind of car are you thinking about getting?

limenotapple (#1,748)

@readyornot I have been putting it off for a long time too but my current car has been leaving some hints that it is time…already put $1000 into it this year and I’m done. I’m thinking about the CR-V. The first quote I got was very near the True Market Value ™ that Edmunds said…so I feel like I won’t get totally screwed :) I drove A LOT of cars in the past 6 months to try to decide. Are you looking at anything special?

readyornot (#816)

@limenotapple I like the CR-V! I’m worried it might be a little too big for me, as I’ve only ever driven a compact. But I’m facing the likelihood of having to drive around a small person and all their gear during the life of this car, so I’m considering slightly smaller hatchbacks with good fuel efficiency: Mazda3, Prius V, Yaris, Fit. Some days I tell myself I can get away with a compact like the regular Prius or Civic hybrid.

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

@limenotapple I need to buy a new car too, likely another Civic (love mine). Just changed the tires on my 2002 though, and it is still going strong, so I have another year or two to dawdle. I’d love a Billfold post on how to buy and negotiate a car, I have no idea how to do either of these things.

readyornot (#816)

@TheDilettantista I second this. So far we have this chat post from Mike about new v. used, cash v. financing: http://thebillfold.com/2013/01/quick-chat-car-buying/

limenotapple (#1,748)

@readyornot Yeah, I’d love a Billfold post on that too. I think it’s not on a lot of readers’ radar since there are a lot of people who live in a big city where a car isn’t useful or necessary, but in the midwest, it’s hard to do without. (I drive 40 miles in one direction with no mass transit option; my husband drives 25 miles in an opposite direction with no mass transit option). The new vs used post was helpful, especially since after you figure in the difference you pay for the interest on the loan, buying a low-mileage used car doesn’t save you that much! I have a feeling this isn’t an accident…it seems like its designed to nudge me to buying new.

My husband has a civic and it is a great car! I always thought the Mazda3 was really good looking. If I had more stop and go driving and less highway driving, I’d totally consider the Prius.

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

@limenotapple Yes I live in an area where a car is necessary as well and transit options exist but they aren’t really feasible for day to day life–they’re only really useful if you are going to one of the universities in the area as a student or an employee (and I am neither of these things although my boyfriend, a second-time student, makes good use of the system). I think it is useful period because many people leave the city and bam, find themselves needing a car.

Civics are great cars, this one is the only car I have ever had (got it at my 17th birthday) and it has served me very well and kept me very safe. I don’t want or need a big car or a fancy car and I trust the Civic implicitly (also, not really one to shop around for cars, all I want is something safe with good gas mileage) so, yeah, back to Honda I go.

fennel (#2,494)

@limenotapple
Wait, are you sure? I thought the point of the article was that sometimes buying a new car is a better deal than buying a used car, period — that it wasn’t taking into account whether you financed it with a loan or not. Because buying a new car with a loan is pretty much always a *terrible* idea — a car is an immediately depreciating asset, whereas your loan is an appreciating one by definition — your car will be losing in value even as you pay increasing money, beyond the actual price, due to interest, to have it!

I do really wish there would be a post on this, because taking a car loan is one of the #1 ways to impoverish yourself, yet it’s been ingrained in American culture as “normal” somehow. Which is deeply scary and unfair to middle-class people trying to make ends meet. It makes me sad every time I see a post on here where somebody talks about “car payments.”

Stina (#686)

We have owned a high efficiency washer and dryer for a month now and how did I ever get along for so long without them?!

Waaaay back in the early 00′s I lived with housemates and our house had an abomination of a front loader. The thing was always breaking down, eventually there was a consumer suit around the model itself but I was left with the idea that front loaders blew chunks in general. The house my husband and I have now came with an old, cheap top loader but it finally gave up the ghost and Mr. Stina convinced/wore me down and we bought a brand spanking new pair of Kenmores and hot damn. I don’t have to use stain remover for every load. I don’t have to turn my blankets the other way out half way through the dryer cycle. It was stinkin’ expensive. It initially pained my cheap bastard soul but I admit. I was wrong. I have learned the error of my ways.

#oldpeoplekicks
#patheticbutinreallycleanclothes

@Stina Oooh. Not pathetic at all; I’m jealous! I used to live in a place that had a terrible combo washer-dryer front loader in the kitchen (ancient building, retrofitted poorly). I also assumed they were terrible and was overjoyed to move somewhere that had the inefficient kind, even though we get killed on the electricity bill. Good to know I shouldn’t give up hope for the future!

Stina (#686)

@bowtiesarecool Thanks for the reassurance. No indeedy. It is a lovely thing. You do have to keep it clean (leave the front open when not being used, run some vinegar/bleach through it and wipe down the inside of the door every now and then, less it get a little stanky. But otherwise it gets out a variety of previously very tough stains: blood, white deodorant streaks, bike chain grease. We’ve been very happy.

So I’ve been Billfold-absent because I was losing my job and didn’t want to think about what I was going to do for money after April 1, but I got a full time job offer today! And I have some freelancing work coming later in the spring, and maybe some other part time work, and I generally didn’t have to worry because I networked my butt off to interview and network and find a position. So yay, back to Billfold-ing!

Definitely still not doing the weekend estimates, because I just can’t ever estimate what things should cost. Or really, even predict what I’ll be doing anyway. I’m with you on this one Logan.

Stina (#686)

@polka dots vs stripes Yaaaaay! New job! Go you!

salutin' (#3,490)

@polka dots vs stripes Congratulations! I hope your new job goes well.

selenana (#673)

@polka dots vs stripes Congratulations!!

chic noir (#713)

@polka dots vs stripes congrats on the new job.

Thanks everyone!!

I have a credit score question. When I look at my credit, none of my cable/internet accounts pop up, yet in an earlier post today the poster’s credit score got dinged for (someone else’s) unpaid Comcast bills. Is it just that they don’t show up in your credit report unless you’re delinquent on payments? (Yes I am financially stupid but slowly pulling it together – I have savings! For the first time ever!)

@like a rabid squirrel I believe it’s just if your account becomes super delinquent and they send it to collections. My old electric company sent me a notice that they were going to report my 90-days- past due account to the credit reporting agencies.

loren smith (#2,300)

Has anyone else already triple spent their weekend estimate? I meant to only buy seeds and some beer, but I ended up finding a watch I had been looking for for ages and getting some birthday presents.

Madeline Shoes (#1,324)

@loren smith yep, I already spent my allowance on nail polish at Target. $40 on NAIL POLISH. I have a sickness.

chic noir (#713)

Hey guys, I need a cool, not to expensive place to have a hearty breakfast in the Brooklyn area.

readyornot (#816)

@chic noir what counts as not too expensive? I had a good experience at Stone Park Cafe in Park Slope. It’s like $11 eggs, $13 omelettes or eggs benedict. But you may end up spending more on sides, drinks. HOWEVER. The waiter was really nice, knowledgeable. It’s right on 5th in Park Slope, it was my friend’s pick. There’s also a diner right there, too. Diner may be the way to go for hearty.

chic noir (#713)

@readyornot under 30 bucks per person and thanks for the recommendation.

Maladydee (#909)

After a solid month of hours being slashed like they’ve never been slashed before in my department (seriously, no one here can remember this happening) I checked my schedule and one of my shifts actually got EXTENDED! Could this be a sign of more hours to come? I sure hope so!

dudeascending (#1,921)

@limenotapple I work for a not-for-profit in NYC, and there are so many ways to benchmark. Professionals for Nonprofits publishes a salary survey every year, based on title and budget size. I also use Glassdoor.

chic noir (#713)

@readyornot under 30 bucks per person and thanks for the recommendation.

salutin' (#3,490)

My hours at my part time job have been cut lately, and I’m currently going through this “oh god, i think i have to take on a second job” panic. Literally, my hours have been halved. And whilst I’m not paying rent right now and I don’t have to start paying my student loan back until I have full time work, I’m saving for either an overseas study trip or moving into a new place, and I can’t do that on my current paycheck.

Trying to motivate myself to start applying for jobs I can fit around my uni schedule D:

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