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Open Enrollment Checklist: HSA, HCFSA, DCFSA, Disability Insurance, Life Insurance

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We just finished our open enrollment paperwork, and like many other workers we faced a long and confusing list of instructions. They tried to distract me from the increased health insurance premiums by adding a bunch of optional “perks” like universal life insurance and paid identity theft protection. Christine Benz has a thoughtful Checklist for Open Enrollment Season. Here are my own thoughts as I went through the options:

Health Savings Accounts (HSA). Doesn’t “triple tax-free” sound good? HSA contributions are tax-deductible (pre-tax money), they grow tax-free once there, and your withdrawals are tax-free when spent on qualified healthcare expenses. However, you have to be enrolled in a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP) to be eligible, which means your higher out-of-pocket costs might not offset the cheaper premium plus upfront tax savings. Depending on your estimated healthcare costs, tax rate, and how much your employer pays, you may be better off with a traditional HMO or PPO plan. A bit of math will be needed.

In order to maximize the HSA’s long-term advantages, you will also want to treat the HSA as an investment account. This means you’ll you need to cover the higher annual out-of-pocket costs yourself and still have money left over to fund the HSA.

Healthcare Flexible Spendings Accounts (HC FSA). I’ve said it before, but these can be a bureaucratic mess. The benefit is “use-it-or-lose it”, but for me it has been “use-it-and-lose-my-mind”. Third-party benefits administrators have given me several bad experiences with submitting my receipts and ensuring they are approved. If it takes me an hour to submit/check/argue/re-submit/check a $50 medical expense, then in my opinion the tax savings of $10 was not worth it at all. But if I don’t follow through, I lose the entire $50. Asymmetric risk in a bad way.

There are also some finer details if you want to have both an HSA and an FSA (look up limited-purpose or post-deductible FSAs).

Dependent Care Flexible Spendings Accounts (DC FSA). These are better. You can have both an HC FSA and a DC FSA as they cover separate things. If you have eligible childcare costs (or adult dependent care), it is quite possible you reach the $5,000 annual maximum. I usually wait until I’ve already paid out $5,000 in preschool tuition, and then I just submit a single receipt for a potential $1,000 tax savings (assuming 20% tax rate on $5,000). Now that’s a good per-hour rate.

Employer-sponsored disability insurance. The best thing about group disability insurance through your employer is that it’s easier to qualify and the cost may be subsidized by your employer. However, if you switch or lose your jobs, you might lose your group disability insurance at the same time. This won’t happen with your own portable plan. Specialized workers can purchase riders that will pay out as long as you can no longer perform your specific occupation (as opposed to any lower-paying job). However, it’s so easy to put this off that getting some employer-sponsored disability insurance can be a good first step.

Life insurance. A common offering is a year of your salary in life insurance. Beyond that, you should always compare with an individual term life insurance plan. That way, if you have a special medical condition that makes your private premium somehow crazy expensive, then you can always fall back on the group plan. For most healthy folks, finding your own portable term life policy will be cheaper and it won’t go away if you lose your job. If you get a 20-year level term policy, your premium also stays fixed for those 20 years. No surprise increases.

Other benefits. The menu seems to expand every year. 401k investment advice. Commuter benefits. Student loan repayment assistance programs. Accidental death and dismemberment (ADD) insurance. Critical illness insurance. Long-term care insurance. Identity theft insurance If it’s free, I’ll take it but in general I decline the ones that require a premium.



“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

Open Enrollment Checklist: HSA, HCFSA, DCFSA, Disability Insurance, Life Insurance from My Money Blog.


Copyright © 2019 MyMoneyBlog.com. All Rights Reserved. Do not re-syndicate without permission.



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Finance

The Best Places To Buy College Textbooks Online

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College Textbooks OnlineCollege Textbooks Online

With all of the options to buy books, gadgets, and school supplies online, college bookstores are becoming more obscure, and purchases made on campus are more often made out of emergency, urgency, or convenience rather than necessity.

The costs of college textbooks has been on the rise, but now that there are more options, students are spending less.

Fear not, the odds are stacked in your favor. With several online retailers and comparison websites at your fingertips, the options for saving on textbooks are endless.

Keep reading for tips on how to save as much money as possible on college textbooks!

Chances are you are not going to keep all your college textbooks, so you should buy books with the intention of reselling to save the most money. If another edition of the book is coming out this year, the value of your book will drop. You could also look at renting your textbooks.

You can also resell textbooks on these same websites that you buy them from. Also, if the seller offers an e-book option, make sure you download it onto your computer, not from someone else’s computer, or you may not be able to access the subscription.

Check out our list of the best places to buy textbooks online, in alphabetical order.

Get The Right Information: Author, Title, ISBN Number

You will need to know the title of the book, as well as the author’s first and last name, and the edition of the book. If you get the ISBN number, you will be able to check and make sure you are getting the best deal on the book. With used books, prices can vary greatly for used books depending on the condition of the book.

It’s important to also always check the edition number. Many books have multiple editions, so while you might think you’re getting an awesome deal on the Fifth Edition, the class is actually using the Sixth Edition. This could also pose problems for homework assignments, lessons, and more.

You’ll find the best prices online, but there’s a lot of variation in price, especially for used books. Shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal, and double check the ISBN number to make sure you’re looking at the exact same book.

While you may already be familiar with sites such as Amazon, Half.com, and CampusBooks.com, consider the options below for the best deal possible on your next set of college textbooks. Textbook comparison websites, such as Book Rocket can get you a quick price comparison from multiple websites for the best price with shipping and other discounts.

1. AbeBooks

AbeBooksAbeBooksAbeBooks

AbeBooks is a website with a wide database of textbook sellers for deep discounts, up to 75% on retail prices. AbeBooks has been around for a long time, and they have consistently provided value to their buyers.

Abebooks also partners with local sellers in certain cities for more inventory and great prices. We’ve found that you can get the best deal at AbeBooks for international editions of the textbook you need.

AbeBooks offers fast shipping and a return policy, which guarantees that you can return any book for a refund within 30 days when the return is due to an error on the bookseller’s part.

Even outside of your return window, AbeBooks will still buy those books back from you at a decent rate. Check out our full AbeBooks review here.

Shop AbeBooks here >>

2. Amazon

Amazon VideoAmazon VideoAmazon Video

If you have done online shopping of any kind, you know Amazon has one of the largest selections for college textbooks. You can see a wide selection of sellers on Amazon.

Amazon offers options to purchase, sell, and rent textbooks at a discount. You can always sell those same books on Amazon once the course is over. If you are eligible for Amazon Prime, you can also get your textbooks super fast.

Remember, students can take advantage of Amazon Student, which is a discount version of Amazon Prime, and still has many of the perks.

Amazon is typically the leader in textbook sales, and their marketplace, where you can buy used books, is top notch. Check out our full Amazon Textbook Review here.

Shop Amazon Textbooks here >>

3. Barnes And Noble

BarnesandNobleBarnesandNobleBarnesandNoble

Barnes and Noble is the last major national book retailer in the United States. While they don’t sell many textbooks in their store, their website sells just about every textbook imaginable. They also offer textbook rentals, and they even have a textbook buyback program to sell your textbook back at the end of the semester.

They advertise that you can save upwards of 90% off the cover price on textbooks, and they offer free shipping on orders over $25 (which covers just about every textbook).

When comparing, we recommend you make Barnes and Noble one of your stops. Check out our full Barnes and Noble review here.

Shop Barnes and Noble here >>

4. BigWords

BigwordsBigwordsBigwords

BigWords is a search engine designed to help you find the best prices on college textbooks. Although you may end up purchasing textbooks through different retailers, you will be able to get the best prices and shipping costs.

You also have the option to rent textbooks and view rental prices against the price of purchase. Once your class is over, you can sell the books back to the highest bidder on the site.

The site isn’t the easiest to use, but it’s still a great tool to compare the prices before you buy.

5. BookFinder

BookFinderBookFinderBookFinder

BookFinder will help you search for the lowest prices to buy books, and the highest return for selling books. You can compare new, used and rental offers from over a large selection of sellers, including major websites such as AbeBooks and Amazon.

All you need is the ISBN number or Title and Author. BookFinder offers free shipping and quick accurate cost comparison.

The website looks like the best of 1999, but it works, and it can be helpful to find the lowest prices.

6. BooksRun

BooksRun logoBooksRun logoBooksRun logo

BooksRun lets you buy, sell, and rent textbooks. But they are also one of the leaders in eTextbooks – so if you need a digital copy of your book, check out BooksRun.

If you go the eTextbook route, you can get instant access to you book. If you opt for a traditional book, they offer free shipping on everything – which is awesome.

Shop BooksRun here >>

7. CampusBooks.com

campusbookscampusbookscampusbooks

CampusBooks.com has been around since the late 90s, and has been the go to resource for all things related to textbooks. CampusBooks.com offers an option to buy, rent, or sell textbooks, with average savings at least 60%.

A convenient feature on their website includes calculations based on discounts, coupons, promotions, shipping costs, and sales tax so that you get an accurate picture of the cost.

Their coupons are exclusive to their website, and they offer incentives to buy and sell with them. Many of their promotions are exclusive, which means that the savings can only be found right here.

Shop CampusBooks here >>

8. CheapTextBooks.com

cheaptextbookscheaptextbookscheaptextbooks

CheapTextBooks.com is a no-frills website where you can buy, sell, and rent textbooks. You can also search by ISBN, Title and Author, or even subject matter.

If you prefer to save your sales proceeds for credits towards future purchases, CheapTextBooks.com lets you sell your textbooks for cash or credit. They also have a blog and host giveaways as an incentive.

9. CheapestTextbooks

CheapestTextbooks.com is a free price comparison page for buying, renting and selling textbooks, they also price compare eBooks for rent or buy, across all the major textbook websites. Shipping is shown and any coupons that can be used are all shown on the same page for ease of use. They are completely up to date and constantly improving their site, so you know you are getting the best service. 

They have a great social media presence and can be found on Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram.

10. Chegg

cheggcheggchegg

Chegg has been a longstanding website that offers competitive prices and a large selection of book versions and editions.

While Chegg discounts of up to 90%, most discounts will be lower, but the prices will still be way lower than some of the major websites, and definitely lower than your local campus bookstore.

Chegg allows you to search via title and author or ISBN number, but it also shows you an eBook version (if available for your selected textbook).

Chegg also offers the bonus of giving you free access to the electronic version of your textbook while the physical copies ship to you to avoid disruptions in your class schedule. In order to continue to offer competitive prices, Chegg features local deals and discounts with retailers on and around your college campus as well.

Chegg also has other resources- they also offer resources to help you find a job or internship, as well as help with your homework.

11. CollegeBooksDirect.com

CollegeBooksDirect.com offers one of the largest selections of used textbooks, and offers same day shipping for your textbook order (unless otherwise noted).

There is a wide selection of over 30,000 textbooks online, ranging from annotated textbooks, Instructor’s Edition textbooks, Text Only textbooks, New textbooks & Used textbooks.

They offer a wide variety of shipping options, with standard shipping options starting at $4.00 for the first book, and $1.00 for each additional item. They also offer UPS shipping 2nd day air at $15.00 for the first book, and $1.00 for each additional item. CollegeBooksDirect.com also offer a 30-day return policy.

12. eCampus

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eCampus is another long time online textbook seller, that also offer rental services and a textbook buyback program.

eCampus has a huge selection of books, but their free shipping level is $59, which is higher than many other places. However, the savings you find on the books might justify the higher price.

They do have a rewards program that can help you save in the long run. Check out our full eCampus review here.

13. SlugBooks.com

slugbooksslugbooksslugbooks

Using SlugBooks.com, you can search by author and title or ISBN. You can also compare prices between Amazon, Chegg, Textbooks.com, and other online sellers.

SlugBooks.com also offers a unique feature that permits sellers to post their textbook requests and textbooks for sale on a separate page via Facebook.

If you’re looking for a more social media oriented comparison site, check out SlugBooks.com.

14. Valore Books

Valore BooksValore BooksValore Books

Valore Books give you the option to buy, rent, and sell textbooks. They offer a 30-day money back guarantee, and all textbook rentals come with free shipping.

Another useful feature is the instant price quotes Valore Books will give you when you sell your books- just enter the ISBN number. They also have an option for textbook stores to liquidate their inventory fast, which could translate into huge savings for you.

They don’t have a free shipping option, but their shipping is relatively cheap. However, it might not make sense compared to other companies in this list. Check out our full Valore Books review here.

Final Thoughts

Check out the cost of the textbooks at the campus bookstore first, this will give you an idea of the baseline retail price. It is worth checking out at least 2 comparison websites so that you can get an idea of the price range.

From there, narrow down the choices based on the factors that are important to you: buy back options for textbooks, low cost or fast shipping, and return policy.

Regardless of the choice you make, you will be sure to save hundreds of dollars off the retail price or your campus bookstore.

Have you bought textbooks online recently? Tell us about your experiences with buying textbooks online in the comments below!

The post The Best Places To Buy College Textbooks Online appeared first on The College Investor.



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Introducing Coverage Critic: Time to Kill the $80 Mobile Phone Bill Forever

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A Quick Foreword: Although the world is still in Pandemic mode, we are shifting gears back to personal finance mode here at MMM. Partly because we could all use a distraction right now, and even more important because forced time off like this is the ideal time to re-invest in optimizing parts of your life such as your fitness, food and finances.

Canadian Readers – we have also collected some recommendations for you at a new Canadian Mobile Phone recommendations page.

Every now and then, I learn to my horror that some people are still paying preposterous amounts for mobile phone service, so I write another article about it.

If we are lucky, a solid number of people make the switch and enjoy increased prosperity, but everyone who didn’t happen to read that article goes on paying and paying, and I see it in the case studies that people email me when looking for advice. Lines like this in their budget:

  • mobile phone service (2 people): $160

“NO!!!!”
is all I can say, when I see such unnecessary expenditure. These days, a great nationwide phone service plan costs between and $10-40 per month, depending on how many frills you need.

Why is this a big deal? Just because of this simple fact:

  • Cutting $100 per month from your budget becomes a $17,000 boost to your wealth every ten years.

And today’s $10-40 phone plans are just great. Anything more than that is just a plain old ripoff, end of story. Just as any phone more expensive than $200* (yes, that includes all new iPhones), is probably a waste of money too.

So today, we are going to take the next step: assigning a permanent inner-circle Mustachian expert to monitor the ever-improving cell phone market, and dispense the latest advice as appropriate. And I happen to know just the guy:

Christian Smith, along with colleagues at GiveWell in San Francisco, circa 2016

My first contact with Chris was in 2016 when he was working with GiveWell, a super-efficient charitable organization that often tops the list for people looking to maximize the impact of their giving.

But much to my surprise, he showed up in my own HQ coworking space in 2018, and I noticed he was a bit of a mobile phone research addict. He had started an intriguing website called Coverage Critic, and started methodically reviewing every phone plan (and even many handsets) he could get his hands on, and I liked the thorough and open way in which he did it.

This was ideal for me, because frankly I don’t have time to keep pace with ongoing changes in the marketplace. I may be an expert on construction and energy consumption, but I defer to my friend Ben when I have questions about fixing cars, Brandon when I need advice on credit cards, HQ member Dr. D for insider perspectives on the life of a doctor and the medical industry, and now Chris can take on the mobile phone world.

So we decided to team up: Chris will maintain his own list of the best cheap mobile phone plans on a new Coverage Critic page here on MMM. He gets the benefit of more people enjoying his work, and I get the benefit of more useful information on my site. And if it goes well, it will generate savings for you and eventual referral income for us (more on that at the bottom of this article).

So to complete this introduction, I will hand the keyboard over to the man himself.

Meet The Coverage Critic

Chris, engaged in some recent Coverage Criticicism at MMM-HQ

I started my professional life working on cost-effectiveness models for the charity evaluator GiveWell. (The organization is awesome; see MMM’s earlier post.) When I was ready for a career change, I figured I’d like to combine my analytical nature with my knack for cutting through bullshit. That quickly led me to the cell phone industry.

So about a year ago, I created a site called Coverage Critic in the hopes of meeting a need that was being overlooked: detailed mobile phone service reviews, without the common problem of bias due to undisclosed financial arrangements between the phone company and the reviewer.

What’s the Problem with the Cell Phone Industry?

Somehow, every mobile phone network in the U.S. claims to offer the best service. And each network can back up its claims by referencing third-party evaluations. 

How is that possible? Bad financial incentives.

Each network wants to claim it is great. Network operators are willing to pay to license reviewers’ “awards”. Consequently, money-hungry reviewers give awards to undeserving, mediocre networks.

On top of this, many phone companies have whipped up combinations of confusing plans, convoluted prices, and misleading claims. Just a few examples:

  • Coverage maps continue to be wildly inaccurate.
  • Many carriers offer “unlimited” plans that have limits.
  • All of the major U.S. network operators are overhyping next-generation, 5G technologies. AT&T has even started tricking its subscribers by renaming some of its 4G service “5GE.”

However, with enough research and shoveling, I believe it becomes clear which phone companies and plans offer the best bang for the buck.  So going forward, MMM and I will be collaborating to share recommended phone plans right here on his website, and adding an automated plan finder tool soon afterwards. I think you’ll find that there are a lot of great, budget-friendly options on the market.

A Few Quick Examples:

Mint Mobile: unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 8GB of data for as low as $20 per month (runs over T-Mobile’s network).

T-Mobile Connect: unlimited minutes and texts with 2GB of data for $15 per month.

Xfinity Mobile: 5 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 10GB of shared data over Verizon’s network for about $12 per line each month (heads up: only Xfinity Internet customers are eligible, and the bring-your-own-device program is somewhat restrictive).

Cricket Wireless: 4 lines in a combined family plan with unlimited calling, unlimited texting, and unlimited data for as low as $100 per month (runs on AT&T’s network).

Ting: Limited use family plans for under $15 per line each month.

[MMM note – even as a frequent traveler, serious techie and a “professional blogger”, I rarely use more than 1GB each month on my own Google Fi plan ($20 base cost plus data, then $15 for each additional family member). So some of these are indeed generous plans]

Okay, What About Phones?

With the above carriers, you may be able to bring your existing phone. But if you need a new one, there are some damn good, low-cost options these days. The Moto G7 Play is only $130 and offers outstanding performance despite the low price point. I use it as my personal phone and love it.

If you really want something fancy, consider the Google Pixel 3a or the recently released, second-generation iPhone SE. Both of these are amazing phones and about half as expensive as an iPhone 11.

——————————————-

Mobile Phone Service 101

If you’re looking to save on cell phone service, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the industry. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skip over a lot of nuances in the rest of this post. If you’re a nerd like me and want more technical details, check out my longer, drier article that goes into more depth.

The Wireless Market

There are only four nationwide networks in the U.S. (soon to be three thanks to a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint). They vary in the extent of their coverage:

  • Verizon (most coverage)
  • AT&T (2nd best coverage)
  • T-Mobile (3rd best coverage)
  • Sprint (worst coverage)

Not everyone needs the most coverage. All four nationwide networks typically offer solid coverage in densely populated areas. Coverage should be a bigger concern for people who regularly find themselves deep in the mountains or cornfields.

While there are only four nationwide networks, there are dozens of carriers offering cell phone service to consumers – offering vastly different pricing and customer service experiences.

Expensive services running over a given network will tend to offer better customer service, more roaming coverage, and better priority during periods of congestion than low-cost carriers using the same network. That said, many people won’t even notice a difference between low-cost and high-cost carriers using the same network.

For most people, the easiest way to figure out whether a low-cost carrier will provide a good experience is to just try one. You can typically sign up for these services without a long-term commitment. If you have a good initial experience with a budget-friendly carrier, you can stick with it and save substantially month after month.

With a good carrier, a budget-friendly phone, and a bit of effort to limit data use, most people can have a great cellular experience while saving a bunch of money.

MMM’s Conclusion

From now on, you can check in on the Coverage Critic’s recommendations at mrmoneymustache.com/coveragecritic, and he will also be issuing occasional clever or wry commentary on Twitter at @Coverage_Critic.

Thanks for joining the team, Chris!

*okay, special exception if you use it for work in video or photography. I paid $299 a year ago for my stupendously fancy Google Pixel 3a phone.. but only because I run this blog and the extra spending is justified by the better camera.

The Full Disclosure: whenever possible, we have signed this blog up for referral programs with any recommended companies that offer them, so we may receive a commission if you sign up for a plan using our research. We aim to avoid letting income (or lack thereof) affect our recommendations, but we still want to be upfront about everything so you can judge for yourself. Specific details about these referral programs is shared on the CC transparency page. MMM explains more about how he handles affiliate arrangements here.



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Think twice before adding this skill to your resume

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This article was created by StackCommerce. While Postmedia may collect a commission on sales through the links on this page, we are not being paid by the brands mentioned.

If you’ve ever felt tempted to list a foreign language on your résumé based on a few years of French or Spanish in high school, think again. Knowing a second language extends much further than asking where the library is or jacking up a French accent to respond “Oui!” to someone’s question.

Speaking multiple languages is a highly sought after skill for any job or industry, but you must be able to back it up with confidence unless you want your faulty résumé to haunt you.

When is it ok to list a language on a résumé?

Unless you would feel comfortable traveling to a country and speaking only its native language without assistance, the answer is don’t list another language. If you need to pull up Google Translate or require the help of another translator, you are not fluent enough in the language to list it on your résumé.

If you are confident in your

language skills

, however, being bilingual or multilingual is extremely marketable according to this

career advice expert

. Depending on the importance of the language to the role or job that you are applying, listing a language can give you a leg up. If you will be interviewing others in that language, conducting business deals, or even translating conversations yourself, by all means, sell yourself and your skills on your résumé!

Also, keep in mind that with limited space on a résumé, make sure to list all of your job-related skills first.

Ok, how can you gain confidence?

Learning a language well enough to define it as one of your job skills is tricky, but without daily access to your high school Spanish teacher, learning a new language as an adult is even more intimidating. The key is practice, and practicing your language skills directly with native speakers is an invaluable tool.

Get started on learning from expert linguists in 12 different languages with the help of Busuu. Busuu is the world’s largest community for language learning and has been named Google Play Store’s Editor’s Choice and Apple App Store’s App of the Year and holds 4.4 and 4.7 star ratings, respectively. For a limited time, get a two-year subscription of

Busuu Language Learning Premium Plus

for $89.99 USD, a 50 per cent discount, previously marked at $180.

Busuu uses

personalized study plans

and speech recognition and also includes advanced grammar lessons, McGraw-Hill Education certification, and adaptive Vocabulary Trainer to help you fine-tune your language skills. Confident yet? You will be.

I know a second language, now what?

Now that you feel confident conversing with your business partners in German, there are multiple ways to use your new skill to set yourself up for success in your career.

Bilingual and multilingual employees are a premium when hiring, and your new language will make you much more marketable to potential employers — only if you are fluent, remember. You will be able to distinguish yourself from other candidates too.

Knowing a

second language

opens doors in global companies and helps build relationships, as well. This added form of communication can lead to better sales or even put you in line for a promotion.



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