Annual Review Of Our Homeowners Insurance Policy

I got our renewal information from our insurance company for our homeowners insurance policy. I realized that it is probably a good time to review our policy and make sure we’ve got the right coverage.
Here are some things I looked at in terms of our policy:
The cost of our policy with no changes rose roughly 10% from last year’s total. I actually went online to competing sites to get some rough quotes, and our costs are still significantly cheaper with Allstate. One of the reasons, I’m sure, is that we also have our automobiles covered through Allstate.
I may take some time to check with a couple of other companies on the ‘entire package’ at some point. I’ve heard that some people actually take a day off work dedicated to performing this task. That may be something to consider down the line. As it stands, my preliminary comparison shopping shows me that we’re still getting a reasonably good deal. Though I’m not thrilled about the 10% increase, I can live with it as long as it doesn’t become a repeating trend.
After all this isn’t college tuition where those types of increases are the norm.
Personal Property Protection
This isn’t so much looking at our coverage, but seeing this line did remind me that we need to do a better inventory of our stuff. My parents bought us a new video camera for Christmas, mainly because we want it so that we can film Baby Beagle when he/she arrives, but doing a walk through of our house to catalog inventory would be a good use for this camera as well.
Additional Living Expense
Currently, we have coverage for up to 12 months. This would cover us in the event that our house needed extensive renovations or re-construction. I don’t know if there are opportunities to make adjustments to this length, but I think one year is fair.
Family Liability Protection
This is currently set at the ‘base’ limit of $100,000. My understanding of this is that if we were to have an accident at our house and then get sued for damages, this would be the amount that the insurance company would pay up to. So, if someone tripped and fell and then came to sue us, we would be ‘covered’ up to $100,000 in damages plus associated costs.
It’s my feeling that we should raise this. My company will raise this for $39 per year to raise it to $300,000 up to $115 per year to raise it to $1,000,000. I am gathering advice to see what is recommended, but unfortunately in our ’sue first, ask questions later’, I feel the additional costs might be a small price to pay.
Any thoughts or recommendations?
Guest Medical Protection
This would be coverage that would cover out-of-pocket costs for anyone injured on our property that might require immediate medical attention. The example I saw that made the most sense was that if you have a child, and they have a friend over for a sleepover, and the friend gets hurt, you could take her to the emergency room and these costs would be covered.
One person commenting on this felt that having additional protection here often reduced the chances of getting sued for minor accidents, reducing the chances that the previous category would be needed.
Currently, our protection is the base $1,000. They offer $5,000 of protection for $9 more per year. To me, this might be worth it as well.

Any thoughts or advice that might help out?

If you’ve had any experience with this, please let me know. I’m always looking to make sure we have the right amount of coverage, so any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

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Unplanned Spending That I Hope Is Worth It

When it comes to what I call ‘bathroom supplies’, I usually try to find things on sale. I don’t mean anything gross by ‘bathroom supplies’ but it’s probably what a lot of people would call toiletries. Things like shaving cream, shampoo, body wash and toothpaste. Usually, between finding things on sale, using coupons, and stocking up, we can find some pretty good deals.
However, I spent quite a bit of money on these supplies over the weekend and unfortunately wasn’t able to put a lot of the work that I normally do into it.
Towards the end of 2008, a small rash developed on my face directly to the left of my mouth. I had thought it might go away, but it didn’t go. I went to my family doctor. He didn’t know exactly what it was, but gave me a prescription that normally clears up rashes.
It didn’t. When I followed up with him, he gave me a referral to a dermatologist.
This was January of this year by now, and when I went to see the dermatologist, he looked at it and indicated that I had ‘contact dermititis’ which I’ve since learned is a catch-all term for a skin irritation. He prescribed something different, which was a topical steroid, that he promised would “clear it right up.”
It did and it didn’t. What happened is that the cream knocked the rash down to where it was barely noticeable, but it never went fully away. If I stopped using the product the rash would be back in full force within a couple of days.
Clearly there was still a problem, so back to the dermatologist I went. The rash was itchy and I am very self-concious about it given that it’s right next to my mouth. I always feel that whenever someone is talking to me, they’re looking at the rash and not concentrating on a word I’m saying. I’ve asked multiple people if it’s very noticeable, and nobody has said that it is, but I have always thought that maybe they’re just being nice. In other words, this rash has to go.
At this point, the doctor now recommended that I go through ‘patch testing’ which is a type of allergy testing where they expose your skin (on the back) to various chemicals and compounds that can cause reactions. After several days, they see what spots developed any rashes, and determine that you should avoid those products.
There were a few products that came up. A couple are normally things that I wouldn’t have to worry about, but there were two that were noteworthy. The first was parabens, which are preservatives that are used in a wide variety of cosmetic and toiletry products. The second was topical steroids, which if you recall, is what I had been using to treat the rash. So, what this showed is that a large number of consumer goods as well as the very product by which I’d been using to treat myself were helping prolong the problem.
I was given a new prescription and also a 53-page list of ‘bathroom stuff’ products that were OK to use. I was advised to concentrate on any products that I used from the neck up, since the rash was localized to my face.
So, I went through product by product for the following areas:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Face soap
  • Body wash
  • Shaving cream
  • Lip Balm
  • Hair Gel
  • Moisturizer
  • Toothpaste

I found that the conditioner and body wash that I use were on the list, but none of the other products were. Because my goal was to get rid of the rash as quickly as possible and because we’re pressed for time with the baby coming, I decided to simply make one trip to one store and take care of the entire list. I did find one coupon.
Many of the products (most notably the toothpaste and moistuerizer) required higher end, expensive products. But, in the end, the cost was roughly $50 to get new shampoo, face soap, shaving cream, lip balm, hair gel, moisturizer, and toothpaste.
Had I been buying these products over time, looking at sales and/or buying with coupons, I probably could have gotten them for significantly cheaper, but given that this rash has been with me for six months and I just want it gone, I did not balk at the cost.
All I can hope now is that this unplanned spending turns out to be worth it. I’ll report back over the next few weeks how things go. As of now, the rash is still there but the redness and itchiness has subsided, so some combination of the new medicne and the new products is working, but time will tell if this will completely knock it out.
Wish me luck.

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How We’re Trying To Support The Local Economy

Lately, I’ve been looking around and trying to support more local businesses. Michigan has been struggling more so than the rest of the country for a long time. The recession started here a couple of years before most other areas in the country, and our unemployment rate has been the highest in the country for quite a few months running, it seems.
With that in mind, I’ve been trying to support more local businesses. Here are a few ways that I’ve been trying to support the Michigan economy:

  • Shopping at local hardware stores – Normally when I needed something home-improvement wise, I’d just hop in the car and end up at Home Depot or Lowes. Lately, though, I’ve been trying so shop at the local Ace Hardware or True Value hardware store. They’re owned by local residents, and I think that does more to support local entrepreneurs than does shopping at the big box stores.
  • Shopping at the Michigan based grocery chain – Meijer is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and we do most of our shopping here. We have been doing so for a few years now, but we’ve made it a point to buy whatever we can at Meijer before reverting to Kroger or Wal-Mart.
  • Buying products made in Michigan – I’ve been buying Meijer brand soda for quite some time, but lately I’ve switched to Faygo, which is bottled and headquartered in Detroit. Meijer brand may actually be bottled here as well, but I can’t be completely sure, so I’ve switched to the one I know for sure is Michigan based while I do some research. Also, when we buy potato chips (which is pretty rare), I make sure we buy Better Maid, which is manufactured and headquartered in Detroit.
  • We will also be buying our flowers with a smaller Michigan-based store. We had often purchased our annuals at one of the big box stores, but we’ll be making sure to purchase from retailers that grow their products here, and whose headquarters is here.
  • Driving our GM cars – Even though our cars are six years and three years old, they are both GM cars, we still drive them proudly. The cars themselves may have been built or had components built elsewhere, but our purchase still supported the engineers, design teams, finance teams and all the other local workers who work for GM that call the Detroit area home.

I know that there are other ways to support the local economy and that these things may be mere drops in the bucket, but one thing I’ve learned is that those drops can add up.
What are you doing to support your local economy?

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Net Worth Review: May 2009

May was a pretty good month. Here is the overview. See below for a brief discussion on each area:

Property –I use a combination of Zillow and CyberHomes. I make a small adjustment based on what I’m seeing things sell for, and I remove 7.75% for expected selling costs. For the month, the value continued the downward trend. You can see that it fell 2.4% for the month, and has fallen 13.2% over the last year.
Autos – The value of our two cars has held pretty steady the last couple of months as the used car market has heated up.
Investment Accounts – We had a good month, going up slightly under 9%. Still for the last 12 months, our investment account balance is down 38.84%
Cash Accounts – We slightly raised our balance for the month, but have bolstered up our cash over the last year, just to make sure we’re covered after my wife quit her job in anticipation of our baby.
Retirement Accounts – Our retirement account went up almost 9%. The total value is down roughly 19% over the past year. This would have been more, but my employer matched a good portion of my retirement contributions. Unfortunately, that is coming to an end starting this month as they’ve discontinued the match.
Mortgage – Nothing special, just the monthly payment. Our mortgage is a 30-year loan at 5.875%
Car Loans – We paid off our car just under a year ago and we have no outstanding car loans!
Credit Cards – This is the balance that’s accrued since the last statement. We pay our credit cards off every month. We’ve charged more than normal this month as we had some stuff to finish off for the arrival of the baby. We have cash earmarked to make that payment which will keep our monthly budget in line.
Student Loan 1 – This is the loan that had a higher balance and a higher interest rate. After paying the car loan off, we concentrated our debt payment on this loan. We’ve paid 57% of the balance from a year ago. The pace slowed now that my wife isn’t bringing home a paycheck.
Student Loan 2 – This is the second loan but it is at a very low interest rate. We make the minimum payments on this loan. After Student Loan 1 is paid off, we’ll have to decide whether to snowball the payments toward this loan, or switch to something else (such as the mortgage, investing, or adding even more to our retirement)
Overall, our net worth went up a modest 3% for the month, and is down 31% from a year ago. However, I also calculate this without the effect of our property. The reason for this is because I feel that gives a more accurate reading of how we’re doing in the short term. Plus, real estate is the thing that’s the most out of our control. With that calculation, we had a nice month with a 7.5% gain, but still down 13.5% for the last twelve months.
I think it was a good month. I’m extremely happy with how we’re transitioning into a single-paycheck household. Although the debt payment will slow now that we’re down to the single income, I still think we have made great strides and feel confident with where we’re at.

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