Easter Basket Rip Off

I find it fascinating to see the prices charged for pre-made Easter Baskets.   If you take a moment to investigate the contents and do some quick math, it is easy to see that the mark up is substantial.

The basket below is listed at 49.99.  It took me ten minutes of shopping around on the internet   to find these prices for the items listed in the basket:

1. Basket:     Michaels craft store $1.99

2. 12 oz jelly beans:     Local drug store and dollar store price $1.99

3. 8 oz. of bunny corn:     Local drug store and dollar store 99 cents

4. 10 oz. milk chocolate crisps:     Drug store $1.99

5. 8 oz spring marshmallow mix:     Grocery store $2.99

6  1 16 oz package of peeps:     Drug store 2 packs for $3.00 ( $1.50 )

7. 1 10 inch stuffed bunny:     Five Below  $3 to $5



Total Merchandise in Basket $16.50

That leaves you paying $33.49 for someone to place these items into a basket for you  I estimate that would be  $33.49 for approximately 10 minutes of work.

I would much rather save $33.49 and put my own Easter Basket together.   If you have 3 kids to make baskets for, you could save $100.00.

Craft stores, Target and Walgreens make it very easy to make your own basket these days.  They sell the basket, a pre-made plastic sleeve to wrap the basket in and colored grass for the lining.


Things to know about your health insurance drug plan

In order to get the maximum benefit from your #health-insurance drug plan there are a number of things of which you should be aware. The insurance company is looking to make money. They will always steer you toward the drug that is the least expensive option for them.  Generally, this is known as the  generic form of the medication. Checking with your doctor to see if he/she thinks the generic will have the same benefits as the brand name drug is wise.  I know for example, several doctors who do NOT recommend the generics for certain thyroid diseases. For maximum effectiveness,  they would choose Synthroid over the generic version..

Many drug plans will save you a substantial amount if you order the drugs in a larger quantity from a mail order service. When you are in need of a medication long term this can add up to a substantial savings. Typically when you leave the doctor’s office,  you are given one prescription. Generally, you  rush to your pharmacist because you want to start taking the drug immediately.  Ask your doctor for 2 prescriptions, one to take to the drug store and one to send off to the mail order prescription service.

You should also be aware that certain drugs which are covered by your prescription drug plan may only be covered in certain quantities. Again,  check with your insurance carrier because  the cost difference can be substantial. I recently heard from a friend that his doctor had given him a prescription for 10 pills to be taken over the course of a month. He was told by the drug store that his insurance did not cover this drug. Before going back to the doctor and asking for an alternative medicine he called the insurance company and they told him they did cover the drug but only for 6 tablets a month. The price difference was astounding. Under his plan the drug was $10.00 per pill. Not under the plan the drug was $31.30 per pill. His savings was $127.80 by just making the phone call and getting the 6 pills covered under his plan and the other 4 at the list price.

The disparity in price for the same medication based on whether you have insurance or not is not justifiable in any way other than the drug manufacturers and the insurance companies are in collusion to set a retail price that is not justified by any rational. We the public will continue to be ripped off by this behavior unless we demand that our congressional representatives do something about this abuse. The big drug companies and insurance companies spend millions on lobbyists to protect their interests. We the #Consumer need to make our voices heard.

The phone tree again

We have avoided being repetitive in our consumer blogs, but this story is too good to pass up. After our blog on the problem with phone trees we received several comments from our readers. They shared the various methods they have used to speak with a ‘live’ person. Apparently, it does not always pay to be polite.

When you are dealing with a voice activated phone tree apparently many of them are programmed to intercept four letter words and send you directly to a carbon life form. We tested this out on five voice activated phone trees and it worked on all five. We were amazed by this!

My favorite story comes from one of our followers who tells us she spent 10 frustrating minutes in an endless loop saying “Agent” and “Representative”. She made no progress during those long 10 minutes and out of sheer frustration said “F..k it”. Immediately afterward she heard, “you are being transferred to an agent …”.She tells us she has used this on 3 other phone trees and it has consistently worked for her.

We also tried, “Ah S..t” and that seems to work as well. This was just too funny not to pass on to our loyal followers.

Saving money on your vacation

Today the cost of a hotel in a foreign country or another city can be extremely expensive. For a family, these costs can be further magnified. Very often the facility is not centrally located thereby adding additional expenses to get around. The rooms maybe small or the food plan does not accommodate children. Let’s say you are a family of four and want three rooms. The price of this in a conventional hotel can be exorbitant, even if you get a suite.

You can go to various Internet sites like www.hotels.com , www.tripadvisor.com or www.kayak.com and look for their best deals. This may get you a better price, but may not fulfill all your needs.

What are the other choices?

There are a number of house sharing and apartment sharing sites that may better serve you needs. Of course you need to be willing to share your home with a stranger but they are sharing their home with you. If you live in a desirable travel destination like New York City or San Francisco you have a real advantage. I have heard of people in New York City who had a great experience trading their three bedroom Manhattan apartment for a similar apartment in Paris. You can find these deals on sites like www.lovehomeswap.com and www.homeexchange.com .

You may just want to rent an apartment or a room in a place where you are going on vacation. A web site like www.airbnb.com will show you private rental deals that can save you a lot of money. The site allows you to pick neighborhoods, price ranges and the type of room you are looking for. Additionally, this site provides you with reviews from people who have stayed there in the past. The host determines how much they want for their rent and Airbnb then adds on their fee. This total fee is what appears on the web site as the fee for the guest. The time of the stay is determined by the host and is agreed to by the guest.

When you are on #vacation this is also a way to earn additional money by allowing someone else to use your home while you are away and offset some of the costs of your vacation.

#consumersangel #consumer

How to protect your computer

Today we surrounded by computer savvy people. The unscrupulous kind, can gain access to our personal computers. Unwanted software can be a commonplace annoyance causing our computers to function slower than normal. That is the best case scenario! At worse, passwords can be altered or your #identity can be stolen. This serious problem is costing the American consumer an estimated 18 billion dollars a year. Once your #Identity is compromised it is a long, hard and expensive process to fix.

The best solution is prevention. You should have two pieces of software installed on your computer, one for antivirus and another for malware protection. If you install multiple pieces of protection software such as, Norton Anti-Virus and McAfee at the same time they will often fight with each other and cause you more problems while not providing you with the protection you need.

The best protection available today is a combination of two products. Microsoft Essentials is an excellent product and is a free download from Microsoft. It is important to allow it to continually update its virus patterns because there are literally 6000 new viruses released a month.

The second product is Malwarebyte Anti-Malware. There is a free one month trial and the full version of the product costs $24.95.

The two of these working together should keep your computer safe from most malicious attacks. As always it is important to use common sense and not go to websites that look dangerous. Additionally, there are two types of files you should NEVER open unless they come from trusted sources. They are files that end with either .exe or .zip. These files are often attached to emails and unless you are very sure of the sender of these email just hit the delete button.


The long wait at the doctor or the lab

Are you tired of waiting on long lines at the doctor’s office? Are you frustrated when you go to a lab for tests your doctor has ordered and you wait hours just to get into the room for the test. I have suffered these same indignities, which have led to tremendous frustration on my part. Over the years, I have developed some strategies that are helpful.

When making doctor’s appointments, many doctors are now charging you for a missed appointment but think nothing of keeping you waiting for hours in their office. Obviously their time is much more valuable than yours. When I am going to make an appointment, I first speak with the receptionist with whom I schedule an appointment. I ask for a day when the doctor does not have morning rounds at the hospital and does not have surgery.

This is important because either of these activities can make the doctor run much longer than he/she planned and thus keep me waiting for hours. Then I schedule the first morning appointment the doctor has on his schedule. I make sure I show up 15 minutes early to get any paperwork done. Often while you are filling out paperwork they will slip in another patient (as double booking appointments is a common practice). I want to ensure that I will really be the first patient the doctor sees.

A similar strategy works well for lab appointments. I schedule the first appointment of the day and I show up at least 15 minutes early. I find labs often schedule more than one person for the same time because of “no shows” and/or because they have multiple technicians. However, often there is only one room with the equipment needed for your test, therefore being the first on line can be essential to being taken first.

These strategies are not fool proof because a medical emergency or a bad weather conditions can always throw off scheduled appointments. However, I find that these tips help keep my blood pressure down. I also gain a feeling of control over my life and my time, when I do a little planning.

The Shopping List

We have all experienced coming out of a store or a supermarket having spent much more than we planned. We may have even shot the family’s monthly #budget on a single trip. How does this happen and what can we do to protect us from ourselves and our own impulses? Why do we act this way?

We are surrounded by pictures of buying our way to happiness. We see ads in newspapers, magazines and on TV showing beautiful happy people and families. They are happy because they are consuming some food or own some product. The message is clear if you buy this product, you will look just like this and you will be happy too.

In the store aisles there are ads to reinforce what you have seen or read. It is all designed to draw you into the belief that a product will satisfy some inner need and make everything in your life better. This has all been very scientifically studied and planned out by the companies that are trying to sell you their products and a host of psychologists they employ.

How do you get past this? The solution is very simple but not easy to implement. Make a #shopping #list. While you are quietly sitting at home make a list of what you need and what you are planning to buy. If you are familiar with store you are going to make the list in the order of the way you traverse the store. Bring the list with you and check off each item when you buy it. Do NOT buy anything that is not on the list because that will open up the flood gates. Almost any item you “forgot” can be purchased the next trip.

Following this strategy will amaze you. Not only will you save money, but this simple strategy will help you break the habit of allowing yourself to be controlled by the advertisements. You will shop according to your needs not your wants.

#consumers #angel