A first look at how much health care premiums may go up in the second year of Obamacare.
Insurance companies in Virginia have filed rate proposals for 2015 that call for significant rate increases, but nothing near the dire predictions of Obamacare opponents. The Wall Street Journal reports the proposed increases easily top overall inflation, but that’s been true of health care costs for years. One of the biggest plans, Wellpoint’s (WLP) Anthem HealthKeepers, is asking for an average increase of 8.5 percent. Other plans call for rate hikes of 3.3 percent to nearly 15 percent.
But it may be a bit easier to pay for those increases. Economists polled by USA Today expect wage increases to be a bit higher than they’ve been in recent years. That’s partly because the unemployment rate has dropped sharply to 6.3 percent.
Another important trend developing for next year has to with our TV viewing habits — and the dramatic slide in the audience for music-based TV shows. The audience for “American Idol” and its imitators has declined to the point that many of those shows are in jeopardy of being canceled. Along with the slide in viewership, The New York Times reports the average age of the people watching has increased to above 50 for many shows, including “The Voice” — and that’s not the group that advertisers are going after.
Here on Wall Street last week, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 0.4 percent, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (^GPSC) was little changed and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) fell 1.3 percent.
The Dow begins the week at a record high, but the Nasdaq has lost 6.5 percent since topping out 10 weeks ago. Many of the new technology stocks that had been high-flyers are now viewed as over-priced — in some cases, way over-priced. The software company Splunk (SPLK) is good example. It has lost more than half of its value over the past year. It’s taken a round trip from below $50 a share to nearly $100, and all the way back down again.
Splunk and other are known as momentum stocks. They can move up very quickly when investors are jumping on board, but they can decline just as quickly.
Have you ever heard of the 30-day rule? As a frugal guy, this is one of my favorite rules in spending. If you’re about to spend any more than $20 on something that is unnecessary, don’t. Instead, put the item down and wait 30 days to buy it. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save by not making unnecessary frivolous purchases.
1. Give yourself a month
I literally mean freeze your credit cards. It seems a bit extreme, but think of it this way. The average credit card comes with a 13 percent or higher interest rate. By simply not using credit cards as often, you’ll save a ton. So, get a plastic sandwich bag and put your credit cards in it. Fill it with water, zip it up and throw it in the freezer. Without easy access to those tempting pieces of plastic, you probably won’t use them as much. However, they’ll still be around — in an emergency, you can retrieve them from the ice.
2. Freeze your credit cards
Have you ever looked around your house, seen a few items and thought, “I could have made that!” You probably could have. The only thing is, you didn’t. Instead you paid for it. From now on, before you buy something you think you can make on your own, give it a shot. I saved a little over a hundred bucks about two weeks ago. I needed a new bird cage for my fiancé’s doves. Instead of buying a cage for $200, I made one that was far bigger for less than $80.
3. Take part in a DIY challenge
Did you know that a clean air filter in your car can lead to 7 percent more fuel efficiency? That means at current gas prices, with a clean air filter, you’ll save about $100 a year, if you drive the average 10,000 miles.
4. Clean your car’s air filter
How often on the way home from the office do you want to stop for a convenient quick meal? You’ve had a long day, and it feels justified. But it costs much more than a home-cooked meal. The answer is your slow cooker. Use it to prepare your meal in the morning on days you know will be rough. This way, you can skip the fast food and rush home to an already ready home-cooked meal.
5. Get your slow cooker out of the cabinet
Do you pay a maintenance fee for your bank account? Why? Tons of banks offer checking and savings accounts without them. Look to your local credit union or even switch to an online bank. When comparing your options, also look at the interest you can earn. Currently, I get about 3 percent on checking and about 3.4 percent on savings, but who knows what kind of great deals you can find?
6. Get rid of the bank that nickel and dimes you
I’ve had tons of options to sign up for customer rewards programs and I was just too busy. So, I didn’t sign up. Then one day, I realized that I was paying for rewards I wasn’t getting. The cost of the rewards obviously trickles down to the end consumer. So, if the end consumer doesn’t take part, he or she loses money in the process. Since I’ve signed up for every reward program around me, I’ve saved at least 20 or 30 bucks a month in rewards.
7. Sign up for customer rewards programs
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