Guest post: how to save money on your health insurance costs

HOW TOAs discussed in Wednesday’s post, our home budget has been a real focus for me as we kick off this new year and I shared a few of the tips and tricks I’m currently using to keep better track of our finances. For us, health insurance was one thing we couldn’t cut back completely given J’s therapy needs, but I really believe in trying to get the best bang for your health insurance buck – so the nice folks at Health Insurance Comparison have penned this guest post on ways you can save money on your health insurance costs. Belinda xx

If you’re looking to cut back on your outgoings, you may be wondering what kind of health insurance you can get for your money. While it’s true that you won’t be able to afford top level health insurance on a budget, there are ways to make your cover go as far as possible.

Buy As Soon As You Can Afford To

The Australian Government’s Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) initiative means that when you buy private hospital cover affects the amount that you’ll pay for it. For every year that you delayed beyond the age of 30, a 2 per cent loading fee is added to your premiums. Waiting until you are 4o will mean that you ultimately pay 20 per cent more for your health insurance compared to someone who bought their cover before the age of 30.

Review Your Cover Regularly

As your family’s situation changes, your health insurance needs will also be affected. This can be a good time to downgrade your policy to get rid of services that are no longer important but you may also need to look at upgrading your cover to avoid out-of-pocket costs for hospital and/or Extras services that are now needed.

At a bare minimum, you should assess your policy at least once per year to check that it’s still covering the most appropriate services for your needs. Where possible, it pays to try to second guess which services your family may need in the coming year to avoid being caught out by waiting periods. Major Dental and Orthodontics are two areas of Extras cover that typically have a 12-month waiting period, for example.

Downgrade Your Cover

If you’ve already got health insurance, you may be paying for services that you don’t need. This is often the case with top level health insurance policies, which may have been bought for obstetrics. Once you’re at the stage whereby you no longer require obstetrics services, you may be able to switch to a lesser level of cover without compromising on the services that you do need.

Top level cover will also include a range of age-related services such as joint replacement surgery, cardiac services and cataract surgery; all of which become more likely as you get older. Downgrading to a mid or basic level policy that does not need include these services is another opportunity to save on your premiums without affecting your cover.

Pay By Direct Debit

Some health funds will offer a slight discount on your premiums if you agree to pay them by Direct Debit. This is typically around the 4 per cent mark.

Is Budget Health Insurance Worth It?

Even if you’re not particularly bothered about having hospital cover to skip the queues, the financial benefits may appeal. An eligible hospital policy will exempt you from paying the Medicare Levy Surcharge, if your household income means that you will otherwise have to pay it. An ‘eligible’ hospital policy is one that has an excess of $500 or less for singles and $1000 or less for couples and families.

Bear in mind that Medicare does not cover many out-of-hospital services, including dental and optical (except for eye tests performed by qualified optical specialists), many forms of therapy and emergency ambulance (in some states). Some degree of Extras cover is therefore advisable to avoid out-of-pocket costs if your family needs to access services that are not available through Medicare. Basic Extras policies will have relatively low annual limits for services, which can lead to out-of-pocket costs if you go beyond them.

BIO

At HealthInsuranceComparison.com.au, we’re all about helping you to understand health insurance so that you can find the best cover for your needs and budget. Whether you’re just trying to get a feel for the type of policies that are out there or you’ve already got a good idea of what you want, we’ll help you to get the best value for money.

Stress less Christmas #3: stopping the shoulds

How to stop the shoulds this ChristmasAs we hurtle through the last week of November, I thought it might be a good chance to put the brakes on before we hit December and ask … how are you feeling right now? As you sit contemplating the full social calendar, the shopping and planning that needs to be done, alongside all the day to day responsibilities like work, end of school functions and household upkeep … how are you feeling?

If you have time, sit with your feelings for a little while. What’s nagging you? What are you excited about? What would you love to do if only you had the time? Jot a few notes to get those nagging worries out of your head and to establish a few things you could do for yourself to help you get through the next month as calmly as possible.

After my last post on Christmas gift giving, I was starting to freak out that I wasn’t following my own advice and filling out my Christmas Gift Giving printable and getting a wriggle on with my Christmas shopping. Silly, hey? The stress less Christmas advice giver wasn’t taking her own advice! I caught myself getting caught up in these thoughts and instead of letting the inadequacy fester, I decided to print out the damn printable and get the list out of my head and onto paper. I instantly felt better about it and more in control of the situation.

I find that at this time of year, the ‘shoulds’ can sometimes get louder and louder – like you ‘should’ buy all the stuff on the ‘santa’ list, that you ‘should’ accept every end of year function invitation and that you ‘should’ stress yourself silly over making it a magical time of year for your kids, complete with complicated Christmas craft. If you genuinely love and can afford to do these things, then that’s great. However, if you hear yourself saying ‘should’ a lot, it’s time to take a step back and reassess those Christmas values.

I caught myself ‘shoulding’ today when I was out shopping. I had bought a couple of carefully chosen gifts for some loved ones and I was worried, despite spending up to my budget, that they would be considered too ‘small’ a gift. ‘I should get them something else as well’ I said to myself. I caught my thought as it ticked through my head and I realised that I was only considering buying more gifts as the gift itself looked small, even though it wasn’t cheap, and I risked going over my budget just to make the present ‘look’ more expensive or generous. It’s so easy at this time of year to fall into people pleasing habits and doing things just for show.

I was so happy I caught myself and I looked at the gift in my hand and knew that though it looked little, that I’d chosen that gift especially for that person and that hopefully it would bring them happiness. I let go of that should and left it behind in the shop and walked on feeling lighter, budget intact.

It’s a trap I find myself falling into with the kids, especially. Buying ‘just one more thing’ so that the stocking is adequately stuffed, ensuring the right level of wide-eyed wonder come Christmas Day, but at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. Stuff you don’t have room for when the boxes are cleared and the novelty wears off.

Do you suffer from an attack of the ‘shoulds’ at this time of year? I’d love to hear how you combat them! 

Stress less Christmas: gift planning + free printable

Stress less gift buyingNow that we have set our Christmas values, it’s time to dive into gift giving. I know there are many people who plan their gift list in mid-June and are already done and dusted with the Christmas shopping and have moved on to fashioning homemade gifts out of felt. However, I’ll go out on a limb here and say if you’re reading about stressing less at Christmas, that you may be a bit more like me and belong to the last-minute school of Christmas prep. And that’s OK! Life is busy and it’s not until we get down to the nitty gritty that some of us snap into gear. I love a good deadline and I really need them to function (self-imposed or otherwise), but this year I’m going to be a bit more systematic about my approach.

Gifts for close family are often fairly easy to choose and buy, but the ones that always make me come unstuck are all the little gifts for teachers, colleagues and neighbours. Despite my best efforts, every year I find myself making a mad dash to the shops for chocolates, books and gift sets and find that I spend more than I should on these smaller items out of convenience.

So, this is where my free gift planning printable comes in. Make a cuppa (or pour a wine) and start by writing down all the people you need to buy for. The next column leaves room for a budget for each person. Be really realistic about how much money you have to spend overall on Christmas and break it down accordingly. It’s tempting to go all out – especially when buying for our children – but it’s not worth the spending hangover come January. With a bit of thought and pre-planning you can get really lovely gifts that won’t cost the earth.

Click on image below to download the printable: 

what's stressing you out

Once you have your list of people and budget, brainstorm some ideas and write down what you’d like to get them in the next column. I like to do this with the computer and pile of Christmas Catalogues next to me, so I can search for inspiration or for stockists of those gifts. I am a big fan of online shopping so in the ‘where to buy’ category, I’ll type in the websites that I think might stock these items or can do a bit of a google search to find where I can purchase.

Once you have your list completed you can start planning your shopping trips and online shopping. Buy all your books together online and save on posting, or do one trip to a giant shopping centre to get the gifts you’ve found in the catalogues. Or if you prefer breaking it down into manageable chunks, do a little bit each week and cross off that list!

I’d love to hear your stress less approach to gift planning and shopping in the comments below! I’d love to hear how those Christmas stress levels are going so feel free to join in the conversation on Facebook too.

Stress less Christmas: establishing your Christmas values

Stress less Christmas week 1It’s started already. The familiar avalanche of junk mail crammed into our modest mail box. Colourful catalogues telling us how many weeks of buying days left, what to buy for who, what to cook, what to wear and what else we might need to buy.

In addition to the retail bombardment is the avalanche of pre-Christmas events and catch ups, sometimes with people we haven’t seen all year, leaving our calendars also bursting at the seams.

Is it any wonder we feel a bit overwhelmed?

It’s the season to be merry, but is this merrymaking coming at a cost to our own sanity and peace? Are we doing certain things because we feel we ‘should’, or are we living our own Christmas values – focusing our energy, support and spend towards the things most important to us?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately as I aim to have a simple Christmas that’s focused on celebration without all the stress, preparation and obligation.

Last night I was flicking through a catalogue and looking at the array of Christmas pyjamas for kids that were advertised. It struck me as a product that, although cute for present opening photos, is inherently wasteful – they won’t fit the child next year, so unless there’s a younger sibling or a friend or family member to pass them onto, it’s a bit pricey, when a new pair of non-festive pyjamas will garner countless wears for the same price. When those thoughts were running through my head I realised that excess consumption in the name of Christmas doesn’t sit particularly well with me. I had hit on one of my Christmas values.

Like so many other ‘traditions’ it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the hype and feel you need to buy and do certain things to make the day special and make lasting memories. But I want to encourage you to get back in touch with what you really value, not so much about what society at large values, which let’s face it seems to ramp up every year.

How to set your personal Christmas values

So, this week have a think about what you want Christmas to mean to you and your family. You might love the social aspect of Christmas and love a full diary, or you might find being so busy completely suffocating. You might love to go crazy with present buying or you might like to keep the present buying simple. You might feel energised about the thought of extended family gatherings or you might be filled with dread. Be honest with yourself! It’s okay to have these feelings.

Think of how you want to feel during the festive season and how you can make that possible. If you feel like it, jot a few notes down about what’s most important to you. What makes you uncomfortable about Christmas – is it the financial pressure, the coordinating of family members, food preparation? What changes could you make to help you feel more comfortable?

I’m still working on my values list, but I really value having relaxation and downtime around Christmas, I want to buy presents that support smaller businesses and gifts for the boys that encourage outdoor activity, I want to keep our Christmas budget modest and enjoy food that is simple, fresh and tasty.

I’d love to hear what your personal Christmas values are. Let me know in the comments below.

Next week, we’re going to put these values in action with our #stresslessxmas to do list!

A return to stressing less and the Bupa Health influencer blog awards

stressless-christmas

Can you believe November is here already? It’s the point where the silly season starts to hit full steam, but I’ve decided that this year will be different. So next Wednesday, I’d love you to come and join in the Save Mum’s Sanity #stresslessxmas.

I think as mothers we sometimes bear the brunt of the silliness of this time of year – organising the social gatherings, buying the gifts, endless food prep and we can easily start feeling the stress building in a time of year that should be enjoyable and about sharing love with our family.

I personally put alot of pressure on myself to provide the perfect christmas experience and it always leaves me feeling strung out. I figure what my family really needs at Christmas is not a strung out, hung up mother, but a peaceful, relaxed and happy one who’s not worrying about the details so much as the time spent together.

So that’s my aim this year, and I’d love if it was yours too!

Next Wednesday’s post will have some details about how to get involved and what to expect – I promise not to bombard you with lots of Christmas Stress Less posts, as it will kind of defeat the purpose! I’m aiming for once a week with some social media check ins to see how everything is going. I’m planning on ressurrecting Save Mum’s Sanity Weekly, which will be full of #stresslessxmas tips so if you’re not signed up, you can do so on the side bar.

The other exciting news I’d like to share is that Save Mum’s Sanity has been announced as a finalist in the Bupa Health Influencer Blog Awards 2014. I was so shocked to be a finalist I danced around my house saying ‘OMG’ for about an hour. I’m a finalist in the Family Time category, so feel free to pop over and put in a vote for me and have a look at all the other wonderful finalists.

Save-Mum's-Sanity_postcard

It’s really heartening to be recognised as a blog aiming to change to the way we think about health and wellbeing. I’m really passionate about mothers looking after their own needs as a priority, rather than sticking their goals, dreams, sanity and wellbeing on the shelf in the sake of their family. It’s not what your family want or need from you – there’s no such thing as a perfect mother, but lots of amazing, different ways to be a perfectly good one. This is what I want to celebrate and what I want for you.

Thanks so much for reading and being here. Feel free to tell your friends, so we can stress less and save our sanity together. Much love x

How to start a daily meditation practice

meditation practice

Have you thought about starting a daily meditation practice and have no idea where to begin? You’ve come to the right place. I rediscovered meditation in December 2012, when I was going through a troubled time in my marriage and life. I was in a lot of emotional pain and at that time, doing a daily meditation with my YogaGlo subscription nursed me through some tough emotions and helped me get them out and eventually heal a little bit at a time.

When I started meditation, I had the same thoughts a lot of people have that meditation is all about sitting serious and upright and emptying your mind of all thoughts. What I found was something profoundly different. The first revelation was you are allowed to have thoughts and the second was that you’re allowed to have fun! My meditation varies significantly depending on my mood and the different meditations I’ve done in YogaGlo have taught me how to work with difficult thoughts and emotions and sit with how they feel in my body.

I personally like a guided meditation, that is someone talking me through my breathing and what sensations to tune into. However, with some practice I’m able to use these techniques at challenging times in my everyday life – a few deep breaths to calm me down after a difficult conversation or when the kids are driving me around the bend. What I love so much about meditation is that it’s so accessible and the techniques can be easily applied for instant stress relief.

So, if you’re looking to start a daily practice I’d recommend finding an app or audio that you enjoy (you may need to try a few until you find the one you like). Below are a few resources to try and as you’ll see, many are only short – so having no time to meditate is definitely not an excuse. I’d ideally like to get up first thing in the morning and meditate but with boys who enjoy getting up at 5am, it’s not a reality for me right now. So instead I meditate at night once they’re in bed or on the days I’m home with just my littlest one while he’s having a nap.

It’s a good idea to have a favourite spot where you enjoy to meditate – a favourite chair, a comfy cushion on the floor or propped up in bed. Sometimes you may even like to lie down. Light a candle or burn an essential oil to set the mood for serenity.

I like to choose a meditation that suits where I’m at that day – often the guided meditations are geared towards a particular purpose, so I like to pick something relevant if I need it or something nice like gratefulness or happiness if I’m looking for a more general feel-good meditation.

Have a look below and see if there’s something that resonates with you and be sure to report back on how you’re going in your meditation practice.

YogaGlo: This is a subscription-based service but there is a free trial. I find it very cost effective as I can do at-home yoga and meditation and there’s thousands of classes by world-renowned teachers. My meditation favourite is David Harshada Wagner – I totally recommend his meditations.

Deepak Chopra: Oprah favourite and pioneer of bringing chakra-based meditations to the West, Deepak’s style is soothing and relaxing. He has a number of free meditations here, and also runs regular free meditation experiences with Ms O herself. I did the 21-day Find your Flow challenge last month and really enjoyed it.

Tara Brach: I haven’t tried any of these yet, but I was drawn to the themes of the various free meditations on Tara’s site. Her background is in clinical psychology and she blends this with eastern philosophy – writing books and founding her own meditation school.

Fragrant Heart: Another great free resource with an extensive list of meditations for all occasions, broken up into categories such as Love Meditations, Meditations for Relaxation and Stress Relief and Meditations for Self Esteem. Meditations start at just one minute long with most around  7 to 15 minute in length. 

Do you meditate? What techniques do you find helpful? How does it help you in your everyday life?

Stress less wrap up and continuing the journey

Stress less wrap upHow are your stress levels today?

If you’ve been following along for the last month, I’ve covered the topic of stressing less from a number of angles and it’s made me realise a couple of key things – that stress will always be a part of life, but there are ways to stress less about the things that we can’t control.

While writing about stress, the universe decided to chuck a few unexpected things my way: my son was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay and we had to rethink his therapies, which has been stressful from a time and money standpoint, and it threw a big stressful question mark over the future and more specifically our plan of attack for starting prep next year. Also, last week my mum got quite sick unexpectedly and I had to race down to see her in hospital, all the while stressing that the worst could happen. Thankfully she is now on the mend, but if those two major experiences have taught me anything is that yes, truly stressful events do occur – often unexpectedly – and in many ways they actually can bring your life into greater focus if you let them. They give you a jolt of action towards the things that really matter and those little things that we tend to stress about that never amount to anything just tend to slide away.

By starting my stress less action plan, specifically around my stress about Jarvis’s diagnosis, I am happy to report we’re making headway with his new therapies and after visiting some schools, we’re still going ahead towards Prep next year, unless something major pops up to persuade us otherwise. His little gains make me proud every day and I know that whatever the future holds, he’s going to be OK. I’ve got a new budget in action and although the intense therapies are costing us a bit, and there’s very little left after all the bills are paid, I’m no longer stressing so much about this as I know that we can cover all our expenses and that this money is going towards something so completely worthwhile.

I’ve also added a daily meditation practice into my life as a ongoing stress less measure – I find by doing a guided meditation every day I am more able to cope with what life decides to throw at me, without completely losing my sanity. It’s also my little piece of me time that I crave after the busyness of the day.

The other unexpected side-effect of writing about stress for the past month is that it’s helped me to reflect on the stresses that the motherhood journey has thrown up thus far and helped me be a little bit kinder to myself, rather than always kicking myself when I’m down. I feel somehow lighter – I don’t have to do it all, just do the things that matter with great love.

This topic has become really dear to my heart as I really want to help you find some peace in your life as a mother, so expect a bit more on this topic as the months roll by!

I would love to hear how you’re going on your journey to stress less … What things are helping you? What are you still struggling with?