Do You Compare Your Finances to Others?

I belong to several Facebook groups, and recently, a woman in one group asked the seemingly innocent question, “What do you pay for cell phones and car insurance?”  She added, “We pay $180 a month for our cell phones and $345 a month for our car insurance.”

Say what?

When you read that number, you automatically think one of two things–“Wow, she’s paying a fortune for cell phones and car insurance!” (that was my initial thought), or, you think, “Sounds about right.”

Comparing FinancesA few of you may even think she’s getting a good deal.

My husband and I each carry a cheap cell phone from Tracfone that is for emergencies or occasionally checking in with one another.  We don’t spend any more than $10 to $20 a month on them.  Our car insurance is about $55 per month.  (We only have one vehicle.)

After reading how much this woman spent, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  But why?  I really don’t know her situation.  Her cell phone plan might include cell phones for the whole family.  Her car insurance is likely for multiple cars.  Maybe she has teenage drivers, or maybe she or her spouse has gotten a ticket recently.

Besides, I have no idea how much money she makes.  These bills might not be that extravagant in relationship to her income.

There’s really no point comparing my situation to hers.  To do so would invite complacency toward my own budget at best, and a loosening of the purse strings at worst because, hey, other people are spending a lot more than me.

The Only Time You Should Compare Your Spending to Others

Generally, I try not to compare my spending or budget to others.  Circumstances vary widely, and knowing another person’s exact financial situation is difficult.  Too often, especially online, we get a snapshot of someone’s finances and think we see the whole picture when we don’t.

We make assumptions of our own financial situations based on others.

Ultimately, we need to strive to do the best we can do with our own budgets.  To beat ourselves by spending less and/or saving more than we did the month before or the year before.

The only time it makes sense to look at someone else’s finances and spending is when they are doing considerably better than you, and you want to learn from and emulate them.  For instance, I knew my husband and I were spending too much for groceries.  One blogger I read has grown a large garden and planted fruit trees so that she can feed her family of 9 for less than $300 per month.  (Yes, you read that right.)

I know I won’t  ever have a grocery budget of $300 per month, but reading her techniques and strategies has encouraged me to cut my grocery budget and try to spend less.  It’s even inspired me to try out once a month shopping to reduce costs.

Ultimately, we shouldn’t compare our finances to others, but if we’re going to, we should only compare to those we wish to emulate.

Do you look at other people’s spending to make you feel better about your own or to motivate you to improve your finances?

Will My Homeowner’s Policy Cover Damage to My Friend’s Belongings?

Homeowner’s insurance is a necessity for anybody who owns a home or has a mortgage. The policy will protect you in the event that your home is damaged from any number of factors beyond your control, including storms, fire, falling trees, wind damage, and more.

Your home is a huge investment, and it’s important to protect its value. If a storm damaged your home so badly that it would cost you a fortune to fix, not only would you have lost the value of the home to the storm, you’d still have a mortgage on a property that is no longer worth what you owe. For all of these reasons, it’s important to have homeowner’s insurance.

An HBF homeowner’s insurance policy not only protects the physical structure of your home, but also its contents. Policies differ on what they cover—you always get what you pay for—but for the most part, your home’s contents are covered in the event of a storm or similar event damages the home so badly that valuable possessions inside are also damaged. For instance, if a tree smashed through your roof and allowed rainwater to pour in, damaging expensive electronics, you would likely be covered.

So your homeowner’s policy would be pay for a new roof, new flooring, and a new TV to replace the one that got washed away. Insurance companies encourage the insured parties to keep a detailed list of valuable items in the home along with receipts so there’s no question about what is in the home when it comes time to file a claim.

But does your homeowner’s insurance policy cover the belongings of visitors to your home while they are staying with you? Let’s say you have friends or family staying with you for the weekend, and a burst pipe floods the guestroom soaking everything on the floor, including your brother’s brand new laptop. Can you get your homeowner’s policy to pay for a replacement? In general, yes, your brother’s computer is covered under the policy and is eligible for a claim.

However, to make sure there are no hiccups in the claim process, it’s important that you contact the insurance company to request this coverage to begin with. Some policies may include coverage for guests and other visitors by default, but many policies will need to have this coverage added to it as a separate rider.

So you’ll have to decide if visitor and guest coverage is worth it to you to pay a little bit more. If you frequently have guests over that tend to bring expensive items like electronics or jewelry, it might make sense to make sure you have the proper coverage. Covering your visitor’s possessions would certainly put your mind at ease if you’re worried about theft, for example. However, it might also be redundant if your guests already have their personal belongings insured by their own policy. Your choice depends on how frequently someone visits your home and what they tend to bring with them.

Why Purchasing Rental Car Insurance Isn’t Necessarily a Waste of Money

I recounted in my last post the many adventures we had driving 1,750 miles from Illinois to Arizona where we damaged not one, but two rental cars.  We saved $100 by not purchasing the rental car company’s auto insurance, but that decision cost us $500 in our deductible.  Not my brightest move ever.

If you think, like I did, that a rental car company’s insurance is a scam that should be avoided like the plague, here are some reasons why you might want to reconsider:

The Rental Car Company Has a Different Standard Than You

Rental Car InsuranceThe rental car company we used said any damage smaller than the size of a quarter, they would let slide.  Anything bigger than that, and it needed to be repaired.

Any time you drive a car, you risk bumps and scratches to the car’s exterior.  I have a large scratch on the back of my vehicle that I find annoying, but not worth the price of paying my $500 deductible.  I’m guessing your own vehicle has similar scratches and dents.  They’re minor, and you don’t want to spend the money to repair them.

The choice is yours because it’s your vehicle.  However, if it’s bigger than a quarter, the rental car company is going to make the repair, and you will pay if you don’t take out the rental car company’s insurance.

Your Insurance Premium May Go Up

Another reason people let minor dents and scratches on their own vehicles slide is because they don’t want to face a claim and risk having their insurance go up.

Some people even do this for more major repairs.  Several years ago, a man rear-ended me, and he chose to pay the $1,400 for the repair to me directly so he could avoid submitting the claim to his insurance and risk having his premium go up.

If you don’t purchase the rental car company’s auto insurance, you’ll have to choose to pay out of pocket or to risk having your premium go up.

How to Decide If You Should Purchase Insurance from the Rental Car Company

To decide whether or not purchasing insurance from the rental car company is worthwhile, ask yourself these questions:

1.  Have you made any claims on your insurance in the last three to five years?  If so, you will probably want to purchase the rental insurance; in the long run, that will be cheaper than facing a spike in your insurance.

2.  How far do you have to drive?  Of course, accidents can happen anywhere, but if you’re renting a car for the weekend and driving it around your hometown, you may be able to avoid rental insurance.  Our problem was that we were driving 3,500 miles round trip in an area we were unfamiliar with.  Things like dead deer and street sweepers on the highway pose risks that you can’t foresee before the trip

3.  How high is your deductible?  If your deductible is anywhere from $500 to $1,000, purchasing rental insurance may be smarter, especially if it is going to be less than $100.

What is your opinion?  Purchase car rental auto insurance or just rely on your own car insurance?

Original img credit: Insurance Disclaimer on Flickr