Many of us operate on some sort of budget, or at least try to do so. The amount of effort varies tremendously from household to household. One survey found that 82 percent of Americans said they budget, but about a third of those just write it out on paper. Roughly 20 percent of people use mental accounting, and don’t write down anything at all. It’s better than nothing, but it’s still not as good as it could be. Budgeting as precisely as possible makes it more likely that you can handle a sudden financial emergency. However, wages remaining stagnant makes it harder for many people to have much of a rainy-day fund. The combination of factors means that we have to look elsewhere when we suddenly need $500, $1,000, or more.
A sudden medical incident can be incredibly frightening. No one wants to get into a car accident, or have an asthma attack so severe that it requires us to call an ambulance. When we’re in the middle of a medical emergency, we have to worry about treatment first and payment later. Sometimes, the payment is much more than expected, especially if insurance won’t cover the full amount, or if the medical office coded a procedure incorrectly. It stinks to think about all this when you’re in pain; however, you can always go to an emergency room if there’s no other option. Heart attacks, strokes, and major accidents all require major and immediate medical intervention. If your life is in danger, or you even think it might be, head to a hospital.
What if you sprain an ankle or develop a case of the flu? In that case, you have a bit more time, and a few more options. Head to an immediate care center, similar to the one in Staten Island, New York, rather than to a hospital emergency room. They’ll be able to examine you and give you the treatment you need, at a better price than you’d get at a hospital. Those emergency room co-payments are nothing minor, unfortunately, so it’s best to avoid them, unless you have no other option.
It’s possible that you could go to a walk-in clinic, and be told that your issue is something that requires you to go to an ER, anyway. In that case, at least you can say you tried. If all else fails, ask about paying in installments. Most hospitals and doctor’s offices offer interest-free payment plans, if you ask them.
Loans and credit
Credit cards and loans are sometimes necessary. However, they should be used as judiciously as possible. They’re a good option for building up credit, since a good credit score helps you buy things like houses and cars. However, what if you have an unexpected, one-time expense and bad credit? Cases like that are tough, because you don’t have years to build up a good credit score. You need a way to pay off a balance within the next few days, or, if you’re lucky, the next few weeks. Do some research on bad credit loans, and see if they make sense for your situation. Make sure to read the terms and conditions very carefully, so you don’t get any unpleasant surprises when you repay the loan. It’s vital to know exactly what you’re getting into, before you sign on the dotted line. A short-term loan is only useful if it doesn’t turn into a long-term problem.
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