Here are two tips from our founder to protect yourself and others and save thousands of dollars with almost no effort.
Is Mom still paying for a $20 phone?
Small things matter.
Depending on your age, you may or may not remember these cool, rotary dial telephones, or even the “Princess” phones that were popular several years back. But, your phone company remembers and hundreds of thousands (estimates vary to almost two million) of people are still paying a monthly fee for these relics - most of which were tossed out a long time ago.
When my parents passed away a few years ago, we discovered that they had been paying a monthly fee for both a rotary dial and a Princess phone that had been thrown away years earlier. I went home and checked my own phone bill – and sure enough, I had been doing the same thing - for a phone that only cost about $20 to replace.
Do the math.
Most fees range from $4 to $20 per phone, so it is easy to see how, over the years, someone may have paid thousands of dollars for these fine, $20 items.
When you call the phone company, they will almost certainly tell you how they are doing nothing wrong since the charge is on the bill and you have always had the option to cancel the lease. Of course this makes me even more angry. I never finished getting my PhD in phone bill deciphering, so understanding what I am really paying for is not so easy. To have expected my 80+ year old parents to do this is absurd. Besides, they are from the generation that actually trusts the phone company.
Protect yourself with this
Bigger things matter, too.
Grieving family members often are confronted with dozens of decisions about a funeral – all of which must be made quickly and under emotional duress.
Funerals cost thousands of dollars.
Funerals are one of the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make. A traditional funeral, including casket and vault, costs about $6,000, plus “extras” like flowers, obituary notices, cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the costs. Many funerals run well over $10,000.
Americans spend billions of dollars each year arranging more than 2 million funerals. The increasing trend toward pre-need planning – making funeral arrangements in advance – suggests that many consumers want to compare prices and services, as well as reduce the emotional stress of making major purchase decisions at the time of a loved ones death.
The Federal Trade Commission has produced a guide to help.
Download: Funerals: A Consumer Guide
So, what can you do?
These might include traditional phone bills, cell phone bills and AOL accounts (yes, millions of people still pay for AOL just to be able to get email, not knowing that they can have a free AOL account for that.) Also, check their cable bills (you can often renegotiate those “automatic” increases that happen after your “Introductory Rate” expires. Simply inform them that you intend to cancel or go to their most basic level of service if they cannot “extend” the introductory rate.
The savings from these simple exercises can easily reach several hundred dollars per year. For many senior citizens, that savings would pay for food, medicine, heat, air-conditioning, or any number of life-sustaining things that they cannot afford. Or, do nothing and keep letting the unsuspecting seniors continue to enrich “Ma Bell” and all of her offspring and cousins.
Recruit some volunteers and offer to check these items for seniors in your organization and community. You could host an event at your place of worship or a local Senior Center. Or, you could even visit home-bound seniors to help them review their bills.
This can take a huge burden off of loved ones and can save thousands of dollars by making purchase decisions without the emotional stress of having just lost a family member or close friend.