Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How I Saved Money On Auto Insurance

I had to renew my auto insurance recently. Doing research online, I found a few ways that helped me get a cheaper policy.

1. Get quotes from at least three insurance companies.

Auto-insurance providers are classified into three groups. There are the direct writers , e.g. Geico, whose in-house employees sell insurance directly to consumers over the phone or web. Next are the independent contractors who work on commission and sell products of only one company. Examples are State Farm and Allstate. The third group is comprised of independent agents who sell the insurance of various different companies.

The direct agents typically offer the lowest quotes, but they would refuse to cover you if you don't have a good driving history. They also take your credit score into consideration. The trick is to get quotes from several companies through a single website, such as Netquote. Ask the direct agents if they can beat the major providers' quotes.

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2. Raise your deductible.

The higher your deductible is, the lower your premium. Deductible refers to the amount you will pay when making a claim before your insurance starts picking up the tab. It applies to your collision and comprehensive coverage (not your liability) and is the insurance that specifically covers your car.

3. Ask for discounts.

Most insurers offer discounts if you have a good driving record. You can also take a defensive driving course to get better rates. Adding safety features such as air bags, anti-lock brakes and alarms are things that could help lower your premium as well.

Other discounts may be applied if you insure more than one car or your home with the same insurance company. Good students, drivers over 50 and certain professionals are also qualified for special discounts.

4. Avoid unnecessary coverage and fees.

Review your coverage and drop those that you don't need or those that you can afford to pay for yourself. Pay the premium in full. Administrative fees are applied if you pay in installments. Other fees may be added if you pay by credit card or check. Find out what the most efficient mode of payment is available.

5. Improve your credit score.

Drivers with a stable credit rating are involved in fewer accidents and therefore, make fewer claims. There are numerous websites where you can get a copy of your credit report and provide tips on how to improve it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Where I Find Information About Diabetes

My uncle was recently diagnosed with diabetes. We don't have a family history of diabetes but he has a long history of depression which was recently found to be linked to diabetes. Here's an excerpt from About.com:

A study from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University suggests that chronic depression may increase the risk of developing diabetes in older adults. The study appeared in the April 23, 2007 edition of The Archives of Internal Medicine. Other studies have linked depression and diabetes together, but this is the first study to research whether chronic depression, independent of other risk factors, such as obesity or physical inactivity, can increase the incidence of a diabetes diagnosis. The answer appears to be, "Yes, it can."

4,681 people, age 65 and older took part in the study and were tracked for 10 years. According to the summary of the research,

“We know that overweight and obesity are the primary risk factors for diabetes and most people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese,” Mercedes Carnethon PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study explains, “But even after we adjusted for [statistically accounted for] body mass index [measure of height versus weight], we still saw a residual association between depression and diabetes.”
The culprit appears to cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress. When someone is depressed, cortisol levels rise. If depression is chronic, cortisol levels may stay consistently high. High levels of cortisol have been shown to impair insulin sensitivity and contribute to fat distribution in the waistline area. Excess belly fat is a known risk factor for diabetes.

After being diagnosed with diabetes, my uncle experienced a wide range of emotions. Fear, anger, denial, frustration, depression and uncertainty are just a few of them. I have made it my mission to connect him with others affected by diabetes who will listen and share their own experiences.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

What I Love

It was the second Mother's Day for me. Gabe was born in December of 2005. He was 7 lbs. 15 oz and 21 inches long. He was the most beautiful newborn I've seen in my entire life. I never thought of having a child but when Gabe came into my life, it felt incredible. I didn't think I could possibly love someone as much as I love him. Now he is 17 months old. He can walk, climb, dance, and say a few words. He has been showing some interest in eating with a fork recently. Pretty soon, he would be running, jumping and riding a bike. He should be able to communicate in sentences in the coming months. I just can't wait to hear him say "I love you, MOMMY!"

Being a mom is rarely easy but it sure is never dull. Gabe seems to have the knack of finding the most dangerous spots in the house and choose to hang out in those places. It made me realize that it is quite a miracle that we survived those toddler years. My own mom must have been through a lot of stress when I was a child. This is my chance to extend my love and gratitude to my mom. By the way, Mother's Day was also her birthday. Everyday should be Mother's Day.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

How My Plane Ride Was

What was I thinking? I was on the plane headed to Chicago. I was looking through the window, thinking of what the future holds for me. Will I find a better life in a foreign country? Is it worth leaving the family and friends who love me? Did I make the right choice? Part of me wanted to go back and the other part insisted that it would be fun and exciting.

A few hours after takeoff, the flight attendant comes to check on me. I was getting hungry. She said they will be serving the midday meal shortly. "Good," I said to myself, "that will keep me occupied for about an hour". I can take a nap before mealtime. Then maybe another nap after. Sixteen more hours to go. I had to walk around or else my legs will go to "sleep". So I paced through the aisle, everyone else seemed content to mind their own business.

It felt like a lifetime before the pilot announced that we were ready for landing. We finally made it. A former high school classmate of my mom is going to pick me up. "Now, how am I supposed to recognize her?", I asked myself. "I have never seen her in my life. She moved to Chicago before I was born. Oh, well, if I don't find her, I'll just go back home. That sounds like a good plan. "

I got my suitcase and headed towards Customs. Hmmmm...the officer looked at me and mumbled something to himself. He was obviously not too happy having me in his country. He let me in anyway and I thanked him. I proceeded to the gate, expecting to see a lot of tall, blonde, blue-eyed Americans. Was I disappointed! It was like being in a United Nations convention (not that I've been in one). People came in all shapes, sizes and color. Great! I wouldn't look too out of place in here. Now I wonder how the rest of America looks like.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How Long It Has Been

It has been twelve years and counting. I remember that early morning in January of 1995 like it was yesterday. I woke up at five but my mom has been up for a while making breakfast. My flight to the United States leaves at eleven. My mom asked me for the hundredth time if I have my visa and passport inside my bag. I said yes. Then she asked me if I remember where I packed my toothbrush. Once again, I answered yes. She handed me a roll of toilet paper and told me to take it with me. I said, "I'm going to Chicago, not the mountains." She started crying. I hugged her and reassured her that I'd be back in a few months. I said that once I get settled in there, I would be sending her a balikbayan box regularly. Her face glowed and she finally stopped crying.

It is nine o' clock in the morning, time to say goodbye to some friends who stopped by. My dad put my suitcase in the car and we drove to the airport. It was an ordinary sunny day. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport was packed with people. It didn't help that I was accompanied by my mom, dad, two sisters, grandmother, uncle, aunt, cousin and the rest of the barangay. I kissed them all goodbye and went inside the building. I was proud of myself. I didn't shed a single tear.

It's now time to board the plane. I find myself very excited. The plane smelled like a new car and the people were friendly. I got into my seat next to the window. That's when I realized I won't be seeing my family for a while. I started crying and didn't stop for at least two hours. I had to force myself to stop thinking negatively and focus on the future. Today is the first day of the rest of my life.