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For most purchases I’m not a “whim” type of person. There are only two instances where I will go for what I want without thought; food and movies. By movies, I mean purchasing DVDs. When I want a particular title, usually I’ll just hop in the car and go to Barnes & Noble because once I purchase my movie, I usually like to see if there’s a book I want… along with a Reese’s peanut butter cup cookie.

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On Sunday I found myself wanting the newest release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which had come out early last week. For some reason, sticking in the back of my mind was the reality that buying DVDs had changed over the past year.

Two things changed a lot. The first is that the price of new DVDs has jumped a lot. For something that only costs $3 to make, paying $35 for a new DVD is extreme. The second is that if I’m going to pay that much for a DVD, I want 3 specific versions of it in one package; DVD, Blu-Ray and digital. Many new DVDs have dropped either the DVD or Blu-Ray version from the package, and in some circumstances they don’t even produce the DVD version, saying they’re saving money because fewer people have standard DVDs anymore.

So, for the first time I actually shopped online for a movie first. And I was surprised by what I saw.

B&N had the highest price for the movie. Even with my 10% discount it would have remained the highest price; so much for that.

Amazon had the movie for around $19, which sounded good until I noticed that it only for those who either were already Prime members or those who signed up for it. I’m hesitating to jump on that bandwagon so I refused. I couldn’t find a price for it without Prime. I saw where some of their other sellers had the movie for $15, but each of those were individual options, and none of them had digital; sigh…

Most places had the movie for its recommended price of $38, but I found two places that looked pretty good, at least online. those two choices were Target and Walmart. Both listed the movie for $19, and for a new movie that seemed like the best price I was going to find. I also looked at the possibility of buying only the digital version, but the prices weren’t all that low and I knew that wouldn’t work because my wife and I wouldn’t have been able to watch it together via digital.

Since Target is closer and I’m more familiar with their movie section, that’s where I decided to go. As soon as I walked in the door I saw they had the movie displayed… and only two versions of it, DVD or Blu-Ray. It didn’t say that online, and now I was irked. However, I also knew that they often had other versions of the movie in other places, so I started walking down the cashier aisles to see if they had what I wanted at the end of one of their counters.

I got lucky; the third counter had the movie, and the version I wanted. The price was $24.99, but from my perspective, I was getting 3 versions of the movie at that price instead of only one version for $19; that wasn’t a bad deal at all. It might have been possible that Walmart was selling the version I wanted for the $19, but I was already at one store and getting a better deal than I would have at B&N so I was fine.

In today’s retail world, it’s becoming the smart thing to do some research before buying almost anything, including foods that are packaged well enough to be shipped out. For some of my diabetic supplies, eBay has become my store of choice. For CPAP supplies I’ve found that each vendor has a special price for different replacements. Loyalty to one outlet for such items doesn’t make sense anymore, although we need to remember to look at shipping prices when we order things.

Of course nothing stops impulse buying; when you want something, you want it NOW! If you can temper that with most of the things you want to buy, you can afford those times when you just can’t wait.

The internet is a wonderful thing sometimes isn’t it?

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It’s rare that I put videos on this blog but I decided to make an exception this time around, so much so that there are 2 videos. This is something different and special and it revolves around money and happiness so stay tuned.

I write a lot of articles on personal finance and others on how people need to change their thinking about money in order to be successful. Both of those can lead to pretty heady stuff… but is it fun?

Sometimes it is, but most of the time it’s not. Here’s the thing; if we only think about having money without thinking about how we’d like to spend it, then there’s really no joy in having the money at all.

It turns out that it doesn’t always take a lot of money for a person to be happy. Contentment can be achieved by having what most of us would consider as very little. As the first video below shows us, very little to one person is way more than enough for someone else:


I hope you watched that and enjoyed it as much as I did. What Jon essentially did was determine that he wanted to live a simple life, a life that gave him a lot of abundance with some planning and no stress about debt. I applaud him for figuring that out early. However… that’s not the life I want.

I’ve never hidden this fact: I want to be rich. I want to be really rich, so that I can do a lot of different types of things for myself, my family, my community and for society in general. There’s nothing wrong with not being rich, but I’ve lived that life, still living it, and I’d love to have the opportunity to try the other side of things.

Is most of it a pipe dream? Absolutely! Who says we’re not allowed to dream? Who says we’re not allowed to dream big?

Why do most people fail at staying rich? Because they haven’t really thought much about what they’d like to do with the money. Sure, many of them talk about buying things like cars and jewelry, but that’s not planning as much as “I want – I want – I want”. It’s indiscriminate and not definitive; it leads to waste and bad decisions.

Still, it’s a dream, and without getting the money first there’s no dream to be had. So, I decided to add to my first foray into looking at 5 things I’d do if I had unlimited money. But before I add to it, you might want to know what the first 5 things were. The only way you’ll find that out is by watching the video:


That wasn’t so bad was it? Here’s 5 more things I’d like to do if I had unlimited wealth:

1. Buy A Professional Sports Team

Now there’s a big dream! I’d be deciding between baseball or basketball, and I’d want it somewhere close to where I live now, which means I’d be shooting to buy a team already in New York (which probably won’t happen) or a team in a state that touches New York.

However, just buying the team isn’t enough. I’d offer season tickets to fans in both the local area and in my own area within 150 miles a 50% discount, and if kids were included another 10% on top of that, and make the price higher for all other fans who want to come to a game. I’d also hire the best talent to staff the team and we’d do whatever was necessary… and fair… to be the best. I wouldn’t have to worry about it losing money because I have unlimited wealth. lol

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2. Build A Massive Library

There’s a pretty nice country library system, but the library in town is pretty small. It’s also morphing as technology changes and the way people access books and such changes along with it.

That just won’t do. I’d build a large library near where I live instead of in the city of Syracuse. Of course I’d stock it with all sorts of books and probably music, but I’d probably leave movies out of it.

A library isn’t just a place for getting books though; it’s supposed to be a place for enjoying them, sharing conversation about them, and talking about the process of writing, something I’m really into. So one floor would be filled with small to large reading rooms and it would have events that would invite writers from all across the country to talk about the craft, along with having writer’s workshops. Of course I’d have to hire the best staff available to run it.

3. I’d Set Up Music Scholarships For The College I Graduated From

If you watched the video you saw that I went to Oswego State, or the State University College of New York in Oswego. I was a music and history major (didn’t finish the history part), which initially explains the music part of what I want to do.

The bigger deal is that I believe music heals the soul and calms the nerves. Good music of all types is important for society; I don’t know anyone who’s ever said “I hate music”. I can’t initially take care of everyone though, and even if I do some of the traveling I mentioned in the video, Oswego’s only a little more than 30 minutes away from where I live.

I’d fund enough money to bring in at least 15 elite musicians a year. Some would be for orchestra; some for singers and some for solo artists who might play other styles of music. In college you dabble in a lot of different genres, but on your own you concentrate on what you like. Better music locally means better music in the rest of the world when they graduate. It also expands into things like theater production; I do love seeing live shows when I can.

I Don't Ask For Much
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4. I’d Build & Fund A Large Homeless Shelter

In the last year and a half I’ve had my very first ever dealings with someone who’s had mental issues and not fully understood what I could do about it. I put myself in potential danger, yet realized that others in that condition, along with the homeless, face these kinds of dangers on a consistent basis.

So, I’d build a homeless shelter, a large one that could accommodate upwards of 500 families and individuals, and have them sized appropriately so each could have their own space as much as possible. I’d work with an organization like Arise, whose board I used to sit on, to help with the mental health part of it, and it would be totally funded by me… along with some fund raising so we could keep the state out of it.

I’d also work to see if it could provide training of some type to those who could benefit from it; not everyone who’s homeless wants to stay that way. At least we’d be giving it a shot.

5. Take Care Of My Closest Peeps

What fun is having unlimited wealth if you can’t spread it around to your friends? I’m quite perspicacious when it comes to the people I call “friends”. I don’t have a lot of them, and those I do call that I’ve known for many, many years.

They’d all get a nice chunk, a one time thing, and an appointment with a financial advisor to help them figure out how they can live the rest of their lives in prosperity… or at least in comfort. Hey, I need people to go to lunch and dinner with and to come hang at the house from time to time right? 🙂

That’s part of my dream. Of course that’s being unlimitedly wealthy… Bill Gates kind of wealth. He & his foundation are taking on some massive projects. So are Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg. They can do things their way; this would be my way. Of course, if I still get rich but have less money, I’d still try to do some of these things, though it would be on a much smaller level.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting things, but it takes two things to pull it all together; planning and sharing. Who’s with me?

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One would think that I, being a health care finance consultant by profession, would know better. However, my learning a lesson becomes a teaching experience for you the next time you visit either your physician or the hospital for a procedure.

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I needed to have some lab work done after having an appointment at my endocrinologist. I called my insurance company and was told that if I had it done at my primary doctor’s office that it would be covered in full except for a $40 copay. That sounded great to me, because I know lab work can be expensive sometimes, though I wasn’t having anything out of the ordinary performed.

I called my doctor’s office and made an appointment. I knew that I’d have to actually have an office visit of some kind because, unless I’d gone to an independent lab, physicians and clinics have to charge for some kind of procedure before they can perform any other services on you.

I went to the appointment, had the doctor give me the quick once over, and after that went to get my lab work done. They drew the blood there in the office, and after I gave them a urine sample I figured my monetary issues were complete, and went home feeling pretty good and pretty smart because of the phone calls I’d made.

That is… until I got a bill from the lab that actually performed the service. When I had called my doctor’s office, all I asked is if they processed lab work. I never asked them if they ran the tests on the lab work, because in health care, the term “process” is only an upfront term meaning they collect what’s needed. I forgot that part; I needed to ask them if they actually did the lab work.

Luckily, the bill isn’t all that high. The insurance company paid portions of the bill because I’d gone to the physician and had another physician who was in their network request it. Still, I should have asked that question beforehand so I wouldn’t have gotten caught off guard.

The unknown truth about health care is that sometimes you’re going to get a second bill you’re not expecting. If the physicians who read your x-rays aren’t employees of the hospital, you’re going to get a bill from their physician’s group. If you have to have some kind of surgery or procedure at the hospital or ambulatory center, you’re probably going to get a secondary bill from the surgeon, and a third bill from the anesthesiologist.

In a way, you can view health care services as ala carte. Even if you go to a clinic, there are some services that will end up producing a bill for the physician. Unless you’re covered by Medicaid, you’re going to be responsible for that second bill as well as the first one.

To make sure you’re not caught off guard, you as a patient or payer of services needs to remember to ask your provider if there’s a possibility that you could be getting a medical bill from someone else for services your provider starts. Lab work is a prime example; if your physician doesn’t process lab work in the office and gives you a script, you’ll take it with you to an outside lab and you’ll get a bill from them. If that’s the case, you might need to expect that they’re working with someone else.

Once you have that information, you should check with your insurance company to see if that secondary provider is a participating provider in their network. If not, you’re allowed to go to someone else who is in their network; you’re never obligated to go to someone your doctor recommends, although most of the time it’s probably the smartest move to take.

Health care can be confusing, and if I forgot to ask the proper question, and I’m in the industry, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s something the majority of people probably will never think about.

Now you know.

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