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The TCPA stand for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It was passed in 1991 to try to help protect consumers from many tricky tactics collection agencies used to use against them in trying to collect debt. In 2003 a rider was added making it illegal for what’s known as “robo-callers” to call you on things such as cellphones and pagers. There were two caveats; it didn’t pertain to emergencies and, oddly enough, it didn’t prohibit politicians from contacting you; wasn’t that convenient?

splityarn via Compfight

The thing is that back when it was passed cellphone technology was pretty new and no one knew where it was going. Also, back then people got charged whether they initiated the phone call or not; by the time I got my first cellphone in 1995 you got charged for any calls you made or received before 9PM. Thus, this was pretty important legislation at the time.

Also, at the time, over 95% of the population had landlines and almost no one gave out their cellphone numbers. Thus, anyone who had a phone was pretty easy to reach at home, whether they answered their phone or not.

Things have changed drastically since 1991. Believe it or not, fewer than 45% of the American population has a landline now, even if they have more than one phone number. Other than certain long distance calls, almost all calls are free and without restrictions. People can use their phones for a multitude of things, and be contacted about a multitude of things.

At least they could if the robo-calling feature was legal, which it’s not. Certain companies have been sued and lost because they violated the law unknowingly. It seems that you the owner has to give explicit permission to be contacted via your cellphone. As a matter of fact, as of October 16, 2013, these specific rules went into effect:

* Prior express written consent is required for all autodialed and/or pre-recorded calls/texts sent/made to cell phones and pre-recorded calls made to residential land lines for marketing purposes;

* the “established business relationship” exemption (remember the thing where, if you bought a product a company could take that as you giving approval for them to call you & sell to you? Not anymore…) for pre-recorded telemarketing calls to residential landlines are eliminated

This all sounds good right? Do you feel protected? Not so fast.

Have you noticed you’re still getting these sneaky sales calls? Almost none of us knows how to track these phone calls because if you call them back none of the numbers shown work. Also, you sometimes find that you’re not getting information you thought you requested because someone finds out that you haven’t specifically signed an authorization, which means if you have doctors appointments or any other health related appointments that they’re supposed to pick up the phone to remind you of the appointment if it’s not a landline.

One other thing; if you’re supposed to go on a trip, unless you specifically give your cellphone number out the airlines, train station, buses or any other modes of transportation by law aren’t supposed to robo-call you in case something changes. Thus, if you forgot to check that box when you were making your reservation online, even if you gave them your phone number, they won’t contact you; I bet that’s happened to some of you.

Then we have to go back to the collection piece of this. This is a nation of debt and those who owe debt, as well as a pretty transient society, and collection agencies, as much as most of us tend to dislike them, aren’t all evil and sneaky. You know if you owe someone money, and having a legal right to fully dodge them because they’re not allowed to robo-call your number because it’s a cellphone or smartphone is inherently unfair to them and their industry.

There are a lot of industries, from travel to health care, trying to get this law changed. All of them say they’re not doing it for advertising purposes, and indeed all of them want that part of legislation to remain illegal (even though it’s the one area that no one seems to be able to stop). All these industries have lobbyists in Washington working away at politicians hoping to get these changes through.

I’ve had to think a long time about this, as I consult in one of the industries where this is a big deal. I have come around to understanding that this is a different day and a different animal, and if I were owed money and consulting for a facility in this particular capacity that I would be inhibited greatly because one can only hire so many people. Of course my industry is also putting things into place to obtain the permission needed to comply with the law.

What do you think? Are you troubled, because you don’t have a landline, that your privacy might be violated when you don’t want it to be? Or do you recognize that there are some rights that industry needs to have in a changing world?

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This blog gives lots of tips on how to save money on food. I have 2 great examples of that from the past, each one offering 5 tips: 5 Ways To Save Money On Food And Eat Well and 5 Foods That Will Help You Stretch Your Food Budget. There are others but those are pretty good if I say so myself.

monster fritatta

Overall, I feel I’ve given the impression that eating out is always the worst option to take when you want to save money. In many ways it’s hard to not justify that position. However, since I do tend to eat out often, I know that’s not always the case; not even close.

As an example, last weekend I went out to breakfast with my wife to a local restaurant. She ordered what locally is called a “fritatta”, but it’s not the same thing as what the dictionary definition of one is. The picture above is what a fritatta is locally. As you can see, a portion of it was eaten; that’s the rest of it, and it’s a lot of food. I ordered what I thought was a much smaller menu item, but it ended up being almost as much food as hers, and I ate about the same amount.

We brought what we didn’t eat home. My wife portioned it out and put it into containers; she ended up with 7 more meals, which means we got 9 meals out of just 2 ordered. The initial price for those two meals… $15.50. This means it cost us $1.72 per meal for our foray out to a restaurant; isn’t that pretty remarkable?

One of the realities of today’s restaurant meals is that some restaurants, in trying to make sure we get our money’s worth, give us way too much food. Sure, sometimes we can eat it all, but most of the time when we do we feel stuffed and bloated. My wife has worked on me over the years, plus my getting older, to the effect that many times I’m not only getting a second meal out of something, but maybe even a third meal. That’s just phenomenal.

Sure, that’s still higher than what I share in the second article I linked to above, but it does help bring into focus the reality that not all meals are going to be extreme when you do decide to eat out, especially if you pick the right restaurants to go to. For instance, a cheese pizza from many places will cost around $10.00, and if cut properly often ends up with 8 to 12 slices. If you only eat 2 slices at a time, the cost of each meal is between $1.67 and $2.50, and the slices are large enough to make most people content.

Of course you have to go to restaurants where prices aren’t extreme and where they serve large portions to catch a break. If you’re looking at a $2,000 hamburger not only are you not going to save money, but you’re probably going to need two of them to fill you up; I wouldn’t recommend anything like that (gold leaf on a burger yet; yuck!). This is one reason why some people advocate eating at local restaurants, because they have a tendency to over-deliver on portions.

If you put the math together and use some judgment in your eating habits, you can easily afford to eat some meals out and not break your food budget all that much. Go out and give it a shot and see if it works for you.

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As had been predicted, insurance rates for plans that are attached to the Affordable Care Act participants have gone up anywhere from 8% to 25% depending on which area of the country you live in. The premium for my plan is going up 10% come January.

Health Insurance
Thomas Hawk via Compfight

There have been many articles in the news proclaiming that the ACA plans aren’t all that affordable. I’m here to try to allay some fears and point out some truths. I brought up a couple of truths earlier this year with this post on realities of the plan after 4 months and this post on signing up to begin with.

The first truth is that insurance plans almost always go up, no matter if it’s ACA associated or not. In California before ACA, some plans used to go up more than 50%, and that’s after insurance companies requested increases as high as 95%.

In this case there’s at least one extra reason why some plans have gone up. With it being the first year of offering the plans and trying to gain subscribers, it was more of a feeling out process to see how many people would sign up for the plans and whether estimated costs were at least close to what had been expected. There were a number of insurance companies that decided to get out of the program because they had few takers, and others that realized they couldn’t keep up with the demand, which was higher than the government had expected.

The second truth is that in many of the larger cities, the silver plan, which is the standard that all other plans are based on, is actually going down by average. Nashville is decreasing by 8.7%, which is the top discounter.

The third truth is that for people who got subsidies to help pay for their insurance coverage, higher premiums likely mean they’ll get bigger subsidies to help offset the higher costs. No idea on how much this could possibly be, and it seems likely that in areas where costs go down their subsidy would also go down. Whether this means more or less out of pocket… who knows yet.

The fourth truth is that by now, if your income has remained pretty much the same, you should be used to making the payment, so even with an increase it shouldn’t impact you all that much. It’s like working at a large employer that’s paying for a portion of your insurance, where even if they’re covering 80% of your premium there’s more coming out of your pocket for the next year. We always find a way to deal with it; same thing here.

The unknown is always more scary than the reality. This is how things occur; there’s nothing new about a premium increase. Once you accept that you’ll feel a lot better.

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