Everyday Cheapskate: High Vet Bills for Beloved Pets and Prepping for Mortgage Application
Dear Mary: Our beloved dog Roscoe is getting older, and we're concerned about safeguarding his health. He had a procedure last month that cost us $2,500. While the vet assures us he's fine now, we want to make sure we don't get hit with another huge bill. Of course, we'll do everything we can to keep Roscoe healthy, but we can't really afford these unforeseen medical expenses. What can we do? -- Kate
Dear Kate: Plan ahead and stash money into a "Roscoe account." Set an amount and then treat it like a bill each month. Even $25 a month will make sure you have a nest egg to get you through another emergency.
Call to learn your vet's policies regarding emergency services like hours, fees and discounts for cash payments. Find out what constitutes a true emergency and what can wait until the office opens.
Look into alternatives such as the humane society or university vet clinics that offer thriftier alternatives for shots and routine care. For Roscoe's wellness checks, keep an eye out for reduced veterinary-service clinics sponsored by government agencies or pet stores.
Should Roscoe face another serious situation, I hope you will have time to get a second opinion. You might want to look into pet health insurance with a company like Embrace Pet Insurance. I've recommended Embrace in the past; just keep in mind that most pet health insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions. And they have high deductibles and copays, too. I wish you many more wonderful years with Roscoe!
Dear Mary: My husband and I are about to apply for a mortgage. Although our credit is in pretty good shape, we have a lot of credit cards -- a few from department stores, one for frequent flyer miles and two that we use regularly but pay off every month. A friend recently told me that if the banks notice that you have too many cards in your name, it can hurt your chances of getting any loans. Is she right? Should I cancel those extra cards right away? -- Caroline
Dear Caroline: Before you do anything, get your individual credit reports and credit scores. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and request your free credit reports -- one each for you and your husband. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every 12 months. (A good plan for everyone is to request a free report every four months from one of the bureaus in rotation. By year's end, you'll have all three reports.)
As far as getting a copy of your credit score, go to the myFico website. The cost to obtain a basic copy of your current score is $19.95. Along with your individual credit scores, you'll get an analysis and explanation of the factors affecting your scores. Some credit card companies include a "free credit score" as part of your cardholder benefits. Understand that you have dozens of credit scores out there, depending on which entity is doing the scoring. However, your FICO score is considered by most lenders to be the gold standard, so it makes sense that you know what that is because, most likely, that is the one your loan officer will be using to assess your creditworthiness.
Your friend is right that lots of available credit can lower your score, but having too little is not good either. But closing accounts is not wise, as it will have a negative impact on your score. Instead, focus on getting all of your balances down to $0.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.