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Comments of the week, food costs edition

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Readers were split on whether SNAP would cover their food costsLast week asked readers if we should continue this feature and got a positive response, so we decided we’d delve into the comments again.

This week we tackled a couple of controversial topics: SNAP, better known as food stamps, which was substantially cut starting Friday, and the rollout of the Obamacare exchanges, which has gotten off to a very rough start. Here were some of the best comments we got on those and other topics that offered a unique or helpful take.

On food stamps, we asked readers if they could feed their household on the maximum benefits offered through SNAP. Many readers said they could and in fact had, and offered up some tips to lower your food costs. Here are some from Christine:

I never understand what people are buying when I read that this is barely scraping by. I spend about $75 a week for 2 adults and one teenage boy. We eat inexpensive meat most days, mostly fresh produce except peas/corn and organic milk. Leftovers for lunch. I will occasionally make brownies or cookies. Don’t buy soda or chips. Nuts, yogurt for snacks. Eggs, bacon, pancakes for breakfast in weekends. I buy mineral water on sale and make iced tea with lemon simple syrup.

This is not a money problem, this is a COOKING problem. It’s a junk food and prepared food problem.

As an aside, kids in this scenario probably also get free school lunch and possibly breakfast.

Carol Ann disagreed, saying she felt that her diet would suffer health-wise on a SNAP budget:

I could not make it on SNAP alone. I try to save on groceries by cooking most of my own meals and using leftovers but fruit juices, and fresh fruits and vegetables bust my budget every time. I have read the stories about what people who tried and did live on SNAP benefits bought and ate and for the most part they bought crap that my Grandparents would not consider food or even feed to their pigs. The only way I could see living within my means on SNAP would be to grow my own vegetables and barter for eggs and meat.

On the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a few readers expressed frustration with technical glitches and premium hikes. Here’s reader uclalien:

Fortunately, as a Californian, I don’t have to deal with Healthcare.gov. The political decision to wait until after the 2012 election to start developing the website (a process of that magnitude can take years) is coming back to bite the administration in the tail. Then, the decision to add a useless sign-in page just a couple months before the website was supposed to go live further sealed its fate.

Unfortunately, the availability of my company health insurance plan is only temporary since Obamacare has eliminated small group plans for firms like mine. Ultimately, I will be forced onto the California exchange and my premiums will increase by roughly 35% for an inferior plan. And keep in mind, this is 35% more than plans available on the market today, which are nearly 3x more expensive than the one I had 2 years ago because Obamacare eliminated high-deductible, catastrophic plans.

But that was the plan all along. Younger people are now forced (literally) to buy insurance and/or pay higher premiums to subsidize people who are old and/or sick. For example, one of our firm’s partners is 60 and expects to see his monthly premium decrease by 40 percent. I can’t say that I’m excited about subsidizing someone’s health insurance costs that makes 3x as much as me.

However, one reader, Elizabeth, expressed hope that the new system would allow her to buy more comprehensive health insurance:

I cannot wait to buy Obamacare. Currently, I am spending a good deal each month on private health insurance that carries a $10,000 deductible. Basically, if I get cancer or get run over, I would not be a burden on the taxpayer.

America has the absolute worst healthcare in the Western world, and something must change.

We got word recently that McDonald’s will soon be eliminating its Dollar Menu. Many readers expressed dismay, but one reader Valerie Rind felt that the Dollar Menu wasn’t such a good deal in the first place:

When I did budget counseling for low-income families, I asked them how much they spent on fast food. “Oh, but we only order off the Dollar Menu,” many people said.

It wasn’t until we calculated how many items they bought for how many people in the family that they could see it wasn’t such a bargain.

Miranda blogged about the hassles she faced getting her car repaired after an accident, but at least one reader, Brett, felt that her insurance company was more to blame than the other driver dragging her feet:

I used to sell car insurance, and any reputable agent/company should have told you to just file the claim, and you’d be reimbursed later for your deductible and any other costs to fix your car if the other party was found to be 100 percent at fault. I’m not sure where you live, but here in TN, it’s against the law for companies to raise your rates for accidents that weren’t your fault.

Finally, on Miranda’s blog on why we spend more with credit cards then cash, finance blogger Lance at Money Life and More felt like the method of payment didn’t matter, at least in his case:

I never really spent cash ever, so to me it is the same and I think I actually spend less with credit cards. Whenever I have cash it disappears without me thinking about it.

What do you think? Anyone offering opinions that had you nodding your head, or shaking your fist? Let us know!

(Photo: Matt MacGillivray)

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5 Responses to “Comments of the week, food costs edition”

  1. Thanks for featuring me as a comment of the week! I really do believe that I spend less on cards than I do on cash. Others can cite studies that say otherwise, but I know my personal habits :)

    • Steve says:

      I have to agree with Lance – cash disappears when I have it in my wallet. I use YNAB and track every penny my wife and I spend on our credit and debit cards, which has led to a lot more knowledge of where our money goes and more savings.

  2. sanandave says:

    All the comments offered here – - including mine regarding my own spending (which is that cash vs. credit card makes no difference to me) – - are purely anecdotal and true only for the specific individual. I do believe that the “spend more with a credit card” rule is correct for the majority; the credit card makes it a “pay for it someday” situation….

    What about writing a check ?

  3. Valerie Rind says:

    Thanks for including me in Comment of the Week (regarding the true cost of the disappearing McDonald’s Dollar Menu)!

  4. Claes Bell says:

    Lance and Valerie, you’re definitely welcome, and thanks for hanging out at Bargaineering and smartening up the discussion around here. I appreciate it and I know the other writers do, too.

    Sanandave, yeah the original article has some empirical research in this area. I don’t think many people are researching behaviors associated with checks just because they’re being phased out, but I think you’d see a similar dynamic at work. No hard-to-ignore physical expression of scarcity there with having to look at your empty wallet, etc. But yeah I’m kind of in Lance’s camp, where if I’m not being mindful about spending, it doesn’t matter how I’m spending it, it’s going to get spent!


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