Veterans Healthcare: Agent Orange

The VA offers health care and disability benefits for veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during military service. Your dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits.

If you were exposed to Agent Orange between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, you may be eligible to enroll in VA health care.

What Is Agent Orange And How Were People Exposed To It?

“Agent Orange” refers to a blend of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed in the jungles of Vietnam and around the Korean demilitarized zone to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that provided enemy cover. Herbicides were also used by the U.S. military to defoliate military facilities in the U.S. and in other countries as far back as the 1950s.

For the purposes of VA compensation benefits, Veterans who served anywhere in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides, as specified in the Agent Orange Act of 1991. These Veterans do not need to show that they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides in order to get disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.

Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam were used, tested or stored elsewhere, including some military bases in the United States. Other locations/scenarios in which Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange may include:

  • Personnel who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia, along a line of demarcation spelled out in the lawveterans
  • Korean Demilitarized Zone – Exposure along the demilitarized zone in Korea between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971
  • Thailand Military Bases – Possible exposure on or near the perimeters of military bases between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975
  • Herbicide Tests and Storage Outside Vietnam- Possible exposure due to herbicide tests and storage at military bases in the U.S. and locations in other countries
  • Agent Orange Residue on Airplanes Used in Vietnam War – Possible exposure of crew members to herbicide residue in C-123 planes flown after the Vietnam War
  • Veterans with one or more of the presumptive diseases whose claims were previously denied. It also includes those with new claims.
  • Children with spina bifida born to veterans who served in Thailand between January 1962 and May 1975.
  • Veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971

What Diseases And Conditions Can Agent Orange Exposure Cause?

VA presumes the following diseases to be service-connected for such exposed Veterans:

  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,
  • AL amyloidosis,
  • Chloracne or other acneform disease similar to chloracne,
  • Chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia),
  • Diabetes mellitus (Type 2),
  • Hodgkin’s disease,
  • Ischemic heart disease.
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda,
  • Prostate cancer,
  • Respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, trachea),
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
  • Multiple myeloma

VA offers health care benefits for veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service. These services include an Agent Orange Registry health exam and clinical treatment at VA’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Center.

Agent Orange Effects On Children Of Veterans

Children who have spina bifida or certain other birth defects and are biological children of veterans with qualifying service in Vietnam or Korea may be eligible for a range of VA benefits, including:

  • Compensation – a monthly monetary allowance based on the child’s degree of disability
  • Health care benefits
  • Vocational training, which provides up to 24 months of full-time training, rehabilitation and job assistance with the possibility of an extension up to 24 months if needed to achieve the employment goal. The child may not begin vocational training before his or her 18th birthday or the date he or she completes secondary schooling, whichever comes first.

Agent Orange Registry Health Exam

VA’s Agent Orange Registry health exam alerts veterans to possible long-term health problems that may be related to Agent Orange exposure during their military service. The registry data helps VA understand and respond to these health problems more effectively.

The exam is free to eligible Veterans and enrollment in VA health care is not necessary. Although the findings of your exam may be used to inform your subsequent care, they may not be used when applying for compensation as a separate exam is required.

Disability Compensation

Veterans who want to be considered for disability compensation for health problems related to Agent Orange exposure must file a claim. During the claims process, VA will check military records to confirm exposure to Agent Orange or qualifying military service. If necessary, VA will set up a separate exam for compensation.

What Exactly Are VA Loans?

A VA mortgage loan (also known as a Veterans Administration home loan) is one of the most useful military benefits. If you qualify, you can buy or build a home, or refinance an existing home mortgage, with as little as $0 down, great rates, and financing up to $484,350 (2019 limit) – more if you live in certain high-cost areas like New York City.  Another benefit over traditional mortgages is that there is no PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance, the monthly insurance fee charged to protect the bank until you reach at least 20 percent equity).

For most service-members and veterans who qualify, a VA loan is one of their most valuable benefits and a no-brainer over other, traditional mortgage types. This section offers an in-depth explanation of the VA loan process, and instructions on how to submit an application.

VA Loan VS. Conventional Home Loans

VA loans are some of the only loans remaining that offer no down payment.  With conventional loans, the buyer is required to provide up to 20% down, which can often make it too difficult to purchase the right type of home for your family.  Since with a VA home loan there’s no private mortgage insurance this can save hundreds of dollars a month over conventional loans, depending on how much you borrow.  Because the VA loan is backed by the government, the rates are often much better than a conventional loan, which will save you a considerable amount of money over the life of your home loan.  Lastly, the VA home loan has a more lenient lending policy, allowing you to qualify for a VA loan when you might not meet all the requirements for a traditional loan.

VA Loan Basics

While VA Loans are issued by private lenders they are backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is why they can be offered oftentimes with little to no down payment and no PMI.  Since 1944, the VA has helped over 22 million military men and women purchase homes using this type of mortgage program.

VA Loan Funding Fee

Nearly every VA loan comes with a VA Funding Fee.  This fee goes directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs and helps back the VA loans of the future.  Not everyone has to pay the fee, such as military men and women with a service-related disability.  Fees range from a little over 2% for first time VA loan recipients, to 3.3% for repeat home buyers.  The good news is you can roll this fee into your loan amount.  In addition, closing costs are less and often the seller can pay these costs, too.

VA Loan Limits

As of 2019, the VA allows for no down payment on loans up to $484,350.  This does not mean that’s all a veteran can qualify for, it means that’s the limit in most cities you can secure a mortgage with no down payment.  In cities that are more expensive to live in, that number rises. For example, in New York City the maximum you can qualify for with no down payment is over $726,000.

How Much Can I Qualify for on a VA Loan?

The amount you can qualify for varies depending on a number of factors. One of the biggest factors is your debt ratio.  It helps to determine the amount you can afford to pay each month.

7 Ways to Keep Military Health Care Affordable

Revamping health care is constantly in the headlines as officials attempt to hammer out a way to make health care costs – one of the largest sources of debt and bankruptcy in the nation – more manageable for more Americans.

Free or reasonably priced health care coverage is one of the ways the American public decided to help compensate members of the military, their families, and military retirees for their service to the nation. Tricare offers a wide range of health plans for a variety of needs, and many of these plans allow for free medical care, or care at very low cost compared to the prices paid by civilians.

Nonetheless, co-payments, medications, dental and vision care can add up. Try these suggestions to help keep the cost of medical care manageable:

  1. Keep up to date with checkups. Don’t skimp on care to save a few dollars, especially if you have a health condition that requires regular monitoring. Be sure children get all necessary vaccinations, and take preventive measures such as getting a flu vaccination every year.
  2. See the right doctors. You want the best care possible, but also the best price. Whenever possible, by going to a military medical facility such as a hospital, clinic or sick bay, you’ll receive high-quality care at the lowest cost to you. If no military facility is near you, check with your health insurance plan to determine the best civilian option.
  3. Choose the right plan. Review all your options when choosing coverage under Tricare. Tricare offers several coverage levels that have different options to choose providers, etc., at different cost points. Carefully consider all your options, including what physicians you will want to see, how healthy you and your family are, and anticipated future medical needs, to determine the right level of care for you.
  4. Ask for the best deal. Talk to the manager of patient accounts about your situation. Your Tricare benefits might vary depending on your plan level and whether you or the physician’s office files your claim. For example, if you use the point-of-service option (POS) to visit a non-network, non-participating physician, they can charge you up to 15 percent more than the agreed-upon Tricare rate. If you plan to see a physician regularly, then discuss any options that can make your care more cost effective.
  5. Cut drug costs. First, seek to receive your medications from a military treatment facility, where they are free. Otherwise, ask your doctor if a generic medication will work as well as a brand-name one for you. If it is equally effective, a generic drug costs two-thirds less when ordered through Tricare’s mail-order pharmacy. If not, look into all options, including discount medications from warehouse club and discount/chain stores, to find the best deal on needed medicines.
  6. Deduct what you can. Develop a method — whether a spreadsheet, a shoebox for receipts, or a list in a notebook — to keep track of what you spend on medical care. If you spend more than 7.5 percent of your income, you could be eligible to deduct those costs from your income taxes.
  7. Save with an FSA. If your employer or your spouse’s employer offers a flexible spending account (FSA), take advantage of it. An FSA allows employees to have money deducted, pretax, from their paychecks for medical care. Look at canceled checks, bills or credit card statements to determine how much you spent on medical care (out of your own pocket, outside of health plan benefits) last year. One rule of thumb is to request withholding of about 80 percent of that amount, to be safe. Be sure you can spend the full amount you have deducted, because if you do not spend it, you lose it.

Medical care can be a challenging expense, especially when unexpected conditions arise. Fortunately, by planning as many cost savings as you can foresee, you can make a difference in the cost of care for you and your family.

The Right Life Insurance for the Military

Confused about life insurance — whether you need it, what kind, how much and the like? So are a lot of people in the military. While the military provides you with Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage, that may not be enough for some people. To make those decisions easier, we’ve boiled it down to the basics.

Confused about life insurance — whether you need it, what kind, how much and the like? So are a lot of people in the military. While the military provides you with Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage, that may not be enough for some people. To make those decisions easier, we’ve boiled it down to the basics.

1. Is there a “war clause?”

A little known fact about life insurance policies ? some don’t pay if you die as a result of war. For members of the military, this is a significant issue. When looking for a life insurance policy, make sure that if you die as a result of combat duty, your family will receive the benefits of that policy. None of the life insurance policies at USAA contain a war clause.

2. Do you need it?

That’s the easy part. If you’re not responsible for anyone or anything, you probably don’t need life insurance. If you’re single, with no kids, and a lot of people aren’t counting on your income, you probably don’t need life insurance. Remember, the military already provides you with a maximum of $400,000 of life insurance. But if you’re married, have children, or take care of aging parents, SGLI coverage is most likely not enough. It’s probably a good idea to get additional life insurance, as well.

3. Can I get it?

Members of the military have difficult and often dangerous jobs. Some military professions, such as like fighter pilots and paratroopers, are unable to receive life insurance simply because some companies feel their line of work is too risky. A good bet is to find an insurance company that understands the military, and will provide you coverage regardless of your military career.

4. Life (insurance) after the military

Planning to separate from the military? It’s a good idea to start shopping around at least two months ahead for life insurance. Your SGLI policy won’t be valid once you leave the military. It can take up to six weeks to get a life insurance policy, so don’t cancel your SGLI until your new policy has been issued and the first premium paid.

Coverage for you

One option is to convert your SGLI to a five-year renewable term policy with Veteran’s Group Life Insurance (VGLI), which will provide up to $400,000 in coverage. If you’re in poor health, this can be a good value. But if you’re healthy, you might find a more affordable option with a commercial life insurance company.

Coverage for your spouse

Your spouse is an important part of your family’s financial security even if he or she doesn’t earn an income. Think of it this way: What would it cost to replace the childcare, meal preparation, and other household tasks your spouse does? If you had the $100,000 of coverage for your spouse under SGLI, you will not be able to convert it to VGLI once you separate from the military. The good news is: purchasing a relatively inexpensive life insurance policy can offset the expenses associated with losing a spouse.

5. How much insurance do you need?

There’s no magic formula but you can start by figuring out what you want life insurance to do for you. Do you simply want a policy to cover your funeral, debts, and unpaid medical bills? Or are you worried about providing enough college money for your children or retirement savings for your spouse if you die suddenly? Some experts say you should buy a policy that’s seven to 10 times your income. But that’s not the answer for everyone.

“Getting the right amount and type of insurance depends on your specific situation,” says Rob Schaffer, executive director of Product Management for USAA Life Insurance Co. “You need to ask yourself some key questions to decide what fits your budget and your circumstances. This is where talking to an insurance company or financial adviser can help.”

6. What kind do you need? How long do you need it?

Consider the kind of insurance you want: term or permanent life insurance. Buying term insurance is like renting a house, but the lease on the insurance policy can be used only for a specific term — 10 years, 20 years, or whatever you choose. Permanent insurance, on the other hand, generally has a higher premium than term, but lasts for a lifetime. The policy also builds cash value that you can borrow against or withdraw if you have an unexpected need for it.

Once you decide between term and permanent life insurance, you have one more step — sign up. Both types of life insurance have several options. Make sure you research the information, consult with a financial adviser, and choose carefully. But whatever you do, don’t delay. The cost goes up with age.

7. Shop around to find the right fit.

The first, and most important step, is to find the right policy for your budget and family’s needs. We make it easy to compare policies with our life insurance tool that matches you to multiple partners, so you can shop around … in one stop.

Military Family Deployment – How to Handle it

Preparing for military family deployment can seem like an uphill battle.

For one, your Family Readiness team (be it an officer, group or other) has probably handed you a to-do list that is several pages long.

Add in the fact that there’s the inevitable family you’re going to have to find time to see (I’m sorry, Aunt Gloria! We just can’t make it out there AND do everything we need to do!), preparations made around the house and normal family life to lead.

Forget normal life. Deployment changes everything. And it’ll start happening well before that deployment even starts. The Military Powers That Be divide deployment into three phases: pre-deployment, deployment and re-integration. This is called the Deployment Cycle and, while stress and exhaustion may be true for the cycle in full, you’ll find particular stressors in play for each cycle.

Prepare Yourself

This one could also be called “steel yourself,” because two things are universal about deployments: (1) No deployment experience is the same; but (2) It’s going to require a lot from you, no matter what.

Combat deployments come with an unshakable shadow and stress every infantry spouse can explain with a single look. But non-combat deployments can also be very stressful. The gist: Stress, no matter what.

Before your partner deploys, make sure you find several healthy stress-relievers to help get you through. They will likely be your go-to when times get rough.

Pre-Deployment Logistics

During this phase, you’ll be doing everything you can to get your family ready for the realities of deployment and the potentialities. At the top of your list will be legal, financial and emotional preparation.

Legally, you’ll want to get everything that may be necessary taken care of: powers of attorney and wills, particularly, and anything else your unit recommends.

While wills can feel morbid, powers of attorney might not seem necessary — and both may entail discussion that you or your spouse may not be eager to have. Talk to your service member about what kinds of powers of attorney you should have while he is gone. Should anything go wrong, including you losing your military ID or needing to break a lease, you won’t be able to take care of the issue without one.

Here is everything you need to know to get the legal stuff ironed out before your partner leaves.

You will need to make financial preparations too. Between hazard pay, combat pay, flight pay, or any of the other additional pays that come with deployment, plus the non-taxable income, your bank account will look drastically different for a while — and it’s important you don’t blow it all on a fancy new Mustang.

Deployment

To state the obvious: Deployment changes everything. The problem is you really don’t understand how until you’re in it, and even after you’ve done one, you can’t count on the next deployment being the same.

Learn how you can prepare for the impact it will have on your marriage and your family and prepare for the effect an unexpected extension might have.

Take the time to prepare some family rituals in advance that you can do during deployment.

Get involved with your Family Readiness Group.

You may even want to consider moving home while your spouse is gone. If that’s something you’re thinking about, make sure you weigh all the options in advance.

And then there’s the perennial military joke — deployment inevitably demands a visit from Uncle Murphy.

If you’re new to the military, you’re probably shaking your head in confusion. Who’s Uncle Murphy? If you’re not new, you already know: Murphy’s Law goes into effect the minute your spouse leaves. The car will break. The newly replaced air conditioner will suddenly need to be completely replaced again. The roof will collapse. And you will lose your keys.

Maybe none of those things will happen to you (we hope), but Murphy’s Law is there all the same — and it’s something you at least get to laugh about. The good news is this: Deployment may be a heavier time in your life, but it will definitely add in some hilarity. We promise.

In fact, even though none of us likes deployment, we all cherish the feeling of how wonderful it is to have your spouse return after such a long time away. Take the hard moments in stride. And celebrate the return with all you’ve got.

Prepare the Family

Helping your family get ready for a deployment is easier when you take the advice of other spouses who have done it.

Children going through a deployment experience many of the same emotions as their grown counterparts, but have at their fingertips fewer of the resources to combat those problems. Learn how you can help them prepare for the separation as easily as possible and, while you’re at it, learn how you can expect the rest of your family to take deployment too.

Reintegration

Your spouse is back! Hooray! The world is wonderful, your family is whole, and you are breathing for the first time in months. Congratulations! Now, welcome to (another) hard part.

Reintegration is great, but it brings with it its own challenges.

When you’ve been apart for months at a time, both of you inevitably grow and change — and reintegration is all about growing back to each other. While it happens, you can expect some ups and down. Some fights, some passion, and the road back to shared household duties.

No matter how much we wish it did, reintegration doesn’t happen immediately. But the more you prepare for it and the rest of deployment, the easier it will all be.

How You Can Save Money – Military Edition

Saving money in the military is not difficult, but the key is to start saving early. Saving money and getting out of debt to stay out of debt are the two keys to becoming financially stable. It’s easy to start saving in the military, and the advice below will explain how.

Start a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which can be started through Navy Federal or USAA

These may sound intimidating, but they are simply savings accounts that allow your money to grow over time at a higher percent than a normal savings account. The main difference between these and a normal savings account is that the money you deposit into a TSP or IRA cannot be withdrawn until retirement age (usually 59 ½ years of age) without penalty.

You determine the amount that will be contributed whether it be per military paycheck or monthly, which will allow the money to accrue over time. Before you start either, speak to a financial counselor to determine what option would be best for you. The TSP is only available for current service members, but can remain upon discharge and continue with you as a veteran. An IRA can be separate from the military. If you did not start a TSP as a service member, you can start an IRA as a veteran through your employer or bank.

Set-up recurring transfers into your savings account

The easiest way to start saving money is to set up automatic transfers to a savings account. It does not need to start big, any little bit will add up fast. To get started, set up a recurring payment of $5 each time you get paid. Monitor your savings account and see that soon you will have $20 saved, then $100, then $500, and so on.

Scheduling recurring transfers can easily be set up through the bank’s mobile app or online, and you control the transfers. Changing the amount or the frequency can be done at any time, and it can even be cancelled as easily as it was set up. If you prefer to speak to a representative, don’t hesitate to call your bank’s customer service.

Once you are feeling confident, start putting away more money. The more money you put away, the more money you will save.

Set a savings goal

You may find that you need more motivation to deliberately put money into your savings account. Admittedly, it can be hard to control instant gratification. If this is the case, choose something pricey you would like to purchase or perhaps a travel destination you would like to visit. For instance, you want a motorcycle. A used motorcycle can cost approximately $3,000-$4,000, though it can certainly cost more. A new motorcycle might cost $12,000, or more so start saving for that motorcycle!

Choosing to save for a goal rather than using a credit card for instant gratification will automatically save money because savings accounts pay interest, while purchasing with credit will cost interest. It will also save you the stress of having to pay off a debt that you may find out later that you couldn’t afford when you thought you could.


Everyday tips for saving money

Bring coffee, bring lunch. Daily coffee for $2.00 doesn’t seem like much that morning, and neither does a $3.00 energy drink that afternoon after a nice $10.00 lunch. That’s $15.00 spent just on Monday. If this is your habit everyday, that’s $75.00 just on food and drinks for your typical work week. That’s $300.00 you could have put in savings that month, not to mention what a year’s worth of $4 coffee would look like.

Get gas on base. Wherever you are stationed, most likely gas is the least expensive on base. If you happen to find a gas station that has an even better rate, go there. It really does add up – the extra $3-$5 you may be paying each time you fill up could be $20 put in your savings account that month. You can also use the free GasBuddy app to see gas prices near you and weed out overpriced stations.

Shop around. Don’t buy a new item as soon as it gets your heart racing. It might be new Under Armour workout gear or electronics, but check multiple places before making that purchase. You can probably find a better deal at another store, or online, making the delay worth the wait. Sometimes just by waiting you may also realize that the item no longer seems so attractive, allowing the wait to save you money.

If you are taking steps toward financial responsibility, using the steps above to build a financial foundation is a great start. For a more thorough explanation of personal finance, visit educational financial centers offered to military and dependents.

25 Money-Saving Tips for Military Families

Want to protect your hard-earned cash? Military discounts go a long way. Always ask retailers, restaurants, airlines, motels and other establishments, “Do you have a military discount?” Meanwhile, here are 25 other money-saving tips. Go ahead, wave your frugal flag.

Save at home

1. Trade time/repair skill with a neighbor. Swap services or trade time (a Saturday, for example) with a neighbor. You may know plumbing and your neighbor may be handy with a hammer. Trading time with a trusted neighbor can extend beyond home repairs to other ways to help — lawn, babysitting, etc.

2. Do-it-yourself repairs and maintenance. Whether it’s painting a room, doing yard work or bathroom repairs, even those with all-thumbs can pull these off. If you’re already a DIY’er you can take on bigger projects. Check out service member deals at home improvement stores.

3. Use coupons. Use coupons or join a coupon exchange for home services that require a pro.

4. Shop garage/yard sales and second-hand stores. You can get great deals on things like furniture, dishes and clothes.

Save on entertainment

5. Host a pot-luck dinner. It’s cheaper, you get a variety of tastes and you don’t have to do all the cooking. It’s also fun and social. Tip: Have everyone bring a specific or assigned dish.

6. Think free outings. Check out the local parks, memorials and art galleries. Take a picnic. Go on a walk, hike or stroll. Have kids? Take them fishing, skipping rocks or to playgrounds.

7. Have a leisurely lunch. Have lunch out and eat dinner in. Think mid-afternoon. Lunch often is cheaper than dinner. Or when you’re out for dinner, split an entrée and each get an appetizer.

8. Seek discounts at amusement parks and museums. Most offer military discounts. Google “military discounts at amusement parks”— you’ll find a bunch, especially at the well-known ones. Same goes for museums. Better yet: Visit the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library available on Military OneSource to find a range of fitness, recreational and skills development programs, tickets and more — some at reduced rates.

9. Shop online. Sure, you’re already doing it. But you can shop for just about anything online and compare prices. You can also look for online coupons.

Save on clothes and school supplies

10. Look for deals. Shop at your military installation’s commissary and exchange. Shoppers typically save more than 30 percent compared to shopping in town. Or shop at outlet and discount stories. Consignment and thrifts shops are good too. And look for deals online.

11. Stock up on basics during sales. When you find good deals on socks and underwear, buy a few extra pair to lock in the savings.

12. Get the most from your wardrobe. Uniforms also can be worn off duty. Sticking to similar color combinations or buying clothes in neutral colors lets you do more with fewer clothes.

Save with military travel deals

13. Fly for free. Service members and family can fly free or at very low cost when space is available on military flights. Space-available Passenger Transportation, or Space-A Travel, can be tricky at times but can save you lots of money on flights.

14. Visit national parks for free. National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. A free annual pass is available for current U.S. military members and dependents.

15. Go camping. It can be cheaper and more fun than hotels. If camping isn’t your family’s thing, pick kid-friendly hotels that don’t charge extra for children.

16. Travel off-season, with a group or on a tour. It’s cheaper than going on your own or on-season.

17. Use Department of Defense Lodging services. Military families are eligible to use military lodging around the world, ranging from cottages on the beach to world-class resorts or recreational lodging facilities. Destinations include resort towns, big cities, oceanfront getaways, mountain top retreats and overseas locales.

Save on transportation

18. Walk, bike or use public transportation. It’s cheaper and healthier for you and the environment. If you can’t, carpool.

19. Shop for car insurance. If you must drive your own vehicle, compare rates online and consider a higher deductible on collision coverage if your car is older. While you’re at it, keep your car maintained — and DIY, if you can.

20. Buy a used car. A two-year-old car with some mileage can save you thousands versus a new car. Have your mechanic check it out, however.

Save on utilities

21. Do the basics. Turn off the lights when not using them. Unplug computers, appliances, charging cables when not using them. Visit the Department of Energy’s Energy Saver website. Don’t heat or cool rooms you don’t use. Close your fireplace damper when not in use.

22. Insulate your attic or other unfinished spaces. Use storm windows and weatherproof your home to reduce heat or cooling loss.

23. Watch the thermostat. Setting your temperature between 68 and 72 degree may be comfy, but it can kill your wallet. Set the air conditioner at 78 in the summer when home (consider running fans instead). Turn the heat to 64 or so and wear extra layers of clothes.

24. Buy energy-efficient appliances. Look for the Energy Star label.

25. Double check your cell phone and cable bills. Make sure you’re not paying for needless services. Also, bundle your phone, internet and cable, if you can. And watch your data use on mobile devices. That can break tight budgets.