Friday, March 23, 2012

Storing Your Stuff? Don’t Forget Your Insurance!!!

There are multiple reasons why people put their personal items in storage but there are also those horror stories you hear about items going missing or being damaged.  Now, before you go out and start buying storage and storage insurance contact your Home Owners/ Renters Insurance Company and see what your policy already covers.  Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind!

  •  On average many insurers typically limit the “off-premises” coverage for items to 10-15% of the overall amount of coverage they have, you may need more!    
  • Homeowner policies have internal caps.  Example: Cap of $1,000 on jewelry
  • If you don’t have renters or homeowners insurance that covers stored items shop around at various insurance companies and get quotes! 
  • See what various policies cover what in case of theft or weather-related events.  Most storage facilities make you sign a waiver stating they are not responsible for lost or damaged items.
  • Make a list of what you put in the storage unit!
Good luck and contact Consumer United for your first quote!  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim 101

Filing insurance claims can be stressful and confusing if you don’t have the right tools to go about it.  Whether a disaster or just a small accident its best to be prepared and that’s where I come in!  With the information below I can walk you through the process of filing a home insurance claim in as easy as 1,2,3! 

1.      Your insurance company must start investigating with damage within 15 days or receiving the written notice
a.      They have 15 days to either accept or reject your claim
b.      They have 5 days to pay for the claim if they accept it
c.      If your claim is rejected your company owes you a written explanation why
2.      Contact your agent or company immediately to find the following:
a.      Is there damage covered in your policy?
b.      Does the claim exceed your deductible?
c.      Will you need estimates of the repairs?
d.      How long will it take to process the claim?
3.      What your Insurance Company will do?
a.      Provide you with a contact person who will monitor your claim
b.      Send a company representative to view the damage
c.      Let you know whether the damage is covered under your policy and an estimate of the damage
d.      If you are covered under your policy they will pay you the necessary costs to repair or replace your damaged property
4.      Tips for a smooth process
a.      Know your insurance policy and ask questions to your agent or company representative
b.      Have your policy number available
c.      Make a list of the damaged property, photos are a plus!
d.      DO NOT make permanent repairs before the company has time to inspect your damage.  If you are insure what that consists of contact your agency ASAP
e.      Keep all damaged or removed materials
f.       Keep receipts and lists of all repair expenses for temporary fixes
g.      Keep an activity log of all your contacts, repairs, letters and other documents
h.      Be there when the inspector inspects your home

Follow these tips when filing a home insurance claim and lose the unnecessary hassle.  Remember, ASK QUESTIONS!    

Easy Ways to Make your Car More Fuel Efficient

Happy Monday!!!! The gas tank is getting closer to E and you pass a few gas stations and look at the price and think to yourself, “3.65!?!?” The gas price like almost everything else, besides the cost of homes, have increased over the years and it’s something that you need, just like car insurance  The national average in February has reached a high of 3.65. Here are 5 tips that will make your car more fuel efficient.
1.) Keep your air filter clean
2.) Check your gas cap
3.) Maintain proper tire pressure
4.) Avoid idling
5.) Change your driving habits
6.) Try to maintain your speed

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Speed Demon Given Creative Sentencing

When driving a Ferrari I’m sure the adrenaline rush you feel is as though are on top of the world. I personally wouldn’t know but Frank Rodriguez Jr., a retired Army colonel had that same shot of adrenaline which landed him a speeding ticket, community service. Obviously he didn’t get the memo that maintaining your speed saves you money on gas however; when you drive a fire engine red 2000 Ferrari 360 Modena F1 I doubt saving money on gas is the first thing you are thinking of. Caught driving 90 mph in Austin, TX he was slapped a speeding ticket and a huge fine. Mr. Rodriguez had no problems paying the fine but thought it would be a much better and valuable idea to travel to various high schools and teach students about safe driving! Now that’s what I call creative Sentencing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Be Greener this St. Paddy’s Day!

St. Paddy’s Day is right around the corner!  Everyone gets to be Irish for a day and the lucky Leprechaun has a pot of gold waiting for all of us at the end of the rainbow (we all wish).  In addition to wearing green why not practice being a bit greener in your living habits?  You’d be surprised but even the littlest bit helps.
·        Telecommute!  In a recent study it was found that staying home just twice a month can save the average American $169 a year on gas!  And we all know gas prices right now are through the roof, no pun intended.  Doesn’t mean become a homebody but walk, take public transportation or car pool!
·         Drive smarter not faster!  Driving faster may get you to where you want to be faster but you waste more money on gas.  Leave a few minutes early and save yourself some $$$
·        Lose the bottled water!  Not only have they done studies finding that drinking bottled water isn’t good for your health it costs more money!   To put this into perspective 1 bottle of water is at least $1 which is $8 a gallon.  That is more than twice the cost of an equal amount of gas!  A survey from the National Resources Defense Council found that Americans spend $4 billion a year on bottled water.  Here is a link for the top 5 eco-friendly reusable water bottles.,31542,1865754,00.html
·        Bargain shop!  Check out Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, Google Shopping for items and compare prices.
·        Cooler water!  Wash clothes in cooler water.  Cold water cleans clothes just as much as warm water and you don’t need to waste money heating it up J
·        RECYCLE!  Start a recycling bin. 
·        Bring your own bags to the grocery store and save the plastic bags for someone who forgot.

For more advice on being eco-friendly and check out!  

Money Saving tips for 2012

It’s already March 2012 which means you still have some time to save yourself and household money.  As the tough economy continues I thought I’d share some of my findings. 

1.)    Lose the TV Package- take a note of which channels you watch of a two week basis and then do some research to find which package works best for your household
2.)    Discount grocery shopping!  You’ve seen the show Extreme Couponing- and although I know it’s a bit to an extreme I am saying everything is great in reasonable portions.  Take the time to flip through the coupon section or check out some of the manufacturers websites that you frequently purchase at the stores.  Here are some great links
3.)    Take advantage of Groupon, Buy With Me, Eversave and so forth.  All provide local deals on restaurants, shows, gyms, spas and other services! 

Stay tuned throughout 2012 for some more money saving ideas!  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

4 Years at Consumer United and Still Going Strong!

Daniel Marzinotto, Consumer United’s glowing VP of Sales Training is celebrating his 4th year anniversary today!  Four years ago Dan, also known as Marz, was on the phones selling policies.  From there he had moved up to Sales Manager but decided to share his insurance and sales knowledge to all of our new trainees that come in through CU’s doors.  Why not have the best, train the best?  Consumer United is growing tremendously with an excellent team of 100 individuals here in Boston and our team in Denver, CO.  If you’d like to join the fun, knowledgeable and growing CU team please send your resume to and you may even get  the chance to work with the sales guru,  Daniel Marzinotto, himself!  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Electronic Proof of Insurance? Why not?

It’s absolutely crazy when you think of the things that we can do on cell phones now days.  I personally can’t go anywhere without my cell phone or I feel naked.  It was this morning on the train that I took a look up from my iPhone and realized everyone around me were ALL on their phones too!  Just to think we used to have those huge cell phones back in the stone ages, then the flip phones, then color and pictures and now?  There are endless limits of the things you can do and crazy amounts of apps that make everything, well, EASIER!

A California legislator’s bill to allow auto insurance policyholders to provide proof of coverage via a Smartphone is the new “in”, going paperless and green!  States such as Idaho, Arizona, Maryland and Mississippi are to follow. 

“Most people today, their whole life is on their cell phone and their laptop,” Assemblyman Mike Gatto said.  “They have a paperless life… they just feel this is a total hassle to keep this paper in their car.  This would just make it a lot easier for folks.”   Agreed! 

Stay tuned!  Since the bill is currently in Assembly, it won’t be heard in committee until March 17th!   Stay tuned for an update.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

The ABC's of Auto Insurance

Happy Monday!

It’s hard to shop for something when you DON’T KNOW what it means!  It’s like going to an Italian restaurant, taking a look at the menu and having no idea what you are about to order.  I put together a list of the most common auto insurance terms that will you help you out.

Comprehensive Coverage- This is not the same as COMPLETE coverage.  It only means that your auto is covered in situations such as damage, theft or vandalism.  NOT Collisions and of course a deductible amount will apply.

Bodily Injury liability- The part of your auto insurance policy that pays for injuries that you may cause another driver or pedestrian i.e. medical expenses and loss of wages

Deductible amount- The amount you pay before the insurance agency pays the rest.  Average deductible rates range from $100-$1,000 however the higher your deductible, the lower your insurance premium is. 

Liability insurance- Covers the injuries you may cause to other vehicles or drivers when you are at fault for the accident.  Most states require liability coverage. 

Property Damage- Pays for damages you may cause to another car or property.

Uninsured motorist- Covers injuries to you caused by a driver without insurance i.e. your medical expenses.  Some states will include damages to your car as well.

Collision coverage- Pays for repairs to your vehicle after a collision with another vehicle or object.  Deductible amounts will apply.

Now study up and check out a free auto insurance quote!  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Renewing Auto Insurance for Dummies

Before starting at Consumer United I would have had NO idea what different factors or tid bits of information I should know when renewing my auto insurance.  Everyone’s insurance premium rate is different and is based on a variety of factors such as; what car you drive; where you live; how old you are; driving record and so forth.  Brought to you directly from the Insurance Information Institute are some tips that you should know on renewing and getting the best price possible for you insurance!

1.)    Shop around!  Just like buying a car or house, take a look around the market place.  See what type of prices various insurance companies are offering and do a detailed comparison.
a.      Check out your QUOTE HERE! 
2.)    Before buying a car, contact some insurance companies and price out the auto insurance, repair costs, safety record and retail price of the car.
3.)    INCREASE your deductible!  I know it sounds silly but if you request a higher deductible (amount you pay before you insurance policy kicks in) you can actually lower the costs. 
4.)    Older Car? If the market value of your car is less than 10 times your auto insurance premium that you are paying it may not make sense to purchase the optional comprehensive or collision coverage.
5.)    Discounts Discounts Discounts!  Ask about various discounts that you may be eligible for such as
  •      Anti-theft devices
  •    Multiple Policies with the same company
  •      College students living out of the house
  •     Defensive driving courses
  •     Drivers Ed courses
  •      Good credit record
  •      Higher deductibles
  •      Low annual mileage
  •      Long-time customer and loyalty
  •     Multiple cars
  •      No accidents
  •      No moving violations
  •     Student drivers with good grades- Honor roll students!

Consumer-Centric is the New Black

For the past 5 years Consumer United has been providing consumers with our industry knowledge and expertise!   We want to make sure that you have all the right tools to purchase and renew your insurance while saving more money in 2012.  Nowadays people are buying everything online like groceries, pets, cars, vacations, spouses, clothes etc. so why not insurance and at the best rate possible?  This is where “Consumer-Centric” carriers like us come into play. 

Servicing states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Texas we team up with insurance companies such as Progressive and our girl, Flow, The Harford, 21st Century, Safeco, Infinity, Bunker Hill, Plymouth Rock, Travelers and Metlife to find out what the best priced insurance is for you!  Take a minute to fill out this form for a FREE QUOTE; you could be spending more money than you have to!

Friday, April 22, 2011

What happens if you didn't file your taxes on time?

Now that the April 18th tax filing deadline has come and gone, many Americans are faced with the fact that they will have to file late this year.

Although the thought of filing late likely causes feelings of anxiety, it's certainly not something to fear. However, you must understand that there are penalties associated with filing your taxes after the deadline and the longer you wait, the more penalties you may be required to pay.

If you owe money this year and didn't ask for an extension by midnight on April 18th, you may be required to pay interest on the unpaid amount that you owe, plus face additional penalties for failing to file on time.
According to the IRS's website, the penalty for not filing your taxes on time is 5% for each month you are late, up to a maximum of 25%. Once your tax return filing is more than 60 days late, the minimum penalty will be either $135 or the amount that you owe including penalties, whichever is less.

The sooner you file your tax return, the less you will be penalized, even if you can't pay all or some of the taxes you owe. If you haven't filed yet, try to get it done as soon as possible and avoid having to pay more than you should.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Inside Consumer United :: Jim Elliott

An advocate since June 2010, Jim Elliott has contributed to Consumer United with his work ethic and focus. The embodiment of the "work hard, play hard" adage, Elliott is direct and effective in his approach to helping consumers save money. "I find a way to solve my customers' insurance needs right away," he says.

Elliott believes it's key that a consumer understand the policy and process, and always takes the time to answer any questions. However, he also knows that people want this process to be efficient, which is why he views his roll as a problem solver.

Elliott adds, "If they need insurance right away I can put them at ease by providing proof of insurance in less than five minutes. If they are paying too much I can easily find the right insurance policy for them and apply additional discounts that they may not be aware they are eligible for."

Outside of Consumer United, Elliott enjoys the "play hard" side of life, frequently taking his competitiveness to the golf course.

This is not to say that he doesn't slow things down. As an East Coaster he enjoys fishing throughout New England and can be found off the coast of RI and MA in the summer or up in Northern Maine ice fishing in the winter months. Keeping with the belief that hard work and fun can go hand in hand, Elliott also enjoys brewing his own beer.

Hailing from Southbury, CT, Elliott attended the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, RI. He studied Finance and Leadership Theory learning not just the significance of value, but the importance of responsibility in business; lessons that have helped him greatly in his roll as a Consumer Advocate.

An avid sports fan, Elliott straddles the New England versus New York line, donning a Red Sox hat during the baseball season and Giants Sweatshirts during the football months. In Consumer United's Boston office this is a precarious line to walk, but Elliott doesn't hesitate to defend his sports views. Ultimately, Elliott is a true team player and an energetic and assertive supporter of the company and his colleagues.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Alliance urges efficiency to combat gas-price hike

With the recent spike in gasoline and oil prices threatening the nation's fragile economic recovery, the Alliance to Save Energy urges consumers to make a solid commitment to energy efficiency as a way to counter rising oil and gas prices.

"Uncertain supplies plus ever-increasing worldwide demand can equal unpredictable price spikes," says Alliance President Kateri Callahan, "but energy efficiency can help us change that equation."

Callahan continues, "The 33-cent surge in gas prices over the past two weeks--reflecting today's $100+ a barrel oil prices – puts into sharp focus the urgent need to put energy efficiency at the top of the list of our nation's fuel sources in order to reduce our dangerous and costly oil dependence."

In addition, the Alliance advises consumers at their Drive Smarter Challenge website to be more fuel efficient by taking steps to minimize gas consumption, such as carpooling, emptying their trunks and ensuring their tires are properly inflated.

"We must continue to improve fuel economy standards and encourage the use of all-electric and hybrid vehicles as well as options such as telecommuting and public transportation," Callahan continues. "Public transit saves the United States more than 11 million gallons of gasoline per day, or 4 billion gallons annually," she adds.

Weekly Deals: Save 80% on dining out

Deal Of The Week: Take 80% off $25 gift certificates from with Consumer United's special code SAVE through Monday, March 14 here.

Other Weekly Deals:
Turbo Tax: Make tough times a little easier. File your simple return for FREE with TurboTax® Federal Free Edition. Click here to start saving.

Groupon: Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat and buy in a slew of cities across the United States. Click here to score today's Groupon.

Angie's List: As a Consumer United member, you qualify to save on Angie's List membership rates. Use promo code "LOCAL" for 15 percent off here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How to snag a new $400 tax credit

Did you know that you can pocket some extra cold, hard cash this tax season thanks to the Making Work Pay tax credit? In 2010, a single taxpayer is eligible for up to $400 while married couples qualify for a maximum of $800.

In most situations, the credit is built into the withholding tables resulting in less tax taken out of your pay. To account for Making Work Pay credit this tax season, the IRS is asking individuals to file the Schedule M form with the 1040 and 1040A tax claims. For those who use the simplest return, 1040EZ, there's a work sheet on the back to compensate for the credit.

If you're not eligible for Making Work Pay credit, expect a change with the return amount from 2010. In fact, some taxpayers who normally get a small refund may owe this year because they didn't qualify for the credit.

Here's a list of those who should pay special attention to their withholding, according to

  • Pensioners
  • Married couples with two incomes
  • Individuals with multiple jobs
  • Dependents
  • Some Social Security recipients who work
  • Workers without valid Social Security numbers

Not sure if you qualify for the $400 credit? Schedule M will help taxpayers sort out those issues. Also, filing through an online service like TurboTax will help clarify the Make Work Pay tax credit and save you from many errors that might not have been caught on paper.

As previously reported, the IRS unveiled a new iPhone application called IRS2Go that lets anxious consumers check on the status of their tax refund and enter their e-mail address to receive daily advice directly from the IRS.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coupon guru explains the art of free shopping

When budgeting for the monthly basics, the idea that you could get some of the essentials for free sounds too good to be true. This isn’t just a possibility, insists coupon guru Kathy Spencer of Boxford, MA, but a lifestyle she’s maintained for years.

“I started at CVS six years ago with $8 out of pocket and since then I haven’t spent any real dollar bills in the store,’’ Spencer tells the Boston Globe. Through planning, attentiveness and, at times in the checkout line, a strong backbone she has saved her family thousands of dollars.

Spencer keeps an eye on circulars for supermarkets and pharmacies. Frequently coupons can be applied the same time as sales, making many everyday products free or earning the shopper rebates or credit. In these instances you can stock up on an item, cross it off the list and move on to other necessities.

An extension of this Spencer employs is called a “roll,” in which store credit is combined with in-store rewards. Credit used on items will often still earn dollar rewards, and if broken up over multiple purchases on low cost items, this can allow you to walk in with $10 in credit and walk out with $20 worth of household goods.

Ultimately “free,” requires the vigilance of keeping tabs on different stores and their discounts, the organization of knowing what household staples you’ll need over extended periods of time, and the restraint to know the difference between stocking up and hoarding an attic full of toilet paper.

Not everyone has the time or interest in this type of Rubix-cube style of shopping, however Spencer’s successes are based on basic ideas that will help you save regardless of your interest in following her step for step.

Click here for the complete article.

Inside Consumer United :: Omar Kazmi

Omar Kazmi joined the Consumer United family in September 2010. Kazmi hit the ground running by understanding the consumer and fostering communication as the first steps to helping them. As he puts it, "no two conversations are exactly alike, you need to suit the needs of each client."

Kazmi has talked to shoppers from rural farming communities and dense, bustling cities and helped them by acknowledging their insurance needs and preferences vary just as much as where they're from. With both New York and New Jersey auto teams, he has appreciated clients’ viewpoints and touted the importance of communication.

As a Consumer Advocate, Kazmi has worked hard not just to provide the best prices, but also to understand the best fit for consumers, whether it’s their preference for a local business with exceptional customer service or a national carrier with convenient features not offered elsewhere.

Raised off the coast of Southern India in Sri Lanka, Kazmi moved to the U.S. at the age of eight, landing first in Southern New Jersey and later in Framingham, MA. He attended Bentley University just outside of Boston, pursuing Business Management and International Studies. Active beyond the classroom, Kazmi volunteered at nearby soup kitchens and tutored local students, but also boxed on weekends and played water polo for the university.

Kazmi remains passionate about athletics and fitness but is also an avid reader. While he's ready with insight on a recent boxing match or MMA fight, Kazmi is just as bright, if a bit more modest, in discussing modern history. Kazmi's thoughtful approach as a Consumer Advocate continues to help the company's goal, and his range of interests and knowledge have made him a favorite in and out of the office.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weekly Deals: Bundle Your iPod Package

Deal Of The Week:
Best Buy: Members can save big when they bundle accessories with their MP3 player purchases. Get $23-$47 off select iPod player packages here until Saturday, March 5.

Other Weekly Deals: Looking forward to Fat Tuesday? Save up to 30 percent on Mardi Gras hotels until Tuesday, March 8 here.

Turbo Tax: Make tough times a little easier. File your simple return for FREE with TurboTax® Federal Free Edition. Click here to start saving. Take 70% off $25 gift certificates from with Consumer United's special code FORK through Tuesday, March 8 here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

IRS launches new tax refund smartphone app

Listen up smart phone users. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) unveiled a new iPhone application called IRS2Go that lets anxious consumers check on the status of their tax refund. Also, taxpayers can enter their e-mail address to receive daily advice directly from the IRS.

"This new smart phone app reflects our commitment to modernizing the agency and engaging taxpayers where they want when they want it," says IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "As technology evolves and younger taxpayers get their information in new ways, we will keep innovating to make it easy for all taxpayers to access helpful information."

Apple users can download the free IRS2Go application at the Apple App Store; Android users can go to the Android Marketplace.

"This phone app is a first step for us," Shulman adds. "We will look for additional ways to expand and refine our use of smart phones and other new technologies to help meet the needs of taxpayers."

The mobile app, among a handful in the federal government, offers a number of safe and secure ways to help taxpayers. Features include real-time updates on their refund status, which will work within about 72 hours after filing electronically, compared to four weeks using snail mail. Also, the IRS will send out daily tax tips through the app and offer additional news via their Twitter feed at @IRSnews.

Click here for the lowdown.