I’m Still Here

My postings have been quite sporadic over these past two months. I seem to fill my week with an assortment of activities which either involve entertainment for my son in the form of trips to the playground and toddler classes or trips to medical professionals to help me with my newly diagnosed neuropathy.

I am grateful to all of my long time readers who left comments and sent emails about my illness. I was in a very dark place two months ago and your words lifted my spirits more than you could ever imagine. One evening my husband came up to check on me and I collapsed into a puddle of tears. I cursed my body, I cursed my health, my bad medical luck and mumbled more obscenities then I had spoken in years.

I’ve had my fair share of medical problems in the past and I was unprepared for the toil of emotions that washed over me when I was diagnosed with this new problem.

For a long time I viewed my body as broken. When I became pregnant with my son I found a renewed sense of self. A belief that my body was capable of more than I had ever given it credit for. I was one of those women who loved being pregnant. Sure I had aches and pains and other issues, but I was amazed that a child was growing within me. I walked around the house naked and stared at my reflection in the mirror.

Two and a half years after my son’s birth I remained in good health. The aches and pains that bothered me for years were gone. When I was unexpectedly hit with neuropathy as a result of antibiotics I felt robbed. Robbed of the joy I felt chasing my son around the playground. Robbed of the pain free life I had lived for the past five years. As a result I cursed God and everything else around me.

Oh sure I tried to count my blessings. I listed the things that were wonderful about my life and even listed the things that could be so much worse, but all in all I still felt horribly depressed.

My hands and feet burned like someone placed them on the stove burners, electric shocks ran through them and my legs felt like they were being crushed in a vice. It was pain like I had never experienced before and certainly not in so many places in my body at once.

Thankfully my symptoms have improved. Though my feet are still painful my hands seem to have improved. The burning and shock like sensations have decreased on disappeared almost entirely. My feet still ache but the pain is tolerable though unpleasant.

I did not take the drug prescribed to me by my neurologist. I did take the B vitamins he prescribed along with a host of other more natural solutions like acupuncture and massage. My acupuncturist believes my condition will continue to improve though she is uncertain if I will ever be fully cured.

During this time I have continued to live my life. I’ve had a few major breakdowns at night, but every morning I wake up renewed. I continue to take my son on adventures and move through life as though my legs and feet don’t bother me. Distraction may be the best medicine as when I’m excited and happy my pain dissipates ever so slightly.

I do believe everything happens for a reason and although I cannot imagine what lesson I am supposed to learn from this course of events I am doing my best to reflect on my life and the things that are important to me. My husband has asked me to focus on my mental well being. He bought me a journal and asked me to meditate. It is in those quiet moments of reflection that I feel truly grateful for all that I have and remind myself that my life is truly amazing.

April 5, 2014 at 6:03 PM 3 comments

$1500 Slipped Through My Hands

In the past four weeks I spent over $1500 on treatments to cure neuropathy caused by antibiotics! Here is a snapshot of those costs.

  • $45 – Reiki Treatment
  • $55 – Therapeutic Massage
  • $150 – Acupuncture Consultation and First Treatment
  • $85 – Acupuncture Treatment
  • $85 – Acupuncture Treatment
  • $255 – Another Acupuncture Consultation and First Treatment
  • $110 – Acupuncture Treatment with Second Acupuncturist
  • $300 – Five Therapeutic Massage Treatments
  • $178.95 – Three Months Worth of Vitamins
  • $30 – Copay to Neurologist
  • $157.48 – General Practitioner Appointment
  • $21.03 – Blood work
  • $3.29 – Blood work

That doesn’t include additional supplements and vitamins. My neurologist wanted to put me on Lyrica which would’ve cost about $50 a month. That would have been a much cheaper route to take, but the drug wouldn’t have cured me. It simply would have masked my pain. I’m crossing my fingers that my health will be restored back to normal. If that occurs it will be worth every penny I paid.

March 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM 1 comment

Is a New or Used Car a Better Financial Option for You?

Aside from buying a house or a university degree, a car is one of the biggest purchases that you’re bound to make in your lifetime. New cars in particular can come at a high price, leaving you with monthly bills to pay over the next few years. Used cars can be an attractive option to save money, but they come with a higher degree of risk. So which option will save you more money in the long run?

Car 1

Pros and Cons of New Cars

There’s nothing like visiting a new car dealership and choosing a shiny new vehicle, fully loaded with high-tech electronics. Buying a new car ensures that your vehicle will be up-to-date with all of the latest safety regulations, and today’s models have come a long way in terms of fuel efficiency as well. New cars offer full manufacturer warranties, which allow you to take your car in for repairs without worry of a high bill. There may be further perks available to entice you to make a purchase, including interest-free finance and customizable specifications.

However, despite saving money on financing and benefiting from these additional financial perks, you will still drop more money on a new car than you would on a used one. The value of a new car drops quite drastically in the first year of ownership, which means if you take out a car loan it may be underwater for the first couple of years. You may pay more in insurance costs as well, because new cars are more costly to replace.

Pros and Cons of Used Cars

Buying a used car saves you money straight out of the gate. You may find a model that’s only one or two years old, with most if not all of the same features that you’d find in a new car. With a used car, you might be able to benefit from a more powerful or better equipped model than you would be able to afford if you were buying a brand new car. Because the most drastic drop in value occurs during the first twelve months, you can avoid taking this financial hit.

Car 2

There are also a few potential pitfalls to be aware of when you buy a used car. Although you can save money up front, you need to think about the cost of maintenance and repairs. Used cars may have problems down the road due to wear and tear, and they don’t always come with a warranty like a new car would. You’re less likely to get any special deals on financing, and there’s always a risk that a seller may not be disclosing the car’s true condition. It’s important to do your research carefully when you buy used to get a fair deal.

The Verdict

It’s important to look beyond the sticker price when you’re buying a used or new car. The full cost of car ownership will include insurance, fuel, road tax, repairs, and maintenance over time, which can vary widely depending on your car’s model and condition. Whether you decide to go new or used, you’ll need to do your homework carefully to find a car that is affordable to run. Take a look here to compare models using a mobile app, or check out car comparison sites online to narrow down your options. There are pros and cons to buying both new and used cars, so it’s most important for the make and model to be one that you’re happy with.

March 26, 2014 at 2:53 PM Leave a comment

An Alternative to High Rental Management Commission Rates

Vacation rental ownership, for most of us, was never really the original intention when deciding to make that family retreat purchase – at some point it settles into a seasonal rental with unintended consequences. We backed our way into short-term rentals as a way to offset the monthly burden when we’re not using ours. If you find yourself in this same position, you already know, or soon will be coming to the realization that your mission is to maximize revenue on every rental.

The key to maximizing revenue is an equation that could make your head spin at first, but the kernel is simple mathematics: rent as many weeks as possible charging the highest seasonal rates while simultaneously decreasing commissions, fees and other related expenses. Traditionally, there have been two ways to handle the rental activity and management. So here’s the insider’s perspective.

The first and most beaten path is to hire a “full-service” management company that charges commissions between 20-40% per booking. If your property rents for $2000 per week, you’ll pay the manager $400 to $800 in commissions! This increases the burden to generate more rentals. Spoiler alert below: that simple math I mentioned above doesn’t pencil out for me.

My summer home rents roughly 16 weeks per year between May and September. A 20% commission rate would cost me $6,400 and at 40%, the commissions would tally up to $12,800! Additional fees may be charged for advertising, online listings, emergency services, inspections and maintenance. Suddenly your rental manager becomes a less than ever-faithful partner in your rental business while you’re carrying all of the risk.

The alternative path is doing-it-yourself. Skipping the manager and commissions makes sense for some, just realize going in that it’s nearly a full-time job. Getting your property listed on VRBO is the easy part. The day-to-day of managing your property and keeping it rental-ready for the next guest and quickly responding to inquires is stressful enough, let along managing the rental agreements (if you don’t have one, you need one). Did I mention collecting rental taxes and filing reports?  Check with your local municipality because they see home rentals as a growing revenue source.

Are you interested in finding a lower cost solution that provides the same benefits at a fraction of the cost? If so, Vacation Rental Services (VRS) is a new fork in the road worth exploring. VRS provides many of the benefits of a full service rental management company without charging any rental commissions. That’s reason enough to waive goodbye to your rental manager quickly. In lieu of rental commissions you simply pay a fixed monthly fee for the services you need.

VRS rental management includes a full-on website to attract new guests and handle rental inquiries at a fraction of the cost of traditional sources. They can handle other rental related tasks too, such as collecting rental payments, taxes and security deposits, managing your rental calendar and handling and processing rental documents – all online (someone that gets technology).

You can use their online rental calculator to compare the services your management company provides and charges with what you will pay VRS. After visiting their website at http://www.vacation-rental -services.com, you may just find yourself asking one of two questions – “Why am I paying so much?” or “Why am I dealing with the hassles?”

March 26, 2014 at 12:00 PM Leave a comment

Two Quotes for Very Gloomy Days

Years ago a friend bought me two refrigerator magnets. These days my fridge is overloaded with photos of my son playing and laughing, but right on the front amidst those images are two beautiful quotes that keep me moving on dark, gloomy days.

The first reads:

for a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. but there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid, at last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life, this perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. happiness is the way, so treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. happiness is a journey. – souza

The second reads:

what lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us

My friend who gave me those magnets recently said, “you are so strong overall that I believe you can overcome anything.” I would like to believe that is true. I know that healing can occur when you believe it is possible. I keep reminding myself that this too shall pass. At least I hope it will.

March 11, 2014 at 8:53 PM 4 comments

The Power of Money When You Are Sick

I have so many thoughts swimming in my head these days and seem to find so little time to type them into my computer. As I mentioned a few weeks ago I’ve been struggling with medical problems that resulted from antibiotics. I won’t lie. The condition is painful and I’m having a difficult time concentrating on anything other than not feeling well.

I have a lot of pain in my legs and feet while I’m sleeping and I typically wake up quite grumpy and blah. For the first four or five minutes I think “Why me?”, “Why am I stuck with another medical problem?”, “Why am I the 1% for anything that can go wrong in the human body.” By the time I step into the shower I start counting the reasons I feel grateful. “At least this won’t kill me.”, “I’ve dealt with more painful problems.”, “At least I’m the one suffering, not my son.”

The rest of my day has it’s ups and downs depending on my level of pain. Sometimes I cry for absolutely no reason. Other times I turn up the music, chase my son around the house and do my best to forget all my troubles. I waver back and forth between feeling grateful and pitying myself. I am hoping and praying that my condition is temporary. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m only thirty-six and that my body has plenty of time to bounce back from this.  Somedays I’m more successful than others.

Medicine and medical care are unbelievably expensive. The vitamin prescription my neurologist called in cost $168 for a thirty day supply. I was in such shock at the pharmacy that I had to ask the clerk to repeat the number. Luckily there is a cheaper option through Brand Direct. They charged me $175 for a three month supply. That adds up to $58 a month, which is still a lot of money, but much easier to swallow.

My visit to the general practitioner ended up costing me $177. The blood work was an additional $23. The bill before insurance paid was $690. Nearly $700 for a small vial of blood and six different tests. I haven’t received the bill from my neurologist and need an expensive test performed a week from now. I would guess it will cost around $1000.

The doctor prescribed a medication for pain, but I am reluctant to take it. After all drugs got me into this predicament in the first place. Instead I’ve been researching alternative treatments. Everything from TENS machines to acupuncturists. I found a few promising studies about deep laser therapy and hope to give that a try as well.

Medication would certainly be the cheaper option, but medicine won’t cure me, at this point it will only mask the pain. I’m hopeful there is an alternative solution that might actually mend my nerves. Otherwise I’m looking at a lifetime of prescriptions.

Acupuncture sessions cost $110 each. Deep laser therapy can cost upwards of $200. I’m glad that my finances are stable, because when you are sick you don’t want to worry about money.

I’m definitely willing to throw money at this problem. Every time I come across a possible home solution I click on Amazon and begin searching.

I’ve been in this predicament before. This is not the first time I’ve experienced a painful condition, which is crazy because these two issues are completely unrelated. The last time I was ill I wasted money on things that weren’t working. I spent thousands of dollars on a physical therapist that wasn’t helping.

Eventually I gave up on him and went in search of other alternatives. A few months later I found an amazing massage therapist who is worth more than double the $45 she charges. In the beginning I visited her two to three times a week, but after weeks of amazing work I was able to cut back to just once a month and then went two years without requiring a single visit.

I’m hopeful that I will find a similar solution this time around. The key is to find an expert. I have my hopes set on a former neurologist turned acupuncturist. I’m praying to God that she can help me.

March 8, 2014 at 5:04 PM 5 comments

Blogging For Money

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.

I started this blog in 2006. In fact, next week marks the anniversary of it’s creation; eight years since I created my very first post! There weren’t a ton of personal finance blogs in existence back then, but I’ve always been interested in the topic and decided to distract myself from physical ailments by blogging about money and my relationship with it.

At some point along the way I began adding advertisements to the sidebar and attempting to gain referral money from a number of different websites. Eventually I permitted sponsored posts, which I was adamantly opposed to back in 2006.

I’m not as dedicated to this site as I should be. I also don’t like to push products or advertising. As a result I have earned a pitiful amount from maintaining this site.  Here is a snapshot of the money I earned in 2013.

Can you make money from blogging? Of course you can. JD Roth is a perfect example. He sold GetRichSlowly for some undisclosed amount of money that was large enough to allow him to move into semi-retirement. Will that be me. Probably not. At least not with this website.

I have found other ways to make small chunks of change here and there on the Internet. I’ve written about many of these before. I complete online surveys, enter giveaways, sell unwanted items on eBay and cash in on used books. I also sign up for programs that offer rewards for frequent purchases like Pampers, Coke and Disney Movie Rewards.

I haven’t earned a ton of money from any of these items individually, but each task takes very little time or effort. Last year I earned nearly $7,000 and my 2014 total recently hit the $1,500 mark.

March 5, 2014 at 7:00 AM 3 comments

Work Life Balance with Children

keyboard

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.

My previous profession provided a lot of work-life flexibility. We had a set of core hours when we were expected to work, but I could start the work day any time between seven and ten. At the time my husband and I were both late risers, preferring to stay up late at night and wake up later in the morning.

My boss permitted teleworking a year after I started and I worked from home one to three days a week for the remainder of my time there. For the most part I arrived when I wanted and left whenever it was convenient for me. If I wasn’t finished with my work I could open my laptop and complete my assignments in the evening. When I was motivated I worked very long hours, often until one or two o’clock in the morning.

I worked from home, but I did not slack off there. In fact, I was much more productive at home where coworkers could not distract me from my tasks. During those twelve years I earned higher ratings than coworkers who stepped into the office day after day.

After we purchased our beach house my husband and I would often drive down south late on a Thursday evening. On Friday morning I would sit at the kitchen table and work while my husband completed projects around the house. Around six or seven in the evening my husband would tell me to close my laptop so we could eat dinner on the deck or watch the evening sunset.

I was lucky. As a software developer I had a lot of flexibility in how and when I wanted to complete my assignments. This provided an amazing work-life balance and I would urge all women to consider technical careers that provide for such flexibility.

Life moves quickly. I knew this long before my son was born, but since his arrival the evidence is much more apparent. My walls are covered with photographs that include my son’s first day in the hospital, the day we brought him home, crawling around the front yard on a warm autumn day, learning to walk, reading stories, playing with toys, running and dancing. There are hugs with grandparents and special adventures and vacations with my husband and I.

For the time being I have decided to leave the workforce and stay home with my son, but for the most part I do believe that a career in software would still provide a great deal of flexibility. The problem with software is that it requires a great deal of concentration and a small child vying for attention makes it extremely difficult to focus intensely on one task. I would imagine most moms would still need to hire in-home childcare so they could focus while their children play.

Honestly, I don’t know how people juggle careers with work once their children arrive. A few months ago I started taking over simple tasks for my husband’s business. I handle invoices, monthly statements, some recruiting tasks and a couple of other odds and ends. Although my son is two I still find it difficult to focus on a task while he is in the same room with me.

For the first two years of his life he watched almost no television. I would allow him to play on an iPad for thirty minutes from time to time, but his screen time was largely limited. Now if I need to get something done I pop in a thirty minute movie and rush to complete my tasks. To be honest I feel quite stressed as I try to cram everything into this thirty minutes or push my tasks off until nap time when I also attempt to make dinner, complete the laundry and take a few minutes just for myself. I’m certainly not complaining. I consider myself extremely lucky to stay home, but I do wonder how full time working parents get everything done.

I don’t think I’m the kind of woman who could have it all. I can have a career at one point in my life and a young child at another, but I don’t think I could perform both roles well simultaneously.

Photo Credit

 

 

March 4, 2014 at 11:55 AM 1 comment

The Best Laid Plans

hand with sand

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.

For twelve years I worked as a software developer for a large financial corporation. When I became pregnant with my son there was no doubt in mind about working: I would continue receiving a paycheck and hire a nanny to watch over my son.

A few months before his birth my company decided to decrease the head count of my department. After twelve loyal years I sat in my manager’s office and learned of my fate. Two hundred employees were getting the boot and my name was included in that list.

Most people wouldn’t consider getting laid off the luckiest of days, but unlike previous cuts this one wasn’t immediate. Over the years I witnessed downsized employees being escorted from the premises by stern looking security guards. This time management decided to keep us on board a few months to wrap up our tasks, document everything we knew and pass on information to the contractors who would take over our jobs.

As luck would have it my last day on the job coincided with the birth of my first child. In fact, he was due just eight days before my scheduled termination date. My company offered a decent severance package, which included employer sponsored health care and two weeks of pay for every year of employment. If I stayed on board until my scheduled termination date I would receive the equivalent of twenty-four weeks of pay.

I wasted no time to updating my resume. I applied to a number of different positions and received requests for interviews quite quickly. Within a matter of weeks I was offered a higher paying job.

I spoke candidly to the recruiter. I let her know that I was pregnant and that I needed to stay on board for another few months. Surprisingly she agreed to the arrangement and delayed my start date until six months after my son’s due date.

Rather than returning to work twelve weeks after my son was born I would take on a new job after six months. My story hadn’t changed that much. I still planned to hold down a job.

But months after giving birth I had a complete change of heart. I decided I wasn’t ready to hand my son over to a nanny. I spoke candidly to my husband and we jointly decided that I would not return to work.

Luckily my husband and I saved a significant amount of money in those first twelve years out of college. We maximized our retirement accounts, we paid down our mortgage, we spent very little on groceries and entertainment, which made the financial decision to stay home less worrisome.

Still it wasn’t an easy decision to make.  As much as I wanted to be home with my son I mourned the decision to leave the workforce. I left behind a piece of myself. I also walked away from a six figure salary.

I still wonder when I will return to work and how hard it will be to find a job when I’m ready, but I do not regret my decision. I experienced the most magical year of my life during that first year out of the workforce.

I think many women have thought long and hard about this decision. Some of my friends knew they wanted to work, others have known they wanted to stay home, but there are a few like myself who have reversed their decisions.

My best advice to those considering having children is to set yourself up financially. You may have every intention of returning to work after the birth of your child, (I know I did), but sometimes your heart pushes you in a different direction.  Try to arrange your finances so that you can stay home if you desire.

March 3, 2014 at 4:21 PM 4 comments

Hope

ground

There have been a few occasions when I have nearly given up hope. When I have cried more tears than I believed my body could produce. In those most desperate hours my aches, (both emotional and physical), have always managed to heal. This time will be no different.

 

March 1, 2014 at 5:55 PM 4 comments

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