Archive for October, 2006

Magazine Subscriptions: My one guilty pleasure

I have a secret…

I cannot resist the temptation to purchase magazines. I am the annoying girl in the checkout lane of the grocery store that is more interested in flipping through the glossy pages of articles than placing my items on the conveyor belt. In fact, when my loving husband goes shopping with me he often winds up pulling items out of the grocery cart while I stand glued to the magazine rack.

I used to purchase magazines at the checkout, but quickly decided that only a fool would pay the cover price. So a few years back I began buying subscriptions to all of my favorite magazines. Over the years I have purchased Shape, Better Homes & Garden’s, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Coastal Living, Money, and Real Simple. When I visit my parent’s house I usually come home with a copy or two of Good Housekeeping and Cooking Light. And when I visit my in-laws I usually return with the most recent copy of Kiplinger’s. After years of buying magazines, I have narrowed my favorites down to Real Simple and Money magazine, and have allowed almost all of my other subscriptions to lapse. This week as I was sitting down to create a Christmas List it came as no surprise that a new magazine subscription showed up on my wish list. This time I’ve decided I’d like to begin reading ‘Health.’

Actually I think a magazine subscription is a great Christmas gift. A subscription is not only relatively cheap but also provides something for the recipient to receive month after month. I looked online and found a 10 issue subscription for as little as $7.98. So from now on I’m going to save even more money, by asking for magazine subscriptions as gifts. It’ll allow me to indulge in my guilty little pleasure without spending extra money in the grocery store. Although I must admit, it probably won’t prevent me from leafing through the articles while waiting in the checkout line. (Sorry honey.)

October 30, 2006 at 2:51 AM 2 comments

Open Enrollment: Why I’ll always choose the PPO

My open enrollment is set to begin on Monday. I have taken a look at the current medical insurance rates and it looks like I can spend $116.44 a paycheck for a PPO, $95.38 for an HMO, or $64.81 for a High Deductible Health Plan.

If you have read my previous postings you are aware that I have had some major medical traumas in the past year and half. So although I technically have three options for health insurance. I only have one intelligent choice: the PPO.

Between March of 2005 and October of 2006 the doctors I visited submitted claims for over $69000.00 to my medical insurance carrier. This includes two visits to the emergency room, three hospital visits, one major surgery, months of on-going physical therapy, months of on-going acupuncture, multiple diagnostic tests and procedures, blood work, and consultations with 36 different doctors (most of these while I was in the hospital). When all was said and done I covered over $3500.00 of medical costs out of pocket. I will admit that $3500 is a lot of money to spend in a year and a half of hospital visits. And in the end using an HMO instead of a PPO probably would’ve said me more money. But…

Being a member of the PPO allowed me the flexibility to get multiple consultations from multiple doctors without first having to visit my primary doctor to get a referral. My illness was unexpected and sudden. It was also extremely rare, affecting a very small percentage of the overall population. Prior to this point I had been perfectly healthy and would never have guessed something so sudden and severe would happen to me. The one saving grace in all my medical complications was the fact that I could call up any doctor in the area for a consultation. Believe me, when you are sick and scared you want to find the best doctors. And seeing the best doctors often means waiting weeks or months to be seen. Requiring a primary physician’s referral each and every time I needed a consultation, would have been a headache and a waste of time. It also would have forced me to wait longer to see the specialist. And in times of medical crisis you often don’t know how much time you can spare.

So although the High Deductible Plans and HMOs will save me money, there is no way that I will divert from a PPO any time in the near future. Just because you’re healthy right now, (on the day you pick your insurance carrier), doesn’t guarantee you’ll be healthy in the future.

October 29, 2006 at 3:01 PM 1 comment

Heading for Disappointment at Age 30?

We celebrated my friend’s birthday last night. She’s the last one of a group of us to turn 29. So of course the topic of conversation turned to next year and the big ‘3’-‘0′. One of my friends said she’d set her expectations to high for 30. At 30 she planned on retiring from her current job. She planned on making a living off her dream job. But as 30 is now less than a year away we all know that won’t be her destiny. So she said she planned on spending her birthday crying.

That got me thinking. Perhaps by aspiring to such lofty goals and dreams we are only setting ourselves up for disappointment. My husband reiterated this notion a few weeks ago. I said I wanted to retire when we reached a net worth of $2 million. He said to be careful. He said I might be setting myself up for disappointment. After all, what if we don’t reach $2 million anytime soon?

So what’s the moral… Not to dream? I think the problem with just dreaming is that you aren’t taking the steps necessary to actually achieve the dream. In order to actually achieve the goal you have to work hard, take risks (like changing your job), or settle down (if a family is your dream). It’s not just having the dream that’s important, it’s figuring out how to achieve it.

My goal is to be healthy. If possible to live pain free. To have both of my houses paid off and possibly retire by age 40. To have a child (God willing). To enjoy every moment… or at least most of them. To be grateful for what I have and to feel blessed for those around me.

I am attempting to meet all of my goals head on. I have been practicing yoga and meditation, eating better, visiting an acupuncturist and naturopath, putting extra money towards principal, squirreling away 15% of my salary, thinking twice before pulling out my credit cards, and spending more time with friends and family.

I might not meet all of my goals before 30, but I hope by living right and making the best decisions for my life, I won’t be crying on my birthday.

October 28, 2006 at 2:17 PM 7 comments

Ridding my life of clutter and saving some money too

While my husband and I are away on vacation a neighbor watches our cats for us and kindly piles mail on our dining room table for us to sort when we return. This time among the usual junk mail and bills were nine catalogs. Nine catalogs arrived in less than fourteen days time.

After we got home from vacation I made a point to count all of the catalogs that come in the mail. And in the past eighteen days another twenty-four have arrived. Most of the catalogs are from stores I’ve never ordered from, some are addressed to individuals who no longer live in our house, others arrive for my husband’s grandparents who have long since passed away.

I have to admit that I can be quite the sucker for catalogs. They arrive at the door and I half-heartedly look through them when I get home from work or before I head off to bed. I also admit that I have purchased an item or two from companies I would never have considered buying from had the glossy pictures not peaked my interest.

But this year I decided to save both the earth and my money by calling the number on the back of each and every single catalog and asking to have my name removed from their mailing list. So far I have called or emailed twenty-five different companies.

I have also visited the Direct Marketing Association at www.the-dma.org. Their website enables consumers to stop unwanted mailings from DMA members. You pay $1 to have your name placed on a ‘do not mail’ list. This won’t stop all mailings but it should decrease the amount of mail we receive significantly over the next two to three months.

October 27, 2006 at 1:40 AM 1 comment

$1275… the result of mailing in my insurance claims

I started going to acupuncture at the end of March to help recover from surgery and from the general sense of anxiety and pain I have felt ever since my medical problems erupted last year. I looked up my insurance carrier’s philosophy on acupuncture and found that my medical condition was not included in the list of conditions eligible to be reimbursed by this treatment. I went anyway. When you don’t feel well you’ll do just about anything to feel better. And I figured since modern medicine wasn’t solving my medical mysteries I’d turn to alternative therapies for help.

I spend $85 for each visit to the acupuncturist. This involves a 15 minute recap of my most recent symptoms, including what has gotten worse, what is getting better, etc, followed by 45 minutes of needles in the legs, chest, shoulder, back, arm and hand. Of course, the symptoms dictate the length of therapy and the number of needles inserted. Since March I have visited the acupuncturist twenty times. Just about once a week.

Some of my symptoms have greatly improved. Although I must admit that it’s difficult to know whether it’s a result of acupuncture or just the body’s ability to heal over a great length of time. I continue to go in the hopes that my treatments will ultimately provide me with a pain free future. This hope is slowly creeping away as the pain continues, but my hope pushes me forward nonetheless.

My acupuncturist provided me with detailed documentation of legislation about insurance carriers and acupuncture in the state of Maryland. In my state if acupuncture isn’t specifically excluded for a given condition than it is up to the medical carrier to determine whether or not to reimburse claims. I sent a very nice letter to my insurance carrier on October 1st, and received a check yesterday for $1275! They covered 75% of my claims!

October 26, 2006 at 1:01 PM 1 comment

Outer Banks Rental Income: $24,600

The total amount of rental income on our beach home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina came to $24,600 this year. Of course, you have to subtract out Commission ($3,727.25), Laundry ($1,178.10), Maintenance Fees ($375), Pest Control ($50), and a couple other misc. fees and the result is $18,729.48.

I can’t really complain about this year’s rental season. We were able to rent out our house 13 weeks of the summer. Which is essentially every day from the first week of June to the last week of August. That’s about as good as you can get. In October we had a pool heater installed, which we are hoping will increase our rentals by an extra couple of weeks in late May or early September.

We currently pay $3,344.31 a month for P&I, Taxes, and Hazard Insurance. So when all is said and done we’ll have paid $40,131.72 to own the home, and only recovered $18,729.48 in income. Making our total loss $21,402.24 this year. And that doesn’t include the upgrades to the home, like a new pool liner, new hot tub, remodeled bathrooms, ceiling fans, garbage disposals, etc. This figure also fails to account for the utilities.

But being able to drive down to the beach at a moment’s notice, being able to spend time with friends and family makes it worth every penny.

October 25, 2006 at 1:51 AM Leave a comment

Money, Lies, & Relationships

My husband and I have been open and honest about money matters ever since we bought our first house together five years ago. At the time I made about $40,000 a year. He was bringing in well over $80,000. We weren’t married at that time, so we wrote up a lengthy document detailing how much each of us would contribute to the mortgage. I think I paid around 30% while he paid the other 70%. The rest of the expenses were split 50%-50%. To ensure we stuck to the 50%-50% target as much as possible we detailed each of our household expenses in a large excel ledger. When we were married a few years later we signed up for a joint bank account and credit card, then closed down our individual accounts and deleted the ledger. I have to admit that I was worried about using a joint credit card. Although I am not a big spender, I do purchase ‘unnecessary’ items, like clothes or shoes, every once in awhile. I wasn’t certain I wanted my husband to view my discretionary purchases.

But I gave in to his request to open joint accounts after he convinced me it would help us save for lifetime goals. And over the last few years I have decided that having a joint bank account and credit card helps me spend a lot less money. Just knowing that my husband will be journaling our expenses makes me think twice before buying something I ‘want’ but don’t ‘need.’

Since my husband and I are so open about money matters I’m always interested to learn how other couples handle income and expenses. I visited with an old friend last week who told me her husband is terrible with money. Apparently he’s run up a large amount of debt simply by not opening, and thus not paying, his credit card bills. It seems that my friend and her husband have separate bank accounts and credit cards, and that one does not know what the other is spending. So when she purchased an outfit later that day she whispered, ‘let’s not tell my husband how much this costs.’

This statement got me thinking about money and lies. A survey by Redbook magazine in 2005 found that 24% of people believed truthfulness about money was more important than being faithful. 29% of surveyors admitted to lying to their partner about finances. More importantly the survey found that those who had lied or been lied to were far less happy with their relationships. In fact, almost 50% of those who were ‘not satisfied’ had lied or been lied to.

Lying about money not only leads to mistrust and possible heartbreak but it also inhibits a couple from setting life long goals. After all, if you are secretly buying dresses while your husband is buying video games, you are failing to save money for your future together. This will ultimately prevent you from fulfilling life-long dreams of early retirement, starting your own business or traveling the world.

October 23, 2006 at 11:45 PM Leave a comment

Buy Bonds NOT Toys

When my nephew was born a little over two years ago I bought a $500 savings bond as his Christmas gift. He was about six months old at the time and I figured he wouldn’t be able to distinguish a gift from it’s package. So I made the conscious decision to spend my money on something that would aid him in the future. After all, at six months of age, he’d have outgrown a traditional present in an extremely short amount of time.

When I bought the bond that first year I thought it would be a one time occurrence. But when Christmas rolled around the next year I decided to buy him a bond again. Of course, a $500 bond only costs $250 to purchase, but that’s still a large amount of money to shell out every year. Especially considering that I expected my sister-in-law to pop out a new little one before long. So the second Christmas we purchased a $100 savings bond.

My husband and I talked it over and decided we would continue to buy savings bond until my nephew, (and now my new niece), are three or four years old. As they get older they’ll want gifts that they can play with. But at this point my niece and nephew receive so many gifts from other family and friends that we figure they won’t notice that we didn’t give them toys. We usually do buy them a $5 gift, usually a book, in addition to the bond just so they’ll have something to open. After all, half of the enjoyment of Christmas is watching little ones play with wrapping paper.

So while they are small we’ll put our money where it makes the most sense, in a place where it can grow to help them pay for a bigger goal in their future. I think my brother and his wife would probably be happy if more family members bought bonds in place of toys. At this age, they outgrow toys so quickly that it really doesn’t seem worth the money to buy so many.

October 20, 2006 at 1:58 AM 1 comment

Don’t discount your benefits

I work 37.5 hours a week for a total of 1950 hours a year.
At $100,000 a year I make $51.28 an hour.

Now figure in the 11 federal holidays and 4 1/2 weeks of vacation.
And that $51.28 an hour changes to $59.00 an hour.

Now add in my employer’s 401(k) match of $3000.00, a $5,000 bonus, and medical & dental benefits of $7,000. And you’re looking at an income of $115,000. For an hourly rate of $67.85.

It goes to show that you shouldn’t discount benefits when comparing jobs. Salary is obviously the biggest portion of your pay, but the other benefits add up. In my case to over $16.57 an hour.

October 4, 2006 at 2:16 AM Leave a comment


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