A Happy Medical Bill Update

Medicine Bottle

I appealed my unexpectedly high out of town medical bill and received notification that a portion of my $875 bill will be covered after all. Since the facility is out of network I am responsible for 20% coinsurance on the total, which amounts to $175. I also owe the negotiated rate, ($165.59), for a $268 doctor’s bill.

Rather than paying $1148 I now appear to owe only $340.59. (I say appear to owe because the Explanation of Benefits have not been finalized yet.)

Readers of this blog may remember that I was contemplating the decision to drive twelve hours roundtrip to avoid paying out-of-network prices. I would have paid roughly $80 in gas plus a $30 copay to drive north, which means staying put only cost me $230.59 more and a whole lot less hassle and headaches.


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October 10, 2014 at 5:17 PM 4 comments

Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

wedding ring

The day after my husband and I were married I turned to him and said, “Can we do that again?” After spending so much time picking a dress, venue, flowers, food and all of the other fun stuff that comes with hosting a wedding I was bummed that the big day had come to an end.

To be honest I never wanted a big wedding. I wanted to get married on the beach in North Carolina surrounded by a very small number of family and friends. Somehow or another my family talked me out of that idea. It started with my parents. My dad asked, “How on earth my 80 year old grandmother would walk in the sand?” This was followed by questions like, “where will people stay” and “how many people are going to drive south for this event?”

I’ll be honest. I didn’t care how many people attended the event or what they did with themselves before and after the wedding. That sounds rather insensitive, but at the time I stupidly thought weddings were for the bride and groom. I later learned they are often for the parents of those getting married.

My tiny list of invitees grew exponentially as my parents and in-laws added relatives and friends I’d never met. My grandmother even wanted in on the action and asked to invite a table’s worth of friends to the big show.

The wedding list expanded from forty people to just over one hundred. My husband and I certainly could have said no at any point in time. After all, we paid for the wedding ourselves, but I could sense the excitement in our parents and didn’t want to disappoint them.

I spent a few months planning the big day. Visiting florists, picking out menus, invitations and all the rest of the things required of the bride-to-be. The day of my wedding was a sunny and beautiful seventy-five degrees. Everything went off without a hitch and I was glad everyone convinced me to host a traditional wedding.

In fact I was bummed by how quickly the day ended. I spent months thinking and preparing for that event; an event that only lasted four hours and due to the big list of attendees I wasted one of those hours greeting relatives and friends my parents and in-laws invited. Three hours of fun after months of preparation? It hardly seemed fair.

The next day I told my husband I wanted a do-over. Don’t get me wrong I do not regret the details of my wedding. It’s just that I wanted to throw another big party, with just the people I loved in the place that I love. I told my husband we’d renew our vows after ten years on the beach in North Carolina.

Well we never planned that big celebration. Thank goodness we didn’t. Rather than renewing our vows we spent our anniversary fighting off the norovirus. My son tripped off the event with seven straight hours of vomiting. My husband quickly followed suit and I came to the party about eight hours later.

As I laid on the floor next to my son’s crib I couldn’t help but laugh about the situation. It’s funny how things change over time. Ten years ago I wanted to throw a big party. These days I couldn’t care less about that. I just wanted to spend the day with my family.

I suppose my wish was granted, but certainly not in the way I expected.

October 9, 2014 at 5:02 PM 6 comments

Fixing Old Appliances: An Update On My Furnace


Last week my husband and I were hit with two major expenses. First our car broke down on the side of the road. The next day our furnace crapped out on us. The mechanic said our 1999 Toyota was a lost cause, but I had hope that I wouldn’t need to shell out $6000 to $10000 for a new heating system.

This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered problems with the furnace. A year or so ago we had a small part replaced when the pilot light wouldn’t stay on. I’ll be honest I hate calling technicians out to our house. I know they need to be paid for their time and effort, but being told a 30 minute visit is going to cost $150 in diagnostic fees drives me crazy. Doesn’t it seem a little insane to pay $150 for someone to look at the appliance even if they can’t fix it?

I called a number of companies and the price to drive out and look at that big old metal box in the basement ranged from $89 to $150. I decided to call the company that repaired it for us last year. After all, we had previous success with them.

Right off the bat I got a bad feeling about the technician. He didn’t know how many thermostats were connected to it, despite the fact that you can see the wires leading right down the side of it. He said it looked to old to fix, but couldn’t give me an estimate on just how old he thought it might be. He tried to replace one part, showed me that it didn’t work, charged me $89 and went on his way. His recommendation was to replace the entire thing. On the paperwork he wrote, “This appliance is too old to repair. Recommend replacement. Estimated cost: $7400.”

Before replacing that old hunk of junk I wanted to get a few other quotes. I didn’t think the first guy new what he was talking about and I really had no idea if $7400 was the going price to replace it.

I searched my local listserve for heating and cooling recommendations and came across a small, family run business. The owner of the company came out to give me a quote on a new furnace, but he also suggested trying to replace a few parts on the old one.

When he left I called his secretary and scheduled an appointment for him to come back a few days later. Sure enough he was able to fix our furnace, (at least for the time being), for a little over $200. He said the fix could last a few years or a few months, but for $200 it seemed worth the risk. Heck I paid half that much for the other technician to tell me it couldn’t be repaired.

I’m hopeful these repairs will last us all winter, but we have a full stack of wood and a space heater ready just in case it doesn’t.

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October 8, 2014 at 5:03 PM 4 comments

How Much Money Do You Need to Feel Content and Secure?


When I first started working I remember thinking, “If only I could save $50,000, then I’d feel relatively content and secure.” When the bank account reached $50,000 the number in my mind jumped to $100,000, but when I hit that $100,000 mark the figure in my head continued to grow.

I saved the maximum amount in my 401(k) each year and watched the numbers climb higher and higher, but each time I hit a specified target I decided it wasn’t nearly enough. $100,000? $200,000? $300,000? I began looking forward to the future and thinking that might be enough for today, but it surely wouldn’t be enough to last me through retirement.

How much did I need to feel content and secure? $1,000,000? $2,000,000? When I reach those numbers would I finally be satisfied or does having more money make you dream of having even more?

Over the years our net worth has grown by leaps and bounds, but as I look at the total of all of our accounts I still think the final figure should be larger than ever. I am extremely concerned by the future of our health care system and the price that my husband and I may need to pay as we get older.

My parents and in-laws both carry supplemental insurance covered by their previous employers. At 60+ years old they pay only a few hundred dollars per month for quality care while my husband whose is self employed pays over $1000 per month for our family of three. I ran a hypothetical calculation on premiums in our fifties and found the figure to be twice our current cost. Rather than paying $1000 for three of us we’d pay $2000 for just my husband and I!

That’s $24,000 a month in premiums in an HSA plan, which also requires us to pay $3000 in deductibles before insurance even kicks in and God knows how high premiums and deductibles will rise in the future! We are currently saving money in our HSA but with limits of $6,650 per year and significant fees it’s difficult to believe this money will grow significantly enough to cover our future medical expenses.

The worst part about insurance is feeling like you are paying something for nothing. Imagine paying $24,000 in premiums and only going to the doctor once a year for a physical. That’s a whole lot of money that could have been used for other purposes.

When I look at my bank accounts I feel ridiculously secure with the amount of money we’ve saved to date. I know it would last us ten or fifteen years without any trouble, but when I project forward I’m not quite as certain.

How much money do I need to feel content and secure? I’m afraid as the money grows so does my fear that it may not be enough.

What about you? Do you have a specific figure in mind?

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October 2, 2014 at 8:27 AM 2 comments

Inundated by Unexpected Expenses

Every year it seems we have some ridiculous expense and more often than not when one major event comes our way it is quickly followed by at least one or two others. Last year we plunked $36,000 into a new vehicle. We bought the car below invoice, but that was definitely a hit to our wallets. In 2013 we also remodeled three of the four bathrooms in our house. In 2012 we paid over $20,000 in just over a month to repair damaged pipes, a car, air conditioner and closing costs on two mortgages. In 2011 we paid a hefty chunk of change for professional painters to coat every wall in our house and in 2010 we spent over $30,000 to replace all of the windows and doors in our home.

It seems this year will be no less pricey. From January to March I spent thousands of dollars on unexpected medical care followed by a big wad of cash for out of town medical charges that were three times larger than the originally quoted price.

Yesterday as my husband was driving our 1999 Toyota to work the engine crapped out. The vehicle was towed to our local mechanic who declared it wasn’t worth repairing. The repairs amounted to more than the car was worth, which according to Edmunds is just over $1,500. My husband was hoping to continue commuting with that vehicle for at least another two years, but is seems it isn’t meant to be. The cost of a new car: $20,000 to $30,000 depending on what we choose to buy.

As if that weren’t enough this morning we found out that our furnace needs to be replaced. The unit is probably as old as our house and has finally stopped working. We were able to make a few minor repairs over the last two years, but this morning the technician assured me it is time to call it quits. His recommendation a brand new, sparkly $7600 unit.

Just once I would like to go an entire year without a major expense!

October 1, 2014 at 9:08 AM 7 comments

Birthday Party for a Three Year Old – Yay or Nay?


Last year I threw a birthday party for my son that included close family and three of his little friends and their associated families. I considered inviting his friends this year but the guest list began growing out of control. If I invite friends from preschool then I feel the need to invite the entire class. That’s eight other children, their parents and siblings. That’s at least twenty four guests!

I could forgo his classmates in favor of friends we’ve made throughout the last three years, but those friends seem to travel in a flock. There are a number of mothers who are all quite close to one another and if I invite one child I feel rather obligated to invite them all.

Again I really don’t want to add another twenty plus people to the guest list, so I’m considering limiting the celebration to include only family members. My son wouldn’t have any little friends at his party, but he would have my parents, my in-laws and both sets of uncles, aunts and cousins.

Our options are:

  • Host a party with just family.
  • Host a party with family and friends even though that includes an extra 20+ people.
  • Host a separate party for just friends at a nearby park or playground. Bring a cake and candles but otherwise keep it casual; like a large play date.

Here are my thoughts….

  • As a three year old I don’t think that he’s missing out on anything by not inviting friends.
  • His birthday falls on a school day, so I will bring mini-cupcakes to preschool so his classmates can sing to him.
  • I always ask guests NOT to bring gifts, so whether they attend or not he won’t be gaining any more toys.

I am leaning towards a family celebration without friends and then possibly hosting a park play date with cake a week later.

What are your thoughts? Did you host a party for your three year old? If so was it worth it? If not do you think your son or daughter missed out on the experience?

PS: I should have mentioned that this issue is not so much about the cost of throwing a party but rather about the hassle of planning a larger celebration.

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September 26, 2014 at 6:20 PM 8 comments

Resenting the Stay-At-Home Decision


As I was digging through a series of emails I came across the offer for a job I declined two and a half years ago. My monthly salary on the initial offer was just over $12,000 per month.

I planned to start the day my little guy turned six months, but as the date drew closer I completely changed my mind. Mentally and spiritually staying home has been the most amazing experience of my life. From a financial perspective it was an extremely difficult decision to make and as I look at that initial offer letter I realize that I passed up a ridiculously large sum of money in favor of feeling good.

By staying out of the workforce for four years I am passing up half a million dollars. Of course taxes and childcare costs would be taken out of this money, but when you add up the numbers over a couple of years the combined total is mind-boggling. Add in another couple of years and you are sitting on a million dollars in lost wages.

Do not get me wrong I do not regret my decision to stay home, but I do worry that this decision will delay our future plans. Am I putting too much of a burden on my husband’s shoulders?

My husband says many of his coworkers, who are sole providers of single-income families, resent their roles. Obviously you want your spouse to be happy, but misery does love company.

What do you think? If you plan to stay home do you think your partner would come to resent that decision? If you do stay home do you feel your partner holds resentment toward you?

So far my husband has not expressed any concern about our decision. In fact he says that my working would solve financial problems but bring about many other issues for our family. Still I wonder if he will change his mind in the future especially if I don’t return to the workforce for another four or five years.

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September 23, 2014 at 7:00 PM 9 comments

Book Review: Whiny Whiny Rhino

Whiny Whiny Rhino big (640x800)

Book Synopsis:

Can Tiny Tiny Rhino have a fun day?

Or will all of his whining get in the way?

If you’ve ever been worried to try something new, then Whiny Whiny Rhino is the book for you!

The story’s message is like the Mark Twain quote, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” We all get apprehensive when encountering new experiences and this often leads us to avoid ever trying anything new. Just having a little courage to try new things can often lead to a much more exciting and enriching life.

My Thoughts:

Whiny Whiny Rhino tells the tale of a young rhino who is afraid to try new things. It’s about a shy and anxious character who must overcome his fears in order to join in the fun with his friends.

The illustrations in this book are great. In fact, I thought it felt more like a shiny comic book than your typical children’s story. The characters are well drawn and dynamic and I think any child would delight over the colorful images displayed on each page. The story is well told and the rhymes are interesting and pleasant when reading aloud.

The moral of this story is a good one. You have to leave your house, get out into the world and explore new possibilities. It’s important to try new things and you’ll often be pleasantly surprised by the joy you’ll experience when you do.

While I enjoyed this book I thought the author spent quite a long time expressing the negative emotions of the whiny, whiny rhino and very little time focusing on the positive results at the end. The majority of the book the rhino is anxious and unhappy. His attitude doesn’t change until just a few pages short of the end.

While I understand the author’s desire to show the rhino’s transformation I wish he had spent a little more time on the final outcome.

Overall I enjoyed this book. I was quite anxious as a child and believe this book may have helped me work through some of the negative emotions I felt growing up.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

September 23, 2014 at 8:00 AM 2 comments

Preschool Drop Off Was Harder Than I Expected


I knew it wouldn’t be easy to drop my little guy off at preschool. I expected a bit of separation anxiety and perhaps a few tears. After three straight years together I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would be hard to place my son in the arms of his teacher and walk away. I thought a lot about what my son might experience, but I didn’t realize how powerful my own emotions would be.

The first few days of drop off my son walked into the classroom with a smile, but I left the school in tears. For the record my husband found it pretty difficult to walk away too. The hardest part was leaving him behind when I knew he really didn’t NEED to go.

Unlike moms who drop their children off at daycare, my son doesn’t need to go to school twice a week for a few hours a day. While it certainly helps me complete invoices for my husband’s billing, prepare dinner, grocery shop in a third of the time and clean the house without little hands placing toys in front of the vacuum cleaner or broom, I could accomplish those tasks with him around. I didn’t enroll him for any of those reasons. I sent him because we couldn’t consistently schedule play dates with other kids and our neighborhood playground is void of children.

I don’t believe that three year olds require socialization, but I did think he would have a lot of fun exploring the world with other children beside him. After a ridiculous amount of contemplation, including investigating    various school philosophies and costs I chose a preschool that offered the best experiences and opportunities for my son. Each week he sings along with a professional music teacher, cooks with the teachers and participates in tons of play based activities alongside eight other children with temperaments similar to his own.

He cried at two of the first five days of school, but the teacher assures me he is fine a few minutes after drop off. (Interestingly those tears did not come on the first two days of school.) Every school night he lays in bed and tells me all about the days adventures; what children he played with, what toys he discovered, what books he read, what songs he sang and which playground he explored.

Despite all of this I must admit that I still find it hard to drop him off. It’s only two days a week, but each morning I get a little sad at the thought of taking him to school.

The first few days I went shopping after leaving the school grounds and decided I really shouldn’t do that anymore. I quickly found myself adding toys and games to the cart that I never intended to buy. I wanted to provide something special for my son to look forward to after pick up. This started out as simple things like baking sugar cookies and taking him to the playground, but I quickly found myself purchasing unnecessary items from the clearance sections of Target. I didn’t buy anything that cost more than two or three dollars, but I believe guilt was factoring into my purchases more than anything else.

Tomorrow is another school day. I will head home after drop off and do not plan to perform any shopping other than buying groceries for at least the next month.

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September 17, 2014 at 10:02 PM 4 comments

Will Installment Loans Help Your Credit?

Many people fear obtaining a loan that is repaid in installments because of the credit reporting involved. Being one day late is a strike against you and can actually reflect negatively on your credit. When you are able to make the payments on time, it works in your favor.

Helps Establish Credit

Although you likely need credit to obtain credit, installment loans work a little differently. One of the first things to do is obtain a low limit credit card or cell phone in your name. Make the payments on time as it will help you do establish credit. Establishing credit is one way to increase your credit score. You have to make payments on time or early to keep your good credit rating.

Provides Credit History

Installment loans help you to develop a credit history. Many creditors, especially for auto loans and mortgages, look at your credit history. If your credit report has been dormant for a period of time, it is likely that the creditor will deny your application.

A suggestion here is to take a small personal loan, obtain a new credit card or obtain new cell phone service if you have not had any type of recurring or revolving credit account in the past 3 years. This is especially the case if you plan to purchase a home or new vehicle within the next 12 months.

Shows Financial Responsibility

Financial responsibility is important to uphold. It helps to increase your credit score, making it easier to obtain higher installment loans, mortgages and car loans. With impeccable financial responsibility showing on your credit report, you’ll also be rewarded with lower interest rates, essentially repaying only about 3-percent more than your initial loan. This is far less than the average consumer should expect to pay.

Installment loans are actually beneficial to your credit. It keeps your credit report active. These loan facilities also report to credit bureaus. These reports help other potential creditors to decide whether you are a good candidate or a financial risk. Lenders are less likely to work with those that have potential to default or pose too much risk. The only instance where an installment loan is bad for your credit is if you become unable to pay. Negative notes will be placed within that account in credit bureaus. Other potential lenders will see this and the additional inquiries into your credit report will cause your overall score to decrease over time.

September 17, 2014 at 6:38 PM Leave a comment

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