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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

The Moments That Defined Our Financial Future

The other night I took my husband out to celebrate his thirty-eighth birthday. Over wings and beer we began discussing the current state of our bank accounts and the events that helped define our finances. Here are the details in no particular order:

  1. Our parents paid for our college education leaving us completely debt free after college.
  2. Neither of us ever accumulated credit card debt.
  3. Through the combination of a variety of paid internships and jobs we saved a good deal of money before ever leaving school.
  4. After graduation I lived in a group house, which saved me thousands of dollars in rent and utilities.
  5. Rather than renting an apartment we bought our first house within two years of graduation. We lucked out and purchased when the market was low and refinanced a number of times when rates dropped.
  6. Moving in together helped us save on all living expenses as we paid one set of bills rather than two.
  7. We both worked in the high paying field of software development.
  8. The company where I worked had amazing benefits including high paying bonuses and pay raises in my first ten years.
  9. Two of our three cars are over fifteen years old.
  10. We live within our means and never inflated our lifestyles, (other than purchasing our vacation home), as our incomes increased.
  11. Other than back and forth trips to North Carolina we have traveled very infrequently. (I’m not particularly happy with this fact, but it has helped us save money.)
  12. Due to a number of unforeseen medical issues my first child was not born until shortly after my thirty-fourth birthday. Thanks to time and the first eleven items on this bullet list we had already saved a significant amount of money.

I’m sure there are other major events that impacted our financial success but these are the first twelve that came to mind.

September 14, 2014 at 5:47 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: 25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About

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There are a lot of books on the market to help you save money. I could line my bookshelves with at least twenty or thirty that I’ve read over the past ten years. Many regurgitate the same concepts over and over. Don’t buy lattes and don’t rack up credit card debt on things you don’t need. Seems simple enough.

When I received a copy of 25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About I was skeptical it would be any different and while some of the ideas are the same the overall approach to saving is a bit more radical.

Among the advice I found quite funny was dumping your significant other to save. After all the high price of flowers and dining out can get quite expensive and you might go on many dates between now and the time you find the right one.

The author also tells his readers to move back home with their parents. While this book is intended for the younger crowd, he points out that you can save an awful lot of money by living with mom and dad until you reach your mid-twenties.

It’s not always feasible to move back home. My parents didn’t live anywhere near the job I landed just after college, but I do agree in finding roommates to save on monthly expenses. Having one roommate is great, but if you can find a group house with three or four different people you’ll do even better. I paid a little over $300 a month in rent and split utilities with five other people. It wasn’t the best experience of my life, but it did enable me to save a boatload of money in my first year out of college. Thanks to that year I paid off my car within one year and began saving for my first house.

25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About focuses quite a bit on avoiding the luxuries in life. In essence, minimize the amount of things you have, don’t drive fancy cars and retain a constant living standard.

These are all wise lessons for those just graduating from college. If you keep your tastes in line with your budget when you are young you will continue that trend as you get older.

All in all I enjoyed reading this book. The advice is rather straight forward and to the point. It focuses on saving money on the big things in life, not just the $5 lattes.

 

 

September 10, 2014 at 5:26 PM Leave a comment

Mortgage Countdown

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It has been nearly three years since I left the work force. While I wake up every morning feeling happy about my place in this world my husband wakes up feeling miserable. Quite frankly he doesn’t like his job. He wakes up slowly and trudges off to work praising the weekends and telling me they never come soon enough.

I often feel guilty for staying home. While I know deep in my heart it is the best solution for our family I also know that a six figure income would certainly take the burden off my husband’s shoulders.

I’m not sure if my husband will stop working when our mortgages are paid off, but as time passes I am happy to see a clear end in sight. In 4 years, 6 months and 24 days the mortgage on our primary home will be paid in full.

That’s not so far away, but it is a miserable 143,942,400 seconds, 2,399,040 minutes, 39,984 hours, 1666 days and 238 weeks away from now.

I certainly don’t wish to speed up time. I’ll be nearly forty-one when that final mortgage is paid, my husband will be forty-two and my son will be seven, but it sure would be nice to be done with it already.

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September 8, 2014 at 5:47 PM Leave a comment

That Out-of-Town Medical Bill Gets Bigger!

medicine

Last month, after much contemplation, I decided to remain in North Carolina rather than driving over two hundred and sixty miles back to Maryland for an unexpected medical test.

I was all set to pay a higher price for that procedure and called in advance to receive a quote. Unfortunately, on the day of the scan the hospital could not confirm the quoted price.

My original $550 estimate went right out the window. It was too late to choose a different facility, (the test had to be performed within a specific time frame), so I proceeded without any idea of what I might actually owe.

Well the first bills have arrived and my final cost is twice the original estimate! The quoted $550 procedure was correct, but an additional and completely unexpected charge of $330 was included in my bill along with an additional doctor’s bill of $268. The ugly total; a whooping $1148!

On top of that my insurance company has denied the claim due to lack of preauthorization. I knew that I would pay the out-of-pocket total but I hoped that out-of-network rates would apply and that the final payment would be added to my yearly deductible. As of now, no such luck.

For those wondering I did ask the doctor’s office requesting the exam to seek preauthorization from the insurance company a week before the test was scheduled. They called twice and were told on both occasions that preauthorization was not necessary. So my only recourse is to appeal the denial and hope that the claim is reprocessed.

Despite this rather hefty medical bill I am still happy with my decision to stay in North Carolina on the day of the test. My family was in town with me that week and I did not tell them about the scan. I don’t like them to worry necessarily. If I had gone home I inevitably would have told them or lied to them about my need to return to Maryland.

It would have been a six hour drive each way, which would have been a twelve hour round trip, not including the time at the doctor’s office getting scanned or a twelve hour drive plus an overnight stay in Maryland away from my family.

If the outcome was poor I would have spent six hours driving alone contemplating those results, which would have made for a rather somber and depressing ride.

I am certainly not happy paying over $1100 for a procedure that should have cost nothing more than a $30 copay. I am still hopeful that the claim can be properly appealed and that the final cost will be closer to five or six hundred dollars.

It was certainly not the frugal choice, but if I choose the frugal options all along the way, then every once in awhile I should get to select an option that makes sense in ways that aren’t financial. At least that’s what I’m telling myself to help me feel better.

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September 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM Leave a comment

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