4 Smart Ways to Save Money on Car Insurance

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The cost of auto insurance often causes people to lower their deductibles until they find a premium that they can afford. Unfortunately, that generally leaves people with deductibles that they can’t meet if anything ever happens, making the insurance pointless. Before you start lowering your deductibles, follow these money-saving steps to save money and still have proper coverage.

Re-Evaluate Collision and Comprehensive

If you are in an accident and it’s ruled someone else’s fault, the other driver’s insurance pays for the damage to your vehicle. However, if it’s your fault or you hit something other than a car, the collision insurance comes into play. Comprehensive pays you if there in an event other than a collision, such as theft, vandalism, or a flood. Your insurance company will pay you the value of your vehicle if it is totaled. If you drive an old car that isn’t worth much more than $1,000-$2,000, it doesn’t make much sense to pay for the insurance every month, and pay a deductible after the accident. If your car isn’t worth the cost of the comprehensive and collision insurance, just remove it completely.

Ask About Discounts

One important and effective way to save money on your car insurance is by asking about discounts. There are discounts for more things than you can imagine. However, the exact discounts depend on the insurance provider. Different companies choose the discounts that they offer, so it’s not all the same. Some companies might offer discounts to college students. Some only offer discounts to students who have a B average or higher. Most car insurance companies all carry discounts for active duty military and people with a clean driving record. While military veteran discounts aren’t always specifically advertised, most companies will give the military discount to veterans if they ask. You can also receive discounts if you affiliate with different unions or agencies. The insurance agency should have a list of affiliations that you can choose from.

Monitoring Programs

Some car insurance companies will give you the option to participate in monitoring programs. These programs give you a device to put on your car, and they will record when the car is speeding, when there are sudden stops, and also audio and video footage. If you want to put the monitoring devices on your teen’s car, you can also set up e-mail and text alerts that let you know when your child arrives in the locations that they’re going. The insurance can be reduced significantly; usually between 10 and 15 percent.

Keep Your Credit Score Good

Your credit score affects your insurance premiums more than you realize. When you get an insurance quote, they check your credit score along with your driving record. If you credit isn’t good, your payments are going to be higher. Keep your bills paid and your credit straight. So your premiums don’t go up as your bills go into collections.

If you’re tired of premiums you can’t afford or deductibles that are too high to even matter, you need to go over all of the different ways you can save money. Consider the monitoring program, re-evaluate your discounts, and decide if certain coverage is even needed on your vehicle.


Now We Know

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Thanks for all the kind comments on my Tuesday post regarding the health of our dog, Rocky. I haven’t been able to bring myself to reply to each of the comments individually, but I do want you to know I’ve read every single one and appreciate all the love and positivity you’ve shown us. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Yesterday I spent 4 hours at a vet specialist having additional tests run. Our first vet feared the worst, but said there was a (slim) chance Rocky’s issues could be resolved with dietary and lifestyle changes, so we were certainly hoping for the best.

Six Hundred Thirty Dollars later (in addition to the original $275 for labs spent on Monday), we have no shadow of a doubt. Rocky is dying.

He’s got lymphoma that’s spread to his liver and kidneys. The vet’s estimate gives him 3-6 weeks longer to live. I ended up paying for an ultrasound and an aspirate of his lymph nodes for examination/testing. I felt kind of dumb agreeing to the aspirate after the ultrasound was performed because the vet said it was likely lymphoma and I knew we wouldn’t agree to chemotherapy/treatment, so the second procedure seemed a bit like a waste of money. But on the other hand, as one commenter put it (“I hope you can make a decision you find peace with”), I felt like I needed to know in order to have peace. The ultrasound didn’t show any outright tumors that would have been 100% definitive (though it did show enlargement, grayness, and “lack of uniformity” that’s indicative of problems), so it took an examination of the lymph node fluids to know for sure.

We talked about the options. I knew chemotherapy wasn’t going to work and, with as advanced as his cancer already is (they placed him in Stage 4), the vet wasn’t optimistic that it would buy much more time anyway.

She said we could schedule an appointment to euthanize him, but I wasn’t emotionally able to handle that at the appointment. So the option we chose was one of palliative care. We’ve got some meds to make him feel better (they don’t treat the lymphoma, but will give him a little energy, increase his appetite, and make him feel a bit more like himself). Then when it’s clear that he’s no longer happy, we’ll schedule the appointment. It could be a matter of days or weeks…likely not longer than that.

I tried to hold it together at the vets (tears streamed down my face, but no outright sobbing), but I fell apart walking out to the car. And Rocky’s reaction? He leans over and starts licking my arms, trying to make me feel better. Sweet dog. I’ll be so, so sad to no longer have him in my life.

About the financials:

The exact amount in our “pet expenses” account was $335. That was the first pot of money that I used. I paid for the specialists’ bill on a credit card so no money has actually left our account yet to pay for the remaining balance. I’m going to pay it off as soon as the bill comes, but it buys us a little more time. First, I’ll try to make some funds available out of our normal budget by shifting things around. It might be tough though because this was already going to be a relatively “lean” month due to not receiving a paycheck from my part-time job this month. So if we can’t cover the rest of it from our budget, we’ll draw any remaining amount due from the emergency fund we’ve just started to build back up. It will be a bit of a blow, but it won’t be catastrophic, and at least we aren’t taking on any debt. Honestly, I know it’s an egregious amount ($905 currently; Add in prescription pet meds. And I don’t know how much it costs to euthanize him, but add that to the mix, too). Despite the cost, I really do feel at peace with our decision now that we have the full scope of information. If we hadn’t gone ahead with the diagnostics I’d always be wondering (plus, knowing what he has impacted our vet’s decision regarding the kind of meds she’s prescribing, so it was important for that).

Rocky boy is my first real dog. We had one family pet growing up, but we got him when I was already one-foot-out-the-door to college, so I never really bonded with him and he passed away long after I was gone from the house. Rocky, though, is my boy. Officially speaking, hubs and I got him together in our first apartment together. But everyone knew Rocky was “my” dog. Still to this day, I (and I alone) am his favorite human.

It’s tough already, but I know it will get tougher soon. As a heads up (and we totally don’t have money for this in the budget either), I immediately called a photographer and asked if she’d be able to make a last-minute house call to get some final family photos as a family of 5 (before we lose our doggy member and reduce back down to a family of 4). Rocky has never been included in “family pictures” and although I’ve got photos of him from throughout the years, they’re terrible quality and none are actual posed photos with the whole family. I know this is something I’ll cherish long after he’s gone and, again, it brought an aspect of peace to this process for me. Unfortunately, the soonest the photographer can come out is not until Tuesday. I’m pretty worried that might be too late, as Rocky refused to eat all day yesterday and has already thrown up twice today (as of 6:30am). But he just barely started his medicine so – fingers crossed – it buys us enough time for him to truly feel better, spend some more time together, and get the photos my heart is yearning for. I don’t yet know the price, but our last photos were $150. I did tell the photographer I’d pay extra to come to our house since we live a good hour away from where she’s located. Honestly, I kind of don’t care. I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, but even if the price were doubled ($300), it’s $300 well spent. And just about the last $300 we’d ever be spending on this animal, so that’s something to think about in terms of (lack of) future costs.

In some ways, I’m truly thankful things will happen quickly. He won’t have a long, drawn-out period of misery and slow deterioration (like my Dad is experiencing with his disease). I’m also thankful this is happening during summer so I’m not away for long hours at a time. My plan is to still work at the office MWF, but this entire week I’ve stayed home with him. I do have to go in for several meetings on Friday, but hubs will be able to be around. This is important, as Rocky will increasingly need quick access to outside and we don’t have a doggy door. Plus, someone needs to be around to be able to monitor how he’s doing.

I hope to have a couple more weeks with him to fully love on him, pamper him a bit, and (selfishly), give ourselves a chance to wrap our minds around the inevitable. But as soon as its clear that he’s no longer enjoying life, we’ll be sure to do the most humane thing for him. I know the time is coming soon.

Everyone has their own struggles. Peace and hugs to all of you as you navigate yours.

“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” ~Wendy Mass


A little laugh for today

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I’m staying uber busy with work so aside from previously scheduled activites we are not doing much which is great because it means we are eating at home and not spending money.  Yeah!  So my plan is to get another numbers post done this weekend once some big projects are complete.  But here are few highlights from the couple of weeks.

As I mentioned last week, it was homeschool prom time.  And princess just barely made the age range, by like two days.  Here she is ready to go, she was escorted and chaperoned by the twins and a great time was had by all!

 

Princess all ready for prom.

Princess all ready for prom.

Can you believe she is just 12? I can’t.

All about the money: She wore her Easter dress and I had a coupon for $15 off a pair of shoes, so total spent on her ensemble $12. Twins just wore dress clothes they already owned. I call this a win!

The chicks finally got moved out of the kitchen and to their own outside scoop. It’s a DIY coop and we’ve shored it up with bricks around the edges to keep predators out. They are loving it and we are loving having our kitchen chick free, especially since they had started regularly escaping.

Chicks have moved outside to their own coop.

Chicks have moved outside to their own coop.

All about the money: $0 spent. Our hosts continue to foot the bill for all supplies, we just supply the labor. And most of the things we used on the coop were found on property from scraps of other projects. Another win!

We took over lawn care of our section of the property this past weekend. Would have done it sooner but it’s been raining non-stop here for almost a month. Both the twins were super excited to learn to drive the Zero Turn Lawn Mower, and while there was a learning curve they conquered it like champs and conquered the grass. They compared it to the driving in Star Wars. So of course, that makes it a ton of fun.

History Buff learning a new skill and cutting our grass!

History Buff learning a new skill and cutting our grass!

Princess birthday was this past week and she really wanted a bike with a basket. Do you know how much bikes cost??? Well, our host knows a man who rehabs used bikes, making them like new mechanically. So I got this perfect bike for her and our host got her a basket.

Princess and her birthday bike!

Princess and her birthday bike!

All about the money: Princess dad sent me $100 this week for her birthday. I got the bike for $45 and got her a few other things.

Now last but not least, Gymnast finally acquesced to a hair cut. His hair had become quite a little afro and was getting harder for him to care for. He wanted to go where his dad used to take him when he lived here. Here are the results:

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Do you think he likes it?

All about the money: $25 spent at the barber shop but barber says from now on it will be less to maintain. I say it’s money well spent.

I’ll be back next week with some numbers! Have a great week!


A dog’s worth

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Rock3

 

Rocky was our first baby. Years before we ever had human children, he was our “child.” Yes, we were those people. The kind who refer to their pets as children. We treated him as well as you’d treat a human child, too. He had it made. Dog parks, long jogs, lots of love and affection. He moved with us cross-country two separate times. He’s been with us through thick and thin. Richer and poorer. All that stuff.

Having kids changed all that, to some extent.

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He still remained our “child”, but now we referred to him as our “first born.” He was no longer the baby, having been displaced by two human babies. The trips to the dog park became less frequent. The jogs became shorter. And, in general, he realized he’d been replaced on the food chain. Our two new human babies came before him. He accepted his new position in the family like a champ. Never acting out or misbehaving. In fact, he rather liked having these two tiny humans running around. Although they were loud and he didn’t like having his sleep disrupted at night (omg, they didn’t reliably sleep through the night until they were nearly 3!!!), he LOVED all the table scraps he suddenly started gaining access to as the girls would drop things from their high chair trays (or purposely throw down food, on occasion).

Rocky turned 11 this year.

As a large dog, I know his days are numbered as it is. He’s starting to slow down, show signs of arthritis, etc.

We took him to the vet yesterday for his routine check-up. He needed updated vaccinations and I wanted to ask about the arthritis issue (I’d noticed he no longer jumps onto our bed anymore. This was a big deal to me as he’s slept with us for all 11 years of his life. Yes, I know that’s not necessarily healthy and all. Like I said, he’s our baby).

But that’s not how things went.

During the vet’s examination, there were some troubling things about Rocky. His ears looked yellow. His gums, too, looked yellow. I’d never noticed before.

The vet drew labs. $275 later we were headed home. We’d get a call the next day with some news.

We waited and waited and called the vet probably 20 times (“no, labs aren’t back yet.”). We finally heard back at 6:30pm this evening, after the office had already closed for the day. Rocky’s white blood count is perfectly normal (which is good), but his liver enzymes are off the chart. The vet referred us to an emergency vet clinic. She wants us to make an appointment ASAP for an abdominal ultrasound (estimated about $400, on top of the $100 office visit charge). If it’s not telling, we may be advised to have a biopsy done (estimated at $1000+).

I’m at a total loss.

After the expensive vet visit yesterday, I was thankful we already had some funds set aside for “pet expenses.” We had about $350 in the account, so husband and I joked that we still had about $75 leftover after paying for the vet. “The problem better be $75 or less. More than that, and he’s screwed.” Chuckle, chuckle.

But now this.

I’m a realist. I always have been. So I’m trying to detach myself from the emotions involved (he’s my baby) and think practically. Logically.

He’s 11 years old. He’s a large dog. He’s not going to live many more years anyway. Do we really want to spend up to $1,000+ just on diagnostics?? Then what if we find out he needs surgery? Are we going to shell out the many multiple thousands for that? And he’s so old, recovery would be hard anyway. No guarantee he’d even survive surgery. I don’t think we’d go that route.

But where do we draw the line? What’s the worth of this animal? This member of our family? Our “first born child”?

 

I’m grateful we’ve been building up an emergency fund. But does this qualify as an “emergency”? What would you do? How much would you be willing to spend on your dog to find out what’s wrong? How much would you be willing to spend on your dog to fix the problem (once an official diagnosis is reached)? What’s the most humane option? What’s the best option?

I’m leaning toward opting for an ultrasound so we at least know what we’re dealing with (at an estimated cost of approximately $500 including the office visit charge). If the ultrasound doesn’t give us any indication of the problem….then what? Proceed with biopsy? Decline biopsy and call it a day? Watch him suffer in pain until the end? End it early?

My heart breaks. Obviously I knew he was getting old. I knew this day would come eventually. But still. My heart breaks.

See another Rocky-centric post here.


Summer Childcare Blues

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Finding reliable, reputable childcare has consistently been one of the most stressful parts of being a working parent.  So today I want to pose a question to the other working parents out there:  What do you do for summertime childcare?!?

The place we’re currently at operates on an academic year schedule (not surprising, because its preschool through 8th grade so it’s a real school campus, albeit a private religious one). Their last day is May 24th and they don’t reopen again until the second week of August. But here I am, working full-time at my day job plus part-time at my online job and I have NO childcare!? Yikes!

After doing quite a bit of research, here’s what I’ve found. I’ll go ahead and tell you from the get-go:  no good options exist. Especially in the under 5-year-old age range. (Disclaimer: a TON of options open up for school aged kids age 5+, so this problem may be specific to parents with younger kids).

  • Option 1: There are lots of different one-week long summer camps at different places around town. This would be perfect if I was home all summer with the kids and just wanted to send them somewhere educational a couple weeks out of the summer. But I need childcare every week. I know my kids and I know they do not thrive in that kind of instability (a different camp at a different place with different people every single week). This won’t work for us.
  • Option 2:  Half-day camps. There are two places we know and trust that offer half-day camps. Half-day is far from ideal (one is from 8:30-12:30, but the other is only from 9-12. A total of 3-4 hours per day!) They’re pretty pricey for being such a limited amount of care. The three hour camp is $100/week/child and the four hour camp is $175/week/child. For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $1500/month for 20 hours per week.
  • Option 3: JCC. We loved the JCC while we were there and only left because they were too far from our home. The commute wasn’t realistic after I started working full-time. But I thought that maybe we could go just for the summer. It’s someplace we love and the girls are familiar with. Wins all around, right? Nope. Turns out as non-members the prices are exorbitant. And there’s not an option for a short-term membership just for the summer. Getting childcare 3 days per week for 7 hours per day would run us OVER $2100 for our two kids!!!! Holy cow, that’s expensive! This would be my favorite option in terms of amount of childcare coverage and the enrichment activities/opportunities for the girls. But at that price, it just seems cost-prohibitive to me! For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $2100/month for 21 hours per week.
  • Option 4:  Part-time Babysitter. We’ve got a high school babysitter we really love (and the girls love her, too)! We’re friends with the family and have talked to her parents a bit about whether she’d be a good choice for some summer childcare. What we discussed was  3 days per week (a couple weeks with only 2 days of care), 8 hours per day at a rate of $250/week for 3 day weeks or $175/week for 2 day weeks. This is the most cost-effective option and also the best in terms of actual childcare coverage (looking at number of hours per week), but I don’t love the idea of the girls being home all the time and not interacting with other kids. Also, I worry about babysitter fatigue/burnout and having no reliable back-up if the sitter is sick. For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $1100/month for 24 hours per week.

(side note: for comparison purposes, we currently pay roughly $1100/month for full-time childcare, approximately 40 hours per week. So really ALL of the options discussed are nearly double our current rate of pay per hour of childcare coverage).

My Thoughts:

I’m thinking we might hodge-podge care a bit. I like the babysitter option, as it’s the cheapest and largest amount of care. To try to add in some enrichment and other child-interaction for the girls, I think I might also enroll them in a couple of one-week summer camp programs. That way they still have the stability I’m looking for (they’re not going to a new camp every single week; they’ll mostly be in familiar surroundings with a familiar babysitter), but they’ll still get to go out of the house a bit and experience some enrichment with other kids.

Also, I still worry that 3 days per week (even at 8 hours per day), might not be enough time. My jobs over the summer are definitely more flexible than during the academic year. For example, my main job dictates that I teach 3 classes per semester during the academic year. In summer I’ll still be working full-time, but only teaching 1 class (and it’s fully online). The rest of my time is being paid to prep other classes and oversee our grad student teaching. There’s really nothing that requires me to be on campus aside from a sporadic meeting here or there. So it’s possible the 3 day per week childcare scenario could work. But what if I get into it and discover that’s not enough time? We really have no other back-up or alternative arrangements, which is scary to me.

 

What do other working parents do? What suggestions do you have? As of now, we haven’t signed any contracts or put deposits down on any camps. We’re still trying to figure out the best course of action. What do you think?


50/50

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Back in December 2015 we hit a big milestone. We had officially paid $50,000 toward debt!!!

What a huge thing! Just thinking about paying $50,000 toward debt in two years (a rate of $25,000/year – nearly half our annual income when we first started blogging!) is mind-blowing.

And just last month we hit another big milestone. One that I have mixed feelings about.

We have now decreased our debt by $50,000.

Say what?

When we hit the first $50,000 milestone, that was money that we’d paid toward debt. But, obviously, most of our debts have interest attached to them. So just because we paid $50,000 toward debt didn’t mean we’d actually decreased our debt by that amount because a good chunk of our money was going toward interest on the debt.

It took another FOUR MONTHS to finally decrease our debt by the same $50,000 that we’d celebrated back in December.

Nutso.

It makes me sick to look at the size of our student loan debt and realize how much we’ve paid that has only gone toward interest. Nothing toward any principal reduction at all. And to see the calculations that say “if you pay the minimum payment, by X time you’ll have paid X amount.” You all know what I’m talking about. Credit card statements have the same statement on them. So you’re looking at your current debt number, but then you see that if you only pay the minimum that in the end you’ll end up paying MUCH more than the original debt amount. After all the interest is included, it can be close to paying 2X! Two times as much as the initial debt!

Ick!

I had a couple people comment on nearing the $50,000 debt reduction mark and ask whether I was excited.

Yes, of course I am! That’s a huge reduction in debt!

But I have mixed feelings. It’s also a little kick to the gut. Knowing we’d paid $50,000 back in December, but our debt numbers didn’t actually reflect a $50,000 decrease until 4 months later. Four long, grueling months of making major debt payments. All of which was consumed by interest. Boo!

It’s a valuable lesson, though. The debtor is a slave to the lender. Another reason to never, ever go into debt again (*ahem* except for a mortgage).

When you think about debt payoff, do you tend to think in terms of dollars toward it (including paying interest), or in actual amount of debt reduction? I report both in my monthly debt updates, but I tend to think more in terms of dollars spent toward debt (including interest). It sucks that there’s such a lag behind dollars spent & dollars in debt reduction.


Delay in Post

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I’m afraid I don’t have  a number’s post ready for tomorrow (or today by the time you are reading this.)  But I do have a great excuse.

For the first time in 6 months, well, over 6 months now, I have more than full time work for the next two weeks.  This comes from varying sources, but it is work and I am spending tons of time on it and continuing to grow my business.

On top of that, it is Princess’ birthday so I’m taking some time away to celebrate her and Friday is our homeschool prom which two of the kids are attending.  So busy, busy, busy!

I promise a numbers update as soon as I come up from air.  But things are good, I think I’m turning the corner.

Thanks for your patience. I promise to put in some time here just as soon as I can.


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