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Scary Reminder

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Something terrible happened in a friend’s life this week (to be fair, its my bro-in-law’s best friend, he was the best man in my sister and bro-in-law’s wedding. I’ve only met him once, when I was MOH and he was Best Man. Anyway….).

Mark had used a portable grill to grill some dinner while his pregnant wife and son played inside. After they ate Mark thought the grill had cooled, so he brought it back into the garage.

I don’t know the exact timing of things or sequence of events but at some later point that evening, Mark smelled smoke. He opened the door to the garage and saw that it was fully engulfed in flames.

He ran inside to get his wife and son and they ran outside with only the clothes on their backs. His wife had grabbed her cell phone. That was the only material possession they had (and they promptly called 911). Watching the fire blaze, Mark’s pregnant wife’s water broke. The stress had caused her to go into early labor. Being that both of their cars were in the garage she had to call 911 again. This time, she had to ask for an ambulance to take her to the hospital (being that both their cars were currently on fire).

They went to the hospital and Kirsten delivered their sweet baby girl (although slightly premature, the baby and Mom are both fine, thank goodness). But now they have nowhere to go, no way to even get the baby home (no car seat, no car), and one other thing…..they were renters and did not have renter’s insurance. They literally have nothing to their names.

It’s a terrible thing. Thankfully they have each other and everyone is safe (that’s the main thing). But its still devastating. Perhaps moreso, given the new baby.

When it happened, my Mom called me in a panic:  “I’m so worried about you guys! You have renter’s insurance, right???”

Of course we do, Mom!

……..

Wait a minute…..do we?

We moved into our current place (where we rent) at the beginning of last August. At that time we had paid in full for one year’s worth of renter’s insurance. Being that we’re now at the end of August, our policy has lapsed and we are currently uninsured. Guess what I’m calling about today to renew? Yep – renter’s insurance.

Let this be a reminder to all of you who rent. Renter’s insurance is one of the cheapest forms of insurance that you can buy. Please, please, do not let yourselves be uninsured.

 

If you feel inclined to donate to this family, a Go Fund Me has been set up here.  Please do not feel at all obligated, they have had an outpouring of love and support from friends and family, so I’m sure they will end up being okay. I just wanted to share (and to add legitimacy to the story – pictures are included on the Go Fund Me site).

 


Life Insurance Update

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I’ve mentioned it before, but we currently do not have life insurance. Yes, I know how irresponsible and dumb this is, particularly since we have children, yadda yadda yadda (<side fact: I googled whether its “yadda” or “yada” and urban dictionary had both spellings, so no consensus).

Well I’m happy to report that I finally got the ball rolling. But, BOY, does it feel like a PROCESS!

I was imagining going online, filling out some questions, getting the quotes, selecting the company I wanted, and BOOM – done. Not so much.

I went to Zander Insurance (who is endorsed by Dave Ramsey), filled out some questions, then got a call from a nurse who gave me an entire hour-long interview (I had pregnancy complications due to the twin pregnancy and – whoa – that opened up a whole rabbit hole of additional questions!!!). The next step is that someone is going to come to my house for an actual assessment, complete with blood draw and who knows what else?! Gulp. I might’ve shaved a few pounds off my weight. Clearly that will have to be rectified, given that I’m assuming they’ll actually weigh me. What all else is included in the home visit, aside from the blood draw? I’m healthy and disease-free, but it still makes me nervous for some reason. Ugh! I don’t even know why but I’m just dreading it (maybe the whole weight thing???)

Als0….not even sure that husband will be able to get covered (and he was the whole impetus for this, given his mystery illness). He hasn’t done the hour-long interview thing yet. Any knowledgeable readers who know about this type of stuff out there? Husband’s official diagnosis was “atypical meningitis.” Is that type of thing a deal-breaker for life insurance? I mean, I know meningitis can cause death and once you’ve had it, your odds of getting it again go up. This is gonna be a problem, right? Sigh.

We will press on. I just wanted to give a quick update about the status of this. I thought that by now we’d have it all wrapped up and I’d simply be reporting on the monthly cost and how it would influence our budget. Instead, we still have no idea if we’ll even be covered???

What I DO know is that we are signing up for a 20-year term life policy (which is much more affordable than a whole life policy), and although we haven’t “locked in” an amount yet, I’m thinking we’ll do $350,000 policies (for each of us). Ramsey suggests 10 times your annual salary, which would put us at roughly $500,000 each, but I feel comfortable with a lesser amount. What do you guys think? I learned a LOT from your comments about my car insurance coverage, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

What would you suggest is good for life insurance coverage? Do you follow the “10 times your salary” rule? What guidelines have you used to select your own life insurance policy amount? What would you suggest for us?


Insurance Company WIN!!!

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Remember how I was fighting 2 separate insurance-related battles? The first was regarding coverage for a consultation with the Mayo Clinic (the consult was back in November!!!) I fought hard (aka:  spent LOTS of time making calls back-and-forth between the Mayo Clinic and the insurance company), and in the end came up empty handed (translation:  claim got denied and no coverage was granted).

My second “fight” was in relation to trying to get my prescription reimbursed (from back in December), when I’d had to pay out-of-pocket because we went back to Texas and I accidentally left my prescription in Arizona. (Side note:  if you need a memory jog – I talked more in depth about these issues back in April – see here).

Well imagine my excitement when I came up VICTORIOUS on the second battle (re:  prescription reimbursement).

I got this letter just last week:

IMG_3615

 

Obviously they were VERY clear to let me know they are not responsible for MY mistakes (and I do admit that it was my mistake to forget my prescription). But, I’m thrilled that – after receiving one initial rejection – I did not give up! Remember? I called and talked to an agent and he told me exactly what to write and where to send the letter. I am so grateful!

When I first got the letter I was a little confused….it says they’ll reimburse me, but how does all that work out? But then a couple days later I received a separate letter containing a check for the $55.99 in question. Only 6 months after the out-of-pocket expense, but hey – I’ll take it!

That’s 1 point for a little perseverance! Win!! Thanks, Blue Cross Blue Shield!


Dealing with Insurance Companies

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Don’t you just HATE dealing with insurance companies? It feels like you always get the runaround and then nothing is resolved in the end! Ugh!!

Well I (unexpectedly) actually had a positive experience this past week!

I had two separate issues I needed to speak with a representative about.

  1. Mayo Clinic bill
  2. Prescription Reimbursement

Regarding the former (Mayo Clinic). We all remember how we owe the Mayo Clinic money for services rendered to Chris when he had his mystery illness at the end of 2013. Well, even though Mayo Clinic is out-of-network for us, our insurance pays a flat rate of $100 toward the service. To have this happen, Mayo Clinic must send a bill to our insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona), then BCBS sends ME a check for $100 and a statement of benefits. I then send payment and the statement of benefits on to Mayo Clinic and set up a payment plan for the remaining balance owed.

I have had a HELL of a time getting BCBS to send me this information. Every time I call they say they haven’t received anything from Mayo Clinic. I call the Mayo Clinic and they cite exact dates they sent the information; verify address, fax number, etc. Everything is correct.

So after receiving yet another bill from Mayo Clinic (we are 4 months past due at this point), I call BCBS and – shocker! – they say they have not received a bill from Mayo. Exasperated, I explain my situation: This bill is becoming delinquent, I can’t set up a payment plan until they get the information from you, they say they’ve sent the information multiple times, etc. What do I do????

Unlike in the past, where I’m told simply to call Mayo Clinic and tell them to re-send the bill (for the umpteenth time), this time the representative put me on hold and called Mayo Clinic personally!!! When he came back, he explained the problem (they had included the subscriber number, but not the group number, so it was never “matched up” to us in the BCBS system). They rectified the problem and are getting everything processed immediately. YESSSSS!!!!!!! One step closer to actually being able to set up a payment plan and start working on that debt!!!

 

In reference to issue #2 (prescription reimbursement). When we went back to Texas for Christmas, I had accidentally left my prescription for birth control in Arizona (a little personal, but relevant since it was not a prescription I could “do without”). I was NOT about to mess up my cycle, risk getting knocked up, etc., so when we arrived in Texas I promptly called in a refill and paid out-of-pocket to get it. I had to pay out-of-pocket because I was refilling it before it was time, but I was told I’d be reimbursed by insurance because I wouldn’t need to refill it the following month (once I returned to Arizona I obviously still had the prescription there, so I had more than enough).

So I sent in my receipt and the appropriate paperwork back in February to be reimbursed. And just this last week I got a letter denying my reimbursement with the explanation “75% of medication must be used before a refill can be processed.”

So I explained the situation to the BCBS representative and asked if anything could be done, or if this was the final word. He was so kind to explain that “YES! You can definitely challenge that letter!” and he even told me basically word-for-word what to write in the letter, and where to send it!

Now, there’s always the possibility that BCBS denies my request again (insurance companies never make it easy, do they?), but I was so happy and pleased with the service I was given by this particular representative. Wooo!

So, fingers crossed I get the check from BCBS for Mayo Clinic AND I get reimbursed ($55.99) for a prescription I filled way back in December!

I’m fighting the good fight. It’s time versus money over here, and my $100 for Mayo Clinic and $55.99 for a prescription feels like a LOT of money right now…..and at this point I guess I have more time than money, so its worth it! : )


I just saved 15% in 15 minutes!

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We’ve all seen the Geico commercials. “You can save 15% in 15 minutes on your car insurance!”

I particularly like the new commercials (from E-surance) poking fun at the old commercials. Their point is you can actually save more money in less time by using online car insurance services.

Well, in my quest to spend less so I can pay off debt faster, I thought car insurance would be a good place to start. We are very loyal customers of Progressive. Although we have good driving history, ourselves, we have both been very impressed with Progressive’s customer service whenever we’ve been in accidents (between the two of us, we’ve been rear-ended 3 times in the past 4 years). In some cases the other guys’ insurance companies have been a hassle to deal with. Progressive is awesome – they front us the money needed for repairs/rental car/etc., and then pursue the other insurance company to be reimbursed. We love it because we don’t have to wait for the “other guys” to approve a claim. Progressive does it automatically and then THEY deal with the headache of getting the other people to pay up. All of this to say, I am not interested in switching car insurance companies at this time. But I AM interested in saving money.

I was reading one of Suze Orman’s books, The Road to Wealth, and there’s a whole section about auto insurance. After reading what she had to say, I went to progressive.com to their online services (SO convenient!). Wouldn’t you know – we were over-insured!!

Exhibit A. Chris’ work truck. Chris drives a 2002 Ford pickup truck. It’s old, beat up, and has high miles….worth approximately $2,000. And for some reason we were paying comprehensive insurance on it! So I dropped the comprehensive/collision insurance.

Exhibit B. Suze Orman says, “those with fewer assets should consider changing their policy coverage to $15,000 for bodily injury per person, $30,000 bodily injury per accident, and $10,000 personal property coverage per accident.” I checked it out and we were insured for WAY more than that. Seeing as we have very few assets (in the unlikely scenario that someone would sue us from an accident), I lowered our coverage. I switched from $100,000 down to $15,000 (bodily injury per person), $300,000 down to $30,000 (bodily injury per accident), and from $50,000 down to $25,000 (personal property per accident). You’ll notice that I still kept our “personal property” coverage a little higher than Suze Orman suggested – mainly because the cost of cars is so expensive that $10,000 felt a little too low.

And guess what…..

.

.

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I saved WAY more than 15% in 15 minutes!

 

Our monthly bill was sliced from $128/month down to only $80/month! That’s a savings of $48/month ($576/year), or 37.5% lower than our original bill. And it only took about 5 minutes, if that!

So there you have it! I encourage all of you to check out your policies! I’m sure when I originally signed up for our coverage that I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I think I recall asking the insurance agent (who makes a commission, by the way) what they recommended and just going with that! Ha! I can’t wait to funnel that extra $576 per year toward debt! Wahoo!!!

How much do you pay for car insurance? When’s the last time you checked your policy and assessed your coverage?

Pssst: Check back this afternoon for another big announcement!


November

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I have updated my debt balances and now I provide a rundown of my basic monthly expenses.  I’m sure there will be places I can still cut but I have to say that looking at where I came from just 9 months ago, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve cut out on the homefront. 

 Today’s post will tell you what I pay to keep my household running and meet consistent monthly obligations.  This does not include groceries or the incidental spending money I carry (which I have reduced as well). 

I currently bring home $3282 per paycheck, every other Friday.  Please bear in mind this will reduce after January 1 because of new withholdings for insurance and taxes and such.

Rent:  $1795

Utilities: $150 (budgeted amount but it is running around $80-$100 right now, peaks near $300 in the summer.  I have been rolling over the extra.)

Water:  $50

Cell:  $70

Internet:  $32

Life Insurance:  $32 ($500,000 policy)

Insurance (Renters and Auto):  $75

After School Care:  $195

Piano Lessons:  $90

Gym: $25

TOTAL:  $2,514.00

I will explain my automobile situation when my divorce is final. 

My minimum credit card payments on the three outstanding debts totals $1070.  I paid an additional $1,100 this month.  I had way too much debit card bleed in the month of November (like $500 worth of bleed  🙁 )  It all comes from not planning, not being prepared and then just plain ol’ frivilous spending.  I hope to do better in December. That’s going to be a challenge and not b/c I go crazy buying gifts but b/c things get SO busy with the kids, family AND at work (everyone wants settlement $ for the holidays) that I do not have time to plan well.  That is the KEY and in these final days of November, as I’ve dissected my spending, I have to focus on planning for December!

So, taking the $2,514 and adding the $1,070 in minimum payments we have a total of $3,584.  I have about $2,000 in my checking account right now and tomorrow is payday.  I am currently hesitant to sink that into debt b/c of the divorce situation.  That checking account money is separate from my emergency fund.  I just moved it to an account that I do not have a debit card for b/c I am NOT doing well on the debit card front!!!

Now, talk amongst yourselves.  😉


A Dental Kind of Day

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Today was a double dental appointment day for DD and DS (the two from my previous marriage).  Our first stop was the oral surgeon for DS who is 12 1/2.  He’s been under orthodontic care since Kindergarten having had a severe cross bite that was caught early.  We’ve done 2 rounds of the palate expander, one round of braces and a good year with a retainer.  Now we move to the extraction phase with a crowding issue up top and two missing permanent teeth on the bottom.  We will have the baby teeth pulled on the bottom so that the permanent teeth can move into place.  I had never heard of permanent teeth missing below the baby teeth but the orthodontist says he sees it on occasion.  We could have left the baby teeth but then as he aged he would likely face problems asking baby teeth to do the job of permanent teeth for life.

Dental professionals—particularly specialists–always have that little “financial room” that you go to after seeing the doctor.  I always laugh in those little rooms as I picture someone elsewhere in the office calculating the financial damage this is going to inflict.  We have excellent health insurance and with all of the recent talk on this issue–we do not take that for granted.  I was bracing myself for the worst as DS opted for IV sedation…instead of “laughing gas.”  Imagine my excitement when the news came back at a total of $60!  For four teeth?!  I still can’t believe it but the dental insurance covers extractions at 100%.  The $60 is our portion for the IV sedation.  We are blessed.

Our next appointment was with the orthodontist for DD.  It appears that she got all of the worst dental traits from both parents!  She too has a cross bite but because her upper teeth are “still erupting” we won’t start treatment until early 2013.  Now…the orthodontist’s office REALLY amazes me when it comes to several things.  First of all…it is the only medical provider that runs on schedule almost 100% of the time.  In the near 8 years we’ve been going to this orthodontist, they were running behind ONE time.  Why is it that I know it has been only one time?  Because they called me and told me to come in 30 minutes later b/c they were running behind!  I almost hugged the receptionist when I walked in the door.  I’ll save my rant regarding “professionals” making patients/clients wait for a Friday rant…but talk about a pet peeve!  And I don’t just bark the bark about this issue…I am vigilant about NEVER having someone wait on me at the office or otherwise.  Loathe tardiness….LOATHE.

The other great thing about the orthodontist is how they approach finances.  Now, we might have about $1,500 in insurance coverage to put toward orthodontic care but for today’s discussion we did not consider that (because my ex needs to look into some issues surrounding the plan).  So, worst case scenario for her top teeth only (the lowers look very manageable and likely won’t need treatment until she’s much older) is about $2200.  Now, that’s a lot of money certainly but here’s what I love…it’s all inclusive!  There are no additional charges for however long the treatment takes to accomplish what the doctor said (and we agreed to) would be accomplished.  They offer no interest payment plans but we’d get a 5% discount if we pay in full.  I split that $2200 with my ex-husband 50/50 so we are looking at $1,100.  The payment plan (again divided by 2) is a $590 deposit and then 12 payments of about $135 per month.  The treatment is going to take near 2 years they think.

I share this not really because of the financial aspect–we have 6 months notice and can make adjustments to the budget and hopefully pay in full and get the discount.  Instead I share because I just like the system that orthodontists have going on!  I know an orthodontist office is no primary care physician’s office and the two are oranges and apples (really!  I know this!)—but it is so refreshing to see things so organized, well-managed and known.