Browsing posts in: Money & Relationships

Dental Emergency: Blessing in Disguise???

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If you’re a long-term reader, I’ve discussed the issue of dental work ad nauseum (1, 2, 3, 4 times where I’ve dedicated an entire post to the topic; probably several more times where I’ve mentioned it in reference to monthly budgeting). Long story short, hubs’ has a lot of dental issues. A lot! I’ve now been blogging here 18 months and I think he’s had 2 or 3 emergency root canals during that time. He has lots of other dental needs, too, but he’s got some dental anxiety issues (not to mention it’s -ahem- challenging to get him to take a day off to go to the dentist. Gotta love him!). So he’s mostly been operating on an emergency dental situation basis. Very reactive instead of proactive.

Yes, this is a terrible way of handling things.

Yes, it’s more expensive this way.

Yes, dental health is extremely important and can influence health in other ways, too.

He knows all this, but is a grown man and cannot be forced into something against his will. I know, I’ve tried. ; )

Anywho….we’ve got our latest dental emergency, folks!

A few nights ago at dinner hubs bit into something; his eyes got wide and his face grew pale. My first guess was that a crown had fallen out (he’s had that happen before).

Nope.

His tooth fell out. But not his whole tooth. The majority-but not all-of a tooth. A back molar he’d had a root canal and crown put on about 4 years ago. The one that was repaired in Mexico (I’ve mentioned it here). So there’s no way he can go back and make the dentist fix it. No warranties or anything like that.

Now, while this is enough to ruin anyone’s day, I am choosing to look at this as a blessing in disguise. I’ve had a terrible time trying to get hubby back to the dentist. This little issue (ahem – having a tooth fall out!!!) has forced him back to the dentist. Only, now we’ve got dental insurance (YAYAYAYAYAY for the new job!) Hubs has already gone to a new in-network dentist and had x-rays done (something he’s been opposed to in the past) and had a plan drawn up for how to handle his dental issues. The dentist will work in quadrants in his mouth and we’ve already pre-paid for his first quadrant (which will include filling 2 cavities, 2 extractions – one for this tooth and one for a wisdom tooth he’d never had removed, and completing a bone graft for a future tooth implant). Total cost out of pocket is $665. For a little comparison, when I paid to get a filling last year (before insurance), I paid $171. Through insurance, our cost for a filling is only $26 per tooth! Wahoo! What a savings!

Our dental insurance does have an annual per-person maximum that they’ll cover so we’re trying to be strategic about things. But, luckily, they go by calendar year (not actual year; like, July through July since that’s when we got the insurance). So we’ll likely max out their coverage on hubs by December and then be able to start over again in 2016.

Ultimately, this is going to cost us a lot of money. Thousands of dollars. BUT we’ll FINALLY be getting ahead of hubs’ dental problems. Instead of always operating on a reactionary basis (aka:  getting a root canal once a cavity has gone untreated for so long that the whole thing is rotting away), we’ll be able to start rectifying hubs’ many dental issues and getting on top of them before they turn into major catastrophic dental emergencies!

And, fortunately, we had $700 in our dental/health/vision savings account. I just wrote a check for $665 to pre-pay this first quadrant of work. But at least it was money we already had earmarked specifically for this purpose (so it does NOT impact this month’s budget). But instead of saving only a hundred bucks a month or so toward dental, we’ll certainly need to increase those savings on the short-term. Hopefully this means much better oral and overall health on the long-term!

Do you have a partner whose stubborn about going to the dentist? What have you done to help ease their anxiety?


The Next Step

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Well, one week of being consumer debt free in the books. And now I am ready to move on to my next goal. However, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride over here due to things beyond my control. So I still don’t have a solid plan for this yet, but wanted to let you know what I’m thinking and get your feedback.

You might recall that I have a debt in my name that I do not pay…my ex-husband does. (This is spelled out in our divorce papers as well.) I got a lot of grief over this last fall, so let’s not re-hash that. This is just how it is and it works for us. The monthly payment is $246 per month which he pays me and then I pay the lien holder. This makes it comfortable for me, but does not work well when trying to finance say a house as they want to see that he has paid the loan directly for at least 12 months. So, I want to get rid of this debt.

My plan was that he would continue paying his regular payment and I would put my extra payments towards it, tracking those of course, until it’s paid off and then he could just continue to pay me. Make sense? So I was all set on this course of action, until he called and said he wanted to sell the vehicle, yada, yada. Ok, great! Let’s do that.

Then a couple more weeks passed and he called to say, “hey, I’m moving to another state within the next 30 days.”

Then a week after that, he called to say “hey, I’m going to need to keep my truck to drive to my new state.”

Ok, see where I was referring to the roller coaster ride? So I am now back to my original plan, with a small caveat. If he is taking the car out of state (a 23 hour drive from me,) but it’s titled, insured, etc by me, well it gets a bit complicated. So I’ve got on my to do list to call my insurance company and check on the nuances of this situation. But now I’m especially confident that paying off this debt is the best next step.

Thoughts?

Just to make sure you have all the information…my only other debt are student loans with a balance right around $30K. Ok, now go, what are your thoughts on this next step.

Oh, one more thing…timeline for this…end of this calendar year for payoff, with me loosening up on my budget just a bit.

Ok, now go…


Weekly Debt Update #15- One More Paid Off and Support Groups

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Sorry for the late posting today, but it’s been a very busy couple of days at home- lots to do now that the weather has turned for good!

I’ll start this post with a debt update because I have some wonderful news to share- I paid off Sallie Mae 05!! That’s right- gone!! Another one bites the dust, lol.

So here’s what the numbers look like now:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off+/- Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,985.23$3,852.01$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,820.44$3,376.58$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,407.64$2,942.54$0.00
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$4,840.64$1,255.39
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00$0.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$50,213.31$60,374.35$1,255.39

I’m also super close to another milestone (a milestone that felt like an eternity away only a year ago)- below $50,000. I think seeing a 4 as the first number is going to have a very big impact on my psyche moving forward.

I also want to talk about something that can very much make or break a debt payoff- the support of your family and friends. I’m extremely blessed in the sense that for the most part, I have this support, with most of my blessings aimed towards my parents and my GF. BUT, it hasn’t always been this way for me. When I originally told my parents, I got a lot of “why’s?” and “don’t you make enough money not to worry?”. They still make jokes at my expense about it, but I take it in stride, since they really do support me. It took some convincing that I’m on the right path FOR ME, but I finally got them to agree that I’m making the right choice.

When I graduated from college (with a butt load of debt and 40K/year in pay) I had a girlfriend of a year. When my student loans were coming due and I had to make cuts (which included, dates, gifts and the like), we did NOT see eye to eye and was one of the big reasons for our eventual breakup.

I even went on a date a couple of years ago where the girl spent the whole date asking me about my personal financial situation. After I told her I was an engineer, but I didn’t have much money to spend, she couldn’t believe that I chose to live my life in such a frugal manner. There was no 2nd date.

As for my close friends, I don’t remember having many issues. They supported since we were, and some of us still are, all in the same predicament, being as we all graduated from the same, very expensive, school. Some of us still talk financials on a regular basis.

This is a hard subject for me to bring up, because I’ve haven’t been on the other side of the fence too often. I had the one breakup many moons ago, but other than that I haven’t found any of my friends or family to be roadblocks. To me, it seems like such a crapshoot, which boils down to: are you lucky enough to have people around you, particularly family members (as you can’t pick your family, like you can friends) that got your back? Since I really feel we’re all in this together, I’d like to open a discussion on the topic in the comments section for anyone willing to share. I have a couple of questions:

  1. During your debt payoff, do you feel like you did or didn’t have the support of those around you?
  2. How do you think it affected your debt paydown?
  3. Did any of you NOT reach your goal from lack of support?
  4. Did any of you reach your goal IN SPITE OF the lack of support?

Thanks, and have a great week!


Weekly Debt Update #14- Happy Mother’s Day!!

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Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there that read this blog. All mothers are amazing in their own way. Here’s to you!!

I celebrated the Mother’s Day weekend up in the Buffalo. Instead of doing what I normally do for my Mother, which is buying a gift, I brought with me some fresh cut flowers and a note I wrote by hand thanking her for all that she done for me over the years and how much she appreciates it. It felt like small gesture (to me, anyway) but according to her, it was the best gift I’ve ever gotten her.She loved it so much she cried and hung the note on the fridge. I’m very happy that I took everybody’s advice and went with a more sentimental and thoughtful gift than one that I would have picked out in a hurry at Bed, Bath and Beyond or something.

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How do you celebrate Mother’s Day- do you visit, call, or write your mother on Mother’s Day? And Mother’s- how do you wish to be celebrated? I see a lot of Facebook posts and tweets wishing their Mother a happy Mother’s Day (or birthday, or any other holiday), even if the person isn’t on the social networks. This just bothers me as it always feels disingenuous and more of a popularity/competition thing. Ugh. Is anyone else bothered by this, or is it just me?

As for Mother’s Day at our home, even though we don’t have kids, we do have “kids” (AKA dogs, lol). So we each do a little something for each other on our day. This year I made GF a little bag with some awesome smelling candles, and a card (each “from the kids” of course). I also made her dinner, took a nap with her (I seldom nap) and relaxed as we watched Game of Thrones. Nothing monumental, just a acknowledgement of how much I and “we” appreciate her.

As for my debt balances:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,985.23$3,852.01
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,820.44$3,376.58
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,407.64$2,942.54
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$1,255.39$4,840.64
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$51,468.70$59,118.96

I’m so close to paying off #5, I can already feel it.

BTW- my feeling from last post (here) has passed. Yay! So I’m back in the mindset of hitting the debt (semi) hard. I have a real good feeling about my “fun” fund and setting that money aside to get me through. Thank you for all your support!

Have a great week!

 


How I Got into Bartering

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Many have asked how I got into bartering. It wasn’t intentional, typically I would be too nervous to ask, but becoming a single mom make me a bit more fierce on behalf of my kids. It started a little over five years ago. I was having such trouble with my son (the twins were not in the picture yet.) He was stubborn and inquisitive and determined like no one I’ve ever met, and this was at 4 years old!

The owner and Princess and Little Gymnast soon after they started.

The owner and Princess and Little Gymnast soon after they started.

I was seeking help, and stumbled up martial arts as a sport of discipline. So I started calling around and visiting martial arts schools with him in tow. Most wouldn’t touch him, he was just generally too young for their programs, but one school would – Baeplex Family Martial Arts. I had explained a little bit of the situation as I set up the appointment to bring him in to try a class. We walked in the door and I felt at home. The instructors were personable, high energy and super attentive to the kids.

We walked out of there with both kids signed up for a trial month. We could go as often as our schedule allowed, the classes were just the right length that I could sit and wait or even run out and do a quick errand (that was like manna to this single mom’s ears,) and the price for the month was perfect, something I felt I could keep up.

Now keep in mind, I was only finding this for my son, but my daughter had a month until her dance classes started, so I did the trial month for both, figuring that the Princess would quit after the month and go into dance. Needless to say…at the end of that month, she BEGGED to continue. And there I was meeting with the owner of the studio, anticipating paying for one child on an ongoing basis and seeing that it was really my daughter who wanted this. I was in tears…and felt I had no choice but to ask.

And that is how bartering began for us…my web design and technical support skills in exchange for a reduced monthly tuition. Four years later, the Princess received her black belt. (Little Gymnast continued for several years, but after he found gymnastics, it was over.)

The owner of the studio tying on her new black belt after 3 hours of testing.

The owner of the studio tying on her new black belt after 3 hours of testing.

I would never have had the courage to suggest it without the needs and wants of my kids bolstering me. And now five years later, I don’t hesitate to ask/offer. I figure the worst they can say is no, and it’s opened up so many doors for my children to experience things that they never would have been able to without it.

So my suggestion…ASK…the worst they can say is no, but I think you will find many are willing to work with you!  Just today I sent an email to a new sport my daughter is trying to offer web design or registration form design services in exchange for participation or summer camp, etc. whatever they might need.  Crossing my fingers that it might work out.


Weekly Debt Update #10- Moving Forward

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Thank you everybody for your thoughts on my emotional post from last week concerning what I felt I was lacking in my life while paying off debt (read it here). After all the comments and some thought, I’ve decided that starting in May, I’m revising my budget to reflect a few items:

1) I want to send my sister a small gift every month to help out their young family- I’m thinking a $25 gift card to Baby’s R Us. I’m going to contribute $25 a month into a 529 plan for my nephew.

2) $50-$100 in misc money to use if and when I want to go have some fun with friends, family and/or GF. Looking for some input on this one- too high/too little?

I’m still fighting an internal battle between paying off my student loans as fast as humanly possible and not alienating everybody in life while I do so, so I’m hoping this is a stepping stone to finding a balance between the 2 options. To be completely honest- it’s a little unnerving to see my my debt reduction schedule slip a couple a months, but it should all be worth it after it’s all said and done. And for some more honestly- I never thought I’d see myself in this position. After years of reading debt blogs, I’ve been determined to do what so many seem to struggle to do (cut theirs expenses) that I swung all the way to the opposite side of the spectrum that I’m hurting myself in much different ways than financial. Like so many said last week- I need to find balance, and this is my (attempt at a) solution to it.

Edit (Because I just thought of this story): This isn’t actually the most determined I’ve been to get out of debt. Back in September, despite already working 50-55 hours a week, I sent out a bunch of resumes for part-time work. I got an interview to deliver pizzas at night and on weekends for a local pizzeria. I was upfront with them and told them I was only looking for a job to help get out of debt while I worked full-time. Thankfully (THANKFULLY!) I never got a call back. I stopped pursuing part-time work after this interview. I couldn’t imagine how out of balance my work/life situation would be had I worked part-time over the winter. Two words come to mind- not. good.

There’s something I want to do that are not budget related- I want to start talking with my friends and family more. I’ve been in rut for some years while paying off debt that I would love to get out of, hopefully completely out of, by time I’m debt free. A lot of you told me to give my time vs. going out and I thought that was a great idea, and that is what I’m going to strive to do, a little bit at a time. There’s quite a few people I haven’t touched base with in years, so it’s going to take some effort and patience as I don’t see this being an overnight deal.

Also on the subject of what I will be starting in May:

I’m going to re-start my contributions into my companies 401K plan!

I have my sights set on 4% of my income which will allow me to get the maximum match (they match .5% for every 1% up to 2%). Even though I’m not currently in the company plan, the company gives 2% in profit sharing to every employee regardless of their contribution status. I don’t feel right about missing out on the 4% I could be saving and the 2% in match now that I’m passed the 50% marker in debt payoff.

In my day-to-day life:

On Monday 3/30, my girlfriend turned the big 2-7!!! So…this meant birthday plans and birthday gifts.

Taking a page from her handbook from my birthday celebration (see here), I made a goody bag of all her favorite things and I baked her a cake! I NEVER bake, and as you can see by the results, the effort was there, but the skill, unfortunately, was not. LOL.

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But I have to say- she loved it! Maybe not the cake, so much, but the time and effort I put in to making it. And she also loved her goody bag, which was filled with things I’ve remembered over the years that she loves: grape tomatoes, Tim Horton’s gift card ($5), a gift card for pop at the corner store ($5), salted popcorn, salsa, various varieties of salt. Overall, it cost me about $70, including the all the ingredients to make the cake (which were also in her bag). I also gave her a bunch of “love” coupons- for back rubs, uninterrupted naps, a night in with a movie of her choice, etc… which was her favorite part of the day! In previous years, I’ve bought flowers, chocolates, spa gift certificates as birthday gifts but this year I got the best response. I’m so glad I was able to make her birthday really special this year.

As for my debt reduction update, here are my current tallies:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$24,224.78$3,612.46
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$19,006.27$3,190.75
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,570.60$2,779.58
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$3,192.92
$2,903.11
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$53,994.57$56,593.09

Since my last update 2 weeks ago, I’ve been able to bring my total on Sallie Mae 05 down $1,100.

I hope everyone has a great week!


Here’s What’s Bothering Me

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There’s a lot I’ve been thinking about lately–mostly centered on a couple of questions:

1) Am I TOO frugal and/or cheap?

2) And what is this frugalness/cheapness costing me? (Not speaking financially)

Here’s what’s bothering me: I have family that live within a 2 hour radius (immediately family- parents, brother…other family members and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) and then I have family who lives an airplane ride away- of course my sister who lives in Orlando, as well as my favorite aunt and cousins who live in Ft. Lauderdale. So is my being, what I deem, too frugal and cheap costing me memories and life experiences along the way with all these people? Hell, I have friends right here in town where it feels like I haven’t seen them in forever. There’s no way it couldn’t be, right?

My sister, who just had her first child, I KNOW could use all the help she can get, so even though I went and helped her out for a few days (if you can consider it help…I did pay for meals, both for myself and her family (sis + boyfriend) and helped drive her around for doctor’s appointments and errands), I feel like I SHOULD do so much more. I wish I would have brought a couple hundred dollars with me and bought them a week’s worth of groceries and a month of diapers. (Note- I did buy them a baby supplies of their registry prior to me blogging here to help them out- still not enough, IMO). So why did it feel like I COULDN’T do this, even though I have the means to? Is it selfish? I think it is. And even though we were never really that close growing up, I can’t help but feel that adulthood is the best time to build a bond we didn’t have as children.

My parents- my parents gave me a fantastic childhood. FANTASTIC childhood. And even into adulthood, even though we don’t always see eye to eye, we’ve become, in a lot of ways, friends. I wish I were in a position to help them out now that I’m a grown man and say “thanks for everything.” I shouldn’t say this- what I should say is I wish I FELT like I were in a position to help them out. Again, if you look strictly at my budget, I have the means do it, so why does it feel like I can’t? Not only this, but I get a feeling that they still worry about me (granted, I’m not a parent, so maybe parents just always have that feeling with their children) since my existence right now is fairly…bare bones. They’ve never come out openly and said this, and I’ve never inquired about it so it really is just a feeling (like whenever I go up to Buffalo to visit them, my mom’s ALWAYS trying to send me back to Erie with a week’s worth of food, lol, which I normally decline unless it’s 1- homemade soup or 2-Sahlen’s hot dogs). For the mom’s out there- is this just a mom being a mom? And whenever something sorta minor comes up down here, my dad is always the first to ask if he needs to come down and sometimes he just comes regardless- again is this just a dad being a dad? Two notes- 1) I’m NOT complaining- I love my parents, I’m just wondering if my cheapness is keeping them worried 2) I’m completely independent of them financially and have been since college graduation. So is my debt payoff plan keeping me from building a trust and bond with my parents that I think we could have?

And then’s there’s my friends- the longtime friends that I haven’t forgot about. How many times does your phone have to ring and you have to say “No” or suggest the “cheap beer thing” before the phone stops ringing? I feel like I’m living this experiment right now. For the out of town friends- how many months and years have to go by between visits and conversations before the friendships are really just good memories? Again- living that experiment. I wrote about being an introvert in post describing my Social Life, and in no way, shape, or form a socialite (still true), but I’m not a recluse, either. A couple weekends ago, my best friend Cameron stopped by on his way through town, which subsequently led to a Moe’s trip. It was AWESOME, and something I haven’t had in far too long. Most of my friends are married with children at this point, and even though that’s probably has a lot to do with us losing contact, I blame a lot, if not most, of it on myself- had I not been so focused on debt payoff, where would we be? And that’s the tough question; one that no one can answer.

Over past couple of years, the only relationship that I’ve felt truly grow and blossom is my relationship with my girlfriend. Since we’re in similar but not so similar situations (I’m paying off debt, she’s going back to school), we really know where the other is coming from and we’ve been able to work as a team to overcome (knock on wood) any obstacle that we’ve come across. And since we’ve both have had to have a frugal mindset since we’ve been together, we have a pretty open relationship concerning our finances and our lives in general (and it certainly helps we share a lot of the same personality traits and interests).

This post has been very hard for me to write. When it’s come to debt and the payoff, I’ve always played the stoic card- the debt and my spreadsheets are just numbers after all. But what I’ve haven’t done is take time to look at what/how the payoff is effecting me in more than just financial terms. It’s pretty clear I’ve made pretty good headway on my debt, so my question is:

What would you do/what have you done if you found yourself in the same situation?

Would you slow down the debt payoff to take care of other, maybe more important things, or would you continue to pay it off as fast as you could and take care of things after it’s all said and done? One note to keep in mind- my timeline for this debt payoff (on my current trajectory) is completion by November ’16, or 18 months.

P.S. I don’t really have anything to share this week on the debt numbers themselves. I didn’t really pay anything, so I’ll save it for next week.

 

 


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