Medical Debt Collection Update

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Back in January I wrote about how I’d accepted a settlement offer to pay off an old medical bill for less than what we really owed (we paid $3,647 and they forgave the remaining balance of the $5,610 debt). So for the past 3 months we’ve been making huge ($1215/month) payments.

The last payment was April 17th. I did a little happy dance, and celebrated with hubs about how the last of his medical bills from his mystery illness (which occurred in the fall/winter of 2013) was finally paid in full. Every time a bill has been paid in full, I always like to reflect back on the item that caused us to go into debt, and to be thankful to move on from having it be a part of our lives. In this case, the “item” that caused us to go into debt was emergency medical care. Hubs was hospitalized off-and-on for a 2 month period (longest stay was 10 days). We traveled around to see specialists, only to come up empty-handed as no one seemed to have any answers. Hubs has long since recovered, but the medical bills continued. We had insurance coverage at the time (thank goodness – as we literally bought his insurance only 3 months prior to the mystery illness’ onset). But even with insurance, we had to pay co-pays and deductibles. Our medical bill originated at $9,000 (read more about it in my first ever debt post, from back in 2014). Moving on past that debt is definitely symbolic in our lives – putting behind us a scary time and moving forward with faith and hope. Like the effort to move forward in hope, brandishing the metaphorical bruises and lessons learned of the whole IRS debt situation. It parallels how I feel about my dad’s current medical situation. The past couple years have had some heavy burdens but I feel hopeful about the future, even with the inherent challenges of moving a parent to a live-in care facility (my dad has FTD and is soon moving to a dedicated memory-care facility).

So I feel hopeful. That’s my underlying feeling these days.

That is….until I just received a phone call from the medical debt collector (referenced in this post). They called and asked how I planned to pay the remaining $1963 balance. You know, that balance I have in writing that would be forgiven as part of the debt settlement agreement? After explaining the settlement situation, I was told that the account would be forwarded to the business department to be straightened out. I pray this was a one-time mishap and not signs of a battle-to-come. I do have the full settlement letter, so hopefully that should be enough to make the problem go away easily. Cross your fingers for me!

Happy Monday!


Happy Easter!

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For those who celebrate, I hope you had a great Easter yesterday! It was the first year that the girls really got it on their own. In the past, we’ve held hands and more-or-less led them to eggs, coaxing them to pick them up and place in their baskets, etc. Not this year. We went to our neighborhood’s egg hunt and as soon as they gave the command, the girls RAN to get eggs. It brought me so much joy to watch their excitement, but it also made picture-taking a bit challenging since I could only get shots of their backs as they RAN away to find more eggs. : )

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This was our “before” shot. Excuse my wild hair fly-aways! It hit 90 degrees that day so I had to throw my hair into an unplanned pony – it was too hot to keep down!!!

I know I’m late this year, but I wanted to share one of the Easter crafts we made that we sent to family. We have a long history of mailing kid crafts in lieu of “real” gifts for many different holidays (e.g., Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc. – see my Year-in-Review posts for links to various crafts: 2015 and 2016). This year was no different. Here’s one of the crafts we made to send out to loved ones:

IMG_5494We got some kid’s crafts from Michael’s for 50% off (I LOVE that they do sales PRIOR to the holiday and not just as a clearance after the holiday has passed). There was one day during Spring Break that we’d gone in and just happened to be there during a kid craft hour. The girls were able to make two crafts (one was a painting on actual canvas, the other was a whole Spring Break scrapbook that was absolutely adorable). The class only cost $2 per child, and killed a solid 2 hours worth of time (= WIN!!) and then I picked up a couple Easter crafts to take home (which was the whole point of our trip). The girls LOVED the crafts (both in-store and the ones we bought to take home), and with the 50% off sale, the crafts only cost $2.50/each (we bought two different craft packages:  the egg pictured above, and a bunny rabbit craft, unpictured – both packages came with enough to make 2).

We mailed the crafts out about a week or so ago and when we made the rounds of phone calls to family to wish everyone a Happy Easter, the great-grandmas were tickled pink over the little crafts they’d received. Each boasting about where theirs was hung or displayed. It was pretty sweet.

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Have a great start to your Monday!


Our New Life in Full Affect

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The last month has been a blur.  Today is my one month anniversary on my new job.  It is going great, and I am LOVING what I do. The wait was worth it to find the perfect position and the perfect company. I am so grateful.

Let me fill you in on what has been happening:

  1. Worked 40 hours per week in the office at my new job.
  2. Continued to work 25 hours a week for one of my part time jobs.
  3. Continued to work approx. 10 hours a week for my other part time job.
  4. Continued to school the kids – we are meeting twice a week (Sundays and one night a week) with intermittent study times together at night when the kids get stuck. It is definitely not ideal.  I’m going to have to re-evaluate our curriculum for the fall. But we will finish the school year in the next month and move on to a lighter schedule for the summer.
  5. Gymnast is going to gym (1 hour away) twice a week and soccer less than a mile away, 3 days per week.  He needs the energy outlet.  He is gone for the week with cousins to FL — this is why I wanted to move near family.
  6. Princess is playing basketball and has gotten involved with the youth group (that’s a first for her.)
  7. Sea Cadet continues to work at the movie theater he transferred with from Virginia, and looks forward to returning to VA the first week of June where he will spend the summer working as the Senior Boys Counselor at the same camp he worked at last year.

If you have done the math…I’m putting in upwards of 70 hours a week at work.  Oh, and I forgot, I’m starting every day with an hour in the gym.  It’s been life changing.  It’s been a whirlwind!  But I do have some exciting news…

We have rented a house!!!!  And you will not believe my rent…it is only $650 per month!!!!  I can’t believe it.  It is exactly the reason I wanted to move here.  We have not moved in yet, because frankly we don’t have furniture. Sea Cadet is staying there now on some old furniture family gave us, but we don’t have any beds.  Our stuff will be delivered by Upack on Tuesday so we can start making it home.  I have decided to move all the way in (we haven’t unpacked our stuff in over 2 1/2 years) and make it home.  We are all excited.  But it’s going to be a while before Gymnast, Princess and I move in while I watch for good deals and save money to get beds.

Our new home is 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bath, small manageable yard with just enough space for the kids to play.  Really, the only two things I am going to miss right now are 1) a dishwasher and 2) being able to have pets.  But all in due time.

A monthly budget is on the horizon.  I’ve just gotten my first full paycheck so I have a better idea of what my take home will be.  I did use every bit of my savings to get into the house.  I have to pay a $500 deposit, $650 first month’s rent, $250 to the city to turn on utilities and about $100 for a few odds and ends to get us started (toilet paper, broom, mop, cleaning supplies and a shelving unit to create a pantry in the laundry room.)

Princess and I return to Virginia this weekend for her to get her braces off.  It will be a quick turn, and it is the last trip we have planned. My new job has already agreed to let me work remotely while I travel, which thrills me to no end!


Car Repair Bill

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As if we don’t have enough bills to worry about between our normal debts and the new tax debt, I’ve got another new bill to foot this month as well.

Remember when I wrote about my power steering suddenly going out without any advance warning (and in the absence of any collision or other obvious cause) while I was driving home from work?

Well, it’s been quite the inconvenience over the course of the last 2 weeks. It happened on a Tuesday night (2 weeks ago). It took probably 4 hours out of my day on Wednesday for me to sort everything out. I had the car towed to the dealership, arranged for a rental company to come pick me up and get into a rental, and then had to talk to the dealership about the repair issues.

In the end, the car had two separate issues. One was covered by the Ford dealership as a safety recall (this is what actually caused the power steering to go out), but there were some secondary issues covered by my extended warranty I had purchased.

The problem is, the extended warranty only covered a maximum of 7 days in a rental car and they had my car for a full 10 days to do the work. I was able to talk Ford into covering the other 3 days of my rental, but it wasn’t just easy-peasy, because I had to return my current rental and switch into a different rental (the Ford dealership said they would only cover Ford-brand rental vehicles). So the following Wednesday I spent probably another 4 hours dealing with the car drama. Dropping off the old rental, switching to a new rental, trying to arrange the first rental to be covered through my warranty (phone calls to them, phone calls to rental company), and to get my second rental covered through the dealership (phone calls to rental company, phone calls to Ford). Just a lot of busy-work that took a ton of time.

Last time I had work done through my extended warranty, they had only charged a $250 deductible, but this time they were trying to charge me $300. It took a couple phone calls to clear that up and, in the end, they agreed to come back down to the $250 price (the problem is that they only charge $250 if the work is done at the place where the warranty was purchased – from CarMax. But CarMax had a 3 week wait for them to even look at my car, so I had to go to the dealership because I couldn’t go that long without a car!! In the end, the warranty company did honor the $250 price).

BUT – while at the dealership, the service people called to say I needed new tires STAT! My husband has said the same thing and I’ve just been brushing it off, but then the service folks sent me pictures showing the threads in my tires and saying they could not allow me to drive it off without signing a waiver to remove any legal responsibility from them. I guess it was bad. Another $400 added to the bill.

Add tax, and our final bill came to $679.00.

If you think about the fact that we don’t have a car payment (we own the car outright!!!), it doesn’t seem too terrible. But on the back of all our other April-related bills I’m just like, GEEZE!! Cut it out, April!!! No more surprise charges for anything, mkay?!

Oh, and then here’s something fun. Remember how literally the month after I paid off the car this random little piece of it broke off while I was driving? I wrote about it here. It ended up costing a couple hundred bucks to fix. WELL, the same piece flew off the day after I got my car back from the dealership. It’s been over a year, so I don’t think it’s still under any warranty of any kind, but isn’t that just some crap!?? Last time I fixed it pretty quickly but this time I’m not in any big hurry. I’ll just deal with a piece of my car missing. Money is tight right now and we can’t just be shelling out hundreds of dollars for something cosmetic that doesn’t impact the actual functionality of the vehicle. It just sucks.

Man, oh man, I’m on the countdown for summer! For the first time ever, I’ll actually have a bit of a break from teaching. In the past, I’ve been teaching year-round for my part-time place so even if I’ve had a break from my full-time place, I’ve always had at least 2-3 classes from my part-time place still going strong. But not so this year. I’m leaving my part-time job at the end of the current semester (recall I had to sign a noncompete for my new raise to go into effect). I do teach one summer class for my full-time work place, but it doesn’t start until July. That means I’ve got a couple weeks in May and ALL of June “off” of teaching! OHMYGOSH I cannot even express my excitement! Don’t get me wrong, teaching is my passion. But my load the past 2 years has been so heavy that it’s been hard to keep up with my administrative responsibilities and there has never been a time where I’ve felt truly caught up and on top of things. I mean, I do my job. But I’m excited to be able to dedicate myself more fully toward some of the work-related projects I’ve just had on the backburner and to revamp some of my old course materials for the Fall. Plus, just a chance to catch my breath! I just cannot wait!

I’ve got so much more to share – summer plans, Easter-related stuff, fun/cheap things we’ve got up our sleeve. But the time is short so that must wait for another day.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately? When is the last time you had major car repair work done? Our last time was almost exactly a year ago, so I guess we were “due.” Ugh!


Ashley’s March 2017 Debt Update

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March was a whirl-wind of a month! I was gone for a couple days in Texas, the girls had an entire week off school, and it felt like we were being pulled in a million different directions by all of our disparate responsibilities. I’m glad to be back in more of a routine this month and am already looking forward to May. For us in academia, it signifies the end of another academic year and the beginning of a MUCH NEEDED “break” in terms of course-load, etc. (working at a university, I’ll probably always talk about “years” in terms of academic rather than fiscal or calendar years, lol). But May is important for another reason, too. For the past 3 months (including April), I’ve been paying these HUGE payments toward our medical debt. I did so in exchange for a debt forgiveness of about 33% of our medical debt. So come May, we’ll have an extra $1200 that can go towards other debt and we’ll have one fewer debt to report in our debt spreadsheet. It always feels good to knock a debt off, and I can’t wait.

Here’s where we stood as of April 1st, after all of March’s debt payments had posted:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,0925.8083March82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025March
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$85136.5534March
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$72126.5529March
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63856.5525March
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$85146.5534March
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$97926.5569March
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$10000% (through Sept 2017)$400March$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$44440% (through October 2018)$150March$4594
Medical Bills$31540% (must be paid by April)$1216March$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$68,714 (Feb balance = 70,444)$2065Starting Debt = $145,472

Navient Payments

With our recent IRS tax trouble, I’ve been making lower sized debt payments in an effort to try to save up for the upcoming IRS bill. I’m paying minimum payments on all of my subsidized student loans and only an extra $50 above the minimum for my two unsubsidized student loans. As a quick reminder, I’m on the IBR repayment plan so my unpaid interest is forgiven on subsidized loans, but not for unsubsidized (which is why I’m prioritizing them a little). I was concerned when my balances had increased a little this month for the subsidized loans so I called Navient and they explains that the government subsidy (which covers any unpaid interest) is only paid once per quarter. So it looks like the balances have increased a little, but that capitalized interest will be covered at the end of the next quarter. Feels kind of scamy, but nothing I can do about that.

Balance Transfer #2

I’ve reduced the amount I’m paying on Balance Transfer #2 down to $400/month. Continuing at that rate, it will be gone by June. At that point, I may try to initiate another balance transfer to move some more debt away from Navient. That being said, I’ve noticed that my recent balance transfer offers have had a bit higher transfer rate than in the past year, so I’d only do so if it’s still a good savings overall. I’ll wait and see when we get to that point. I also wanted to clarify something I’d had wrong before. Originally when I created my debt table I had listed that this bill was due earlier (based off a 12-month timeframe), but I had conflicting notes in YNAB because there I had it listed as being an 18-month timeframe. When we were hit by the IRS taxes, I called for clarification (otherwise, we were on track to pay it off within 12 months, but I wanted to know if we had the extra 6 months wiggle room). Turns out the special offer IS good for 18-months, which is why I’ve been able to decrease my payment amounts. I’ll still have it paid off well before the special 0% APR promo period expires. Sorry for any confusion to anyone who may have noticed!

Balance Transfer #3

This is my newest balance transfer. I paid $150 last month, but only have $75 scheduled for this month. Again, I’m paying less so that I can try to scrounge up cash for the IRS.

IRS

Everything financial is now tainted by the whole IRS tax issue I’ve talked about previously (see here or here). I’m embarrassed and feel a bit ashamed to be in this position, but I have to say that the tax debt has officially INCREASED our debt and will be setting us back in our progression. At this point, I’m honestly too embarrassed to even give the total amount (though we have finally finished everything with our CPA, so we now have official numbers). I was thinking it would be right around 10k and, if so, I was really trying to scrimp, save, and hustle up any funds and try to pay them in full by the April 18th deadline. When confronted with the true, final amount that we owe, I know there’s no way we’ll have the money together by April 18th. Instead, I’m going to have to set up a payment plan with the IRS and will officially be adding a debt to our list of debts. I’ve been dreading discussing it here because it’s just SO stupid and was 100% our fault. There’s no excuses. We just messed up and now we owe Uncle Sam the big bucks.

Budgeting

Related to everything going on, we’ve really been trying to plan ahead and think about what our family budget will look like in the coming (academic) year. Hubs’ is still currently drawing a (very) small income from his business, but it will likely be gone in the next few months. By mid-summer my big raise will go into effect at my full-time job. Though at the same time, I’ll be losing my side-income from my part-time job. Our kids are starting kindergarten in the fall so our childcare bill will decrease in a couple months (note, in our state kindergarten is only “free” for half-day and we still need full-day childcare so our bill will not be eliminated, but it will be reduced a bit from our current spending). Basically – there are a lot of financial pieces to the puzzle and a lot of things to consider. It’s hard when we don’t have exact numbers, either (e.g., I’m trying to estimate what my net take-home pay will be once my raise goes into effect, but there are many factors involved since a mandatory 7% goes to retirement, and then I also contribute to an HSA and FSA, etc). I think we may have some financial growing pains on the horizon as we figure things out and try to make a path moving forward. I think our path will likely include tightening up our purse strings quite a bit from what we have in the past year. Not that I think we were frivolous in the past year by any means, but I think things are about to really be getting TIGHT. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s definitely disheartening given all our progress in the past year (which, now with the tax thing, feels like a lot less progress has been made since we owe all this money – ugh! So mad at myself!)

Anyway, that’s what’s up in my world.

Oh yeah, and the car situation. That’s still going on. Turns out my car had 2 different problems. One was a Ford issue (covered by Ford) and the other is a warranty issue (covered by my extended warranty). But it’s been a HUGE fiasco because I HAVE to have a car to get to-and-from work and it’s now been over a week with my car in the shop and it still isn’t fixed. But my warranty only covers 7 days max in a rental, so I’ve switched to a Ford rental vehicle and am trying to get Ford to cover the remainder of my days in a rental due to their issue (the Ford issue is actually what rendered my vehicle un-drivable). It’s been a whole mess and is taking up way too many hours in my day. And it will likely end up costing me some money after-all, not only for the warranty deductible, but if I end up having to pay for the rental (if Ford won’t cover it, etc.). Big pain-in-the-butt. But there are worse things in life and, again, I’m thankful no one got hurt and that we had the warranty, etc.

Gotta run for-reals now. I’m drowning in work so bad it’s not even funny. So to bring this post full-circle (as I mentioned in my opening paragraph) – I cannot wait for May!!! Is it the summer yet?? 😉

Hugs,

Ashley


JINX

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Are you superstitious? I’m typically not.

But yesterday as I was typing up a post about mending holes in pants and being mid-way through a No-Spend week, I swear I felt a little bit like I was jinxing myself. I ended the post with this one sentence:

Fingers crossed there are no disasters and nothing crazy comes up! (knock on wood)

I swear I felt a little tingle in my tummy, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It was like when someone is behind you and you can *feel* them without actually seeing them. I brushed it off at the time. But I sure did remember the feeling at 6:00pm that evening as I was driving home from work, when my car started dinging a million warnings and the power steering went completely out on me.

Luckily, I was able to safely navigate into a parking lot on the side of the road. I was able to call hubs to come get me, and everything was fine (no one got hurt, no accidents, etc.)

BUT. So much for that “no spend” week.

The silver lining of the story is that I still have an extended warranty on my car! Remember when I just had to use it for the first time this past summer? At the time I said I should probably cancel the warranty afterward because, honestly, who ends up using it more than once? Statistically speaking, I thought we were in the clear. We should cancel the warranty after the service and take whatever refund we were owed (since we had bundled the warranty with the car loan, it has already been paid in full).

I am now SO GLAD we didn’t! I was able to use our Roadside Assistance through our car insurance (we use and love Progressive!) to have the car towed to the dealership for the warranty repair work. I’ll also be able to use a loaner car, also covered by the warranty company, for up to 7 days. There’s a deductible that applies (it’s either $200 or $250, can’t remember at this point), but I’m sure that’s MUCH better than what I might end up paying otherwise (there’s some issue with the power steering, advanced trac, and also some warranty backup camera issues that were unrelated but will get repaired at the same time).

It’s still a huge inconvenience. Last night was a mess – super late dinner for the kids, no baths, late to bed. And this morning was tough too – with only one car we had to take the girls in early so hubs could get to his own school classes. I’m at home waiting for the tow truck (which is currently running late) and then I’ll be getting picked up by the rental car company so I can go get a rental for the week. Obviously totally interfering with my work day and I’ve had to cancel some meetings and move other things around. I’m frustrated we aren’t going to be able to have a no-spend week after all and I’m still stressed about spending extra money given our tax situation (in fact, one of the meetings I had to move from this morning was supposed to be a meeting with our CPA).

But even with the annoyances and inconveniences, I’m BEYOND GRATEFUL I still have this extended warranty and that it’s still in effect. Guys – it expires at 125,000 miles and I’m at 120,000 miles right now. This is HUGE!!! I don’t know what the total vehicle costs will end up being, but I’m thankful that my personal liability is limited to just the deductible.

Now…is it the weekend yet??? Ooof!!


Mended Knees: A Lesson from the Kiddos

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Yesterday as our kids were getting dressed for preschool, one of my daughters picked out a pair of pants to put on that had a big hole in the knee.

My initial thought to myself was, “well, those pants now belong in the trash.”

I told my daughter the pants-with-the-hole weren’t going to work and that she needed to pick out different pants.

Her initial reaction (in stark contrast to mine) was to say, “That’s okay! Grandma knows how to sew and she can fix it!”

I was initially a little surprised – Grandma sews? How do you know?

And then my surprise turned to embarrassment. My own daughter doesn’t even know that know how to sew, too. Here I am, trying to teach these life-lessons over water bottles and I’m just going to throw away a pair of pants that still fit just fine when I could easily mend the knee with a couple quick stitches. I don’t own a sewing machine or anything fancy, but we sure do have some little sewing kits and mending a knee by hand is no-big-deal.

I sent my kid off to school with different pants, but that same evening I busted out the old needle-and-thread. It took all of 5 minutes to mend the knee until the hole was no-more.

How easy it is to forget and slip back into old habits. I was thankful for the gentle reminder from my 4-year-old to live frugally, try not to waste, and to take care of our things rather than simply discarding them.

In other news, we sure did run out of money before the month was over this month. Don’t you hate it when you end up with more month than money? lol ; )  We’re doing a no-spend week all week. I did semi-cheat a little because I had a Fry’s gift card (which is a local grocery store). I had to use it to get some gas (they have their own gas pumps) and some very basic necessities (lunch meat, bread, milk). But no money is coming out of our account for anything for the rest of the month. I know there are only 4 more days at this point, but we started 3 days ago so it will be a solid week in total. Fingers crossed there are no disasters and nothing crazy comes up! (knock on wood)

What are simple ways that you try to reduce waste at your house?


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