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Dental Hygeine

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Surprise, surprise. When you play with fire you get burned. And, we got ourselves a little “ouchie” (as my girls would call it) this month.

Remember how I discussed my husband’s dental issues awhile back and started setting aside additional money for imminent dental needs (I “upped” our dental/vision monthly savings from $50/month to $125/month, starting last month)? Well I suppose we ‘played with fire’ by waiting too long and guess what happened while we were in Utah? Husband started having some extraordinarily painful tooth problems.

He self-medicated with Orajel and over-the-counter pain meds. He toughed it out over the weekend but called a local dentist first thing on Monday morning and got an appointment for that very afternoon. So on Monday of this week, he ended up having a root canal. Yuuuup. So much for our plan to go to Mexico and have it done for half price.

In all, the damage will set us back nearly $2,000. He did purchase a dental discount plan, and that was the discounted rate. I don’t have exact numbers in front of me, but I think the root canal portion was about $800 and the porcelain crown is another $800-$900?? I need to double-check my numbers, but that’s a ballpark figure.

I checked my CapitalOne360 savings account and our dental/vision savings only has a grand total of $225 in it. Plus, I have my vision appointment coming up in September and will need to get new lenses, so I’m going to need most of that money myself.

Since I don’t have money to cover the root canal expense anywhere in our usual budget and we don’t want to pull it out of savings, we’re going to take a little hit on our income this month. Basically, husband is paying for it out-of-pocket with funds that otherwise would have come to me for budgeting/allocation. So the money is being spent before it was ever officially classified as “income.” Does this make sense? Basically, our income is going to look a little artificially deflated this month. Fortunately, I still have a good sized paycheck coming for my summer teaching (and, remember, no check next month due to the schedule of payment). Hopefully my check will help balance things out a little.

I digress. Back to the main issue regarding dental care.

Husband still has a LOT of other work to be done. This root canal only takes care of his one most pressing issue. So we still have an opportunity to try to save some money on the rest of it. I still vote for him taking a day trip to Mexico to have some work done (the problem with that is it has to be scheduled in advance, not same-day like it was needed this time). I also liked the reader suggestion to try to haggle with the dentists. Give them the prices we have from the Mexico dentists and see if they can match the prices, or at least reduce them. But there’s one other potential avenue I’m crossing my fingers about….

Husband recently went and did a bid for a potential customer who turns out to be…a dentist!!! It is exceptionally rare that husband is able to barter work because he does wood flooring and his labor for jobs is generally in the thousands. Because of the high price point, its tough to barter for hair cuts, car washes, lawn care, or whatever else because the price of those items is so much lower that there’s a big risk that we wouldn’t recuperate the labor costs from my husband’s work if someone flakes out or disappears. BUT – his dental necessities are also in the thousands, so this would be a beautiful trade (both parties still paying for “parts”, but getting the labor for free).

Apparently husband was directed to give his bid to the dentist’s secretary (why would a dental secretary handle the dentists’ home flooring bid? I have no idea), but I have urged husband to reach out to Dr. Dentist directly and try to negotiate a trade. We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed!!!!!

Have you ever had a dental emergency? How much did it cost you? When I was in High School I chipped my front tooth and still remember it cost $1000 to fix (my Mom paid for it at the time). I also distinctly remember the dentist saying the “fix” (composite material that was bonded to my tooth to fill in the chipped spot), was only designed to last about 7 years. It’s been 12. So there’s that.

Update:  Ugh – crap! I wrote this post Thursday evening and Friday morning guess what happened….I have a tooth that chipped! Did I jinx myself or what??? Luckily its not my front tooth, its a back molar. It’s a relatively minor chip (no pain or sensitivity), but everything I have googled says I still need to get into a dentist ASAP, otherwise decay can set in. What the heck? We can’t catch a break over here with our dental health! Time to invest in dental insurance??? *sigh* : (


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:

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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!


Expenses = Income???

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One of my academic mentors, upon receiving tenure (and an associated raise) made the comment, “Expenses rise to meet income.”

This has certainly been something I’ve seen in my own life. Every time you make a little more, your expenses experience an equal boost, right? All the sudden you “need” new stuff. A new position might mean you need a new wardrobe. Or longer hours at work might mean you need to hire yard people since you no longer have time, or you start taking your car for paid car washes instead of doing it yourself, etc etc etc. If you get a really big bump in salary then maybe you decide to move to a newer house in a nicer area of town, or you treat yourself to a new car. All of this stuff comes with recurring payments attached. Am I right?

So with our recent bump in income I’ve been trying really hard to still see ourselves the same way….not to think about our larger income and to continue living the same way, funneling the extra money toward debt.

But I have succumbed and taken on a new monthly expense.

I joined a gym.

Hear me out….

I haven’t had a (paid) gym membership in YEARS. As a graduate student I had free access to the gym on campus, and since running is my primary exercise passion, I have always been able to do that outside for free (only costs associated are shoes and appropriate exercise clothes…maybe a song here and there from itunes). But things have been very challenging lately.

First, I no longer have access to a gym for free (remember I graduated in August 2013). Second, the girls will only sit in a jogging stroller for about 30 minutes, max. And finally (the final straw), it has reached near-death-heat here in Tucson. I’m talking over 100* every day with heat advisory warnings just about every third or fourth day. It is literally not even safe to be outside.

At first I tried to counteract this by jogging extremely early in the morning. I tried waking up at 5am to go run (so the girls are still sleeping and my husband is home, plus its only about 75* instead of 105*). It hasn’t worked well. I have a tough time waking up that early on my own, and my daughters are light sleepers (plus our house isn’t huge), so they have woken up when my alarm goes off. Then it’s a total disaster because my husband is trying to get ready for work (he usually leaves between 6 and 6:30am), so I have to go for a really short run so I can get home in time to allow my husband time to get ready. At that point, it doesn’t even feel “worth it.” I have tried other forms of exercise (like DVDs or free videos on youtube), but I get bored. Videos are not for me.

In the past, my health and fitness had always been a big priority for me. I would consider myself an “athlete,” as I have competed in a handful of races (triathlons, half-marathons, and other various running races), and enjoy physical activities and competitions. When I found out I was pregnant with twins (20 weeks into pregnancy) I was deemed “high risk” and had to stop many physical activities. Once the girls were born, my fitness was the LAST thing on my mind. I had twin infants to care for, virtually by myself (husband helped a TON, but he worked during the day and we have no family nearby for support), in addition to working (at the time I was teaching in-person college courses) and finishing my dissertation.

Here we are, almost 2 years later (the girls will be 2 at the end of this month! Eeek!) and I finally have a chance to refocus a bit on my health. Things do NOT look pretty. My weight is still WAY higher than my pre-pregnancy weight and I just don’t feel good. It’s so weird because I still “see” myself as an athlete…..but I am totally unhealthy right now (that’s not just me exaggerating…that’s according to BMI). I need to make exercise more of a priority in my life. I tried other free options and they really didn’t work. So I turned to a gym.

On the bright side, the gym is fantastic. It’s only about a mile from our house and has everything we could ever want: a pool, exercise classes, tons of equipment, volleyball, racquetball, basketball, etc etc etc. There were cheaper options nearby, but no one else offered childcare. Childcare is an absolute necessity if I’m going to be able to actually use the gym. So this was the only real option in our area.

I also feel that its pretty reasonably priced. I had to pay $100 as an initiation fee, and they make you pay first and last month up front, but there’s no contract so we can quit at anytime. They also worked a deal where they gave me a family plan (so Chris can go, too) for the same price as the “individual” plan. The cost is $50/month. To get childcare I had to pay an extra $10 per child, but it’s for unlimited use of childcare. I think this is a pretty good deal. When the girls were 6 months they went to daycare at the Jewish Community Center (we aren’t Jewish, but it is a FABULOUS facility and EXCELLENT childcare providers! Very $$$$$, but very high quality!). The JCC requires that you join the facility when you use their childcare, so I’m comparing these prices to that experience. The community center fees (which includes gym access) cost $80/month for the family, and gym childcare was an additional $6/hour.

In all, our current gym will cost $70/month ($50 base + $20 for unlimited childcare). I think that’s reasonable considering everything that’s included. Keep in mind that our first month is substantially more expensive since we pay first and last month in addition to the initiation fee. So my first payment was actually $240 ($100 initiation, plus $140 for the first and last months’ payments). I am allowed to drop the childcare, too (if, for example, I decide to work out on days they’re in daycare. Right now I want to avoid that because those are my only days to really focus on work, but it’s a possibility for the future).

To be totally honest with myself and you, I fully believe I would NOT have considered joining the gym if it weren’t for our extra income. Chris was pushing hard around January to join a gym and I totally put my foot down. I did not want to spend the money and did not think we could afford it. But I’ve really started focusing more on my health and my (lack of) fitness has become alarming. I think this is a worthwhile investment in my long-term health.

So there you have it. I’m sure people have opinions both ways (for and against spending money on gyms), but everyone is different, every situation is unique, and I think that this is the best option right now for my family. It still hurts a little to spend this extra money, but I do think its money well spent.

 

Do you spend money on a gym membership? What are free/cheap ways that you stay in shape?


A Little Bit Longer

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Sorry for being AWOL today, I did start my money update but didn’t get it completed.  It’s taking me a bit longer than expected to get back in the swing of things since being gone for two weeks…I’m still living out of my suitcase after 4 days home if that gives you any idea of how things have gone.

So just a couple of bulleted updates:

  1. My goal of picking up new work has already been successful with not one but two new projects with signed contracts….more on that in a couple of weeks.
  2. Returned to my part time job this week, it was really hard, but I am so blessed to have it and a wonderful manager who truly, truly will work with my crazy schedule.
  3. Have gotten really sick again since returning, seems to be the same thing I had right before I left. I’m miserable but still trying to hold things together.  Luckily, it just seems to be me and not the kids.
  4. Enjoying having a son learning to drive, can’t wait til he’s mastered it so I can have a full time chauffeur! (Although I did tell him after his first attempt at parking in our driveway that our neighbors are going to think I’ve taken up drinking and drove home drunk as crooked as the car has been…but he is improving.)

I will have a completed money update including budget, debt and income next week barring this sickness sticking around.  I appreciate your support, sorry I was lax in not getting this ready ahead of time.


Dental, dental, dental

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Little dental update:  I ended up paying an extra $30 for a special fluoride treatment the dentist recommended, so my total was $69 (for regular cleaning, x-ray, exam, and extra fluoride treatment). I paid using my debit card and plan to transfer money from my Capital One 360 checking, where I’ve been saving for dental/vision. It knocks the account balance down to $50, but I won’t be needing this money again until August (for my vision appt.), so there should be enough to build back up and be able to pay for new glasses/contacts if my prescription changes (Remember, my insurance covers the exam – minus copay – but I owe out-of-pocket for glasses/contacts).

Since I just went to the dentist this morning it seems a fitting time to have this conversation….

We do not have dental insurance.

I am fortunate in that my teeth have always been pretty good. I’ve never needed braces, only had a couple cavities ever (and they were YEARS ago), and generally have pretty good oral hygeine.

My husband……not as lucky.

For him the problem extends decades back. His family never paid for dental insurance while he was growing up, so seeing the dentist – at all – was a rarity (in contrast, I was on my parent’s plan until I was 18 and have continued pretty regular care since then by using Groupons to have cleanings done). So, even when we met, his teeth were not in the greatest shape. Add to that the fact that he smoked for over a decade (he quit cold turkey the day our babies were born….a total shock to me!), which certainly compounded the problem. And he hates the dentist and still refuses to make regular appointments.

Okay.

So all that back history being stated, let me tell you a little story:

On Thanksgiving of 2011, after Thanksgiving festivities, we decided we wanted to try to hit up the Black Friday sales at midnight. We were stuffed from eating and decided to take an evening nap before shopping. We set our alarms for 11 pm.

Our alarms went off as planned but our plans were quickly derailed. Chris’ face was swollen so large it looked like he’d been in a fight (I looked for a photo I know I had taken, but can’t find anywhere! Argh! It looked terrible).

Turns out, we spent our day-after-Thanksgiving driving to Mexico.

We live in Tucson, about an hour north of the border. The largest industry in Nogales, Mexcio is dentistry (seconded by pharmacy). Many of the dentists were even trained in the States but ended up practicing in Mexcio. There are obvious “cons” of traveling to Mexico for dental care (particularly with all the problems with drug wars), but because its such a huge industry, its easy to find safe, clean, and reputable places. I would NOT just walk in somewhere off the street (some are super-sketch!), but if you do your research you can find a good place. Anyway, Chris had a horrible infection that required antibiotics and a root canal. This took 3 separate trips because the infection was so bad (1st trip = get antibiotics, let infection and swelling subside, 2nd trip = do the root canal and add a temporary crown, 3rd trip = place the permanent crown). This was pre-baby days so it was no biggie and we would just go together for an afternoon trip. The whole thing ended up costing $800. It’s still a sizable chunk of change, but its not terrible. My Mom has dental insurance and still has to pay $1000 out of pocket for a root canal and crown, so our (uninsured) price was even cheaper than that of others’ who have insurance.

Everything has been great since he got his crown and he hasn’t had any problems.

However…..he needs a lot more dental work. A lot. We had an exam when he was at the dentist and everything is just a mess, so we’re trying to decide what to do. Some of the work isn’t as immediate, but some of it is more pressing (and involves more expensive procedures – more root canals and crowns, as well as several cavity fillings, wisdom teeth extraction, and more). At this point, his initial appointment was  two and a half years ago so I’m sure things have only gotten worse and it feels like a ticking time bomb until his face explodes with infection again!

So at some point before our debt-payoff journey is complete we’ll be forced to cash-flow some expensive procedures. I’m hoping we can hold out on this until 2015 so we can make some serious progress this year, but there’s no telling if or when a tooth (already in need of root canal) will become infected and require immediate attention.

So the question…..

What would you do? Just hold out and wait as long as possible? Try to get some work scheduled? Would you go to Mexcio or buy dental insurance? Like I mentioned, Mexico prices seem to be even cheaper than  insurance prices (not to mention the insurance premiums), but it requires a full afternoon trip + mileage etc. Also, we would have to make sure he isn’t given any drugs that make him unable to drive because ain’t no way I’m taking the babies to Mexcio (the 2011 dental work was pre-baby days), so he’ll be solo.


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! : )