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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.


Budgeting = Getting a Raise

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Disclaimer: I hate to always bring up Dave Ramsey because I feel like a broken record and I don’t agree with everything he says, but….

One thing I always hear from people who call the Dave Ramsey Show is that when they started budgeting they feel like they “got a raise.”

I never understood that. I’ve always had a general budget, but since I’ve really been strict about budgeting, if anything it has felt more like a restriction! It has certainly NOT felt like getting a raise! What are these people talking about?

Well….I get it now.

This month I had in my planner that I needed to go get a teeth cleaning. I searched around for Groupons (which I’ve always used in the past), but none were anywhere remotely near my area so I decided to just call the local offices and ask if they were having any specials for cleanings. I was in luck – the third place I called was having a special for a free, X-ray and exam, and only $39 for the cleaning (this is about the same rate as the Groupon deals I’ve always used in the past). So I snagged an appointment!

Then, I go to my budget spreadsheet I keep (its an excel file on my computer tracking budgeting and current debts), and at first I’m a little bummed. Even though $40 is a great deal for teeth cleaning, x-ray and check-up, its DOUBLE my monthly “personal maintenance” budget (budget is $20). BUT….then I realized I’ve been saving $50/month for dental and vision purchases (my annual vision exam comes up in August). For the first time, I didn’t feel inconvenienced by this purchase and I didn’t have to worry about busting my budget for a necessary health-related expense! I’m so glad I decided to set up my budgeting system in a way where I was putting a little money aside every month for these irregular expenses!

So, we’ll see what happens when I get to the dentist, because I haven’t been in almost a year and I was warned that if my teeth needed “periodontal” something-or-other it would cost more. I’m a little worried, but glad that (1) I took the time to call around and find a great deal, and (2) I actually have money for this expense!

It’s the first time that it really did kind of feel like I got a raise simply by budgeting smartly. Wahoo!

Do you set aside money for these types of “expected” irregular expenses? What expenses do you set aside money for?

I remember Adam one time having this conversation in regard to setting aside money throughout the year for Christmas, but I could also think of many such “expected but irregular” types of expenses that one could budget for in this way.