Have you ever opened the mail and found an unanticipated bill that just made the blood drain out of your face and you feel sick to your stomach?
I have. Lord knows, I have.
It’s what happens when you know you don’t have the money to pay it. You weren’t expecting it or didn’t anticipate the large amount and, knowing that you owe it, you feel scared/sick/sad/panicked.
I’ve been there. Shortly before I started blogging here in March 2014, hubs suffered a serious medical illness. I’ve written about it before but just as a quick recap, hubs was stricken with some strange neurological disease. He was in-and-out of hospitals, admitted for 10 days here, 3 days there, several other single day trips. He also had to see pricey specialists, have batteries of tests run, and went to the Mayo Clinic for consultation. On top of this, he was the main provider for our family at the time (I only worked part-time making minuscule money compared to my current income), and he was out of work for 2 full months. Being self-employed, he had no paid time off or vacation or anything of that nature. We’re very thankful that he made a full recovery (his final diagnosis was “atypical meningitis” – because he had incredibly high levels of infection in his spinal fluid, but tested negative repeatedly for all the known forms of meningitis.). Even so, the event devastated our family financially. We’re still paying it back even now (it’s the medical bill that is referenced in our debt updates).
Although that was a very extreme example, we’ve had countless other similar incidents (though with smaller price tags attached) for things like an unexpected $1,000 root canal or $700 car repair work.
So you might think that I experienced a similar sensation when I opened up an unexpected bill from our girls’ pediatrician. They recently went for their 4-year well-child check-up. Those things are supposed to be free, right? Why then did I receive a bill for just over $800!?
Well, I switched our insurance for 2016 and this was one of the byproducts. I changed our plan to one with a low monthly payment and relatively low deductible. The “catch” is that we have to pay for 100% of our healthcare costs in full until our deductible is met. But at that point, the plan pays for everything minus our copays (no 80%-20% or whatever – they pay for it all as long as we’re in-network). Apparently I was mistaken in thinking that the well child check-up was covered under preventative care because, with our new insurance, we pay ALL of those costs until the deductible is met. And it hasn’t been met yet.
So did I panic at the sight of an $800 bill?
Not in the slightest.
I picked up the phone, called the pediatrician’s office, asked to speak to the business manager, and provided payment information in the very same day.
When I switched our insurance plan, I also enrolled in a Flexible Spending Account for healthcare (I have a separate FSA for childcare, too). My employer has been taking pre-tax money from my paycheck every single pay day since the beginning of January and, at this point, I’ve built up a little pot just shy of $2,500 that’s just sitting there waiting to be used on medical expenses.
I can’t even express how GREAT it feels to finally be on a budget and a plan that allows me to have these unexpected expenses pop up and NOT break out in a cold sweat with clammy palms!
I’m so thankful for a full-time job that allows me to pay for ALL KINDS of things with pre-tax money (childcare, healthcare, my dang parking permit for crying out loud). It just comes right out of my check so I never miss it (I never even have it to begin with) and it’s just sitting there waiting for me when I need it. I know I could do the same thing on my own (and, though YNAB, I’ve developed my own savings categories for things like vehicle repairs or gift-giving, which is truly helpful). But it’s so much easier when I never even have to see the money and it’s just done automatically like this for me.
Now that I’ve decided to start going to therapy and whatnot, this plan might not be the best option anymore. It really works best to pay 100% out-of-pocket when you don’t have lots of doctors’ appointments, etc. But I’ve got it at least through the duration of 2016 and it’s nice to know that the money is sitting there waiting should we need it.
Also, kind of as a side note since I mentioned hubs’ surprise root canal as one of our previous financial emergencies…. hubs’ teeth are FINALLY all up-to-date. He’s had some recent dental work with cavities and an additional root canal (over the past couple months – things have been crazy and I just haven’t mentioned it). But now he’s finally got his oral hygiene in check after years of catch up. The dentist said that the only remaining problems are cosmetic: he has two teeth that are out of place and could benefit from braces, and he could use a teeth whitening. We’re going to sit on our little pot of medical FSA money for awhile, but we’ve already discussed the possibility of starting the braces process later this year. Our health care FSA can be used for approved dental and I believe braces qualify (I have to double-check). The FSA is use-it-or-lose-it and we want to wait a bit to make sure there are no other health crises that pop up. But if we get around October-ish and we’ve still got money burning a hole in our pocket, then we may move forward with some orthodontics for hubs! Crazy and exciting at the same time!
That’s all. It’s just such a freeing feeling. And a very new feeling for us, too. We still have so much debt to contend with. But when stuff like this pops up and we have the money just to cover it with no worries, it feels like financial peace. I can’t wait to have that feeling every day once we’re debt-free!!!!
What was your most recent financial emergency and how did you resolve it?