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Guinea Pig With Glasses

May 15th, 2009 at 08:09 pm

No, not the one on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAOplanuumc


I'm anxiously awaiting a $30 pair of prescription reading glasses from an online optical store. If I were happy with the progressive lenses I got locally (and the attitude of the optician), it never would have occurred to me. But in doing some research online, I stumbled on a blog called Glassy Eyes, which is full of info on how to order cheap but good quality prescription glasses (and contacts) online.


Basically, you can guesstimate a frame size that will fit by reading the little numbers printed inside your existing frames. You enter the numbers from your eye doctor's prescription form; generally you don't even have to send in or fax the prescription paper, so you still have it on hand for your next purchase. (Apparently it can get quite addictive buying new styles and colors, once you know you can buy them so cheaply. Wink Sheesh, one place has some frames that only cost a dollar!)

The main problem seems to be finding out your "pupillary distance" which determines where the center of the prescription goes in each lens. Eye doctors often don't write that on the prescription blank, and local opticians often don't want to divulge it to the customer. But there are ways to figure it out yourself, or with a friend, and instructions are available online.

I want a nice large, frumpy frame that will give me a large field of vision; the optician would only show me skinny, fashionable frames. I want to try reading-only rather than reading/intermediate bifocals, which the optician says I need. (And which cost more, of course.) So for $30, I'm willing to experiment.

It looks like it might be a workable alternative for someone who really needs new glasses, doesn't have vision coverage, and can't afford to spend much. I can't wholeheartedly recommend it, since I haven't gotten mine yet. But I'll keep you posted.

Has anyone else tried this?

Whipsawed, but in a good way

November 1st, 2008 at 08:21 am

I hardly know where to begin. A few weeks ago, I was actually in tears because of money worries and now I'm trying to figure out how to divvy up a 45% increase in our cash flow. I just found out that my boss really went to bat for me, and got approval for me to go full-time with benefits! Not only is it more hours and free insurance, but also an increase in my hourly rate. Things sure can change fast, down or up.

I've been very worried about how we'd cope when DH's Cobra coverage ran out. That's a big part of the reason I went ahead and sold the rest of the ETFs I had in my IRA. I didn't want to raid the IRA to pay for health insurance, but I wanted to have the option if it came to that. If the stock market kept tanking, I couldn't be sure of how much I'd have available.

I've been trying really hard, running around to to buy things on sale, using coupons and rebates again, and had our freezer pretty well filled up.

One night DH got out some pizza and left the door open about an inch. In the morning, I heard it running like mad and discovered it. That's when I finally broke down and cried, fearing that all the food was ruined and money wasted. (We've been using the food up as fast as we can, with no ill effects so far.)

DH started looking for work, and finally signed up with a rather cheesy temp agency out of desperation. You can read about them here, and either be forewarned or just see how the bottom half lives:


I even went so far as to tell my mother I couldn't chip in the tip anymore when she took us out for a meal. It was really embarrassing, but felt I had to do it.

She likes to get out to restaurants, but is housebound now and needs one of us to drive her. She pays for the meal, and we've been paying the tips. But what with gas prices, I didn't feel I could keep shelling out more money on tips than we could have made the whole meal for at home.

Now, amazingly, the tide seems to have turned. Instead of feeling stunned and unsure because of all the bad economic news, I'm now feeling stunned and unsure about how to handle this good fortune.

I really, really, don't want to blow it.

Back because I'm scared

September 27th, 2008 at 04:13 pm

I feel like I need to huddle around the virtual campfire at Saving Advice again, safe from the cold, cruel world with some people who have their heads on straight. Smile

I'm trying not to be a Nervous Nellie, but all this upheaval in the economy is starting to get to me. It's not just what I'm hearing on the news--it's real life.

WAMU-we have our one credit card with them. Things should be business as usual, but it feels strange to have a 2nd credit card provider go belly up on me. (I had a NextBank card years ago.)

Wachovia-I have a brokerage account with them, DMom has two brokerage accounts plus she owns a pretty significant chunk of Wachovia stock which is already showing a loss. I'm hoping they don't do a WAMU and that she doesn't lose it all.

The housing market-My mother, at 91, has finally put her "extra" house up for sale, seemingly at the worst possible time in recent memory. There have only been two showings in about 3 weeks. If it goes on too many months, we may need to help her get it ready to rent out.

It's been a year, and DH still isn't working. In a lot of ways it's been a help, but we could sure use some extra money.

Especially since we are still paying $660 a month for his COBRA health insurance, which runs out in March. The prospects for me getting full-time at my present job don't look good, and the cost of an individual (non-COBRA) policy will be even higher.

Our emergency fund is below the $1000 minimum that I feel comfortable with, and I'm going to have to work hard to get it built up again. I'm unavoidably spending $200 a month on gas now (because of driving my mother), and our car insurance just went up $35 a month.

Somehow I'm going to have to get back to frugal ways, but I don't have time to fiddle around with Quicken like I used to.

Hope things are going a little more smoothly with everyone else.

My plate is full

December 9th, 2007 at 08:43 am

Since DH left his job, all heck has broken loose. Not due to him--on the contrary, if he didn't have the time and energy to help with this stuff, I don't see how I could have managed. As it is, we are both feeling pretty stressed, and at times physically shaky.

In this entry, the financial front.

Just before DH left his job, he decided to get a tooth fixed. Looking back on it, I think he wanted to look better for job interviews, but it didn't occur to me at the time. That cost $1500.

I managed to pick up some extra hours at work, which covers our COBRA insurance almost exactly. My boss knows I'm ready to go full time and get benefits, and she'd like to give it to me, but it's not in the budget right now.

Still, the cheapest COBRA option (keeping the high deductible insurance and the HSA account) is $645 a month and it's kind of painful to pay. It's more than our mortgage! And we still have to find money to put into the HSA.

We had to start paying on life insurance for DH, because the only policy he had was at work. $94 a quarter.

In October, our dog had a swelling on her cheek that we thought might be a tumor. It was relatively good news--an abscessed tooth that needed to be removed. The vet visits, surgery and medicine totalled $605.

One of the little additions on our house had a much older roof than the main part, and it started to leak once in a while. It kept getting worse and in November we decided we'd better get it replaced before snow season started. Even I could see it was beyond repair, unless we just wanted to lay a tarp over it for the winter! $1125.

We rarely have flea problems, but our dog and cat both got them recently. I didn't have the stuff on hand, so I ordered it online for the best price I could find--just under $100.

It was our balance month for natural gas, and we owed $48 extra. We needed a new faucet cartridge, $22. DH worked on hedges at DMom's house, sliced the extension cord. New cord, $25. MIL needed her phone card re-upped due to a family emergency, $25. We've been very involved with DMom and MIL lately, which has made it harder to do things the cheap way. We've been indulging in some fast food and I'm just happy to get out shopping when I can, let alone following sales and using coupons.

Amazingly, we are still afloat financially so far. I had to charge a few things only because the emergency money I had to spend wasn't in the account with the debit card. As soon as I pay that bill, we'll be debt-free again except for the mortgage.

Oh, and all that subprime mortgage news that's been coming out has made me very, very nervous about our ARM, due to adjust in 3 years. So I set up an automatic extra payment to principal for $50 a month--don't know how much it will help in the long run, but it makes me feel better.

Next time, the family crises. (Oh, joy!)

COBRA insurance loophole

September 25th, 2007 at 05:30 am

Interesting article that includes info on how to save money on COBRA health insurance after you leave a job:


"But here's what a lot of people don't know: You don't need to sign up for or buy COBRA coverage as soon as you bid adieu to your old workplace. That's because you have 60 days to elect COBRA coverage and another 45 days after that to buy it. In other words, you don't have to pay for any insurance for 105 days -- and if you don't get sick or need to see a doctor or go to the hospital, you pay nothing at all.

Here's what you do: You sign up for COBRA on the 60th day after leaving your job. Then, if you need to use the health insurance within the next 45 days you pay for coverage. Claims are retroactive to the first day in which you were no longer covered through work."


July 27th, 2007 at 05:53 am

That would be Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Wikipedia says it's an advertising term, but what I'm feeling is about DH's job and our finances.

His company has been sold, and so far DH and his coworkers have good feelings about the change. They are encouraging all employees to stay, and they have more generous sick and vacation policies. However, I'm antsy to know what the health insurance situation is going to be.

They have several Blue Cross plans to choose from, but not the cheap High Deductible/Health Savings Plan combo we have now. DH has no idea yet whether it's fully paid for by the company, or whether he has to kick in, and how much.

We could be looking at substantially higher or lower take-home pay. It could mean moving ahead on goals faster than we'd thought, or having to cut our Emergency Fund and New Car Fund savings down to a trickle. As it is, we really need to buy some life insurance on him, as the new company-provided policy will be half what it was.

I'm glad it looks like he still has a job. I'm glad we have no cc debt left. I'm glad we have enough in the HSA to cover the dental work DH is in the middle of. But I still can't help being nervous!

Aldi diet starts today

May 1st, 2007 at 09:04 am

I just got back from the doc, and have some additional motivation. My blood pressure has gone up a bit, and he's talking about increasing the dosage of my medication--the pill I want to get off of altogether because I'm tired of running to the bathroom!

I have a 6-week reprieve to see if I can lower it by losing weight, watching salt, and exercising. I asked the doc, of his patients who have lost weight successfully, what did they do? What's the common denominator? His answer--Weight Watchers. I asked him for a note of "medical necessity" so I can use HSA money for Weight Watchers fees. I guess I'll give it another try.

On the good side, my blood work was fine. Total cholesterol under 200, and HDL 50. At least he was happy about something!

Stopped at a different Aldi on my way home, to see if they had anything different from mine. I scored some sugar free Mystic mints--my usual store only has the sugar free gum.

What I found, and didn't find

April 25th, 2007 at 09:06 am

Made a trip to Aldi's last night, at what I hoped would be a slow time. I was able to take my time in the aisles, looking for things I couldn't find previously, and writing down prices.

Pleasant surprises:

Nonstick cooking spray (canola-based) $1.29
Turkey bacon $1.89
Splenda, in addition to their own brand of aspartame
Plain, nonfat yogurt
Sugar free "jello" and fat free pudding, in the refrigerated section $1.79 for 6 cups
Fat free "cool whip" 75 cents
Baked nacho tortilla chips $1.49
Mixaid (like Crystal Lite) $1.75
Lite mayo $1.49
Corn tortillas in the bread section, that I turn into baked chips myself, by slicing and baking, 89 cents
Sunflower seeds 39 cents
Tomato juice, large can 89 cents

Some disappointments:
No 1% milk; there's skim but I'm not wild about it
No reduced fat sour cream
No reduced fat sliced cheese
No vinegar besides white distilled (cookbooks say too harsh to be used in salad dressings)
Not much selection in bottled diet salad dressings
No flavored lite cream cheese, only plain
Diet frozen meals limited to "Lean Pocket" type wraps

Still and all, I think I'll find plenty to eat and lose weight. I'll try their diet dressings, and I'll try making some homemade ones calling for lemon juice rather than fancy vinegars.

How to eat healthy and lose weight with Aldi

April 24th, 2007 at 05:36 am

No, I'm not entering the blog contest. Wink Actually, I'm not even starting this project til May 1.

I signed up over on the Let's Lose A Person thread, and am getting nowhere. I need some way to jumpstart my weight loss, some way to make it interesting enough to stick with. The accountability of blogging helped me to get out of debt--maybe it could help me lose weight, too.

So, for the month of May, I'm going to eat nothing but Aldi food and see how it affects my weight and other health factors. I made a doctor's appointment for May 1, so I can get official weight and blood pressure numbers. And I'll be getting some long overdue blood work done this week, so I'll know where I'm starting with cholesterol and such. The trick might be getting a slip for more blood work after only a month!

I'm actually looking forward to working within a limitation like this--I think it can force you to be more creative. And being creative is usually fun. Wish me luck!

The most common emergencies

April 3rd, 2007 at 11:40 am

Bingo! Found a report that partially solves the "intangibility" problem for me.

Your kind comments yesterday also helped. Intangible is definitely the word for the problem. Earning interest in an incentive. And I can buy into the insurance deductible thing.


Thanks to My Money Blog, who mentioned it here:


The most common kinds of unexpected expenses are medical, car, home and housing, life events and children. The %'s for other occurrances is way lower.

We can save for medical deductibles and expenses in the HSA. I already have special savings accounts for car repair and replacement, household repairs and maintenance. That kind of leaves unemployment, veterinary expenses, and funding car and homeowner's insurance deductibles, and life event things like traveling for funerals.

The deductibles for car and homeowners comes to $2000.

Veterinary is kind of discretionary, and would depend on how much money we had on hand. Some people spend thousands trying to keep an animal alive, some would let a dog go naturally or have it put to sleep.

I can see building up the HSA to cover our $3000 annual medical deductible, and keeping $3000 handy for other deductibles, vet expenses and family events. We'd be covered for all the most common things.

I STILL can't see the point of building up even more cash-equivalent savings for remote possibilities I can't imagine, rather than increasing our retirement savings and getting the house paid off.

I haven't said so before, but we have some "untouchable" money in a regular brokerage account plus IRAs. It's not in the form of ready cash, but in the case of unemployment we could survive on it for well over a year. I don't see the point of cashing it out and putting it in the money market just because that's where Dave Ramsey says an emergency fund should be.

So I'm going to aim for $3000 in the HSA, and eventually $3000 in the money market, even though that's only a little over 2 month's expenses. And I'm going to concentrate on fully funding the HSA first, since medical expenses are the most common and we get a tax break.

Ladies only!!! A freebie side effect you don't want

September 19th, 2006 at 07:40 pm

I warned ya...

Over the past few months I've had a problem Down There that I never had happen before in my life. The irritation comes and goes without any treatment beyond switching to Dove soap and being patient. It's not really serious enough to run to the doctor with, but darned uncomfortable--so I started researching online. To my surprise, the probable culprit is Always brand feminine hygiene pads!


Note that the journal article came out in the 90's, but the advice to avoid the Always brand is still being given today.

I don't know about you, but I only started using this brand recently, after a series of offers at different stores, a Catalina and a sample that came with a coupon. Let me tell you, if you're sensitive to whatever's in them.... well, they couldn't PAY me to use them again.

I'm emptying my stockpile into the trash even if I have to pay full price for another brand. No use donating them and causing someone else discomfort.

Sick of allergy season

May 29th, 2006 at 05:56 am

The worst part isn't what you'd think. Generic claritin does a pretty good job of controlling the sneezing and runny nose. What it can't do is give me my energy back. I feel like I've been unplugged. Or like deflated balloon. I don't feel like I'm ever fully awake or rested, no matter how much I sleep.

If I hadn't been through this for years, I'd think I had mono or something. But I know from experience it's just a matter of waiting it out. When things in the environment change, I'll feel better.

What this has to do with money--I just don't have the energy to run around and take advantage of sales and things. I went to only one grocery store this weekend, and did the best I could there. I ordered socks and nylons online from Just My Size because I dont' have the energy to run out shopping. I'm not cooking much; we've had takeout two days in a row.

I figure it's more important to reserve my energy for higher-priority, higher-stakes things like getting out to do a $50 test drive tomorrow, and getting out to the election job training.

OTOH, it's a good time to do easy stuff like being online, and catching up on my reading. For example, I've gone through Flash's food company contacts and signed up for some newsletters I never knew about.

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday! And wish me a change in the weather.

Catching up on odds and ends

May 18th, 2006 at 12:48 pm

Cancelled YourMusic.com. I signed up through Inbox Dollars, and was glad to get a CD that DH wanted, for $5.99. But I don't need to be spending $5.99 every month on a CD right now.

Got $5.99 credited to the Citicard. I'd ordered stuff from Roaman's that turned out to be defective and dirty. Roaman's didn't charge me for the return shipment, but they refused to refund the shipping charge on the original order. I called Citi and said I didn't think I should be stuck with $5.99 when I'd gotten absolutely nothing. They were very nice about crediting my account.

Requested my Citi rewards check for $68.

Decided to lower the amount I'm paying to HSBC from $290 down to $250 a month. I thought I could afford the $290, but now that I figure in the lawn mowing, it's obvious I can't. The account won't quite be paid off by the end of the 0% period, but I don't mind paying $10 or $15 in interest for the final couple of months. Better than feeling strapped for the next 6 months.

Found out how getting a blood test works, under our new insurance.

Subscribed to the other Sunday paper on a half-price subscription sale. Their coupons are much better; it will be well worth it.

Went to Eckerd's last night for bargains; spent $11 after $9 in coupons were taken off.

Ordered another batch of Dealpass gc's. Only have a few more months to take advantage of these; don't want to lose the opportunity.

Almost finished putting our upcoming transactions in Quicken, through the end of the year. It really helps to see our cash flow ahead of time. If we're going to run short, better to see it coming and find a solution early on.

Bargain hunting = Emergency room visit

May 12th, 2006 at 07:29 am

Sigh. This week I took my mother along shopping to a discount chain store that shall remain nameless for the time being. She still drives, but doesn't roust herself to get out shopping very often. I thought I could kill two birds with one stone, picking up something I needed myself, and also getting her out. That's why I feel especially bad about this--part of my reason for the trip was to take care of my own business and save time. I keep thinking if I wasn't being so selfish, this might never have happened.

She was looking at canvas shoes. There was a style that fit her pretty well for $5.99. But it wasn't on sale, so she kept trying on the ones that were on sale for $5. Understand she has no need to save the 99 cents! While saying it was a waste of time and we ought to go home, she kept trying on pair after pair.

Suddenly she cried out in pain, removed the shoe she was trying, and there was a nail-like thing stuck in her foot! It turned out to be part of some kind of security device.

She pulled it right out, unceremoniously. I would have been freaking out, myself! I told her she ought to get a tetanus shot, if nothing else, and she decided if it required a doctor visit she better file some kind of report to the store.

Long story short, we ended up at the emergency room and neither of us got home or had dinner til after 7 p.m. She got her tetanus shot, plus a smear of Neosporin on a band-aid.

Hopefully Medicare and her supplemental insurance will cover it. The bill should be interesting in any case. Maybe I'll start a pool, and whoever guesses how much hospitals charge for emergency bandaids will win a prize. Wink

She also got a prescription for an antibiotic, which cost her over $60 after her Blue Cross discount.

I'm trying to see a lesson in this. It's one more reason to stop shopping at this particular chain, which I have grown to hate. Don't take my mother shopping? I could order things I know she needs from catalogs and bring her things from stores, even though she resists it. Keep your tetanus vaccine up to date, so it doesn't become an emergency? Look in shoes before you put them on? My mother should get Medicare Part D even though she doesn't see the point, because you never know when you'll need a prescription? Don't sweat spending an extra 99 cents if you can afford it?

BTW, she seems to be doing just fine.

Saving $25

April 20th, 2006 at 05:35 am

Was at the doctor's this week, and remembered to ask him to write up my prescription for larger quantities at a time. The pharmacist had told me I'd save a little that way. As it turned out, it was very little--I saved $3 by getting a 3-month supply instead of one. Seemed hardly worthwhile, until I figured it out would save $12 over the course of a year.

Then I ordered some rawhide bones for the dog, and noticed that shipping would be free if I bought more at a time. So I ordered a 6-month supply instead of a 3-month supply. It only saved $3.38. But by ordering this amount twice a year, instead of smaller orders 4x a year, it will save $13.52.

A good reminder to myself that small changes really do add up over time.

Cost per pound lost

April 6th, 2006 at 06:35 am

Thought I'd post some interesting stuff I found online, about the cost to lose a pound using different weight loss programs. It really reinforces my decision to try TOPS. I may not be successful in getting and keeping much weight off, but at least I won't bankrupt myself in trying:

From http://www.naafa.org/press_room/rush.html

(costs per pound lost)

"Medically supervised, very low calorie diets
HMR $7.94
Medifast $6.85
Optifast $9.88
United Weight Control $11.56

Balanced low calorie diets run by dietitians or non-medical personnel
Diet Center $4.08
Jenny Craig $10.43
Nutrisystems $8.62
Registered Dietitian $5.80
Weight Watchers $1.10

Volunteer-staffed or self-health support groups
TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) $0.03
Overeaters Anonymous $0.00
Source: Journal of the American College of Nutrition"

From http://www.guideline.gov/summary/summary.aspx?ss=15&doc_id=3...

It is not known whether weight-loss interventions are cost effective or cost beneficial, given that weight loss is generally not sustained. Studies suggest that a sustained 10% weight loss is expected to extend life expectancy by 27 months and to reduce expected lifetime medical care costs of chronic medical conditions (diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, coronary artery disease, and stroke) by $2200$5300. One study suggests that surgical intervention may be more cost effective in the long run than medical treatments because of persistent weight reduction after surgery. However, in that study the average cost per pound of weight loss was approximately $250."

(Makes you wonder if it's worthwhile to deprive yourself for years, to extend your life only 2 months and save only $2200!)

From http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45499-2005Jan...

"Price is likely to put many of the programs beyond reach of those trying to achieve a healthy weight, the study found. The medically supervised programs, which also provided food, cost the most, ranging from $840 to $2,100 for three months, or "about $50 per pound lost," Wadden said.

Jenny Craig cost $1,249 for three months, including all daily food. Both Weight Watchers and L.A. Weight Loss cost about $170 for three months, while Ediets.com was $65, TOPS $26 and OA had no charge."

First dental appt in a year & 4 months!

March 24th, 2006 at 05:23 am

The Health Savings Account mess is finally getting close to being settled. The actual checking account is set up, the first direct deposit from DH's paycheck has shown up, and all the deductions taken out of previous checks have been credited to the account also. We've received the debit card, but not the checks yet. So I can start taking care of things where I can use the card, like I getting my prescription filled, and going to the dentist. But I can't go in for my long-overdue doctor visit yet, because our family doctor doesn't take credit or debit cards.

It's such a relief to see things moving, finally. I had used all the refills for my blood pressure prescription, and only had enough to take me through March 30. I assumed I'd have to go into the office before I could get more, but I didn't want to go in til I got those HSA checks. With the mess it's been so far, I couldn't imagine paying for the office visit myself ($65) and then figuring out how to get reimbursed. The checks might have come before March 30, but I couldn't be sure. I was starting to get frantic.

When I talked to the doctor's office, they said if the pharmacist called in, they could approve a 30-day extension on the prescription to carry me through. Thank goodness! Then I called the dentist, and hallelujah they take credit cards! (That means the HSA debit card should work.) So I've got a checkup and cleaning scheduled for April.

This is not to say I anticipate smooth sailing from here. I tried to get on the Blue Cross website and have had nothing but problems trying to register DH and myself, and then logging in. I want to be able to go online and check what's covered under the high deductible insurance part, and any restrictions on where I have to go--for example, for mammograms.

One problem was, you can't use the Mozilla Firefox browser on their login page, it will only work with Internet Explorer. I only figured that out after spending well over an hour on the problem, over two days. They don't tell you this anywhere on the website--I even googled within the site to see if I'd missed a statement of system requirements. Nothing! Now when I login, I either get a page meant for Blue Cross employees, or one that says my login failed because I don't have an FSA. Well I never said I did! Frown

Phooey! I guess I'll stick to calling them for the time being.

Time-consuming odds and ends

January 27th, 2006 at 08:05 am

Well, here goes with the new system!

JC Penney never put through a credit they were supposed to, when they ran short of an item I ordered at Christmas, even though it showed as in stock. Called about it this morning; will have to watch for it for 1-2 more billing cycles.

Gas company sent two bills, the second one saying I owed twice the amount as usual. It was because I called in the meter reading, and then the meter reader put in the reading also. Another phone call this morning, to get the 2nd bill cancelled out.

DH's paycheck was even lower than the last one, so I had to gather and copy all the pertinent paperwork at 7:15 this morning, so he could show his immediate supervisor what his new health deduction was supposed to be. It turned out last paycheck was short because he took a day off at the end of the year, when he was actually out of vacation time. But this time it was the insurance that was the problem. They took out the old amount PLUS the new amount, and will have to refund $123 in his next check. Thank goodness we have enough cash on hand to carry us through til then.

Yesterday got a call from the stockbroker who handles my account with some income-generating investments. A bond was called in, and he wanted the ok to reinvest the money in something else. I felt like I had to research it a little to make sure the new company was ok. I'd rather take a little less interest than get a higher rate on a junk bond.

Wednesday, my weekly paperwork day, I wasn't really in the mood for it and tried to make a game out of it by counting how many piece of paper I handled. I lost track at 100. It took several hours, and there are still more things I ought to do.

I feel very lucky to be working part-time, and have the time to take care of this stuff!

Taking the bitter with the sweet

January 13th, 2006 at 04:58 am

I don't know why I should be surprised...

I found out yesterday I got a raise. Smile I was feeling great, thinking I'd be able to start paying down the cc by $300 a month, planning on posting an entry here with the big green smiley face. It wasn't just my raise that was going to give us some breathing room, but the fact that DH's take-home pay should be going up, too. The actual health insurance deduction was supposed to go down by $80, and $40 was going to start going into the HSA, for a net increase in take-home of $40. Or a bit less, because his withholding would probably go up a little.

But I went online to check his paycheck deposit this morning, and instead of being higher than it was, it's $50 lower! I don't know what on earth is going on. I won't have a clue til we get his actual pay stub. I won't be a bit surprised if something got really screwed up about the new insurance and HSA, considering how it's gone so far. I really dread another finance-related problem hanging over our heads, but at least the long distance and Sony card things are settled. I also really dread having to talk to his supervisor and human resources person again, but it's got to be sorted out and I know he won't want to.

I keep thinking at some point we'll get to a place where dealing with money is just a routine part of life, not just a series of problems. It's not that nothing good is happening, but it seems like every time I start to feel happy and hopeful, another problem appears within hours. I don't think I've had one full 24-hour period since I've been keeping this journal where I've felt really calm, content and in control of our finances.

Claritin, and misc.

January 12th, 2006 at 05:40 am

Someone mentioned how expensive Claritin was, I forget who... Anyway, I've had success with Walgreens' over-the-counter generic version called Wal-itin, which is pretty cheap when it goes on sale. This week it's around $5.99 for 20, in a B1G1F sale on 10-pill packs. I was going to stop in for some, but I found an even better price. Aldi has a generic 10-pill pack for $1.99, all the time. (Just marked loratadine.) No waiting for sales or having to buy more than you need at the time. Thought I'd pass it along.

It's the 12th of the month already, and I've only made 2 credit card purchases.

DMom doesn't have a credit card, and doesn't need to be making extra trips out for new phone cards all the time. So usually I add minutes to her phone card with my credit card, and she reimburses me. I just did it automatically, as I always do, and then realized there's no real reason it couldn't have been done on a debit card. I'll try to remember that next time.

The $100 statement credit finally showed up on the Chase Sony credit card, but I had just paid it off. So I ended up with an actual credit balance. I used it to buy my discounted gift cards for the month. (I purposely want to keep using a cc to buy these, just in case something goes wrong. So this wasn't a slip-up.) After the rebate comes back, my account balance will be back to zero.

At that point I may just close the account. I don't want too many cc accounts open, and at this point I just have a bad taste in my mouth about this company. If it took 19 weeks to get something that was due in 12 weeks, and it was something they offered voluntarily, themselves--how long might it take to handle an actual billing dispute? If they are so disorganized that one week they send a letter saying I'd need to wait 1-2 billing cycles, and the next week the credit shows up... If I know from Fatwallet discussions that some people were getting their credits within days of their first purchase and others were waiting months... If I know that they kept offering the same deal under different names, when they were so far behind fulfilling the deal for people who'd applied months before... I don't know, I just don't feel very good about them. It's a failed marketing ploy for them, as far as I'm concerned.

It's funny. The PNC deal was for less money, but things went a lot smoother, and they won me over as a customer when I'd originally thought I'd close my little account fairly quickly.

Yesterday's car repair bill was only $213, and it included some maintenance stuff as well as the actual repair. I know we saved at least $75 compared to Firestone or a dealership doing it. And I can walk to our neighbor's repair shop. Everything seems to have been done right the first time. So I'd call it a success. Smile

What a day

January 5th, 2006 at 11:53 am

I feel like I'm ready to take a nap or go to bed early, but I still need to work this evening...

Started the day by filling out and faxing the HSA forms to DH's human resources person at around 7 a.m. Called later to make sure it went through. Sounds good, but I'll feel better when I see the deductions on DH's next paycheck.

Then I had to get the dog to her annual vet appointment. She gets very nervous and they needed an extra assistant in the room to hold her still. A muzzle is a given, but when I asked they said yes, a tranquilizer might be a good idea next time. Quite an experience.

She's over 10 now, and seems to be getting the beginning of arthritis. The doctor recommended trying a special Science Diet food for joint disease, but you have to get it by prescription and it isn't cheap. $19.99 for a 10-pound bag of dry when I'm used to paying about $8. Or $1.50 a can, when I'm used to paying 50 cents. Plus I still have a lot in Petsmart gift cards to use up, and I wouldn't be able to get this food there. I just can't see committing to spending that extra money right now. Especially since the doctor only mentioned it at my asking, and pointed out that the dog was still pretty lively. So I'll try not to feel guilty. She can't be in too bad shape if she's still running up the steps just to show DH a new chewy bone. Smile

Mailed in the rabies certificate for the new dog license. Switched the newspaper billing to the debit card. Mailed a book that sold on Amazon, and a rebate. Picked up requests at the library. And all afternoon I've been working on taxes.

I sold a lot of stuff on Amazon last year, and a pretty large percentage of the items were things I'd bought at full price for personal use, and then sold later. But I feel like I have to report a sale as income unless I have a receipt to prove what it cost me (just in case we ever get audited). I was able to pull up old Amazon purchases, and an Ebay purchase through my Paypal account. But there are still quite a few purchases I have no receipts for. At least I got the taxable Amazon income down by $200. A lot of work to save about $30 on our taxes, now that I think about it...

Another no-cc day. Wrote a check at the vet.

Misc. updates

December 29th, 2005 at 08:29 am

HSA/DH -Thanks for the support and book suggestion. I *am* going to call again next Tuesday when that person is back from vacation, and keep trying to get it set up. DH doesn't seem to mind that I'm working on this; I was kind of afraid he'd be angry that I butted in. And the ladies in his office are nice enough. I guess it's more me feeling really uncomfortable about doing it. I can't imagine DH calling my job, asking about my benefits. Or my parents calling each other's jobs. Or spouses of co-workers of mine calling in, either. Unless the employee in question is deathly ill in the hospital or something.

Believe me, I do have quite a few accounts in my name only. And I have gone online to make changes in DH's 401K allocations and do health insurance business. (After I talked to him about it.) I guess I'll be able to do the HSA business on my own, too--after it's set up. But it sounds like filling out forms for his payroll person to set this stuff up is something that has to be on paper, and come from him.

Long distance-We tried to make some long distance calls over the holidays, using Pioneer instead of the phone card. We kept getting a message about not being authorized to make the call. I checked our last phone bill, and it showed Sprint as our regional carrier, and no long distance carrier at all. So I called Pioneer this morning. They said the Sprint part was ok, and said the long distance should be set up within 24-48 hours. I have to call a test number in a few days to make sure it went through. I was joking when I said this project could take weeks--I never imagined months! I started making the switch back on October 26.

BestBuy-Between phone calls, driving to Best Buy and waiting in the return line, It took me about an hour and 15 minutes to get the Virgin Mobile top-up card problem settled. A lot of work to do, just because somebody missed scanning the barcode somewhere along the line. Glad it's finished!

Mazda test drive-It's been less than 2 weeks since I mailed in the offer, and the Supercertificate code came in my email already. I'm impressed! I've ordered a $25 Staples gift card.

HSBC cc application-Yes, two applications did go through. The second one was turned down. The rep said it couldn't be deleted because the decision had already been made. I really don't like the idea of a "declined" on my credit report, but there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it. I'll make an explanatory statement with each credit reporting agency, but from what I understand nobody is apt to read it. Everything seems to be done automatically by computers, which only look at numbers.

The good news is, the rep on the phone put through a balance transfer big enough to pay off the balance on the Sony and Discover cards. He's actually sending the money to our checking account, to save us $50 on balance transfer fees. (Doing one transfer instead of two.) Then I'll just pay off each account out of checking. 0% till March 2007. I just hope the declined application doesn't affect my FICO number, triggering a cancellation of the 0% rate...

Have read 3 books so far, right on schedule. Exercised once last week. Mailed 2 more rebates this week, for a total of 4. The latest ones were Dr. Pepper for $5, and 2 General Mills whole grain rebates for another $5.

Health Savings Account and DH

December 28th, 2005 at 08:37 am

Well, the new high-deductible health plan at DH's job with the HSA is supposed to go into effect January 1. We've waited and waited, and he never got a form to fill out about how much he wanted to put in the HSA each paycheck. There was one meeting about it in our part of the state, and DH missed it because he called out sick that day. His supervisor said not to worry, because we'd all be getting something in the mail.

Here it is 12/28 and we haven't gotten anything, so I called up to his Human Resources department to ask if we missed getting something. I figured if there was a 12/31 deadline, there'd still be time to get a form and fax it back. I hate making a call like this to his job, but I know from experience he won't do it. He cares so little about health coverage that when he finally started working full-time after three years of part-time, he declined coverage because he "didn't want them taking anything out of his paycheck." I ended up having to continue COBRA coverage from my former job for about $6000 a year until his next open enrollment date. It actually cost us more than that because I had to take money out of an IRA and pay taxes and penalties.

What I found out was, 1) they are NOT mailing anything out to employees, they have to ask if they are interested. 2) The woman who handles it is on vacation til January 3. 3) When I called to try to reach DH at work, I talked to a woman in the local office who said nobody else at their location was going to sign up for it.

I'm feeling stressed and annoyed and unsure of myself all at the same time. Am I wrong in thinking the HSA would be a good thing for us? If so, why is nobody else taking advantage of it? How can I shake some sense into DH's head about the importance of this stuff? Am I being too pushy calling about it myself? Really, I had to call because I know DH wouldn't do it.

Over and over again, I feel like I have to protect myself financially because DH will not do it, and at times has even taken advantage of me. Someday I'll write about that in further depth. Let's just say I'm unexplainably short of cash again after entering my spending in Quicken, and my first thought was that DH has started to "borrow" money from my purse again lately. It might not be the case at all--I've been doing a lot of rushing and not recording things right away. But it takes a long time to build back trust again, and lately several things have happened to remind me he will take a mile if I give an inch.

Little bits and pieces

October 18th, 2005 at 05:21 am

Yesterday went well, especially considering it was a Monday. It's my longest day out of the house, and the morning is usually spent trying to catch up on the weekend mess. Usually I run out of the house late, having left things undone and feeling behind. This week I actually got to work early, and had lots of stuff ready to take to the post office on my dinner hour. I got a lot done at work, too. So I treated myself to a caramel-flavored coffee for $1.05 on the way back from dinner--positive reinforcement. Smile

What I got into the mail were: 2 rebate offers, 1 prescription reimbursement form, 1 package of awful correction pens (they're supposed to send me a new, better product), and a book that sold on Amazon. All little bits and pieces that will help us keep in the black.

I wonder if anyone else has had this experience--on the prescription reimbursement form, they asked for the prescribing doctor's DEA number. All the other info they wanted was on my receipt, except this. I called my doctor's office and they wouldn't give it to me--they put me on hold a long time, and passed me from person to person. What it came down to was, they said don't give that information out to patients because it could be used fraudulently. They kind of made me feel like a drug-addicted criminal, just for asking! And I'm sure the number is on the prescription forms they hand out every day, anyway. All this hassle just to get $7 back from Blue Cross for blood pressure medicine. What I ended up doing was putting on the form, doctor's office will not provide, please call them at xxx-xxx-xxxx. We'll see what happens.

There were booksales at two libraries this past weekend, but DH and I each had our own reasons for skipping them. DH ran short of cash last week, when he overdid it at the last booksale we went to. I felt very behind after spending so much time on the car repairs last week, and just wanted to stay home and catch up. I'm sure we won't have long to wait for another sale to go to, though. Like they stay about streetcars and men, another one is always just around the corner. Wink

I was supposed to be cutting back on groceries and such this month and next, to catch up on overspending in September. But now it's turkey time at all the supermarkets, where if you spend a certain amount you get the free turkey or ham or a % off your next shopping trip. And, there are a lot of sales going on at Pathmark for things we'll need over the next few months anyway. So I'm continuing to spend, and stocking up. Beyond getting a deal, it just feels good to see a full pantry and know that in the next snowstorm all I'll need to do is walk up to Eckerd's on the corner for milk. One thing I'm trying to do is make one rebate purchase a week at Pathmark. The purchase goes toward the free whatever, but it's not actually money spent because of the rebate.

Am almost caught up on watching all the Monarch of the Glen episodes that are on DVD. They play it on public tv around here, but I'd missed some episodes so I've been borrowing it from the library. There is something very satisfying about watching upper-crusty people, living in a castle, having to learn to cut down and pinch pennies...

Good news--I've been sick

September 26th, 2005 at 07:07 am

I had the beginnings of a cold or allergies last week, and Friday it finally hit me hard. The cold symptoms weren't so bad, but the tiredness has been overwhelming. I didn't even sit at the computer for almost 3 full days. Basically, I watched TV or listened to the radio, either in bed or in a living room chair with my feet up. 3 no-spend days, no trouble at all. Wink Also, I've lost 4 pounds. It's just a good thing I was so tired, otherwise I might have given in and ordered one of those Magic Bullet blenders (after seeing parts of the infomercial at least a dozen times).

I was glad to have a stockpile of easy frozen dinners so I could get something on the table without ordering take-out. But we had practically no cold medicine in the house, and no chicken soup. DH wasn't anxious to go out and get anything for me, and I was to tired to really bug him about it. So I think maybe it would be worthwhile to have a "sick shelf" ready at all times, not just containing medicine but other supplies you might not want to run out for when you don't feel well. A project for later in the week, when I'm caught up on other things.

In a little less limbo

August 14th, 2005 at 04:48 am

But not much.

We finally received the annual health insurance packet from DH's job. They've not only switched to a different insurance company again, now they are also offering a high-deductible plan with a health savings account (HSA) starting in January. This is something completely new and different for us, and we can use all the info we can get. I think it's supposed to be a good thing, because you can put pretax money into the health savings account (saving on taxes) and take it with you if you leave the job. But there is practically nothing in the packet to explain it!

Current HMO coverage, $109 per pay x 2.15 pays a month = $234 a month
New equivalent coverage as of next January, $171 per pay x 2.15 pays a month = $368 a month
High deductible/HSA plan, $43 (base - ?) per pay x 2.15 pays a month = $92 a month

So if we stay with the traditional insurance, we'll have $134 a month less in our pockets. And nothing to show for it.

If we go with the new kind of plan, we'll have $142 a month more in our pockets. Part of which, if I understand right, could go into the health savings account and build up if we spend less on medical expenses than we put in. On the down side, it will may affect our car insurance rates if this new kind of policy isn't considered primary in the case of car accident injuries. (It says "subject to co-insurance," and I'm not sure what that means.)

They are supposed to be mailing out more info, and are having meetings about it in November and December. But DH has to pick one or the other and mail this form in within one week, before having any of that extra info. Aggravating. But I'm trying to see the big picture. We can't afford to put out $134 more a month for insurance anyway, so the decision is a no brainer. We'll just have to learn about the new thing as we go along, and deal with it.

Coupons, BOGO offers and Peter Jennings

August 8th, 2005 at 06:07 am

As I went to sleep last night, I heard on the radio that Peter Jennings (TV news anchor in the US) had died of lung cancer. It was only in April he announced the diagnosis, and he's already gone. He always looked rather youthful and healthy to me, and he'd supposedly stopped smoking 20 years ago, only to take it up again in the last few years. Even with all those non-smoking years, it still killed him. The only silver lining I can see about lung cancer is that it usually seems to kill quickly, rather than making you suffer for years on end.

The other day as I was flipping TV channels, and saw a repeat Oprah segment about what happens to your organs if you have unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking too much, or letting yourself get fat. They showed a pink, healthy looking lung of a non-smoker (who was, admittedly, dead from something else). Next to it they showed a gray, black-flecked, dead looking lung of a lifelong smoker.

I grew up around smokers, and although I had one uncle who had lung cancer, it's not what eventually killed him. I keep forgetting that smoking does actually KILL people; you are actually kind of lucky if something else happens to get you first.

My husband smokes. And I'm feeling really guilty that I've promoted his habit by signing him up for Kool coupons that come in the mail. Actually, I'd signed up under both our names. I figured he was going to smoke anyway, I might as well help him save a little money on it.

We both agreed it would be a bad idea to use the coupons for cartons, because we knew it would just encourage him to go through them faster. But it seems to me even the $1 off a pack coupons have upped his consumption. The fault is not completely mine--Kool has been having a lot of Buy One Get One Free packages recently, which just provides even more encouragement to buy and consume more.

I know too well the lure of coupons and other marketing gimmicks, and how it can make you buy more than you intended. If it just just affects your financial life, that's one thing. But this is something that can kill you. They banned TV ads for cigarettes for a good reason, but these coupons and BOGO offers seem to be even more powerful. And it makes me mad, at myself for participating in the marketing scheme, and at the powers that be that allow this kind of marketing to be used for cigarettes in the first place.

Extreme self-care

July 28th, 2005 at 05:33 am

The morning after my last entry, I found myself unable to get moving on much, and in no better a mood. I realized it was time to drag out my copy of Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns. It's about overcoming depression, and has a great chapter called Do Nothingism which usually gets me moving again. I read that and some other sections, and realized I'd moved from my "normal" Mild depression well into Moderate and it was time to do something to stop the slide.

The things I wrote in my last entry are so typical of the negative thinking that can overtake you when you're depressed. I don't even know if it's the money worries that really set me off. It could be a whole combination of things, like DH's own bad moods, not exercising lately, not eating right, daylight hours starting to lessen, the hot oppresive weather, the news, or the blood pressure medicine I'm on that has depression as a known side effect. Anyway, I've learned the thing to do is DO something about it, not overanalyze it. So I'm currently on a regime of Extreme Self Care. I'm grateful most of these are free:

Limiting my exposure to the news, talk shows, and advertising for things I can't buy right now
(The way I'm doing that is reading more and keeping music tapes in my car)
Doing things like ironing and shaving my legs so I can wear clothes that make me feel better
Eating right and taking B vitamins
Listening to music
Comfort foods
Cleaning, putting fresh tablecloths on, fresh cushion covers on the porch chairs
Resting when I need to rest
Going online at the library in addition to at home, just to get out of the house and also save my online time at home
Spending time in bookstores just browsing, getting titles and taking notes

I ought to be exercising more, and I ought to get outside now that the heat wave has broken. I ought to get back to weekly "Artist Dates" like I used to do. There's a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron that suggests these--it's just a kind of date with yourself where you get a change of scenery, do something different. Then there are always bubble baths... DH and I also have to get back to doing some fun things on the weekends. $12 for movie tickets is worth it, if it saves our sanity! When I redo the budget again, I'm going to try and find room for Fun.