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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!)

Taking things one day at a time

October 20th, 2007 at 08:29 am

It's been three weeks since DH left his job, and he's starting to get cabin fever. He's ready to start looking, but frankly the way things are right now it's good he's still off.

Monday our dog is having surgery to check out a tumor on her face. The vet thinks it's different from the supposedly harmless lipomas she's had elsewhere on her body. They have to put her under to even do a careful exam and biopsy, because she's not the most laid-back of patients. We can't just let it go because it was getting oozy and ugly-looking.

If this is the beginning of the end, I'm sure DH will feel better being able to give her plenty of quality time while he's still home. She's his baby. Even if all she needs is some after-surgery care, it will still be a big help having him home, as I've been working extra hours.

We've also had things come up like one of us having to be here while a new water meter is installed, car repairs, getting to the bank about a matured CD, navigating through the COBRA insurance maze. It's all been easier to manage because he's been home and carrying some of the load.

I'm starting to have this feeling that maybe things are going just as they should be, even if it's uncomfortable for both of us right now. Except for the vet bills, our income and outgo through December is pretty predictable, so there's no use spending time on obsessing over money right at the moment. All we can really do is get through each new thing as it comes along.

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.

Text is pewresearch.org/pubs/325/we-try-hard-we-fall-short-americans-assess-their-saving-habits and Link is

Thanks to My Money Blog, who mentioned it here:

Text is www.mymoneyblog.com/archives/2007/02/americans-assess-their-saving-habits-unexpected-expenses.html and Link is

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.

A new pet expense

January 25th, 2007 at 10:22 am

Our dog (11 1/2 years old) is on a new arthritis regimen--Previcox pills that cost $2.50 a piece, special food that costs 2x as much as Purina One, and we're supposed to be starting her on glucosamine as well. But wow, what a difference!

The week before her last vet visit, she had stopped even trying to go upstairs with us to bed. The 2nd day of the pills, she was racing up like a puppy again. Instead of us coaxing her to try and play, she's back to demanding attention after breakfast every morning.

So it's definitely worthwhile--but it will take some working around. It may come to as much as $900 a year! Hopefully, as the food and glucosamine kick in, we'll be able to discontinue the prescription. (She's already down to taking it every other day.)

I think we can still pay for the pet food out of the regular Everyday Expenses account, it will just take a little more adjusting on other groceries and take-out.

The prescription and glucosamine will have to come out of our Discretionary account, reducing the amount we'll be able to spend on entertainment, clothes and other extras. This is where the Snowmint envelope budget software I got is going to come in very handy. It's already forced me to see that the Philly flower show and the King Tut exhibit are way beyond our budget at this point. I don't mind, under the circumstances, and I'm really, really glad to be able to SEE it in time.

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.

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

November 13th, 2005 at 10:27 am

Thanks for the good wishes for our cat. Smile He's doing much better. He's still eating nothing but "people" salmon and some Nutrical goo if I put it on his paw, but I can tell when I pick him up that he's put some weight back on already. We have to get more blood work on Monday, to see if his liver is getting back to normal now that he's eating well. But the way he is acting and looking, I'm not expecting bad news. He wanted to jump out of my arms today and chase a bird--big improvement!

The only down side is that I've got so many opened packages of foods he won't eat. So the dog is getting some sardines and Sheba today, and I had a tuna sandwich for lunch. The older stuff will just have to be tossed.

With this latest vet bill, I decided to add up how much we've spent on emergencies since I starting using Quicken again back in May. It's over $3000. I figured on $2500 for an entire year's worth, based on the past couple of years' totals. That would have been $1354 in 6-1/2 months, instead of $3000. Or to look at it monthly, our emergencies have been costing $461 a month instead of $208.

I thought we were going to get away with the 10% increase on natural gas that went through month or so ago. But now the gas company is asking for an additional 30% increase, which will come to about $47 more a month year round on our budget billing. That's another $564 a year.

I just ran a cash flow report, which shows we are only in the black by $160-some dollars over the past 6 months--meaning every penny received as gifts, on rebates, from cc rewards, from surveys, and from selling books online has been absolutely necessary. It can't be thought of as "extra" income right now.

Well, it could be worse. At least we aren't in the red. And I'm not even counting what goes into DH's 401K plan, or the fact that our mortgage is getting paid down a bit each month, so really we are ahead by more than $160. But it's not good, and it's getting kind of scary.

I've got to find some more ways to cut our spending, and/or bring in more cash. Simple as that. Only, how.

One thing I managed the other day was cut my membership costs at Passport To Fun, the discount gift certificate program. Over on fatwallet, they were talking about being offered one year for $9.95 or $14.95 when they tried to cancel one of the programs. It sounded like you'd get an automated thing, and it was luck of the draw. However, I got a live person and was really unsure of what to say. Luckily, the rep offered me the option without my having to ask. One more payment of $9.95 and I'll be a member for one full year.

Sick cat

November 11th, 2005 at 05:22 am

Our poor baby boy, Pumpkin, isn't feeling well. He's 10 years old but up until recently he's seemed very healthy. I took him to the vet yesterday because he wasn't eating, and just laying around--which isn't like him. Turns out he'd lost weight, had a fever, and his heart rhythm was a little odd. They are doing lab work, and in the meantime he's on an antibiotic for the fever. I think it's helping a little, as he's eaten quite a bit of salmon and is moving around more.

Money-wise, it's $185 so far (including flea stuff I also brought home for the dog). I put it on the Sony card as there is only $106 of available funds in our emergency account. Somehow it feels like progress, though. It's a lot closer than having $30 on hand for a $450 expense.

If it were another car or house repair, I'd be feeling angry and stressed about it--even if it were a medical thing for DH or myself! But somehow I don't feel resentful at all about spending money on the cat. He's always been very sweet, and very cooperative about medical things. I feel like if he can put up with it all, I'll do what I can for him. A totally different situation from when our last cat died. She was very high-strung, and fought everything from nail clipping, to pill taking, to rides in the car to the vet, and the exams themselves. I felt terrible about it, but when she got sick at age 9 we just decided to let her go. Getting her upset all the time with daily injections and frequent vet trips wouldn't have been a good quality of life for her, just to extend her life a few months.

If you're so inclined, could you please send positive thoughts or say a prayer for our little Pumpkin?