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Archive for October, 2013

Another medical bill (shrug); some good money news too

October 31st, 2013 at 07:37 pm

A fourth medical claim just popped in from NT's ER visit. This one is for $1396, but our responsibility is only $142.39. The big $4K+ bill is still being processed, so not sure what our responsibility there will be.

At this point I'm not really worried about more bills because I'm resigned to paying up to the out-of-pocket max; if we come in under that when all's said and done, great, but I'm not counting on it. I'm SO glad that OOP max is in place so I don't have to worry as much! My only concern is whether there are a bunch of fine-print exceptions of expenses that don't count toward the max, but as far as I can tell it would be just co-pays that might take us over the max.

Anyway, on the plus side, NT got an annual statement that one of his retirement accounts gained over 2000 pounds this past year. I'm not good at investment math but I believe that's over a 10% increase, since it was 17,000 and some change and is now 19,000 and some. Nice gain!

Also, we've been getting a bunch of credit card offers in the mail. Most of them are worthless to us; balance transfers! low introductory APR! (Yawn.) But last night I got one for Chase Sapphire Preferred. I'd been contemplating double (triple?) dipping their spend-$3000, get-$400 offer, but I'm glad I dragged my feet: The mail offer was spend $2000 get $400! I signed up online and was approved right away. That'll be a nice big snowflake for debt in a couple of months (and of course it'll be more like $420 since you also earn on the spending that gets you to the bonus offer).

So now we've got three applied-for cards and two instant approvals. If the third one is approved as well, we'll need to spend $3500 and we'll get $970 back. That's like getting a 27% discount on what we buy!

November goal, strategy for upcoming medical bills

October 30th, 2013 at 06:50 pm

The goal for November is to pay off $900 of debt, taking total debt to $247,762. That's about how much we pay off by making our minimum payments. I'm not planning on sending anything extra to debt because ...

Yesterday a new claim had popped into NT's insurance account for $4,273.60. That's more what I was expecting/dreading. It's still pending, so I'm not sure what portion we're responsible for. But if I understand correctly, total out-of-pocket for in-network care is $3250. We'll already be paying $821.20 for the first two bills, so we should only be responsible for $2428.80 at the very most. There does seem to be some exception made for co-pays, though, so I don't know if that gets billed separately on top of everything. (We weren't asked for a co-pay at the ER, but sometimes places bill you later for it.) I'm not sure what the ER co-pay would be.

We still had $1776 left in what used to be the money set aside to pay off one of NT's student loans. Then, with the two Barclay cards we've already spent up and the third one on its way that will be easy to spend up to $1000 on, we'll have $1200 in travel spending, so I took $1200 out of future travel line items and put it in the medical line item. That takes us to $2976, so I'm fairly confident we can pay for NT's medical costs with no other consequence than a slight slowdown in paying off student loans.

There's a small chance we won't have to pay that much of the $4K+ bill, since we'll be meeting the deductible by paying about $150, and after that the insurance may cover more. However, there's a good chance we haven't seen the last of the bills from the visit, so I'm not counting on anything there.

There's a decent chance NT will get a $5000 Xmas bonus (maybe $3000 after taxes?), and if he does, I may still be able to pay off that one student loan this year. If not, it can wait for next year.

There's also some chance (no idea the odds) that I won't need the extra $2200 bone graft for my tooth implant next year. That money could also be used to pay off the student loan.

I do need to come up with about $1500 more for NT's spring tuition, but I think I can float that until the February budget comes up and take it out of there.

We shall see. Even if it's worst-case scenario for all of the above, I know we'll be fine.

Hit October goal! Big-picture progress, new medical claim, etc.

October 29th, 2013 at 04:10 am

AS's student loan payment hit, with $131 going to principal. That means we hit our October debt goal, surpassing the $3000 goal with $3008 paid.

Monthly interest to the house/moving fund: $3.36, taking house savings progress to $4,561.71.

Monthly interest to the medical EF: $0.25, taking that fund to $1,514.26.

We got the first bill from the ER -- $337.63 -- and paid immediately, splitting it between my and NT's new Barclay cards. It took both up over the $1000 spending threshold, so we'll be getting $800 in travel rewards soon!

I've been checking NT's insurance account almost every day, and one other claim has appeared so far. Looks like we'll be on the hook for $483.57 for that one, taking total OOP cost to $821.20. I would be truly amazed and overjoyed if these were the only two bills, but I'm prepared for a lot more.

I've already applied for two more rewards cards -- a Barclays for AS and a USBank for NT. AS has already been approved, so we can use her card to pay the next medical bill and she'll be halfway toward earning another $400 in travel rewards. NT hasn't been approved yet, but if he does, we just need to spend $500 to get $150 cash. Should be fairly easy to spend up even if we don't get any more medical bills, what with Xmas and our anniversary coming up in December, and the planned spending for those days.

I have a few things I want to accomplish in November, so I'm going to try and be disciplined. I want to get back to my goal weight (I'm 6 lbs. over it right now), get going on my other finance blog (haven't blogged there in over a month), and participate in NaNoWriMo. But, these are all optional things, so if I start to feel overwhelmed, I'll just take it down a notch. We'll see how it goes. It's been crazy busy at work so I've been exhausted when I get home, but I don't think it can stay at this pace much longer.

I've decided to drastically simplify my sidebar and not focus so much on how much progress I made/make each month, just the total numbers. I'll be working on that tonight.

Life with balance so far

October 21st, 2013 at 09:25 pm

I'm home early as a partial make-up for working Columbus Day. Tomorrow will be extra busy at work, but it's worth it to have some time now. I cut my right index finger pretty bad while washing dishes yesterday, and it's pretty hard to type or navigate the computer while it's healing. Already much better though, so tomorrow should be easier. I've just been leisurely cooking lunches for the next few days, as well as doing prep work for tonight's and tomorrow's dinners.

Other than that, our simpler life is coming along pretty well. We've all been a lot easier on each other and ourselves. On the financial front, not much has changed on the surface; we still have our budget and spending limits and try to stick to them. The difference is if we go over, I quietly note it and move on, taking the money from our budget surplus. I've overspent personally by about $150 and am trying to make that up gradually from my spending money, but I know if I start to stress out about it I can just cover it with the surplus. I'm not planning to spend much this weekend so should be able to take that deficit down to about $90. Unless I have to buy a new Halloween costume for AA, which would be about $30. She wants to be the same thing as last year, so first I'll see if her old costume fits. Either way I'm hoping to make up my overspending out of my own spending by mid-November.

Work is the one stressor none of us can really control right now. I'm just trying to compartmentalize mine a bit and leave the stress there when I come home. Sometimes I succeed. AS's keeps getting busier, but at least she's making strides in creating an international reputation that may serve to get us to England someday, so that's been pretty exhilarating for her. NT told his job about his ER visit and that at least a partial cause was stress and exhaustion, so they've made yet another promise to get him some help. Hopefully this time with his health on the line they'll follow through. They've made several empty promises in the past.

I logged into NT's health insurance account to see if there were any claims yet from his ER visit. So far there's only one; I think it's the doctors' portion. Looks like he'll owe $338 for that. I can't imagine that will be the only bill; there's the ambulance ride, the EKG, the ER bed, the overnight stay in observation ... But, I did note some things about his coverage. His deductible is $1000, which I think means after that they start covering more of the cost. And his out-of-pocket maximum is $3250 for in-network services. (This first claim shows up as in-network, so I imagine it will all be.) Considering I estimated between $1000 and $10,000 as possible expenses, a cap of $3250 sounds pretty good to me! I already have about $2000 allocated in November that was gojng to go toward student loan debt. Not going to have any wiggle room in December/January budget because of NT's tuition coming up, but will have nearly $2000 in February that could be used toward medical.

Oh, and I moved my dental scan up to November, just before my flex spending must be declared. If it turns out I need the extra $2200 procedure for my implant, I'll up my flex by that amount. Either way, my take-home is going to be smaller because of the upcoming dental, but our taxable income will be less, so that takes away some of the sting.

Guess that's it for now! Apologies if my nine-fingered typing caused more typos than usual; I did try to fix them all but may have missed a few.

October 2013 net worth update

October 17th, 2013 at 09:10 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 15,544 pounds ($24,870)
#2: 17,268 pounds ($27,629)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $25,942
NT's Roth IRA: $6,174
AS's 401(k): $10,939
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $14,934
CJ's 401(k): $61,483
CJ's Roth IRA: $6,174
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $145,000
Emergency fund (shared asset): $15,000
House down payment/moving fund (shared): $4,558
Total Assets: $575,508

Total Debt: $248,793

Current Estimated Net Worth: $326,715

September 2013 estimate: $318,858

Change in net worth: +$7,857

Summary: Big gain again this month! Retirement accounts were up and we paid off a lot of debt.

I will update my "Individual Net Worth" page shortly so you can see how it breaks out per person.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update (unless I happen to get some info by chance). UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.60 for every British pound.

A new outlook

October 15th, 2013 at 02:49 am

I have always been curious about why some of you are cryptic when something big happens, but now I understand. Something big happened in my family and I don't feel like reliving it; I just want to focus on how it has changed me.

Basically NT had a health crisis that put him in the ER on Saturday and then on observation overnight. He's fine; everyone from the paramedics to the doctor who discharged us agreed it was just a fluky confluence of conditions that brought him to a bad state but one that, for a few minutes, looked very close to death.

NT is 40 and (as he puts it) ridiculously healthy. So it was especially unexpected and really made me evaluate how I live my present life. I had never contemplated losing him anytime soon; I always thought we would race each other to our 90s and he'd probably outlive me. And I still think that, but it made me re-evaluate anyway.

Plus, at least one of the factors in the crisis was likely exhaustion and stress. We all have moderately high-stress jobs that are a bit more than full time, and in addition NT is in college half-time, and of course we've got the girls, who are 1.5 and 3.5 right now. We cook nearly every weeknight and weekend meal at home, we're very strict about our budgeting, and we have an active social life on top of everything.

So Sunday night, the first time we adults had to really sit down together and think things through, we started talking about anything we could take off NT's plate -- and our own -- to make our busy lives a bit less all-consuming.

We realized that some things that are extra work right now are going to be temporary. For instance, we love our CSA, but in order to not waste any of the food, we have to be really really strict about menu planning. And in order to afford it, we have to be really mindful of our regular grocery shopping. Plus, the day it's delivered is extra busy. NT works early, gets out early, picks up the CSA, drops it at home, goes and gets the girls, waits with them at home until I get there a few minutes later, and then heads out for his late-night class of the week.

One easy fix we decided on is that once he no longer has to go get the CSA in a couple weeks, I'll start picking up the girls from daycare on Thursdays. That way he can stay at work or go to campus a little early; either way he won't be racing around in the hour or two he has between work and school.

We identified a couple other things, like NT leaving pots and pans to me and AS for washing Smile and being more direct about asking for help when he was tired or feeling overworked. AS promised to not take any extra freelance work for the foreseeable future and to ask for more help at her job so hopefully she wouldn't bring as much work home with her.

For my part, I admitted that some of my money management added a bit of stress to all our lives. I was ready to say this because as I sat with NT in the ER, he mumbled something about hoping that it didn't cost too much and wreck our finances. This from a man whose blood pressure was like 70 over nothing. I leaned over and told him, "You know, I don't say this very much, but we're kind of rich. We can afford it."

And later, when he was asleep and I was waiting next to him with nothing to do but wait for his test results, I realized that this ER visit probably meant I wouldn't be paying off the next student loan in November like I planned. And realized that I didn't really care.

A few extra months of debt repayment is nothing compared with the lifetime I would have had to live without NT if he'd died because I didn't call 911. Talk about perspective.

So for my part, I made a couple of financial commitments to my family:
- We have about a $2000 monthly surplus in our budget, and I used to jealously guard it so we could put it all to our big-picture goals. But we're already ahead of our goal by about 4 months, and even if it took longer than the arbitrary deadline, so what? So I'm going to be more willing to pull some of the surplus out of my coffers and apply it judiciously to help alleviate some stress.
1. I'm not going to gripe about the grocery budget going over by a few bucks every once in a while. We'll try to stick to the spending limits, but if we go over, we go over.
2. AS takes yoga nearly every week, and it takes a quarter of her spending money, which makes things very tight for her compared with us. The yoga is good for her. So now when she takes yoga, I'm going to reimburse her from the surplus.
3. If there are little things someone in the family wants that takes money and we don't have a specific category for it, I'll pull from the surplus to pay for it. Examples include the occasional cab ride when AS has to attend a night work event with a long bus ride waiting at the end, things around the house that would replace something that doesn't function as well as it could, clothing that needs replacing when the person doesn't have enough spending money to replace it themselves, dinner delivery when everyone is feeling extra exhausted, etc.
4. I'm going to rejigger my big-picture goals to be less strict about how much per month I need to come up with, exactly when I need to hit them, etc. I'm still working out how I'm going to keep track of them, since some are about saving money and some are about accumulating money to spend. I am still going to track debt repayment, and keep all my spreadsheets going; that would stress me out more to stop than to keep going. And I still want to achieve everything that's currently on my sidebar. I just want a more flexible way to express and track them.
5. I'm not going to get upset about whatever hospital bills are coming our way for Saturday. Whether it's $1000 or $10,000, we'll find a way to pay for it without making ourselves crazy.

It's kind of funny-ironic that while I've been contemplating this downshift over the past few days, at least three other SA bloggers have expressed a wish to be MORE frugal and MORE strict about tracking, even calling me out as an example in one case! But I really think I'm in a good mindset to do this in a careful and safe way while still working toward our ambitious goals.

$200, "lost" then "found"

October 3rd, 2013 at 04:46 pm

Well, I feel stupid but relieved! Today I went in to submit a medical claim and get the rest of my flex spending money for the year, a little over a $100 for my medical FSA (I thought).

When I got to the home page, I noticed for the first time in a long time that I have a separate flex spending account that has $200 in it!

Then I remembered! Last year we had an opportunity to get $200 bonus flex spending money if we completed a certain number of checkups and well visits (eye exam, dental exam, GYN, BMI, etc.). I'd forgotten that when we got the bonus money at the beginning of this year, it went into a separate FSA.

So I immediately uploaded some more medical receipts. I've got plenty to cover the extra $200. What a nice surprise! I just feel stupid and can't believe that I almost missed the fact that I had this money coming to me!

I'll hold onto that money when it gets deposited into my checking account, in case I have any more medical expenses this year. If I don't spend it in 2013, I'll throw it into my medical EF. Either way, I'm happy!

EDIT: Shortly after I posted this, I remembered that our cat is due for his annual checkup and some shots, and may have a UTI. So this money will definitely come in handy for medical expenses (just not human ones!).

We did it!!! Debt under $250K

October 2nd, 2013 at 05:33 am

I know I have to get to bed, but I checked NT's student loan account and my big payment had hit! $2116 went to principal. That takes October progress to $2877 ($123 to go), and ...

... our total household debt to $248,793!!!

Phew! It's still a lot, but it seems so much more manageable somehow.

Another milestone: our big-picture progress (student loans, medical EF and house savings) is above $30K: $30,091.10.

I'm excited but extremely sleepy, so I'll have to cut my celebrating short and go to sleep. Wink

Progress on the October debt goal + exciting milestone!

October 1st, 2013 at 08:06 pm

The mortgage payments hit:
US: $449 to principal
UK1: $218
UK2: $46
UK3: $48

All told, that's $761 down, $2239 to go on the October debt goal.

Also, I checked what my next US mortgage payment will be when the interest decreases in November. $469 will go to principal, $20 more despite a lower overall payment! AND, it will be the first payment ever where more goes to principal than interest!

It's both a happy and sad moment. Sad because that means every month for 10 years, we've been paying more to have the debt than to get rid of the debt.

And for the past 6 years, I've known that's not right. But I had to focus my efforts (and our income) on paying off the credit cards and student loans, and building our EF and retirement funds. If we hadn't been so woefully behind on all of that, I'd have been able to put extra toward the mortgage every month so that we always paid more to principal.

Well, that will be my goal when we get a new mortgage. It will almost certainly be bigger than all of our current mortgages combined, but we'll be out of all other debt and I'm going to try with all my might to pay it down at an accelerated pace and never pay more in interest than I do in principal.