Budgeting for Your Health Care

One of the most difficult things, well, really two of the most difficult things in setting my monthly budget is

  1. Being able to predict the costs of the health expenses of my family for the month/year
  2. Not putting the right priority on including health care in my budget.

Both of these things together have resulted in getting blindsided every year with unexpected medical bills.

Perhaps blindsided isn’t the correct term. I actually kept my eyes closed to the possibility that someone in the family would need to go to the doctor/get sick or injured/have surgery. Then getting that bill after the insurance covered its bit was like having a cold washcloth slap me in the face when I am sound asleep. Not pleasant and it tends to piss me off.

It really pissed me off this year when my family’s medical/dental expenses were just below the allowed deductible and I ended up paying more for my federal income tax. How stupid is that.

All because I did not know how to plan.

After reading today’s post at Quinn’s Commentary, I realized he hit the nail on the head when it comes to planning for health care costs. Folks, it’s more than just paying for health insurance.

Here is that post….

I began managing health benefits in 1961. I have done everything from process claims, design and communicate health benefits, negotiate insurance and TPA contracts to serving on boards of directors of health plans and negotiating physician contracts. I am convinced of one thing with absolute certainty. From the perspective of virtually all Americans health care […]

via Any scheme we contrive will not make health care “affordable.” — QUINNSCOMMENTARY 😇 the facts about lots of stuff

The author links to this post INSURE AGAINST DISASTER, PAY FOR WANTS OUT OF POCKET, SAVE FOR THE END GAME which is another essential read, imho.

After reading these and the linked Forbes article, it is no wonder that unexpected costs of illness or injury leads too many of us to bankruptcy.

To avoid being caught unprepared this year,  I am including fully funding my HSA into my monthly expenses. And eating rice and beans all year.

 

 

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Cash Only

Broke my beautiful budget plan because of poor planning. I budgeted $20 a day for food, fuel, household items and pet food.

But I did not go to the ATM and get $120 in cash on payday like I should have.Instead, I thought I could use  my debit card at the time of purchase and then track my spending with the spending tracker app.

Well, that doesn’t work for me. I blew my budget because I did not plan ahead.

I did not take the meat out of the freezer in time to thaw for dinner so we ended up eating take-out. Twice.

I did not stop at the gas station that offers a discount for paying cash on Tuesdays. So I ended up using my gas credit card to fill the tank.

I put on extra miles for an Easter gathering and to take my mother for appointments. That used an extra tank of gas.

I did not plan ahead for the Easter baskets so I ended up spending more money than I should to fill them.

The cat will need cat food and cat treats. Maybe it would be cheaper just to let her out to catch her own food!

I totally lost track of how much I spent in the last five days. Friday is payday and I WILL take  out the $120 in cash that I budgeted.

Finally Tracking Daily Spending

Spending TrackerI have a latent rebellious nature that likes to come out and sabotage some of my efforts to improve my life. One thing I have rebelled against is budgets and expense tracking. I hate it and I never do what I should do. And now I am sitting here mired in debt, wondering how the hell am I going to save the money I need to retire in 9 years?

Oh, what I do to myself!

Enough, I say. This weekend I sat down and put all I could on ‘auto-draft’, set up a budget and put an app on my phone to help me track my daily spending.

I am giving my household a $20 daily spending budget which includes groceries, gas and incidentals- actually, every thing that is not a bill.

So far, I am really liking that phone app Spending Tracker.  It’s free and easy.

Maybe this time I will stick with my budget.

 

 

If You’re Wondering Why You Can’t Make Ends Meet

living wage calculator
image courtesy of lifehacker.org

You might want to check out the Living Wage Calculator developed at MIT. This calculator gives you an idea of how much it costs to live in your area and, in case you’re planning a move, you can use it to decide where you can afford to live.

Another potential use is to decide just how much you really need to live on and, if you make more than that, sock the rest away for escaping the 9-5 rat race early!

The Living Wage Calculator sure shows that minimum wage is not a living wage.

I am reading Linda Tirado’s book Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America. It is opening my eyes to what it is like to try and live on minimum wage. It also makes me want to kick myself for accumulating so much debt on my more than ample income that I am forced to try to live on minimum wage.

If I could do it all over again, I would use this calculator to keep my spending to the level of the living wage and save the rest. The future would be much brighter.

 

I Will Not Commit

Ok, I will admit it. I am a very slow learner.

And I am very impulsive. I make rash decisions.

The combination of my slow learning and my impulsiveness have led me into a lot of trouble financially.

I need to stop making decisions. I need to stop and just think.

I think that a lot of my problem is the headfirst dive I take into the trapping of commitments.

I have trapped myself into apartment leases, cable subscriptions, Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions, cell phone contracts, iPhone leasing, credit card debt, and tuition payments. I also have a commitment to sponsor a child in Thailand at the tune of $38 per month.

Now that I finally realized this, I am making a commitment to no longer commit.

When my apartment lease is up, I am moving to a rental that will let me go month to month.

I cancelled my cable.

I am going to let my cell phone contract expire and I will find a much cheaper cell service that requires no commitment.

No further iPhone leasing.

No more charges to my credit cards. And that should translate into no more online ordering. Man, that is fast and dangerous!

Finish the tuition payments.

Cancel the Netflix and Amazon.

I will continue to sponsor the child because I do have a heart.

oh, yes, the internet. Unfortunately, I am committed to providing my own internet service so that I can have the honor of working for a multi-BILLION dollar company in this work at home position. Cheap bastard-corporation no longer provides the internet service.

 

 

Made Some Changes to Save $1176

To get out of debt I know I need to cut spending wherever I can. This week I made some changes and will save $1176 a year.

I cancelled the Y membership which was costing me $50 a month. I seldom used it and now that the weather is getting nicer, I can walk outside. $600 saved.

My daughter opted out of taking ASL this second semester and that saves the $34 a month cost for the semi-private sign language tutoring. $408 saved.

I moved this site from wordpress.org to wordpress.com. I then changed my Hostgator account from the reseller package to the hatchling package. That saves me about $14 a month. $168 saved.

Total saved = $1176

When the new webmaster takes the soccer site over, I will cancel the Hostgator completely to save another $120 per year.

I realize that one of the many mistakes I have made is signing up for monthly subscriptions- subscriptions like Hostgator, Dropbox, and Netflix. Each one of those can cost just about $10 a month so I think it’s not such a big deal. But really, it all adds up.

I still have the Netflix and will keep it for now.

Other areas I need to look at decrease spending: the cellphone bill and the groceries.

 

The Cost of Maintaining What You Rent

the money suckOne of the things our nation does is encourage home owning and the primary sales tactic is ‘pride of ownership’. That is why it is always referred to as owning your own home vs. possessing a house. Tugs at the heart strings.

Of course the biggest reason we are encouraged to own a home because doing so stimulates the economy- big time! Just think of all the businesses that benefit from building, maintaining, improving and, eventually, selling that house.

I sold my home a few years ago because the cost of the upkeep was more than I really wanted. The hassle of maintaining the house and yard, much less improving it was ridiculous for my lifestyle and the direction I wanted to head.

I now rent and I am quite happy. I pretty  much know what my monthly living expenses are and the nightmare of a leaky roof, a cracked sidewalk or a tree root busting into my basement no longer disturbs my sleep.

However, I am not home-free (pun intended) as I realized the other day.

The apartment I rent has a side-by-side refrigerator freezer which has that auto-water and ice dispenser thingy. And it needs regular replacement of the filter.

Now, if it were just me, I wouldn’t need it as I don’t drink from that. I have my trusty Berkey that filters all of the water I drink and I seldom, if ever use ice.

But my kids use it, especially in the summer. And my medical technologist sister panics when she sees it and warns me of the dangerous bacteria that lurk within the whole filtration system.

I have to agree with her when I see the black gunk that grows on the shower heads and faucet outlets. And this is in a city that brags as  having the cleanest water due to that expensive filtration system we all paid for (perhaps that was another sales job when the city wanted to raise taxes to pay for this)

After more than a year, all right, more than two years, of putting it off, I went to Lowe’s and bought the dang filter!

Ugh! $52.49 for one lousy filter that I will need to replace in about 6 months!

That is $8.75 per month for the convenience of cold filtered water and ice!

Maybe I need to put a coin slot in the fridge to help pay for the filter.

Want cold filtered water with ice? Insert 50¢.

Lesson: the more bells and whistles any THING has, the higher cost of upkeep.

Stay simple.

Want to read more about the benefits of NOT owning a home? Here are two articles I liked:

11 Reasons Why I Never Want To Own A House Again

Why I Am Never Going to Own a Home Again