Friday, February 20, 2009

Life, and Money

Ah, the money problems have hit. Not the every day ones, the "oh crud, we now have big bills and have to find money to pay them." The default of course, has always been to grab a credit card, which is just moving the debt but preferable to collections. And that's probably what we'll end up doing. I'm grateful that we have good, long standing credit and have that option, although I deplore having to go further in debt.

First we did our taxes. We owe this year, thanks to the "resourse rebate" given us by the State of Alaska. Hubby's in a bit of shock, as he's never owed taxes. I put some away for it, but we've had to dip in and we're a little short. Basically, April 15 we'll send them everything we can. In the mean time, I'm trying various ways to report our and the kids' incomes to see if I can reduce it at all.

Next, I finally got to the dentist. After 16 years I'm pleased to report that all I have are dirty teeth (need to have root planings, which is scraping the heck out of the area below the gums), two small cavities, and a 25 year old crown which needs replacing but isn't critical yet. The dentist said I'm blessed with good teeth. Cost: Roughly $800 after insurance, but the crown can be deferred a year if needed. They're getting everything pre-approved, I should hear what we can do in about a month.

Finally, we got the pre-insurance bill for my new glasses. This one has me stunned. Total bill, with the exam, $998. My heart stopped, I swear. A thousand dollars for GLASSES? The big kicker is they charge you for the regular lenses AND the "progressive" ones. Next time I might have to see if the bifocals with lines are cheaper. If my insurance pays up what it claims my out of pocket will be around $550. I paid $175 at the visit, which I'm betting is the difference between the insurance's "full" coverage of the exam and what they'll really pay (they always use that "normal and reasonable cost" excuse, don't they).

This is why we don't usualy do regular health maintenance. We don't have a couple grand lying around to cover what's left after insurance (when we're lucky enough to have insurance). But what are you supposed to do? It's your health and well-being. I probably could have postponed the dentist, if I wanted major tooth issues later, but I can't see my hands in front of my face without glasses.

So we're squeezing the budget even harder in an attempt to wring every last penny out of it. Not that there's much to wring out, but we're trying. Memory upgrade for the laptop? Gone. The rice cooker I've been covetting? Gone. Mid-winter car washes? Gone. New jeans? Nope, patch the old ones. You start hitting the nickels and dimes when there's nothing big to cut, and you hope it adds up.

We're not scrimping on the kids' birthdays, which are March 3rd and 11th. We don't do huge parties anyway, but there will be cake and balloons and presents. I'm at a loss for Junior, but Kiddo wants the two Ninja Turtles he's missing, and I found those online at a not bas price (right before Christmas they compeltely disappeared in town).

And there's one other expense we won't be scrimping on: Hubby's decided it's time to go back to school. His original plan was to use his GI Bill to go to college, but instead he had a kid and had to be responsible, and through the course of life and time the GI Bill has expired. He's tired of not getting jobs he can most certainly do because he doesn't have a piece of paper. There's an AAS at UAF that will hook him up with the aforementioned paper and the various certifications he needs, so he's decided to do it part time (unless we can find a miracle of financial aid. We're hoping). We ran down his various transcripts and he submitted his application yesterday; tomorrow there's a carrer fair sponsored by TVC, the community college that covers his degree, and he'll talk to more folks. I'm all for it, even though I know it will hurt money wise. In the long run it can only be good for us.

I saw a documentary last week on the poor in Appalachia. Can you imagine feeding a family of 12 on $500 of food stamps a month? Of having your kids eat just one meal a day when school isn't in session? Of being toothless by 30 because of poor nutrition? Of not being able to get a job because you're too far away from the nearest job and have no car?

It really makes you wake up and count your blessings. We have a home, we're all reasonably healthy, and there's food on the table, even if it's starting to get a little uninteresting. We have jobs, computers, internet, and transportation. We'll just have to handle a little more debt.

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