Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Doctor's Bill

So last month it was very obvious that my poor husband was down for the count and ill beyond measure.

We loaded him up with antibiotics and had our second trip to the doctor's office this year...

Now, if you remember back to this post, our doctor charged us $240.00 for a visit just to get SCB's prescriptions renewed.

Since he's an "in-network" doctor, we got a discount and were left on the hook for $161.02...

Our insurance won't kick in until we reach our deductible, so for this last visit we had no idea if we would be charged more since he was actually sick or not, but we figured it would be around $160 basing it on our previous bill...

Well, we got our bill in the mail the other day and I noticed the doctor classified our visit as a "Level 3" office visit and charged us only $105.00. With out in-network discount we only owe $74.09.

How is it cheaper for us to go when he's really ill, then for 5 minutes to review prescriptions????

I really wish I would have kept our bill from last time to see what our visit was classified as. Guess i'll have to wait for the next prescription renewal visit. If its miraculously cheaper next time too, i'll be fighting with someone over the phone I'm sure. I want our old and simple plan back... and while i'm on the subject of health insurance and venting, my mom's covered California plan still can't seem to get their budgeting department figured out.

They have yet to mail her a bill before her payment is due so I've had to make online payments for her the last few months. It gets better. The one time they did send her a bill, she had to write a check because their website was down. They cashed her check and decided never to credited her account. I had to spend over an hour on the phone with them explaining that she had paid her insurance on time and that they took her money when she received a notice in the mail about missing a payment and the next month her bill was double what it should have been.

I also learned that apparently she can miss up to 6 months of payments before they cancel her insurance because of her government subsidy... which is a good thing otherwise the payment she made that they never credited would have automatically cancelled her insurance so at least I didn't have to fight them on that one too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Car issues from the black lagoon

So we mentioned how this month we were going to take both our cars into the shop and then buy new furniture for our bedroom?

well not anymore...

In fact, we have to now wait till May before we can take my car in because of what happened to South County Boys car.

If you remember back to last year, we bought "Sally," the Ford Escort Zx3 from his middle brother so we could basically give his older broke grad-school brother our older car for free because he really needed one and couldn't afford to buy Sally at the "reduced" for family price...

SCB's middle brother seldom drove Sally (just 6 miles to work and back for maybe a year and a half since it was their second car)... After owning her for some time, he found out he had gotten the car from an unsavory individual who really lied about the condition of the car. He fixed a few things and believed it to be road worthy since he had her checked out prior to our Utah arrival...

We bought her, fixed the AC in the car and drove her 700 miles home to California... where SCB has been driving her every day to work...  35-40 miles round trip... since SEPTEMBER... on this:

A bent wheel... 

... A bent wheel with a nail in the side of the tire... and since it wasn't just a puncture, the tire on the wheel wouldn't be able to be patched... it would need to be replaced...

and because we didn't know about the bent wheel since his brother had said the car was road worthy according to the place he took it, we had driven on it over 5,000 miles since September.... which meant that the bent wheel broke the back strut, causing all the fluid to leak out and become worthless... and the strut on the other side was over compensating for the failing strut and also went out and would need to be replaced...

No wonder SCB kept feeling like he was "fish-tailing" on certain roads on the way to work recently...

While we had a coupon for a free oil change and check up, (courtesy of my mom since she wasn't going to use hers with the newer car being under warranty), we saved $40.00 ...

but we had to pay $653.89 in parts alone... plus $213.59 in labor... and then another $50.60 in sales tax....

Totaling $918.08

 They had the car for 3 days because apparently, wheels are really rare for his car... they only fit 2 models and we had to have one sent down from Compton... so we ended up getting a rental car courtesy of the repair shop. (I was supposed to go down to San Diego with some friends and would need a car...)

While the shop paid for the rental, I got insurance since we were going on a little road trip and anything can happen when you aren't familiar with the car and I could hear Murphy laughing at me in the distance. I also paid an extra $5 to upgrade to a Prius because I would save that much on gas alone since its $4.17 a gallon right now.

So the car rental was another $34.78 ... but it only ended up costing me less then $30 in gas to drive to San Diego in back, and I now know I don't want to but a Prius. (Not enough leg room for SCB... they have a weird console and gear shiftier, and the trunk is too small for a car with 4 doors.)

So needless to say, we won't be buying bedroom furniture this month... we will be paying for our car bill. I have to say though, i'm not too upset. I'm really thankful that SCB was safe driving the car for so long on the broken parts!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pallet Transformation

I always wondered where people got those pallets from to transform into something else... I mean when you look on craigslist or elsewhere, it just seems like such a hassel and such an expense to get that you might as well just purchase what your aiming for instead of taking the time and effort to make it yourself... That is unless you have a natural hook up...

SCB's business swims in pallets.

Everything they unload, comes on a pallet... and about once a month a guy in a truck pays them less then a buck for each pallet and halls them away to have them be reuse and recycled.

When SCB borrowed the work truck to help us get our old chest of drawers out of the place, there was one pallet left inside... and he decided it needed to come home with us.

I literally opened the door to let him in from work that day and I was greeted with him holding all these wood pieces. He told me he wanted to build something... after a couple of years of experience with him I knew arguing over the matter was useless.

I just shook my head and let him in.

My husband swear he isn't like his dad at all, but he always seems to be collecting things that other people discard. If it weren't for the annual purge, i'd have pulled out all my hair already. The other day I saw him fiddling with a remote and when I asked him where he got it and what it was for (since it wasn't for anything in our house), he slyly tells me he found it by the dumpster and that it goes to a DVD recorder that he's placed beside the couch...

The week before last, he picked up an insulated lunch pail cooler... swearing its bigger and better then the one we currently have that's not old and ugly looking...

Now you know why I hold fast to the annual purge no matter how much he complains and how much of it I have to do myself.

But back to the pallet.

Originally I thought he was going to use the wood to create something I could hook up our new wheat grinder too so It wouldn't damage my granite counter top... (We got a wheat grinder from his brother for christmas and its awesome)... But he told me no.

The wood stayed on our patio for a few days before he shoved it back into our car and drove it out to Utah where his father's tools were. While we were on vacation he had everything sanded and rounded down so it was nice a smooth wood.

During the week after vacation, I came home from a church meeting and walked into this?

Yup... Hubby  had dismantled our living room and was playing with power tools... at like 8:30 at night...

He told me he was building a "prop" table out of the pallet for the printer to sit on because he wanted more desk space...  Basically a flat surface with legs on one side that will just sit on our desk for support.

It actually doesn't look that bad at all and he put a sheet over it to hide all the stuff that's underneath it right now for the moment...

But Pallet turned into a desk shelf.

Oh the joys of living with a mountain man confined to a condo... Now if only I can get him to throw out that lunch box and dvd recorder he fished out of the dumpster.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homemade Frozen Burgers

Last month I mentioned in my "grocery" breakdown that we had finally finished our last sleeve of burgers... It was a sad day folks.

Now I see some of you out there just rolling your eyes at me and trying to direct me to the freezer section of the grocery store. But that just won't work anymore as I have not been able to find any Frozen Organic Burgers... and we are trying to go Organic.

I was a little hesitant to attempt to make them myself since our previous homemade burgers of the past had resulted in grumbled bits of meat on our bbq grill... but I've since become a bit wise thanks to you all!

When we went to Costco last, we picked up a 3 pack of Kirkland Organic Ground Beef (85% lean). Each package has 1.34 lbs of meat in it and I decided to "try" out a single package first in case they were a disaster.

My Recipe/Directions:

  • Empty Meat package into a bowl.
  • Dice up a head of garlic... toss that into bowl.
  • Splash in some Worcester cause hubs like that...
  • Add 1/4 cup oat flour. (Aka, Organic Oats sent through my wheat grinder)...
  • MIX it up.
I decided not to use egg as a binder since my other recipes with egg in the past have crumbled and broken apart... but I did try adding some grains by using the ground up oats (thought that was healthier then bread crumbs since its basically oatmeal) and that really helped solidify the meat. I also think I got away with no egg because the meat was leaner.

Because you all are so smart (Nadia), I decided to sacrifice the lid from my peanut butter jar to use as a free burger press. (It also helped that the jar was basically empty and needed to be replaced).

I basically took the meat out of the bowl and pressed it into the lid... then flipped it over on the counter (covered in parchment paper) and smacked the lid. I expected the burger to come right out... but it didn't work. I think the parchment paper didn't give the meat enough of a sticking surface to attach to so I ended up smacking the meat filled peanut butter lid onto a cutting board.. and the meat came out perfectly. I then transferred the patties over to the parchment paper.

I got a total of 7 burgers exactly out of one package of meat. No extra meat in the bowl and no slightly smaller or bigger patties much to my surprise. So each burger uncooked is around 3.1 oz, which is actually what the average serving size for meat should be for me (SCB generally has 2 with a meal so 6 oz is pretty decent for him as well).

Not wanting the patties to stick together when freezing, I transferred the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and I ended up just balancing the rack in my chest freezer between the two baskets since the lid had plenty of room to close.

They weren't completely frozen by dinner time since they were only in there for an hour and a half, so I just removed the three patties we planned on using... and to my complete delight, they stayed in tact on the grill and were really tasty. They didn't shrink much, but they were a little smaller than the buns we used to eat them with (the cheap ones from Costco) so it looks like i'm going to half to work on making our own because those burgers were too yummy to live on those crappy buns.

The next morning I took the frozen burgers and just put them in a Tupperware container in the freezer. (I cut the parchment paper up to place in between them so they don't freeze together.)

Now that I know that works, I'll do the other 2 meat packages (once I get more garlic) so we have a stock pile of them ready to go for a fast meal since we generally eat burgers a couple times a month since the weather normally cooperates with is in Orange County.

We had the burgers with artichokes, and fresh pico salsa! You can see the smaller diameter of the burgers here, but they were really thick still. I think I might toss in a few more spices next time... but a win all around.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Church Stuff

I know this blog post won't be for everyone, so feel free to skip it if its not your cup of tea. (Don't worry, we can still be friends but I figured the title will let those skip it who don't want to read it.)

Part of my 14 for 2014 (AKA my annual goals for 2014) involved getting more into church as a family with South County Boy. Since I'm a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I really never got to experience the kind of home that SCB did when he grew up... but I want that for our future family and since this is the year of preparation for that we are covering our spiritual base as well as our financial one.

I get excited when we get to make our own new family traditions, ... including doing stuff for General Conference.

What's conference? Every 6 months the leadership of our church does a broadcast over the internet where we get to hear messages that can help us with our marriages, families and our lives. Some are inspirational, some are good reminders for things we have been neglecting to do... and others feel like they are just aimed at you personally... but it's church in your pj's!!!

I attempted to make SCB's favorite dessert (Love Pie) for our Sunday treat and it was awesome!!!! I was so thrilled with how it turned out... and I was going to post the recipe on here, but I forgot to take a picture of the final product and it was devoured because we invited a few friends over from church... so eventually you'll learn the awesomeness of Love pie...  but I like that Love Pie will probably become a conference tradition... and that's just really fun for me to have a family tradition since there are so few that I have from my childhood...  (If you want to Watch General Conference, click the link, if you don't that's fine too).

Conference also made me reflect on all the awesome moments we have had this year already that I haven't really blogged about.

Baptisms & Gospel Sharing Moments:

Baptism Day!
I got the opportunity to meet this wonderful girl and help teach her alongside the Sister Missionaries in our ward... It was a really cool opportunity to do what someone else had done for me... and I gained a friend out of it which was really fun. I got to not only go to her baptism at the end of March, but she asked me to speak at her baptism... which was really cool considering I got to experience a lot of her conversion moments with her... which was really awesome.

I also got to share some things about the church with my old bible college roommate. Out of the blue one of my dorm-mates sent me a message on facebook asking me if I wouldn't mind answering a few questions about the church because she had recently started reading the Book of Mormon. It was really nice that she felt like she could ask me questions... and even cooler that I was not only able to explain why the church was a good fit for me... but also help her out with some practical advice since she was where I was almost 2 years ago.

Another Temple Trip
San Diego Temple
While we blogged about going to 2 different temples on our road trip out to Utah for our friends wedding, I get to mark off a third.

A couple girls I go to church with who had never been to the temple really wanted to go down to San Diego so I planned an afternoon road trip. A couple sister missionaries went, my friend who was recently baptized, and a girl I visit teach (with her hubby).

The temple there is probably the prettiest I have ever been too. The couple I visit teach plan to be sealed there in August so it looks like I'll be heading back along with SCB this time. (He was really bummed he couldn't go, but we went on a Tuesday afternoon while he was working since that worked best for everyone else.)

My friend also asked me to be her escort when she goes through the temple for the first time, which is totally awesome!!!

I feel like i'm finally getting the opportunity to really give back and do the things that other couples did to help me when I was first starting out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Computer has a fan?

 Who cannot forget this epic picture of our PC from our post "We're REALLY trying hard not to spend money?" 

Back when we weren't sure how we were going to be able to max out our Roth IRA for SCB before the April 15th deadline, we were trying really hard to stick to our budget. We had already spent our discretionary money for the month when our Computer fan crapped out on us.

Hubs took the frame off our computer and used one of our larger house fans to keep it going while we waited for a new budget to roll around.

While we were out in Utah, SCB's brother happened to have an extra CPU fan laying around since he works on computers and internet networks for BYU and also does contract work on the side for a few friends from time to time.

When we got back from Vacation, we ordered a second fan off of Amazon, so now our computer looks like this:

Where's the front cover? That's a great question. SCB doesn't want to put it back on because when its on, the power button is kind of wonky and doesn't want to turn on when you press it.. so instead he has decided to cover the front of the unit with blue tape. It's not painters tape and its not duct tape... but its a tape that's somewhere in between the two... 

But at least we have our house fan back, right?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Retirement Update

It's the end of the 4th quarter of 2014 so I thought it was only pertinent to check back up on our retirement accounts, especially since we have a brand new Roth IRA for South County Boy.

According to Fidelity, by age 35 you should have been able to save your annual salary... by age 45 you should have 3 times your salary saved... by 55 you should have 5 times your salary saved... and by 67 you should have 8 times you salary, assuming you work until age 67...

I have no idea if we are going to work until 67... I hope not, but those are just benchmarks and if you want all the details on how they got to that one, you can check out this article here.

So how are we doing? (Numbers pulled 4/10/14)

South County Girl:
On average, i'll make slightly under $53,000.00 this year.
Roth IRA's:
  • Vanguard: $30,780.47
  • Capital One 360: $10,056.46  (man I need to transfer this!)
  • In savings for 2014: $827.96
  • ICMA- RC: $3,111.82
Before my pension, I've got $44,776.71 saved, which is almost 84% of my salary!

The current cash value of my pension is $32,315.56... I have to say I'm really proud that my own retirement savings are larger! Pensions are slowly becoming a thing of the past so we like to pretend it doesn't exist and save outside of it. Hopefully by doing so it means we will really to both retire at 55 and enjoy life more fully. The cash contributions/interest can never be taken away from me... but they can change the formula used for calculating my pension.

  • I currently work assuming a 2.7% formula @ 55 years. I could go to work tomorrow and HR could tell me, starting today, you're earning a pension that will pay out with this new formula: 2% at 60... 
    • The almost 10 years I have worked at would use my current formula, but the new formula would go into place for the next 20 years down the line, significantly reducing the amount of money I would get in retirement.... and any pension I pull automatically forfeits the cash value.   

Right now if I were to quit my job, my formula would "lock in" and I would get $5,688.36 a year or $474.03 a month. It would only take 68 months or 5.68 years to go through the cash balance, making it smarter to pull a pension... but that money gets to sit in the account for 27 years earning 6% interest... which means at 55, it would be $162,635.63... taking almost 28.5 years to pay down... making me 83. With the cash, I know I'd pull more then the $474.03 a month so it wouldn't last me 28.5 years in reality. Pulling the pension and forfeiting the cash would be a safe bet because Hubs would keep getting the check if I snuffed it and we'd have our other accounts to help us out.

South County Boy:
I'm going to estimate that South County Boy makes $27,000 a year. ($880 a paycheck for 26 paychecks... add in a $4k profit sharing check & I rounded up for the occasional Over Time).

Roth IRA: 
  • Vanguard: $5,500.00
  •  Fidelity: $752.38 (vested balance) | $1,128.59 (balance w/ employer contributions)
Total using vested balance: $6,252.38 | 23.15% of his salary. 
I'm actually proud of this because we just started this last year and we will hopefully make the 2014 goal and again, we will only be turning 28 this year... so if he keeps working, we should be able to hit the benchmark by the time he reaches 35.