September 29, 2009

Figuring out Insurance is Torture

Filed under: budgets,crazy,insurance,money,network,websites — by elysianconfusion @ 3:53 pm

I have great insurance. My company pays 100% of the medical for me and my family, and it’s a Preferred Provider Organization. There’s a website to look up providers, and overall they’re pretty easy to use.

But I selected a dermatologist from the website based on her being in network. My insurance paid the majority of the bill, but told me that because she’s out of network, I have to pay 45.94. I know this isn’t a lot of money, but it’s still money, and I picked this doctor because she was in network. I asked the insurance company. They agreed, it looked like she was in network. They researched it. Then they told me that no, she was not in network. I sent them a screen shot showing that she WAS in network and asked how to select a doctor if the doctor they  list on the website (for over 4 months in a row) as being in network is actually not. They just said that they confirmed with the “network” that she wasn’t in it.

So I called the doctor’s office. They think they’re in network too.

All I can think is that somehow (although I did this step by step with someone from the insurance company on the phone) I did something wrong searching for a provider. Seems like I’m being stupid, right?

But actually, the process is quite baffling. You go to the website, log in, select “Find a Provider,” then select “Find a Doctor,” then “Select a Plan.” Ok, so I need to select one of these:

  • PPO
  • Extended Access PPO
  • ChoiceGuard
  • Complementary

(I have no idea which one is right. It says to refer to your card, which I do, and it doesn’t actually say any of those things on it.)

So I enter PPO, hoping that that’s right. Then I enter my zip code (or complete address) and proceed to the next page. Then I have to choose my network. Options here are:

  • FirstHealth
  • Healthlink PPO
  • Lab Card
  • LifeSynch
  • MultiPlan
  • National Capital PPO
  • PHCS Preferred Provider Organization

Ok, so my card says PHCS, Multiplan, and Lab Card. Ummm… ok, so I select PHCS because that’s the big logo on the front of the card. Interestingly, when you do that, the resulting page says MultiPlan in HUGE letters, and then on the right it says “Search on below logo: PHCS.”

Now I have to choose a provider type; I select Doctor or other health care professional, and press Continue. Now I have to enter my zip code (or complete address if I’m so motivated) again. And then I need to select the type of doctor. I select Dermatology. Then I can enter the doctor’s name, first or last, or both. (There are more search options I’m not using, such as gender, languages spoken, and hospital affiliation.)  I click continue and there’s my doctor’s name, address, and phone number. What am I doing wrong? And why is this so hard?


September 23, 2009

Party Favors

Filed under: Uncategorized — by elysianconfusion @ 5:30 pm

Well, I finally ordered some party favors from Oriental Trading. Here’s hoping the kids like them. A friend had given me a coupon for 10$ off an order of $20 or more… which was great, except shipping was 10.99! I had to search for another coupon, and found one for 20$ off 69$ plus free shipping. So… well, I spent 5$ extra but got three more things. I probably would have had to buy something to stuff the pinata anyway :-).

So, they’re getting

  1. pacifier candy rings (I wanted ring pops, but they were not available)
  2. child size foam animal masks
  3. metallic movie night star necklaces
  4. glow necklaces
  5. dinosaur pinata
  6. goofy monster head suckers
  7. dum dum pops
  8. dinosaur eggs with dinosaurs inside

The theme is a little shaky on this one — it’s a costume party, thus the jewelry and masks. The ring candy is just because my son loves them, and the dinosaur stuff is because his costume is a dinosaur. I hope he likes it all!

September 17, 2009

Birthday Budgets

Filed under: birthday,budgets,children,family — by elysianconfusion @ 2:55 pm

How do you budget for your children’s birthday parties? I have such trouble with this — what’s an appropriate amount? We have always hosted at home, so far. My oldest turned six in July, and my youngest turns four in October, so we’ve been lucky enough to always have parties outside. I also make my own cakes… so far a race track, two pirate ships, a campsite and tent, and Lightning McQueen. This October I’m heading for a dinosaur cake, because my little guy wants a costume party and he is dressing up as a dinosaur.

So that leaves party favors and gifts and food and drink, right? Oh! and the invitations. I’m slightly compulsive about those too. They always include a little poem I write about the child and the event… the younger one seems to always get a photo as well. Creating your own poem and photo card can be quite frustrating. I fought with Shutterfly for quite a while on Saturday trying to get the right pictures in the right place with the right text. Personalized invites also take longer to make and tend to cost more than buying the batch of cards at Target. My mom always wonders why I do this to myself — I don’t know, overcompensating for being a bad mommy in other areas perhaps? (Like wanting to go back to work?)

I just asked a friend and she said she spent $500 for her daughter’s sixth birthday — including renting a place, buying a cake, and ordering gift bag stuff. My jaw almost fell off — this seemed like so much to me! But I have no idea what I’ve really spent in the past on parties, and I did turn my swing set into a pirate ship, so I probably don’t have a leg to stand on.

So far we bought the little guy his main gift, a Lightning McQueen bicycle that he is going to LOVE. I ordered cards (38.68 for 14 cards! OUCH!) and I’m looking for reasonable favors at Oriental Trading. I hate party favors — I mean, I’m happy to give the kids that come something, but I obsess over what to put in them. I want it to be inexpensive but worth keeping a while. I cannot tell you how party favors we’ve gotten that broke right away.

What do you spend on your kids’ birthday parties?

September 16, 2009

Coupon Confusion

Filed under: family,money — by elysianconfusion @ 4:07 pm

I don’t know if I’m missing some major savings in my life. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard of at least two articles (one on NPR and the other in the local paper) on how you can pay for only 10% or 20% of your total grocery bill by using coupons.

We shop a lot at Trader Joe’s and BJ’s; I feel like the local supermarkets (Hannaford, Stop & Shop) are outrageously priced. We also buy at local farm stands and have a garden. I’m happy to use BJ’s coupons when possible and I always look at them. Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer them (that I know of, but a lot of their prices are better anyway and generally have fewer additives and I can read all the ingredients without a dictionary).

I can’t see how you can save so much using coupons unless you’re buying processed foods. I try not to buy those. I buy fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese, eggs, fish, meat. I buy things on sale and freeze them. I have been known to buy my kids Trader Joe’s brand cereal bars and pretzels. Given that this is how I shop, could I really cut my grocery budget by clipping coupons? I would love to know. What exactly are people buying when they save so much on groceries? And can it be accomplished by a working mom?

September 15, 2009


Filed under: debt,mess,money,parents — by elysianconfusion @ 3:15 pm

Today is our 8th wedding anniversary. I think we’ve had a great eight years and I still think my husband is lovely most of the time :-).

I don’t know exactly how much debt we entered our marriage with… enough, to be sure. We weren’t doing a super job of looking at it all. Honestly, looking at all the debt is really painful. So… we’ve been sort of ignoring it, which is a terrible idea. So this spring I decided to take a look and add it all up. And added up… it’s truly awful. Because I want to be super terrified by the debt, I include cars, mortgage and home equity line and student loans in the grand total.

April 20: 403,438.14

Oh my god. What the hell have we been doing and where is all our money going?  We don’t make minimum wage here, but I did stay home with the kids for three years. I’m not sure if our debt would have been better or worse if I had continued working full time — childcare costs for the last (nearly) two years are painfully prohibitive.

Just to clarify — we do not take expensive vacations. We haven’t flown anywhere since our honeymoon eight years ago. We do have a little bit of a home-improvement addiction, I suspect. Our house needed a lot of work and that’s certainly *part* of it.

But in April I made a budget and we’ve been pretty good about sticking to it. We both read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and saved our little 1k emergency fund, and I’ve been reading personal finance blogs, mainly Get Rich Slowly.

In July, we got to 396,519.24

So 6918.90 in three months and saved an emergency fund. I guess that’s not so bad.

Today I updated our little excel spreadsheet, and it’s 391,582.87.

Since April we’ve paid down 11,855.27.  And next month we’ll go below the 390k mark.

The snowball amount has been low, only 71.04 (hey, that 4 cents counts!) and we haven’t been doing great at snowflaking (adding all those little extras into more payments). I’m hoping this is due mainly to the high cost of child care for the summer and needing to adjust my highly optimistic budget from time to time. If we continued at just this rate exactly, we’d pay off all credit cards and both the cars by April 2014.  If I then proceeded to pay off the home equity, that would be April 2016, and the student loan would not be far behind in July 2016.  And finally the mortgage would follow in February 2020, which would be 18.5 years instead of 30. I’m hoping to speed that up considerably — but I guess we’ll see!

My best recommendation for a debt reduction calculator is from http://www.vertex42.com/Calculators/debt-reduction-calculator.html.

Best budget spreadsheet for us is from Gather Little by Little (http://www.gatherlittlebylittle.com/2008/05/personal-budget-spreadsheet/).

September 4, 2009


Filed under: crazy,family,parents — by elysianconfusion @ 8:16 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

On Sunday I came home to a message from my dad, wondering if we were mad at him as he never hears from us. I called back. No answer. I left a message. I’ve left many other messages already and sent emails. I don’t understand it.

Last night he called again. Are you mad at me? No. Then he explained that he can’t check his voicemail because he doesn’t know how. I log in to his Vonage account — and it’s canceled because (surprise!) he hasn’t paid the bill in three months. The real mystery is that he called me on the Vonage line. So although I can’t change his features or check his messages, the phone line is still working. Now I’d never believe that if I hadn’t seen it myself.  He is the master of the weird tech stuff.

All in all it was a better conversation than usual. He did not actually yell at me about anything.

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