Friday, October 30, 2009

Slow Progress

Well, I'm still plugging along slowly. I didn't post for Won't Wait Wednesday yesterday because I fell asleep. Woke up about 4 am and turned the computer off, then went back to sleep.

It was payday yesterday but all my money (and then some) is already earmarked for bills, etc. I did go grocery shopping but I made sure I ate dinner first! I spent just over $106 on food for the week, $20 on gas and about $23 on my prescriptions. Again, that $23 wasn't in the original budget for this pay period. Yet another thing to mess with my house of cards.

Today, I took money from my main account and moved it to my other credit union account and my old bank account for various things that are coming out, as well as lent Hubby $20 for a day. I'm supposed to get it back (along with another $80 he needed previously) tomorrow afternoon.

I won't be able to do too much more until after the 7th when I'll have another $400 to play with. And I do hope Green Shield hurries up with that cheque for $127 for the dental. I'll be paying a couple of bills with that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Tooth Fairy Hates Me

Yes, I really think the Tooth Fairy has it in for me. I went to the dentist yesterday to have my teeth cleaned. I had put it off twice due to scheduling conflicts and didn't want to put it off again even though I didn't have any money. After all, today is payday and I figured I'd give them a cheque dated for today and then I'd have to juggle somewhere else on the bills.

It usually costs me about $50 to $60 for a cleaning. This time, because I'd put it off, they had to do more scaling, etc. I pretty much had a heart attack when the girl at the front desk asked for $159! Uh, that's 3 times what I usually pay. Unfortunately, there was nothing to do but pay it. My hubby's extended medical/dental plan will reimburse us $127 of that, but it will take a couple of weeks to arrive. I'm already looking at about a $500 shortfall without that extra cost and extra time.

Plus, I went to the doctor for my H1N1 shot and to talk to her about how my asthma has suddenly flared up out of the blue. I've had 2 attacks in 2 days when I normally have 2 or 3 attacks per year! And, even then, it's usually something like cleaning for Pesach that triggers it with dust and strong cleaners and exertion. The first time I was just playing with Dear Child on the bed, trying to tickle her while she held my hand. The second was when I carried the baby into the house from the car because she was asleep. I do both those things all the time without a problem.

So, I ended up getting the seasonal shot instead (because they were only given 80 doses for people with underlying conditions and those were *gone* by the time I got there) and a prescription for Ventolin and a temporary cortico-steroid called Flovent. I couldn't fill them yesterday because I didn't have any money. Today I'll find out how much they'll set me back. Again, the extended covers a lot of the cost but there will be some outlay. At least they deduct the plan amount and I only pay the difference. The problem is that I wasn't planning on needing prescriptions when I made my list of bills that Must Be Paid. And I still have to find time to go back to the doctor when they get more of the H1N1 vaccine in. At least it's free. Well, except for the time I lose at work, of course.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Broke and Feeling Down

I'm in a holding pattern again. I'm broke and just waiting for Wednesday when I'll get paid again. At that point I'll be moving money around like crazy, arranging for everything that comes out pre-authorized from one account or another. Then I'll be broke again until my Hubby gets some money and transfers some of it over to me.

Then I'll pay more bills and be broke again. I'm too old for this. I really want to get out of debt but it's hard when things keep falling apart all around me (teeth, pipes, kitchen cabinets, the car, etc.).

When I don't sit around obsessing about money and paying as many bills as possible every time I get my hands on some cash I get into trouble. I buy more food than I expected and don't have enough to pay one or more bills. That's bad, although existing on ramen, eggs on toast, grilled cheese sandwiches and the like isn't great either. Sometimes you just need to buy something crazy. Like a small caesar salad at work, or prepared cookie dough to bake with the little girls. Or a pack of 3 juice boxes for Dear Child to take to school instead of her usual water (which she almost never drinks).

It's raining and grey. I'm waking up in the dark and, as soon as we change the clocks I'll be going home in the dark. I had an asthma attack today (and I almost never have them anymore). What can I say? I'm getting depressed and the financial situation is really getting to me. I think it's SAD season already.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

But She's Coming to Our House Tonight

The tooth fairy, that is. Yeah, I know. Yesterday's post was titled "The Tooth Fairy is NOT our Friend". So, what happened?

I got a call in the middle of the morning from the school saying that Dear Child was fine but she'd lost a crown. As it happened, I was out of the office when I found out and I happened to be in the building where her dentist is located. I went and asked them if she should come in and they said "Yes!". I went back to work, finished some reports, picked up the 2 little girls from preschool, picked DC up from school and took them all to the dentist.

First of all, that's not my favourite thing to do. I just didn't have a choice. And they didn't run too rampant while DC was in the chair and I was talking to the dentist. He said that it had come out cleanly (all the roots having dissolved) and that it wasn't going to alter our plan. That was good news. My fear had been that he'd want to move the surgery up and I'd have to try to come up with $3,000 out of nowhere in a matter of weeks instead of months. The bad news was that I had to pay another $18.48 today that I really didn't have to spare.

I took DC back to school afterwards so she could have her hot lunch (a hot dog on a whole wheat bun, a bag of chips and a bottle of water). I went home for about an hour and a half with the girls and then had to go back to pick her up when school was over. I felt like I spent my entire day in the car (not to mention putting kids into carseats and taking them out).

I'm relieved that I don't have to come up with the money for the surgery any faster. I'm still concerned about how much I have to come up with in a short timeframe ($1,600 for Home Depot by early February and $3,000 for the surgery by about March). The other issue is that we're paying out a lot of money for her teeth and we've spent almost as much recently for the car. That money would have made a really big dent in our already pre-existing debt but it has to go on new stuff instead. That's really frustrating.

Anyway, back to the Tooth Fairy. DC went to sleep with her tooth (in the cute little "tooth box" necklace that her school hands out) under the pillow. She had been all over the place with suggestions for how much the Tooth Fairy should leave, ranging from 5 cents to $100!!! Hubby and I turned out our pockets and came up with a toonie and 2 loonies. I don't think $4 is too bad for a crowned tooth. After all, it's damaged.

The Tooth Fairy is NOT our Friend

Bright and early this morning I had to take Dear Child to the dentist. Today cost me very little, an hour of my time and about $18. Unfortunately, the real bill is coming soon.

As folks who've been reading for a while know, I have 4 kids. Three of them are adults, the youngest is nearly 7. Children 2 and 3 have your average teeth. A few cavities over the years, a little ortho for one of them, some wisdom teeth extracted, but nothing out of the ordinary. Child 1 and Child 2 on the other hand, are giant dental money pits. All four have been raised basically the same. I nursed each of them extensively, including at night. They started solids around 6 months, they've all eaten their fair share of junk. None of them was particularly OCD about sticking a toothbrush in their mouths after every meal when they were little but none of them ran screaming at the sight of a toothbrush either.

Child 1 (a boy), first developed little brown spots all over his baby teeth at about age 2. We'd go to the pediatric dentist, he'd fill them. Six months later, there would be decay around the fillings. We'd put in bigger ones. They'd decay again and there wouldn't be enough tooth left to fill, so we'd crown it. One of them decayed under the crown and formed a nasty abcess. That tooth had to be pulled and a space maintainer put in because he lost it about 6 years early.

This was 30 years ago and people mostly thought we were insane. "They're just baby teeth." "They're going to fall out anyway." "Why would you pay all that money for a toddler's teeth?" Those were examples of the kinds of questions and comments we got. He also ground his teeth so badly that he could be heard in the living room all the way from his bedroom upstairs. I bought a silicone sports mold for him that took care of that, although that was the one place I cheaped out. I could have paid a few hundred dollars for one "custom-made" by the dentist. Instead I shelled out about $20 for a sports one, stuck it in hot water then had Number 1 Son bite it. Voila, instant "custom-made" mouth guard. It worked like a charm.

He's had continual problems with his teeth as a teen and as a young adult. Over the past couple of years he's had most of them extracted and has a full upper and partial lower plate.

Dear Child (Child 4) also developed brown spots as a toddler and it progressed to "apple core" front teeth as we didn't have a dental plan intitially, although we were doing cleanings, etc. She went from a regular pediatric dentist to a specialist one once I sold my condo and we put about $5k worth of work into her mouth at that point. Ten silver crowns, 2 white ones under anaesthetic in a special facility. Now, her 6 year molars are mostly in and starting to show decay (at least one came with a "factory installed" cavity, which is not unheard of because the decay goes down from the existing teeth to the buds below the gumline). One of her silver crowns is sideways in her mouth because the roots are resorbing into her jaw and, of course, it's one she shouldn't lose until she's 12 so she's going to need a space maintainer there when it either falls out or is pulled.

We had a panoramic x-ray done 3 to 6 months ago and can see that the first 8 permanent incisors are moving into position although she hasn't lost any baby teeth yet (2 are slightly wiggly). We can also see that the new teeth are about half again as wide as the current ones. That's a problem. There isn't room for them. If they try to come into the space they'll have, they will all be crooked and the ortho will be getting involved pretty soon. (I, myself, had orthodontics twice. Once as a teen. Once as an adult. Plus had 4 bicuspids and 4 wisdom teeth extracted. Plus had jaw surgery. I know this road. It's neither fun nor cheap.)

So, what's the plan? Well, we're trying to wait another 3 months for the molars to come in a little more fully. Then the dentist says we need to do surgery again. Pull 8 to 12 of the front teeth so the new 8 front ones will have room to come in straight. Pull the one that's half out and put in a space maintainer that attaches to the molar (why it has to come in more). Then pray.

All in all, it will cost us about $3,000 because the cost of the facility and (I believe) the anaesthetic aren't covered and there's only partial coverage on some of the rest (50% to 80%). Ain't that fun? I know I'm just all warm and fuzzy about it right now.

First there's the little problem of all that money, which we don't have at the moment. Second, that's really major to take half her teeth out at once. Her speech is going to be impaired as well as her ability to eat solid food. I'm worried she'll have that caved-in look around the mouth typical of old grannies who don't wear their "teeth". And I know there will be a rough few weeks recovering while her gums are all soft and sore. But I also know that this is the best chance she's going to get for the teeth to come in straight. And, as the dentist pointed out, if we only did part of it we'd just have to go back and do more in 6 months or so. It would end up costing more in the end and she's already nervous about a second surgery, let alone a third one. Besides, it's best to minimize the number of times a person has to undergo a general anaesthetic.

So, it looks like this is what's in our future. We may have 6 months, but that's probably the maximum timeframe. I'm just glad individual picture day was this Monday! I can't imagine that she'll be smiling for a long time after all the extractions.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Falling Short of My Goals

Time seems to be getting away from me. Tomorrow is Friday (well, technically it's already Friday but I haven't been to bed yet, so it doesn't count). Where did the rest of the week go? And how did it get to be the middle of October so fast? The year will be over before I know it and I don't feel like I've accomplished too much.

I set very few financial goals for myself at the end of 2008 and I haven't really looked back at them. Let's see how I'm doing. Just to refresh everybody's memory they were:

1. Pay down a minimum of $6,000 of debt in 2009.
2. Have at least $1,000 in an emergency fund by the end of 2009.
3. Establish an account for "Set Asides" (otherwise known as a Freedom or Escrow Account).
4. Get current and stay current with all the monthly bills.

Have I done any of them?

1. We paid off about $1,800 in debt at Home Depot but have charged about $1,600 more since then. Of course, I had put in a limitation that new debt for the house renos didn't count and about $600 is for our bathroom reno, with the balance for our storage shed. The credit cards are still close to being maxed, if not maxed. Am I going to have a big chunk of money come in with which to pay down debt? No, I had that a couple of months ago and then we had to sink close to $2,500 into the car instead.
2. I have about $130 in my EF right now and I stopped the automatic transfer a few months ago because I was going to switch the bank it was coming out of. Only I never started it up again from the new account.
3. I haven't done a thing about a setaside account.
4. I'm working on getting current again but I was 2 to 3 months behind on most bills as recently as 2 weeks ago.

Clearly, it's not going too well. And I don't know how much I can accomplish in the next 2.5 months. I have to try something though. What actions can I take now?
1. The most important at the moment is having the money in place to pay Home Depot when the 2 payment plans come due. The first one is for $528.44 and is due January 1st. I literally have $0.69 in the Home Depot fund right now. I have 5 paydays between now and the end of the year. I obviously need to transfer $106 each paycheque in order to have enough. Wow. I don't have the date for the other one in front of me right now, so we'll leave that for another time.
2. I have to start up the automated weekly transfers into my ING account from my credit union. I don't think I can go back to $12 per week just at the moment but I think $5 is workable. At least it will be something. And when I'm done with Home Depot I can increase it.
3. I have to set up at least one set-aside account and put money into it once a month. I think it should be for property taxes and that I should deposit $10/month. (Yes, my property taxes for my rural place really are that low.)
4. I have to pay a couple more bills to get current (or closer to current). And I have to pay my Eldest Daughter back the $100 she fronted me for gas money for the trip last Monday. That $100 also gave us enough for a week's worth of gas for the van.

That's 4 simple steps for me to take to get back on track.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Been a Busy Week

Today was my fave kind of Wednesday: Payday!

It's been a really busy week. Last weekend was the 2 holiday days that finish off Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Simchat Torah is when we rejoice with the Torah. We finish the cycle of the year's reading with the end of Devarim [Deuteronomy] and begin again with Bereshit [Genesis]. At Simchat Torah there's singing & dancing with the Torah, a lot of l'chaims [toasts] and it's always fun. Dear Child had a great time dancing with 2 of her school friends. They were all over the place, dancing in a circle or a line with hands on each other's shoulders, on both the men's and women's sides. She also went outside with her Abba when they took the Torah out and danced it around the major intersection just outside the shul doors.

Sunday night, as soon as the holiday was over, we took down the sukkah (in the dark) and loaded it into the van. We got everything together and headed out for our rural home. It was late when we got there and it was pretty cold because we keep the thermostat at 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) when we're not at the house. We cranked it up and got to bed pretty late but DC and I were still up by 8:30 am Monday morning.

We did a lot in one day. I weeded all over, pruned my lavender, did laundry, shrinkwrapped DC's and the spare bedroom windows and put together one of two IKEA bookshelves. Hubby did the lawn, watered and took out 2 dead cedars. We loaded everything up and drove home again, arriving just before midnight. It was one busy day.

Anyway, back to today. Did I manage to accomplish as much today financially as I did physically on Monday? Well, not exactly. I did a lot of food-related things though.

First of all, I somehow didn't get the form for hot lunch. It was due this morning so I had to go into the school office and fill out the form and pay for it. After school Dear Child and I went grocery shopping. We got pretty much enough food for meals for everyday for 10 days or more and half a salmon, which is 2 Shabbos meals (but I don't usually use it even 2 weeks in a row, let alone serve it twice on the same Shabbos). So, I have at least one more Shabbos meal to figure out before Friday afternoon but that's not too bad.

We got breakfast cereal and oatmeal, snacks for DC's lunch for over a week and some paper goods. Actually, I spent $10 on facial tissue. Does that sound like a lot of money, just so we can blow our noses? At Safeway one box usually costs about $4. Now, that's a lot. Today, they had bundles of 6 for $9.97. That's only $1.66 each. But it gets better. The bundles were Buy One, Get One Free. I ended up with 12, count 'em, twelve boxes for only $0.83 each! All in all, I spent about $200 on food and household products but that included a couple of pricy items, like a big jar of decaf coffee, that will last much longer than 2 weeks.

On the way home I put $40 worth of gas into the car, which was almost empty. It didn't fill it totally but it's now over 3/4 full. I still have a couple of bills to pay over the next day or so but it's good to know that I won't be running out of food or gas anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Return of Won't Wait Wednesday

Today is Wednesday. What does that mean? Well, it must be Won't Wait Wednesday! That's right. The day I'm supposed to be taking care of some unfinished business. I haven't done a Won't Wait Wednesday post for a few weeks, not quite sure why. Well, maybe because for a while the only business we were taking care of was the car and I was tired of talking about that. So, what have I done today?

Here was my To Do List:

1. Pay MasterCard
2. Pay cell bill
3. Pay IKEA
4. Go through the fridge and toss anything that looks like it might talk to me
5. Finish a load of essential laundry
6. Get some groceries

I had a little glitch in that my Hubby transferred money to the account I no longer use (because it's at the same bank that he uses) and I didn't get out in time to my bank. I could put cash in at the ATM but I wouldn't be able to access it for at least a couple of days! Not really a good plan. But, my old bank has MasterCard set up as a bill payment so I decided to pay the credit card from there and my IKEA bill from the credit union (because I already had the money for MasterCard in there). There isn't enough left for the cell phone bill there though and it's not set up at the old bank so I'll wait on paying that until I can deposit money when the credit union is open tomorrow.

Are you confused yet?

I got the laundry finished and I cleaned out the fridge though! And I'm on my way out the door to get some groceries. You know, little things like milk, cream, protein drink and root beer. Hmmm. That's all stuff to drink. Maybe I'm thirsty and that's why I can only think of liquid items. Anyway, I'm heading out before my get up and go gets up and goes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sukkot Reflections

The first two holiday days of Sukkot are over, as is the first intermediate day. We've been blessed so far with lovely weather. It's a little cool, especially at night or first thing in the morning, but I really enjoy eating in the sukkah. I just bundle up a little.

My Hubby took 3 days off and is enjoying spending time with Dear Child, who is off school until next Tuesday. And Dear Child's social life has never been more active. Her teacher had the class over this afternoon to her sukkah for a little party, she's going tonight to the centre for dinner and a movie with her big sister and 2 nieces, and she's having a pajama party/movie night with her best girlfriend on Thursday (although she's not actually sleeping over).

Part of the fun she's having this year is the joy of eating in as many sukkahs as possible. With what's planned, she'll eat in 3 other sukkahs, besides our own. Plus, Eldest Daughter and her family all ate with us tonight (Monday night). The past 2 years we've spent all or most of Sukkot at our rural home. We love that too, but it's a different feeling. We're the only Jews for miles, so she never even sees another sukkah. And we invite all the neighbours for an afternoon sukkah party and have our next door neighbours over for dinner in the sukkah, but it's all about educating them. Yes, we're those funny people who eat in that strange tent with bamboo on the roof for a week, but it's okay, we don't bite....

This is the difference between living in a community and starting one of your own. When there are lots of other people doing the same thing it's a lot of fun and you feel like you're part of something. When you're the pioneers it can be lonely. For a child, sometimes it's nice to see that all your friends do the same thing (and at the same time, just how different each family's sukkah can be).

The difference for me is that I'm working all the intermediate days this year. I love having those days off at the house, getting the garden ready for winter, doing little tasks in the house. For some reason, it usually includes putting furniture together at some point. I even like that!

Right now I have 2 bookshelves at the house that need to be assembled. One is for books and will go in our bedroom. The other is for display in the dining room. I've taken a lot of the memorabilia from the various trips I took as a child there and I'm looking forward to setting things up on the shelves! These are things like a wooden and woven palm outrigger canoe from Fiji or aboriginal print mats from my parents' trip to Australia, or a huge beautiful shell. I don't even remember half the things that are wrapped up in those boxes and I'm looking forward to seeing them again after quite a few years. All the things come with great memories of the trips we took but I'm one of those people who really needs to see and touch them in order to truly remember.

For me, this nesting that I do at the house in the fall is a wonderful way to unwind. I miss that I'm not getting the chance to do that this year. I'll go back after Sukkot to take the sukkah back to the house and do a quick once-over of house and yard, but it won't be the same. It'll be rushed and busy, with me trying to cram as much as possible into a day.

I'm telling myself that the advantages are that I won't be falling behind at a busy time at work and that DC can socialize with her friends in their sukkahs, but I have to be honest. I'm missing the quiet time at my own house.